Key Insights From Founders To Solve The Coming Talent Crisis

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First, we can all agree that the last 18 months have been hard. With the pandemic hanging over our heads, our lives have been really stressful. Most of us are thrilled to reconnect with our family and friends, make up for missed vacations, and get back the routines that make our lives so much more interesting. However, very few of us, or at least half of Americans who work remotely, are excited about the return of commuting and working long hours in an office.

After a year and a half of remote work, many of us are accustomed to this new cadence and don’t want to go back to our old ways of the pre-pandemic working style. The pandemic revealed to many of us that there’s an opportunity to reinvent the way we view work — and in some instances, how employees are reevaluating their options. 

But for founders I’ve spoken with directly, the picture is a bit more complex. The last 18 months have been a wild ride. Many of them were facing an existential crisis as funding dried up and teams were forced to work remotely overnight. But surprisingly, remote-work turned out to be incredibly productive for their employees. People were working and they were working more than ever. Founders were seeing that they had productive teams, tons of money and that their businesses were looking strong. Then a pivot happened.


Running up against the stark reality of your employees’ interests

Founders I spoke to were starting to see their teams getting a little less productive and were beginning to question the drop in productivity. 

Customer support tickets were taking longer to be completed, emails were slipping through the cracks, and the great resignation undoubtedly started to pick up speed. It turns out that even the most introverted employees have outside hobbies and that goals weren’t being met as offline opportunities arose. 

Founders are starting to realize that employees have other options. A recent PEW survey shows that 66 percent of unemployed people have seriously considered changing occupations

It used to be rare for employees to leave successful startups abruptly — yet almost all companies are reporting them now. In a market flush with capital and more startups, one thing that hasn’t expanded as quickly is the pool of talent. 


Determining your remote-work strategy 

As I continued to talk to founders across the industry about the talent crisis, I noticed a few recurring sentiments: 

  1. I want my employees back in the office; or 
  2. Remote works well for me now; or
  3. I’m going to hire talent wherever I can find them.

By and large, all of these sentiments are the same: I like this, so everyone else should like this too. We need to steer away from this mindset. 

The next few months are going to create incredible opportunities for talent in the tech industry. My thoughts are that founders need to understand that you cannot operate out of the “I like this; you’ll do this” mindset. That mindset won’t work when your competitors can now find and hire talent remotely and are considering the needs of employees. 

For this reason, we’re advising companies to begin to determine what’s working, who it’s working for, and what needs to evolve to achieve startup success. Your initial plan might be that five remote employees works great. But what happens after the Series A and you need to scale to 15 employees? Will remote still work for you? Companies need to have a plan and strategy in place to determine what functions require people to work in the office and what functions don’t. By determining this, you can get ahead of your competition and set expectations for your employees. 


Understand your employees’ needs

While there are fantastic resources for fully remote teams  (e.g., the GitLab remote playbook), there aren’t many resources about the new hybrid-work model. To ensure that your business is ready to combat the talent crisis, founders should spend time monitoring, learning and adjusting to the needs of their employees and the demands of their businesses.

One silver lining in this talent crisis is that if founders can navigate to their ideal in-person or remote-working style, the rewards can be profound. The pandemic has shown us that whether we are in the office or not, we will see a reshaping of the culture of work — and startups that can navigate that, will be the next category-defining firms of their generation.

Ryan Falvey, Co-founder and Managing Partner at Financial Venture Studio headshot
Ryan Falvey, Co-founder and Managing Partner at Financial Venture Studio

Ryan Falvey is co-founder and managing partner of Financial Venture Studio. He has spent the last 15 years identifying, supporting and leading market-changing innovations in technology. Since 2015, he’s invested in 40 early-stage fintech firms, which have grown to represent approximately $3 billion in aggregate equity value. 

  • Originally published August 6, 2021, updated April 26, 2023