You know how flowers grow from seeds and can only grow if their needs which vary from one stage of growth to another are met?
Tech startups and scale-ups follow the same principle: they reach successive stages of growth with the amount of people they hire. This means that hiring priorities depend on the growth stage they are in. Why? Because as your product develops, so do your clients and your place in the market. So, to avoid wrong hires which would stagnate this development, this article will show you how to sprout your company by hiring the right people at the right moment.
1-10 employees: your product is a seed nestled inside the earth of a pot
Imagine you want to grow a flower from scratch. For that, you need a pot filled with earth and a seed which you can nestle inside. At this stage, the seed requires the bare yet essential necessities for growth, such as temperature and the right mineral composition in the dirt. So, if we translate this picture onto the early stages of your business, it’s all about prioritizing resources: reaching the hiring goal of employing core jobs with people who are very hands-on, flexible, creative, and willing to juggle multiple activities since they are the ones who can develop the product from scratch. So, which kind of roles contribute to your revenue or your sustainable competitive advantage?
You should avoid hiring people in so-called “staff positions”, such as Head of Office or Head of People. Why? Well, your focus should not deter from your core activities which contribute to you having a unique advantage in your go-to-market. Besides, in the beginning, you have a good overview of the office yourself and won’t require enough help to generate a Head of Office position. And a person working as Head of People comes with such a diverse skill set that you require more people under your wing on which these organizational skills could be implemented.
That being said, it’s advisable to adapt the roles you need to the goals which you must achieve, such as the mid-term targets. Once you have those mapped out, you can check which competencies any role must fulfill in order for your organization to reach these goals. That way, your hiring priorities are based on the actual scaling goals you set out.
Focus on the following in your hiring strategy:
❏ Determine your mid-term targets
❏ Prioritize your resources
❏ Hire for roles which demand the core skill set
❏ Avoid hiring Staff-positions
10-50 employees: the first spores break through the earth
Your seed’s spores are breaking through the earth’s surface, how great is that! But which new factors jump into the equation that guarantee the little flower’s growth? Sunlight and water! Sunlight gives warmth and energizes the flower in a way that it produces its green color while water ensures that it doesn’t wither, but keeps growing upward – just like your company.
At this moment, your product has established product-market fit and the focus is on maintaining capital and growing the product. Now, you can slowly start detaching your entire focus from hiring strictly core employees. In order to energize the scaling of your product, you can hire people who are ready to maintain the team – can you guess who? Exactly, Head-positions.
However, be aware that a higher turnover may occur from now on in every successive growth stage, as the already existing employees might disagree with the shift in team dynamics and company culture. This can lead to them leaving – and with them, knowledge goes flying out of the window. So, you have to create a strong balance between the previous team and the current one; you have to give sunlight so that everybody remains more or less warm.
This can be achieved through a reliable hiring plan. Up until now, you were used to “ad hoc hiring,” but as you want to add new people to the team, your hiring plan needs to be future-proof, structured, thought through, and focused on your product’s needs. It’s time to have a look at your hiring process: from looking at your company’s needs to identifying the job profile, conducting interviews and assessing candidates, the quality of your process will dictate the quality of your hires. Not having this structure in place can lead to a painful, costly (financially and timely) mishire.
For a smooth hiring process, you need an organized recruitment department that is familiar with all the tips and tricks which will boost your recruiting. At this growth stage, chances are high that you may not have enough people who could take care of this process aka your flower needs water to “get the juices flowing.” In that case, Embedded Recruitment is the optimal solution. This outsourcing is agile, tailored to your scaling, and creates a foundation for a reliable hiring plan which not only fits your current needs to fill up vacancies, but also future ones.
Having a structured hiring process in place, won’t prevent your current team from leaving. While it might ensure a good fit in the team, investing in your current talent by instating retention programs or looking at your employee satisfaction, is just as important.
So, hiring and retention plans essentially keep your organization balanced and growing which contributes towards a healthy company culture which, from now on, gains in importance.
Focus on the following in your hiring plan:
❏ Start hiring the first Head-of positions
❏ Keep the turnover rate at a minimum with retention programs
❏ Create more structure in your hiring process
50-100+ employees: spores turn into flowers and need to be protected
Your company has made it so far; your spores have grown towards the sun and now the flower is taking its final shape in all its colors. Imagine: if each petal had its own color, then each petal would be unique – just like every person in your team. And to keep all the petals and the flower in bloom, you have to invest in a few things: first, the cultural fit. At this stage, you should have established the company culture you desire and want to maintain. So, from now on, the Head of People has to hire new employees (not exclusively, but importantly) based on cultural fit.
A concept which helps create a harmonizing work culture is the assessment tool DiSC personality types. The tool assesses your employee’s personality and work manner. The results are then shown in the form of a mix of four color categories. The tool provides a good overview of the personality and work constellation your team has. With that knowledge, you can check which departments need a few tweaks or improvements to reach their potential or which color-category of people is missing to balance out all colors.
The second thing which keeps your flower blooming is for you to hire leaders. Unlike people who are working in Head positions, leaders guide branches of the organization towards their goal and make sure that the path to success is not too rugged. And on top of that, they make sure that as your product continues to develop, so do the strategies which are needed to scale it.
Apart from blooming, your flower also has to be protected from snails and hungry insects. What does that mean? That means that you have more clients now than you ever used to – and that can complicate things. In order to protect your business, it is highly recommended that you have a team which is focused on all the legal aspects and who can get all the large contracts in order.
Focus on the following in your hiring plan:
❏ Nurture your work culture by using the DiSC assessment tool
❏ Hire leaders to generate innovative paths for your product
❏ Start creating a legal department
Ready for scaling up
With all the priorities set and the people you need hired, your flower will continue growing for a long time. Sure, it is a good reminder to be as flexible as possible, as your company will develop, spread its roots, and tap into new territories. But if you keep your basis covered, aka your flower hydrated, warm, nourished and protected, then “‘sky’s the limit” to its growth. Building your team is no small task, so if you need help with deciding what role you should hire next we’re here to support you every step of the way.