In scaling up an organization there are four decisions a startup leader must address: People, Strategy, Execution, and Cash (Harnish, Verne). Most of the time, when companies do not scale, one of these four issues has gotten out of hand. Most frequently, organizations stall simply because they have run out of gas. You can run out of energy in any one of the four areas but I’ll focus on people in this first in a series of posts about the decisions a startup leader must address.
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When it comes to people I have seen that there are a few key elements that companies need to manage as they grow.
- Attracting Talent – Attracting talent and not spending forever searching for people. Getting people to initially apply with the right background is an initial challenge for any organization. I have been part of a smaller organization with <50 people where we had on average 75 open positions at any one time. To combat this issue we had recruiters and full-time people working on nothing but staffing. Many of the individual leaders were too focused day to day on execution and could not spend time working on closing their open positions.
- Interviewing – Most larger companies will have training classes and individuals who have hired people for years. Interviewing in most smaller organizations interviews will be conducted involving several individuals with the hope that the law of numbers will ensure that only the best people will get hired.
- Day One – Bringing in the new individuals means that at some level they need to know where to sit. Who they work with and where key parts of the building are that they need to go to for key meetings. Startups that are growing are often times taking space wherever they can get it. This means that your fragmented space needs to be explained to new hires on day one.
- Roles and Responsibilities – Once people are hired how do they know what their job is? Knowing what you need to accomplish is critical for someone that just came into a company and small companies often have the additional problem that someone most likely was doing a job as a part of their previous daily responsibilities and now they need to hand off a portion of their job in addition to doing their job. This transition of roles and responsibilities is not easy and individuals that are proud of what they created oftentimes will hold back.
As a company grows people are a key resource for the company. However, you can invest a lot of money in resources that do not have the capability of helping because they are not enabled to do so. If you feel as if you are adding people but they are not being productive then time needs to be invested to ensure your people strategy is well supported.
- Professional associations (i.e. local Biotech associations) can be a great resource of talent for your company.
- As the company grows offering a hiring bonus to individuals who recommend someone they know can be a great way to get good people.
- As a leadership team, you may develop an interview guide that can be utilized by the team during interviews. This document will make sure that important questions are asked in line with your strategy and that the individuals being hired to match your organization’s values.
- Additional items for your interview guide would be key questions that will ensure that the resource is right for your organization.
- For some positions small tests that ensure that resources have the right skills to function in the role (i.e. a programmer might answer a small programming question).
- In my experience, this is a good role to rotate around the company. Some people are great at supporting new people and they will remain hidden unless you rotate this role. Day One tour guide can become an important role for people to show the general lay of the land.
- Key introductions should also come in here (team members and key individuals in the organization.
- As the organization grows day one support can grow into a big activity that will last for a day or more but initially it can talk an hour or less.
Roles and Responsibilities:
- On day one, you must establish the tasks and responsibilities of your new hire. What are your goals for them as soon as they begin, and how will you check if someone is performing effectively at their work? This should have started with the job description, but many times the companies I assist are moving quickly, leaving details undone.
- Have the new employee create a 30, 60, and 90-day plan along with key accomplishments the employee expects to achieve from the start. This will not only be beneficial for them, but it will also be beneficial for you.
The items above should get you well on your way to getting people rolling right now, ensuring that they are working toward the jobs that must be completed rather than wasting time.