Service-driven startups like cab hailing apps, e-commerce apps, delivery and logistics enterprises, etc. thrive on very specific yet highly competitive ecosystems.
Most startups work towards the one thing which matters most – Survival. In the crucial early years, startups are consumed by solving critical challenges like getting their product/service off the ground, creating differentiation with consumers, hiring the right team and raising capital. Most times this leaves no bandwidth for anything else and lower order priorities like training usually take a backseat – and, rightly so. Most startups can do without structured learning for a very long time, and instead, driving a culture of ‘figuring it out’ and self-learning can help teams remain cutting-edge and current. However, if you are a particular type of startup, then learning is actually quite critical to the success of your business model.
1. Startups with large field forces
Startups that depend on a large field force to either sell or deliver their product/service to customers, need them to be knowledgeable and be skilled at selling. But, with large field forces come issues such as high attrition and the need for training their replacements faster. As a startup, balanced on the thin edge of efficient capital consumption and delivering a world-class brand experience to customers, these costs can prove very dear.
Startup founders typically, expect field force managers to teach incoming employees on-the-job or through 1-2 day-long classroom sessions, to equip them with all the knowledge regarding the product/service, its differentiation, processes, and skills related to selling and issue handling. That can be a lot to absorb in such a short time span! However, what startups don’t realize is that the willingness to commit this time to train may differ from manager to manager as may the ability to train, resulting in a lopsided field force where some are trained to deliver better than others. And one of the fastest ways to kill a brand is inconsistent brand experience with customers.
Such startups can benefit enormously from having structured learning and onboarding programs, that incoming field force is mandatorily required to go through in their initial few days. With advancing learning technology, such structured programs are now delivered with ease through mobile devices with micro-learning that is consumed on-the-go. Ultimately, the cost of such a program is offset by the benefits of consistency of brand experience resulting in growth and scale.
2. Startups who run an ecosystem
Service-driven startups like cab hailing apps, e-commerce apps, delivery and logistics enterprises, etc. thrive on very specific yet highly competitive ecosystems. Features such as one-day delivery, pick-up & drop services, returns, and home trial add enormous pressures on logistics teams in startups. Conversely, the differentiating factor is not always the product/service itself, but the quality of hospitality and customer care provided, which is actually delivered by the ecosystem.
Compared to the previous type of startup, the need for training this ecosystem comes from two fronts – Process and Brand Experience. Ecosystem partners deal with both major stakeholders involved – with the startup (seller) and the customer (buyer). Understanding processes which may include critical aspects like authentication, cash handling, timely delivery and pickup, returns etc. is imperative for ecosystem partners. And every partner of this ecosystem doubles up as a brand ambassador, therefore they need to understand the brand experience they are supposed to deliver.
If such an ecosystem is at the center of a startup’s business model, then founders need to ensure that the ecosystem represents and communicates the brand experience founders have envisaged. This, however, cannot be done quickly and is a long-term process. Startups need to analyze the role of each partner, design training programs accordingly and ensure the same is communicated to them on a regular basis.
3. Startups with complex product/service offerings
Startups with complex product/service offerings such as technology products, fin-tech or medical tech have a unique requirement. Their offering is typically based on a thorough understanding of the domain and the issues with existing products/services, which can be sometimes fairly complex subject matter. Not only historical context, it is important for such companies to keep abreast of the advances and latest developments in their domain. Sometimes, the requirement can be as simple as knowing new regulations in the industry that affect your product/service.
As such startups grow and hire, whether it is sales and marketing, product development, Operations or HR, translating this context and understanding is important and needs to be done continually. Such startups would benefit from building up a repository of knowledge that is available for reference or learning as needed.