Tag: recruitment & HR

keeping remote workers engaged - New Frontiers

How To Keep Your Remote Workers In The Loop

keeping remote workers engaged - New Frontiers

Ensuring that remote workers stay engaged and productive while working off-site can be a challenge. While for some it means greater focus and a sense of empowerment, for others it is isolating and unmotivating. It can be difficult to maintain a work culture and promote teamwork when everyone is dispersed.

However, research has shown that remote working can reduce employee stress as well as increase productivity – thanks to things like no commuting, a more ‘relaxed’ environment, and fewer distractions. Remote working really is a win/win situation for both employer and employee, at least when it’s done right! A common cause for concern is that remote workers can become disconnected from their employer due to the lack of face-to-face contact.

remote work statistics talentlms

A recent survey from Workplace by Facebook titled Deskless Not Voiceless: Communication Works, has shown that remote workers find it difficult to build work relationships. What was particularly interesting about the survey was that 86% of remote workers felt connected to their colleagues, but only 14% felt connected to the company HQ and just 3% had any communication with the C-Suite. This can be demoralising for remote workers because it may result in fewer opportunities for promotion and rewards. So how do we bring our remote workers back, not into the physical office but into the company psyche?

Communication tools are the remote worker’s best friend

Technology often gets a bad reputation for isolating us from one another, but in many ways technology is what enables us to come together. That being said, not all communication technology is equal! Composing an email is a much more isolated and time-consuming task than firing off instant messages into a chat box where other members can respond in real-time. One particularly popular communication tool is Slack. Slack allows you to organise your conversations into channels and these can be set to private if needed. You can see when members are online and tag them in conversations to quickly get their attention. The platform is robust enough to send most kinds of files (such as images, videos, GIFs, PDFs) which makes it easier for remote workers to collaborate on projects. It is the speed of interaction that communication tools like Slack support which makes it so effective at keeping remote workers in the loop. There are many alternatives to Slack, of course, such as Microsoft Teams, Hive, or Google Hangouts.

Make time for face-to-face communication

Instant messaging definitely has its place, however face-to-face communication is unbeatable when it comes to building real relationships. The ideal way to do this remotely is with videoconferencing. There are multiple ways to achieve this, from FaceTime to Zoom to Skype and beyond. We would advise you to schedule in either weekly, fortnightly or monthly face-to-face meetings with your remote workers, depending on the work you do. By being able to see someone’s face, identify facial cues, and speak in real-time, video conferencing can humanise communication. Once you see their face pop up on your screen and they, in turn, see you, all sense of distance is instantly removed. This can also be a real godsend for those moments when you would like your remote worker to be available in a meeting to answer a couple of questions but that’s just not possible. Using videoconferencing to allow teams to touch base – such as with an informal ‘coffee and a chat’ session that lets them catch up on the everyday personal news that fuels human interaction – with help to keep teams cohesive while apart.

Don’t forget to give remote workers praise!

The only way remote workers can feel a part of the company is by being treating them as such. We can all be guilty of falling into the terrible habit of out of sight, out of mind, but you know that if your remote workers suddenly dropped in productivity, you would be on their case! So take the time to praise them for the good work they do. While you’re not likely to pass by them at the water cooler, the extra effort of reaching out to remote workers will be well worth it. After all, you want your remote teams to stay motivated and the best way to do that is by giving them a sense of pride in where they work. Include them in shoutouts in the company newsletter, make sure their name is in the hat for competitions, and give them the heads up on new opportunities that they may otherwise miss out on.

The key to making remote working a success long-term is to remove ‘remote’ from the equation as much as possible. It can be a challenge for on-site employees to treat remote workers the same as the colleagues they bump into every day, but if you want your workforce to thrive while reaping the benefits of remote working, then you need to set the standard from day one. It is the responsibility of those at the top to create a culture of inclusivity for every member of the workforce. Remote working is going to become a permanent option for most teams; this is a cultural shift that is unlikely to roll back. Your best bet as an employer is to embrace this change for all the benefits it brings – take the necessary steps and get ready for the future!

About the author


Scarlet Merrill

Scarlet Merrill is Editor of the New Frontiers website and founder of her own startup, Engage Content Marketing. She is an expert in designing and executing content strategies and passionate about helping businesses to develop a quality online presence… [Read Scarlet’s profile]

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5 Powerful Habits Of Successful Business Leaders

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How You Can Stop Bad Posture Ruining Your Workday

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Leaders can help employees achieve their New Year’s resolutions - new frontiers

Leaders can help employees achieve their New Year’s resolutions

Leaders can help employees achieve their New Year’s resolutions - new frontiers

When the new year rolls around, what kind of person are you? Do you roll your eyes at your peers’ overly ambitious attempts to abolish decades of deeply entrenched habits in the hope of metamorphosing into a new, glossier, 2.0 version of themselves? Or do you cheer them on while dusting yourself off from the overindulgence of the previous month and get busy picking your own shiny goals to hurtle towards?

Whichever person you are, there are a few statistics we’d like to share with you because we think they’ll bring a bit of perspective to the setting of New Year’s resolutions and how you can make them more than just a passing fad at the beginning of the year.

What the data says about New Year’s resolutions

Strava conducted a survey studying over 31.5 million online global activities with regard to the setting and keeping of New Year’s resolutions. Their findings were grim:

  • 80% of people fail to keep their New Year’s resolutions
  • The 12th January is the date people are most likely to give up on their resolutions
  • The main reasons for failure are a lack of motivation and unrealistic expectations

Now, you could look at those statistics and take them as the evidence you’ve been keenly waiting for never to set a New Year’s resolution again! But business leaders are all about the challenge, so we’re going to guess that you’ve zeroed in on the obvious obstacles here and are already thinking up ways that this problem can be solved. That’s what we’ve been doing, and we think the solution is to bring New Year’s resolutions into the workplace!

Introducing New Year’s Resolutions to the workplace

Ask for feedback from your team

Creating a partnership between work and personal goals could seem daunting at first. You might be wondering whether your team appreciates this new-fangled project of yours or considerate it a hindrance. The best way to find out the answer to that question is to ask. Bord Bia research found that 70% of Irish people would appreciate help with maintaining a healthy diet and less than one-third of us get the correct amount of exercise because we cannot find the time.

