Why bringing on the right team for your tech startup is critical

by | In The News

Originally published on Bizcommunity: Why bringing on the right team for your tech startup is critical.

Let’s be honest, your company or brand wouldn’t exist without a team driving your efforts. The same can be said about the sustainability of a good tech startup, it’s the result of a healthy team’s work output. Applying the saying “You are the average of the 5 people you spend the most time around” has a direct effect on your company culture, work ethics, and performance. This is why finding the ‘right’ team for your startup is crucial – and for tech especially, it’s the missing piece of code.  

In order to build a team that feeds off each other’s successes and differences, there are a couple of things you need to keep in mind. Here are 4 characteristics every tech startup employer should look out for:  

1. Level of skill & performance 

Before reviewing any other aspect of the potential employee, the most valuable trait to look out for is their level of performance. Does this person have the skills, or the potential to develop their skills?  

It’s important here not to dismiss someone merely because they haven’t studied coding, design or marketing – the potential to perform is just as much of an asset. Hiring someone new is risky business, so you want to see how they perform before they’ve even started. This is where case studies and tests come into play during the interview process.  

Create a case study that allows candidates to show off their skills while at the same time giving them room to be creative. You don’t want someone that can just do their job, you want someone that can challenge your team and colour outside the lines a bit.  

2. Find complementary skills  

A team that complements each other is what drives innovation, creativity and success. Complementary can mean a variety of things, it can refer to personalities, views or skills that work well together. This does not mean that your team will have similar outlooks or skills, but rather that they can mesh well with other team members with varying views.  

In tech, this is even more important, as employers can easily fall into the trap of hiring people with similar skills to increase a certain output. For example, instead of hiring three web developers whom all have the exact same CV, look for candidates with an interest in entrepreneurship, an understanding of business development, engineering or even marketing. When interviewing candidates, encourage potential employees to highlight the skills they are deficient in, as well as the skills they excel at, to find a team that complements each other’s skills. “It’s really about the people you work with and this unique team working towards a common vision that makes the journey lighter and that much more rewarding.” Jamie Dorman, Technical Account Manager at Finch Technologies.  

3. Strive for diversity 

In order to reduce “group think”, diversity needs to be a cornerstone of your hiring process. If you continue with the “group think” notion of hiring, your company will just be a group set of strengths and weaknesses.  

In every aspect – be that the age, work experience, gender, race or hobbies – diversity in the workplace needs to be a top priority. Your team need to reflect your company values and ethics, and hiring a diverse group shows that you care about building a team that is inclusive.  

Don’t hire people who are all the same, as the “same” will just breed the “same” tech products or services.

Michael Bowren

If you are looking to hire people to fulfil leadership positions within your tech company this is where diversity plays an even bigger role. Ensure that your leaders represent the demographic and views of your country and its needs, as this gives your employees and future employees someone to look up to that looks just like them.  

With 66% of leadership positions held by men in South Africa compared to 34% of women, there is a great need for change in this sector – not just from an ethical point of view, but because it affects profitability. According to Fundera “Highly gender-diverse executive teams are 21% more likely to outperform on profitability.”  

4. An enticing company culture and workspace 

Every tech startup says they want to be the next Google, but the problem comes in when you don’t put those words into action. Create a company culture and workspace that your team want to be a part of. Consider every future employee and current employee’s wants, needs and desires – what makes them want to be part of your brand? Maybe it’s simple things like working from home twice a week or choosing office plants, or possibly it’s the bigger things like being part of a transparent company that encourages open communication.  

According to LinkedIn, 40% of professionals looking for a job place a top priority on their colleagues and culture when making their final decision. “Company culture speaks to the work ethics of its leaders. Working for a company that places importance on creating a great culture improves well-being and encourages positive relationships with your colleagues.” Alexandra Johnson, Credit Analyst, Finch Technologies.  

Your tech employees are people at the end of the day, and that’s why downtime is essential both in improving company morale and individual productivity. So, ensure you highlight this from the hiring process and follow through with it once they are part of your team.  

As the management and leaders of the tech company – what is your role in this process?  

Win over your candidates at the right time  

The aim of the game here during the hiring process is to make sure you hire the “right team”. A strong founder and management team is the starting point before beginning this process. When you head to the market to find additional team members, you need to take the view of winning over that employee with your company vision and culture, not only the job offering. As much as a candidate needs to prove they are the right one, the employer needs to woe the candidate. It’s safe to assume that the potential employees are in discussions with multiple companies.   

In order to bring invaluable team members, you need to be an attractive business to work for. Bringing on the right team member at the right time saves you a lot of friction. If you hire too slowly, your company output will be too slow as certain team members will feel stretched, compromising their overall happiness at work. If you hire too quickly, you will be spending capital on an under-resourced individual, who won’t have enough work to do and might feel unfulfilled in their position. 

Timing in hiring is everything. Management needs to remain in touch with overall team output, quality and mental space in order to make a call around resourcing and scaling up or down with the team. Page Break 

Manage the risk of “a key individual” 

As a tech startup one of the first risks that you will experience is that of a “key individual”. You will need to keep working towards not being reliant on one or two people, no matter their level in the company. When you hire a small team of app or web developers, and any one of them take leave or resign, it typically leaves huge stress and pressure on the rest of the team.  

In order to mitigate against this, you need to keep growing your employee and technology base in order to handle business growth. A key individual is someone who cannot be replaced, as they hold the ‘know how’ or relationships that no other team member understands or has been introduced to. With tech start-ups, this easily happens when building a lean team from the foundation up. However, once your company budget can allow it, expand your core team departments and allow for more open collaboration so that you are not left in the dark if a team member resigns.  

Retain & grow top performers  

To ensure you have a very low churn rate, in an industry that generally hires young top performers – you need to ensure growth and learning are key parts of the retention recipe. One way of doing this is finding the balance, you want to create an environment that catapults productivity and creativity but doesn’t create pressure where your staff feel obliged to work long hours.  

Young tech candidates are generally inclined to be part of a company for a year or two, after which time they feel their learning stagnates. Tech companies in South Africa need to put focus on job role evolution to continue building their team. Your intention with your top performers should be to give them all the necessary tools and an encouraging environment that moves them up in the business. Along with critical feedback and open, structured conversations around performance reviews it allows for an upskilled team that can take on more senior roles. 89% of job seekers globally saw the value of professional development opportunities in improving company culture.  

By spending time and energy on finding the “right” tech team, you’ll see a significant shift in the output of your startup. It’s definitely not something that will take effect overnight and as the management team you’ll need to continually make sure you are on track to reaching this goal. The end result will look something like this – an environment that is conducive to work, promotes innovation and most importantly a place where colleagues feel like they belong and can grow.