Hiring hacks for early-stage entrepreneurs and startups
Recruiting talent is no less than marketing. A startup has to identify the target audience, choose the channel to reach out to the audience, craft a message and keep communicating it consistently over time.
Human capital plays an important role in the journey of an entrepreneur as much as the power of the idea, the passion to turn the idea into a working enterprise, and the financial capital. Many businesses fail when the key people leave and, similarly, many fail to take off when they do not find the right resources to take the mantle forward. So, it is important to start on the right note.
Often, entrepreneurs start by building a prototype and testing it out. Along the journey, especially when it takes a while to build a successful prototype, many well-wishers and friends come along the path to help the venture take off. They become an integral part of the experiment and take on roles in the enterprise when angel funding comes in. But not all of them are necessarily the talent needed for the next phase of growth of the enterprise.
However, it becomes tough to leave them behind, given the emotional capital that the entrepreneur builds along with them. It is a tough ask to keep the emotions aside and let them know that they need to make way for the new talent with a different set of skills critical for the success of the organisation. This is easier said than done.
Culture and strategy necessary on one plate
They say culture eats strategy for breakfast. However, this is not necessarily true for a startup. We need both to hire the desired talent. Millennials want to see the purpose, and associate with it if they find it appealing. Only when they have the intent to associate with a venture will they like to know if the organisation has a formula for success, clarity of the milestones to achieve, and the leadership muscle to execute the formula.
The leader has to articulate these aspects to potential talent. Recruiting talent is no less than marketing. We have to identify the target audience, choose the channel to reach out to the audience, craft a message and keep communicating it consistently over time. The message has to be a compelling proposition for the prospective talent to buy into the dream and come on board.
Leader has to walk the talk
It is relatively easy to put together beautiful presentations and ambitious spreadsheets. Smart communicators can use those to weave a compelling dream. While this can give a head start, it could fizzle out in no time unless the leaders are able to live up to it consistently.
Social media is playing an important role today in hiring talent. Impressions people leave behind on social media are available for the others to see. Hence, experience of applicants, ex-employees and current employees are moments of truth that determine your ability to draw great talent.
Normally, people are concerned about leadership behaviours, values and beliefs, financial health, employee benefits, rewards and recognition, social orientation of the firm, customer orientation, learning focus, and work environment. These HR practices are critical foundation blocks that determine sustainability of the employer brand. Many startups do not attach adequate significance to this critical piece and, hence, let it grow in a nebulous manner leading to cracks and fissures soon after the formative 2-3 years at the beginning. But it is absolutely imperative you set the tone early on.
Build employer brand
The entrepreneur has to gather energy to define the employer brand himself or herself. It has to articulate how the enterprise stands out among other players in the market. Accordingly, he or she has to define the kind of talent needed. These are seminal work that an organisation needs to do in an early stage and must do it well by engaging the experts.
The employer brand gets built systematically over a period of time. They must invite potential talent to engage with the employer brand and thus understand its uniqueness and gauge the opportunity it presents. They must plan programmes like live projects, internships, company tours, and talent hunt competitions to generate interest among freshers in them. Similarly, they must take initiatives such as posting thought leadership articles on social media, hold webinars and on-ground events, carry out image building activities by leveraging media, and playing a role to create social impact. The senior leaders need to network in industry forums to draw talent as lateral hires for them.
Financial resources can be organised from a wide choice of sources and technologies can be borrowed. However, the power of the human mind is the hardest to replicate. It is far more difficult and critical at the same time to get the right forces in place than what most entrepreneurs believe.
Here’s hoping they see the point and find a way.
(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of YourStory.)
(Edited by Evelyn Ratnakumar)