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On Startups: The Key Considerations and Hidden Costs of Common Recruitment Solutions

Once your startup reaches the emerging or expansion stages of growth, you’ve got a tough decision to make – determining the most efficient and cost-effective talent acquisition solution for your venture. 

As you likely know by now, the process of hiring candidates demands a great deal of your most limited resources – time and money.

Choosing the right type of talent acquisition solution for your startup isn’t an easy call, so in this article we’ll briefly explain common talent acquisition solutions, examining their respective strengths and weaknesses along the way. We’ll then highlight the unforeseen or hidden costs you should expect to incur with each option.

In-house Recruiters

In-house recruiters are your own full-time employees that manage your company’s hiring efforts – they write job descriptions, source candidates, arrange interviews, and prepare employment offers for incoming candidates.

Depending upon location and industry, the average salary of an in-house recruiter is between 70 – 90k a year. This may seem like a cost-effective option early in your venture’s development, but there are a few things to consider before deciding to invest in this talent acquisition option.

Does the recruiter have leadership capabilities and expertise in a variety of industries? In early stage startups, recruiters often report to a CEO who has little experience using best hiring practices or effectively managing an acquisition function. Your in-house recruiter is essentially a one-man army responsible for any and all training, leadership, and guidance that goes on within the department. Simply put, your recruiting process will only be as good as your best recruiter.

Expertise in a variety of industries becomes a critical factor when you find yourself in the following situation – you’re looking to hire two data scientists, a content marketer, and a VP of sales in the coming months. Will your recruiter be educated in these disciplines enough to distinguish qualified candidates from unqualified candidates?

Will your hiring needs change dramatically over time? A significant downside of hiring in-house recruiters is that you’re paying an annual salary regardless of the amount of hiring that needs to be done. If you’re only hiring employees eight months out of the year, you’re still paying four months salary to a recruiter that doesn’t have any work to do.

It’s worth noting that you’re footing the bill for the applicant tracking system, data-mining tools, premium job boards, and any other equipment your recruiters require to work effectively.

These “hidden costs” can add up quickly – LinkedIn’s annual plan for corporate recruiters tops off at 10k alone, and when you consider the price of the other tools and equipment needed you’re easily adding an additional 20k to that 70 – 90k salary.

This isn’t to say that experienced and talented in-house recruiters can’t offer their fair share of value to your company, but there’s a reason many startups wait to build an in-house recruiting function until they grow into larger organizations – it can get costly, fast. (img source)

Contingent Recruiters

A contingent recruiter fills positions in your company similar to how an in-house recruiter does; they’ll source, screen, and communicate with candidates, sending them your way if they seem like a decent fit. However, there are a few major differences – they’re not your employee, you don’t pay them until the role you hired them to fill is filled, and they’re most likely submitting the same candidates to other clients they’re working with.

A benefit of hiring a contingent recruiter is that if they send you candidates you feel aren’t suited for the position available, you’re not required to interview them or pay the recruiter’s fee.

Because of this, contingent recruiters tend to source candidates more quickly than other talent acquisition alternatives – every minute they don’t place a candidate is a minute they’re not being paid for their efforts. Recruiters working on this “no win, no fee”  basis usually spend less time focusing on projects before they move onto the next client, especially if it’s not an easy role to fill.

Contingent recruiters also send large volumes of candidates to your door, hoping that out of the many candidates sent a few will be qualified for the position. Instead of taking an in-depth look at each person’s resume, they focus on sending you available fits for positions rather than best fits.

Do you have the budget to pay contingency search fees? As mentioned above, contingent recruiters are paid placement fees after they fill a position. This fee is agreed upon between the recruiter and the client, and is generally 20 – 25% of the newly-placed employee’s first-year salary. For example, if you pay your new employee 70k annually and your agreed upon fee is 25%, you also pay the recruiter 17.5k for the successful placement.

If you’re planning on filling more than a few positions, you can imagine how these fees add up.

Are you looking to add strategic value to your acquisition process? Contingent recruiters can find candidates for you quickly, but the buck stops there – they aren’t hired to improve the effectiveness of your acquisition function or grow your venture like your in-house recruiters or outsourced recruiting partners.

When you hire a contingent recruiter you’ll still be paying for an applicant tracking system, data mining tools, and any other equipment you’ll need to categorize and interview the incoming candidates. Even after you pay the recruiter’s fee, your investment isn’t over – you’re still responsible for interviewing candidates, making offers, and hiring employees, which can take up countless hours of your limited time.

Outsourced Recruiting Partners

Partnering with an outside acquisition firm allows you to transfer all or some of your recruiting process to an outside entity – they’ll overhaul the design and management of your recruitment process, implementing best practices they’ve learned from working with hundreds of other successful clients in order to fulfill your hiring needs.

Because talent acquisition isn’t commonly considered a core business function by many entrepreneurs, firms in earlier stages of development often benefit from the strategic approach to acquisition experienced recruiting partners provide.

A benefit of forming a strategic relationship with a recruiting partner is that you’re not paying for an applicant tracking system, data mining tools, equipment, or training and salaries for employees. Not only that, but you have the experience and brainpower of an entire organization at your disposal rather than one or two in-house or contingent recruiters.

Even with the aforementioned benefits, there are a few things to consider before choosing to work with an outside recruiting partner. (img source)

Do they represent you? Keep in mind that your partner will be the first face incoming candidates will see, and their successes and failures will reflect your company’s image. Whether your partner is stringing candidates along or providing an excellent candidate experience, candidates will associate your brand with your recruiting partner’s performance. Similarly, does your partner’s portrayal of your brand align with your own vision and internal culture?

