Gabriela Hersham: Growing fast doesn’t mean compromising on talent management

Over the last few years I’ve seen a lot of different industries and stages of companies try to master their own talent strategies, from shortages and retention to onboarding new hires and scaling operations. While there’s no perfect playbook, in my experience there are some core principles that you can count on.

In a startup environment, you are surrounded by fast-growth companies looking to innovate and transform new markets. The current startup model values immediate revenue over growth of people, and so it comes as no surprise that 70 per cent of startups scale too quickly in some aspect of their business often contributing to company failure. During this crucial expansion period, it’s important that a clear strategy is set in place so that the business is bringing in the right talent to future-proof your workforce.

This all starts with spending time on making the right hires in the first place. Save yourself the time later on. Your people are your business’s secret weapon. They live and promote your ethos and will come to be your most powerful and valuable connections.

But while building a team is incredibly exciting, it can be exhausting too. So if you’re looking for the best way to build a robust, high-performing workforce, here are some tips on how to ensure you’re making the most of your people whilst building for a career-defining moment for them, too.

Good growth

Fast-growth startups can be guilty of mistaking always-on ambition with always-on behaviour. But if you want the best from your people, you need to know their limits. Working in a workspace accelerator means that I encounter founders who have this big assumption that “accelerator” equals fast and that fast equals “winning the market”.

Sustainable speed is a far better alternative because you are valuing the growth of your people over the immediate revenue. The more you invest in your current workforce, the more they can surprise you by adapting and maturing into the environment around them, and seeing opportunities that you can’t.

Company leaders are integral to this. Businesses need to create an environment where people feel stimulated, where both their professional goals and personal needs are catered for. As startups constantly scale and rapidly grow, these things can get neglected or downplayed during the expansion stage, so it’s important that your leaders set the example at the top and uphold these values.

Create a supportive culture

Building solid relationships in your workplace increases productivity and engagement, so businesses should aim to foster a community of diverse innovators. The key difference between unsuccessful and successful scaleups is increasing the intelligence and resilience of your company.

Now more than ever, businesses need to value the health and wellbeing of employees, especially with occupational burnout now being recognised by the World Health Organisation (WHO) as a mental health diagnosis. It’s important to nurture an atmosphere where employees have ownership over their mental health in a supportive environment.

This might include introducing schemes and initiatives such as ‘me-days’ where team members can take a day for themselves, or offering health services and support for team members so that they know they have a safe space to share anything they need to.

Catering to the future workforce

In the future, I believe that the way we work will become more people-driven, community-powered and values-led. Even though people will be more mobile and will be able to work efficiently from anywhere in the world, I think there’s going to be a greater pull towards having physical places where people can invest in creativity and community and where they can share daily, in-person experiences.

When considering potential hires, it will be important to contemplate the next decade of innovation for your company. This means you will need to stop, research, imagine and have a vision of what is to come. When you’re thinking about your evolving culture and the values you want it to embody and reflect, remember how much physical space contributes to a healthy and positive working environment, and create the spaces that help employees build relationships, recharge and show up at their best.

Surround yourself with the right people

And by the right people, I specifically mean people who have the three key qualities (as defined by Warren Buffet): integrity, intelligence, and energy.

If there’s one area of leadership that I’m not shy to say I’ve done well at over the years, it’s been in my ability to identify great people. From our most junior team members all the way through to senior management, I’ve never once hired someone that I wasn’t curious to get to know better and I’ve never let someone else’s opinion propel me to hire someone if I didn’t feel them myself.

The personalities that had me intrigued, the people who drew me in and the candidates who had that special (undefinable) something were the ones I’ve always wanted to be part of our team and part of our family.

Curating a great school of people around you is just as crucial as every other part of the business ~ if not more so ~ so take the time to set yourself up for the future by surrounding yourself with people who are interesting, passionate, high-energy and smart. And those, of course, who have integrity.





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Credited as an original pioneer of co-working in the UK and a champion of women in business, Gabriela Hersham founded coworking accelerator Huckletree in 2014, one of London and Dublin’s fastest-growing coworking communities. Recognised as one of the UK's trailblazing women leading the healthy, happy and inclusive workplace of the future, having given a TedX talk on the subject, Gabriela has grown Huckletree's membership to over 2,000 startups and expanded to six locations, including new spaces such as the wellbeing-led Huckletree Soho and govtech-focused Westminster site. Gabriela actively campaigns for diversity, spearheading the Fairer Funding Now programme that promotes inclusive investment for entrepreneurs and startups, and supports female entrepreneurs both in Huckletree’s community and beyond, serving on the advisory board of several startups. She believes in the power of creating a strong team culture, and takes great pride in seeing her team enjoying their work environment.