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Big isn’t always better

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Many companies are operating with only a small group of employees, despite being worth millions, if not billions, of dollars.

Instagram, which was acquired by Facebook for US$1 billion (S$1.3b) when it only had 13 employees, currently has a headcount of only 43 people.

Pinterest has about 100 employees, despite having a user base of over 40 million, and an estimated worth of US$1.5 billion (S$1.9b). Reddit, another online site with 70 million monthly users and an estimated worth of US$240 million (S$304m), only has 11 employees servicing its front page site.

While these companies have the advantage of being internet-based, Madan Nagaldinne, head of HR for Facebook APAC, said the biggest challenge of keeping companies lean is chaos and burn out.

“It’s not enough to have good intentions – you have to create mechanisms that sustain lean organisations,” he said.

Companies can do this by creating a culture which allows people to be open and bold, to fail harder and faster, and appreciate the risk taking that comes with lean organisations, Nagaldinne said.

However, the upside is because these companies are small, their employees are exposed to a wide range of opportunities, and often find more meaningful and holistic career paths.

“You easily morph into a learning organisation because there is so much scope for every role and every individual to gain newer skills and experiences since there is so much more opportunity.

“You move away from focusing only on vertical progression, which is typical of traditional career ladders, and you start to focus on the learning experiences people are getting because of staying lean.”

More companies – both on and offline – can afford to reassess their organisational structure and see if there are opportunities to streamline the organisation. One way is of course to leverage on social technology tools, Nagaldinne said.

Companies have to ask if they “can create more sharing, more two-way feedback, and more learning opportunities by embracing social media within the organisations,” he said, adding companies who don’t will get left behind in today’s current working environment.

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