Board members, entrepreneurs, and executives tend to retain their relationships with reliable recruiting partners, often bringing them to new ventures once they’ve proven their worth. Trust is a defining factor when it comes to building a strategic partnership with another entity, which is why strong recruiting partners obtain most of their business through referrals rather than through direct sales.

Are they transparent and collaborative with their decision-making processes? As with any working relationship, open communication and transparency is key. It’s critical that your partner keeps you informed of major decisions concerning your acquisition process, allowing you to decide what’s best for your business.

When you work with an outsourced recruiting partner, you pay on a per-project basis – they’ll hire however many candidates you need within your given time frame, and in return you pay the agreed-upon cost of the project.

Working with reliable partners ensures that hidden costs don’t come into play, but there may be unforeseen costs if your hiring needs dramatically increase unexpectedly. For example, if you have two recruiters working the project hiring four candidates a month and your needs jump to eight candidates a month, you’ll end up paying for the increased resources needed to provide the service.

Forming a relationship with an outsourced recruiting partner can be beneficial for emerging and expansion stage startups because they offer strategic value as well as financial value – not only do you save money on technology and equipment, but you also have the ability to scale your hiring process as your needs increase.

To conclude:

What talent acquisition alternative do you believe is the most effective for an emerging growth or expansion stage startup? Leave a comment on our LinkedIn or Facebook pages and let us know what you think! 

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If you’re in search of talent consulting or recruiting services and could use help determining your business needs, contact our team of experienced talent acquisition consultants now. 

3 Tips for Building A High Performance Culture in Your Workplace

If I asked you to describe your company’s culture in three words, which group of adjectives would you choose?

Engaging, innovative, and collaborative? Or inconsistent, rigid, and unforgiving?

If you’ve worked for an organization where the negative adjectives ring true, it’s safe to assume that you weren’t bringing your a-game when you showed up for work everyday. In fact, you and your coworkers may have been actively disengaged in your roles, unconcerned about the state of the company or whether it would succeed or fail in the long run.

If you’ve had the opportunity to work for an organization where the positive adjectives apply, you were likely motivated to perform your best work, striving to learn and grow in your position, caring genuinely for your coworkers and the long-term success of the company.

Which employee would you rather have working for you?

Culture is the key word here, and it can make or break an employee’s efficiency, effectiveness, and willingness to give their all. Though it’s a significant undertaking, you can increase the productivity, engagement, and performance of your employees by taking steps to improve the culture of your organization.

Here are a few tips you can implement in your workplace to build a high performance culture capable of achieving high performance results.

Create opportunities for open communication

A key component of a high-performing workplace is an employee’s ability to speak openly with managers, coworkers, and subordinates.

A recent Gallup article describes the importance of experiences of vulnerability in the workplace – particularly about how they’re perceived by one’s peers when they occur.

In the article, the author lists four types of vulnerable interactions called “meaningful moments”. How these moments are received by others in the organization make or break a company’s chances of attaining high performance from their employees.

As you can imagine, a culture where employees feel they can take risks and ask questions without facing unwarranted criticism is an environment that promotes high performance.

Take note of how these moments are reacted to in your workplace – are they met with dismissal, or genuine interest?

Brené Brown, a social science researcher from the University of Houston describes the importance of meaningful moments succinctly.

“When we leave an experience where we presented our imperfect selves yet felt belonging, we feel energized and at our best. When we leave an experience where we presented our imperfect selves and were ignored or ridiculed, we feel deeply disconnected and disengaged.”

Empower employees at all levels

Empowered employees are more likely to report stronger job performance, higher rates of job satisfaction, and greater commitment to the organization than employees who don’t feel they’re empowered.

Though empowerment is an easy concept to grasp, it can be difficult to define. How does a manager go about effectively empowering their employees? Here are a few common ways:

In companies with a high performance culture, employees are ingrained with a sense of accountability – a feeling of personal responsibility that the job gets done right, regardless if someone’s looking over their shoulder or not.

On the other hand, employees in organizations with a negative culture aren’t trusted to achieve objectives without constant direction, and their poor performance and lack of engagement reflects the distrust of their superiors.

Implement an effective performance management strategy

A SHRM report revealed that no more than 30 percent of managers and employees surveyed claimed that their performance management system effectively establishes goals, provides feedback and improves performance in their workplace. 

Interestingly enough, researchers behind the report claim that the problem doesn’t lie with the tools or processes managers use to conduct performance management, but rather the frequency that performance management processes are utilized – high performance workplaces tend to have frequent, ongoing performance reviews rather than quarterly or yearly ones. 

SHRM has broken performance management behaviors into “old thinking” and “new thinking”.

Each criteria has been updated to include aspects of ongoing, continuous development, which is of growing importance as increasing numbers of millennials join the workforce.

It’s a significant shift, but many employees now consider jobs to be opportunities for learning and growth, expecting to be coached by their managers rather than simply directed. It just so happens that that approach is one of the key aspects to building a more efficient, effective work culture.

To build a stable culture that fosters high performance, findings in the report suggest that organizations shift their focus from reinventing performance management systems – they’re fine just the way they are, they just need to be practiced more frequently.

At its core, effective performance management allows managers to accomplish goals by clearly explaining expectations and delegating responsibilities to their employees. An successful performance management system serves to help employees better understand what’s expected from them, while also assisting them in personal development and the advancement of their careers.

 

Do you know of any tips or have your own ideas on how managers can build a high performance culture? Leave a comment on our LinkedIn or Facebook pages and let us know what you think! 

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If you’re in search of talent consulting or recruiting services and could use help determining your business needs, contact our team of experienced talent acquisition consultants now. 

The Evolution and Unforeseen Challenges of Hiring Within A Growing Startup

Whether your startup was born in a dorm room, in a co-working space, or as a spin-off from another company, eventually you’ll require outside assistance to continue growing your venture. 

