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3 Pragmatic Tips For Start-Ups Making Those Critical Initial Hires

One survey found that the third leading cause of failure by startups studied was that they hadn’t built the right team from the beginning.

Pratik Dholakiya

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Nearly every business is guilty of making a less-than-stellar hiring decision at one point or another. A whopping 95 percent of companies surveyed by Brandon Hall Group for its Talent Acquisition study have admitted to this mistake.

While a bad hire can potentially slow down growth at any company, it can actually have a fatal effect on a startup. According to a report by CB Insights, the third leading cause of failure by startups studied was that they hadn’t built the right team from the beginning.

Creating a strong team means that each new hire (or promotion) must be made strategically and with great care, as the margin for error can oftentimes be quite small. Here are three tips to help you build a pool of talent that brings your start-up to the next level.

Define your company culture first

Startups, by definition, are small operations. They may even comprise just one person, so there might not be much of a company “culture” in place just yet. But when your culture does form, it will be a combination of your organisation’s values, beliefs and behaviours that have developed over time. The process of figuring out what this means for your new company makes that first hire that much more important.

Related: Hiring The Right Person Is Critical When Growing A Business

Before you start looking for a new addition to your company, then, take the time to define your business’s values first. What mindsets and characteristics are needed to fuel your mission?

3-pragmatic-tips-for-startups-making-those-critical-initial-hires_peter-holten-muhlmann-trustpilot_embeddedPeter Holten Muhlmann, CEO of Trustpilot, one of the world’s largest online review platforms, explained to me via email how his company does this:

“All your hires need to imbibe the company culture, the value of your brand and ultimately transfer it to your product,” Muhlmann wrote, “so that it is obvious to your customers what you stand for. A strong, value-based work culture built on integrity will raise the bar for your hires down the line for years to come.”

This CEO should know. Trustpilot employs more than 600 employees of 40 different nationalities across its seven global offices. If there is one thing he has ingrained in the workplace culture, he said, it’s that the success of his company – and the online review space in general – is completely dependent upon transparency and authenticity.

This is part of the reason why the Trustpilot platform remains “open,” meaning that its reviews aren’t moderated and brands can’t suppress negative reviews. It’s also why the task of maintaining Trustpilot’s core values and honest consumer feedback belongs not just to the company’s “compliance department,” but to every employee.

For your start-up, you should set objectives for short-term and long-term strategies to build the culture you want. This is why you should define values from the beginning, then use that knowledge to guide your hiring decision. The alignment of values must take place before new employees are brought on board.

Outline job roles and personality preferences

3-pragmatic-tips-for-startups-making-those-critical-initial-hires_developing-talent_embedded

By the time start-up owners realise they need to hire someone, they’ll often be experiencing an overwhelming workload. With such a full plate, you may find it tough to know exactly which roles and responsibilities need to be filled. Since most new launches have not had the time or pressing need to clearly define job roles or organisational structure, it is important that entrepreneurs do so before bringing on a new hire.

Checking off technical skills needed is easy enough, but finding someone with the necessary soft skills to excel in the position is what really matters. Some 93 percent of employers surveyed by Wonderlic for its Hard Facts About Soft Skills report emphasised that they considered interpersonal skills and critical thinking vital to look for in a new hire. However, finding that perfect cocktail of hard and soft skills can be a challenge.

Related: The 5 Traits (Some Surprising) I Look For When Hiring New Workers

Big data technology has a solution, of course. AI-powered recruitment solutions like Harver can do wonders to eliminate the guesswork when it comes to making that initial hire. The system measures both aptitude and attitude by using big data to scour through candidates’ profiles and match their skill level to job descriptions. From there, it uses machine learning to evaluate the person’s soft skills, problem-solving abilities and alignment with the company’s values.

This leads to more informed hiring decisions and a vastly improved likelihood of finding the right matches. As Harver’s CEO Barend Raaff explained to me via email,

“The costs involved with replacing employees can be huge,” he wrote. “We believe that a new hire should fit two categories: skill match and personality match. Aligning both these elements is the key to making informed hiring decisions and reducing turnover.”

