This is an article by Mariana Santos Silva, Head of Talent at Beta-i. It was originally published in the digital newspaper Eco.
Most of our struggles in different relationships come from a place of bad or incomplete communication: parents and their children with completely different mindsets and perspectives often don’t know how to speak each other’s languages; couples often assume the other person has the psychic ability to guess what the other is thinking and wishing for, thus resulting in a huge gap of communication. This is no different in the workplace – a lot of the frictions we find at work with colleagues or managers could be solved if we communicated honestly, respectfully, and promptly.
This is one of the reasons why feedback and having a culture based on constructive communication is something so fundamental in an organization. At Beta-i, for example, Feedgize is one of our superpowers – Feedgize is the merge of two words: Feedback + Energize, and stands for “Energizing yourself through constant feedback.” These analyses are a powerful communication tool to have a deeper understanding of collaborators, themselves, and their colleagues, providing the insights and the necessary energy to improve.
It’s inspiring to think of constant evaluation, but it takes time and intentionality to build one. It’s about showing why feedback is important for a healthy culture, creating moments for it to happen, learning how to give and receive it, as well as the concrete steps needed to progress.
Here are some examples of constructive communication in action:
Building understanding is the main component. Imagine when two companies merge, in addition to combining knowledge, this transition also creates a lot of challenges, such as different cultures, different ways of working, insecurities, and questions. One can think that a top-down approach is a way to handle it, with strict guidelines on how to work and how to behave, but I think trusting people to become a team and getting there together is a better way. This is what happened in Beta-i back in 2018 when we merged with Couture and had 60 – new – people discovering how to work together as a team. One of our initiatives was to implement a feedback challenge – not necessarily a manager-direct report, but a peer-to-peer one. This was when we partnered with Skoach, the micro-learning virtual coach, to create safe spaces for these conversations to happen, making our team feel safer and more open to listening and receiving productive reports to progress and build on those assessments.
It’s fair to think that giving feedback is a skill that needs coaching to achieve. However, for the person receiving and listening is just as important and as difficult, and there’s much to be learned about the act of listening (check this TED Talk from Celeste Headlee on how to have better conversations). “Seek to listen first” was one of the ancient values of Beta-i, inspired by Buffer’s value “Listen first, then listen more,” and that was what we decided to do at Beta-i after restructuring, a process that is often difficult with loose ends and a lot of doubts. Simply asking “what are your concerns about this situation?” and “what ideas do you have to improve it?” can be much more powerful than leadership or management trying alone to come up with solutions or wear out pitching why this is a better way.
I’m a true believer that performance management systems should look to the future and not focus only on the past. Ultimately, we want these assessments to be able to improve things and not only to evaluate. “Feedgize sessions” is the name that Beta-i gave to bi-annual feedback sessions focused on growth and development and based on a 360 perspective (self, peers, direct reports, and manager). To complement these conversations that take place every six months, there are also monthly “coffee awareness chats” between managers and direct reports. The result is an ongoing conversation about growth and development opportunities that allow employees to understand how they are performing and how to constantly advance and move forward in their careers.
When seeing feedback in action it is easy to understand why it is an essential communication tool that should be embedded into organizations. First, intentionally, and then, organically. These assessments allow for teamwork to happen and make us get out of our bubble to understand one another and collaborate. Feedback feeds collaboration, which then boosts innovation and progress, and that’s what organizations should be all about.
The Lisbon Tourism Summit (LTS), organized by Beta-i and sponsored by Turismo de Portugal, will take place on Sep 30th and goes fully online. The 2020 edition focuses on a more sustainable approach on the tourism sector, “a segment that more than ever requires deepening in strategic themes such as circular economy, mobility, artificial intelligence and energy efficiency so that it is possible to actually talk about sustainability“, emphasizes Gonçalo Faria, one of Beta-i’s Innovation Programs director.
LTS counts on the participation of several national and international speakers, with the emphasis on the sustainability designer, sociologist and businesswoman, Leyla Acaroglu. Awarded as Champion of the Earth by the United Nations, Leyla is also author of several books and TED Talks. Check what she has to say as, in her own words, a sustainability provocateur:
The Lisbon Tourism Summit is an integral part of Turismo de Portugal’s innovation strategy to manage the growth of this industry in the country over the past few years. Beta-i is a strategic partner in this because, in addition to LTS, it also organizes The Journey – an open innovation program that facilitates collaboration between leading companies in the tourism industry (such as Grupo Barraqueiro, Vila Galé, Parques de Sintra – Monte da Lua and Unicre) with technological solutions from startups around the world. The results of its latest edition will be presented within the LTS: there will be more than a dozen project presentations, involving startups from Europe and Asia.
