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It’s Never Too Early for a Human Resources Strategy

Why have these companies (Google and Gilt Group) succeeded? It’s not the idea – it’s the people. Execution is what matters, and execution relies on human talent.”

Kevin Ryan, Founder and CEO of Gilt Group
Harvard Business Review, January-February 2012

Good strategies include key goals or milestones for the development of the business. The key,
as Kevin Ryan articulates, is to put the right human talent in place at the right time to achieve
key objectives which may include product development, concept testing, market scoping,
financing, etc. Getting the right talent in place in early-stage companies is imperative as each
role is “mission critical” – there is little margin for error.

Articulating key milestones will result in the identification of pivotal roles and functions. In
early-stage companies, these roles tend to be tactical in nature with very specific short-term

Once the pivotal roles have been established, the next step is to define the competencies
which are the set of skills, knowledge and behaviors necessary to fulfill that role. Skills are
what the individual is able to do developed from learning and experience. Knowledge is what
he or she knows or needs to know to apply those skills and behavior – or attitude – is how
the individual needs to act to be most effective. Behavior incorporates both emotional and
social components and therefore characteristics such as self-awareness and confidence, and
willingness to collaborate.

Competencies typically divide into three main areas:

•Functional and technical competencies – the skills and knowledge required to perform
the jobs or tasks.

•Professional competencies – the behavioural aspects of competency such as personal
and interpersonal skills and leadership characteristics.

•Core competencies – common sill sets and traits that reflect the organizational values
and culture, and skill needs

Building the talent necessary to achieve key milestones can be thought of as a special
type of “problem solving”. As in any process of this nature, the more effort and thought put
into defining the problem the more likely it will be successfully resolved. Early front end
investments in thinking through needs will ensure that the right people are in place at the right

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