Take a step back and critically examine why you need to bring on a new hire. What responsibilities will he or she have? Why those responsibilities? And what skills will be necessary to fulfill this role? Failing to define these criteria will make it more difficult to find the perfect fit. So establish the personality and skillset you need, right from the beginning.

Understand How to Develop Talent, Not Just Find It

Unless you have a huge budget to hire someone with years of experience, one of your greatest challenges in hiring, as a start-up, is being able to spot potential. Furthermore, start-up leaders must understand how to properly develop the people they actually bring on board.

When you bring on younger talent with less experience, make it a point to check in and monitor that person’s development. A performance-management system like 15five can make it easier to accurately assess employee engagement across the board. The tool uses quick surveys to acquire feedback and keep up on issues like morale and performance.

Related: Hiring Tip: Ask About The Candidate, Don’t Talk About The Position

Along the way to reaching your milestones, you can set goals and priorities, along with recognition systems. 15five opens up channels for employees to share their thoughts and suggestions with upper level management.

Overall, job stagnation is one of the top reasons why employees leave a position, according to Glassdoor.

Entrepreneurs thrive on growth and improvement. If you can commit to promoting these goals for your start-up, its outlook will only grow brighter as time goes on.

So, don’t fall victim to making a hasty hiring decision you’ll later regret. Setting a clear vision and defining important requirements is the way to identifying the perfect candidate; enacting a system that continues talent development is the way to keep that talent long-term.

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

Pratik Dholakiya is the co-founder of E2M, a digital marketing agency, and Preceptist, a content marketing agency. He regularly speaks at various conferences and events about digital marketing issues. As a passionate marketer, he shares his thoughts and knowledge on publications like Search Engine Land, Fast Company and the Huffington Post, to name a few. Search Engine Watch, one of the most respected platforms in the search industry, recognised Dholakiya as a "must follow" SEO expert. He has also been named one of the top content marketing influencers by Onalytica three years in a row.

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Hiring Employees

How Your Company Can Easily Attract Fresh Talent

Well, there are many ways to go about attracting fresh talent, the easiest of which are…

Tasmin Copley

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The minds that are walking out of university these days have so much potential and power which many companies are longing for. Fresh new minds that are eager to start working and applying themselves in the “real” world. The best interests of your company lie in attracting this fresh batch of millennial talent. So how exactly could you do that?

Provide opportunities to learn

Millennials are after experience and career growth. They want to know that the company they will be working for is prioritising that journey. And what better way to encourage them on their career path than providing learning opportunities within the business?

A few of the main ways companies provide their employees with opportunities to learn are through internships, learnerships and mentorships.

  • Internships: An internship is like a pre-entry level position where interns have an opportunity to learn the ropes and figure out if this is, in fact, the industry or career they want to be building a career in. This is an extremely valuable and appreciated opportunity for most graduates and a way for companies to easily spot talent. If both parties are happy with how the internship has been carried out, all the employer needs to do is offer up a permanent post.
  • Learnerships: What is a learnership? And what are the benefits of a learnership in a company? A learnership is an educational training programme that companies offer to employees which allows them to gain work experience while learning industry-relevant theory. It’s more than a basic internship as learnership jobs can lead to a registered NQF qualification. This is beneficial to the company as they can be certain that all their employees are equally knowledgeable about their work and millennial applications will be flooding in for the opportunity to add further education and experience to their CVs through this opportunity.
  • Mentorships: Fresh minds are still newbies in the business and want to know that they’ll be taught (not spoon fed). This is where companies can offer mentorships that new employees can work with seasoned employees to gain business tips and insights that will help them become better. This is what graduates are looking for, an opportunity to learn from the best in order to be the best.

Related: Hiring Tip: Ask About The Candidate, Don’t Talk About The Position

Be an innovative environment

You can’t expect to attract fresh minds and creative talents when your company lacks an innovative environment. People want to know that they will be challenged and inspired every day by their work environment. And it’s not about working overtime to keep your new employees stimulated, but about making sure they have the resources, creative team members and freedom to think outside of the box.