Every successful startup will experience it’s own unique hiring evolution, but it’s undeniable – at some point the founders will have to decide when to begin the recruiting process and how it should operate.

It’s not an easy decision to make – begin hiring too soon and you’re spending money you should be allocating elsewhere, or begin hiring too late and you could end up a “50 million dollar company in the body of a 5 million dollar organization.” As you can imagine, neither of these scenarios are beneficial for the future of your startup.

We’ll begin this article by walking through the three distinct stages of a startup’s growth, describing how hiring needs evolve while noting the hiring challenges entrepreneurs should expect to face along the way.

Emerging Growth

In the early stages of your startup, referrals are key to beginning the process of small-scale growth. You’ll likely rely on friends, family, and past colleagues for your hiring needs, which is a very effective approach in the beginning of your venture. Referrals are an invaluable fountain of new talent and continue to be employers’ top source of hires, bringing in a remarkable 30% of all hires overall in 2016. 

However, the law of diminishing returns holds true for this practice. At a certain point in your team’s growth, the time spent combing through networks for referrals would be better spent developing other core business functions, especially when you’re working with a small team. 

At this point the primary focuses of your team should be further developing your product, working to find market fit, and attracting investor interest (which we’ve written a superb how-to article about.) These priorities leave teams with little time and energy to spend building a talent acquisition function, which is why many startups choose to outsource this process early on.

The chart to the right describes the many reasons organizations choose to outsource their recruiting function, with speed of hire being the most common motivation of all.

Organizations also commonly outsource recruitment services because they lack a strong employment brand and have difficulty attracting top talent as a result.

Most of the top reasons given are at least loosely related to time – lack of time to train your employees to become experts in the field, lack of time to devote to attracting specific talent, and a lack of time to devote to developing workforce strategy and core business functions. Allowing another entity to handle your acquisition needs can be a cost-effective method to finding the talent you require to grow efficiently.

Using your limited time wisely is important early on, which is why many startups choose to outsource recruitment for executive or specialized positions at this stage. Check out a full analysis of the SHRM study here.

Growth and Expansion

Congratulations – your venture has reached the expansion stage. You’ve secured significant funding from investors or are experiencing explosive organic growth.

Seasoned global venture investor Gil Dibner describes his view of the expansion stage succinctly in a recent Medium article.

“It’s by far the most significant stage because it is during this stage that the company must complete a complex transition: from a company with a great offering that could scale to a company with a great offering that is rapidly and predictably scaling.”

Talent acquisition is a core business function and should be treated as such – your sudden surge in hiring needs during this stage can quickly become your downfall depending on the quality of your acquisition function. If you’ve received funding to grow your business you’ll have a board of investors to report to, and they expect detailed proposals on how you plan to handle your hiring needs.

Ask yourself these questions as you begin growing: 

  • How do I continue to attract talented candidates?
  • How can I preserve company culture while hiring on a large-scale?
  • What should my interview, hiring, and onboarding processes look like?

Your hiring process should evolve to take these questions into consideration – while hiring qualified candidates is critically important, cultural fit plays a large role as you scale. Aim to hire a team that believes in the vision of your company.

Take a look at the chart above and you’ll notice that the input required to hire one talented candidate is much higher than you might first expect.

One of the challenges you’ll face during this stage is attracting enough candidates into your pipeline that you’ll end up hiring qualified talent. Keeping that volume of resumes flowing in is no simple feat, especially when you consider the time and resources that go into sourcing, screening, and interviewing qualified candidates.

To draw out an example – an average interview takes 1 hour and requires 4 employees to conduct; your company is looking to interview 5 candidates for a given position. That’s 20 hours of work that could’ve been dedicated to acquiring customers, further developing your product, or testing workforce strategy.

One benefit of partnering with a hiring firm at this stage is that they’re able to provide an informative and detailed candidate experience for your applicants. Because employees in an early startup are regularly spread too thin, many companies are unable to devote resources to crafting a candidate experience that reflects well on their employment brand, leaving candidates unsure about what a position entails or how the company operates. Allowing one entity to guide candidates through the recruitment funnel from start to finish will ensure that a promising relationship is built between the two parties.

Growth and Retention

For most entrepreneurs, the end goal of building a startup is to create a business model that’s capable of growing. If you’ve reached the later stage of development of your venture, you’ve got a returning customer base, your model is well-tested, and your startup may have received multiple rounds of funding.

Your hiring needs now differ significantly from your needs as an early stage startup – in the beginning, each team member juggles multiple responsibilities, fulfilling whichever duties are required. In the later stage, many high-level employees have one specialization only, becoming an expert in their discipline. Simply put, the hierarchy of your business is now more concrete.

What does this mean for your hiring needs?

As your company continues to grow, your need for fulfilling specialized roles will increase dramatically, as will your need for general employees.

Partnering with an outside acquisition firm is the most cost-effective approach to hiring leadership, specialized roles, and high volumes of employees during busy seasons, but at this stage it may be worthwhile to build an in-house recruiting function to handle hiring general employees – especially when your focus has shifted to retention and maintenance rather than growth.

The difficulty your business faced while attracting candidates before you had a brand won’t be a significant issue now – your employment brand is much stronger than it was, and candidates will seek your business out because of the remarkable success you’ve had growing your venture. To continue, you should once again focus on attaining candidates through referrals – the more engaged employees you have, the greater rates of retention your startup will experience.

If at any point during your journey you can use a hand growing your company, take a look at the variety of talent solutions we offer and learn more about how we can scale your business together.

 

What stage of a startup’s growth do you believe is the most difficult to hire effectively for? Leave a comment on our LinkedIn or Facebook pages and let us know what you think! 

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If you’re in search of talent consulting or recruiting services and could use help determining your business needs, contact our team of experienced talent acquisition consultants now. 

