The robots are coming, the headlines tell us. Automation. Artificial intelligence. If you believe everything you read, you’d think that people are an increasingly quaint notion in business, an afterthought to the rise of the machines.
Sure, the rapid pace of technology continues to transform how countless companies and industries operate—and much of it, no doubt, for the better. But people remain the backbone of every successful, sustainable venture.
It’s why, when I ask so many of the entrepreneurs I know to name their most important challenge, hiring, managing and retaining the right talent zoom to the top of the list. And it’s a universal and perpetual challenge, no matter your industry or stage of growth.
When it comes to exactly how to approach this, however, there are plenty of X factors. After all, building a people-powered organization is hardly an exact science. But there are tactics effective leaders use to get it right more often than not. I asked members of the Leader Board to share theirs—and as you’ll see, they had quite a lot to say about it.
Co-Founder, Hella Cocktail Co.
“As a small company with limited resources, we rely on our culture, our story and our products to bring people into the fold. There's an energy around working for an emerging brand that draws people in—and of those who are interested, it's just a matter of making sure they're a good fit.
“Managing our talent comes down to communication and empowerment. Different people on the team have different skills, brains and opinions—including the founders. We do our best to custom tailor our approach to each individual, to give them what they need, to extract the best stuff out of them.”
Founder and CEO, Shoptiques
“There are three main stages in this lifecycle—attract, recruit and manage.
“I’ve always believed that good people know good people, so the channel that I focus on the most is attracting friends of friends of mine and of all of our team members. It also creates a more fun work environment when you have some personal connection. This also ensures that you have better, firsthand information about a particular candidate, rather than just reading it off a resume.
“The second stage of the process is understanding if a person is going to be the right fit. I made so many mistakes early on hiring bright people who were absolutely the wrong fit, for a variety of reasons. Shoptiques has a very specific culture and we are proud of it, but it is not for everyone! So our interview process has dramatically lengthened over the years to ensure that we really learn who a candidate is—and similarly, so they can learn about us—to ensure the perfect fit. At the very least, we ask a candidate to spend a few hours or a day with us doing the job and interacting with the team. In some cases, we set up a consulting relationship for the first few months, to give both sides even more time to feel it out.
“Lastly, once you’ve hired an employee, there is so much to learn! I really believe training is one of the most important steps that is often overlooked. You cannot expect an employee to know or even figure out your company, your goals or your culture, so it is important to establish a strong training program to ensure everyone you bring on is set up for success, the mission is clear and expectations are aligned. I typically handle the training myself, at least for part of it! I really believe that if I invest time on this up front, we will be more successful in the long run.”
Host, MSNBC’s Your Business
“This all starts in the interview. As much (or more) than you are interviewing for talent, you need to be interviewing for a culture fit with your organization. If you are able to hire someone who fits in with your culture and believes in what you do—and how you are doing it—you have done a great job. When it comes to managing talent, I suggest you watch the Your Business segment we did on Kim Scott's book Radical Candor, which explores giving and receiving feedback in a constructive way.”
Founder and CEO, TerraCycle
“TerraCycle's mission and global reputation attracts talent—people want their work to have purpose and we are a thriving, innovative, growing company. We’re making money ‘doing good.’ Our HR mission is to hire, retain and grow top talent through company culture, our entrepreneurial nature, hands-on training and benefits program.
“To retain talent, we have a strong ‘promote from within’ culture, where we cultivate team members to grow with the business. We invest in and empower our employees through in-moment coaching and feedback, special projects and development planning.”
“Without a doubt, there is no bigger priority than recruiting the best possible talent. It has also never been harder to find great talent, especially in our competitive home market of San Francisco. For recruiting, we work every angle to sell the vision of the company and culture, starting with the job posting. Instead of the standard document, we design the job posting to capture the spirit of our unique culture in the hopes it will inspire people to throw their hats in the ring or pass it along to other potential candidates. When potential recruits visit Camp OLLY (our HQ) we ensure they feel truly welcomed and that they leave their interview feeling that this is a place they would truly enjoy being every day and could do their best work.
“We also leverage the interview process to ensure a candidate really gets to know us and we understand them both personally and professionally. For example, the last step is our ‘homework assignment,’ which we treat as an audition. Recruits have an hour to give a presentation with the team they interviewed with. In advance, we send them two questions related to their role and a third, which is the same for every candidate: ‘How will you make life better in the park?’ Camp OLLY is based in the Presidio National Park and we only want to attract talent that is both highly skilled but also has a desire to make work more enjoyable for everyone around them.
“When it comes to managing talent, I would first throw away the word ‘managing’ because great talent never needs to be managed. It’s about great leadership! And great leadership requires setting a compelling vision and giving your team the space and resources to get there. Hopefully in a way that surprises you. We work hard to ensure that everyone in the company has the same movie in their head of what we are building, alongside absolute transparency of information. The result is a culture that feels empowered, powered by people with a strong sense of ownership over their work. Wrap it in a fun culture and you quickly have a high performing organization.”
Do you have a question for the Leader Board? Submit your question for review at OPENForumEditorial@aexp.com.