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Hiring vampires and other missteps that hurt young companies

Hiring vampires and other missteps that hurt young companies

As vice president for talent at a technology startup, Steve Cadigan knew his company had enormous growth potential. But to realize it, he would have to win the war for talent against some industry giants.

“I was physically surrounded by Google buildings. I had Apple down the freeway, Facebook up the freeway and, in San Francisco, there were sexy, little technology darlings like Twitter and Zynga,” Cadigan said.

By comparison, his company at the time, LinkedIn, looked humdrum to many job seekers. Furthermore, it lacked the financial reserves to match the salaries and perks the coolest companies of Silicon Valley delivered.

Yet during his 3.5 years as VP of Talent, LinkedIn grew from 400 employees to 4,000, executed a successful IPO and grew annual revenues to nearly $1 billion. During a one-on-one talk, Cadigan shared some of the biggest talent lessons he learning while driving growth at LinkedIn and other companies.

Build an employer brand

Young companies need uniquely talented, highly motivated individuals to drive growth, but lack the resources and profile to attract top candidates.

At LinkedIn and elsewhere, Cadigan overcame that hurdle by developing a distinctive employer brand and offering a compelling value proposition to employees. LinkedIn’s brand, for example, included the opportunity to work alongside brilliant professionals and shape an emerging company while creating a product that would help other people find their dream jobs.

Don’t hire vampires

In the rush to place warm bodies in needed positions, managers sometimes hire imperfect fits. Taking the time to identify the traits you need in new hires and recruiting until you find them ultimately produces better results.

“Cutting corners and sacrificing quality standards for talent is a huge mistake,” Cadigan said. “You get some people who are wrong for the organization, and dealing with that becomes a huge distraction. It’s like having a vampire loose inside the organization. It sucks the life out of you.”

Beware of battlefield promotions

In a similar rush to fill managerial positions, executives sometimes give subject-matter experts “battlefield promotions” without assessing the individuals’ management skills and end up with under-performing managers.

The more effective practice is to take the time to provide leadership development within the company, create career advancement opportunities for skilled employees who wouldn’t make good managers, and search for highly skilled managers outside the company.