Talent Strategy for Startups In 2023: Surviving Great Resignation

by Sasha B. on Dec 14, 2022

Talent Strategy for Startups

Originaly posted on techbehemoths.com

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 4 million Americans quit their jobs in July 2021. McKinsey claims that from April to September 2021, more than 9 million Americas resigned. Hearing about the Great Recession, startups got ready to skim the cream and cherry-pick professionals with a product mindset and ample business experience. 

While this is without a doubt a logical choice and an example of forward-thinking, there are more roadblocks on this path than you may have considered. Many clients my company works with experienced difficulties adjusting to the Great Resignation overlapping recession. I’ve figured diving into a sustainable talent strategy in 2022 may be handy. 

Who Is There in the Fields?

Participants of Great Resignation are not equally spread across the age and professional level board. Women are more likely to quit than men, and people with higher degrees resign less often than employees with a high school degree or less. Here is what else you need to know about them:

  • They won’t settle for lower pay. Statistics show that 37% have quit because remuneration was not sufficient at their level of experience; 
  • They are big on values, boundaries, and respect. A toxic environment is one of the key reasons people resign. Employees leave, protesting managers ignoring harassment, unhealthy atmosphere, and the lack of DEI programs;
  • They look for a better life-work balance. Global pandemics, wars, and environmental catastrophes caused a massive shift in perspective. People re-prioritize their lives, leaving behind dusty “climb the ladder” incentives. 
  • They have choices. Now, most professional positions have only 0.6 candidates willing to fill them. Even with the recession approaching, HR specialists are still chasing after the talent, not the other way around. More than 90% of those who resigned say that they didn’t have or sure wouldn’t have problems finding a new job. 

Treating these candidates as easy prey is a sure way to lose time and money. I’ve gathered some tactics that will help you attract such experts. 

How to take handle of the Great Resignation

There are basic, evergreen principles: respect your employees, reduce micromanagement, and give room for development. A hundred years from now, I bet someone will still include these in “how to attract talent in 2122” guidelines. However, there are tactics specific to talent management during the Great Resignation. 

Talent acquisition

The way you approach hiring management matters now more than ever. It both affects how you are perceived in the market and how much money per hire you lose or save. 

Data-driven recruiting. Define the data and metrics you need to analyze, use specialized software and custom solutions to collect the necessary information and make decisions based on the analysis. Data defines your focus and allows you to achieve the most significant improvement with fewer efforts. 

You may find that your time-to-hire is too high, or your acceptance rate is too low, and act on it. For example, you spot a high new hire turnover rate that diminishes all the efforts at a talent acquisition stage. Check whether the job description is communicated right and invest in onboarding. 

Streamlined and automated recruitment. Establishing an automatic hiring process that relies partially on artificial intelligence and machine learning will help you stand out among companies fishing for the same candidates. It may sound costly to establish, but it is a huge time and money saver when it comes to avalanches of resumes, scheduling issues, and feedback demands your HR team gets snowed under.

Portfolio building, not ladder climbing. Many employees quitting jobs during Great Resignation are no longer interested in straightforward career paths. You can lure them back with portfolio-building opportunities. 

Specialists today are interested in seeing the change they make more than in a better title. Many would choose to develop as experts in neighboring fields rather than take a management position. Focus on the development of “portable skill sets” at the intersection of the employee’s and employer’s interests. 

Strengthening internal mobility. Look for hidden gems on your territory to stop hemorrhaging valuable employees and reduce hire costs. It is time to mastermind the re- and up-scale switching opportunities within the company. 

Talent retention

Once you build your dream team, here is what it will expect you to stay and work efficiently. 

Hybrid working opportunities. After all-in remote during COVID-19 time, employees don’t want to return to the office. Offering a hybrid working plan will help maintain a certain level of control and team-like feeling and give a compromise ground for experts willing to work online. 

