3 Problems With the Way Startups Manage Talent

I am sure you folks have realized that I’ve been “off air” for awhile. The combination of helping out Daily Grommet and joining Pixability has shriveled my capacity for writing to zero. But, I am getting back on the horse and definitely have a lot of material from the “startup trenches” to share.

So that all said, today I want to focus on some of the missteps many of us take in managing our most precious resource – people. I want to point out three major ones I have seen lately in the entrepreneurial community:

  1. Fishing problem. Almost daily I hear the question “do you know any good <insert profession>? We’re having a hard time finding anyone.” And every time I follow it up with: “So how have you been recruiting?”  I am always hoping to hear something unique, but sadly, I usually get the same answer. The vast majority of us are “fishing” for the same “fish” in the same overcrowded spots. For me, it is a déjà-vu of ’99, ’03, and ’05. Apparently we have learned nothing. Not only can we not find the people we need, but when we do, the compensation demands are often out of whack. Looking for people who fit the same “template” needs to stop! Searching for the talent in the same places everyone else does is simply lazy.
  2. Hiring only “A players”. Paul English (CTO of Kayak.com) might be a great self-promoter and plenty of folks buy into his “hire only A-players” philosophy, but he and the folks like him seem to omit a major detail – millions of dollars in their “war chest”. Not everyone can blow $60K plus in headhunter fees to poach an individual from another company. If we are all only looking for “A players” (add “ninjas”, “gurus”, and “rock stars” to the played out lingo), we are missing out on a lot of talent. Why? Because especially in resource strapped startups, we MUST do talent arbitrage. Forget finding those perfect matches- we need to focus on looking for those “hungry”, yearning to prove their worth, excited to grow, and itching to learn.
  3. Working for the sake of working. In startups we love to brag about how many hours we work – it is like a badge of honor. I say we need to stop this wasteful madness! If we do some facts-based analysis, we will see only 40 of those 80+ hours in the office are actually productive while the others are self-defeating. Some of the more progressive companies are discovering they can have more progress with their people working sane hours effectively, rather than allowing (or even pushing for) unhealthy overworking of talent. Energy drink infused work hours are very costly to the progress of the company. We should focus on making sure our people are working ONLY on stuff that moves our companies forward and obsess about how to make it easier for our teams to get stuff done, not about how long they are working. Smart will beat long any day.

To summarize: diversify your recruiting efforts, look for individuals rather than just clones, and focus on work productivity, not hours worked.

About the author:

Apolinaras “Apollo” Sinkevicius is a business operations leader with 12-year track record of helping companies manage growth, build diverse teams, harness technology, and get a lot more profitable. He is usually brought in to build new or improve older business processes, provide structure to a rapidly growing business, and create higher level of predictability for the executive team.To learn more about Apolinaras “Apollo” Sinkevicius please visit his site TheOperationsGuy.com

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