Recruitment Marketing Strategies: Using Video Job Postings to Dramatically Increase Your Ad’s Visibility

Most recruiters are well aware that posting job listings on social media is necessary to attract candidates in today’s acquisition environment.

Since you likely accessed this blog through a post on our LinkedIn or Facebook page, you too know how invaluable social media’s reach and ability to connect people really is.

As you can tell by the chart to the left, the use of social media for recruiting purposes is a relatively new yet significant development in the field.

Less than 10 years ago, a little over half of the companies polled reported using the communication medium for acquisition purposes. Though the data shows that 84% of companies used social media for recruitment in 2015, it’s safe to assume that number has increased significantly over the last few years. (source)

There are more than a few factors at play, but this shift is in large part due to the growing population of millennials entering the workforce and their tendency to use social media frequently. According to a study by the Aberdeen Group, a significant 73% of people ages of 18 – 34 found their last position through a social media platform.

The shift also isn’t surprising when you consider how effectively social media can be used to fill open positions – a formal report by iCIMS stated that putting a job position on social could boost candidate applications by 30 to 50%.

As comfortable as recruiters have grown using social media to attract, contact, and build relationships with talent, it’s constantly-changing nature requires that acquisition specialists evolve their recruitment marketing strategies in order to remain effective.

So what’s up next? It turns out that video is no longer content having only killed the radio star; it’s now set its sights on text-based job ads and descriptions.

What are Video Job Postings?

Video job postings are essentially exactly what they sound like – the hiring manager and coworkers a potential candidate would work alongside record themselves explaining the job description, requirements, and what skills it’ll take to succeed in the position.

Is producing a video job posting really worth the trouble of writing a script, recording, and editing some footage?

In short, yes – but I’ll let the statistics speak for themselves. 

Incorporating Video Job Postings Into Your Recruiting Strategy

Now that you know how effective video job advertisements can be, it’s time to consider what you should include in yours. You should begin by explaining the requirements and qualifications necessary for the position, but video job advertisements also allow you the ability to include more personal information about the position, including the following:

  • Why a potential candidate should want to work for your company
  • What professional and personal qualities make for a successful employee in the organization
  • A look a the culture of your organization, any unique benefits offered
  • Interviews with current employees working the same role the candidate is applying for
  • An interview with the manager the candidate would report to and their expectations

Despite the extra effort that may go into producing one of these advertisements, the return on investment is immense. You’ll see a marked increase in qualified applicants because you’ve given them that extra information, and at the same time you’ll be strengthening your employment brand by producing informative content for potential candidates.

Video job advertisements are still relatively rare to come across, especially for smaller organizations. Strike while the iron is hot and begin making your own today – it might just give you that edge you need in the increasingly-competitive war for talent.

 

Have you made or would you consider making a video job advertisement? Do you foresee video job postings completely eliminating text-based job ads in the future? Leave a comment on our LinkedIn or Facebook pages and let us know what you think! 

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If you’re in search of talent consulting or recruiting services and could use help determining your business needs, contact our team of experienced talent acquisition consultants now. 

Stack of coins

5 Qualities Your Early-Stage Startup Needs to Attract Investors

You’ve got a vision, a team behind it, and a product to sell.

Here’s the problem – you’re struggling to expand market reach on your limited budget and in need of a serious cash infusion to keep your business growing.

You won’t convince investors to fund your venture by sending frequent emails or cold-calling them – in fact, your efforts may actually have the opposite effect. Your best bet for attracting investor interest is by creating a business that they want to invest in, not one you have to convince them to consider.

While attracting investor interest is much easier said than done, there are a few key qualities investors look for before considering investing in a startup.

The Ability to Monetize

Let’s begin with the obvious question – is there an actual market need for the product or service you’re offering?

CB Insights Sta

A CB Insights analysis of 101 failed startups revealed that tackling problems that are interesting to solve rather than those that serve a market need is the primary reason for startup failure. Without a market need for your product, your startup is dead in the water before it’s begun swimming.

If you’re certain that there’s a market for your product, make sure that you’re able to cite a few ways your business will outperform your competitors. Struggling to accomplish this task implies that you may need to rethink your business model – begin by figuring out what makes your venture unique.  

Investors want to hear how your business will captivate customers and the market, and that’s not going to happen if you’re selling them the same story as every other entrepreneur. 

What is inventive about your business model? What do you offer that the world hasn’t seen before? How will your product make customers lives better? And most importantly, how will you convince them to buy?

A Track Record of Success

Most banks won’t give people a loan without looking over their credit history, and the same goes for investors when it comes to infusing their money into startup businesses. A track record of previous success is critical to attracting the interest of investors who can take your venture to the next level.

Because successful startups are a rarity, inexperienced entrepreneurs will run into far greater difficulty convincing investors to lend their capital. The solution? Most entrepreneurs building their first startup business rely heavily on themselves, their friends, and their family for funding. 

However, if your model and product seems promising, you may catch the interest of an angel investor, someone who’s willing to give you capital in exchange for equity in your early-stage startup. These investors are more comfortable taking high-stake risks than venture capitalists, who prefer to monitor the growth of a company until they’re sure it’s got a decent chance of success. 

Click here to learn more about angel investing and how you can attract angel investors to your business.

A Scalable Business Model

We’ve talked about scaling startups in a past blog, so we’ll just briefly touch on it here.

A quick refresher: scaling is adding revenue at at a rapid rate while adding resources incrementally. The amount of of resources required doesn’t change as your customer base increases, driving consistent growth and improving profit margins.

To contrast, growing is adding revenue at the same pace you’re adding resources – if you triple your volume, you require triple the resources, and your profit margins stay the same.

With that said, was your business model created with scaling in mind? 