How to help your employees achieve their resolutions

There are many ways you can go about helping your team achieve their goals. The methods you pick will be based on what will suit your company best. You could decide to add a few additional activities to the workweek, or you could make smaller but equally effective tweaks to the workday. Alternatively, you could design a whole employee wellness programme!

Deciding which route you’ll take will involve taking some time to think about your budget, assessing how many people you expect to get involved, finding out what their New Year’s resolutions were and determining what kind of activities would benefit them best. Then map out how you imagine these activities will realistically coincide with job tasks and decide who will be in charge of making it all happen. If that sounds like far too much work, don’t worry; no matter how small or comprehensive your approach, we have a few ideas to get you started!

Great resolution ideas you can support all year long

Let’s dive into some ideas for how you can support your team in reaching their goals – not just in January, but all year long!


  • Ditch those pastries packed with saturated fat in meetings and instead think strawberries! Popcorn! Whole-grain sandwiches with low-fat fillings! Parfaits!
  • Combine healthy eating and team building by organising activities such as “Come Dine With Me” style lunches, food tastings, cookery classes and smooth- making competitions.
  • Request an employee discount from your local health-conscious eatery.

Spend more time with friends and family

  • Remote working puts an end to wasted hours spent commuting so your employees can spend more time with the people they love.
  • Offer an automatic day off for three important family events that occur annually.
  • Trial a four-day workweek. New Zealand company Perpetual Guardian reported a 20% increase in productivity when they did it and Pursuit Marketing in Glasgow enjoyed a 30% increase!


  • Incentivise walk-to-work and/or cycle schemes.
  • Set up company sports teams and organise a gym buddy system to get peer pressure working in everyone’s favour!
  • Create a calendar for local fitness events, such as marathons for charity, and encourage people to sign up.

Quit smoking

  • Establish a tobacco-free workplace.
  • Include quit smoking programmes in your wellness initiative with one-to-one coaching or, if your budget can’t stretch to that, make external resources easily available for them.
  • Consider ways you can help employees through the withdrawal period, i.e. exercise regimes, improving diet, stress management.

Read more

  • Hold a monthly book club that people can either participate in after work or during the lunch break.
  • Include a book recommendation in the company newsletter.
  • Invite local authors to speak at your company.

Drink less alcohol

  • Organise alternatives to ‘after-work drinks’ such as movie nights, bowling, going to exhibitions, volunteering, sports training, attending a class, seeking out drink-free events, etc.
  • With your team’s help, set alcohol-free days to reduce the chance of hitting the pub at 5 pm on particularly tempting evenings.

None of these ideas are earth-shattering, but that’s precisely the point! Small changes that are simple to implement and easy to take up are most likely to be successful. If all goes to plan, not only will you have a happier, healthier team by the end of 2020, but you’ll have simultaneously increased job satisfaction and productivity.

About the author


Scarlet Merrill

Scarlet Merrill is Editor of the New Frontiers website and founder of her own startup, Engage Content Marketing. She is an expert in designing and executing content strategies and passionate about helping businesses to develop a quality online presence… [Read Scarlet’s profile]

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5 Powerful Habits Of Successful Business Leaders

Small business secrets for improving your SEO ranking in 2020

How You Can Stop Bad Posture Ruining Your Workday

New Frontiers companies are rising to meet COVID-19 pandemic challenges

5 tips for recruiting a stellar first hire for your startup - New Frontiers programme

5 tips for recruiting a stellar first hire for your startup!

5 tips for recruiting a stellar first hire for your startup - New Frontiers programme

Making the first external hire is a big step for a startup. It’s a significant commitment with all kinds of obligations and logistics to consider. In this blog, we’ll take a look at some tactics to help you make recruitment less of a risk.

Before you start, make sure you do really need to hire someone at this point. If you’re running a startup, it’s a good guess that you’re run off your feet and wish you had a second you to make the workday less crazy. However, it’s important to recognise whether this is just the typical whirlwind of getting a new business off the ground or whether the time has come to grow the team.

The first step is to take a careful look at the finances and financial projections to see if you can afford an employee. Consider all the costs associated with this – salary costs plus hidden costs such as equipment, office space, insurance, software, training, etc.

The second step is to consider which area of the business could best be supported by a second pair of hands. There should be enough workload to add up to a new role, and what needs to be done should bring real value to the business and contribute to your bottom line (for example, supply chain or customer services). If your plate is overflowing with smaller tasks that don’t add up to a particular business role (for example, bookkeeping) then rather than making a new hire you should lighten the load by outsourcing specific jobs.

Finally, be careful of making your first hire a big, expensive role. For instance, it’s not uncommon for founders to want their first employee to be the salesperson, because it’s typically a role they aren’t confident in. However, these salaries are usually very high and it can be hard to find the right salesperson on the first attempt (see more about this in our interview with Nicky Bowman).

So, having decided the time is right for your first hire, here are 5 ways to make the transition from founder to employer a little easier.

How to successfully hire your first employee

1.      Identify your startup’s weak spots

Your first hire should not be a jack-of-all-trades. In fact, no hire should be! It’s particularly tempting for startups to seek out that unicorn individual who has a bit of experience in everything. The problem with this approach is that they’re not properly solving any one problem. A much better approach is to identify specific weaknesses in your business that are taking up a lot of time or particular gaps where you can really start to grow revenue and aim to hire someone who can take this on and have a transformative effect.

2.      Document procedures for tasks

You want your new employee to hit the ground running when they arrive. Do not wait until the last minute to figure out how they are going to do what you need them to do. It’s probably clear in your mind how the tasks that need doing should get done, but don’t assume this will be obvious to your new hire. They aren’t familiar with your business or how you work yet. If you’re not used to onboarding employees, you’ll be surprised how many small things need to be communicated in the initial stages.

List the responsibilities attached to this new role and then take the time to document procedures for each one. Trust us, it’s worth it. As an entrepreneur, you’re used to doing everything yourself, which means you have your own set of standards. If you want to maintain those standards and avoid resorting to micromanagement, then procedures are a lifesaver.

3.      Don’t underestimate the importance of culture fit

Skills are not the be-all and end-all, especially at this early stage of your business. Your first hire is going to be working in close quarters with you and, inevitably, will have an influence over how your team grows. This is not the time to take a punt on the aloof genius, the rebellious leader or the troubled artist! Rather trust, integrity, and good communication skills are the kind of characteristics you want to invest in with your first hire.

