Addressing HRM practices defuturization in temporary settings: The case of a start-up organization.
VII Conferência Investigação e Intervenção em Recursos Humanos.
In recent years, Portugal has been increasingly presented and celebrated as an “start-up nation”, one that was once known for “launching ships” and that is now starting to get known for its ability to “launch start-ups”. A combination of tax incentives and public grant programs has been stimulating start-up “hubs” and “accelerators” across the country, positioning the so-called “Portuguese innovation ecosystem” as an “success story”, one of the “best-performing startup communities in Europe”. Despite the empirically observed high failure rates of start-up based entrepreneurship (Aldrich & Martinez, 2001; Singh et al., 2015; Krauss, 2009; Ucbasaran et al., 2010; Ucbasaran et al., 2013; Hanage et al., 2015), failure and insuccess stories aren`t so visible, or aren’t made so visible as the abundant, heroic descriptions of “start-up success” (Krauss, 2009). In this context, critical, dissonant perspectives are rather scarce. In this paper, it`s considered that is necessary to go beyond dominant discourses of (public and mediatic) glorification, in order to address the way business is concretely managed in a start-up context, or if human resource management (HRM) practices, work cultures and individual, immediate, work experiences are somehow specific in start-up organizations. In this paper, a start-up is viewed primarily as a temporary organization, an analytical lens used to uncover some of its less visible dimensions. The (personal, social and organizational) implications of conceiving a start-up as a temporary organization (an organization whose limited duration is known ex-ante by its members) (Lundin & Soderholm, 1995; Lundin et al., 2015), represent an analytical lens that can help uncovering less visible dimensions of this phenomena, namely the typical high failure and low longevity rates that tend to describe most start-ups development trajectories, and the short-termed, transactional approach to employment relations management that can be observed in this context (Bredin & Soderlund, 2011). Analytical work is anchored in qualitative interview and direct observation data, gathered during a 12 months longitudinal research, held in one the most successful start-ups created in Portugal, in the last four years. One narrative is presented as an empirical illustration of the HRM practices developed in this context. HRM practices are described to be contingent (March, 1995), primarily based on discontinuity and relentless experimentation, a focus on action (on “doing things”, on “getting things done”), and in an alluring need to be always on the move. Discontinuity is key, and it`s discursively presented as a strategic need: the need to promote and affirm organizational differentiation constitutes, in a start-up context, a proof of (institutional) existence. Managerial visions and practices tend to emphasize, in a neo-schumpeterian vein, the virtues of continuous change and “disruption”. Change and discontinuities (of work processes, goals and teams) are presented as an inevitability. HRM focus is placed on the present, on recruiting, on “adquiring talent” (“ready-made” talent: there`s no time or ambition to invest deeply in competency development), a focus that is linked with high turnover rates and retention management issues. The individual is celebrated: one-on-one meetings are favoured as key development moments. An overall sense of uncertainty, volatility and normative impermanence, and the defuturization of management practices and individual work experience(s), are suggested to be two concrete implications of these organizational and managerial orientations.
Human Resources Management,Start-up,Temporary Organization,Time,Defuturization