How startups can foster engaging work environments to retain the best talent

STARTUP culture can usually be described as fiercely competitive for engineers, product developers and marketers alike. After all, for many companies aiming to make a dent in the industry, the stakes are high. For many, the prospect of huge returns – and huge perks – can be a big attraction, although the prospect of a startup’s failure also means that you might find yourself suddenly out of a job one day.

The key here, of course, is for organizations to attract the best and the brightest, and weed out those who might simply be trudging towards the next paycheck. The Silicon Valley concept of the “secretly terrible engineer” might strike a chord with startups in the Asia Pacific. The idea is that although it is understood that engineering professions are a learning process, many have unfortunately lost the ability to innovate in their fields, thus becoming “secretly terrible” – perhaps mediocre at best.

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In startups, where product and innovation are important aspects of the business, it’s equally important to hire and retain the best talent. Here, we explore three important things in doing so:

Be proactive with recruitment

You can increase your chances of finding good talent by taking the time to innovate in your recruitment efforts. You can’t simply rely on applicants who walk in, or who answer your job postings.

You will need to develop relationships with the community. This includes local university placement offices and recruiters–these groups can help you identify talent you might not otherwise find.

You can also gamify the recruitment process. For example, launch a program that allows current staff members to tap their networks for possible candidates. You can also encourage current employees to participate in professional industry associations or attend in conferences or professional networking events. You gain an advantage by having some visibility in these places.

In the developer community, for instance, you can gain some exposure with the Association of Software Professionals or the International Society of Software Engineering. As a simpler alternative, you can tap these organizations if you’re keen on advertising for jobs.

You can also actively reach out to professionals through networks like LinkedIn or even dedicated job sites like Monster and Careerbuilder. People put up their résumés on these sites, even if they’re not actively looking for work. This allows you to build an improved candidate pool for when you need to bring on a new hire.

Keep your employees up-to-date with training

Professional skills are fast evolving, and a great engineer today might not necessarily be a great one five years from now. This means you should invest in your employees–keep them updated on the latest trends in their respective fields.

Your organization can hold hands-on workshops or partner with universities or trade associations that provide certification for additional skills. Expertise stagnates if not kept up-to-date. Your organization’s prodcutivty might suffer as a result.

Pic: Unsplash

The importance of HR

According to a survey by Tinypulse, only 19 percent of IT employees are happy with their jobs. This runs counter to the belief that human resources should be one of the top priorities in any business.

Pic: Pexel

Moreover, 36 percent don’t have a clear view of their career path and promotion opportunities, thus they don’t feel freedom for professional growth. Only 17 percent say they feel strongly valued by the organization, and only 28 percent of surveyed IT professionals are familiar with their company’s mission and vission.

Coworker relationships are also weaker, compared with other industries. Less than half say they have good relationships with peers, compared with 56 percent in other industries.

These are all roadblocks to productivity. A toxic work environment does not bring out the best in people, and such organizations tend to have high attrition rates, and thus high onboarding costs and effort.

The takeaway

A business is only as strong as the resources behind it, and human resources should be one of the foremost things you need to take care of. To ensure top quality output, you will need to provide a positive work environment, opportunities for continued learning, a strong benefits package, and opportunities for engagement, in order to keep your employees happy and productive.