Attracting and Retaining the Best Talent for Your Early-Stage Technology Business

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As an early-stage technology business, you need to have the right people in place to ensure your success. It will be a mix of functional leaders (Product, Development, Finance, Marketing, Sales, etc.) but critically, it will include your Magical Wizards and Witches who can brew up mind-blowing, disruptive, and market-making products – which then steer your business plan.  Who will you be competing with, where your products land well, what the most competitive price points should be as well as the near-term future of your product suite. It’s not easy to attract, recruit, and retain the best employees, especially when you’re just starting out. Nobody knows who you are, much less why they should work for you.  But there are certain strategies you can implement that will help you find the best players and get the most out of your team. Here’s a look at what those strategies are and how they can help your business succeed.

Know Your EVP and Sell, Sell, Sell

An Employee Value Proposition (EVP) is in essence the product package you have to sell someone who is otherwise comfortable in their current role with a different company.  Embedded within an EVP includes your total compensation package (and philosophy), culture and values, policies and processes, performance development and career path clarity, leadership inspiration, managerial coaching acumen, and the fact that they’ll be working alongside brilliant and egoless colleagues doing excellent, leading-edge work.  When you have all of this to sell – in addition to the incredibly cool mission and vision for your company – it would be hard for a potential candidate to turn down a sourcing or discovery call.  It’s just too interesting an opportunity to pass on.  Not having your entire EVP thought through in advance of your chasing top-tier knowledge workers will kill your conversion numbers, send a bad vibe into the marketplace, and potentially taint your efforts to create positive buzz among what are likely very vocal candidate pools.  Developers hang out on all sorts of forums you’d likely never heard of – and often share war stories and gossip about roles they’ve been called for, offered but rejected – and they’re happy to say why.  Reputations get around fast – so lead with an amazing one and you will soon generate some very fruitful candidate flow.

Offer Great Benefits & Perks

Appreciating you likely can’t afford to pay everyone at the 90th percentile, you can compete for talent in other less expensive ways – but still, differentiate yourselves from other early-stage tech companies hunting in the same territory.  One of the most important things you can do is offer great benefits and perks to potential employees. It used to be the case that competing on benefits was impossible as mature companies could pay big money for private medical insurers like BUPA or Aviva.  But innovative market entrants such as ThanksBen or SafetyWing now bring enterprise-level insurance to the start-up world – but also offer a host of other wellness, support, and perks across a plethora of life-related issues.  Additionally – you can be creative with policies such as flex hours, generous vacation time, discounts on products or services, educational assistance programs, peer-to-peer learning, clever career pathing, and more. Offering workplace flexibility is also essential these days.  A few days home, a few in the office, and minimising strain for lots of travel, if it’s not needed.  If your company doesn’t have the resources for such benefits yet, consider offering equity in lieu of cash compensation, but make sure the stock option plan is well-managed, fair, and attractive. This will give potential employees a stake in the company that could potentially pay off in the long run if it succeeds.  

Create A Positive Working Environment

Another great way to attract and retain top talent is to create a positive working environment. This means providing a workplace that is comfortable, welcoming, and inspiring. You should also foster an atmosphere of open collaboration where ideas are shared freely without fear of personal criticism or judgment. Embracing a values-driven approach to leading, managing and decision-making is essential to build a unique sense of trust among colleagues – as fostering open constructive conflict is elemental to any innovative company’s success.  If the Emperor is naked, then everyone should be able to call that out and fix it – together. Cautionary note to leaders here – it’s you everyone will be watching and listening to regarding how you behave – what you actually do – vs. what you say.  That is what drives early-stage culture – not a clever PDF document or missive on the company’s website.  You have to live your values to set the culture firmly.  Finally, make sure that employees feel appreciated, recognised, and rewarded for their efforts by offering public praise, and rewards that matter to them as people.  A weekend away, a dinner out, a trip to Lego Land with the family, or just time off and a train ticket to visit Mum and Dad.  Whatever matters is what counts.  Remember – it’s how you make people feel that they’ll never forget.

Be Transparent & Communicate Effectively

Finally, it’s important to be transparent with employees about goals and objectives as well as expectations for performance and results. It’s equally critical that you share how the company is doing against your targets and goals – and manage a system of aligned goal setting throughout the company – right down to each individual.  Objectives and Key Results (OKRs) are the most popular method these days – and it works well because it’s simple but forces continuous conversations between every member of the team.  These will form the basis of measuring the relative weight and worth of the goals that were set – as well as how people and teams are executing against those goals.  It’s important to embrace a system like this early days as the level of human entropy in start-ups is already very high.  It’s great to have excess energy – but energy without direction is simply useless noise – and is dangerous to the trajectory of your company. 

When it comes to communication within the company, be sure to hold regular meetings (quarterly, minimally, monthly preferably), where everyone can contribute their ideas and opinions on any given topic or project. Additionally, take advantage of modern communication tools such as Slack, Teams, or even WhatsApp for quick conversations between team members when necessary.

Wrapping Up:

Attracting and retaining top talent is essential for any early-stage technology business looking to achieve success in today’s competitive market. By offering great benefits & perks, creating a positive working environment, and being transparent with employees about goals & objectives as well as expectations for performance & results – all while taking advantage of modern communication tools – these strategies will help you attract & retain quality talent that will drive your business forward into the future! Thank you for reading!

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