‘People are the most important thing to do well.’

Nora Jenkins Townson, from Bright + Early, on how to recruit as your company grows

‘People are the most important thing to do well.’

‘People are the most important thing to do well.’

We spoke to Nora for the Courier Workshop podcast on interviewing people. Listen to a clip above or read the story below.

‘I believe people are the most important – and the hardest thing – to do well. You can run code, figure out why it doesn't work and solve it at the end of the day; the numbers add up or they don't. People are a lot more difficult. The things that end up keeping founders up late at night are those people issues.’

So, your focus is on startups. What tends to be the startup approach to hiring and what kinds of things can you help them with?

‘I think there's a good case for, when you are under 20 people, to bring in those folks that are risk takers, builders that are fine taking on things with no particular agenda or structure and that are willing to get their hands dirty. But where I see founders really start to fail and struggle on this is still trying to find those people or having the expectation that everybody will behave like that beyond that phase.

‘I talked to a lot of CEOs and founders who are at the 30- or 50-person mark and they're saying: “Nobody used to ask me about career paths; nobody would ask me about a raise; nobody would complain to me about this! Where are all those people now?” And the thing is that the person who joined your company at five people is just not the same as the 50th person. The 50th person, the 30th person, they have expectations. They want to know where their career is going and they expect benefits and processes to be in place.’

Where should a company that wants to put some of those processes in place start?

‘What I like to say is: “Don't invite people over to a messy house.’ You want to work on your existing team first. So make sure you've had discussions, with some speakers or training; you've reviewed your policies; you've looked at your systems of how people are evaluated job wise, how people are paid. Make sure that, if you have some benefits in place, that they're thoughtful for different types of people. Have you thought about parental leave? Have you thought about different types of caregiving arrangements? Then just making sure that you have some things in place so you know that anyone who is in a position of power – whether it's you, your managers or [whoever is] making those career decisions for people – that they understand the power dynamics in bias and things like that. Because we can recruit all the folks we want but, if we're going to bring them into a poor experience, a) that is awful for them; and b) we're wasting our time because we're bringing people in that aren't going to be happy or succeed in this environment.’

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