Although I don’t have a crystal ball, I do have years of history and experience to draw from in order to make my predictions. Let’s first take a look at some of the toughest challenges faced by any startups, in no particular order. Every new startup must raise funds, study the industry, refine its product or services, develop sales and marketing strategies, test the market and last but not least……. find, hire and keep people with the skill sets they need to grow their business.
So here is my prediction for 2013: attracting and retaining people with the experience they need will be
every tech startup’s most complex and troublesome challenge. Here is a breakdown of the challenge. Firstly, funding, lack of it, is almost always an issue when attracting the right talent. You either don’t have enough funds to secure the resources you need or, if you do hire the top candidate you may be left with a short window in which you can still afford to pay them. This is where they encounter their first fork in the road. Do you expend your budget on the higher salaried talent that has all the skills you need? Or do you hire your second choice and risk hiring someone that simply doesn’t possess the talent you need to be successful? I don’t have the answer. Am I helping yet?
Here are just a few of the things that must be considered when hiring the first round of employees. Firstly, hiring anyone, quality or not, is expensive and time consuming for business owners. You’re already short on time, money and candidates, and combining them together is a daunting proposition. Secondly, you need to understand the most common source of employee turnover for startups. Most employees that leave on their own accord are looking for more money, job security, a more challenging role or a combination of all three. Meeting these expectations is difficult when the business is startup and is not likely in a position to offer one or all of those combinations. Being fired is the other reason employees will leave a company. Typically it gets down to a lack of skill or talent - they just weren’t right for the job and they had to be shown the door. These types of employees are a drain on a startup’s resources and tend to bring down the morale of the entire staff. This is why the attracting the right candidates is the biggest challenge for any startup.
So how do you address this and mitigate the risk? I’m not going to get into the whole work environment debate telling you that you need to purchase pool tables and back massagers for the office lounge. These types of perks will vary greatly on the type of candidate you’re looking to hire and how much money you want to throw around. Instead I would tell you to surround yourself with people that have expertise in these areas. There are plenty of recruiting and HR professionals out there that have been down this road before and have the scars to prove it. While it may be difficult to spend precious funds on a consultant to help you staff up, prepare a work environment, establish policies and procedures etc., in my mind, the cost
of not properly developing a strong and engaged employment team is much greater. The staff is one of the
pillars of success for any business, and there are numerous studies that have proven the link between a strong staff and business results. Ask for referrals, find an HR partner, talk to their clients, and check into the work that they’ve done in the past. Also, you need to make sure that they’ve worked in and understand your industry and have a clear picture of your needs. The good HR and recruiting partners will understand the obstacles and cliffs that lie ahead and will be able to proactively manage this with you. If they have good references and their experience lines up with where you’re going, then you may have just found a partner that will help you get through this tough challenge.