Welcome back to our tips for startups series. This month we focus on how to successfully attract and retain talent


Starting a business: how to find your team

Is finding a talented team the most important requirement of a growing business? If you think so, you are not alone. An expert panel at StartUp 2020 – the UK’s leading annual festival for startups – led an insightful conversation about the vital steps to help find AND retain your team.

Ben Gateley from CharlieHR reminded the audience that its dangerous to assume you can simply place an advert and good people will find you. The best people are already in jobs and it makes sense to keep vigilant and research where the talent is that you may need in the future.

The StartUp 2020 panel including James Uffindel, CEO of Bright Networks and Philippa Sturt, partner at Joelson Law all agreed that the conventional interview process is flawed. One reason they shared is that it enables people to over claim their abilities. Always better to arrange for candidates to create a presentation of their career to date and share their visible achievements.

James added to Ben Gateley’s comment about the danger of being over complacent in finding talent. There are 1.2m unfilled vacancies in the UK right now with only one quarter open to changing jobs. There’s a war for great talent!

Collectively, the panel gave some great advice for early stage startups and founders in general. In fact for anyone who owns a business, we think these tips are great reminders!


  1. What Are People Looking For?

When changing jobs, there are 3 things people are looking for – and its not always a bigger salary!  1. Clarity about the job role. 2. Clear Vision. 3. Compelling Mission.

This is a sharp reminder that your business needs to be very clear about its identity and growth journey. And this needs to be articulated well – no matter what industry you are in. Your mission statement is also key. What makes your business exciting and different from the competition? Building this story in a succinct way will enhance a positive perception from potential candidates.

  1. Whats the roadmap?

Its generally perceived that working in a startup environment can be challenging. The road ahead isn’t always strictly defined and the fun (and challenge) of working in a startup is that the business roadmap is open to flexibility.  Notwithstanding, most candidates  want to know what their career journey could look like. In other words, be honest, be transparent and demonstrate that you have a grip and a fairly firm view on the journey ahead.

Equally exploring candidate questions around their resilience and views on change will help you decipher whether your candidate is equipped for the challenge. A road full of twists and turns is not for everyone.

  1. Empowerment and Rewards

According to Harvard Business Review, research shows that when employees feel empowered at work, it is associated with stronger job performance, job satisfaction and higher commitment to the organisation. As Steve Jobs said in his now famous quote “We don’t hire people and tell them what to do. We hire people to tell us what to do”.

There are many books and articles that coach business leaders to help empower their teams & understand the benefits of giving teams autonomy. ‘Sapiens – A Brief History of Humankind’ by Yuval Noah Harari is one of the books recommended by James Uffindel. Plus X would also recommend ‘The Five Dysfunctions of a Team’ by Patrick Lencion, a great lesson in learning how NOT to drive a business forward!

Setting out a company culture is often left until late into the business. But exploring and laying out positive values and expected team behaviours in your set up stage could prevent potential pain in the long run.

For a startup that cannot compete with the salary offers of established competitors, a good working culture and a system of rewards and benefits that don’t cost the earth could become your edge for attracting great talent.

Key questions you might want to ask yourself that are relevant for employees right now. How purpose driven are you? What is your business giving back to society and how can your team help? How well do you recognise the importance of flexible working, positive mental health at work and giving time back to your team? Arranging regular socials, team lunches and negotiated discounts for suppliers such as fitness and travel could help.

And at the outset, its smart for new company owners to think about ownership opportunities such as share options to attract ambitious team members.

At Plus X, we are committed to supporting business growth and innovation – whatever your size and ambition. Sign up to our newsletter for our forthcoming events and news from our innovation hubs UK wide.





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