Investors expect a significant return on their investment, and the faster they receive it, the better. While building a business capable of scaling primarily depends on the industry (it’s simpler to scale a software company than a personal training agency), you’re going to attract more interest if scaling is a real possibility in your startup’s future.

Capital Efficiency

Capital efficiency is defined as “the measure of a company’s ability to select, deploy, and manage capital investments that maximize shareholder value.” Investors want to know that you’re spending their money wisely, in order to best support the growth of your venture.

Image result for capital efficiency They don’t want to give you so little that you’ll struggle to grow, but they also don’t want to give you so much money that you end up blowing it unnecessarily.

One way entrepreneurs can demonstrate their commitment to capital efficiency is by creating detailed plans of how they’ll use an investor’s funding.

For example: you’re hoping to receive one million dollars in funding in an upcoming investment round. Begin by defining how much you plan to spend people and payroll first, as it’ll likely be your #1 cost. From there, determine how much office space you’ll need, equipment and technology costs, marketing costs, etc.

Using analytic and metric data to support the reasoning behind your financial decisions isn’t a bad idea either.

The Ability to Execute

Arguably the most important quality in a startup is the team’s ability to execute their plan – to make what they want to happen, happen.

While there are many internal and external factors that can interfere with a team’s ability to accomplish their goals and objectives, a few are particularly detrimental to a startup’s viability.

  • Internal threats: disharmony among co-founders, a lack of necessary funds, an underdeveloped business model, mistiming the release of a product or service
  • External threats: new competitors or copycats, lobbyists or laws preventing the use/sale of a product, negative market trends

To limit the impact of threats, emphasize the practice of environmental scanning to your team. In other words, you should consistently be gathering information about internal and external events and how they could affect your business.

As is the case with life in general, there will always be factors out of your control. However, if you strive to improve and strengthen your performance in the qualities listed above, you’ll have a much better chance of attracting investors who’ll consider funding your startup business.

 

From an investor’s perspective, which quality would you consider to be the most important when it comes to deciding to invest in a startup? Leave a comment on our LinkedIn or Facebook pages and let us know what you think! 

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If you’re in search of talent consulting or recruiting services and could use help determining your business needs, contact our team of experienced talent acquisition consultants now. 

 

Two for the Price of One: Are Buddy Hiring Programs Actually Effective?

Consider this scenario – you’re interviewing for a new job, and halfway through you begin to think that you might be better off sticking with your current employer. You’ve negotiated salary, benefits, vacation days… if only there was something else they could throw in to sweeten the deal.

So they add another incentive. If you take the job, one of your talented friends can also join their team and work alongside you. Would you reconsider their offer?

Buddy Hiring Programs

A buddy hiring program is precisely what it sounds like – you apply to a job along with one of your friends, and if you’re both good fits for the positions available, you could end up working together on your first day.

To many, it sounds too outrageous to be considered a worthwhile idea – a program like this could end up slashing productivity significantly. Though anyone can imagine the number of potential cons in this situation, that hasn’t stopped companies from using the unique hiring option to attract candidates.

Canadian McDonalds and the U.S. Army are two entities that have recently implemented buddy hiring programs, resulting in positive public attention and an increased number of applicants that may not have been interested otherwise. While the culture and structure of the prior examples are far different than a typical B2B or B2C organization, could a buddy hiring program actually have a net positive effect in your workplace?

Dr. John Sullivan, an experienced talent manager and HR thought-leader from Silicon Valley, proposes a few benefits of buddy hiring programs that could save your organization remarkable amounts of money. 

Buddy Hiring Benefits

Half your recruiting costs, double your hiring volume – for every candidate you interview, there’s another in the pipeline. Not only will the primary candidate save you time and resources by selling your company to their colleague, if they’re talented and hardworking it’s likely that the friend they’re bringing along is too.

Free marketing – as is the case with anything controversial, people can’t help but be intrigued by the rare incentive. Offering a buddy hiring option is bound to turn some heads, and they’ll all be looking in your direction.

Higher offer acceptance – talented passive candidates are comfortable remaining where they’re at. Switching jobs is a process, especially if your professional reputation and relationships at your current job are well-established.

Passive candidates may not be up to the challenge of finding their place in a new hierarchy and organizational structure, but giving them the option to bring a colleague along may be the incentive they need to consider joining your company.

Addressing Understandable Concerns

Of course, buddy hiring is not the perfect solution to increasing acquisition or the number of offers candidates accept. However, the distinctive hiring program can be altered to best suit your organization’s needs. To spell out a few suggestions:

You don’t have to lower your hiring standards – if the primary hire is exceptional in his work and his colleague is merely average, there’s no requirement stating you have to make both hires. The beauty of this hiring option is because it’s exactly that – an option.

Limit the timeframe of the work assignment – the talented candidates you’re bringing on board shouldn’t expect to work on the same projects together forever. Set a timeframe of 3 or 6 months before sending them to work on different assignments – by this point they’ll be more comfortable in the new work environment.

Use metrics to determine effectiveness – as always, it’s critical that you use metrics to measure whether the option significantly improves the effectiveness and efficiency of your workplace. Example KPIs you could monitor include quality of hire, speed of hire, retention rates, and overall productivity.

Conclusion

Rather than buddy hiring being an option you openly advertise, it could be more effectively used as an ace up your sleeve – an approach you use only when or if a hiring situation calls for it. Consider reserving the option for highly-talented candidates who aren’t sure if they’re ready to leave their current job and colleagues yet, and you might see a marked increase in the amount of passive candidates interested in joining your team. 

 

Do you think a buddy hiring program could be successfully implemented in your workplace, or would it end up being mostly ineffective? Leave a comment on our LinkedIn or Facebook pages and let us know what you think! 

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If you’re in search of talent consulting or recruiting services and could use help determining your business needs, contact our team of experienced talent acquisition consultants now. 

