Employees form backbone of any organization and they are the one who actually do the magic. Major challenges any start up faces are financial and people related. Financial challenges can be handled through various means but solving people problem takes a lot. A seasoned entrepreneur would realize how important and difficult it is to get the right startup people.
It is mark of a mature businessman or entrepreneur to identify a good employee and keep him engaged in services. It reflects his good judgmental capabilities, human resource management and humility. The point cannot be explained in a better way than that of Machiavelli himself “the first opinion which one forms of a prince, and of his understanding, is by observing the men he has around him; and when they are capable and faithful he may always be considered wise, because he has known how to recognize the capable and to keep them faithful. But when they are otherwise one cannot form a good opinion of him, for the prime error which he made was in choosing them.”
Kind of employees the organization has speaks for them. It is their work which affects customers and hence the revenue generated in return. For this reason, HR department takes a prime importance even in a startup. For startups having an HR manager might look like an avoidable expense. The founders need to have good understanding of people to judge the employees themselves.
But how do you know whether a person is worth hiring or not?
It is very difficult to know what lies behind the veil of all that talk and resume.
Machiavelli provides a simple test which never fails “when you see the servant thinking more of his own interests than of yours, and seeking inwardly his own profit in everything, such a man will never make a good servant, nor will you ever be able to trust him.”
It is far better not to hire and do the work yourself than let an unsuitable employee in your organization and set the standards low right from the beginning.
Employees as per Machiavelli can be classified in 03 categories:
Which comprehends by itself
Such employees are able to understand the business and its problems. They think out a solution by themselves. Importantly, they have an entrepreneurial approach and have the vision of a leader. They think like the founder themselves and provide good advice. Being entrepreneurial in attitude, they know exactly what the founder should do and cover your short comings. This kind of employee is excellent of his kind and very difficult to get.
They also possess a threat of being a future competitor. Ex employees of Amazon launched similar concept in India as Flipkart, giving the former employers a tough time ahead is just one example. While working on projects, they come up with ideas which in some ways might affect you adversely.
However, let it be clear that such people cannot be stopped, whether they work for you or not. For strong man and water make their own way. It is your own mishandling that makes them opt for the entrepreneurial path.
Which appreciates what others comprehend
Such employees are not able to understand business by themselves but when the future is shown they see and follow. They act as good followers and you will need them in the journey ahead. They may not be instrumental in showing you the way like the first kind but they will speed up your work with their efforts.
Which neither comprehends by itself nor by the showing of others
They fail to see by themselves and also by others. They are blind by mind and not sight. Machiavelli considers them useless as they will slow you down if not create problems for you.
Any organization will have a mix of the three kinds of people. The ideal mix ratio would be 10% for the first kind, 80% for the second kind and 10% for the third kind. This ratio will differ with organizations but all three kinds will exist together.
You would not want many employees guiding you for practical reasons. Still, you would need some for the intelligence level they possess. A strong leader hires the best if he can afford them. You also would not want many employees like the third kind. Having such employees in organization can have a negative impact and rightly so. But you may need them for doing the heavy lifting kind of work which does not require brain.
The majority of the employees should be able to see the way ahead when you show them but not able to figure a lot ahead and become a prospective threat.
Machiavelli makes very clear throughout the treatise that dependencies of any kind should be avoided at all costs. The same goes for employees too. You should not be dependent on the intelligence of the first category of employee. They should be encouraged to challenge and question your belief only to the extent that your idea becomes clearer with the exercise.
If you depend on the kindness and not the duty of the employees to run the organization, ruin is not far.
How do we keep the employees happy?
Machiavelli presses upon appearance and the perception to matter more than the reality. The prince needs to be seen as generous but warns against squandering your own money.
He says “you can be a ready giver, as were Cyrus, Caesar, and Alexander; because it does not take away your reputation if you squander that of others, but adds to it; it is only squandering your own that injures you.”
It is not really be possible to get your hands on someone else’s wealth. So, entrepreneurs should spread the intellectual wealth they have in form of conversations, training and career guidance for employees. Spending money on things which can be avoided is foolishness of highest level and the business is bound to fail.
Is there a way?
Working on own idea irrespective of the result is far better than working in an organization and getting a fat pay at the end of month. The entrepreneur took the risk and the pains of leaving a comfortable job and works hard to run a business. The employee on the other hand wishes for a secure life and chose to work for him. It is this job security that you should aim to provide.
If you are able to convince people that their job is secure with you, they should stay happy. If people still, do not stay happy (which they do not), it is for the ambition in them to be an independent master of their own fate.
How to address ambition?
Ambition is a very difficult desire to satisfy. Machiavelli says on the matter “……..sharing with him the honor and cares; and at the same time let him see that he cannot stand alone.”
You need to provide enough to the employees that they fear losing comfort if they venture out. It is this fear that binds them to you not any love.
Machiavelli’s preference of fear over love is well known and most cited of the lines. He simply argues over the efficacy of fear over love as human being respond on a more uniform basis than to love which a prince should employ.
The fear of losing the comforts provided by your business might be more effective than the love you might try to foster, if you get the drift.
The subject of employee is a very tricky one and needs a lot of shrewdness. As the business settles down and starts generating revenue, most of the employee related problems start looking manageable. At least you will have a team specifically to manage them.