Monday, 3 February 2014

Attracting and Retaining Great Talent in your Startup.

 It takes many months to find the right, skilled, reliable and determined talent and bring them on board your hot new startup idea or company. And it’s not going to get any easier. The competition for good talent is so fierce right now and attracting great talent to a startup can be a nightmare. You want specific candidates who care about your startup, your products, your customers, and most important your job. People who understand the industry you operate in and the requirements of the job.
Besides the great idea you have, the big market you’re after, if you’re going to hack it huge you need to focus on the people you hire or attract to your startup.
1. Character over skill set
So for example how do you hire a good developer if you're not a programmer? Find a good programmer to help you hire a developer. Right? But if you can't recognize good programmers, how would you even do that? This illustrates a common challenge in recruitment in startups. How can a CS guy pick a smart marketing guy in a batch of smooth talkers and liars? Referrals? Share the vacancy on job boards? Should you hire character then train skill? Or pick skill, education and experience over character and culture?
Don't hire or work with someone you dislike because they have some skill you need and worry you won't find anyone else to get the product ready on time. Look out for people who show some focus, the discipline to complete projects on time, the determination to see things through and resilience. Smart guys are also bad procrastinators, creative designers are perfectionists they critique their work thus take longer at it, great developers new tech superstars are a little weird there’s also ego to massage there J
Talk to the candidates about what they’ve done. Ask them about their most impressive projects and biggest wins. Specifically, ask them about how they spend their time during an average day, and what they got done in the last month. Evaluate guys on work they’ve done in the past, review their skills based on what they’re working on/at the moment and pick them based on the work they can do in future.
2. Your Culture
Culture is your competitive advantage while attracting talent. It’s about you, your people, culture, leadership, core values and vision and basically what people external to the organization think of you. The culture of a startup really matters a lot to the success of the entity. Great people attract other great people in just about any company startup, SME or Multinational; as soon as you get a mediocre person or a few in, this entire phenomenon can unwind. In the grind of a startup, it is very easy to hire someone that is not quite smart enough or a culture fit because you really need a specific job done. Hire people who are a natural fit to your culture.
3. The Friends and Relatives Blackspot
The friends and family help a lot in getting the work done at no cost especially in the early days. If most of your employees are from one tribe, family, race then this may hinder your chances of attracting new talent or retaining great personnel. You need to have a balanced multi talented team for the greater good of the startup, so don't include your wingman because he'd feel left out. The people are the most important ingredient in a startup, so don't compromise there not even with friends & relatives.
4. Be firm but not horrible
People will soon forget what you did, but will never forget how you make them feel especially when they are on the receiving end. Be firm with your judgment; let your team know what is acceptable and what isn’t. Be a cool but ensure work is done, timelines met and work is never compromised because people feel they can get away with anything! Disputes can be avoided if you’re more careful about who you go into business with and whom you work with. Most disputes are not due to the situation but the people. It's much easier to firmly fix issues early. Let your employees understand the black and white of most processes, procedures and approach to issues. Don’t be a jerk or a control freak though.
5. Have Job Descriptions
It’s advisable to have job descriptions to ensure people understand their scope of work and what is expected of them. JD’s are important for funded startups or those that have been in existence for over six months and have over five employees.
However if having JDs is too boring for your cool startup then at least have ‘deliverables’ for everyone, call them targets, timelines, expectations, clear assignments and tasks. This helps identify who to recognize, reward, promote, fire, demote or transfer or rotate. As you implement this in an early stage company encourage collaboration and teamwork to ensure employees assist others in areas of their interest, have skills or knowledge in.Remember that in a growing startup, anyone you hire is likely to be doing a new job in three to six months. Hire guys who are adaptable. People who have great appetite for bigger challenges, excited about learning new things, people who are willing to do one more thing for the team.

Do check out this interesting Infographic by Deloitte too.
Side Note:
“A programmer is most productive with a quiet private office, a great computer, unlimited beverages, an ambient temperature between 68 and 72 degrees (F), no glare on the screen, a chair that’s so comfortable you don’t feel it, an administrator that brings them their mail and orders manuals and books, a system administrator who makes the Internet as available as oxygen, a tester to find the bugs they just can’t see, a graphic designer to make their screens beautiful, a team of marketing people to make the masses want their products, a team of sales people to make sure the masses can get these products, some patient tech support saints who help customers get the product working and help the programmers understand what problems are generating the tech support calls, and about a dozen other support and administrative functions...” (Source)

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