If there is more than one business founder, we’d advise giving everyone the opportunity to meet with the potential candidate so they have a chance to air their opinions. The last thing you want is your office split down the middle by an employee who gets along swimmingly with one founder and is at loggerheads with the other! This exposure to key people in your business is also a great way to show the candidate that you envision them to be there for the long haul.

“I’ve turned down very good technical people. I know the team they are going to have to work in and if I don’t think they will fit in there is no point in hiring them, no matter how talented they are from a technical point of view.”

Sandra Whelan, Immersive VR Education
read our interview with Sandra

4.      Have them demonstrate their skills

It really is the only way to know for sure that they can do the job. There are many great interviewees out there. These people are personable, passionate, quick with winning answers and they’ve researched your company inside and out. But none of these attractive qualities necessarily means they will be good at the tasks you have in mind for them.

To combat this, don’t be afraid of having more than one stage in your recruitment process. It may be time-consuming, but this is not a hire you want to make in a rush. The first stage of the interview could be designed to whittle down candidates by their skillset and the second stage could be for finding out if they have the right personality fit for your company.

5.      Have a trial period

This is your first hire and there’s a lot riding on it. Feeling a little stressed about getting it right is only natural. Overthinking it won’t make it any easier, however having a trial period can take a lot of the pressure off. Recruitment is a speciality industry for a reason so if you’re not a professional recruiter, it makes sense to buffer the risk with a probationary period. Ensure it is included in the new employee’s employment contract and define clearly the duration of the trial period. Under Irish law, a probationary period must be one year or less in duration.

Making your first hire is a big decision, especially when you are bootstrapping. As with most things in business, careful planning will help you avoid the most common pitfalls. Be clear about what you expect and what you are offering from the outset, because high staff turnovers will only negate the benefit of having the extra help. Also, remember that although you will be able to move over a large part of your workload to a capable colleague, employees do require management, so factor in enough time to oversee their work. 

About the author


Scarlet Merrill

Scarlet Merrill is Editor of the New Frontiers website and founder of her own startup, Engage Content Marketing. She is an expert in designing and executing content strategies and passionate about helping businesses to develop a quality online presence… [Read Scarlet’s profile]

Other articles from the New Frontiers blog

5 Powerful Habits Of Successful Business Leaders

Small business secrets for improving your SEO ranking in 2020

How You Can Stop Bad Posture Ruining Your Workday

New Frontiers companies are rising to meet COVID-19 pandemic challenges

Immersive VR Education builds on startup success with a strong team

Immersive VR Education builds on startup success with a strong team

Immersive VR Education builds on startup success with a strong team

In 2018, Immersive VR Education became the first New Frontiers startup to be listed on the Irish Stock Exchange’s Enterprise Securities Market. Just four short years after it was founded, Sandra and David Whelan’s company went public with a valuation of around €21.6 million, the first Irish tech firm to be listed on the exchange since its inception.

How did the company create an offering that has landed it clients such as the BBC, JESS Dubai, Oculus, and the University of Oxford? We spoke to Sandra Whelan, co-founder and Chief Operating Officer, to discover what goes into building the team that drives a successful tech startup.

Q1. Everyone has their own route to startup. Where did your business idea come from? How did it all come about?

It all began when my husband, David, saw a Kickstarter project for a virtual reality headset called the Oculus Rift. He invested, and sometime later the headset turned up at the house. We all tried it out – David and I, and our three children. The technology wasn’t very advanced at that point, but I could see the potential. We all recalled information we’d seen much better than we would from reading a book. It was evident to me that there were a lot more useful applications for this than what was available, especially in education.

This is what got David interested in the sector. He started a site to review VR technology – called Virtual Reality Reviewer, very original! Running that site is what led to us realising there was a gap in the market for educational solutions using VR. We created our own Kickstarter for a project involving the Apollo 11 mission. That gave up 30 days to raise €30,000 and we actually raised €36,000! That’s the moment we knew we had hit on something that could work. David sold his web design business and Immersive VR Education was born.

Through the Local Enterprise Office in Waterford, we were pointed in the direction of New Frontiers. David went through the whole programme and it was absolutely brilliant. He learnt all about the financial projections we needed to do, how to formulate a business plan, and how to pitch it. Before this, he had no experience of public speaking or pitching to investors.

It was evident at that stage that if we were going to go ahead with it, I would need to be involved in a bigger way. Up until then, I was working full-time as a logistics manager while working on this in the evenings. I was going to have to give up my job, which was scary because we have a house and three kids to look after. But we felt that we’re either going to give it 100% or we’re not. David was so passionate too and he really believed in the idea, so I thought, OK, let’s do this together.

Sandra Whelan and David Whelan Immersive VR Education New Frontiers Past participant

Sandra Whelan with her husband and co-founder, David Whelan, CEO of Immersive VR Education

Q2. It is a very niche business you’re in, so how did you go about growing a team?

In January 2016 we moved into our new office, and that’s when we made our first hire: Mike Armstrong. Mike was someone we met through the Virtual Reality Reviewer website, so we already knew him. He is now the Lead Technical Developer for our platform. He actually moved over from America with his girlfriend who he has since married and they now have two beautiful children. By permanently relocating, Mike really has come along the whole journey with us.

To make our second hire, we held a VR party in our office. We thought that if we put out the invite on the right messenger boards and explained that anyone interested in working in VR should come along, then we might find the perfect fourth member of our team. That’s how we met Bobby. So, our first two hires were pretty unorthodox, but after that, we started using LinkedIn and recruitment agencies to hire people.

Q3. Did you have a recruitment strategy?

Initially, our strategy was very much determined by the business plan David had developed on New Frontiers, because that was how we secured funding in the first place. In the business plan, we had stated how many developers we needed, so we always knew this was what that money would go towards. We started by putting up ads on LinkedIn and our own website, but there was nothing really coming through.

The skills we were looking for were not available in Ireland at that stage, so we started to look further afield with recruitment agencies. The result is that today only 10 of our team are Irish, and the rest are either American, European, or Argentinian. We do use Indeed sometimes, but a lot of our hires are through recruitment agencies. The fees for recruitment agencies can be on the high side, but we find it is worth it because it saves us a lot of time and we end up with people who are fully qualified for the position.

Q4. How does hiring people from abroad work in practice? What kind of interview process do you have?

