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Houston expert: How to scale your startup team quickly and efficiently

Consider these evidence-backed hiring tips before scaling your startup's team. Photo via Getty Images

Startups often use the first rounds of funding to bring in key individuals who will help make the company vision a reality. But hiring the right talent is not an easy task, and ensuring the right team is in place is important now more than ever during the early stages of your company’s growth.

Fortunately, there is a science to employee selection. In fact, there is entire field — Industrial & Organizational Psychology — dedicated to providing professional guidelines, best practices, and over 100 years of evidence to support recommendations into identifying talent an effective, efficient, and equitable manner.

From this field, we know that the first step to hiring in the right talent for your startup is to perform a thorough job analysis. Whether you are bringing in a new CEO, a vice president of sales, or extra hands for your technology platform, gaining consensus among your team about the competencies and attributes required to effectively perform in a new role is critical.

It sounds simple, but it is actually a rarity for organizational stakeholders to get together and comprehensively map out what the role entails and what candidate qualities are necessary to meet those requirements and expectations. Factoring things in such as early-stage demands, future landscape, and organizational culture will help create a list of competencies and attributes needed to be optimally effective in the role, beyond just professional experience and certifications.

After prioritizing the list of competencies and qualities deemed vital for candidates, you will then want to prioritize the list based on importance, how frequently they are required in the role, and the extent to which each is required upon hire —versus being easily trained or acquired on the job. Those at the top of the list should be directly assessed during the candidate screening and selection process. Whether it is through work samples, written assessments, situational judgment tests, or interviews, creating a diverse lineup of candidate screening processes will help ensure you are able to measure the whole person.

Because selection decisions can be high stakes — both for the candidate and your company — ensuring these assessments are directly related to the position, data-driven, and equitable will be key for maximizing the utility and legal defensibility of your selection system. For example, implementing unstructured interviews is common practice in many organizations large and small.

However, what the data shows is clear: structured interviews — those that consist of a pre-defined list of questions related to the role that are used for every candidate, use standard interview rating tools, and involve interviewers who have been trained to conduct structured interviews and use the rating tools — are more efficient and effective in accurately assessing job candidates.

Furthermore, the structure involved in this interview format reduces the opportunity for common biases and inappropriate questions to emerge during the interview process, thereby enhancing the likelihood for making equitable selection decisions and avoiding potential for legal litigation. Thus, it is important to ensure every screening tool or process has been thoughtfully considered and implemented from an efficiency, effectiveness, and equity lens. Making a shortlist of candidates and final offers based on the data accumulated through these processes will maximize the likelihood of identifying best fit candidates based on comprehensive data points.

If your startup has gotten to the point of being able to grow the team, it is clear that ample vision, strategy, and innovation has been dedicated to the mission up until this point. Hiring in the next round of team members is not a process that should undergo any less dedication. Ensuring that those around you share your vision, goals, and have a complementary set of skills and attributes will be critical to ensure success in your company’s growth and achievements.

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Aimee Gardner is the co-founder of SurgWise, a tech-enabled consulting firm for hiring surgeons, and associate dean at Baylor College of Medicine.

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With the consumer price index rising 9.1 percent since last year, many Americans are evaluating new employment opportunities with better pay. However, employees would be wise to consider the risks of accepting a new position in the face of inflation and a possible recession, which could leave employers unable to sustain higher wages and generous benefits.

As a safer option in the longterm, employees may wish to ask for a raise from their current management, yet many do not know how to start the conversation. By understanding best practices for negotiations, employees can improve their chances of obtaining a pay raise without undermining relationships.

Understand the risks of job-hopping

Conventional wisdom suggests that job hopping can result in higher salary increases than an annual raise. During the pandemic, many employees took advantage of labor market shortages to secure new positions for higher pay. However, job hopping presents risks, particularly in an uncertain economic environment. Companies may institute “last in, first out” layoffs, leaving recent hires unemployed.

Even in strong economic conditions, job-hoppers face uncertain outcomes. When employees leave a company, they may leave behind teammates, mentors, client partnerships and friendships years in the making. These relationships can redevelop in a new organization, but employees may find themselves in an unfamiliar setting, facing unrealistic expectations or unexpected challenges that were not clear during the interview process.

Prepare ahead of time

Before approaching management with a request for a raise, employees should understand their own financial needs and how much additional compensation would improve their finances. If inflation has caused financial strain, employees should gather recent data on inflation, including the consumer price index, to share with management. The more information employees can offer about changing economic conditions, the more management will understand and accept their position.

Focus on the positive

Employees should begin a conversation about salary with praise for the organization and a reiteration of their commitment to the team. By beginning on a positive note, employees set the tone for a mutually productive conversation. Although employees may view salary negotiations as adversarial across the table, productive negotiations are a conversation with both employee and employer on the same team.

Likewise, while employees may worry about looking greedy, employees should not let that fear prevent them from opening the conversation. Employers also understand that employees work to meet their financial needs. While employers may face budget constraints or other considerations in salary allocation, strong management also recognizes the importance of nurturing growth among employees, both in compensation and job responsibilities.

Nonetheless, employees should focus the discussion on broader economic conditions like inflation, not on their personal budget items. By acknowledging the economic environment outside of the employer’s control, employees can then respectfully request their salary be adjusted for inflation.

Employees with a record of strong results can also gather data or performance reviews to demonstrate their contributions to the team beyond the expectations of their role. In doing so, employees can frame a salary increase as a celebratory recognition of the mutually successful partnership between employee and employer and an investment in the relationship.

Be flexible if negotiations stall

If employers decline to adjust an employee’s salary for inflation, employees should not give up on negotiating additional compensation or benefits. Rather than a pay raise, employees can ask for reimbursement for gas mileage or additional remote days to cut down on their commutes. If management declines a pay raise based on timing, employees can acknowledge that management may face budgetary constraints, remaining flexible but firm. For instance, a compromise may involve revisiting the discussion in three to six months.

As employees face record-breaking inflation, it remains critical to consider the risks of departing one role for another. By implementing best practices in salary negotiations, employees can secure a salary increase that matches inflation, avoid the uncertainty of job-hopping and invest in the future at their current company.

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Jill Chapman is a senior performance consultant with Insperity,a leading provider of human resources and business performance solutions.

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