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Start-ups: Your funding doesn’t cover turnover

When vacation rental and technology company TurnKey’s VP of People, Jennifer Oswald, realized that new hires weren’t staying with the company long term, she knew something had to change.

The cost of turnover was getting expensive, and the opportunity cost of not having the appropriate staffing was a risk that could put the company at a disadvantage. Being a start-up, Oswald knew she had to do more with less—and so hiring the right person for the right role became imperative as the company looked to close its 70-person headcount deficit.

In an emerging market, like the one TurnKey is in, having the right talent to drive your business into category domination is essential. With the business strategy already established, it was time for the company to look inward and diagnose their talent challenges—all of which boiled down to hiring the right people and keeping them engaged. They followed a few simple steps:

Be realistic about what your start-up demands.

Every business is different, but there are some common challenges all start-ups face. In TurnKey’s instance, Oswald knew that hiring for a start-up was going to be hard. There was a lot of ambiguity surrounding how to best achieve their business goal and a strong need for employees who could be comfortable with change. Ideal candidates also needed to possess the competence and confidence to make appropriate judgments and take action without always relying on managerial approval.

When thinking about your own start-up, consider your business’ greatest behavioral demands. Employees who aren’t behaviorally aligned with what the business requires will likely never be happy or productive in their roles, because they will always be at odds with the company’s culture. For example, those who are wired to avoid risk may struggle in a start-up environment, where rapid decision making is both prevalent and required for success.

Once you’ve established the values and behaviors that align with your business strategy, you can focus on the nuances of individual positions and how they interact.

Three employees listen to

Understand the jobs you want to fill.

Even in a start-up environment, the behavioral requirements for each position can vary greatly. Once TurnKey acknowledged the need for their employees to all have a healthy appreciation for change and operate with some autonomy, the rest fell into place.

For more enterprising roles, like sales, Oswald knew that TurnKey needed employees who could take charge without fear of risk. For roles that required mitigating risk, like operational or administrative positions, the ability to turn things around quickly but also deliver at a high standard was paramount.

In your own start-up, think about the nuances of all the jobs you’re looking to fill. When you understand the behavioral requirements for each role, you can better hire the right person who will bring value not only to the role itself, but to the company as a whole.

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Focus on the individuals.

Hiring the right person into the right role is only as good as how long they’ll stay in that role. It can be easy to forget about the individual person once they’ve joined the company, but that would be a mistake.

At TurnKey, Oswald recognized that the best way to keep someone was to ensure that managers and team members recognized the individual for who they really are. By focusing on the individual’s behavioral drives and needs, TurnKey created opportunities for development that it otherwise would have missed. In sharing behavioral information of individuals with managers and teams, and empowering them to leverage that knowledge, they were able to build the high-performing teams they’d hoped for.

When you look at your own start-up, remember the importance of each hire and the different strengths they bring to the table.

As a result of diagnosing their talent issues and redesigning their hiring process, TurnKey was able to come back from a 70-person headcount deficit and hire 120 people within six months.

Hiring for a start-up is not an easy task. Budgets are so often designed for hires, but rarely—if ever—account for turnover. By keeping just a few key tenets in mind, designing the right hiring process to drive your business strategy will not only help you hire the right people for the right roles—it will surely help you keep them, too.

Allie is a content writer at PI.

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