For any entrepreneur to succeed, there is one factor that needs to work for all — irrespective of size, sector, goals, etc — and that is having the right people.
Building the right team has a major impact on a startup’s success as the wrong people can cause friction, create challenges, block the creative process, and ultimately, even lead to the downfall of a company.
But hiring can be a time consuming and cost-extensive process. To add to this dilemma, the pandemic and the resultant borderless hiring has also led to a shortage of available talent.
A recent report by NASSCOM and Zinnov India suggests that India is likely to face a shortage of 14 to 19 lakh tech professionals by 2026. Last year, the size of the tech workforce in the country stood at 47 lakh employees. However, India needs 52 lakh tech professionals.
A report by Scaler suggests that 88 percent of recruiters across all sectors face challenges in hiring and retaining employees. Entrepreneurship 101 attempts to address hiring challenges for startup entrepreneurs.
What to look for?
While Sagar Joshi, Founder of AUTO i CARE, says ambition is key for career growth in any industry other factors also need to be considered when you are hiring new talent.
Here is a list of qualities or skills that cannot be compromised when looking for the right talent.
Willingness to learn
“You can take a horse to the water, you can’t make them drink it,” says Preethi Vickram, Founder of Tapas Education. The drive to succeed is not something that an employer can ignite in an employee; it should come naturally and from within.
The right employee should have a sense of curiosity and desire to keep learning and upskilling oneself, adds Rajat Deshpande, CEO and Co-founder of Finbox.
Ethics and culture
Raghav Himatsingka, Founder of Rising Superstars, believes that good talent is self-motivated, and doesn’t need someone to micro-manage them.
The right candidate should have a strong work ethic and the ability to take responsibility, and ensure the end-to-end fulfilment of a task and/or project. He adds that a candidate should join a company for work-related reasons, and not just compensation, and perks like proximity to home, ability to work from home, among other things.
But how can a recruiter spot work ethic in a candidate?
Sagar reveals, “Based on experience at a previous employer or if s/he is a fresher, participation in college events, educational qualifications, and the desire to study ahead shows us the person’s work ethic and the thirst for professional growth.”
Working for a startup can be as challenging as it is exciting.
The fast changing environment in a startup, especially in its early stages, requires one to iterate and re-iterate at every step. Post the COVID-19 pandemic, it has been proven that a startup that is quick to pivot will persist. Ones that are adamant about their ways and products will ultimately perish under unprecedented circumstances. In fact, in the first year of the pandemic– 2020, about one lakh businesses had to shut shop.
A good fit for a startup is thus a candidate who can quickly move from one task to another, and be able to make significant changes to contribute to faster growth.
“The right candidate should be able to adapt to challenging situations, be a quick thinker, and should be solutions-driven,” Sagar agrees.
The culture of a startup is extremely important and a major contributor to the attrition rate of the business. Just how a startup’s culture is crucial for an employee, an employee’s personality and style is equally important for a startup.
AUTO i CARE’s Sagar says, “In our scope of work, communication skills are of paramount importance. We require people who are good listeners as understanding the problem faced by the vehicle owner will transmit the right information to the road-side assistance team.”
A startup functions smoothly when all teams are aligned towards one ultimate mission. It is, therefore, of utmost importance that any candidate joining a startup should be a good team player. This means, one should not only be good at working independently, but should also have the ability to collaborate with others, whenever necessary.
According to Raghav, “A good team player is someone who prioritises the team over personal success. This ensures that they are not distracted by factors like money, job market, and the ‘next cool thing.’ Instead, they commit to winning as a company…”
However, the right candidate should also not shy away from asking for help when required.
Finally, the last criteria that often triumphs over all other factors is a candidate’s passion for a particular sector.
Often one may hear people expressing their desire to work in a fast-paced startup environment. What they miss out on is identifying their sector of interest. One may join an edtech startup only to realise that their true passion lies in foodtech, and vice versa. When all – money, benefits, bonuses, and promotions – fail to motivate, passion drives people to do better.
Working in a sector that one is passionate about automatically leads to job satisfaction, better performance and long-term benefits.
Where to find talent?
The next and most important roadblock is looking for candidates to fit the role. One can list a job opening and wait for aspiring candidates to reach out. However, the volatile and fast-paced nature of a startup often does not allow that leniency.
Here are a few suggestions that can help you reach the right candidate before they reach out to you.
Entrepreneurs should grab, especially in the early years of starting up, every opportunity they get to interact with stakeholders at events. Networking dinners also provide a great platform to showcase one’s company’s vision to potential employees and even investors.
Preethi says, “Entrepreneurs should focus on positioning themselves as thought leaders in the industry – having meetups, mixers, and networking events is a good way to achieve this.”
Raghav suggests that entrepreneurs should first scan through their team’s personal and professional network to look for the right talent.
In employee referrals programmes, entrepreneurs can encourage existing employees to refer qualified candidates for employment in their organisation. In turn, for successful recruitment, the company provides a reward to the employee making the referral. Having referral programmes makes the hiring process less time consuming and more cost-effective.
The Scaler survey reveals that employee referrals and LinkedIn are the most common channels for hiring people. Almost 90 percent of the respondents to the survey revealed that they use these channels to hire new talent.
Partnering with top universities
Fresh graduates are usually armed with the latest skills and come with great motivation and enthusiasm. By partnering with the top universities in necessary fields, entrepreneurs can get access to the best talent in the country.
In fact, startups can open up internship programmes where undergraduates can work and train, and be offered full-time roles upon the completion of their degrees. Additionally, participating in career fairs can be useful to tap good talent.
Staying active in job portals
Entrepreneurs should remain active in job listing portals like LinkedIn and Naukri to spread the word about their company, its culture, and the benefits of working with them. This will keep them in the spotlight of aspiring candidates’ timelines.
Moreover, startups should list every opening in their company on these sites to get more visibility from candidates.
Offering perks and benefits
Finally, irrespective of what anyone says, good compensation and perks are some of the major factors a candidate looks for while looking for a job.
Top talent always has several options to consider an offer from. Therefore, once you spot good talent, it is your turn to explain why they should join your company. A startup’s USP could be the perks and benefits (ESOPs, insurance, and bonuses), or its culture (providing work-life balance, having a structure to provide mental health support, etc.), or both.
A LinkedIn report suggests that 25 percent of candidates list poor culture as one of the top reasons for switching jobs.
A lot of people debate on quality versus quantity when it comes to hiring. This, however, is not binary.
Preethi says, “Certain tasks demand the addition of more numbers and in such processes, quantity outranks quality. Whereas, certain tasks will always need quality talent. Depending on the product, service, and processes, the answer will differ.”
There are pros and cons for both the approaches. In early stages, entrepreneurs prefer having a lean team and focus on hiring the right quality of talent. However, once the business starts expanding, it becomes necessary to assign specific people for specific tasks to avoid burning out and ensure smoother functioning.
To sum up, hiring is not just limited to spending time and resources to get good talent onboarded. It is also about reducing the attrition rate. Therefore, entrepreneurs must focus on building a safe and supportive culture in their work environment.
They should set the expectation from each employee up front, and early on in the hiring process.
Raghav says that if candidates do not approve of the working conditions, they will either drop off, thus saving a lot of the entrepreneur’s time, or will make up their mind to be at peace with the conditions.
“Hiring can make or break your startup, so it’s not something you should rush,” Rajat concludes.
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