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Douglas Merrill: How Smaller Companies Can Win The War for Talent
Workplace 2.0 | November 30, 2011

Douglas Merrill: How Smaller Companies Can Win The War for Talent

One of the striking difficulties for new companies is attracting top-notch talent. How can a start-up hope to compete with the Googles, the Facebooks and the Groupons of the world? In a recent blog post, Douglas Merrill—former Chief Information Officer at Google, where he oversaw 1,500 terrifically skilled employees—shares his tips for finding great talent.

The first way is to simply grow top notch talent yourself. In the case of Merrill's new ZestCash, he "hired new grads fresh out of CalTech, Cal and Harvard, among others." With some caveats, you'll get "brilliance and high energy" and “top-notch talent trained exactly how you want." As many startups grow exponentially, there isn't always time to train your own top-end talent.

Merrill's second tip is to beg, borrow, and steal talent from larger companies: "Big companies tend to get sclerotic.” They are plagued with "more politics and hierarchy" than their younger competitors. By targeting talent that gets lost in the shuffle of a larger company, start-ups can leverage their enhanced flexibility to provide an appealing destination for those looking for a larger role than their current position.

Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, Merrill advises us to build a culture where employees matter. By allowing your employees to "feel the future of the company depends on them," you can create a proud, close-knit, and communicative workforce that will entice your talent to stay and grow with the company. Having a vibrant corporate culture can also help do the recruiting for you, as nothing helps bring in unsolicited applications more than stories of success and of employee satisfaction. As Merrill himself embarks on a new venture in ZestCash, he is, in some ways, starting over—albeit, with a bit of a head start in the experience department.
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