Hypergrowth Startups: Talent Retention and Growth Tips for Customer Success Teams

Business don't grow, people do. It doesn't matter how awesome is your plan if your team don't buy it.

Talent management is a basic concern of modern companies. Even because in order to grow with excellence and achieve success, they need engaged and productive talents.

But when we talk about talent management in a scale-up (concept designed for companies that grow at least 20% for 3 years in a row), we speak of a highly competitive and talent-thirsty market.

Unlike other markets, we face some difficulties that are common to our niche, such as the shortage of people who have in the curriculum skills that serve the new generation of business, especially in the tech world.

No wonder, most of the scale-ups, or even startups, are investing heavily in acquiring these talents and even more to keep them in the organization. Losing a talent is not only very painful for the company but also has a negative impact on the investment that is made. Some of these impacts are:

Hiring Time: Typically, it takes a lot of time to find the right talent, which fits the job and culture needs of the company;
Training Time: It takes a lot of dedication to ensure that this talent is able to perform and adapt to the new job. Many hours of training are dedicated with constant monitoring and transfer of skills through mentoring and coaching;
Investment risk: we can not ignore the financial loss that exists when hiring. From hiring to training, all that was employed is investment made by the company.
For these reasons, talent management becomes a critical success factor, especially at a time of growth, which demands to scale very fast.

But in such a competitive market that is hungry for talent people, how can we continue to grow and at the same time ensure retention?

Finding this answer is part of your efforts to make sure your business keeps climbing. Based on my experience participating in the development of the Customer Success team here in Resultados Digitais, I have separated some important points that can help you.

Understand how to build the team by choosing talent versus experience

How you model your selection process is in some ways decisive in the choice of the talents that will be part of your company. Getting the right profiles is directly connected to the type of result you are looking for and the culture you are building. Determining this profile helps to make better choices and increases the percentage of retention of those people who are hired.

At Resultados Digitais I have chose to bet on talents. Betting on talent versus experience has some implications that must be considered. Whether it works or not depends a lot on your model and the effort you are willing to put into building your team.

When we talk about talent, we are betting much more on deliveries that will have resulted in a short future, which undoubtedly makes the hiring process more difficult. To be able to identify talents, we always analyze the trajectory, what were the achievements, if they have a correlation and we give up titles and nomenclature of positions. We try to understand what was really done, what that person put his hands up to that moment and how it will help her keep growing.

Choosing for talent is a gamble. This means valuing people who make a very motivating narrative of the things they want to do and learn and how they will grow within the company. We call this candidates as Doer, or, the executors. That’s why our talents are known as RDoers. For Resultados Digitais, betting on Doers is believing in people who will come to make spectacular deliveries. And more: it is a bet on our culture and what we are building, our A Team.

A very important tip, that I learned along the way is: careful not to hire good interviewees. Being skillful in an interview has no relation to the type of delivery he can make. Sometimes this only shows ability to communicate or even persuasion, qualities that are important, but isolated are insufficient. I have interviewed candidates who did very well in the interviews, but in the end they were disapproved simply because they did not meet our selection criteria.

When we are faced with super interviews, we must always remember the responsibility we have for bringing someone to the team, the time and investment that is made, and especially what we are seeking and how that person can contribute to the growth of the company. We can not make decisions just because we like the candidate. It is very important not to rely only on instincts, but on skills and ability they are able to deliver.

If you have the challenge to scale fast, remember to hire executors and avoid making the mistake of hiring someone just because they did very well in the interview or because you have identified with the candidate.

How to manage millennials’ expectation and improve your retention

According to a survey conducted by Deloitte, millennials, in general, express little loyalty to their employers, and many are planning outflows on a short-term basis. The lack of loyalty, which is characteristic of this generation, poses a serious challenge to any business that employs a large number of Millennials.

Another survey, published by Gallup in 2015, found that millennials are the least engaged cohort in business: only 28.9% say they feel motivated in their workplace. One more clear indication that companies will need to work hard to address the motivations of these talents.

These are important statistics, even more so in an economy where freelancing and entrepreneurship opportunities are growing stronger. When we look at these data, it is clear that millennials pose a high risk of increasing turnover in companies.

But how to motivate and do effective retention work with this talent profile?

According to both surveys cited, work-life balance, more autonomy, have a direct impact on retention of millennials. Here at Resultados Digitais, our talents have the flexibility to manage their schedules, for example. But, this always in a very clear balance of common sense provided, there is balance in the deliveries and the reasons why he is absent. Another important number also brought by Gallup’s research says that 60% believe that a sense of purpose is part of the reason they chose to work for their current employer.