We have a relocation package available for people which comprises of us finding them a house, putting down a deposit on the house, providing their first month’s rent, covering moving costs and also paying for their flights. It is something I took responsibility for from the beginning and I have helped relocate numerous candidates at this point. As you can imagine, it is time-consuming, so it helps that the recruitment agency takes control of the other side of the process. We don’t meet the hires face-to-face until they arrive in Ireland, but we do have Skype interviews.

The first interview with potential candidates is held over Skype and would be a technical interview. Depending on the position applied for we will get them to do a test that they could send back in four or five days. The next stage would be an interview with David and myself, because even though someone may be technically fantastic that doesn’t necessarily mean they are a good fit. For me, that’s more important than anything else and it has been the reason I’ve turned down very good technical people. I know the team they are going to have to work in and if I don’t think they will fit in there is no point in hiring them, no matter how talented they are from a technical point of view.

Q5. Considering your background isn’t in people management, why do you think you’ve been so successful at building a team?

It was a steep learning curve because I don’t have a background in people management. However, before this I was a client manager, so I am good at understanding people. I think it helps that I’m very hands-on in my role. There is no HR manager, it is just me and has been from the beginning, so I get to know everyone individually and I love that. I understand their little nuances and help them get settled when they arrive. Of course, it was more challenging as we grew. We started with a four-person team in January 2016 but that quickly grew to seven people, then 10, then 12 and by March 2018 we had 21 people. Today we have nearly 40 but I think the culture we’ve managed to nurture here is key to our success.

We have a very diverse team with people coming from all kinds of background, which is fantastic, but it also needs to be managed carefully. We decided from the outset to be very transparent by letting people know exactly what we expect from them. We have a very relaxed environment at VR Education, and I am happy as long as the work gets done. That’s why, when someone new starts at the company, we explain how relaxed the work culture is here but make sure to point out that at the same time they cannot take advantage of this.

I also make sure the team receives a lot of feedback. Because of what we do, the workday is mostly people sitting at computers with their headphones in, so I like to give people time to talk. I make sure everyone gets one-to-one feedback from their line manager every month. There is no point in me living in a happy rose-tinted bubble in my office, not knowing what is actually going on outside and there is nothing worse than letting problems fester. So it’s important to give people a chance to air any issues they have at these meetings.

Q6. Is there an example of a problem you came across that you found a solution for?

I noticed in the mornings when people came in there would be a lot of yawning going on. I decided it would be a good idea to push the morning meeting back because people weren’t exactly firing on all cylinders! But we also didn’t want anyone getting burnt out because they all work very hard. That’s why I went a step further and offered the team the option of working a four-day week every second week, as long as they had their work done. I thought this would be great for people travelling back and forth from the UK and Europe to visit their families.

It was voluntary, and about half the staff tried it. But in our feedback sessions, we found out that in reality, people were becoming more exhausted by trying to squeeze a full week of work into four days! It was at this point I asked them if there was a solution that they felt would work better. In the end, the introduction of core hours was the answer because everyone was able to design a workweek that would suit them best. Those up early dropping off kids at school were happy to start earlier and finish earlier, while those who felt like they were only really awake at 10 am could push their day forward. Being able to talk and listen to people in this way means we can get the most out of the team and they can get the most out of their job.

Q7. Are there any other perks you offer your staff?

We offer two team-building events every year, the Christmas one and the summer one. That’s always great fun. We close every Good Friday and we do a full shut down over Christmas, but it’s not counted against people’s holiday entitlement. We hold game competitions in the common area of the office to encourage people to get away from their desks. We also have a fully stocked canteen.

Q8. Do you have any top tips for start-ups trying to build a great team?

Ask your team what they want. I could guess what would work best for everyone, but that’s just my opinion. I think getting real feedback is essential to determine what is and is not working. Also, we try not to differentiate between management and everyone else. I have my office, but my door is physically always open for people to come in and out. Our management team have their desks out on the floor with everyone else. After all, when it comes down to it, we all work for the same company and our goal is exactly the same.

Another thing that I had to learn myself over time was to not be too swayed by other people’s recommendations for potential hires. I found that I have had many hours wasted by talking with someone about a role based on a recommendation. Always make up your own mind on matters like that because you know your company and your team and what works somewhere else won’t necessarily work for you.

To find our more about Immersive VR Education, read our article about their IPO last year or visit their website.

About the author


Scarlet Merrill

Scarlet Merrill is Editor of the New Frontiers website and founder of her own startup, Engage Content Marketing. She is an expert in designing and executing content strategies and passionate about helping businesses to develop a quality online presence… [Read Scarlet’s profile]

Other articles from the New Frontiers blog

5 Powerful Habits Of Successful Business Leaders

Small business secrets for improving your SEO ranking in 2020

How You Can Stop Bad Posture Ruining Your Workday

New Frontiers companies are rising to meet COVID-19 pandemic challenges

A strong employer brand is essential for attracting top talent - New Frontiers programme Ireland

A strong employer brand is essential for attracting top talent

A strong employer brand is essential for attracting top talent - New Frontiers programme Ireland

At the beginning of 2019, the unemployment rate was the lowest it has been in 10 years, at 5.3%. This is good news, but it also means that Irish SMEs are struggling to attract and retain top talent. There is no denying that a high salary has a reliably magnetic effect, but it is far from the only reason why people choose to work where they do and how long they stay with a company.

FDI companies are enjoying a large slice of the talent pie with 229,057 people currently employed in the sector, making competition fierce for smaller indigenous businesses. For Irish SMEs wanting to attract the right people with the right skills, it is vital to tap into these other draws and having a strong employer brand is a powerful enticement for job seekers.

What is an employer brand?

Having an employer brand is how you market your company to job seekers. Just like with the marketing of products and services, the promises you make to jobseekers should be fulfilled at all stages of the recruitment process and followed up on in the work environment. For example, if you market your company as “daring, innovative and fun” but then the job candidate quickly finds out that the office space is a cardboard cut out of every other office they’ve seen and their interviewer comes across as stern and a sticker for the rules, the expectations that brought them to your door in the first place have been shattered. This is why is it important that your employer brand is a clearly defined personality for your company which is holistically incorporated into every aspect of the organisation.

How do you create an employer brand?

