According to CB Insights, one of the biggest reasons start-ups fail is because they don’t have the right team. The problem is that compared to larger enterprises, hiring into a start-up is a lot more difficult, with it being the third largest challenge reported by start-up founders. So, what is it about hiring as a start-up that makes it so difficult, and how can it be overcome?
If you are the founder of a start-up or amongst the earliest appointed leadership team, it’s likely that you’ll have a to-do list as long as your arm. The phrase “wear many hats” springs to mind. You’re going to be focused on developing and executing your business plan, mission, and vision, organising and securing further funding rounds, and ensuring that all processes have the correct foundations in place to give your start-up the best chance for success.
It can seem like a lot for any one person to oversee, and while hiring talent is essential to alleviating this pressure and achieving your primary business goals, you’ll have limited time available to plan your people architecture strategy, source talent, attract them into your organisation, and ensure they’re onboarded at the right time to achieve your milestones.
Hiring is time consuming, and you probably don’t have a lot of time to spare. You will need to agree the role and spec, create the job description, advertise the role, source potential candidates, organise interviews, onboard successful hires; it’s a process that takes up to 6 months on average for a newly established start-up. It’s time you likely don’t have given other business pressures.
While it is easier said than done, you need to look at the long-term impact of hiring and invest appropriate resource as early as possible. Whether it’s appointing a talent acquisition lead early on or leaning on support from a consultancy or agency, you’ll be positioning your business with the best chance for success and giving yourself the best shot of accessing talent as speedily as you need to.
However, take this advice with a pinch of salt.
Do not hire for the sake of hiring – you don’t want a case of right person, wrong time. Before you start the recruitment process, look at your business plan and identify when it’s critical for you to have these hires and schedule time to hire around this period. The last thing you want as a start-up venture is to invest time into the hiring process for the employee to leave because your business goals doesn’t require them at that time. Timing is key.
When considering a role, potential candidates want to feel like they can identify with who you are as a business; what you stand for, what your purpose is, what it really means to be a member of the team. The question is, how do you create a clear employer brand identity for your start-up when no one on the market has heard of you?
Start by establishing a digital presence to communicate your EVP. A website and a LinkedIn company page for your business might sound like the basics, but are the ideal channels to be able to communicate who you are and demonstrate your mission, values, and culture. It’s expected that every business will have an online presence, and 37% of candidates say they wouldn’t consider a role if they can’t find any information on the company, so it’s a vital stage in your talent acquisition strategy.
Alongside this, the founder and all other business leaders should start focusing on personal branding and LinkedIn is the best tool to do this. People buy from people, so focus on spreading your message across a balance of personal channels and corporate accounts. The type of candidate that is going to be considering a start-up over a major corporate are going to want to know who the faces are behind the business, so you are more likely to have an impact and resonate with your target audience with a strategy like this. Take time to present yourselves as the faces of the company, and focus on the message you want to share to encourage candidate buy-in.
Start sharing content that both aligns with you and your start-up’s identity on your personal LinkedIn. When potential hires are researching your start-up, they’ll get a stronger idea of who you are and the values the firm is built on, and you’ll be able to attract likeminded people.
People often assume that big corporations have more attractive offerings than start-ups when it comes to hiring. Yes, big corporations tend to have the stability, a stronger cashflow, and the ability to put together enticing offers, but there is a wealth of opportunity in start-ups that you as a leader can showcase when looking for potential hires.
Start-ups can be really appealing to those who are looking to make a big impact as
•It’s an environment where nothing is really written in stone
•There’s the opportunity to make your mark and lead from the front
While larger corporations tend to be very rigid and regimented, start-ups often have flexibility and potential at their core. The monetary benefits and how much is on the table isn’t a motivator for the entirety of the talent market, so focus on what you can offer that big firms can’t.
In comparison to an established corporation, joining a start-up is usually seen as a riskier career move. Your potential hires may be in other processes, potentially with large corporations, and security is likely a factor they’ll consider when it comes to choice of employer.
So, when having those initial conversations and interviewing candidates, transparency about the direction of your business, journey so far, even any struggles you’ve faced and overcome to date will all help build confidence in your ability as leadership and as a viable venture.
Explain to your potential hire the need you think your start-up venture will be fulfilling, talk about your pipeline potential, give them a run through of your leadership team and why you think they are the best people to hit your goals, and be straightforward with how you are being funded.
Sell with your honesty and get the candidates onside; people like to be in the know when it comes to these things and will likely be more at ease about potential risk.
James Sheehan is an expert in the life science staffing sector. For support in strengthening your start-up venture, connect with him here.