They need to know that their innovation will be encouraged and supported. When advertising for vacancies, don’t be afraid to mention some of the innovative projects you’ve done. It will definitely excite any innovative minds on the job-hunt and those are the types of people you need to elevate your company.

Provide flexible work schedules

Flexibility is the work-trend at the moment and young people are looking for flexibility from their jobs. Being flexible with your work schedules is in your company’s best interest for more reasons than just the talent you’ll be attracting:

  • Discourage the turnover rate of employees as they will have an increase in employee satisfaction.
  • Increase in productivity from punctual and purposeful employees.
  • And there will be an opportunity for extended business hours to increase customer satisfaction.

If you offer and implement it in the right way, flexible working hours are probably the easiest way to retain current and attract new talent to your company.

Be digitally relevant

Having the latest technology and digitally-advanced business processes shows new talent that you’re all about adapting to the constantly changing environment. They will want to work for you because this strive for relevance means they will constantly have opportunities to improve and find new ways of taking the company and industry forward.

Related: How To Know If You’re Mismanaging Your Staff

Start by improving your office processes and being more digitally savvy. The more “ancient” your ways of doing things, the less fresh talent you’ll attract. People don’t want to sit and struggle through admin when their time could be spent on something more useful and relevant to the current era.

By making the most of technology, it also shows that your company chooses to be “green” with how they conduct business. And being part of a “save the planet” movement while doing your day job is what most young people strive to do these days.

Every company can easily attract fresh talent by implementing the above practices. And the resources that are spent is nothing compared to the revenue these new minds can potentially bring in by being part of your company.

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Hiring Employees

Youth Employment An Opportunity

South Africa has a high youth unemployment rate – it is vital for business to consider alternatives for youth employment.

Henry Sebata

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A young female graduate with hands-on experience in setting up and running community projects, had resourcefully turned a hobby into an income-generating small business to support herself,  while seeking employment… a skilled person, wouldn’t you say?  It took her five long months to find employment – and in that time she received 50 rejections – 50 rejections with no useful feedback as to why she was being turned down.  We employed her – and within the first few days she’d surpassed our expectations, had added ‘value’, so much so, that two weeks later we assigned her to a project.

It’s this kind of potential that company recruitment approaches seem to overlook!

There are 6-million unemployed young people in South Africa – and the social and economic transformation economy that  is crucial for the country, is an economy that has been growing at less than the minimum 5-6 percent required to shrink unemployment, largely due to the under-performance of main institutions.

Related: Entrepreneurship – A Greener Pasture For Young People

Business accustomed to turning problems into opportunities of value-creation regards the South African Education and Training system as one that does not deliver in equipping young people with the requisite work and readiness skills.  There are government tax breaks and grants which provide opportunities for short term employment, but unfortunately these do not create value, nor are they sustainable as they are not used strategically.

Last year I had the good fortune to attend the Youth Employment Enterprise Skills Solutions (YEESS) summit in Nelson Mandela Metro – engaging with the young attendees I found that they were determined to change the view held by business that they are considered a risk, to one which recognises that they can, and do, add value and assist in realising opportunities, particularly because of their age -related attributes that give them the edge.

Young people

  • are a cost advantage – they cost less (South African staff is paid on the basis of the years of work rather than the value)
  • have a higher level of energy – they work faster and for longer hours
  • have flexibility – they learn new tasks /systems quickly, and are often more innovative
  • can increase revenue – they enjoy engaging with customers, and being ‘entrepreneurial’ (eager to promote products and services in the market)

Business should consider these opportunities – the model that many businesses currently use pays young people a stipend which usually just covers their living costs and employs them for a short period; and then the norm is to “find” something for them to do to keep them busy… a soul-destroying experience that in no way creates value and is certainly not one on which to build a career.

