The Startup Guide to Training Your Team

Christine Del Castillo does community building, digital content creation, and social media for Workable, hiring software for small and medium-sized businesses.

Hire for Potential and Train for Skills

It should not surprise anyone that universities can struggle to deliver graduates who meet the needs of the contemporary workplace. Half the jobs that exist today didn’t even exist 25 years ago. Consequently, employers face a global talent shortage and have tough hiring decisions to make. Should they pursue skilled talent or hire passionate people who can be trained?

Early-stage startups have compelling reasons to hire for potential and attitude over skills and experience. First, paring down your list of essentials substantially increases your talent pool. Second, your need for those hard skills may eventually change. Finally, strong teamwork is the lifeblood of any early-stage startup. Hiring communicative, collaborative and adaptable people will go a long way. Startup Institute is a great place to look for new hires who’ve cultivated these soft skills that are so critical to startup work.

Building the skills and knowledge of your new hires doesn’t have to be time-consuming or costly. The following guidelines will help you decide what kind of training to provide, resulting in an engaged and productive team that will help your early-stage startup grow.

Provide Effective Training Materials

Are you paying for training or creating your own training materials? For formal skills training, your main options are classroom training or computer-based training. Here’s a quick list that breaks down the pros and cons of each. If you’re ready to look up courses, Udemy and are great places to start.

To train for institutional or product knowledge, you’ll want to create your own training materials. All kinds of “how-to” guides, such as sales manuals and style guides, can be considered training materials. If you’ve got a career switcher on your hands, such as a first-time product manager, you might want to write a document that details your exact expectations for this position. Look to Ben Horowitz’ version of such a document for inspiration.

Add Training to Your Onboarding

The first week for a new hire at work sets the tone for what they can expect during their time with you. During this period, make sure that everyone on your team is well-versed in your company’s concept, messaging and goals. Share supplementary materials with them, from your pitch to your product roadmap. At this stage, it’s critical for all team members to be fluent and confident brand representatives. In a very early-stage startup, you may also want to do some cross-training. For example, you may want everyone on your team to be able to do a product demo for potential customers. Finally, even if you haven’t fully envisioned your corporate culture, share your initial thoughts about culture with your team and remind them that they play a key role in shaping it.

Give Continuous Feedback

“Iteration” is a word we hear a lot at startups. It doesn’t just apply to products. Give continuous feedback at regular one-on-ones or whenever a teachable moment presents itself. Over time, you’ll see your employees steadily improve their performance. They’ll produce more polished and thoughtful work, learn to make sound and strategic decisions, and be more comfortable giving feedback of their own. Don’t forget that feedback can be fun. Celebrating accomplishments with the team helps set clear goals and boosts morale at the same time.

What employee training worked well at your early stage startup? What didn’t work so well? Tell us about a stand-out story. Share in the comments.

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Christine Del Castillo
Christine Del Castillo
Community Manager

Christine Del Castillo wants to live in a world where tech makes people smarter and where content isn't just noise, but helpful and actually a pleasure to read. She gets to do what she loves at Workable, where she primarily works on community building, digital content creation, and social media. Christine brings seven years of content marketing experience to the team. She has previously worked at Constant Contact, Wizeo, and World Education and is a graduate of Brandeis University. Say “hi” to Christine at @chrissachrissa on Twitter or learn more about Workable, hiring software for small and medium-sized businesses, at
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