Everyone knows a growth period is challenging for your business. The most cursory of Google searches will provide you with pages worth of content about managing cash flow, staying competitive and the struggle to find the right talent. And rightly so. These are significant challenges of Growth Hiring.
However, we’re interested in the challenges you might not have predicted coming your way. What are the obstacles growth companies commonly face, but frequently don’t anticipate?
1. The wrong priorities at C-level
Founders are very likely to have their priorities a little out of order at the very start of a growth period. While investment gives most companies the cash injection needed to take it to the next level, it also comes with conditions. VCs focus on the long term strategy of the business, but they are not exactly great hiring managers. Why would they be? While you will find your company’s product development or revenue growth outlined in the investment strategy, but it’s unlikely that the hiring plan will be.
From a recruiter’s point of view, this means you will be dealing with a freshly enthused (and financed) founding team or C-suite who are 100% bought into a product development or sales-driven strategy. This ‘enthusiasm to deliver’ can lead to a cart before the horse attitude. Of course, the company needs to develop the product, but before it can do so, it needs the right people.
The initial priority needs to be hiring. Educating that whatever initial trade-off is needed for hiring to take centre stage can be difficult. However, it’s important that senior management understand that at least 20% of their time should be dedicated to the hiring effort. It’s essentially a change of mindset – famously not easy, but in this case, crucial to success.
Discover the six steps to strategise through Growth Hiring
2. Tenure vs ability
Small teams often comprise of tight knit groups of people who can perform multiple tasks. These all rounders get things done and have brought the company to where it is today. Nonetheless, this is a time of progress and development. As a recruiter, you are going to have to start hiring in specialists, rather than the generalists who make up your team as it stands.
When the team see a new type of candidate being hired, the difference can feel pointed. Witnessing potentially much more specialised, advanced staff join the team may lead to unease and ultimately attrition with your original staff. Damaging to morale and culture, this will also leave you with even more staff to hire.
A common reaction to this is to promote tenured staff, giving people who have been with the company from the start promotions or management positions. This can work and sometimes is appropriate, but oftentimes it’s an example of letting emotions guide professional decisions.
We’d recommend instead strong lines of communication with all staff. Provide opportunities for generalists to specialise, and make sure pathways to leadership positions are clear and accessible. As with any role, advancement to leadership should visibly be for the best qualified, rather than longest serving.
Want to learn more? Check out our five tips for Growth Hiring.
3. Culture shock
Remember that tight knit group we mentioned? It’s about to get stretched and changed irrevocably. As teams grow, the dynamic of your core team will be forced to change. And that’s truly the key word here – they are forced to change.
Throw in nervousness about job security and career progression and you can very quickly find yourself dealing with an extremely damaged company culture. Unfortunately, poor company culture often goes hand in hand with attrition. It’s a vicious cycle that you need to stop before it starts.
To counter this, it’s important to communicate the cultural values of the company. In some cases, this might mean sitting down and actually defining them. But it’s a valuable exercise that shows people how they fit in the company and provides a framework for the new hires.
You’re going to be hiring all sorts of new people. By having clearly defined and lived by cultural values, integration will be a lot easier for both the new hires and the original team. Scaling is easy when you find commonalities!
Equally, communication of these values needs to come from the top. People need to know that change is coming and why it’s happening. Wise founders should acknowledge that change is big and scary, but also articulate the values and reassure the whole company.