 

High Growth in High Tides: Startup Metrics for Pirates

In 2007, entrepreneur and angel investor Dave McClure created what he called Startup Metrics for Pirates, a useful 5-step customer lifecycle model for startups.

Also known as the “AARRR” framework, McClure’s goal while creating these metrics was to assist startups in determining their weak points. When you’re analyzing your business as a whole and things aren’t going the way you’d like, it’s easy to fall into the trap of believing that your entire model is broken. However, if you examine your startup using these metrics, you’ll have a much better idea of where your company is succeeding and where it needs work.

Take a look at the graphic to the left for a brief overview of the framework – we’ll continue with an in-depth analysis of each metric below.

Next to each metric you’ll find example goals you can set to measure your performance.

Acquisition

Acquisition is the first transaction you have with a potential customer or client.

They’ve been exposed to content you’ve created or paid for, and are interested enough to check out your website and learn more about what you have to offer. This content could be advertisements, partnerships, blogs, videos – anything that gets your name out there.

Record how many users visit your site and what they do on it. Do people interact with your site for a short time, exploring multiple pages, or do they bounce off your home page immediately? If your bounce rate is high (70%+), your site is repelling visitors for one reason or another. Whether it’s the site’s design, functionality, or lack of useful content, a high bounce rate is something you should work to decrease if you want to increase your number of potential customers.

You can gain this useful acquisition data by using programs like Google Analytics and HotJar to analyze how users interact with your website. To the left, you’ll find some examples of metrics you can use to gauge your performance.

Activation

Activation describes your users first experience on your site or with your product.

The goal here is to get the user to realize the value in your product quickly so they’ll return and use it again, what some marketers call the “A-ha moment”. As we all know, attention is in short supply right now, so you’ll have to find a way to remind these users to come back.

Have your users create an account or sign up with their email – nudging them every so often will keep your name fresh in their mind.

However, make sure your signup process is low friction. Defined as “the psychological resistance your visitors experience when trying to complete an action“, a high friction process will result in droves of your users leaving before you get their contact information.

These visitors are interested in your product, but that doesn’t mean they’re comfortable sending you all of their personal information before seeing what your company is all about – you’re still a stranger to them, so make signing up quick and painless to get the highest conversion rates.

Retention

You may have heard that acquiring new customers can cost five times more than satisfying and retaining current customers, which is precisely why customer retention rates should be one of your key performance indicators.

If you’re retaining less customers as time goes on, take a closer look at your product and quality of service. If this is your case, think of your business model as a leaky bucket – just because you put more water in (acquire more customers) doesn’t mean you’re going to hold on to them.

Customer retention is important for a few reasons – consider the fact that returning customers spend 67% more than new customers. 

Since they’ve bought from you before, you don’t have to spend more money to acquire them again, and they’re more likely to recommend your products and services to their friends – but we’ll save that for the next metric.

Referral

An effective way to increase your bottom line is to decrease you customer acquisition cost (CAC) and increase your customer lifetime value (CLV). What better way to do that than to have your current customers recommend your services to their friends?

Aim to make as many of your customers promoters of your business – they’re loyal buyers, likely to recommend your services to others, and as a result they fuel your company’s growth immensely. Offering great customer service is only the beginning.

While not necessary, many companies have had success offering referral incentives. Dropbox pulled off one of the most effective referral programs ever when they first started – for every person a user referred, both the user and their friend gained 500mb of free cloud storage. Read more about Dropbox’s incredible success story here.

Revenue/Conclusion

If you optimize the previously-mentioned metrics, you’ll have fewer roadblocks in place that keep your company from bringing in revenue. As with any business, the goal is to maximize revenue, and you’ll find more than a few marketers and entrepreneurs stressing the importance of optimizing the retention and referral metrics to accomplish that objective. Turning your customers into promoters who’ll freely spread word of your products and services is key to achieving optimization in every other metric.

Consider this example – you’ve provided excellent customer service to a customer who then shares their experience with three friends, so they try your product as well. Your cost to acquire these new users was nothing, and they’ll be easier to activate as customers because a trusted source has referred them. Now multiply that example 10, 50, or 100 times. Focusing on increasing rates of retention and referrals are necessary to accomplish cost-effective, explosive growth.

Use the framework and data gained to diagnose shortcomings in your startup as a doctor would diagnose a patient; make some changes to your model, test your customers’ acceptance of said changes, then re-calibrate your approach, improving your service along the way. Regardless of industry, any company can use Startup Metrics for Pirates to learn more about their customers and how they can best sell to them.

 

What metric in the AARRR Framework do you believe is most critical to focus on? Leave a comment on our LinkedIn or Facebook pages and let us know what you think! 

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If you’re in search of talent consulting or recruiting services and could use help determining your business needs, contact our team of experienced talent acquisition consultants now. 

Growth-Hacking Startups: Targeting the 16% of the Market That Dictates Your Success

While your startup business grows, the costs to operate it grow as well – equipment, office space, marketing, licensing, payroll, taxes… after paying for all of these costs, it’s unavoidable, money will be tight. Because most startups are cash-strapped, it can be difficult to decide where remaining funds should be directed in order to support the rapid growth of your company.

Allow me to introduce you to the concept of growth hacking – the strategy of acquiring as many customers as possible while spending as little as possible. Sounds ideal, right? Growth hackers use cheap, innovative methods and tests to determine why their startup is growing, then purposely aim to make that growth happen faster.

The essence of growth hacking is testing, tweaking, and monitoring changes you make in your business model to see what brings people to your product and keeps them returning. To become an effective growth hacker, you’ll first have to determine and closely study your target audience.

