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Startup Leadership Insights: Alessia Di Iacovo from Too Good To Go

Updated: Dec 23, 2021

Have you ever thought about the impact your start-up can have on the environment around you? That was the number one question for this week’s guest of People Bootcamp. Alessia Di Iacovo has more than a decade of HR experience and is putting it to good use by being responsible for the Learning and Development of more than 1200 individuals inside a social impact company called Too Good To Go. Their mission, to reduce food waste has a global impact, and knowing how to lead is as important to them as it is to any other company out there, if not more.

Thank you for being with us and sharing your story. The work that you do is so important. Can you tell us more about your company and your role in it?

Too Good To Go is a social impact company, leader in fighting food waste, which is the biggest cause of climate change, as more than ⅓ of the food produced today is not eaten. Founded in Denmark in 2016, we are now a scale-up present in 17 countries across Europe and North America. We operate mainly through our app, which allows users to purchase surplus food from local stores. As of November 2021, we have reached the impressive milestone of more than 100 million meals saved since our beginning.

I am part of the Global People&Culture team, taking care of Learning&Development for all our +1200 Waste Warriors globally. I have worked in HR for more than 12 years now, both as a consultant and in-house, within multinationals and start-ups.

That kind of experience has surely led you to important conclusions and vital strategies. We are curious about your stance on leadership. What is leadership effectiveness to you or your company?

Our guiding principle in defining leadership effectiveness is our Leadership behaviors: a core set of actions that are directly derived from our core values and from B-Corp principles. Those leadership behaviors define for us what it means to be an effective leader in TGTG. We worked with our global management team to capture their own vision around that, and to make it both actionable and inspirational. Most importantly, all our training initiatives link back to our Leadership Behaviors, and some teams use it also as a blueprint for a value behavior assessment. It all comes back to that.

We know many are yet to implement this kind of thinking and activities in their environments. What can help is knowing how do you measure leadership effectiveness?

We have started this year to implement an engagement survey at a global level, using a specialized platform that allows us to break down and analyze results at aggregate, country, and team levels. This allows us to plan for global leadership development initiatives, as well as to deep dive locally with specific support, usually coaching-based.

That kind of approach must really allow you to see the impact and act accordingly. Spotting leaders early on is a crucial step for any company. How do you identify leadership potential amongst your employees?

We are on our way to implementing a consistent process for leadership development and promotions within the company - in Q1 2022 we will build our foundations by analyzing internal capabilities.

Your mission and core business make your path unique. There are surely many bumps on that road. What are some common leadership challenges that you hear from your managers?

Being a young company, many of our leaders are also first-time people managers. The most common challenges for them involve making the transition from peer to leader and delivering constructive feedback. Another challenge is that we are a very rapidly growing company, so everyone, and especially our leaders, need to embrace continuous learning to match the growth of the business with their own growth. And finally, many of our leaders are also senior and experienced managers, meaning we need to adopt a differentiated approach to two different “target groups”.

Can you share how did you help them manage these challenges in the past?

We launched a pilot Leadership Practice program in October with 3 basic modules: Feedback for Growth, Career Conversations, and Inclusive Leadership. Each module consisted of self-paced e-learning, combined with an online live exchange workshop. The format proved very successful, and we are planning to evolve it in 2022, and to implement it on a rolling basis.

That sounds like a very good plan, looking forward to hearing from you about the outcome. Managers need a lot of HR support, that is certain, but how do you think is best to support them? Do you have an example you could share?

  • By providing them the tools they can use.

  • By providing them the time and space to share and exchange across their community.

  • By providing them with care and growth opportunities so that they can care for and grow their own team.

In addition to these universal principles, you could also try to help by providing good habits; by acting as sparring partners on “people puzzles” (helping managers tackle challenges in their teams involving motivation, mindset, difficult feedback, performance, and communication); and by being strategic, defining how future structures, team makeup, competencies & processes will contribute to future business goals & challenges.

Can you share one last piece of advice for other HR leaders?

Work from the outside in: be relevant for the business, but also make your voice be heard: you are the experts on the people part of the business, and without people, there is no business.

Learn when to prioritize speed vs. quality. Be ready to switch between MVP-quick-and-dirty-incremental-releases approach, and resist the pressure of rapid-pace to pause and think, and plan long-term.

And lastly - Have fun! Love what you do and who you do it with.

From fintech solutions that break borders, to reducing gas emissions, leaders are needed everywhere. No matter what is the industry or region, this topic was never more important. We will keep you updated on all the latest market trends and share with you useful tips and advice on how to tackle the topic of effective remote leadership.


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