A good example is the “The Ecoimagination Nation” project, created by GE Sustainability. According to the company’s sustainability report, conducted in 2015, in the last 3 years of this program, more than 8,000 employees around the world have engaged in volunteer activities to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and waste. Although not something thought of exclusively for millennials, the success of the program is directly linked to factors that are highly motivating for this generation, such as the passion to be part of a project that has a larger purpose that is shared and full of value To the community. According to GES, the retention during these 3 years was much higher compared to times when the project did not exist.

For us here at Resultados Digitais this is quite evident, of course on a much smaller scale than GES, but we see many similar initiatives from the RDoers themselves. A lot of our talents have been involved in community and social causes, mostly in the startups ecosystem. In general, all initiatives are full of purpose and return to society. Having realized this, we have sought, from the beginning of RDoers in the company, to leave them free to undertake and principally build their dreams. We seek to encourage projects and initiatives that have a clear purpose and that in a way are aligned with the RD objectives, but not exclusively.

In our experience working with millennials, we have been able to identify several other important points for the retention of our talents, and these go through some such as:

1 — Create inclusive activities

Millennials like to be participative and to feel included in big decisions. Encouraging and allowing them to be part of processes that extrapolate area or team meetings is essential.

Here at RD, for example, the construction of company plans always goes through rounds that include the entire company. At that moment everyone is invited to bring ideas and be instruments of this construction.

2 — Make clear the opportunities for growth

This is a pain I felt in the skin last year. With growth and many changes, it is critical to ensure that the team develops and grows. Not having that clear does not only make the development of the team compromised as it generates a lot of frustration and insecurity.

How to solve? Have a clear process of growth and development. Expose opportunities, explain what is expected for each job, and how it will be conducted.

It was a bit of what we did in Customer Success Management. Today we have a fairly consolidated version of a Career Path that has resulted in a process for driving opportunities within the area. In it, we explain what are the criteria necessary for evaluation and pre-qualification to claim an opportunity.

We also create a promotion flow and a Trello with opportunities for the whole year. What’s more, we have taken a very bold step, opening salary ranges in the area.

After the implementation, I received several positive feedback from the team, thanks to the transparency of the process and how the opportunities are managed, not only in Customer Success, but also in other areas as well.

3 — Prepare your managers / leaders to be able to create effective and frequent communication

Leaders have a very large influence on a developer’s desire to stay in business, and it’s no different with the millennials. A survey led by The Center for Generational Kinetics has shown that millennials seek to have a much closer relationship with their leaders than any other generation.

The need for feedback is extremely high. There are surveys that point out that millennials would like to have coaching at least once a week. That is more than twice the percentage of all other generations. In Customer Success Teams and throughout RD, coaching, 1–1 and frequent feedbacks are part of the leaders’ day-to-day lives and have a very heavy weight.

For us this benefit is evident not only when working with millennials, but with all our talents. We are always preparing our leaders so they can do the best leadership job.

4 — Encourage the use of technology

Millennials are digital beings and the vast majority expect technology to be present in their work environment, always as a tool for facilitating communication and innovation. That means they expect to have access to social networks, instant messaging tools, video calling, blogs and wikis.

Here at RD, not those kind of tool are not just liberated but also encouraged. The use of tools like Slack, Skype, LinkedIn, among others, is part of the job of almost all RDoer. Even many of our initiatives to promote content and events rely on the help of RDoers in their social channels. For us, the deed of restraint would be only negative.

But, beware when we talk about encouraging this is directly linked to activities related to the job of each RDoer. We can not totally ignore that the use of applications, especially the social and message, have a share in the loss of focus and productivity. Incidentally, this topic has been much discussed lately here at RD, but always in a more educational way, even because we bet on the common sense of our collaborators.

The main difficulty of creating a career in Y: Why do so many want to be managers?

It is still common, especially in our culture, to understand that you are growing professionally when you are promoted to leadership positions. Another belief is that only positions of managers and directors are synonymous with high salaries.

In more traditional structures, this does happen. The career is linear and in this model it is necessary to stay a certain time in a position to later be promoted, and so on.

But in structures like ours, which are more dynamic and the focus on promotions is done on merit, the way the opportunities are conducted takes another direction. Initially, we sought to break this paradigm by creating a supportive environment that, instead of glorifying promotions by job, celebrates more people for their projects delivered, for team collaboration, and for development and growth within the organization.

Still, the greater interest in management positions is a difficulty we face in implementing the Y career model. In short, this model allows us to create paths that respect different profiles. Not everyone who would like to follow the path of managing people, many may want to follow a technical leadership path.

