Scaling teams

Date Published

When a company has a great product and a large market opportunity, its ability to scale a high performing, cohesive team can become a key determinant of success.  However, the ‘battle for talent’ which has intensified across the economy in recent years is particularly acute in the technology sector.  For several years, European companies have been conscious of the cost and competition of hiring in the US but with the European tech ecosystem maturing, and new funding pouring into the market, these pressures are now prevalent here.

Against this backdrop we convened our first Growth Series event of 2022 with contributions from seasoned technology CEO/CRO/CPO and non-executive director of AutoRek Jeremy Roche; James Hirst COO and co-founder of API platform management business Tyk; Ed Mitchinson MD of tech focused executive search firm Kobolt Growth Advisors and SEP Director Angus Conroy. Following are some of the main panel observations.

Positioning to succeed in an increasingly challenging recruitment market

In a competitive market, where there is an imbalance between demand and supply, differentiation is key.

To secure the best talent, don’t think recruitment is purely a matter for HR.  Treat the acquisition of talent the same way as you would the acquisition of new customers.  Adopt an integrated marketing approach, ensuring that your LinkedIn profile and posts, your Glassdoor rating and your external communications are all consistent in messaging. Engage with ‘Best Places to Work’ and position your company as an employer of choice.

Be mindful of reviews and your reputation in the market. ‘Social proof’ your business.

Ask (and reward) your existing team for referrals – they may prove to be a valuable recruitment partner.

Be an authentic, employee friendly brand.  Build your network and relationships before your hiring needs crystallise as it always takes longer than you think to secure the right people.  Think about where you hang out as an employer – for example developer forums can give access to high quality talent.

After each recruitment cycle, evaluate why you won and lost candidates.  Reflect on the candidate’s experience. While you’ve been examining the individual have you been selling a sufficiently compelling career opportunity? Bring the same focus, rigour and analysis to recruitment and retention as you do to winning and renewing customers.

The interview process should be clear and concise.  Avoid replicating conversations, extract value from each meeting, follow up quickly and train your team in interviewing skills.  With the move away from in-person to more remote interviews, candidates are likely to be managing multiple processes and if you are not presenting the role in the best light then you will lose out to the competition.

Think about how you onboard new team members.  Your first contact as recruiter should equate to your first day as employer.  Positioning and messaging should be clear and constant through the candidate’s recruitment journey.

A professional people function is critical to the successful integration of new staff. They should orchestrate a structured onboarding with plenty human interaction, clear expectations and timescales, backed up by monitoring and feedback.  Think too about what technology (hardware, apps etc) individuals need (or are used to) in order to make them productive.

The impact of a remote model on culture, talent attraction and retention

We are all adjusting to a changing landscape, and on the plus side, the pandemic has led many people to evaluate their career progression, assess their individual priorities and consider new opportunities.

Many organisations are now offering remote or flexible working models to try and entice new talent outside previous geographical or time zone boundaries. For these to work successfully people need to remain part of the decision-making process regardless of where they are located across the globe – they can’t be edged out because they cannot attend a meeting in person.

It’s important to work out which model works best for your business and be clear as to how you will develop, train and retain staff.  How will line management will work remotely?  You may need to offer different models for different functions: your sales team might struggle with productivity and retention remotely while developers may thrive out of an office environment.  Colleagues can constitute a social community for some staff while younger teams, particularly those undergoing training, may need a tribe around them to perform at their best. Adapt according to your specific needs.

Whichever model you choose – recruit to suit.  Use behavioural and competency questions in interviews to screen out candidates who cannot self-manage their time or operate autonomously.

Culture is key to the success of a remote-first business. For Tyk which operates a default remote business with 130 staff over 26 countries, this means asynchronous communications and decision making.  Everyone is expected to share ideas, comments and questions – regardless of where they are in the world or their position within the organisation.  Decisions are made online – not in person. Transparency of information ensures everyone plays a full and active role in the business and annual retreats and regular ‘hideaways’ help build rapport and foster innovation and collaboration across the team.

Senior team development

As companies grow it is important to look internally as well as externally for senior leadership candidates.  Think about how you want your company to look in the next 12 months and what resource you require to scale.  Are there any individuals within your team who could step up if they were given a clear mission, career path and increased responsibilities?  It is better to nurture from within than accept an external compromise candidate.

Growing talent internally is a great objective for any business. Invest in management leadership and development and avoid creating hierarchical structures where the distance to management increases as the company grows. Encourage a culture where the management team is connected across the organisation and where no-one is intimidated to contribute or to ask for support.

In addition to developing your existing team, most growing businesses benefit from hiring senior team members who have experienced scale-up pressures in other organisations. Getting the balance right between nurturing internal talent and adding complementary skills through hiring is important and should be a key area of focus. If done successfully, it will help current team members develop while adding bandwidth and diversity within the senior management group.

A well-funded, well-managed, ambitious growth equity backed business is an attractive employer – particularly where equity is on offer as part of the package. Using a specialist recruitment partner who can pitch enthusiastically and knowledgeably about the opportunity can extend your reach and help to identify and convert candidates.

Our next Growth Series event will be held on 8 March and will consider how to create an inclusive culture for growth.

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