Leadership

5 Tips to Help You Attract and Retain Top Talent

A successful startup knows that its most important resource is its people. Consider these five tips to help you find – and keep – great talent to propel your business forward.


Finding—and keeping—great talent is one of company founders’ greatest challenges. In fact, the average tenure at a technology company is just under two years, according to Stephanie Mardell, Vice President of People at Button, a mobile commerce platform.

To help land top talent and keep them, consider these five tips from startup experts.

 

1. Learn From Your First Employees

“It’s really easy to lose sight of employees as a stakeholder group in the early stages,” said Lenore Champagne Beirne, CEO and Founder at Bright Ventures Leadership Accelerator, a cohort-based program that cultivates leadership among founders of early-stage companies. “That can stifle creativity and lead you to make overly conservative hiring choices or management choices that don’t serve the company in the long run.”

Your first employees can provide essential feedback that will prove instrumental as your business scales – but only if you make time to listen. Keep an open mind as you consult with employees, then use their feedback as you make business decisions.

 

2. Develop Your Recruitment Strategy

“When building a company, you have to remember it’s a human experience,” Mardell said. “Your most important resource is your people.”

That’s especially true with your first hires who set the tone for your company culture. Keep the following in mind as you craft your strategy:

  • Understand your job candidates’ mindset: Examine not only their skill sets and experience, but also their desires and motivations. Why are they applying to work at your business? What drives them to succeed?
  • Set clear intentions around your diversity and inclusion strategy: “Start early, and make sure that your employees buy into the vision that you're setting for the company,” said Sonnia Shields, Global Head of the Asset & Wealth Management Talent Institute, J.P. Morgan.
  • Explain what your company can offer: “Make sure that people understand why your company is the best place to work and what it can do for them early on,” Shields recommended.
  • Be mindful of your mission: Craft a story that sets you apart from competitors. If you're not sure that the story is compelling, consider hiring an employer brand expert.
  • Create a hiring plan: Be sure to specify compensation parameters you’re comfortable with, including non-salary components. That way, when prospective hires negotiate for competitive salaries, you’ve determined maximum salaries and identified perks that add value to your offer.

 

3. Keep Employees Engaged and on Mission

As your business grows, remember to develop internal talent, too. Highlight growth opportunities, the chance to learn new skills, and the ability to work on something that could change the world, as well as relocation options and lateral movements across departments.

Recognize that the types of employees you need will shift as your company grows. Early on, for example, you’re likely to seek out creative, agile employees who thrive on build. As your business matures, you can introduce employees who instill structure, processes and efficiencies, Mardell said.

 

4. Make the Hard Decisions

Despite your best efforts, some employees will leave the company—and not always by choice. It’s important to address staffing issues head-on. “You have to act quickly,” Shields said. “You cannot let problems linger, because it starts to impact other performers on your team.”

Address these challenges fairly and respectfully, whether that’s through setting expectations or drafting performance improvement plans. If your efforts don’t work, however, it’s best to quickly and gently part ways with the employee.

 

5. Evolve Your Staff and Business Together

As you grow, so will your team. Your business’s needs will largely influence the talent and skill sets needed to support your already-established momentum, and this will evolve as you continue to build, stabilize and grow. With each completed milestone, assess the capabilities of your existing team to build your future staff. Staying ahead will ensure you’re poised for future opportunities.

Want more insights on scaling your startup? Read on to harness the knowledge of experts and influencers.


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