How SaaS startups can nurture talent

How Startups Can Nurture Talent and Create Clear Paths for Growth

This article is written by Epic Presence.

Companies across the world and across almost every industry, including SaaS, have experienced stress from the Great Resignation. Employee mobility is creating job vacancies and hiring challenges. The market is hot right now — and workers know it. Devs, project managers and software marketers  are looking for SaaS jobs that pay well and offer a generous benefits package, but also have paths for career growth.

You can stand out as an organization that attracts talent rather than scaring it away. Invest in the growth of your team and make skill-building options transparent.

Employees Want Career Paths and Training Opportunities

There are factors out of your control when it comes to hiring. You can’t always match the salary of other companies in the area and your name might not be as well known. However, you can work with your existing and potential talent to establish paths for growth. Your current employees want this and your hiring candidates likely want to leave their companies so they can grow their careers.

“The main thing that companies sort of fall short on right now is making it clear to every employee that there is a path [for growth],” Barbra Gago, founder and CEO at career progression platform Pando, explains on our SaaS Revolution Show. “I think most companies keep employees in the dark about that. Maybe they have a leveling framework and everybody’s on a level, but employees don’t know their level.” In other words, the company is not using the framework in a strategic way to create mobility and progression and excitement about its employees’ career paths.

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If employees lack clear growth paths and training options, they may leave your company to advance at another organization. But by allowing team members to take control of their interests and career goals, they can decide what they want to learn and how they can apply it to their future roles.

CoScreen, a SaaS collaboration tool (acquired by Datadog), approaches in-house career growth through continuous learning.

“We empower employees to make their own decisions on their training needs,” says Till Pieper, cofounder of CoScreen. “We encourage them to do so as continuous learning is crucial for us.”

Not Every Employee Wants To Be a Manager

As you develop tiers and paths for growth, consider how each employee advances. Too often, companies focus on turning workers into managers. All roads lead to the C-suite. Not only is this path not compatible for every employee, but it also creates competition when you have a team of workers all fighting to advance into one role. 

“[Try to] create a true parallel path for individual contributors as well as managers so that you’re not forcing people to become managers if they don’t want to be or if they’re not good at the manager skill,” says Gago. “An individual contributor path is very important and you can continue to build your skill set and your career at the company. It’s not better or worse than being a manager, it’s just different.”

Career advancement doesn’t only mean entering into leadership. Every worker has skills they can grow and more advanced projects they can take on. Since the pandemic, some managers have started stepping away from their roles and returning to their roots as producers.  

“Before you can confidently explain to anyone why you want to move from leading people to working on your own, it’s critical that you view this as a step forward, not backward, in your career,” says executive coach Nihar Chhaya. “Remember that you’re not a failure for pivoting away from management. In fact, if you don’t enjoy your current role but refuse to make room for someone more suitable to take over, you’ll do more damage to yourself and your team.”

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Remote Employees Need Clear Growth Communication

The final thing to consider as you develop growth plans for your SaaS business is how you value remote workers and communicate their growth potential.

According to an April 2021 report by Bamboo HR, 36 percent of employees experienced pay raise or promotion freezes during the pandemic, even though most worked extra hours and more than one-third worked on days off. Another striking statistic is that 53 percent of remote workers feel like they had to put in more effort to prove their worth to their company. In the wake of the pandemic, people feel overworked and undervalued. 

It’s not uncommon for managers to have a bias in favor of in-person employees (or hybrid team members who are in the office more often). They can develop in-person rapport with them and turn to them for small issues that need to be resolved. 

“Where employee growth and development is concerned, [remote work] can bias the process against those who are in the office less frequently,” says executive coach Amie Devero. “When the boss looks around for someone to handle a last-minute project, they will more likely reach out to someone in the next office than someone they haven’t spoken to [or seen] since last week.” 

Your growth program needs to be ready for today’s workforce. This means creating space for both remote and in-person employees to advance their careers. 

Money can solve a lot of problems. Pay raises can keep employees around a little longer. However, if your team members aren’t motivated, they will leave for companies that offer paths for growth. Leadership isn’t just about managing employees; it involves investing in careers and futures so they invest back into your business. 

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Images by: dotshock/©, Jason Goodman

Our return to Dublin will bring with it many ways you can connect with likeminded people and peers in SaaS. Find out 10 ways how we’re facilitating human connections (not just meetings) at SaaStock 2022 in Dublin. Read our blog post.

Get your tickets to SaaStock 2022 in Dublin this October, to experience:

“The best SaaS conference for SaaS founders, VCs and execs in Europe. Period.” – Christoph Janz, Managing Partner, Point Nine

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