Considering that the average person spends a third of their waking life at work and that people are more aware than ever before of the importance of a healthy work/life balance, where someone chooses to work is a serious consideration for them. Therefore, if you have the ability to offer benefits and perks that people with the skills you desire would appreciate, then it makes sense to construct an employer brand that acts as a platform for these advantages. But what does this look like in practice?

Case study: Lush

A great example of employer branding done right is the cosmetics retailer, Lush. When Lush holds their open call recruitment events, they truly are an event! Hopeful job seekers are known to queue for hours to be in with a chance of working as a sales assistant at Lush. But why? For anyone not in the know, Lush on the surface would appear to be your typical high-street retailer that pays their employees an average wage without commission. The hype all comes down to their employer branding, which they’ve perfected.

Lush’s employer brand is all about injecting positivity, fun and a heavy dose of quirkiness into life while also being steadfastly ethical and environmentally conscious. Lush defines itself as being a challenger of the status quo, a champion of individuality and relentlessly passionate about everything they do. Vibrant colours, bold images and a generous amount of sparkle dominate their image and they employ a complementary informal brand voice. Their typical customer identifies intimately with the brand and many fans, or “Lushies” as they call themselves, even help Lush spread the word about new products with their organic user-generated content. It makes sense that more often than not Lush’s employees are also their customers.

In keeping with their branding, you won’t hear humdrum questions such as “Where do you see yourself in 5 years?” during a job interview, but rather they’ll ask “Which fictional character do you think is most like you and why?” Staff frequently have opportunities to exercise their creativity by submitting and implementing concept and design ideas for seasonal campaigns. When an employee’s birthday comes around, they will get to have the day off and employees are regularly invited to participate in Lush industry events. With passion being a key Lush trait, employees get to try new products for free and enjoy 50% off all products so that they are truly invested in what they are selling.

More than a job

What Lush has managed to do is create an employer brand that is also a lifestyle choice. People want to work there because they feel that Lush represents them in more ways than simply a job title. In this scenario, employees feel valued for who they are as individuals and not just for the skills they provide. When you show your employees that you value them, they become ambassadors of your brand and when that happens attracting and retaining staff is no longer a problem. The key to a successful employer brand is the crafting of a story that people want to be a part of and proving the truth of that story throughout the employee experience.

If colour and sparkle don’t feel like the right style brand for you, remember that Virgin, The Boring Company, Google and The Walt Disney Company all are examples of successful employers brands with very diverse company personalities and employee benefits. Your employer brand is only limited by your imagination!

About the author


Scarlet Merrill

Scarlet Merrill is Editor of the New Frontiers website and founder of her own startup, Engage Content Marketing. She is an expert in designing and executing content strategies and passionate about helping businesses to develop a quality online presence… [Read Scarlet’s profile]

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Corporate Health – From horseback rides to health tracking apps

Corporate Health: from horseback rides to health tracking apps

Corporate Health – From horseback rides to health tracking apps

Corporate health and well-being has been around as a concept for a long time. Longer than you might think, in fact. Companies in the USA introduced initiatives to promote health in the workplace as far back as the 1880s. Companies such as The Pullman Company and National Cash Register started with the establishment of an athletic association for employees, and meeting employees before work to go on horseback rides.

These companies went on to implement twice-daily exercise breaks, and building on-site gyms and recreation parks for their employees by the early 1900s. After World War ll, things become more mainstream – with such companies as Texas Instruments, Rockwell and Xerox implementing employee fitness programs. The 1950s saw the emergence in the USA of the Employee Assistance Program (EAP) and the Occupational Health & Safety Administration (OSHA) with the aim of avoiding workplace accidents and work-related illness.

Throughout the 1980s, health and safety fell under the same umbrella – with health possibly being safety’s poorer cousin. The focus of this area fell on safety, to the extent where today you can’t even look inside a warehouse without wearing a Hi Vis vest, or load a photocopier with a ream of paper without having first been on a full day manual handling course.

A focus on workplace health

Fortunately, health became just as important as safety, and companies started to look to employee Occupational Health professionals to ensure the health and well-being of their most valuable asset – their employees. Things were starting to change.

In 1984, the World Health Organisation (WHO) Regional Office for Europe defined health promotion as “…the process of enabling people to increase control over, and to improve, their health” in addition to methods to change lifestyles.

The ‘first and best known’ definition of health promotion, promulgated by the American Journal of Health Promotion since at least 1986, is, “…the science and art of helping people change their lifestyle to move toward a state of optimal health.

Today, health promotion officers manage employee health engagement programmes within an organisation. In recent years, these programmes have taken many shapes and forms. Typically, they will have a number of elements focusing on general health, nutrition and mental well-being. Many companies now provide health workshops and health talks around such topics, have health screening and smoking cessation programmes, and promote various forms of physical activity, such as taking part in fun runs and bike rides, usually with a fundraising element attached.

Implementing health programmes in organisations

The promotion of physical activity has generally been somewhat of a difficult element to implement, especially if an organisation has multiple sites and locations across the globe, as it’s impossible to get everyone to turn up for time and location dependent events. To overcome the challenge of trying to get all employees to attend a company health initiative at a given time, date and location, companies have started introducing fitness trackers for employees to engage them in physical activity.

Companies such as BP (British Petroleum) distributed 25,000 Fitbit tracking devices to their staff – the Fitbit wearable fitness tracking device comes as a bracelet or a clip-on option that monitors your steps, calorie intake and burn, and even your sleep pattern. In the USA, employees were able to earn activity points which led to staff discounts on their health insurance. We’ve also seen companies launch pedometer challenges, which is an activity challenge based on the number of steps being completed by each employee, tracked on a mini step counter device clipped onto the body. Today, pedometers are incorporated into most smartphones.

You may wonder why companies spend so much on health initiatives for their employees. It’s been said that healthy, happy employees are good for business, and they are. Employers care about the health of their employees and as their employees are their most valuable assets, they naturally want to protect them and ensure they are healthy and fit. It’s no secret that the health and wellness of employees has a direct effect on an organisation’s ultimate success. Engaging in physical activity is advantageous to the health of the employee, the employer and the organisation as a whole. In fact, managers and supervisors who regularly participate in physical activity have a more positive relationship with subordinates and other employees.

