OMERS Ventures has released a playbook aimed at guiding startups through the talent process, from hiring to retaining.
The guide includes an overview of the challenges faced by different stages of companies, and how to overcome them. Within each stage, the challenges and solutions are organized under culture and values, recruiting and hiring, employee retention, and tools to use.
In a startup’s early stages (up to 50 people), the rush to build products and get to market overshadow the needs of onboarding employees. Founders often aren’t considering culture and values at this stage, which means issues can arise without a structured recruiting process.
The playbook recommends that companies at this stage should think about and establish values early on so that they can encourage or discourage certain behaviours. If there’s continued growth, companies should bring in a recruiter who can develop programs that attract candidates. Recruiters should look outside established networks to encourage a diverse talent pool.
“A deliberate, thoughtful investment in hiring and retaining people pays off in your company’s growth and success.”
– Sara Cooper
Sara Cooper, talent director at OMERS, said the firm decided to release the playbook after finding many of its portfolio companies had sole HR practitioners or small teams, making it difficult for others to learn what works. “Things that work when you are 10 people, start to break at 50 and flat out fail before 100,” said Cooper. “I created this guide as a heads-up to our founders and HR folks so they could be ahead of the game on the talent front. We received positive feedback from our portfolio after sharing it that it just made sense to extend it to the ecosystem.”
From the 50 to 100-employee mark, there’s a risk of established values being poorly communicated to new hires, while developing the candidate experience falls by the wayside due to the speed of hiring. At this stage, earlier-stage employees once focused on getting the job done are now thinking about career development—and companies risk having good employees leave because they lack a development path. Since opportunities for vertical development are limited, the report recommends reframing the conversation from promotion to skill development for employees, and having an HR/People Ops leader work alongside recruiters during this stage.
“Building a great team is hard work. It’s probably one of the harder things a founder will do, especially at first when they are likely doing all the recruiting, interviewing, etc,” said Cooper. “And there’s a lot of risk. Hiring is one of the biggest investments a company makes. The hiring process is costly and if you bring someone in who leaves a year later because you haven’t developed them or the culture you’ve created isn’t inclusive, you’ve lost that investment.”
“Put as much effort into preventing talent debt as you do technical debt.”
The guide continues from 100 to 150 employees, 150 to 200 employees, and over 200 employees. In these stages, communication between employees, investing in HR professionals, and creating a path for employees’ development are the common themes. At this stage, specific HR software is also required to help a company assess and review its practices.
“A deliberate, thoughtful investment in hiring and retaining people pays off in your company’s growth and success,” said Cooper. “My advice for our early-stage founders is to approach talent like you would product. Think strategically, creatively, and long-term. Put as much effort into preventing talent debt as you do technical debt.”