Business Insights

Business Insights


How scaleups can attract and retain top talent

People are any business’ greatest asset and the right talent will help fast-growing businesses thrive now and into the future. 

But acquiring that talent is easier said than done and entrepreneurial CEOs are all too aware of the challenges around recruitment and how to retain employees. In its 2018 report,  the Scaleup Institute found that access to talent is the major pain point for scaleup CEOs, especially as four in ten expect to grow employee numbers  by 20 per cent each year.

In what is a highly competitive recruitment marketplace, how can a scaleup stand out to attract the people it needs? And how do you retain employees once they are on board? 

Why do you need top talent? 

Scaleups often have strong and established sales structures but lack top-level expertise in areas such as finance or marketing. 

An experienced finance expert, for example, can bring with them a wealth of knowledge on funding options and can educate the existing team on what’s possible. The right recruit can advise on cash strategy and have a significant impact on making the right investment decisions and, ultimately, on future growth.

The right marketing talent is also fundamental to taking a scaleup to the next level. Presumably by this point, the business already has an effective marketing function in place. What is now needed is a marketing professional with genuine know-how about scaleable marketing processes and systems. This person will know how to strategically align marketing with the business’ wider goals, and have a keen sense of how to measure ROI on marketing spend.

A marketer with this level of skills and experience can also help a scaleup align its sales function so that there is a clear plan about what the business needs to do to enable expansion, whether that’s entering new markets or targeting new customers. 

Attracting people with this level of experience can be a challenge.

What attracts great talent? 

Competitive pay, great benefits and the promise of career progression are important for employees of all ages and experience. But to attract the very best people - and draw them away from existing roles – you need to understand what else makes them tick.

Increasingly, it is the strength of your culture and your business’ purpose - the why you’re in business - that will win people over when it comes to recruitment. 

According to Glassdoor’s Mission & Culture Survey 2019, for nine in ten adults it’s important for a business to have a clear mission and purpose. Furthermore, eight in ten take this into consideration before applying for a job. 

Although it’s a demand most often associated with millennials, the study also found mission and purpose to be important to all ages. Employees want to feel their time is well spent at work. They are more motivated to engage and to seek out work-related opportunities if a business successfully aligns its culture and purpose with their personal values.

It’s therefore not surprising that business culture, mission and purpose play a central role in how to retain employees. For millennials, culture can be even more important than salary in driving ongoing job satisfaction.

The importance of employer brand

Employer brand refers to your business’ reputation as a place to work, and its value proposition to employees rather than to clients or customers. 

It follows that anything that might influence how employees, or prospective employees, perceive your employer brand needs careful management and monitoring. This means looking at how your business portrays itself on its website, and all other public facing channels, including social media and marketing material,  as a place to work. You need to be aware of what people are saying about your company, especially on employer review sites. And you’ll need to manage your recruitment activities with care, including how you market vacancies. What message you are putting out to the world about the kind of employer you are? 

What message you are putting out to the world about the kind of employer you are

As you’d imagine, getting this message right is vital to attracting and retaining top talent.

Having a strong employer brand and a good reputation will not only help to attract and retain the right talent, it will go a long way towards making your recruitment process more efficient.

Companies with a positive employer brand can receive double the number of applications as those with a negative employer brand, according to LinkedIn. They can also speed up the time it takes to recruit. 

Existing employees are key to showcasing company culture to new and interested talent. LinkedIn found that candidates trust a company’s employees three times more than the business itself to be truthful about what it’s like to work there. 

How can you source top talent?

There are many routes to recruiting the right talent and many ways to bring that talent into the business. If you’re not yet ready to recruit a full time senior person, or you need blue-chip level experience, but can’t afford the six figure salary that it usually commands, you may benefit from hiring flexible or part-time director level support.

Consultancies like The Marketing Centre offer top-draw, experienced professionals across a wide range of sectors and the full spectrum of marketing specialisms. This gives businesses an in-road to talent that would not normally be associated with small and medium companies.  Sourcing talent in this way, is a flexible, cost-effective way to introduce experienced strategic thinking into your plans. It can represent a significant investment, helping you on the path to meet your business goals, whether that’s expanding into new markets, making the right investments or seeking out new opportunities. 

Another way of injecting senior experience into your business is through coaching and mentoring. This could take the form of peer group meetings, such as those offered through Vistage, or one-to-one leadership coaching. Regular conversations with a peer group of business leaders are motivating and a way to learn best practices. Individual coaching with an executive leader can help you focus and move the dial more quickly on specific challenges 

To ensure you attract the right talent, it’s vital you understand how your culture, your business purpose and your values resonate with prospective new recruits - as well as with your customers.  You also need to consider that recruitment is one of several solutions to getting the experience your business needs to grow. Hiring flexible or part-time consultants, or using very senior business coaches, can be an affordable and highly effective way to take your business to the next level. Either way, getting talent into your business will always be an investment and  the foundation of long-term business growth. 

Our next post in this series will look at how scaleups can build up a marketing team to include strategic thinkers. In the meantime, you can use our Marketing 360 to learn more about your own strategy and identify untapped opportunities.

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