How startups are navigating 2020

The 2020 Kleiner Perkins People Report is based on a series of quarterly surveys across our portfolio. It leverages the collective power of founders and people leaders to provide transparency and insight into what startups are doing to address critical topics including:

We can all agree it has been quite a year. Many of us have been sheltering in place since mid-March, attempting to juggle work (either in-person or remotely) and home life (hardest for those who have children or elderly relatives to care for). Some are living in areas affected by an increasing number of natural disasters. Hundreds of years of social injustice has spurred the largest social movement in decades with Black Lives Matter. We are all experiencing a range of emotions and are still mourning the loss of Ruth Bader Ginsburg. During challenging times, leadership matters. We are humbled to back founders and their teams who want to make history and create change.

On that note, here are a few of my perspectives about this report:

1. A hybrid work culture will be the new norm. Top of mind for many leaders is how a remote, virtual environment impacts culture, and what the future of work looks like. Many companies are in the process of planning for an eventual office re-entry. While some are planning for a Q1 2021 re-entry, many larger tech companies have announced Summer 2021 as their target. We are seeing most companies wait until there is a vaccine widely available. But regardless of the timing around returning to the office, one thing is for sure -- the traditional environment of requiring a 100% in the office workforce will no longer be the norm. The new norm will be a hybrid environment where a small percentage of employees will be 100% in office due to the necessity of their roles, and the majority of employees split -- either working from the office a few days each week with 1-2 WFH days, or being majority remote with 1-2 weeks each quarter at HQ.

Given this new environment, communication is key. A takeaway from this report is to over-communicate. Along the lines of clear communication, setting clear goals/OKRs and metrics are critical. The future of work is less about face time, and more about output and results. Establishing clear company-wide goals/OKRs, that trickle down to team OKRs and metrics, will help ensure employees have a clear understanding of what they need to do and how they are performing.

A few tools that our portfolio has found helpful during this 100% virtual working environment and as we move forward are: Loom, Pathlight, Slack, Welcome, CultureAmp and Betterworks.

2. Increase your commitment to seek diverse perspectives. Diversity of lived experiences have become increasingly important in our more complex world. We need team members that enrich our organizations and bring diverse perspectives who reflect the wide customer base. Leaders need to create an inclusive environment where everyone feels they belong and can thrive. Data shows us that teams with a diversity of talent and perspectives improve the bottom line of companies, enhance innovation, make better decisions and perform more strongly. A recent study of Millennials and Gen Zers – who comprise the youngest generations of the current workforce but make up 60% of it – found that almost 50% say they’re taking a company’s diversity and inclusion efforts into consideration when deciding where to work next, and are more likely to stay at a company that prioritizes D&I. We also know that consumers are increasingly attuned to how companies address diversity and inclusion internally and in their products/services. Creating a culture that attracts a diverse candidate pool is just the start. It is equally as important to build an inclusive culture and facilitate career development - ensuring all employees receive guidance, mentorship, and sponsorship. Diversity efforts take commitment and time. We won’t be able to create change overnight but it’s never too late to start today.

3. Invest in your team. When it comes to top talent, the environment remains highly competitive. Recruiting great talent is only part of the challenge. It is just as important, if not more so, to create a culture and environment where your employees show up as their best selves. To start, mental, emotional and physical wellness are critical. During the pandemic, we have seen companies reduce their burn and trim budgets. However, one area we have seen increased investment is around mental wellness. Apps like Calm and Headspace provide digital content and are a good place to start, especially if your company is <75 people. Platforms such as Modern Health address the full spectrum of mental well-being needs, through evidence-based support and digital content. Prior to the pandemic, many companies offered a gym stipend to help support employee’s physical wellness. With shelter in place, physical fitness apps such as Future, Peloton, and the Nike Training Club are helping employees stay active.

In addition to mental and physical wellness, another key area is learning & development. As we enter this new era of work, managers will be faced with challenges of remote hiring and on-boarding, as well as fairly promoting employees, some of whom may be remote while others will be in the office. It is not enough to just hire experienced leaders -- it is critical to support and invest employees through training and L&D.

Thank you for your interest in the 2020 Kleiner Perkins People Report. We hope some of the findings will be helpful as you build and scale your companies. A heartfelt thank you to our portfolio Founders and People Leaders for their willingness to share, and for their participation in our community. This report would not be possible without them. I look forward to hearing your thoughts and feedback.

  • Jackie