Related: Funding And Resources For Young SA Entrepreneurs

Alternatives to the existing model are to:

  • clearly pinpoint the opportunities and define the value (that the potential employee is required to add)
  • provide training – measuring potential is a challenge – a short training programme for job-seekers can clearly identify the ones who benefit most, and are thus likely to be the most valuable – and there is the plus of 4 BBBEE Skills development points for the training of unemployed people
  • provide a ‘proving’ period (3 to 12 months) where goals, expectations and support are clearly laid out -this provides an important business foundation experience in a productive environment considerably improving the chances of the young person’s absorption into the business culture.

By changing the way one views youth unemployment – to see youth employment rather as an chance to reduce costs, increase revenue and contribute to the building of skills and training future entrepreneurs – presents the perfect opportunity for business to contribute to the country’s future stability and gain economic returns.

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Temporary Employment Providers — Friend or Foe?

Contrary to the fact that legislation states that temporary employees work under a dual relationship between a TES provider and their client, the relationship has been questioned, confusing the situation and muddying the waters.

Workforce Staffing

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Currently, under a dual employment relationship, employees are given the protection of employment benefits under the TES provider and, after a three-month employment period, attain extra protection by being considered under the employment of both the TES provider and their client.

Yet various unions have pushed back against TES providers, citing that ‘labour brokers’ don’t have the best interests of the workers at heart. So, are TES providers truly the enemy — or could they be the solution?

What is a TES provider?

The term ‘labour broker’ is being bandied about with startling regularity. Surprising, because ‘labour brokering’ is actually a concept that no longer exists in legal terms, according to Joanette Nagel, Labour Specialist at Hunts Attorneys.

Related: Does A Strike Hit The Heart Of Your Business?

“It’s a term associated with ‘bakkie brigades’, those once comfortable picking up ‘piece workers’ and exploiting them with little to no consideration for labour laws,” Joanette explains. “Today’s TES providers are reputable organisations that, with the backing of the law and strict policies, provide a valuable service while ensuring that the rights and wages of temporary employees are in line with permanently employed staff.”

Sean Momberg, MD at Workforce Staffing Solutions, agrees: “A dual relationship where the employee is employed by both the TES and the client after three months means that the employee is actually afforded more protection. If, for example, the client falls into circumstances in which they can no longer honour the contract, such as if they go insolvent or a project is cancelled, the TES provider is still bound by contract to the employee and their rights to compensation, among others, are protected.”

The role of a TES in business

According to the Global Employment Trends for Youth 2017 study, conducted by the International Labour Organisation, the rapidly changing labour landscape has made the expectation of traditional or permanent employment less realistic than ever before.

“There is a global trend towards temporary employment that is supported by a new trend of flexibility in career choices as well as employment environments. The demand for TES providers to play a more active role in the labour market is higher than we have ever known,” affirms Sean.

Organisations will also benefit from this trend, especially as businesses can outsource all non-core related labour requirements, allowing them to focus on their core purpose and not concern themselves with the labour function, or the overheads associated with human resources. “A TES takes on the responsibility of employment, remuneration, legal disputes, strike mitigation, employee wellness, interactions with unions, and many other HR concerns that are extremely resource intensive,” says Sean.

A TES ensures economic continuation

“President Cyril Ramaphosa said in his recent YES initiative launch, that even those with further education often struggle to bridge the gap between learning and earning. TES providers help with bridging this gap, offering skills development that guarantees jobs,” notes Sean.

Related: Finding Success With Workforce Staffing In The Minimum Wage Reality

“TES providers are here to stay and offer the best of both worlds to organisations and employment seekers alike. Dual relationships continue to protect workers, underpinning and promoting their rights, while helping businesses to cover any skills and employment gaps within their organisations without having to invest in huge HR departments and legal representation to do so.”


Spotting a reputable TES provider

  1. Registered and compliant with the Labour Relations Act (LRA)
  2. Likewise with the Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF) and relevant bargaining councils
  3. Has the necessary insurance and off-balance sheet financial protection in place
  4. Able to provide proof of regular auditing
  5. Able to show full legal compliance and holds a letter of good standing.

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