The other day I received an email from a CEO within our Work-Bench community:
“Even though we are still tiny, as we evolve our team and employees begin to grow into management roles for their first time, I’ve started to think a lot about management training. As a first time CEO, this is definitely new territory for me as well.”
This is one of the most common painpoints I hear, across the fastest growing VC-backed enterprise startups we work with and the globally distributed Fortune 1000 corporations in our corporate network: managing people is hard.
And yet there are still surprisingly few technology products that have served this people manager and leadership development training space, estimated to hit $13.8B in 2020 (here), which to date still revolves largely around in-person trainings and workshops.
Given the rise of AI across a range of verticals: financial services, life sciences, healthcare, energy, transportation, heavy industry, agriculture, and materials — we have yet to see AI broadly applied to the people manager training space (though there are some early startups tackling this space, as detailed in my slides above).
Like any great sports team, your company needs A-players; the stars, the ones who start and finish every game, and rarely sit out. But what happens when those players get hurt? Retire? Lured away by a more lucrative contract elsewhere? Any coach worth their salt knows a strong bench and farm system is critical for long-term success. Using the same logic, startups should not only be focused on retaining, managing, and growing their talent, but they should also be thinking about what my former manager called “building your bench,” also known as hiring great junior talent early in their careers to join the company and grow. The best way to build a bench? Summer interns.
Interns are a great addition to any company for many reasons. It’s a try before you buy model and 3 month interview, employees looking for management experience get the opportunity to step up, you start to build your brand on college campuses, and you are creating a pipeline for the best entry level talent. Furthermore, former interns become your brand ambassadors and can be a great way to build buzz. So, you want to ensure they have a positive experience.
You’ve heard the lavish perks companies like Microsoft and Facebook give their interns (i.e. a Macklemore concert), but maybe your startup isn’t quite there. Regardless, whether you’re hosting 5 or 50 summer interns, there’s plenty you can do to put together an awesome program to guarantee your interns will have a great experience and equally positive things to say about your company. Here’s a rough outline of what you should be thinking about before, during, and after the summer to ensure your intern(s) have a great summer.
As a side note, hopefully if you were planning on hiring summer interns, you’re already well along in the process. In my former role as a recruiter at AppNexus, all of our technical interns were hired by end of January, and all non-technical interns were hired by middle of March. The longer you wait, the less likely you are to find high potential candidates looking for internships. We’ll talk more in the coming months about building a successful campus recruiting strategy for next year, but for now we’ll assume you already have some recruits for the summer!
Since starting at Work-Bench 3 months ago, I’ve had the unique opportunity of seeing how our 40+ member & portfolio companies engage with candidates and generally approach the end-to-end hiring and recruiting process. While most of our companies are able to offer amazing interview and candidate experiences, I’ve also seen a few (all too familiar) mistakes from my 2 and ½ years being on the talent acquisition team at AppNexus as we grew the company from 300 to 1100 people.
Given that most startups aren’t fortunate enough to have full-time recruiters running the end-to-end production of interviews, I know first-hand how difficult it can be for early-stage teams to nail the hiring process. Although you might think a lot of this goes without saying, I thought I’d share some thoughts on what I’ve seen go wrong during my time as a recruiter at AppNexus and the time I’ve spent working with our member & portfolio companies at Work-Bench.
At Work-Bench Ventures, we invest in early stage enterprise technology startups. HR is an area where we have been spending significant time. Our first portfolio company exit was True Office, which transforms outdated training content into interactive courses, using game mechanics and motivation techniques so that users actually enjoyed learning. The NYSE acquired the company a year after we invested to enhance its role as thought leaders in the Governance Risk Compliance space. We’ve explored the broader HR space as a major focus area with the help and guidance of Tom Carroll, a founding board member of Work-Bench and Chief HR Officer of R.R. Donnelley, a Fortune 500 communication services provider. Tom and other thought leaders in the New York ecosystem have been instrumental in helping us understand the landscape and challenges that accompany the space.