How do you recruit for your start-up?

How do you recruit for your start-up?

Are you planning a start-up? Do you have a dream and a plan to run your own business? It might seem a little early to be thinking about company culture – but it isn’t. The time to plan a great workplace full of productive, happy employees is before you make your first hire!

In a vibrant economy like Cambodia new companies open every day and they all need to hire people almost immediately. Here at Top Recruitment Cambodia we have a steady stream of clients opening companies, and for the past couple of years many of them are in the IT sector. They are all looking for smart, young Cambodians to join their business but many of them struggle to hire the right people. Why is that?

To get to the bottom of this we have to look at what Cambodian candidates are looking for. In our experience the best candidates always take a very close look at potential new employers. What is the company’s reputation as an employer? How does this company offer something better than what I have now? The break-out room of an IT start-up with brightly coloured beanbags and a free coffee machine cannot fool a strong candidate, they look beyond that to issues like:

Is this going to be a secure job in a successful company?

How is the personality of the founder going to dominate the company culture?

Are they paying at or above market rates?

The first question is actually the big one. The issues which a potential employee is assessing are basically related to risk. When you change jobs there is always risk involved but when you change jobs to a start-up the risk is much higher. In my experience most Cambodian candidates are highly risk averse. In fact, we can see that the more skilled and senior a candidate is, the more risk averse they are, leaving many start-ups to compete for the third and fourth rate candidates.

So how does a start-up attract first-rate candidates? Candidates know that probably eight or nine out of ten start-ups fail within the first two years. How do you as a potential employer overcome this risk for the candidate? You cannot remove that risk; you cannot increase job security, but you can impact other aspects of the job – you can create increased levels of employee engagement. This is the issue which the second question is examining.

One way that many companies try is to make their company a highly attractive place to work is by offering a relaxed but vibrant workplace. They offer flexible working hours, a feeling of belonging, a feeling of working towards a common purpose. More importantly they offer an open, non-hierarchical management style, which is usually very appealing to young, smart professionals. These engagement strategies are almost always more successful than simply offering above-market salaries. By focussing on the company culture, making the company an attractive place to work the company enjoys massive benefits for both recruitment and retention well into the future.  It also creates an engaged workforce where work has meaning, and this maximises employees as productivity.

These engagement strategies are part of the company culture and are top-down strategies meaning that the founders and leaders have to believe in them and carry them out every day.  Company culture cannot be faked, it might be written down as a series of policies but actually what employees see, what actions the company takes day to day, these are the things that really count?

Of course, the third question is the one which most companies put first, which is wrong. Yes, you have to pay a small premium for the lack of job security in a start up company, and everyone knows that you can’t beat the market. Unbelievably, we come across start-ups offering applicants the same or even less than their current salary. This is basically a doomed strategy as candidates know that just about everywhere in the world changing your job should bring a 5-10% pay increase. That’s just the way it works, so a start-up should be looking at offering 10% over current salary plus the benefit of a better workplace and culture than the applicant currently has.  Everyone also knows that the employees who only moved to your company for money alone will leave your company for exactly the same reason.

As the owner of a start-up business you were probably highly focussed on your great idea, your amazing product or service, you were caught up in all the excitement of bringing your dreams to the market. To grow your company and see true success you will need to recruit first rate talent, you want the most highly skilled Cambodians on your team. This means that from before you open your business, when you are still at ‘ideas stage’ you need to put thought into company culture and how working for your company will be meaningful for your employees.


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