Attract and Retain Talent
7 Tips For Startups To Attract And Retain Talent
Bringing the right people on board is important for any business, but startups in particular can’t afford to make hiring mistakes. When money is tight and credibility has yet to be established, a wrong hire can set you back for months or keep your business from taking off altogether. In addition, a lack of resources and recognition can make it difficult for startups to lure the best and brightest.
So what can startups do to attract and retain top talent?
I recently moderated a panel discussion on the topic at TechPint’s Industry Digital Summit in Cleveland. My fellow panelists had several interesting pieces of advice for entrepreneurs that I’d like to share.
1. Build An Exciting Company That Does Something Big
Attracting top talent starts with building a business that people want to be part of, says Robert Hatta, talent partner at Drive Capital, which invests in Midwest companies. Everything else, including where a startup is located, is secondary, he says.
“If you build an exciting company that’s trying to do something big, good people will want to work for you,” he says. “And the people who work for you will tell their friends how awesome it is; and people from other regions that are perceived to be sexier will come to work for you.”
2. Define Yourself Before You Hire
For Julie Maurer, president of SilverLine Consulting, hiring successfully begins with defining who you are and figuring out what set of skills you are looking for. In other words, the exercise of creating a job description in many respects is more important than the document itself.
“You have to really think about what your company is doing, where you are at and what your culture is,” Julie says. “Think about top talent in the context of your company, define it and then recruit for it.”
3. The Hiring Process Should Reflect Your Culture
Recruiting for culture, not just skills, is an important point. One of the hiring practices we introduced at NorTech is a set of interviews aimed at identifying whether or not a candidate shares our values and can perform well in our fast-paced, ever-changing environment.
Applicants go through a series of tough interviews with employees who have not seen the candidates’ résumés. Instead they pay attention to values like passion, respect, individual responsibility and the desire to grow.
4. Your First Hire Should Be A “Get-Stuff-Done” Person
Flexibility is one of the most important things in a startup, as people are likely going to wear lots of different hats. In a startup, someone who can adapt to different challenges and find solutions quickly might be more important than someone who is an expert in a particular subject.
“Your first hire as you are starting to take off as a startup should be a ‘get-stuff-done’ person,” Robert says. “There’s a million things to be done and somebody’s gotta take care of that stuff. Someone who’s smart, resourceful, takes initiative and gets it done.”
Robert says that person almost always becomes an expert in a particular area later and turns out to be indispensable for the company.
5. Take Away The Fear Of Failure
Julie recommends tackling that issue head on in the interviewing process. She suggests presenting the worst-case scenario and stressing that the candidate would have no problem finding another opportunity should the startup go under.
“Often what you see is candidates will say, “Yeah, I’ll be fine if this company goes down. But it’s not going down, because I’m part of it,” she says.
6. Engage And Empower Employees
Once you have been able to attract top talent, how do you retain it?
For Michael McDonnel, vice president of global talent acquisition atTOA Technologies, which was recently purchased by Oracle, it’s about giving employees a sense of engagement and empowerment.
“You have to give people the opportunity to own what they do,” he says. “If they don’t, they’ll say ‘Check please’ pretty soon.”
Open communication is essential in order to engage and empower employees, Michael says. CEOs must set expectations clearly, communicate progress and challenges frequently, and recognize individual contributions to overall success. Only then will employees buy in and feel a sense of ownership in their work.
7. Define Your Process And Commit To It
There are many different approaches to executing these strategies. Whatever your approach, it’s important that you define a clear process, have someone on point to manage it and commit to it, Michael says.
And that process doesn’t have to change even after your startup grows, Robert says.
“Those things that seem natural when you’re small tend to get cast aside when you grow,” he says. “You can always act small with little things even when you’re big.”
Editor’s Note: This article is by Forbes contributor Rebecca O. Bagley. It was originally published at www.forbes.com.
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