Targeting your Audience

The product you’re selling and the market need for your product are critical to keeping your doors open, but you shouldn’t try to market to every demographic at once. Begin by analyzing the makeup of your current customer base, and the makeup of customers you eventually plan to have.

Are they younger or older? Do they have children or are they child-free? Are they professionals, college students, or teenagers? The more specific you are with your analysis, the better prepared you’ll be to grow your startup.

The chart to the right describes a theory known as the diffusion of innovation.

When you’re targeting your audience, it’s necessary that you focus on marketing your product to the innovators and early adopters – this small 16% of consumers are trendsetters and opinion leaders, and without their approval of your product, it won’t break through to reach the majority of the market.

Once you captivate these segments, their praise and recommendations will be heard by the following majority, and your product will be exposed to a much greater share of the market.

Let’s move on to learn how you can identify the innovators and early adopters while examining the differences between the groups. 

Innovators

“Their desire for novelty and something new exceeds any caution, they’re willing to try new experiences, and new products with little to no market history.” 

If you’re wondering why innovators make up such a small segment of the market, consider how often you purchase products without checking the reviews first. Few are willing to take the risk of paying for a product or service without first hearing other’s opinions, but not innovators. They’re influencers – they take pride in knowing all about the next big thing, and are quick to support any company that sounds unique or game-changing.

As you can imagine, this group is extremely wealthy – they’re also the youngest in age, incredibly social, educated, risk tolerant, and surrounded by other innovators.

Their willingness to give feedback makes them an invaluable population to study, and they’re much more accepting of bugs and shortcomings with your service than other segments. However, their fondness for quick adoption has a downside – quick abandonment. If your product isn’t keeping their interest, something else will.

Early Adopters

This market segment is defined by their willingness to adopt a new product or service after conducting their own detailed research. They’re cautious – they won’t buy in without gathering information from multiple sources, but once they’re convinced, they’ll support you quickly.

This segment is composed of opinion leaders – the people other consumers “check in with” before buying a new product themselves, due to their ability to reduce uncertainty surrounding new technologies.

Similar to innovators, they’re a very wealthy, educated, and socially-connected group, but with two key differences – their risk tolerance and loyalty as customers.

Early adopters are much more selective about which products they choose to adopt relative to innovators, but this selectivity is what makes them even more valuable and loyal as customers. They’ve done their research, and they believe in the future of your company and product. If you continue providing your promised service, they’ll continue giving you feedback, which is exactly what you’ll need to continue growing your startup.

 

In the next article we’ll take a closer look at how you can use that feedback to fine-tune your business model using Pirate Metrics. If you’re looking to learn more about startups, recruiting, and talent consulting, look no further than our blog – it’s updated weekly!

 

 Leave a comment on our LinkedIn or Facebook pages and let us know what you think!

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If you’re in search of talent consulting or recruiting services and could use help determining your business needs, contact our team of experienced talent acquisition consultants now. 

Skyscraper

Scaling Startups: Staying Alive, Staying Ahead

In the startup world, staying alive is just as important as staying ahead. We discussed how you can strengthen your startup’s strategy in our last post, so now we’ll explore why some startups succeed and how they begin scaling their ventures.

Let’s begin by examining the terms growing and scaling in context of expanding a business; the words are sometimes used interchangeably, but they describe completely different situations.

Growing vs. Scaling

Growing – adding revenue at the same rate you’re adding resources. Consider the example of a gym that hires one personal trainer for every 3 customers – no matter how many new customers join, they’ll always be hiring new personal trainers to service their growing customer base. The amount of resources required increases as their customer base increases – this company is growing, but it’s not scaling.

Scaling – adding revenue at at a rapid rate while adding resources incrementally. Consider the example of a software company that’s just finished developing a new product – the costly work is done, and distributing the product to their customers costs next to nothing. The amount of of resources required doesn’t change as their customer base increases, driving consistent growth and improving profit margins.

“The Single Biggest Reason Why Start-ups Succeed”

Bill Gross is the brain behind Idealab, a startup factory founded in 1996. The “technology incubator” has created over 150 companies with more than 45 IPOs since its inception. Gross’s familiarity with the startup world led him to question and research why some ventures are successful while others fail, so he analyzed 200 different companies and rated the quality of what he considered the five most critical attributes of any business on a scale of 1-10. The five attributes were:

  • The idea – is there a market for the services/product you’re selling?
  • The team – is your team intelligent, determined, and capable enough?
  • The business model – is there a clear path to generate customer revenue?
  • The funding – did your company receive private funding? 
  • The timing – too early and the world isn’t ready, or too late and there’s too many competitors?

Gross revealed his findings in a 2015 Ted Talk – this is a smaller study so it’d be wise to take the results with a grain of salt, but Gross’s analysis showed that timing was the most critical factor as to whether or not a company succeeded; specifically, timing accounted for 42% of the difference between failure and success

After months and years of exhausting work, the last thing you want to find is that the market requesting your services is much smaller than anticipated, or that you’ve arrived to the party too late. Of course, the idea and the team behind it will make or break a startup – but the market has to be ready for your company before anything but breaking can occur.

When you’re sure the market is ready for your company, it’s time to consider how you plan to scale it.

Tips for Scaling Your Startup

Building an in-house talent management function may seem like a poor use of resources when you’re getting your business off the ground, but you’ll struggle to scale without a detailed hiring and onboarding process in place – the last thing you want is to end up a “$50 million dollar company in the body of a $5 million dollar organization“. In one of his recent articles, Ron Carucci outlined a few startup talent strategy tips entrepreneurs can use to keep candidates flowing in as their companies grow.

Don’t just hire for right now. Think about the talent your startup will need 6 months from now, a year from now, and 18 months from now. If you only ever hire for your immediate needs, within a year you’ll be left with employees without the skillsets you need to continue growing.