The advantages of a healthy workforce

The benefits of a healthy workforce are well recognised. Evidence shows that employing a physically active workforce can reduce sickness-related absence by up to 20%, increase productivity by up to 15%, improve quality of service and raise the public image of the company. A survey completed by Ibec estimates that it costs every employer in Ireland just over €800 per year in unscheduled absences per employee, with a total cost of nearly €1.5 bn to Irish employers annually.

Organisational benefits

Organisational benefits of a healthy active workforce include:

  • increased productivity
  • increased profits
  • decreased costs due to reduced absenteeism
  • decreased company health care costs
  • improved human resources through better recruitment
  • lower employee turnover
  • improved employee relations
  • lower level of employee stress
  • improved work environment
  • enhanced corporate image

Employees spend a significant amount of time at work. Businesses already have a substantial investment in each worker in terms of recruitment, training, compensation, and benefits packages. Encouraging a culture of physical activity helps to protect that investment and capitalise on the returns in cost savings, cost avoidance, productivity and human capital.

Employee benefits

Engaging in a physically active lifestyle is known to:

  • reduce stress and anxiety
  • reduce tiredness
  • lift moral
  • reduce the risk to various health conditions
  • improve mental well-being
  • improve overall physical fitness & agility

In 2015, we set about solving a problem we had identified with large employers: how to keep their employees healthy and engaged in physical activity all year round. We developed an online platform for employers to engage their employees in their own health through the employees’ existing fitness tracking devices and apps. This BYOD (Bring your own device) system immediately saves the employer the initial capital outlay that is required, in most cases, when an employer wants to get their employees engaged with their own health all year round.

The other issue with trying to run any initiative through fitness tracking devices and apps is convincing all your employees to use the same app or device, and this can be difficult because the people who are most likely to engage with any health initiative are the ones who are already out there being active and using existing tracking apps/devices. Convincing these people to switch to the company’s chosen app/device can be a massive barrier to maximising the participation of the employees.

An activity challenge to raise engagement

We knew that employers where interested in promoting healthy lifestyles to their employees, but how they could engage their employees in healthy activities all year round was the problem we were trying to solve. And we knew that to maximise the participation of the employees, there had to be benefits to both the employer and employee alike. We set about developing a system that had benefits for all – it had to be fun, simple to use and would allow employers to engage, motivate and reward employees for being active, while also being cost effective for the employer to implement.

In association with Sligo Chamber of Commerce, and sponsored by From Me2You gift cards, KudosHealth launched a Workplace Activity Challenge. The aim of the challenge was to engage the employees from a group of large employers and organisations in a four week competition based on the physical activities the employees were completing in their own time, such as walking, running, cycling, etc. The secondary aim of the challenge was to discover what motivated employees to take part in workplace challenges.

Over 400 employees took part, representing some of the biggest employers in the region in an inter-firm activity challenge from the 9th Sept to 7th Oct 2016. Employees were able to connect their existing fitness tracking such as Fitbit, Strava, RunKeeper or GoogleFit to the KudosHealth platform to record and register their fitness activities. They were awarded points, and each individual’s points were then averaged out to form the ‘Company Score’ which was then presented on a Company Leader-board.

Employee survey summary

The following charts show the key findings of our survey.

Insights from the survey

One interesting statistic that emerged from the subsequent employee survey was that a staggering 69% of the users who took part said they did it to be part of a team; many users were completing their activities alone or in small groups, but the KudosHealth system allowed the individual activities to contribute to a team score and this was the single biggest reason for taking part.

Another interesting statistic that emerged from the survey is that 54% of the participants had never used a fitness tracking app prior to taking part in the event. The survey results also showed that 93% of people said they would take part in this type of event again, with 60% of the participants answering that they completed more exercise than they normally would during the challenge.

Implementing a workplace well-being initiative can have its challenges, but the rewards for businesses are clear in terms of reduced staff turnover and absence from sickness, a better motivated and happier workforce, and improved teamwork. If you are interested in how the KudosHealth platform could help you get started, we’d be happy to talk you through it.

About the author

KudosHealth Declan Trumble New Frontiers

Declan Trumble

Declan is a New Frontiers alumnus and the co-founder of KudosHealth. The startup has developed an employee health engagement SaaS solution aimed at large employers. The platforms allows employers to engage employees in activity challenges 365 days a year… [Read Declan’s profile]

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employment contracts startups employees new frontiers

Employment contracts: what you need to know as a new employer

employment contracts startups employees new frontiers

For a startup, the task of hiring your first employee can be a daunting prospect. There is a vast amount of legislation surrounding the employment relationship, which can be difficult for an employer to contend with while also trying to run a business. In this article, I will focus on contracts of employment and answer some of the key questions employers have when it comes to this topic.

What are the different types of contract?

Firstly, it is important for the employer to decide on the type of employment contract that will best fit the needs of the company. An employer can provide a contract of indefinite duration (i.e. a contract with no end date) or a fixed term/specified purpose contract. I have set out below some further details on the above contracts and highlighted some of the pitfalls which employers should be aware of when using these types of contracts.

Contract of Indefinite Duration

This is a contract with no specified end date (often referred to as a permanent contract). A contract of this nature will not expire and will only cease in situations such as resignation, dismissal, redundancy, etc. However, when an employer gives this type of contract to an employee, they can include a probationary period (usually of six months’ duration, and not exceeding 11 months). The probationary period allows the employer to decide during this time if the employee meets the performance expectations of the role.

If this is not the case, the employer could look to terminate the employee during the probationary period. It is advisable to hold reviews with the employee during the probationary period to identify any areas of concern. Although an employee with less than one year’s service would not be in a position to take an Unfair Dismissals Claim, there is no service requirement with regard to taking a claim under the Employment Equality Acts 1998-2011. As such, employers should keep written records of any discussions had with the employee, in order to show that the decision to terminate the employment relationship during the probationary period was based on performance issues.

Fixed Term and Specified Purpose Contracts

The main advantage of fixed term or specified purpose contracts is that they allow for the termination of the contract once the fixed term or the specified purpose has been completed. Generally, a fixed term contract ends on an agreed date and this is stated in the contract. By contrast, a specified purpose contract is used in situations where the termination date is not definable in advance and is suitable in situations where a person is employed as a replacement for someone who is absent due to illness or maternity leave, or if someone is employed to work on a particular project.