Pay practices transparency. It is not only lower than desired pay that makes people leave, but also its unpredictability and overall secrecy atmosphere around payroll and benefits. Employees want to know what they need to do to get better pay, when it can happen, and be sure that payment across the company board is just and unbiased. 

Improved DEI policies. Improved employee satisfaction is highly dependent on diverse and inclusive workspaces. It is not enough to buy a set of customized DEI manuals and guidelines. You actually need to make sure individuals’ needs are met, and no one is left behind on the premise of race, sex, religion, marital or parental situation, etc. 

Alternative approaches

It is all about who is responsible for what. If financially and organizationally you cannot cover all the listed above it right now, go for outsourcing. One of my company’s — QArea’s — clients once said, “Being a perfect employee in the current market is very expensive, but not being a perfect employee is just suicidal.” I can vouch that t is impossible to retain key personnel with halfway talent strategies. QArea has been operating in this market for more than two decades, and it is clear that now more than ever, companies choose the outsourcing strategy as a simple and cost-effective way out. 

Talent Strategies 2022: Three Engagement Levels

Regarding talent acquisition, it is easy to confuse strategy and tactics. Shortening the application process or offering learning opportunities are tactics. If you need to build a strategy, first, you need to choose among the employment types: 

  • Insourcing. Classical in-house only employment. You build a self-sufficient company with a classic hierarchy and full-stack specialists in all key departments.
  • Outstaffing. You strengthen your in-house core team with the invited experts to complete a particular project.
  • Outsourcing. You delegate the entire project or its independent part to a team outside your company. 

Each strategy has its benefits and drawbacks, as well as ways to mitigate risks and strengthen the gain.  


Build an employer brand, hire a professional HR team, establish an efficient talent pipeline, pay to develop and implement DEI, showcase your employees to attract candidates with similar backgrounds and values, offer competitive benefits, promote life-work balance and increase pay transparency. It is not an exhaustive list of what you need to do to build a robust in-house team that won’t be hemorrhaging talent in a few months.   


Stability. Stable teams with established routines are the best bait for big companies with traditional corporate values. I wouldn’t like to be pegged for an elitist, but the exclusive club of high-end companies exists in reality, and its members are big on clientelism. 

Uniformity. Complete control over hiring standards and further HR management procedures. A healthier atmosphere in the company thanks to standardized payroll and benefits policies for all the employees. 


Expensive to hire. Though building a full-scale self-sufficient company is alluring, it will cost you. On average, you will spend 4-9 specialist’s average salaries on hiring and onboarding. 

Expensive to retain. Every person you hire permanently comes with additional costs while working with you, and even more when deciding to leave. Only the implementation of a comprehensive DEI program can range from $25,000 to $450,000

Expensive to replace. Mistakes are inevitable, and every bad hire will cost you 30% of the employee’s first-year salary. According to the Work Institute’s 2017 Retention Report, the replacement cost is $15,000 per person for an employee earning a median salary of $50,000 annually.  

Lack of startup mentality. There is a difference between how corporate/enterprise employees and startup-oriented, product-focused startup teams think and act. Some tasks simply cannot be solved effectively in-house. 

Mitigating risks

Buy back the resigned employees, offering better salaries, social packages, etc. It helps to economize on onboarding and initial training. Flatten the management structure, consider reversing the seniority pyramid, reducing the overheads, and giving employees more responsibility. Employ an HRMS system to optimize hire, minimize expenses and increase retention rates. 


Build a core team for the project and strengthen it with an extended team of experts “rented” from another company. Outstaffed specialists don’t become your official employees, but they  


Control. You have full control over development, expertise boost of core team works for your advantage. If one or more of the extended team members are not up to par for any reason, the replacement will take days, not months, and cost you peanuts for a change. 

Cost efficiency. You cut at least in half expenses on hiring and onboarding, and the vendor is responsible for their part of salaries, benefits, etc. Prices for outstaffed specialists are normally lower than if you had to hire them permanently.


