This week I sat down with Bernt Schindler to discuss whether hiring entrepreneurs is a good idea for your business. Is the threat of them leaving your business worth worrying about? How do you best manage that? Bernt has decades of experience in recruitment, holding positions such as the Head of Talent Acquisition at leading companies such as IBM and Graincorp. Here are our insights.
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Do you recommend recruiting entrepreneurs?
It depends on the role, and every person is different. I think entrepreneurial personality types can go very well in big organisations.
We have someone in our company – he’s the MD of another company and a founder of a startup. To his fairness, he’s not seeking full-time employment, nor is he lying about it, which is honourable. But for this guy, that’s his dream. He wants to build a company, but he doesn’t have all the money he needs at the moment. He wants to contract, and he wants to work, to get some money and go back to it (his startup).
So how can we create a win-win where we can use that talent and that energy, but in a way where it’s beneficial?
I’d give them a project. 100%, it’s the arrangement that’s essential to this situation. Give this person a result rather than a job, say:
“I want this. Go and get me this. I want a widget and I want a team setup. I want a sales team setup.”
It doesn’t have to be short term. It can be a long term project – “I want you to build the next Boeing 747.” A common concern might be that they’ll quit halfway through. If you think about it though, who cares if they leave halfway through? If they leave, that’s on YOU. I’m going to be controversial about this, but I’ll tell you why. Even someone who’s not entrepreneurial, they will leave you.
Everyone will leave, but what are you doing to stop them from going?
This employee – you’re worried about the fact that as soon as they get enough money that they’re going to do their own thing. Why did the non-entrepreneurial person join? It’s the same reason. Either they’ve come to earn enough money to go into another company, or to go and do their own thing if they want to. In essence, they might not be entrepreneurial. Still, they might want to do their personal ‘something’ or go to another company. We’ve got a generation of people coming through right now that will have an average tenure in an organisation of one to two years.
If you treat these people well and make them feel invigorated by giving them career plans, they might drop the idea of building their own company. Why would you leave if you’re happy? If you’re always learning, if, you’re constantly getting new things. They might still leave if they have a fantastic idea, but the reality is that they might stay because they want to learn more. Treat your people right.
Bernt, you’ve created a mind-shift in my head.
We Need To Shift Our Recruiting Mindset
Overall, we need to have a monumental mind shift away from thinking about what a candidate is going to give me, or the company. Instead of focusing on what you’re going to get, discuss what we’re going to give each other. We all have to stop thinking about the fact that when you’re hiring somebody, you’re giving them a job. Meaning, we always talk about ‘giving a job’. No, you’re not, you’re paying somebody for them to help you to do a job. It’s a tradeoff. It’s a two-way street.
If they choose to leave, great. I wish that person all the best. I get it, they wanted to do that, and so our stars were not aligned – there’s no issue with that. However, I am going to do everything I can for my top performers to make sure they feel engaged and want to stay. If anything, learn from it and make sure it doesn’t happen with the next person.
Have that conversation. Be smart. When that employee goes out and does their own thing, chuck a couple of percentage into there as well! If you think a person’s so good and they’re going to be so successful, you should be making sure you’re able to invest in that person. That’s an entrepreneurial thought process.
Do You Think Incentivising Employees to Stay a Minimum Term is Good?
For example, I say to my people, if you work for me for three years and if you ever want to start a venture, I will speak with my investors to see if they’d like to invest in your company. Before three years go by, it’s a massive investment into engineers before they start to become efficient.
You’re right Anwar. It’s a considerable investment in staff these days. Hiring the wrong people can make a huge difference and cause many problems. I wouldn’t put a three-year limit on it though. If I’m sitting on the other side,
“I’ve gotta be locked in for three years?“
“What if I hate my job?“
“What if I have the perfect idea that’s in the forefront right now, if I don’t get onto it straight away…“
“But oh no I’m going to annoy Anwar, I don’t want to do that – I don’t want to burn my bridges…“
It puts unnecessary pressure! Make it open. Make it so they can come to you and say,
“I’ve had this idea; what are your thoughts?“
One fantastic person worked for me at IBM; he got offered a job elsewhere. One of the first things they did was come talk to me and asked what I thought. We had this excellent conversation about whether it would be a good move for them or not.
What If the Entrepreneurial Employee Isn’t Putting in the Work?
What if they’re at the stage that they leave precisely at 5. Because they want to go back to their venture and work on it for the rest of the night? They come in tired, so you’re getting half an employee out of them. They have these two commitments. There’s the transfer of IP as well; if they’re in the same industry or similar, maybe it’s still software development. They’re learning things from you and then transfer it to themselves. So it can be an issue – how do you deal with that?
It’s called management! How do you deal with somebody if they’ve just had a newborn child? Similar thing – they have to leave at certain times, they’re up all night. It’s about being able to manage it.
Of course, their problem is your problem. However, when you have someone who’s not putting in all the hours or is always tired, what then?
If they’re not doing their job, you need to have a conversation with them. Although, it’s got nothing to do with what the reason may be. It’s more about whether this person is doing their job or not. I wouldn’t care if you’ve got seven other jobs, as long as you’re doing an excellent job for me.
Do We ‘Own’ Employees?
We’ve got to stop this mindset, which is going to be destroyed by the gig-economy very shortly. The prevalent mindset is that because we hire somebody, we own that person and everything that’s in their brain. They’re coming in to do a job that you’ve asked of them. You’re paying for their time to use that brain for you. Give them things to do and give them drive, rather than thinking that you ‘own’ that person.
If somebody works for me and they want to go on and work seven other roles, go and do it as long as you’re bringing your A-game to work with me. If you’re not, then I’m going to sit you down and discuss it. Think about how you might want to support them.
“I get you’re not at the top of your game – just give me this, this and this. I know you’re going through a lot.”
Watch how much their engagement increases and how much more productivity you get out of them because you’re treating them like a human being and treating them right.
Missed Part 1, 2, 3 and 4 with Bernt Schindler? Read them here:
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