Employers should ensure that they fully understand the rights of employees on fixed term or specified purpose contracts, as set out in the Protection of Employees (Fixed Term Work) Act, 2003. It is important to note that if an employer wishes to renew an employee’s fixed-term/specified purpose contract that they must provide the employee with a written statement, no later than the date of renewal, setting out the objective grounds justifying the renewal and the reasons why the company was unable to offer a contract of indefinite duration.

In addition, there are some limitations on the use of fixed-term/specified purpose contracts and if an employee has been employed on two or more continuous fixed-term contracts, then the total duration of those contracts may not exceed four years. After this, the employee becomes entitled to a contract of indefinite duration unless the employer can justify a further fixed term contract being issued on objective grounds. The Unfair Dismissals Act 1977-2015 also contains a provision to prevent the abuse of fixed-term contracts by employers. The Act provides that where a fixed-term or specified purpose contract expires and the individual is re-employed within three months, the individual is deemed to have continuous service. However, the Workplace Relations Commission* may even look beyond this three month threshold if they feel that the employer’s aim in breaking the employee’s service was to avoid the legislation.

What needs to be included in a contract of employment?

The contract should include the main terms and conditions of employment. The Terms of Employment (Information) Acts 1994–2014 lists all of the specific terms and conditions which must be included in the employment contract such as:

  • name of the employer and employee
  • the address of the employer
  • the place of work or, if there is no fixed or main place of work, a statement that the employee is required or permitted to work at various places
  • job title or the nature of the work
  • the date of commencement of the contract
  • for temporary contracts, the expected duration of the contract or, if for a fixed term, the date on which the contract expires

As above, there are some terms and conditions that an employer must include in a contract. However, an employer should also consider placing some other clauses in the contract which may assist them in the running of their business, for example probation, retirement, or lay off/short time working clauses. Taking probation as an example, it may be very useful for a new business to have a probationary period included in their contract, as it will allow them greater flexibility when managing the performance of a new employee and assessing if they are the right fit for the company.

When do I issue an employment contract?

The Terms of Employment (Information) Acts 1994–2014 provides that an employer is obliged to provide an employee with a written statement of terms of employment within the first two months of the commencement of employment. The contract must be signed and dated by – or on behalf of – the employer. The employee should also be requested to sign the contract. A copy of the contract must be retained by the employer during the employment and for a period of one year after the end of the employment.
Employers should be mindful that it they do not issue their employee with a contract, the Workplace Relations Commission can award four weeks pay to an employee.

Do I need to have a Company Handbook?

It is best practice to also issue an employee with a Company Handbook. The handbook should outline the standards of conduct and safety, company regulations and the administrative procedures used to facilitate the efficient running of the organisation. Employers should require employees to acknowledge (in writing) that they have received the handbook, that they have read it and understand its contents. Company handbooks should be checked regularly and updated where required. Employees should be informed of any updates to the handbook and these should be circulated.

There are two policies which must be provided to an employee within 28 days of them starting in the company; the grievance and disciplinary policies. The Workplace Relations Commission has developed a Code of Practice which is a useful resource for employers when drafting these policies. These codes of practice are available on the Workplace Relations Commission website.

To conclude, the importance of a contract of employment cannot be understated. It is the document which forms the basis of the relationship between the company and their employees and it will be used as the main source of reference if any disputes should arise. With this in mind, it is very clear that an employer should carefully develop their contracts of employment to ensure that they have met their obligations under the legislation and that the contracts fit the needs of the company.

* The Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) was established on 1 October 2015 under the Workplace Relations Act 2015. It has taken over the functions of the National Employment Rights Authority, the Labour Relations Commission and the Director of the Equality Tribunal. It has also taken over some of the functions of the Employment Appeals Tribunal (EAT).

About the author

Ciara McGuone SFA New Frontiers
Ciara McGuone

Ciara McGuone is an Executive at the Small Firms Association, a national organisation that exclusively represents the needs of small enterprises in Ireland. She is responsible for providing advice to members on various aspects of HR and employment law… [Read Ciara’s profile]

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Hiring interns for your startup: our top tips

hiring interns startup internship new frontiers advice tips

Hiring an intern can be a great way of bootstrapping a particular source of expertise into your startup during early-stage, when you may not have the resources to support hiring a fully fledged employee. It is really important, however, to note that interns should not be viewed as ‘free hired help’ or ‘personal slaves’ for the hiring entrepreneur.

If this is what your idea of hiring interns is, then you can guarantee that the person will more than likely walk out after a few days and hey, who would blame them! Only hire an intern if you are willing to commit some time to helping them grow and develop in return for them offering their skills to help your startup grow and develop.

Interns should leave feeling that:

1. They learned something valuable and had an experience that adds value to their CV
2. They were exposed to experiences that has developed their skills and potential career path
3. They were valued and treated fairly by their receiving company

A question people often ask me is why they haven’t received many applications for an internship position that they have advertised. The answer is usually that they published a boring, generic job spec, solely focused on what the receiving company wants from the person with no mention of what the intern will receive in return. With a regular paid role, the onus is on the applicant to sell their skills in return for a nice salary package, however with an internship the dynamic is different. The receiving company has to sell to the candidate in a compelling way why they should impart their skills and services for a very low or nominal fee and what, besides money, the receiving company can provide to the candidate in return for these skills.

Job specification guidelines

There are many ways a job specification can be put together. The following section outlines some headings that some startup companies I have worked with have found useful in developing specifications for roles that have arisen within their companies.

1. Job title & type

A descriptive job title (try to come up with an interesting title that an intern may find useful to have on their CV when they eventually are looking for gainful employment, and also one that will garner some interest amongst potential applicants!). Also mention if the internship is full time or part time, and the contract duration.

2. Location

Company name and address of the offices where the intern will be posted.

3. Description of the company

Give a 100 word overview of your business; where you’ve come from, where you are going with the business and the type of culture that exists within the organisation. Keep this fresh and interesting and avoid using jargon!

4. Description of the role

Include a bullet point description of the areas of responsibility that the candidate would have within the role. When complete, read it back to yourself; does it sound enticing and interesting? If you were a 22 year old graduate, would it make you want to apply? Get the views of others, maybe even ask some interns that are working in other startups in your network. You will probably get some great advice!

