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Talent Attraction and Retention in Startups: Last Thursdays for an Entrepreneur

“Last Thursdays for an Entrepreneur”, held its second event on 27th April  at Venture’s Café under the changed format to focus on issues concerning entrepreneurs in Nepal. The topic for panel discussion was “Talent recruitment, attraction and retention in startups”.

Rajiv Sharma, HR consultant and recruitment specialist and currently the Managing Director at Job Dynamics along with Kiran Timsina, co-founder of Urban Girl (UG) were invited as the panel members. Ritu Chalise, specialist and expert in HR and administration who is currently working at Trishakti Cable Industries Pvt. Ltd was the moderator for the event. Around 30 students and young professionals attended the event.

After Vidhan Rana (partner, Biruwa), gave a brief background of the event and introduced the panelists, Ms. Chalise led the panel discussion. Talent recruitment, attraction and retention are common problems among most startups and are often an overlooked issue although the impact of such problems can be significant to the company. When the panelists were asked how they can attract talent, Mr. Sharma emphasized, the company needs to have a clear value statement before they start recruiting. A clear value statement enables them to attract and retain like-minded individuals with similar value system. Mr. Timsina then added to the remark by sharing his experience with UG, where they hired people fitting the youth culture of the company and focused on hiring young graduates with similar values and work ethic.

Regarding low retention problems and how to address it, Mr. Sharma noted that startups or any other growing business should understand that not all employees will stay with the company for a long term and they should expect a high turnover at an early stage. Companies should rather focus on making a lasting impression on employees during their duration with the company, so that it creates a positive image about the brand and helps in future recruitment.  It is a normal trend that bigger organizations poach talents from startups after 6 months. It is a natural process and people move when they find better or bigger opportunities. Mr. Timsina noted from his personal experience that UG has had more than 200 employees over its course of operation but currently only 37 employees are working for the company. HR policies should be improved and amended as needed for better retention but companies should not force people to stay. People seeking challenging opportunities will join your team even if old employees transition to new jobs.

When asked how to maintain employees’ trust in the company when people doubt the company’s future and want  to move for their own good, both panelists highlighted that communication between management and employees is crucial. They should build an understanding within employees and make them realize that they are key stakeholders of the company and their contribution makes an impact in the company. Mr. Timsina further added that experimenting with new work environment can lead to better communication. For instance, promoting open work-spaces reduces hierarchy, encourages interaction, idea sharing, and quickens conflict resolution between team members.

People prefer to work in startups as they get to work on bigger challenges. Startups have higher transparency, higher growth opportunities and people get a platform to directly interact with the CEO or manager of the company which enables them to directly pitch in and test creative ideas. These benefit factors should be highlighted and people seeking these opportunities and working environment should be targeted while recruiting.

Generally, youth are high-spirited and want to prove themselves by making a visible contribution to the company. It is equally important to highlight and provide other benefits than salary when negotiating or attracting youth. For instance, as shared by our panelist Mr. Sharma, it is hard to retain young team members on Fridays. Policies that allow half working day on Friday will not only be an inviting factor for many, but will also be a motivation for high productivity.

A question from the audience was, “When does a startup know that they need to, and are ready to hire?” Mr. Sharma answered this question by stating that the company will need to hire when your business is ready to scale up. If the work hours exceed normal work week hours (For instance: more than 60 hrs), that is when you need to hire. The company also needs to make sure that it has a sustained cash flow enough to pay its employees when hiring.

Another query from the audience was on hiring people when one has limited network, time and connections. Mr. Timsina and Mr Sharma both advised that HR companies can help in sourcing and even social media is a good platform to start with advertising vacancy announcement. Additionally, startups should take time out of their schedule to visit colleges and offer internships to undergraduate and graduate students. At an initial stage, it will not be practical for companies to seek for employees with perfect skill set as they won’t be able to offer enough compensation to them. However, targeting young graduates and grooming their skills can be advantageous to the company and financially feasible as well.

After the Q & A session, the floor was open for networking, where the participants got a chance to interact with each other, the panelists and also Biruwa members. Overall, it was a productive session with an informative discussion led by the panelists and active participation from attendees.


For updates on “Last Thursdays for an entrepreneur” program, follow Biruwa and Entrepreneurs for Nepal on Facebook.




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