Identify the skills you need to grow to find the right people. Careful consideration should be given when considering candidates – the skills that will most benefit your startup won’t always be found on a resume. Carucci recommends looking into three areas when considering a new hire: their leadership and people skills, their experience in their given discipline, and whether or not they have the emotional maturity to continue learning.

Develop scalable roles for talented employees/future candidates. Carucci explains, “The common mayhem of the startup world isn’t permanent, and moving from jacks-of-all-trades generalists to more specialized roles is inevitable.” Consider today how you want your startup to look a few years from now – what types of positions will you need to fill? Creating a succession plan early on will save you time and money you’d otherwise spend hiring and training new employees.

Consult this exhaustive list of tools and resources for more startup tips – from upfront operation costs, to social media marketing, to helpful legal information, you can find it all here.

 

Do you agree that timing is the most critical factor when it comes to creating a successful startup? Leave a comment on our LinkedIn or Facebook pages and let us know what you think!

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If you’re in search of talent consulting or recruiting services and could use help determining your business needs, contact our team of experienced talent acquisition consultants now. 

Breaking Down Bersin: 5 Ways to Solidify Your Startup Strategy

In 2010, Josh Bersin and his team released what they call “The New Talent Management Framework”. For those unfamiliar with his work, Josh Bersin is a renowned talent management analyst and founder of Bersin by Deloitte, a company that has been conducting rigorous research in the field of HR and offering evidence-based management tools and information to organizations for nearly 20 years.

The New Talent Management Framework is widely-used by entrepreneurs, talent acquisition specialists, and business managers alike – it concisely describes an integrated approach to recruiting, business development, performance management, and development planning for companies of any size in any industry.

There are multiple components in Bersin’s framework, each of which are vital to examine when creating a scalable startup. We’ll begin by delving into the first and arguably most important area, Talent Strategy and Business Alignment. Make no mistake about the importance of your chosen strategy – it’s the foundation of your startup, and if it’s not airtight your company won’t be competing in the market for long.

Talent Strategy

strategy (noun): a plan of action designed to achieve an overall aim. Seems simple – what’s there to analyze?

While strategy makes for a simple concept and definition, a surprising number of business leaders have difficulty translating a strategic vision into measurable goals, as well as understanding how metrics should be used to evaluate an organization’s performance. 

The results of a Metrus Group survey revealed that while 65% of participating companies have an agreed-upon strategy, 37% of respondents said that strategy was linked to their business functions, and only 24% linked the strategy to individual employees responsibilities and capabilities.

The most shocking findings of this survey? Only 14% of employees responded that they understand their company’s strategy and direction. 

Take notes entrepreneurs – these results suggest that business leaders tend to rely on big-picture, potentially underdeveloped strategies. At the very least, the lack of organizational alignment stems from leaders’ failure to fragment the strategy into achievable and measurable goals for their employees. When you’re creating the outline for your startup’s strategy, no detail is small enough to be insignificant – “maximize profits and minimize losses” is a great start, but you’ve still got a lot of work to do. 

CEO of Strategic Thinking Institute, Rich Horwath, explains why he believes pinning down a strategy everyone understands is a challenging process before providing suggestions to make a proposed strategy more comprehensible for everyone in the business. 

Strategy is abstract, like leadership or love. And anytime we’re dealing with things that feel abstract, there’s too much room for interpretation. Then, when you mix managers with different backgrounds and experiences, you get a hodge-podge of definitions and approaches that make a big mess.” 

How to Make Your Abstract Strategy Concrete

Define the competitive edges your business has over your competitors. What genuinely makes you stand out? In what areas do you outperform other businesses? How is your plan to capture the interest of potential customers unique? What about your services will assist you in retaining customers?

Retain your identity. Horwath explains, “75-80% of the time, when people are struggling with strategy, it’s really the fact that they haven’t clarified, or stayed clear, on their business model. They’ve lost sight of who they are. Once organizations start to mature, people forget about their identity and their business model. Things become diffuse.” Going along with the first point – once you’ve gained a customer base, continue improving the services that brought them in initially. There’s a remarkable difference between adjusting your startup’s identity as time goes on and completely abandoning your business model.

Make time to talk about it. A 2012 study found that 70% of business leaders spend less than one day a month discussing their strategy. There will be a continuous stream of threats to the success of your company, internally and externally – continuously calibrating your approach as you navigate the market is critical. Allot a few days a month for your team to closely examine your strategy and improve it along the way.

Use a simple set of terms to describe strategic work. Ron Carruci, a leadership strategist and contributing writer for Forbes explains the significance of this point succinctly. “I recently watched a set of 30 top executives in their company’s quarterly business review vehemently disagreeing over whether or not they were there to review progress on “goals” or “objectives.” This hijacked about 40 minutes of the meeting.” Using an agreed-upon set of terms to create, deploy, and measure the effectiveness of strategies company-wide will cut out confusion and save time you’d otherwise spend disagreeing over definitions.

Focus on strategic alignment. Aligning the business model of your startup with your strategy is key to surviving the rapidly-changing tides of the market. Consider conducting a communication audit to see how effectively information is sent, received, and shared within your organization. Strategic alignment in your startup ensures that resources won’t go to waste, clarifies your businesses’s competitive edge, and provides clarity for your employees so they better understand the direction the company is heading in. Most importantly, strategic alignment allows for market maneuverability; once you become comfortable maneuvering, you can become comfortable outmaneuvering your competitors.

 

Would you consider your organization to have strong alignment between its strategy and business needs? Are you familiar with, or do you have experience using the Bersin framework to manage talent? Leave a comment on our LinkedIn or Facebook pages and let us know your thoughts!

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If you’re in search of talent consulting or recruiting services and could use help determining your business needs, contact our team of experienced talent acquisition consultants now.