How Startups Can Avoid Their Greatest Talent Pitfalls

By Melissa Olander, Assistant Vice President at BairesDev 

Startups remain one of the most exciting places to be in business and technology. On the business side, however, they remain the most budget conscious company class, typically with only one to four decisionmakers making tough calls in an extremely competitive environment. Startups leaders wear many hats and choosing what is most important to focus on can seem like an insurmountable challenge. This unfortunate reality means that many startups fall into the same mistakes time and time again when it comes to building a team, and need guidance on how to prevent problems or turn things around. 

Take a strategic approach

The first common mistake startups make is in the teams they want to build. Especially at the beginning, when startups are on particularly lean budgets, hiring an entire team of full-time employees can strain company finances and put undue stress on other areas of the business. Plus, when it comes to acquiring talent, startups often do not have the name brand or budget to lure and retain the right people, a problem that will only get magnified through the Great Resignation.

Yet, still, many startups are posting full stack jobs that go beyond their traditional jack of all trades nature and are truly just two jobs in one. Thinking honestly about what talent is the highest priority and looking at all of your options for attaining and retaining that talent can help ensure you are off to the right start. 

Be open-minded about talent sources 

The average tenure of a startup employee 4 years ago was 2 years – and with the Great Resignation it’s only getting shorter. Many startup leaders are reluctant to adapt to this reality, and end up leaving a seat open for years waiting for the “just right” person they think they need, rather than being open to more creative and reliable solutions. 

The pandemic should be the final push, startup leaders need to be more open-minded when it comes to talent. Thinking about how to repurpose the old in-office “beer fridge” budget line item and using it to seek remote talent through outsourcing can help create a more efficient patchwork of talent customized to the project. Plus, the pandemic has proven talent does not need to be sitting in Silicon Valley to create a successful team. 

Understand the power of soft skills 

Of course, for almost every startup, technology is at the core of the business and provides all the opportunities for growth in the short- and long-term. And it is a simple reality that startup talent needs to be ready to hit the ground running with a strong technological skillset.

However, being solely focused on a hard skillset at the expense of other skills can lead to long-term culture and business issues. Startup leaders must also look at key areas of the business that will be vital to supporting the technology side of the business, like project management, marketing, sales, and operations. Beyond reviewing different departments, it is also a must to look for potential teammates with the soft skills to help build a company beyond technology alone. Skills like problem-solving and organization are critical, and communication and collaboration stars will help keep the business running more smoothly. 

Running a startup is no small feat, especially in times like these. In such a fast-paced business area, there is no space for missteps and simple mistakes that can put you behind competitors. In order to succeed, startup leaders must take a strategic approach to team building through making an honest assessment of budget, keeping an open mind when sourcing talent, and, lastly, ensuring they’re not undervaluing the importance of soft skills to ensure the creation of evenly balanced teams. As long as they keep these things in mind, startup leaders can rest assured that they’re taking the right steps to keep their companies ahead of competition. 

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.