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Blank Sheet Approach to Crafting an effective Talent Acquisition Strategy for Start-ups and Small Enterprises

This thought piece is created by Niyati Goel, Global Rewards CoE Lead, AirAsia Group

Crafting a talent acquisition strategy is becoming critical to small start-ups and new businesses as TA is the immediate fuel to the business. It is often the first function ever set up within the HR umbrella for start-up environments looking to scale up.
To power your enterprises’ growth is often a challenge. While not having the right employees holds your business back, having too many, or the wrong people can seriously harm your bottom-line. It becomes especially critical for new businesses looking to expand to go after talent in a scientific, planned and structured way. As you plan your enterprise’s growth into new segments and geographies, this article is intended to help you create a hard-working talent acquisition strategy with answers to some key questions.

#1 What are the short and medium term goals of your business?
Contrary to popular belief, your Talent Strategy does not begin with departments or roles or job descriptions. It’s a better idea to put down the goals of the business – both in the short and medium term. These could be value related goals, market penetration goals, customer acquisition goals or product feature goals. Then ask yourself about the headcount and profile of people you need to achieve those goals. Only then can you begin creating a job role specification that your business needs. A talent acquisition strategy only makes sense when it is aligned closely enough to business goals. A good way to double-check is to connect vacancies directly with business objectives.

#2 For that business goal, what kind of person do you need to hire? At what cost?
This is where you begin to create a pen-portrait of the kind of person you wish to hire. Note that this is NOT the job description, it is more a demographic picture of the hire you’re looking for. For example, if your business needs feet on the ground to make customer service visits in B and C towns, you are probably looking at a graduate with 2-3 years of experience facing customers. But if you’re looking for team leaders in the same markets, you need greater levels of experience.

#3 Does this hire need to be on your payroll, or can you outsource this function?
Outsourcing a function versus hiring for it in-house presents both pros and cons that you would need to carefully consider beforehand. The answer lies in the ease with which you can outsource the function, and costs associated with managing it in-house. For example, in high-attrition roles such as delivery executives or housekeeping, it makes better sense to outsource it. It costs a lot of money to outsource a function that was once in-house, just as it does when you bring an outsourced function back into the company. Asking this question well ahead of the decision helps get this right based on the kind of talent you need, the amount you will spend on training versus outsourcing the function.

#4 For payroll hires, what matters more: the Speed of Hire or the Quality of Hire?
This is a critical question. It boils down to whether you need feet on the ground to do process oriented work, or creative or technical work that requires intellect. Hiring a member of the sales force is the former – it needs speed over quality. But hiring a new head of R&D is the latter, and needs quality over speed. When you’re hiring for speed, online job portals are the most cost effective and efficient; when you’re seeking a large number of hires in a short span of time. When it is quality over speed, a structured referral program works best over agencies that are often sub-optimal and costly.

#5 How do you balance the quality of hires with the number of employees?
If your start-up is strapped for funds that holds you back from making lucrative offers to your potential hires, it can lead to a speed bump in your business growth. This is when you could look at hiring a fewer but higher caliber of employee, who may come at a higher salary, but is likely to require you to invest in fewer people. Of course, this approach comes with limitations – you cannot do this for every kind of role, but for roles that involve analysis, intelligence, research and reporting, it may work out better to shoot for a star who brings greater value to your organization than 2 or even 3 employees of average ability. To put this in action, you could create a list of roles where a lower headcount of more expensive, effective resources would deliver better value, and aggressively go after senior, better profiles.

The answers to the above questions will lead you to a draft Talent Acquisition Strategy that aligns with your business needs and accelerates its growth. It forms part of the core deliverables where HR can assist your organization to grow to its potential.

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