Making Impact Work for Startups: the iKPI Playbook
In 2015, the UN released 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), an urgent call for governments, businesses, and organizations to align efforts towards “a shared blueprint for peace and prosperity for people and the planet.” As business leaders, it is past time to assume our share of this indispensable responsibility. We cannot rely solely on governments and large organizations to act without our support.
The biggest problems of humanity can and must be solved by entrepreneurs, who are currently the most effective catalysts for change in the world. We are therefore calling on entrepreneurs to form “Impact Companies” that address SDGs such as eradicating extreme poverty, ending world hunger, and achieving gender equality. To be successful, we believe entrepreneurs should weave sustainability into a concept we all understand - KPIs. That’s why we’ve come up with “impact” KPIs, or iKPIs.
The Founder Institute has put together a free Progress Planner tool to search and generate iKPIs, as well as a playbook for startup founders to work towards becoming an Impact Company through realistic, trackable steps. To help guide entrepreneurs, we will provide supporting resources, including practical iKPI recommendations, real-life applications and metrics, and example case studies, through 10 key steps - this post is #4 in that 10-part series.
Last week in part four of this series on Making Impact Work for Startups, we discussed how to think about ESG in markets and customer segments through ‘Product/Impact’ Fit—this post is part five - so if you haven’t already, we recommend you read part one first.
Maintaining Your Team's Impact Momentum
You have got your team initially engaged and onboard with your impact initiative. Now, you have to maintain that momentum. This comes in two parts. One: your team has to remain active and approving of your impact process. Two: your team has to see that their company reflects its impact goals.
All For Progress impact companies strive toward a fairer, more equitable world. So if your team does not look and feel like a fair representation of the larger society, it will be harder to generate trust and support among those employees, as well as your potential partners and other external stakeholders.
Take an honest look at your company and how it is constituted. Is there diversity across the board? Do the members of your C-suite all look the same? How are you making your hiring practices actively less discriminatory?
Central to this process is to create spaces for people to talk directly and openly to leadership about the improvements that need to be made. Everyone needs to be listened to equally, which means encouraging one-on-ones, not just open feedback sessions where less vocal people may be left unheard. Do not make this a top-down process, as the likelihood is this will perpetuate any unconscious biases rather than remove them; progress here is best accomplished bottom-up via team buy-in.
There are an abundance of tools and strategies available to support your drive for a more ideal culture of diversity and inclusion, such as:
- Project Include
- the Globesmart assessment of inclusion standards
- Blendoor’s tools to build commitment for Diversity, Equity & Inclusion
- DiTal’s work on increasing financial performance through workplace diversity
- The Mom Project for connecting talented women with world‐class employers that respect work-life integration
- Textio to detect biases in job ad language
- Alex to detect unequal language in team communications
- BetterBrave for knowing your rights and options in the workplace
- Diversity AI to build inclusive Artificial Intelligence systems.
Keep your team engaged on your impact initiatives by not only involving them in the planning phases of your iKPIs, but also creating opportunities for employees to give their time (if they want) to support your action areas. Whether by volunteering in their own capacity, for example by mentoring youth in the local community, or by dedicating their time directly to the company’s own impact work, try to bring these aligned opportunities up during meetings, and personalize suggestions based on team members’ professional expertise and personal interests.
Lastly, you should provide continuous updates on your impact initiatives, and allow for regular feedback from all team members. Founder Institute’s For Progress framework recommends displaying your impact metrics publicly on a webpage, and updating them on a regular cadence, usually monthly or quarterly, as FI does on their FI.co/iKPI page. Each time you update and share your impact progress publicly, it provides an additional opportunity for internal reflection and feedback with your team, to again reengage them and ask where things are working versus what needs further focus or improvement.
Case Study Example: Humaxa
- Humaxa (FI Sacramento) is a natural language-enabled Human Resources chatbot tool, developed to gather and analyze ongoing employee sentiment.
- For example, Humaxa has created a Workforce Culture Assistant named Max, a fun and useful bot that lives primarily in Slack. Max can deliver topic recognition to start the discussions that matter to you, and ask team members for their feedback. The ability to deploy chat tools like Max at scale to measure precise and topical overall employee sentiments can help to establish a quantitative framework for improving any kind of predetermined company-wide goal - including tracking team sentiment around the progress of impact.
- Inclusively measuring to understand the needs and sentiments across all members in your organization builds powerful data, and can be put into action. Knowing the causes of what is ailing employee sentiment, and then taking corrective action, can ultimately help to measurably improve workplace culture and increase employee retainment.
Next in this series on Implementing iKPIs and making impact work for startups, we explore how to look at your supply chain for impact alignment—because your startup is likely just one node in a network of interconnecting business dependencies, but a single founder's influence on the other links in that chain may be greater than you think.
* * *
The Founder Institute believes we cannot rely solely on governments and big organizations to fix the world's problems - the time is now for entrepreneurs to also do their part.
Use our free For Progress planner to search iKPIs (Impact Key Performance Indicators) by keyword, or browse iKPIs by the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals. Don't be intimidated by seemingly impossible impact metrics - instead, find specific SDGs that your business can positively influence.
Try the Progress Planner tool at FI.co/Progress, or learn more startup impact initiatives across the FI global network at FI.co/Impact.