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The Financial Express

Retaining talents in budding startups

| Updated: October 25, 2020 18:56:27


Retaining talents in budding startups

In Bangladesh, avoiding uncertainty is one of the defining characteristics of culture. Even just fifteen years ago, most average people would be more than happy with a job providing a steady income. Those who became businessmen were usually taking the helm of their family's enterprise. But recently due to factors such as globalisation, an improved ecosystem for start-ups, and demographic changes-- Bangladesh has seen a surge in new ventures.

However, running a start-up is easier said than done. A dynamic and adept team may make or break an infant enterprise. Human resources provide a whole different set of challenges from the perspective of startups. Recruiting talent who may as well work at an established company or start their own venture is a tall order. Some first-generation entrepreneurs have shared their experience with The Financial Express in this regard.

Ayman Rahman Arghyo is the co-founder and chief creative officer of Purplebot Digital, an advertising agency providing digital marketing services. In his line of business, the quality of human resources is highly correlated to success. Purplebot is a go-to option when it comes to marketing meaning that talent acquisition and retention is smoothly performed in Mr Arghyo's enterprise. When asked about attracting or retaining talented individuals during the early days of his enterprise, he said, "I tried to build an environment where the work is the reward and employees feel like they are part of something bigger beyond the employer-employee dynamic. I believe one should always be hiring team members and not just employees."

Attracting competent individuals may be done by offering competitive reimbursement packages, but retention requires more than just money; especially when the talent is in the process of being headhunted by a large national or multinational organisation. However, Mr Arghyo did not face that many problems as Purplebot Digital gave its members something that they would miss elsewhere. "The most effective strategy to retain talent is to offer them something that the big companies won't. Not everyone is only motivated by a paycheck or the tag of being an employee of a huge corporation. They might value things like balance between work and life, a sense of ownership and purpose or alignment of their personal beliefs with organisational vision," explained Mr Arghyo about how small startups can retain their talents.

Such challenges regarding human resources were different for Shah Paran, founder and CEO of HandyMama. The business model being commission-based with 'service partners' focus on providing handyman services to customers. In a nutshell, it is the Uber for handyman services. When starting with this novel idea, Mr Paran found it quite difficult to build his team. According to him, when he started in 2015, people in general were not very familiar with the concept of startups subsequently decreasing their interest to work in one. The conventional hiring process did not work well, and a much more hands-on approach had to be adopted. However, the current scenario is friendlier to budding entrepreneurs. Mr Paran said, "I think, a lot of young talents are now very interested when it comes to working at a startup rather than working at an established company." He justified this by saying that a startup usually offers unique opportunities for learning and self-development, something he believes is crucial for the new entrants in the workforce. He  added, "Young people want opportunities to learn new things. They love taking challenges. I think the job we offer should be dynamic and must have enough challenges for the prospects." Therefore, offering suitable growth inducing roles along with competitive remuneration is the mantra for HandyMama's talent acquisition and retention practices.

Shahbaz Amin Bhuiyan, founding partner of the new sensational restaurant Aloush, believes that the quality of his employees is the most important factor determining success or failure. He said, "Good marketing can bring in customers, but taste and quality of food are responsible for repeat customers which is always necessary for a steady inflow of revenue." The restaurant industry has grown substantially over the years and eating out is a norm due to an increase in purchasing power (Pre-Covid). This has resulted in high demand and supply of chefs with headhunting as one of the main characteristics of this industry. Mr Bhuiyan added, "You can always hire one from another restaurant with a higher salary but you have to be careful because the same can happen to you. Employees study and learn under head chefs then go on to run kitchens of their own at other restaurants." Connections also go a long way as Mr Bhuiyan mentioned, "Recruiting a chef and helping hands for Aloush was easier because my business partners had two other successfully running restaurants. Their connections helped to get a great chef to run the Aloush Kitchen."

A competitive salary and non-financial benefits such as a good work environment and flexible hours are very important for employee retention. The high propensity for headhunting also makes effective two-way communication with chefs very important. He believes that if the employees have grievances, they might not be vocal about it and secretly look for alternates. Thus there must be good two-way communication to ensure that employees are comfortable in sharing their troubles and vice versa.

The writer is a third-year student of BBA programme at the Institute of Business Administration (IBA), University of Dhaka. He can be reached at [email protected]

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