Digital transformation still has a long way to go before becoming ubiquitous in society and companies. The belief that all the market is fully on digital mode, is actually a myth.
B2B relations might consider more environmental, social issues in their procurement and compliance processes;
Core business technological reinvention is an unavoidable must. Really. At last.
These are some of the key impressions from “Learnings in times of a pandemic – A quick poll on personal mindset changes” ran by Beta-i during the peak of quarantine and self-isolation stress in Europe (May to June). We’ve asked some of our corporate clients, closest startups and other stakeholders (investors, think tanks) about these new perspectives. And you can access the full results here:
Tonic App was very young at the time of their application to Techcare (they had launched in March 2017). Still, once selected, they decided to bring the whole team to the Bootcamp: the perfect opportunity for all of them to better understand and to know how to work with the pharmaceutical industry.
Trying to narrow down an experience like this, we talked to the founder Daniela Seixas, to get some conclusions and outputs of Tonic App regarding the program:
Human approach is the core
In the end (well, in the beginning too), it’s all about human connection. The intense environment created in a moment like the bootcamp, is set to foster communication. Whether you’re a startup or a program partner, you will be speaking to one another, as you are all there with the same purpose.
Your access is 360º
Following the previous point, we can say that the fast access a startup can have to a company like this is indeed the biggest plus. Tonic App claims for this to be the greatest advantage of taking such an opportunity – in a short period of time they could reach to Novartis stakeholders, in a 360º vision, way faster than in other approaches.
People are the best, but they’re also the biggest challenge
Reaching to the partners is what you want and need, but it can also be your biggest struggle. As a small structure they were, Tonic App team found itself managing more than its internal resources, “the other side”. This means adapting your team to redouble their efforts into dealing and managing processes and expectations of other teams (in this case, Novatis’ one) in an organizational struggle that is also a major learning. Then, a natural conclusion rises:
Corporates and Startups have different timings
And this is a learning for both intervenients. Timings for approvals, results, decisions, are intrinsically different and both parts need to adapt, as to manage expectations. Typically, Startups are going fast, eager to respond and to receive feedback. Corporates on the other hand, follow more structured processes that will contrast to the startup way of living. Expectations need to be managed, for both, but learning from it will only bring benefits.
Culture is very important
And Novartis gets five stars from Tonic App on this. The startup has defined Novartis’ culture as extremely open, proactive and innovative. It represents some risk, of course, as being open to change always is. But it is definitely a plus to work with a company that opens its doors on innovation, and Techcare has proven it.
Life has changed
And keeps changing. Tonic App is nowadays a medical device thanks to Novartis, as it is also a requisite for them to continue working together. The team has grown, and Daniela says that, personally, it has been a very good experience, as more opportunities have risen. They have several ongoing projects with Novartis and new opportunities for internationalization are appearing.
They would do it again
Yes, Daniela says they would definitely do it again. It is indeed rewarding for a program like Techcare to get this kind of feedback from an Alumni. But it is even more important that Techcare have been able to deliver results and pilots between participant startups and Novartis, continuing to foster commercial relationships between them.
I was at the South Summit in Madrid last week on a mission to explore this innovation platform. I can say it was interesting, impacting and at the same time, consuming.
Here are my personal takeaways from the event:
The spanish innovation ecosystem is booming, and it’s reaching out to the world
South Summit is, however you want to spin it, a very spanish event. But that is not necessarily a bad thing, quite on the contrary! The startup scene in Spain is becoming very mature. Madrid and Barcelona are true European innovation hotspots and surprising local ecosystems are arising in Andaluzia, Galicia, Asturias and Basque Country. But this is also an event that is attracting startups from all over the world (and not only the usual suspects from Europe and Latin America).
Collaboration is the name of the game – Corporates <3 Startups <3 Corporates
Innovation is more and more becoming a space for collaboration between different stakeholders, and big corporates are more than ever interested in working with startups in new solutions and testing disruptive technologies in their operations and businesses. Most of the corporates represented in South Summit already have some kind of structured approach to deal with startups and some already have acceleration and open innovation programs.
