by Carol Schultz, CEO of Vertical Elevation and author of “Powered By People: How Talent-Centric Organizations Master Recruitment, Retention, and Revenue (and How to Build One)“
More than two-thirds of startups fail and never deliver positive returns to investors. The reasons are wide and varied: ineffective marketing, lack of money, or bad partnerships with co-founders. Yet there’s one strategy that can help you overcome these and other issues: talent management.
Attracting, recruiting, hiring, and retaining the best talent for every key position in your startup will fortify your startup and bridge business gaps. These professionals can provide industry knowledge, expertise, and zeal in crucial areas, including accounting and finance, payroll, marketing, HR, legal, administration, sales, software engineering, and office management.
As these team players focus on their respective roles and responsibilities, you can concentrate on your product or service and big-picture strategies to keep your forward momentum, ultimately building productivity, profits, brand recognition, and a talent-centric business culture your employees will love.
What Does a Talent-Centric Startup Look Like?
If you’re launching your first startup, or this is the first time you’ve faced developing talent strategies, you might not be 100% clear on what a talent-centric workplace looks like. In these successful startups:
- The executive team agrees on the startup’s vision and business strategy.
- Employees understand their roles and what you expect from them in the short- and long-term.
- Employees know they’re welcome in your workplace and are free to express their ideas and collaborate with colleagues (which I often refer to as a “culture of feedback”).
- Employees feel valued for their daily hard work, commitment, ideas, innovations, and accomplishments. In such a workplace culture, they have no doubt they’re the talent you need to boost your business.
Making Your Startup a Talent Magnet
So how do you find the people who will care about your business’s success, so you can defy the startup odds and thrive? These five tips will help you attract top candidates and select your ideal team.
- Speak candidly with candidates.
It might defy conventional thinking, but speaking candidly with talent can help put you on the same page. Hiring for a startup isn’t the same as hiring for a long-running business where corporate leadership has established well-defined departments, roles, functions, practices, and policies. It’s OK to acknowledge your business’s age, size, nature, and future goals.
For example, founders with former entrepreneurial success will have a higher probability of success in a new venture than first-time founders. So, if you’re a former founder who has been successful, talk about it with candidates you’re interested in hiring. Provide specifics. For first-time founders, talk about who your investors are, their successes with their portfolio companies, and how they’re helping to guide you.
- Sell your startup.
Typically, recruiters and hiring managers hold the power in the job marketplace, letting candidates sell their backgrounds and expertise. However, in today’s candidate-driven marketplace, you might need to sell your startup to the talent you want to attract and hire. Furthermore, you might need to start selling your brand and ideals earlier in the process if you discover a candidate you’d love to bring on board.
Be sure to ask what candidates are looking for in joining a startup. It shows you’re interested in what they think and that you’re committed to making great matches for mutual success.
- Let candidates know you promote from within.
If candidates know you’re willing to recognize their commitment and accomplishments and build an inspiring meritocracy, they’ll feel more inclined to sign on for the long term.
Be honest about this because it can lead to disappointment, dissatisfaction, and potential turnover if you don’t follow through in good faith. Tell candidates about your vision for your startup over the next year, five years, and far into the future. Share how you see them fitting into and supporting that vision. If you plan to promote from within, assure candidates that you’ll provide professional training to help them grow and succeed, such as online courses, mentorship, leadership development, or one-on-one and team coaching.
- Demonstrate your commitment to hiring the best candidates.
As you’re starting out, you may be tempted to hire friends or someone who may be less than ideal for a particular role. However, if all you’ve done is hire your buddies, this is a red flag to savvy candidates on a mission to find a good career fit.
Let candidates know that your executive team features the best professionals you could hire and who have been successful in their positions in the past. This tells capable candidates they’ll be a part of a competent and driven group of people they can be proud to be associated with.
- Hire a leadership coach to ensure success.
Running a company as a first-time founder can be challenging, especially when it comes to finding, hiring, and retaining top talent. Show your candidates that you’re committed to success by having a leadership coach help you become a great leader.
The bottom line
Making your startup a talent magnet isn’t difficult when you put your focus on candidates and how they can do their best for you while also finding satisfaction in their work for your company.
Carol Schultz, founder and CEO of Vertical Elevation, is a talent equity and leadership advisory expert with 30 years in the business. She’s helped hundreds of companies transform their organizations and create sustainable, talent-centric cultures that run at maximum efficiency. Her new book is “Powered By People: How Talent-Centric Organizations Master Recruitment, Retention, and Revenue (and How to Build One)“.
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