5. Learnings & rewards

Remember, an internship doesn’t come with all the bells and whistles that a paid graduate roles comes with – therefore you need to sell the role and incentivise people to apply by positioning the role in an attractive way. In this section, you will list what the intern will receive in return for their commitment to your company. Include the areas of development that they will encounter, the exciting innovations they will be exposed to, the dynamic nature of being involved with an SME, the background of the person they will work most closely with or learn from, the networks they will get to mix with, the possibilities for progression or future employment, future possibilities within the firm, learning and/or training opportunities, as well as expenses or payments or bonuses awarded. Perhaps €50 p/w expenses or a performance-related bonus could apply. Include whatever is appropriate for the situation. Read it back, put yourself in their shoes and ask yourself again: if you were a graduate, would you apply?

6. Experience & qualifications required

Make sure to be clear about any experience that is required – e.g. previous office environment experience, or whatever is appropriate for the situation – and what qualification you would like the candidate to have (diploma, degree, masters, etc.).

7. How to apply

Include full contact details, method of applying and closing date in this section.

Happy Recruiting!

About the author

claire mcnamee new frontiers blanchardstown dublin ireland

Claire Mac Namee

Claire is the New Frontiers Programme Manager at the Institute of Technology in Blanchardstown. New Frontiers at Blanchardstown is run from the LINC (Learning & Innovation Centre) where Claire is also Enterprise Manager – taking care of the marketing, communications, events and incubation services for the centre. Claire has worked with over 300 startup companies since joining the LINC in 2008…. [Read Claire’s profile]

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How to build a successful startup recruitment process


As a startup, making hires is an important decision that can have a huge impact on your finances, as well as on your productivity and growth. As an entrepreneur, you may not have any previous experience of recruitment, and you’re unlikely to have an HR Department to take care of this for you. Putting in place a successful recruitment strategy will require you to learn new skills and processes. Here are my tips for getting started.

Recruitment is the action of employing someone for one of two scenarios: to either fill a role that has been vacated, or to fill a role which has been created because of increased demand or business expansion. If you’re a startup, it’s most likely that you are recruiting for a new position. You may find the proposition of creating a new role daunting, but remember that you are potentially creating a competitive advantage that was previously untapped!

The recruitment process

There are five stages to recruitment:

  1. Vacancy verification – What is the position to be filled?
  2. Person specification – Who is the person to fill the position?
  3. Sourcing candidates – Where is the best place to find the best candidates?
  4. Interviewing and selection – Is the candidate as credible as their CV?
  5. Job offer – The right package for the right candidate.

An aspect of recruitment which tends to be over-looked is the expense that recruiting the incorrect candidate will generate for the organisation – in terms of re-advertising, low productivity, and increased training costs.

A person who has been recruited into a position that is unsuited to them will suffer from low morale, excess levels of stress, and may leave the job within the first few months of starting. To get the most out of it, it is imperative that you invest enough time and thought when creating the position.

Vacancy verification

The first step in this process is to decide what you want:

  • What are the responsibilities of this role?
  • What are the targets and objectives of this role?
  • Is this a full-time or part-time position?
  • Does this project have a time frame or is it an on-going role?
  • Who will this position report and be accountable to?
  • Could this position be out-sourced?

Spend 30 minutes considering these questions. You know you want somebody to work for the company, but what do you want them to do? It must be clear to you what you want or it will never be clear to the employee.

Person specification

Once the parameters of the job have been considered and developed, it is time to look at the person who will fill this role. What personality best suits the role? What education or experience levels would you prefer, or indeed does the job dictate? It is important to consider that we inhabit a culture that places immense emphasis on educational qualifications; however qualifications do not equate to experience. In my experience – if you have to decide between the two – qualifications can be gained in a short period of time, but experience cannot be bought.

Sourcing candidates

Next, you need to consider where the most appropriate placing of this vacancy is. General positions such as retail, tradesmen, hospitality, general operatives, etc. can be sourced from a relativity small pool; in this case the local newspaper may be the most useful tool. As the position becomes more specialised, jobs websites may become more appealing and these can reach a broader pool of talent. However, if this is unsuccessful it may be desirable to use a recruitment company to take the effort out of sourcing.

It is worth noting that recruitment company fees range typically range from 17% to 27% of the total annual salary of the prospective candidate. So, for example, if you are hiring an engineer with a starting salary of €60,000, you could pay anywhere from €10,700 to €16,200 in finder fees. You’ll need to consider what would be the best return on investment in this situation.

Interviewing and selection

This is your opportunity to flesh out the applicant’s CV, and a great chance to understand the applicant and their experience, as well as their expectations of the role and its future development. It is important to consider the CV and the person separately from each other and to make a list.

Firstly, based on the information contained in their CV, which candidate would you be most likely to hire? Secondly, after meeting with the applicants, make a list of which candidates you would be most likely to hire based on personality and the interaction of the interview. Is the same person at the top of both lists? It is very unlikely that they will be.

You need to consider what you value most from each candidate and their role within the organisation. The recruitment of candidates  based only on intuition leaves the organisation vulnerable. As highlighted at the beginning of this article, employing an unsuitable candidate is expensive and time-consuming.

Job offer

At this stage, you have chosen the person you feel best suits the role you have available and now you need to make them an offer. A job offer is generally about more than money – depending on where the applicant is in their professional life cycle – however you will have to work within industry standards to attract the right talent.

Packages for employees can be expensive if you start to consider medical plans, pension plans, employee assistance programmes, etc., but at this stage of your business you have something that bigger organisations don’t have: flexibility. Work is no longer nine to five, and life no longer exists outside of this time frame either. You know this, it’s what you live. This is something people want in their working life, and the goodwill that can be generated from this will be incalculable.


Employers need to consider the recruitment process as a business transaction; you wouldn’t buy the wrong piece of machinery, or a computer package that didn’t meet your requirements. Similarly, you shouldn’t recruit someone just because you like them or have a ‘good feeling’ about them or because they have an attribute on their CV which you feel is missing from your own skill set. You can return or exchange a piece of equipment that doesn’t work correctly or is unsuitable for your needs, but you cannot do this with an unsuitable appointment.

The recruitment process is a reflection of your company’s standards and creates your employee’s expectation for the tasks ahead. A successful recruitment can add huge value to your startup and drive your business forward. It is well worth putting in the ground-work!

About the author

Katie Murphy New FrontiersKatie Murphy

Katie is a New Frontiers participant at Waterford Institute of Technology. Katie’s background is in Human Resources, but she has recently founded an innovative agri-business startup, Clún-Ór… [Read Katie’s profile]

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