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How the best start-ups manage their talent life cycle

As an entrepreneur, it’s your job to recruit, engage, develop, retain, and guide the people who will help your company grow and thrive

As a small business, the people that make up your team are crucial to success. It doesn’t matter how strong your idea is, if you haven’t got top talent with the necessary skills to put your plan into action then your business won’t even get off the ground.

No matter how confident you are in your own abilities as a business owner, it’s not feasible to oversee the running of every aspect of a growing business. Trying to do so will lead to shoddy work and burnout.

That’s why you need to assemble a crack team motivated and skilled people who will listen to you and that you are not afraid to listen to.

But it’s not just a matter of hiring someone whose qualifications match the job description, you need someone who is going to gel with your company culture; they’re far more likely to stick with you.

Because the journey doesn’t end when the hire is complete, a business owner needs to know how to retain, manage and lead…

Featuring insights from some top UK start-ups and London & Partners’ Business Growth Programme’s Access to Talent report, we take a look at how you can manage your talent life cycle:

Recruitment: Attracting Talent

Offering a competitive salary isn’t the only thing that’s going to lure in the right candidates. In fact, in today’s market, many jobseekers primary focus is to look for an exciting and innovative company with clearly-defined values and perks they can actually make use of, rather than a large, anonymous corporate.

That’s why it’s crucial to create a strong public image and reputation as a fantastic employer. This needs to be at the forefront of your mind from the off. Establish what you stand for, what your mission is and communicate that to the world. If done correctly, the right people will come to you and become your best advocates.

Remember: During the recruitment and interview process, don’t just hire someone who has the skills on paper, assess them on how they align with your company culture.

Felicia Meyerowitz Singh, CEO of financial technology (fintech) firm Akoni says that although start-ups “can’t match the salaries” of larger rivals, they do have advantages when it comes to attracting talent:

“With a large corporate employer, you may be one of 20,000 employees around the world. You’re a small cog in a big machine.

“But at somewhere like Akoni, you can really have an impact. You can learn fast, break new ground, and position yourself strongly in the talent market.”

It’s also important that diversity is an essential consideration of the hiring process, as Sara Ahmadi Derfus, CEO of Shopest retail fashion app explains: “Diverse teams bring a range of different perspectives when making important decisions.

“We need to address the fact that 45% of our customers are men, yet we’re intrinsically marketing to women”, she continues.

“So we’ve reviewed our job specs, to ensure they reflect the roles as well as what the business does. We’re also looking further afield for talent than the creative professions recruitment platforms that we’ve always used.”

Employee engagement: Retaining talent

So, you’ve got the key talent in place to help you grow your business, now you just need to make sure you can retain them as you grow. This will ensure you have a cohesive and productive team and that your time and resources are used more efficiently (instead of wasted time and money onboarding and training)

Growth can prove a challenge to small businesses as new personalities are introduced into the team, the vision of the company changes and peoples’ roles along with it.

That’s why it’s vital to have your ear to the ground when it comes to your employees. Gather feedback from team members across the employee lifecycle to see what areas can be improved to inform the development of your employee engagement processes.

Again, if you have a strongly defined company culture, you’ll attract people who fit within it and will be happier as a result. And, as leader, it’s your job to make sure every person knows what they’re doing and feels valued.

Tom Charman, CEO of city exploration app KOMPAS, explains the challenges and solutions to retaining talent: “Some seem to think that life at a start-up is easier than working for a corporate employer – only to discover that the opposite is the case.

“Without the right work ethic, they won’t want to push themselves harder as we grow, for less than they can earn elsewhere.”

His solution? Regular meetings with staff: “We discuss all aspects of the business, good and bad.” It also hosts regular socials, conferences and events to make sure everybody feels involved and bonds.

This has major benefits for the motivation of the workforce: “Everyone’s working towards the same goal, so everyone rolls their sleeves up to help. And everyone goes the extra mile.”

Leadership: Leading talent

Like employee retainment, leadership is another thing that becomes more challenging as you scale.

To make it easier for yourself, you should work to establish two aspects of your company from the outset: a clearly defined organisational structure and culture (there’s that word again). Good leadership means giving your team the tools and confidence to work independently and make decisions within your framework.

Jakobus Koorts, CEO of IT consulting service Numata, explains the importance of this approach:

“We’re a values-driven business. Our five core values – trust, respect, integrity, passion and knowledge – translate into our culture. Working to them gives us a strategic advantage; losing them would remove our competitive edge.

“Trust your people to get on with the job,” Jakobus advises. “Micromanaging them will convey a lack of trust, and risk alienating them.

“People will instinctively know how to behave, as your values set clear boundaries for them. They create autonomy, which most people will find motivating,” concludes Koorts.

If this is done correctly, your employees will not only know what to do, but will want to work hard to achieve your goals.

Provide your team with that clarity of vision from the start and watch your company thrive.

For an in-depth look into how a small business can manage its talent life cycle, you can download the Access to Talent report, brought to you by London & Partners’ Business Growth Programme. London & Partners will also be hosting an Access to Talent event on Tuesday 24 April. Find out more and register here.

Henry Williams
Henry Williams

Henry has been writing for since 2015, covering everything from business finance and web builders to tax and red tape. He’s also contributed to many of our industry-renowned annual indexes, including Startups 100 and Young Guns, and created a number of the site’s popular how to guides. Before joining the team, he reviewed films for a culture website, and still harbours ambitions of being a screenwriter.