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The HR Hub: Getting The Right Talent For Startups

Startups face a peculiar challenge when it comes to hiring the right talent and the reasons are not far-fetched. Coupled with a dearth of skills is the scramble for the few available skills/talents by the big brands/top organizations.

So, when it comes to hiring top talents, it seems like the smaller brands do not stand a chance, as the top brands are quick to snatch up quality ones. As much as unemployment rates are high, it’s extremely puzzling to note that it is still difficult to find the right hire with the right skills employers are looking for to enable achieve organizational objectives. Why is this ‘puzzle’ affecting start-ups much more?

Smaller brands are hard at work, trying to build and expand for growth and to become household names. They have to keep operating costs as low as possible in order to maximize profits which is essential for growth and expansion. And they need the right people to achieve this. Without the right people, a vision is merely a piece of paper or a ‘slew of words.’

However, their very ‘practical’ structure is also a ‘seeming’ weakness for potential employees because most people are looking for the big brands for employment and for obvious reasons: better pay, better benefits, defined structure, better organization etc. What these talents fail to understand is that the big brands are not that many and they usually have high retention rates, so they are not hiring as often as the smaller brands. And when they do, the competition is usually quite stiff because they go for the best, according to their perception of who a top talent is. This leaves start-ups with the option of ‘rummaging’ among the many and trying to pick the ‘remaining best of the lot’.

One of the greatest challenges facing start-ups in this context is the fact that they cannot offer exciting pay packages like the bigger companies nor can they afford to ramp up attractive benefits that would motivate employees to full commitment and engagement. Also, because of a lack of structure and in some cases, lack of opportunities for growth, finding the right talent continues to be an arduous task. The ones they do find, hardly stay. The ones that end up staying, lack the basic skills and competencies to perform on the job. Many small-medium business owners complain about high turnover rates, burnouts as result of being more operational than visionary, lack of employee commitment and engagement etc. These issues have far-reaching effects on start-ups. They consume time, energy and resources in hiring, firing and operational issues which could have been better spent building structures and strategizing for growth of the business.

What can startups do to attract and retain better talent?

  • Define the role before you hire. A well-developed job profile can be a source of motivation for potential employees. A top hire wants to know that his/her job is well-defined and not arbitrary, and wants to know that the role will provide opportunities to use their skills, knowledge and abilities. A well-defined job profile also speaks to the brand/culture of the organization as it gives a semblance of a well-structured organization. Don’t hire and define the role according to the personality. A Job Profile details the ‘Job Summary’ (why the role is in existence and what it was created to achieve), the ‘Key Result Areas’ of the role, the ‘Job Description’ (the functions of the job role), the ‘Key Performance Indicators’ of the job etc. This is crucial is helping you define what sort of person will be suitable for the role described.
  • Define your interview process. Develop a well-structured interview process. Employers are also being ‘interviewed’ or assessed during a recruitment process. The way you handle your interview process, in fact your entire hiring process, determines the type of talent you will attract. What appeals to top hires is structure, organization, process, systems etc. During my job-hunting days, I decided not to work for an organization by merely walking into the compound. The compound was littered and dirty, the gate itself was damaged and candidates were kept in the gate house! The value you attach to your business is the value you will attract. Gone are those days where it is considered normal to keep candidates waiting an eternity for an interview. Potential employees must be made to feel decent and valued no matter the job role or the pay package.
  • Develop a pay package that is consistent. It is better to pay N50,000 per month consistently and on time than to promise N150,000 and be unable to pay after the first month or to owe several months. Develop a pay structure you can afford on a consistent basis and make plans to expand that pay structure as the business grows. It is often a win-win situation where you are able to pay consistently and the employee is motivated to deliver consistently as well which causes the business to grow.
  • Statutory Obligations are important! Don’t underestimate the power of certain statutory benefits like pensions, medical insurance etc. as a source of motivation for attracting the right talent. It is very ‘comforting’ and encouraging to know that there are other benefits attached to working for a start-up and it boosts employer brand. Many business owners do not like the ‘sound’ of statutory obligations because they view it as ‘cost’. It is rather an investment, asides the fact that it is mandatory.
  • Hire Attitude. Train Skill. Hire people who are passionate about the type of business you are into and not just graduates looking for a job. Be willing to invest to train, mentor and mold the skills and competencies you desire when you find the talent with the right attitude to match your organizational culture and business objectives. Training plans/programs do not have to be expensive. You can leverage your social networks to get colleagues and friends who have expertise and experience in their various fields, to offer periodic training for your staff. A skilled employee with a bad attitude is still a bad hire.
  • Never hire under pressure. Do not start hiring when your need for the employee is urgent. You are bound to make hiring mistakes. To avoid this, you need to have a Talent Plan. A talent plan is meant to articulate your current skills, competencies and staff strength as well as anticipate future skills, competencies and numerical strength needed to achieve organizational objectives. That way, you can clearly articulate your hiring needs and be properly prepared for it. A talent plan is also very useful in cases of the unexpected where an employee quits suddenly or suffers a demise. It ensures that the gap is quickly filled and that the business does not experience hitches caused by such gaps.

Some might say that the above listed seems to be quite some work. Truth is that entrepreneurship is a journey of hard work and it cannot be compromised if you must meet your goals. Everything you need to do to get it right can be done within your own ‘realistic’ scale and can be further expanded as you grow. But getting it right is a must. Hiring a HR consultant with special considerations for SMEs/Startups will also help you focus on your area of competence and allow you room to create and envision. With the right team, your possibilities are endless.

Send me an email for your Talent Plan or for HR Consulting: soluchi@ttmcgroup.org

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Twitter: @thehr_doc

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Featured Image Source: IPLeaders

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Soluchi Ogugua

Soluchi Ogugua is a HR Business Partner with a strong passion and commitment to people and skills development. She has a Bachelor’s Degree in Economics and a Master’s Degree in Global Human Resource Management. She has garnered over 15 years of hands-on experience in leadership, coaching and mentoring, assisting individuals and organizations to achieve their development objectives.

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