With a slew of new startups popping up as the economy bounces back, human resource professionals are having to adapt quickly. Identifying the critical roles that have the highest impact on business efficiency is the first thing an HR professional needs to do in this situation. The next step is to develop a talent pipeline to fill these spots, so that the talent is there to step in when the resources are available to fund these positions.

Internal and External Recruiting

It’s important to look within the company as well as outside when you’re recruiting for critical roles in an organization. Think in terms of developing a system of career tracks, and put training in place to support effective internal recruiting. A transparent process for advancement that builds on employee skills and company knowledge benefits both employees and the company as a whole.  It provides clear incentives for current staff and can be a strong selling point when you’re recruiting outside candidates.

It’s also important to work on creating networking systems that connect you to outside candidate pools. Asking current employees for referrals can provide some good leads, as will putting the word out that you’re hiring on social networking sites and niche job boards.

Workforce Planning

When a critical role goes unfilled, it can have a huge impact on company growth. You’ll need to have a plan in place to cover the job duties for the position while you are recruiting for it as efficiently as possible.

Here are some tips for filling critical roles in startups.

Plan ahead as much as possible. Although workforce planning needs to start with management, HR can play an important role. Business leaders are responsible for forecasting upcoming needs for their departments, but HR can provide the strategic planning necessary to meet those needs. In this sense, HR needs to act as a consultant to help managers accurately determine which positions are absolutely necessary and which can be filled on a need or want basis.

Focus initially on critical job roles. It’s important to focus your efforts on the jobs that are necessary for the organization’s success—so the organization will continue! First up are critical jobs that are central to the core business of the organization. Beyond that, you need to pay attention to any role that has a high number of vacancies, has been difficult to fill in the past, requires long training times to develop the appropriate skills, or has the largest number of staff. Workforce planning is, in essence, an exercise in prioritization. Companies who practice this kind of planning are guaranteed to be more successful than those who don’t.

When it comes to filling critical jobs, the amount of time it takes to fill each opening varies, depending on the skill level required. Most jobs take 3-4 months to fill according to some studies, but when the jobs are for higher-level executives, they could take up to 9-12 months. Looking internally first can save organizations both time and money, but some positions, particularly leadership ones, need to be filled by outside candidates.

If you’re in a startup and feeling the pressure to fill critical roles, it’s even more important to take the time to come up with a plan for building up a pool of talented candidates. Once you have a system in place, you’ll have done the groundwork to set yourself up for future success in filling many roles, both big and small.

Jessica Miller-Merrell

Jessica Miller-Merrell, SPHR, is an author, speaker, Human Resources professional, and workplace social media expert who has a passion for recruiting, training, and all things social media. She is the president and CEO of Xceptional HR, and a leader in the HR community with more than 12 years of industry experience. The author of Tweet This! Twitter for Business, Jessica was named by HR Examiner as the second most influential recruiter on the Internet and the seventh most powerful woman on Twitter. She is a columnist for both SmartBrief and The Huffington Post, in addition to Blogging4Jobs and Human Resources One on One. Jessica has been interviewed for professional articles in CIO Magazine, Entrepreneur Magazine, SHRM’s HR Magazine, and on CBS. Jessica earned a Senior Professional in Human Resources designation in 2008, and holds a bachelor’s degree in Anthropology and Business from Kansas State University. Originally from a small town in Kansas, Jessica currently lives near Oklahoma City with her husband, Greg and daughter, Ryleigh.

3 Comments

  • Avatar Dorothy says:

    I’m the adherent of the idea that you have to analyze your company employment needs, which positions must be filled in immediately and which can stand a delay, and plan ahead all the steps you’re going to take in the hiring process. Because if you’ll be caught unarmed in such a situation and start messing between big job boards and social media contacts there’s hardly any chance you’ll succeed in doing your job on time.

  • Avatar Paul says:

    I think every company should have a reserve pool to fill in the critical roles, especially managing roles. This can be reached by starting the tradition of succession planning and leadership development initiatives. In this case you won’t be afraid to drink as you have brewed, but be sure that you make a right choice.

  • Avatar Laura Cobbles says:

    I agree that if your talent development strategies have been properly realized your company will have a pipeline of ready candidates to fill the critical roles. But it seems that very few organizations have properly executed talent processes, because they failed to align them with company objectives and followed the general lines.

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