Charlotte Melkert: ‘Your team is your company. Together, you can turn challenges into opportunities’
Pivot, pivot, pivot.
“Creative thinking is the number one skill that successful entrepreneurs master, and the current COVID-19 situation asks for a lot of creativity. I believe that there's a pivot opportunity in every scale-up, so the opportunity isn't the problem - it's about whether you find it.”
Charlotte Melkert is co-founder and CEO of Equalture, a Rotterdam-based scale-up that has flipped HR on its head and is turning hiring and team building into a data-driven process. For her and her team of 13, the past weeks have been hectic, yet thoroughly rewarding.
As a growing company, like many others, Equalture has been impacted by the COVID-19 outbreak.
“We're in a situation where companies are highly cost-aware and don't tend to make large investments,” says Charlotte. “The focus on hiring new people has decreased, while the focus on your current team has gone up. And that makes complete sense! Your current team is a very large investment you already made, so it makes sense to focus on it.”
When Charlotte says that a team is “a very large investment”, she’s not exaggerating. For scale-ups, personnel costs account for 63-81% of total costs. Those are serious numbers that only show the importance of building a good team.
Pivoting on a tight schedule
For Equalture, disrupting the status quo in the HR sector has been somewhat of a second nature.
Prior to this company, Charlotte owned a recruitment agency together with her twin sister Fleur - who is also co-founder of Equalture, and what surprised them then was that in the hiring process, companies didn’t use any data, but based their decisions purely on gut feel. This was the push they needed to look for the right data-driven solution.
“We wanted to disrupt the way companies build teams,” Charlotte says. “It started with a tool to make hiring more data-driven. Today, two years later, we have a Team Composition Technology: a solution that helps scaling companies build teams with the combination of skills and personality traits that they need to scale. All based on data and with zero gut feel.”
In the plan for this year was launching a new sub-product, Equalture for Team Analytics, which would allow companies to focus on developing their current teams. The launch was initially set for the end of 2020. Needless to say, that plan got expedited.
“The COVID-19 situation impacted us in a way that we needed to pivot quickly,” Charlotte says. “We were already working on this new sub-product, but we needed to change our roadmap to launch it faster. We only had a few weeks to do it all, change the website, write a new sales and customer success strategy, and create a new pricing model. It's incredible how much you can do together when it’s crystal clear for everyone what the goal is.”
Equalture for Team Analytics is now live and it took only six weeks to get it up and running. That may well be the definition of resilience.
Tackling the challenge of working rkemotely
While Charlotte and her team had proven to themselves and their customers that they can change course in a matter of weeks, they did not stop there.
The COVID-19 outbreak forced a lot of companies to temporarily close their offices and start working remotely. It was a first for many of them. The questions were piling up: How is my team going to respond to this? What skills do you need to be able to work remotely? And do my employees have these skills or do they need help?
“Funnily enough, we were already doing research into remote working skills, since it is becoming more and more normal for our type of customers - fast-scaling companies, to hire remote employees. Therefore, we already knew the eight skills that have proven to be most crucial when working remotely.”
The team put their heads together and developed a new tool from scratch and called it Remotely.
In a nutshell, Remotely helps companies to analyse and improve their team’s remote working skills by letting their employees play a set of neuro-assessment games, which take only 15 minutes to complete.
All of Equalture’s products are built on the concept of gamification, as it’s the way to really get to know people, Charlotte says. They use neuro-assessment games because they stimulate people’s unconscious behavior, which is exactly the type of behavior that they show at work. Traditional assessments, on the other hand, stimulate conscious behavior.
“I believe that gamification is extremely important when trying to get to know someone in a work-related setting. Resumés focus on the past, while gamification allows you to focus on someone's future potential,” which is a lot more important, Charlotte is convinced. “I can imagine that it's scary for people to trust a game more than a university degree, but once you do, the chances of making the wrong hiring decisions are far lower.”
And since scale-ups spend a large chunk of their total budget on people, they might as well get it right the first time around.
What Charlotte’s team has achieved over the past few weeks is proof that there are ways to turn a challenging situation, which is outside of anyone’s control anyway, into something positive. Creativity is indeed key. But your team is what glues it all together.
“Do involve your team, especially now!” Charlotte urges fellow scale-ups. “The more brains, the better. Not responding to this situation and hoping that things get better soon will seriously damage your company, or even break it. Creativity is key, and if you are able to find that together with your team, even these situations can be perceived as opportunities rather than threats.”