Village Capital is developing a comprehensive talent roadmap for small and growing businesses in emerging markets

Entrepreneurs spend a ton of time worrying about investment readiness, but not nearly enough time thinking about hiring-readiness.

Nine out of ten CEOs consider hiring an “administrative” function rather than a strategic one, according to a recent Village Capital report. But those leaders are missing out on the strategic importance of “raising talent”, or developing human capital over the long run.

Hiring readiness is about a lot more than posting on job board and interviewing people. It’s a constant networking commitment. The “Lean Startup” model may work for many aspects of a business, but as we’vewritten in the past, startup CEOs should approach hiring from a position of abundance versus a position of scarcity — and anticipate staffing needs at least one year out. From networking, to informational conversations, to cold calls, entrepreneurs should spend 12–18 months recruiting and cultivating potential talent before a position even opens.

At Village Capital, we always have a cupboard full of great people who aren’t necessarily looking for work, but could be a great fit one day. Now, we’re thrilled to help entrepreneurs everywhere — especially in emerging markets, where the talent challenges are much greater — improve their human capital strategy.

Starting this month, we are partnering with the ANDE/Argidius Talent Challenge to develop a comprehensive talent roadmap for small and growing businesses, particularly in emerging markets. We’re hiring a Talent Manager (applications now open!) to lead a project that will have three elements:

  • Develop an open source curriculum on recruitment and talent management
  • Create a talent guide for small and growing businesses
  • Build an online talent marketplace to connect companies with the best human capital

Our curriculum, and the broader project, will emphasize a few key themes:

The CV/cover letter approach is dead — or it should be. Especially in a startup environment, soft skills and intangibles can make the difference between an okay hire and a transformational one. We want to teach our entrepreneurs to think a lot more about the personality and strengths they want in a hire before thinking about basic qualifications.

Entrepreneurs need to get creative in testing candidates. “Show me what you can do” is our mantra at Village Capital, and our team puts this into practice. When someone reaches out to one of us expressing interest in a job, we give that person a variety of assignments to test their mettle in real time. These assignments are designed to reflect the actual work of the job and test not only if candidates can do the work but also see if they enjoy it too.

Diversity in hiring is a strategic benefit. We value diversity in our hiring decisions, and our new talent marketplace will encourage it by opening up jobs to a wider network. Diversity in hiring isn’t just the right thing to do; it also strengthens teams and makes organizations better. We can personally attest to the fact that Village Capital is so much stronger because we have a diverse team that brings multiple perspectives to the table. We want to help our entrepreneurs embrace that mentality as well.

Initially, we plan to support at least 36 new small and growing businesses from Africa to Latin America — as well as our 150 existing alumni enterprises in those regions. Our goal is that anyone who goes through an acceleration program in those regions is prepared to raise not just money, but also talent.

We’re proud to work with other great organizations through the Argidius-ANDE challenge who are advancing important work in this space. Amani Institute will provide skill-building services for 300 middle- and senior-level managers in Ethiopia, Kenya, and Uganda over the next three years with their three-week leadership training program, while Shortlist will offer their suite of digital tools for small and growing businesses seeking mid-level managers. Creative Metier and Open Capital Advisors will provide consulting and coaching services to early-stage executives in these markets.

Together, we hope that we can start to reinvent the way that businesses think about hiring and raising talent.