In the earliest stages of building a startup, it can be hard to justify focusing on anything other than creating a great product or service and meeting the needs of customers or users. However, there are still a number of surefire measures that any early-stage company can and should put in place to achieve “people ops” success as they begin scaling, according to venture capital firm Atomico‘s talent partners, Caro Chayot and Dan Hynes.
You need to recruit for what you need, but you also need to think about what is coming down the line.
As members of the VC’s operational support team, both work closely with companies in the Atomico portfolio to “find, develop and retain” the best employees in their respective fields, at various stages of the business. They’re operators at heart, and they bring a wealth of experience from time spent prior to entering VC.
Before joining Atomico, Chayot led the EMEA HR team at Twitter, where she helped scale the business from two to six markets and grew the team from 80 based in London to 500 across the region. Prior to that, she worked at Google in people ops for nine years.
Hynes was responsible for talent and staffing at well-known technology companies including Google, Cisco and Skype. At Google, he grew the EMEA team from 60 based in London to 8,500 across Europe by 2010, and at Skype, he led a talent team that scaled from 600 to 2,300 in three years.
Caro Chayot’s top 3 tips
1. Think about your long-term org design (18 months down the line) and hire back from there
When most founders think about hiring, they think about what they need now and the gaps that exist in their team at that moment. Dan and I help founders see things a little differently. You need to recruit for what you need, but you also need to think about what is coming down the line. What will your company look like in a year or 18 months? Functions and team sizes will depend on the sector — whether you are building a marketplace, a SaaS business or a consumer company. Founders also need to think about how the employees they hire now can develop over the next 18 months. If you hire people who are at the top of their game now, they won’t be able to grow into the employees you need in the future.
2. Spend time defining what your culture is. Use that for hiring and everything else people-related
If org design is the “what,” then culture is the “how.” It’s about laying down values and principles. It may sound fluffy, but capturing what it means to work at your company is key to hiring and retaining the best talent. You can use clearly articulated values at every stage of talent-building to shape your employer brand. What do you want potential employees to feel when they see your website? What do you want to look for in the interview process to make sure you are hiring people who are additive to the culture? How do you develop people and compensate them? These are all expressions of culture.