December 12, 2004
Fred had a great posting a couple weeks back called The Talent Economy. In it, he writes:
The CEOs who survived the downturn with their companies intact proved that they were tenacious, creative, hard nosed, and financially savvy. Now they are waking up to find out that the game has changed. They have to start focusing on the people side of the business a lot more. Hiring, managing, and retaining the talent is back at the top of the priority list.
Retaining good people has always been at the top of my list, even in the dark days. But hiring and managing in an environment that’s once-stagnant-now-growing presents some real challenges. Many of these aren’t unique to startups — it’s always tough to find A players — but there are three things I’ve observed that are uniquely tough about hiring in an entrepreneurial environment:
2. Finding the time to do it right. Most managers in small companies are at least a little overworked (sometimes a lot!). And most cash-sensitive small companies don’t want to hire new people until it’s absolutely necessary, or more specifically, until it was absolutely necessary about a month ago. This mismatch means that by the time the organization has decided to add someone, the hiring manager is even more overworked than usual — and can’t find the time to go through the whole process of job definition, recruiting, interviewing, and training. This is one of the biggest traps I’ve seen startups fall prey to, and the only way to break the cycle is for hiring managers to make the new hire process their #1 priority, recognizing short term pain in the form of less output (prepare your colleagues for this with good communication) in exchange for longer term gains of leverage and increased responsibility.
3. Remembering that the hiring process doesn’t end on the employee’s first day. I always think about the employee’s first day as the mid-point of the hiring process. The things that come after the first day — orientation (where’s the bathroom?), context-setting (here’s our mission, here’s how your job furthers it), specific skill training, goal setting (what’s your 90-day plan?), and a formal check-in 90 days later — are all make-or-break in terms of integrating a new employee into the organization, making sure they’re a good hire, and of course making them as productive as possible.
UPDATE: Joe Kraus has a great post on this topic as well.