Talent is king! Scaling your HR efforts the right way

Talent is king! Scaling your HR efforts the right way

by Startup Montréal
31 August 2022

“Take care of the people, the products and the profits, in that order” Ben Horowitz (Tech Entrepreneur and Co-Founder of Andreessen Horowitz)

Human Resources (HR) processes, whether in the early and scaleup stages, or even across mid-to-large corporates, are usually tricky to map out and almost certainly not similar in scope, size, or strategic priorities.  Constant optimization is needed, and sound HR practices become a catalyst to facilitate company processes and practices so people management brings about a founder’s vision for growth. In doing so, foundations for growth become people-centric, and talent development and retention adds value to impact sales, marketing, operations, strategy, and many other business needs.. An equally important consideration for HR considerations beyond functional role-and-skill-based development is the cultivation of leadership skills in your workforce- to find and nurture positive leadership habits (and behaviors) that will empower employees to support your organization’s growth objectives.   

Many early-stage companies place the focus more on ensuring Product-Market-Fit (PMF), but if your company’s intent is to scale, your HR infrastructure is a catalyst to grow.

We’ve boiled down many lessons learned from HR experts in our program offerings to bring you a few tips that can help you create a strong leadership team and to build your recruitment capabilities in your company. Whether you’re ideating the next big thing, an early stage startup trying to find Product-Market-Fit, or a scaleup trying to secure repeatability in your business model, there’s some gem here for you. Looking for more? Learn more about Apexe Québec/Startup Montreal programs that can take your company to the next level.  

Four tips to create a strong leadership team

1- Constantly adjust and upgrade your team

Be the biggest fan and critic of your people. Often, the first employees of a startup are friends and may not be suited for the evolution, growth and trajectory of what you are building. Put egos aside and have the company’s interest in mind. Tough conversations, while uncomfortable, are important steps toward growth. From a personal perspective, this builds leadership acumen. From a company perspective, you’re trying to find inefficiencies that might be inhibitors of growth. There are many scenarios that can play out – you might find it beneficial to offer professional development opportunities to team members; it might be noted that a new hire with a more refined skill-set is required to move to the next stage; a current employee might need to get repurposed or phased out. Reflect on the company vision and ask yourself if the team is currently built to chart that course.    

2- Redefine leadership jobs often

Hire for the future and bring in those with updated, adaptable skill sets and capabilities. You are building a company with multiple verticals and you need talent to develop each of these areas tomorrow. Always think about what you will need in the future and hire accordingly. Consider that leadership doesn’t always mean hiring directors or senior managers. If you are strategic about your hiring, offering a professional working environment that challenges juniors to rise to the occasion can bring about future company leaders to fill currently vacant managerial and directorial level roles. Lesson learned- be responsive to what you are seeing “on the ground” and let job roles reflect these needs for infusing leadership.

3- Bring in a Chief Human Resources Officer (CHRO)

This senior level person will help to think strategically about talent. How do you build departments with gifted department heads who can lead and motivate others? What is the right cadence and manner by which to hire and how will those hires be funded? What constitutes a competitive compensation and benefits package? How do you talk about your culture to outsiders? It is almost a foregone conclusion that you  will not have time to do this forever. When do you start to invest in building your capabilities? The moment you need it, it’s too late. Do it early, and be intentional. Your CHRO becomes your company’s connective tissue to transmit departmental needs to the marketplace of prospective hires, but they also serve as an important conduit for professional development and scaling culture across your entire company

4- Hire for execution, not for vision and innovation 

The job description you need will typically include these keywords: “build in the present moment and think about the future”, “build discipline and processes”, “maintain engagement through change and uncertainty”, and “embrace your culture”. Introspective thought from founders and company leaders is required in order to effectively hire “doers”. Why? The founder and company leadership must also be executors. Whether you’re making your first non-leadership hires or scaling out an entire department, someone will be required to train and/or develop your new hires. Leadership must first know how to execute, and then be in a position to model these behavioral follow-throughs and mindsets. When evaluating candidates, it’s important to gauge whether or not your applicants (or interviewees) talk and/or model decisive action, or are just roundabout ideators. If you’re evaluating prospects, some signs of decisive decision making include: showing clear steps toward a goal, offering measurable milestones (or outcomes), describing a realistic means of achievement, personal accountability, and not being afraid to lead. 

Four tips to build your recruitment capabilities

1- Start with your Employer Value Proposition (EVP)

The perception that candidates and employees form as they interact with your company will not come organically. It needs to be crafted and intentional. You need this EVP to drive talent attraction and retention, especially when you don’t have a solidified brand and you’re not yet known in your industry or space. The best question to ask yourself when considering opening up your employee recruitment activities is “Why would someone want to work at my company?” You might have crafted the best sales and investor pitch decks on the planet, but this same thought process and rationale must now extend to your recruiting efforts. It must be compelling. 

2- Play the game, you are your own recruiter

Recruiting is a long game, with short-term opportunistic tendencies. Your company might struggle at the onset to find compelling narratives that can attract the type of talent your company yearns to recruit.Write compelling and detailed job descriptions, define hiring criteria, learn how to interview, understand how the training and onboarding of this new hire will occur, have a realistic salary range in mind before you schedule any follow-ups. You need to know what recruitment is about. Transmit the same passion you have for your company’s vision and mission into your job descriptions, your interviews, and follow-ups; your future hiring prospects will take note of this. It’s all connected. The savviest recruiters know where to find those gems in the community- leverage your networking skills to find events, groups, institutions, and other places where your “ideal” candidates are. Go out there and hook them!

3- Budget wisely for recruitment and invest in talent acquisition

Recruitment is expensive and time consuming. It’s an investment.  Diversify your lead pool to include online recruiting (LinkedIn and Indeed) as well as industry newsletters and personal networks If you only count on your colleagues and friends, you will not find a diverse talent pool, nor one that may be suited to the particular skillset and needs of the position that you are recruiting for. Factor-in these considerations when weighing out the recruiting needs that you have – spend wisely and strategically. There are many examples of well funded companies who recruit poorly and inefficiently. One of the best assets your company might currently possess is the ability to do more with less. If you have an amazing network of people to count on, you might be able to hack the system to get closer to your targets without overspending. Investors will also be keenly focused on how much you expect to spend on finding and acquiring talent. Be intentional. Be strategic. Be frugal. 

4- Set SMART Goals 

It is paramount for all team members to understand their role within the larger context of their department and the company.  Having a clear sense of goals allows for better and more transparent alignment across functions and departments.  It also gives ownership and a sense of purpose and belonging to your tribe (your team). People usually know what they have to do, but they do not connect it to the bigger picture. Goals create a sense of belonging and accountability. SMART goals are intended to be challenging to attain, but the process toward achieving your desired outcomes builds incredible scar tissue and muscle memory along the way. Leverage the rigor of well set SMART goals for your recruiting objectives to build out teams/departments that drive value toward your most important objectives – revenue generation, customer satisfaction, and product/service development excellence. Your teams will relish the challenge and rise to the occasion.