The war for talent: hiring the best and the brightest

How will these small enterprises attract top-tier talent away from the large conglomerates while offering nothing but a self-assembled desk and a promise?

21 September 2017 | 13:39

Source: Annahar

  • By Yehia El Amine
  • Source: Annahar
  • Last update: 21 September 2017 | 13:39

A lot of these intangibles, which don’t have a monetary value, are important to people who want to be focused more on their intellectual value and work on the ground as opposed to the minor conundrums of the corporate world. (Picture taken from Antwork's website)

BEIRUT: Welcome to the talent economy. 

There has never been a time when top-tier talent was more in demand, more valuable, and harder to find. Real expertise, based on profound skill and experience, is a powerful force multiplier for a company’s performance.

Expertise delivers numerous core values versus individuals that haven’t been there or done that; missed sleep or scraped their knees and elbows on the toughest of deadlines. According to a survey of CEOs conducted by UK-based consulting firm PwC, expertise was a key choke point for 70 percent of the companies there executives led.

That, however, is only part of the demand iceberg visible above the waterline.

According to the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM), a staggering 50 million startups will be launched globally in the coming year, driven primarily by individuals between 25 and 34 years of age.

Thus every one of these embryonic companies will be in need of expert engineers, programmers, product designers, marketing and sales professionals, and project managers, who need to bring forth skill sets essential to the growth and profitability of these new companies.

The paramount question to these personnel acquisitions will be how will these small enterprises attract top-tier talent away from the large conglomerates while offering nothing but a self-assembled desk and a promise?

“The startup life isn’t for everyone,” according to Nahed Khairallah CEO of Dynamic Recruit, a locally-based talent headhunting firm and mentor at the UK Lebanon Tech Hub.

He considers the current millennial generation’s ability to easily flip their switch into different roles helps them deal with the ever-changing business dynamic; a factor that is prospering startups in today’s economy.

“Millennials are good candidates because they don’t have that much to lose in case the business goes sour, they can deal with the ups and downs, while being very energetic, motivated, and ambitious risk-takers that fit the mold of startups,” Khairallah told Annahar.

The UKLTH mentor notes that there are a number of effective ways startups can attract top-tier professionals without the need to pull out their checkbooks.

Address their hearts, not their pockets

Startups need to hire people that are interested and passionate about the specific business they are delving into; where their work will push them innately put in longer hours, with extra effort without constantly worrying about when their next paycheck will come through.

“People who work in startups are not the same people who work in banks and stable jobs, but are the millennial generation that has nothing to lose and are in it for the experience and exposure,” He said.

Khairallah highlighted that, in terms of a talent’s technical skills, they could be more or less taught and developed in most cases; however, in terms of personal goals, values, and interests, most rigid people won’t change their perspectives.

“The people that are used to the 9 to 5 job, that eagerly waits for their paychecks are not the right crowd for the startup environment since there might be times where the nascent company can’t pay on time, while in other cases they might need to take a salary cut,” he added.

Investing them into the business

One of the most efficient ways to bring in talent into startups is by offering them stock and equity options later down the road, or possible partnership within the company.

According to Khairallah, the benefits of the millennial generation is that they don’t understand the concept of slow year-by-year growth since they’re not solely focusing on money, but they are also looking for rapid growth to feel impactful.

“The previous norm for an employee was to stick with a company for at least five years before pondering other opportunities; but in our current talent pool, young professionals barely last three years with the same company,” he said, noting that this generation wants something fast-paced accompanied by new things.

The many hats of entrepreneurship

One of the most important things a startup needs to look to when hiring is a person’s willingness to work multiple and various tasks at the same time.

“Startups don’t benefit from individuals that confide within their job description and refuse to do anything else; the whole point of entrepreneurship is mixing and matching with multiple tasks on a daily basis,” Khairallah told Annahar.

Advocates for self-education

The UKLTH mentor considers that there is a big talent shortage in Lebanon, especially on the technology level.

“If you look at the gap of what is required in the economy and what is being taught in schools, you’d be surprised at the rift between each. A lot of educational institutions have failed to keep up with the speed in which technology and modern-day businesses have advanced,” he added.

Most of the successful people in the tech sector are primarily the ones who have invested and self-taught themselves more than the educational system has to offer, according to Khairallah.

“This latency has shrunk the talent pool and it is being swallowed by huge corporations. This, in turn, puts startups in a bad spot, making it harder to find suitable talent from the ones who haven’t left the country already,” he added.

Get it while it’s hot

The absolute best way for startups to get top-tier talent is by catching them while they’re still fresh and straight out of college, which requires startups to form good relationships with universities.

“Attracting these young professionals directly out of school before they even hit the market is the ideal way to poach them to your company before huge corporations notice them,” Khairallah said.

He highlighted that startups can coordinate workshops, training sessions, and boot camps to leverage young talent to their side, in return for building healthy partnerships with educational institutions.

“Nowadays, internships are good opportunities to identify people who have potential and who have talent. So, trying to get to them before others do is a very good and strong point,” he added.

The intangibles

Startup companies have a leg up over their larger counterparts in terms of the intangible working conditions they offer to young professionals’ liking.

“Flexible working hours, no dress code, employee time punch clock, and a laid-back work environment are considered highly valuable to this new generation,” Khairallah told Annahar.

He noted that these young talents have seen the Googles and LinkedIns of the world and how work environments and offices operate. They aspire to work in something similar.

“A lot of these intangibles, which don’t have a monetary value, are important to people who want to be focused more on their intellectual value and work on the ground as opposed to the minor conundrums of the corporate world,” he added.

The UKLTH mentor highlighted that company culture, environment, and empowerment is what attracts talent to startups; these new age workers don’t like being told what to do. They also like to experiment with new ideas.

The validation platform

A large number of people, who run away from large corporations to smaller companies, rarely do it for the money, but for the sole reason of having a platform for them to contribute to something bigger than they are.

“Startups offer new recruits the opportunity to pitch in ideas during brainstorming sessions, maybe even implement and try them out, which is something detrimental to people who are very passionate about the job,” Khairallah explained.

The best bargain startups give is the ability to shape or impact a business’ work or future vision from a hands-on perspective, which is something they won’t find unattainable in a well-established company.

“At some point, it stops becoming about the money,” Khairallah said.

The “start big, then go small” theory

Many people argue when plunging into the workforce should “start big, then go small;” meaning, start with a big corporation to gather the required business acumen, build a network of contacts, learn the inner workings of a company, and then utilize the gathered experience by working for a smaller company.

“Gaining experience with big corporations at first shows you how they run and how, authorities and ideas flow; it introduces you to the business side of things, and teaches you how to prioritize,” Khairallah said, noting that this business acumen can’t be taught at school, but is learned through experience.

This is an effective way of starting a career since fresh graduates who want to start a business are not equipped to do so because it’s a new concept to them.

“It’s a good strategy because, at the end of the day, a startup is a business no matter what,” he added.

The outsourcing factor

Outsourcing is used loosely in many cases, whereas it’s important to decide what to outsource.

“Companies should outsource things that are either a waste of their time or if it’s more expensive to do then in-house,” Khairallah pointed out, noting that a company should never outsource something related to the core business.

The core business should be internal; everything complimentary or supportive and not very essential -- such as accounting, couriers, and otherwise -- should be outsourced.

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