Rules of attraction: captivating and retaining talent while scaling

Tech companies are some of the most exciting places to work these days, and there are several reasons for people choosing careers with them. However, finding and retaining the right people is one of the biggest challenges that tech companies deal with. 

CEW client, talent agency Few&Far, recently organised a panel discussion with experts in the field to discuss how to attract and retain talent while scaling.  The panel included Michelle Coventry, Head of People at Kindred VC, Richard Shepherd, Global Head of Product at Just Eat, and Jack Tang, CEO and Founder of Urban, and was hosted by Sifted’s Senior Reporter Amy Lewin.

The panel at the event

The panel at the event

What makes people want to work for you and your company in the first place? 
According to Michelle, tech companies are particularly good at attracting talent when they have an exciting product, are pitching the big goal and being ambitious. The founder is often a key figure in the recruitment process and should be someone both driven and humble, who comes across as a believer and a passionate person. 

Attraction is much more than what is written on the company’s website. As Richard said, you can only really feel what the company stands for when you walk through its doors. 

A Sneaky Interview Tip
Richard shared one of his hiring secrets. Once the interview is formally over, he asks two questions that are actually the most crucial as they give more clues about the person’s personality. 

One of them is asking what the interviewee likes to do at the weekend and the second one is what the interviewee’s been reading recently. What seems like two innocent conversational questions is actually a way for the interviewer to learn if the person is doing anything engaging in their free time and if they are interested in the industry outside work hours as well. This can be an interesting way to get insights into who the person really is beyond usual interview questions. 

A Note on Salaries
Big salaries might be a driver for some people pursuing certain roles or not, however the speakers were dismissive of anyone just looking for a large pay rise. They wanted to connect with people, to unlock people’s true motivations, skills and talents. On top of that, it’s important to know that people’s motivations keep changing throughout their career - so how can you as a company become part of that change. 

Unconscious Bias
The panelists also discussed avoiding unconscious bias by having multiple people interview a candidate and being able to see them from different angles. However, as a founder you might not have a team of people to help you with interviews. A founder therefore needs to be a good recruiter as well since it’s his or her role to build the initial team when he doesn’t have anyone else to.

Keeping That Team Together
Right, you hired your people and the team is expanding! Now, how do you make them stay longer? 

According to Jack, it is key to be aware of what is on your team’s mind and ensure that they are aligned. One way to achieve this is through transparency such as organising frequent town halls and releasing financial statements. It is really important for founders to be authentic and to bring people on the journey with them as that is what makes a leader a leader, being someone who inspires others to join them in trying to achieve their vision.

A key element that links to transparency is being honest. As Richard said, his one rule is to never lie and play. At the same time, it is important to support people in constant training and development. Another important part of keeping people is making them feel empowered to do well and making their experience better. 

Company Culture
You’ve heard it a billion times. Company culture. According to the panel, culture is how people behave when you leave the room and what happens ten feet from your desk. It is the subtle things, it’s not the football table in your lobby. It is what is accepted and what is not accepted within the company. However, the panelists also agreed that culture should come as much from the team as it should come from the founder. 

Company culture should ideally reflect in your personal life as well. As Michelle said, you should be able to go home and think that you had a great day. It is also about having a personal connection with your people. Sometimes you can build this connection just by being attentive. To show his people that he cares, Richard gave an example about gifting his people a book when he thinks they deserve it or when they need a little encouragement. Jack added that quizzes are a good way to keep people on their toes about what is happening in the company. 

Scaling a company can be a huge challenge, but if you have the right people by your side, you can be sure that the journey will be a little more pleasant. Happy hiring!