Tricky A/B level balance. Forming and managing a core team is a story of daily checks and balances. Managers want a core team to unite many A-level specialists, but it may result in decreased marginality and turf wars. Being a part of a strong core team, B-level specialists upscale fast and can request transfer to a higher position or direct transfer to another, more challenging project. 

Compatibility issues. You are not handpicking the extended team, and even the most qualified experts may just not click with your core team. Engaging new, external specialists often results in frictions or even open hostility. Core team specialists tend to see “extras” as subordinates by default and act over protectively when it comes to the company’s processes or policies. New, temporarily employees may distance themselves and generate less value than expected. 

Mitigating risks

Build a core team from both A and B-level specialists. I advise employing the reversed hierarchy or reversed seniority pyramid principles, engaging more lower-level specialists, and providing them with more rights and responsibilities. It will save your marginality and speed up the process, turning the focus from management processes to solving product-related tasks. 

Provide newcomers with at least minimal onboarding experience to share not only the projects’ details and objectives but also product goals, company values, and agreed principles of teamwork. Spare time for one or more introduction sessions focused solely on core and new team members. 



No HR costs are needed. Scheduling, recruitment, interviews, everything is covered on the vendor’s side. You can pitch in on job descriptions or delegate this process fully. 

Wider choice of niche experts. You receive access to a much wider pool of specialists with niche experiences and backgrounds related to your project. It would take you years and six figures in costs to gather such a team under one roof (and more than half of them would end on a bench). 

Quality control is covered. The vendor is responsible for all the issues related to quality assurance, including code compliance with various standards. 


Communication issues. Is the needed specialist online? How to plan meetings between 3-4 different time zones? Who has the last word — your PM or their team lead? There are many communication and report issues to settle.  

Control on the vendor’s side. Naturally, it is harder to control the contractors than “under one roof” employees. You show the direction, and the outsource team follows it. You don’t have an on-daily-basis say in how the job is done. 

Mitigating risks

If uninterrupted communication is crucial for you, choose nearshore instead of offshore outsourcing. This way, timezones will match in an acceptable range. Decide on progress report and level of your involvement and control from the beginning, building a comfortable system of checks and balances.  

What talent strategy is right for your startup?  

  • MVP stage. You are the mastermind behind the great idea that needs to be realized. Go with outsourcing. MVP should be released fast and at an affordable price. You will hardly achieve that by taking time to build an HR team that later should build a full in-house team and implement all the procedures and policies to retain personnel. 
  • Experiment. You want to do something new under the enterprise umbrella, singling out a dedicated team for the project realization. It may sound counterintuitive, but I would recommend choosing anything but a full in-house team. It is difficult for corporate employees to change their mindset dramatically. To succeed among startups, you need to compete at their level. Outsource the project to a small, mobile, product-focused team. 
  • Scaling/Expansion. You want to turn your startup into a more hierarchical, stable company or attract more investment to branch and develop the core product further. It may be time to step-up in-house hiring, employing all the talent management tactics I have mentioned above. If your product’s scaling is a one-off event, say, moving from the MVP to a full-scale app, choose between outsourcing and outstaffing. 
  • Downsizing. You need to “rightsize,” in other words, lay off some employees and cut the overheads. Both outstaffing and outsourcing work here. The choice depends on the difference between the cost of the external specialists and your in-house ones (with benefits, leaves, built-in replacement costs, etc.). 

The key to successful talent acquisition and retention during the Great Resignation is a smart combination of strategy (choosing the right engagement model) and tactics (talent management approaches). Keep your head in the game, as it is a sink-or-swim world in the market right now. 



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Written by


Sasha B., Senior Copywriter at QArea

A commercial writer with 12 years of experience. Focuses on content for IT, IoT, robotics, AI and neuroscience-related companies. Open for various tech-savvy writing challenges. Speaks four languages, joins running races, plays tennis, reads sci-fi novels.