The ‘Talent Scaling Dilemma’: empowering internally or hiring externally?

Being immersed everyday in the B2B SaaS ecosystem allows us to understand the specific needs and challenges faced by startups. Most fast-growing startups address the same challenges when it comes to hiring. When about to scale, startups need to massively open positions and hire the best talents while keeping their culture. Handling efficiently this growing volume of talents is challenging, especially for the founders and the historical team.

The last 12 months have been exhausting for every company in this industry and beyond, which is why we’ve chosen to kick-off our B2B Rocks #DigitalSeries by putting people first. We have gathered a panel of inspiring speakers from successful companies to share their views and experiences on the “Talent Scaling Dilemma”:  Jonas Rieke (Chief Operating Officer @Personio), Christophe Henner (Chief Operating Officer @Hyperlex) and Noëlla Gavier (Chief People Officer @WTTJ) have taken the stage and you’ll find here the key takeaways of this exciting conversation.

1. The “group theory”: each growth phase has its pitfalls

When the size of the company doubles every year, founders face complex team organization and structuring issues. As a consequence, it can be helpful to anticipate critical times. Christophe Henner, COO @ Hyperlex actually found out that we could sketch some steps where talent scaling will face specific challenges.

We can identify several ‘stages’ in the founders-employees relationship: from 1-15, from 15-50, and to over 100 people. The founders’ roles evolve with time and so do their relationships with their employees. This is precisely where the ‘Talent Scaling’ dilemma can be the most challenging.
                                 Christophe Henner, COO @Hyperlex

Therefore, despite all founders’ endeavors, a dual relationship between early-days employees and newcomers gradually sets up. This phenomenon can impact the group dynamic, the organization’s culture, and even employee efficiency.

2. Aligning early days & external employees: a matter of culture

External employees: aligned and imbued with the company's values?

Jonas Rieke has been with Personio from the early days. He has seen some critical steps in the way the team has grown. His vision on external hiring with experienced and senior people from larger corporations is quite interesting. To him, it can be very useful to hire inspirational “superstars” with a lot of experience from the outside world. This generates enthusiasm and helps teams to become more productive.

The real challenge here would be to integrate senior people into an organization with a well-established culture. Noëlla Gavier Chief People Officer at Welcome To The Jungle recommends having a solid onboarding program in place where historical staff contributes to the new hires’ learning curve. The baseline for recruitment and onboarding is based upon a common ground: values, experience, and potential. Only this combination can make the magic happen.

Managing sensitivities amongst historical employees

On the other flip of the coin, historical employees can sometimes be frustrated by external hires while they thought they could be the ones stepping up for more senior roles. This may be a natural reaction, especially when working in a hyper-growth environment. Jonas Rieke’s recommendation is to establish a fair process and to be as transparent as possible.

To avoid those negative reactions, try to identify specific goals for each position, give measurable criteria to your talents, and most of all, open their mindset: there are other interesting job positions inside the company that will come up soon.
                                           Jonas Rieke, COO @Personio

According to Noëlla Gavier’s insight, the historical team should even take part in the recruitment process to highlight the added-value of a collaborative hiring process.

3. The benefits of calling on an HR service

Avoid the emotional bias of the founders

As a founder, it can be hard to let it go. You’ve created your startup and you’ve hired the first people to help develop your business from the early days. It is natural to see an emotional fit due to the commitment of early days employees. It can be tempting (and quicker) to prioritize these talented people to grow and take more senior positions. At least, that’s what Christophe Henner stressed.

This is a classical pattern: your mindset is unconsciously biased. To avoid making irrational decisions, there is no need to be reluctant to ask for external help. As a founder, it is important to feel comfortable delegating this part.
                        Christophe Henner, COO @Hyperlex

Scaling recruitment relies upon a rational process, trained interviewers, and a clear view of hiring standards. It must be built in partnership with the founders to replicate at scale the magic.

Structure the talent’s growing politics

Working side by side with the HR department is the right thing to do. The latest can provide clear processes, facts, and methodologies. This way, founders & HR can easily implement any kind of talent’s growing politics.

Another key success factor of recruitment and talent management remains in the design of the job description for the roles you’re looking for; as well as a sketch of your vision of the organization to a larger extent. As a matter of fact, it helps clarify and target the needed skills and the expected ROI for this job position. The job description should therefore highlight the purpose, responsibilities, and qualifications of this position. At last, you should be able to measure your talent’s performances.


Finding the right balance between empowering people internally and hiring externally

Scaling the recruitment process is an absolute necessity for founders. The most efficient way to work together is to find the right balance between internal and external profiles. To help founders work with this pattern and make the right decisions, it is essential to structure your hiring organization with the help of an HR department. Here are 3 takeaways to keep in mind if you’re about to scale and to face these “Talent Scaling” dilemma:

  1. HR and founders are the two essential components to deal with something so strategic such as a hiring & retention process.
  2.  Company’s culture should not be underestimated in the hiring process. No matter if people are growing internally or externally, your values are inherent to your talent’s growing politics.
  3.  Do not set a position upon someone’s profile (external or internal). Job description helps to structure your fast-growing organization. Spend time on this tedious task so that everyone can understand the decisions you are being made.

To experience again this tremendous panel, watch the replay on Youtube!

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