A Talent Acquisition and Retention Guide for Startups

A Talent Acquisition & Retention Guide for Startups

I recently attended the HR West Conference and had the opportunity to meet numerous peers in the HR field. Many of them were working for start-ups of various sizes, in various phases of growth. A frequent topic of discussion were the growing pains that many start-ups face when trying to increase the size and footprint of their organization. Most of these fall within the area of talent acquisition and retention. So the questions we have to ask are ‘How do we attract skilled talent?’ and how do we retain our skilled workforce?’

Start-ups today are employing in ways that include flexible work hours, cool and fun work environments, excellent benefits, and additional perks like gym memberships, equity offerings as part of compensation, and more. But the fact of the matter is that it is still very difficult to compete with the big organizations that offer hefty compensation packages and large amounts of valuable stock in the form of RSUs (Restricted Stock Units). So how do we compete, especially in competitive markets such as the Silicon Valley?

The solution is not reinventing the wheel but a series of steps that are tried and tested.

Build your Brand

Make some noise! Use the powerful tool called marketing to its best capabilities. Become the company that everyone has heard of or is talking about (in a good way). Build a pro-employee company culture and highlight milestones you have achieved as an organization. Post well written jobs on social media. Spread the word but remember to pay attention to details.

Invest in Employees

Your employees are your most expensive as well as profitable resource. Create opportunities for personal development and training; pay attention to performance reviews and listen to career aspirations; award projects as per skill levels and strengths; and, most importantly recognize where recognition is due. Keep talented employees on a progressive career path and promote from within. Balance your compensation ranges with industry standards regularly.


Encourage employees to network at all levels. Facilitate a way for your employees to attend user meetings and relevant conferences to mingle with like-minded peers in the industry. Encourage your managers and executive staff to speak as subject matter experts of the industry at such gatherings. These events are opportunities to learn and promote. Tap into your employee network to source for referrals for open roles.

Allocate Staffing Budgets Correctly

Watch your costs. Split your open jobs into fillable and difficult to fill roles. Try to fill the bulk of roles internally and only allocate additional budgets for the specialized and hard to fill roles so that if you have to, you can employ specialized staffing firms to assist you with your search. If your job volume is high, use RPO (Recruitment Process Outsourcing) solutions to keep costs low.

Invest in Talent Acquisition

Talent acquisition is expensive and time consuming. If your budget allows it, hire a skilled corporate recruiter and invest in a robust ATS (Applicant Tracking System) as quickly as you can. SaaS versions of ATSs are quite economical to acquire in form of online licenses. It will save you a whole lot of money in the long run and will allow you to start building and conserving a repository of candidates.

Create a People Friendly Workplace

Create an environment of collaboration and success. Provide your employees with good benefits, flexible work hours, family friendly work environments, and pro-health benefits as a part of your strategy. Build a diverse workforce that can work towards a common goal. Be a team that everyone wants to work with, not work for.

Create a Well Defined Process

Build recruitment pipelines for repeat roles. Create a step by step recruitment guide for your hiring managers to follow. This strategy should include guidance for candidate sourcing, screening and interviews. Put a strategy in place to screen for culture match for the organization. Streamline the offer process and be ready to move quickly in this candidate driven market.

Tell the Truth

During interviews, be upfront with job applicants about the company and its culture, the role and its expectations, compensation packages, and most importantly the challenges. It is better to not hire a skilled job applicant than to hire one and have them leave due to unclear communication about the role or the company. Do not be afraid to discuss the areas that need work. Make them a part of the future solution. Everyone appreciates honesty and team work.

While you are implementing these changes, keep a close eye on your profits and losses and watch your expenditures with a keen eye. Analyze cost versus benefit ratios and pace yourself. Architect processes carefully and move from chaos to control. You are not a two employee company anymore and it is now time to implement some process improvement and control measures. Successfully employing some of these measures should see your team build a successful brand and a workforce that is skilled, creative and empowered to innovate.

About the Author

Preeti’s forte in global talent acquisition is in areas such as finance & accounting, IT, engineering, sales and operations. With over 15 years of global talent delivery experience, she is known for her ability to find innovative solutions to challenging situations.

Connect with Preeti on LinkedIn or reach out at preeti.l@gavatalent.net.

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