There’s no disputing the irony of having an employment crisis in our country where words like “chronically unemployed” and “talent wars” co-exist in the same story, yet here we are. The fact is there are millions of talented individuals looking for meaningful, fulfilling work while thousands of startups risk failure if they can’t fill the tens of thousands of open positions they have today.
When startups succeed a definite by-product of that success is even more job creation. It’s a good investment all the way around to support hiring within the startup ecosystem, yet that’s not always as easy as it seems – even in this current employment drought. Are we destined to simply bemoan the problems or can we refocus our energy on some creative solutions? Can the startup ecosystem do what it does best and pivot its approach to hiring?
If we wanted to focus on why we appear to have this talent crisis then certainly we could dig up a multitude of articles about ageism, lack of technical training in schools, lack of female students with high-tech interest, long-hours-and-little-pay expectations, and the very existence of the word “brogammer” in our lexicon. But, what if instead we focused on what is working? Or at the very least, what could possibly work if we got creative and readjusted our thinking some.
Pivoting away from only thinking about “Rockstar” talent might be a good start.
How do we define or quantify what makes “A” talent in a landscape where new technology changes faster than ever? It’s hard to find many experts in technologies that are only a couple of years old. What if instead of looking at experience we weighed the desire to learn and adapt as being just as important as ability – wouldn’t that open up an even bigger pool of candidates?
Living Social made just such a pivot when it launched Hungry Academy earlier this year. Partnering with JumpsartLab the program took people with little or no programming skills through a 5 month paid intense learning experience. The payoff for the participants? Make it through and you have a 18 month contract to work at Living Social, not to mention a whole lot more knowledge and experience. The payoff for Living Social? According to the Washington Post, the first class of 24 students just graduated and filled open technical jobs in various company units. Only time will tell if this was a good solution that can be replicated, but at least for these 24 job seekers one company was willing to create a new kind of opportunity and they were able to prove their ability.
Solving the talent crisis within the startup ecosystem might just begin with agreeing that too narrow a definition of what makes a perfect startup employee is not a good thing. There are only so many 20-something rockstars out there to go around, yet there are multitudes of people with strong work ethic, ability, and willingness to learn. That goes a long way if you’re willing to see the forest and the trees.
What are some other ideas that would help startups hire more efficiently?
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