Organization Design & Hiring

Organization Design

There comes a point in a Founder or CEO’s life where playing every position on the team becomes disastrous to the company at large. Hiring is a full-time job yet many organizations struggle to make time for it at the risk of impacting the day-to-day. In order to truly be successful as a company in a growth phase, it’s necessary to bring experts in to focus on key areas – product, marketing, sales, etc. In doing this you not only need experts, you need experts that align with your company strategy and culture.

Where you search for talent and how you search for talent is determined by your company’s organization design principles. While there are many approaches to organization design and a one-stop approach doesn’t exist, a few guiding principles can pave the way for your talent strategy and acquisition goals.

Design Your Approach

You created a roadmap to build your product or service, right? Creating an organization roadmap for your talent acquisition is the missing piece. You can do all the right things as a startup Founder or CEO to get your product off the ground, but not having a talent acquisition strategy will dilute all that good work.

Start by breaking down your design approach into four buckets with some key questions:


  • How are hiring decisions made
  • Who is accountable for hiring decisions
  • What is our interviewing and on-boarding process


  • What compels people to perform
  • How do we reward motivation through compensation, perks, etc.
  • How do we develop our people


  • What are the roles and responsibilities of needed talent
  • How do we define our hierarchy and reporting relationships
  • How do we minimize employment labor risk


  • What is the shared vision and how is that communicated to your team and prospective employees
  • What are common goals and aspirations for individuals
  • How is pride and work ethic determined and evaluated

By honing in on where you want to be – and understanding what guiding principles will help you get there – you start developing the models for how you will go about acquiring talent. Don’t overlook this step! The return on investment is so high you’ll be glad you didn’t.

Develop Models

Now that you have your approach, your goal is to create a model that fosters a culture that meets your organization’s current and future business objectives. Your model must take into account potential solutions for real world challenges such as candidate scarcity, difficulty in attracting and retaining talent, techniques for combating common pitfalls during the candidate interview process, and employee development.

This may seem like hard work and too time consuming but at what cost? Leaving a position open can lead to lost productivity and greater stress for your existing employees. This may not seem like a big deal for small startups but even one open position can lead to lower profits and missed opportunities.

Consider that organizations with strategic talent management programs in place generate more than twice the revenue per employee, have a 40 percent lower employee turnover rate, and have a 38 percent higher level of employee engagement than those without, according to research from Bersin by Deloitte. So how and where do you begin?


The competition for talent in today’s marketplace is real and pervasive. Startups sometimes have the added challenge of being “unknown” and often are not able to offer the compensation packages of other, more established organizations.

Having a story that resonates with candidates is more important than ever. Don’t assume candidates know why they’d want to be part of your organization – market to them and be transparent in your hiring process. Also, don’t assume you have all the answers. Remain adaptable to what you are learning in your interviews. Just as you test and validate your products, test and validate your recruitment methods.


Part of any talent strategy must involve retention plans. After all, employee turnover is associated with lower productivity, increasing expenses and decreasing employee morale. Even still, employees change jobs for many reasons so bullet proofing is not possible.

By sourcing quality candidates up front and developing strong onboarding and employee growth opportunities, the possibilities for retention go up. If your culture is clear and attracts the candidate in the first place, retaining that candidate requires that you uphold that culture in your day-to-day commitments. By developing a retention model you foster a sense of opportunity for candidates, employees and the success of the organization.


Many individuals today consider employee growth and well-being as top priorities in the workplace. Companies like Google know employees are their most valuable asset and so developed a culture focused on hiring top quality people where the feeling of being part of Google is elite, and a sense that the work Google employees do is meaningful.

One of the most compelling development opportunities companies like Google have created for staff is their 20% time policy. Founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin highlighted the idea in their 2004 IPO letter: “We encourage our employees, in addition to their regular projects, to spend 20% of their time working on what they think will most benefit Google. Not only does this sentiment empower employees to be more creative and innovative, it fosters a sense of ownership and accountability. In fact, many of the Google product innovations we know today (Google News, Gmail and AdSense to name a few) are a result of 20% time.

Not every company can commit to 20% time but there are a myriad number of ways to create a sense of purpose and meaning for employees. And that’s good for morale and for your bottom line.

Create Cadence

Now that you’ve designed your organization and applied a talent acquisition strategy, it’s time to execute your plan. The important piece is to remember that a talent process is only as good as your ability to create, refine and maintain that process. So if you get stuck creating cadence what do you do?

Bringing in a talent acquisition partner is sometimes your best bet for success. Choosing the right partner enables startup leaders and CEO’s to focus on achieving business goals rather than spend time consumed by hiring initiatives.

At ON ITS AXIS we developed a customizable end-to-end talent acquisition program that is tailored to meet the unique needs of high growth early stage startups at a fraction of the cost. We did this because we saw a need during our consulting engagements to not only assist with organization design, but also to bring the right resources and hiring process to ensure the roadmap gets executed in the most efficient way possible.

Want to learn more? We’d love to help. Schedule a free Discovery Call.

About The Author

Shelley Iocona is a product strategist helping startups and enterprises innovate. Her approach to building great products is based on the belief that ideas should be validated using a lean approach before development begins, and that having the right team is pivotal to a company’s success.

Before founding ON ITS AXIS, Shelley held leadership roles at companies such as Outcast Media (now Verifone Media), Yahoo, Connexity (formerly Shopzilla/Bizrate), DIRECTV, and led product strategy and lean product development for numerous start-ups and incubators.

ON ITS AXIS is a full-service consultancy consisting of technical, business, marketing and product experts with a talent acquisition and staffing arm to help accelerate your biggest opportunities. Get in touch with us to learn more.