Saturday, September 23, 2023

Overcoming the biggest challenges of hiring for startups and scaleups

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Shreya Christina
Shreya has been with for 3 years, writing copy for client websites, blog posts, EDMs and other mediums to engage readers and encourage action. By collaborating with clients, our SEO manager and the wider team, Shreya seeks to understand an audience before creating memorable, persuasive copy.

Left a war zone to build a successful life. Global Headhunter & Coach. director of Forte ICT. Entrepreneur who finds great talent & coaches.

All over the world, startups face challenges in attracting and retaining talent. There is a skills shortage and an increasing demand for employees with technology skills, specific product knowledge and experience in sales and marketing.

According to internal polls by my company of 125 senior decision-makers, nearly two-thirds of start-up and scale-up employers say sales and business development are the most important skills for achieving business goals. Development (including front-end, back-end and mobile) is the next most common skill (53%), followed by marketing, branding and public relations (47%).

For example, the United Kingdom has an estimated 1,600 fintech companies, and this industry is expected to grow exponentially despite Covid-19 challenges. That’s a lot of positions to be filled from a pool of workers that is currently smaller than demand.


With this growth, recruitment is the biggest challenge for startups. As a solution, I believe that startups and scale-up companies should streamline their recruiting strategies with a mix of agency and direct recruiting. No organization can do everything on its own, and this blending of strategies can enable you to attract more staff and reduce hiring times. There are also cultural changes in the office environment that you can make to attract this talent.

It can be challenging to find talent with the specific experience you need for your disruption model, and when you find such talent, the competition is fierce. Talent acquisition models alone are not a one-size-fits-all solution. Startups need to be proactive. As part of this proactivity, you can look for specialist startup recruiting firms that discover and use direct sourcing strategies.

Proactive and direct recruiting strategies include talent mapping to identify potential recruits, branding through social media content and engaging with a specialist headhunter to take advantage of their channels and networks.

It’s critical for startups to focus on attracting the best talent rather than just focusing on which hiring model saves costs. To attract and retain employees, flexible working hours, the ability to work from home, greater autonomy, better working conditions and an empowering culture are essential.

Hiring is a time-consuming and challenging task for most startups and scale-ups. That’s why keeping staff on board is equally important, albeit often challenging. Training, career development, brand sourcing, brand ethos and brand equity are the keys to retention so you don’t have to constantly hire and train staff.

In general, you may also want to rethink your company’s culture and brand. Nowadays less and less talent wants to fit into a 9-to-5, lunch at noon, fixed pyramid structure. Today’s companies need to be innovative, dynamic and offer more than just a role. When employees are part of an empowering management philosophy, they become an integral part of your company’s vision and ethos.

Key Skills

Prioritizing a few key skills during the hiring process can make things easier. When starting your recruiting process, keep the following skills in mind.

• Technical. These skills depend on the exact position and level. The most sought after tech skills are QA testing, data insights, data science, cloud engineers, software engineers, and app development.

• Troubleshooting. Identifying and solving problems within financial systems and finding solutions for consumers and businesses is at the heart of startup and scale-up companies.

• Communication. It is essential to be able to fully explain complex projects to internal and external customers, as well as difficult questions in the field.

Knowledge types

In addition to key skills, you should look for candidates with a mastery of certain types of knowledge.

• Product knowledge. Familiarity with your tech products allows them to work on them or sell them without additional training.

• Industry knowledge. Look for potential recruits who know the current trends in your industry and can forecast, incorporate and adapt them into your company.

• Technical knowledge. An understanding of technical terms and knowledge beyond the core products can open up new opportunities.

Salary thresholds

In general, startups (aside from VC-backed startups) cannot offer comparable salaries or benefits as more established companies. By their very nature, they also generally have less job security than other employers. In addition, many startups require their employees to take on a lot of responsibilities.

When salaries are the hurdle to hiring startups, solutions can include:

• Creating a dynamic environment of flexible working hours and remote working.

• An equity/shareholding scheme to mitigate the salary threshold.

• Other benefits such as more vacations and other incentive benefits.

• Have a strong mission and purpose. People are becoming more mission-oriented. They will also join companies on this basis, but it must be communicated effectively online and through brand development.

Retaining talent is vital for all businesses, especially startups. To retain your workforce, therefore, you need to engage them and foster a strong and dynamic culture. Emphasize career recognition and progression, as well as training and development. Essentially, foster a strong work environment of reward, purpose, learning, and progress.

Recruitment for startups: what now?

With startups and scale-ups, having the right recruitment strategy is essential. In fact, the CEO of a major fintech unicorn stated that he a third of his time in recruiting.

That’s why a mixed and tiered recruiting strategy with direct recruiting, community-led recruiting and partnerships with specialist agencies is the key to success. Equally important are strategies for investing in and retaining current employees. After all, your people are your business. Business Council is the leading growth and networking organization for entrepreneurs and leaders. Am I eligible?

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