This is even the main advantage of the Y career model: being able to enjoy prestige and equal benefits regardless of which line you choose. Here in RD we faced some confusion during the implementation of the career model in Y. Many team members believed, for example, that to be a manager it was necessary to have held a position of Customer Success Manager Senior. To avoid this kind of problem and give equal importance to both profiles, we seek to make this clearer within the structure of the area. Very little has to do with the model itself, but rather how it was presented. We realized that the team’s understanding was for a cultural perception that is still very strong: the idea that being a manager makes it possible to have more prestige and privileges. So that we could give possibilities for more technical profiles to follow the most appropriate route, it would be necessary to clarify better what was expected of each role and communicate to the team.

Today, we can further balance our pool of talent within the area. We also have candidates seeking to lead the team as more specialized leaders. An important adjustment so that we can continue to grow and avoid failures in the development of the area.

My tip for avoiding problems with deploying the Y-career model, or any other model, is to prepare the leaderships in conducting coaching and profiling. Here in the ​​Customer Success area of RD, an important point of the role of direct managers is in the career direction of the talents. This targeting consists of pre-qualifying the leads, indicating if the team member who is seeking a promotion is actually prepared or not. This pre-qualification is basically a performance analysis, which must meet clear criteria related to our culture code, time in the job and job performance.

After prequalification, we conduct a career assessment, which usually stays with the most experienced leaders, an important decision to deliver the best advice. In general, this type of activity is with the general manager or the Director. Experience is one of the determining factors, but it is also important that it is someone who has a more neutral relationship, avoiding overlapping interests during counseling. For example, when we leave this type of assessment with the direct managers, we run the risk of having some kind of interest in the leader, such as the fear of losing a great talent.

Lack of predictability in talent development may slow growth

Having predictability for the development of your area is to build a talent pipeline. Simply put, a talent pipeline is a pool of people empowered to take on new responsibilities. If today you look at your team and can not identify people for future positions within your structure, you already have a development problem.

This gets even worse when we choose to focus on hiring talents, as we are largely making a bet on that person’s ability to develop at a certain speed. What we do not take into consideration is that the time that this can take is never going to be the time that you want, and in general will not meet the time of our need.

The implication of this is that if you can not have a talent pool with sufficient readiness, then the development of your area may fail.

Very little will matter how well thought out your company’s strategy is. If talents within your organization are not able to take on more complex projects or metrics over time, you will hardly achieve the expected result from that plan.

Not having someone ready as expected means having very inexperienced management or technical leaders who will need a lot of support from the senior leadership to get ready with the plane flying. Super risky, because they will even need support to be able to print their own leadership, at risk many times being questioned and rejected by the team.

For these reasons, the sooner you start working on building a talent pipeline, the less you will experience this type of problem. Unprepared leadership creates a huge cost for the company. Projects fail, people become discouraged and it becomes very difficult to go back.

All promotions will be questioned

One of the reasons we structured our management process in Customer Success was precisely to give transparency to what was being done in relation to our development projects and opportunities in the area.

We always had the principle of giving opportunities for merit. We liked to have a certain controlled chaos and observe the people who were emerging, presenting opportunities for them. But this was possible at another time, when communication was more direct, because at that time it was possible to sit with the whole team at the same table. Today, with a whole floor just Customer Success, which means about 120 people in the area, it changes a little.

People want and deserve to know why the so-and-so was promoted and what they did to get there. If this is not clear, there will be questions and insecurities. Our intention with building the Career Path is not to harden the process and create rules for everything. Quite the contrary, we understand that the minimum of transparency was necessary, and this has to have a clear flow to remove any doubts that the team may have. Today, the importance of how we need to adjust ourselves and how much this requires giving up past models that no longer work is clear. When you grow up fast, as was our case, it’s important to revisit early processes because they may not make sense anymore and need to be adapted to a new time.

Our talent management goes through giving career clarity and facilitating development and growth, aligned with the dream of each of our talents. This, together with a clear perspective of opportunities, whether in the career model Y or even within another possibility, leaves us much more prepared to manage our talents.

We understand that only in this way can we engage our talents by allowing them to perform and be productive, all of which are very important factors for our climbing momentum.

We invest heavily in the people who are with us and we do that by being sure that this is the best retention project.

Recent initiatives, such as the RD University, meet the desire of our RDoers and our concern to enable our talents to develop, to undertake and to grow in their achievements. Only then will we be more attractive than the competition, improving retention, and we can also achieve the result we need to continue growing.