In reality, the Innovation start-up industry in Australia is still in its infancy stage. The government attention and support is improving, the eco-system is developing, but in the meanwhile it is very hard for start-ups to identify, attract, hire and retain talent. I often hear valid arguments, such as the global technology companies that enter Australia offer salaries that we cannot compete with and /or the demand for Tech people is growing, while the number of graduates from engineering each year remains stable. There is no doubt that while encouraging entrepreneurship, there is a need to address the growing skills gap and what is the point in opening start-ups and having the core R&D overseas? However, these are macro issues beyond the control of individual start-ups.

In addition to these macro arguments, I often hear statements from start-up founders that I consider as myths. Start-ups can hire and retain great talent based on strategic talent management. This means thinking differently not only about the product but also about talent management.

Busting the three myths:

(i)

The wrong people are attracted to work in start-ups- Only people who like risk and/ or are not experienced enough to find a well-paid job apply for jobs in start-ups.

The myth’s core- It is not a secret that the Australian culture is risk adverse. Many people prefer to work in big corporates and have a stable income that allows high quality of life.

The start-up advantage– People that cannot tolerate risk, are not a cultural match for start-ups. Better not hire them from the very beginning than waste time and money, as they will not last. People with education and limited experience- If they are a cultural match and have a good head on their shoulders, get them in and teach them the work. You don’t need everyone to be experienced anyway and you cannot afford to compete with the banks and big corporates on salaries. Start-ups offer great challenges. Employees are not boxed in a specific position description; they have a much richer environment full of life learning opportunities and they get to work with limited red tape. The people that are passionate about learning and extending themselves, while taking risks, are the ones that you want to attract. They are out there available- graduates find it hard to get employment these days. Look for them and develop them.

(ii)

Young graduates are not willing to work long hours- Young Australian graduates are looking for 9 to 5 positions to allow themselves the quality of life- go to the gym, have fun outside work etc. This means that they do not fit the start-up requirements.

The myth’s core – start-up deadlines mean long hours. But these can happen in corporates as well, especially for graduate positions. Do you think that graduate accountant and lawyers work 9 to 5 or expect to drop their pens at 5 PM? They often work much more hours than in start-ups without the flexibility and other benefits that start-ups have to offer.

The start-up advantage – It is all a matter of engagement. Engaged employees will walk the extra mile without being asked to do so. Often we speak about culture and engagement, however, engagement is also related to personality. Engaged people tend to be committed in every workplace. They will not allow themselves be disengaged- they leave the company when they are not happy- and until then continue performing with 100% efforts. Those that are disengaged (and cruise while looking for other positions) tend to take this behaviour with them from one workplace to another. A lemon is a lemon. It is easier to identify lemons and screen them out of the recruitment process than to make a long-lasting lemonade from them…

(iii)

It is harder to retain talent in start-ups than in big corporates-

The myth’s core – Turnover is on the rise… It is hard to keep talent, point. Large organisations struggle with talent management as well. However, start-ups do have the advantage.

The start-up advantage – True talented people are not only about pay and promotion; they are looking for challenges, extending themselves and growing. Start-ups provide a great environment for talent. Part of managing talent and workforce is about allowing them the opportunity to learn, advance, solve difficult challenges and feel achievement. Talented people are approached by recruiters every day, often offered a good 10-20% increase if they move. When I ask them if this is the case, why are you still here- the answer is often the same: “as long as I continue to learn, grow and develop- I love it here- there is no reason for me to leave.”

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Another way to look at the talent myths is to remember that while start-ups live in an unstable environment, take risks and often are searching their way moving forward- their core strengths are talent and culture. Talent management is a key factor in the start-up’s success. Yes, there are challenges on the way, but with a solid workforce planning, talent management and thorough recruitment process that is looking at the cultural match and personality, start-ups gain strategic advantage.

Take talent management and culture seriously and 2017 will set you for growth!