Let’s talk about talks! It’s all about networking…
Just between you and me… what’s the thing about these events and the non-ending agenda of talks about the same topics, all over again, where the content ends up being… let’s say it… not really interesting. OK, I do suffer from FOMO everytime I go to these events and end up watching a few talks on topics that I’m interested in. But more times than not I end up being utterly disappointed. But then, the real value of events like this is the networking and the possibility of meeting in the same place amazing startups and innovators. Come for the talks and stay for the networking…
AI in the front seat, Data in the engine
We are finally seeing big companies apply AI in real use cases and not only doing pilots and small controlled experiments. But AI runs on data, and we still need to work on issues like data sharing frameworks, information architecture, stakeholders collaboration and… privacy. The GDPR trauma is long gone but companies are still finding ways to integrate data protection in their data strategies.
Health startups are coming, and Mobility is here
Of the many hot topics in South Summit my eyes went to Healthcare and Mobility. On healthcare new solutions are arising in diagnostics and devices, and you should take a look at Mentalab, one of the amazing startups that accelerated with Data Pitch. Also take a look at the winner of this track – 2eyesvision. And mobility is booming with solutions ranging from drones, logistics, shared mobility and of course, MaaS solutions like iomob, the winner of this track.
The Unemployment Rate In Portugal Is 6.3%, But There Are Open Positions In Technology: How To Take Advantage Of Them?
Beta-I, Le Wagon, Landing Jobs and Humaniaks joined forces to discuss opportunities on how to begin or move your career to the digital universe from September, 30th.
According to the National Institute of Statistics (INE), the unemployment rate in Portugal is 6.3% at the moment. This number is mainly related to jobs and professions existing before digital transformation, which has brought new career opportunities: right now, there are hundreds of job openings offered by startups and technology companies, and one of the biggest business challenges lies in creating proper recruitment strategies and employer branding projects in order to attract the best talents.
To raise the awareness of the professions of the future, Beta-i , Le Wagon, Landing Jobs and Humaniaks have teamed up to create Career in Tech Week . The week of free events will take place between September 30th and October 3rd at Beta-i, starting at 19 PM , and will feature different speakers on a variety of topics. Registration is free.
On the first day, high-paid (or well-paid) jobs such as Developer , Data Scientist, Product Manager, etc. will be discussed. On the second day, Landing Jobs will present a detailed report on the Tech Professions. On the third day, there will be a workshop on the skills required to get a job in tech and, finally, on the last day, there will be a talk with different professionals who will share how they radically changed their careers for the tech sector. The talk will be moderated by Humaniaks, and followed by networking drinks.
This initiative is important since the data released by Startup Portugal in conjunction with IAPMEI and the Ministry of Economy show that Portuguese economy grew in the period from 2016 till 2018 with a significant amount of startups and entrepreneurs contributing to this growth. Also, the value of sales and provided services increased among startups, which in 2018 reached an average of € 553,000 per company; with value added per employee being around € 80,000 per year, highlighting the growing contribution of local talent to the economy.
Because of the scarce labor resources and an increasing demand, wages in this area are higher than the national average. To compare, Portuguese average salary for graduates from tertiary education was € 1,547 (base) in 2017. According to the report “ Tech Salaries in Portugal” by Landing Jobs, a startup specialized in technology recruitment, most positions available to professionals with less than 3 years of experience will start with an average salary of 22K € / year, which represents a monthly income of 1,800 € per month.
According to João Figueirinhas, CEO of Humaniaks, a startup focused on recruiting technology professionals, “technology companies have a hard time recruiting. Generally, either the selection process is long, as it is difficult to find sufficiently skilled labor for the openings in question, or the hiring cycles are shorter, but companies are in charge of training their own hires to perform the required function ”.
The shortage of skilled labor is likely to become even more intense, as several other companies are planning to open more subsidiaries in Portugal in the near future, such as British company Revolut and American company Amazon , which already started relocating to Lisbon last year, and has just announced the opening of its CloudFront division in the country.
These companies are attracted by two factors: government incentives (such as startup visa, national network of incubators etc.) and the increased amount of investment in the sector.