February 15, 2018 in Entrepreneur Advice, Talent

Why it’s critical to diagnose your company’s talent symptoms before investing in treatment

Despite being the most-often cited barrier to growth for entrepreneurs in emerging markets, talent acquisition is also one of the least understood.

Since we launched Open Capital Advisors in Nairobi in 2010, our advisory practice has helped small and medium-sized enterprises across Africa raise more than $100M. But we’ve found that our clients’ growth is consistently constrained by their struggle to identify, hire, and develop talent.

Our clients often feel that they simply need more capital so that they can afford the “right” team, or send staff for the “right” training. But they are disappointed when their new hire doesn’t “fit” or the training they invested in doesn’t change the management culture.

When talent pain points become severe enough to jump to the top of management’s agenda, it is often because of an underinvestment in talent systems. To scale successfully beyond a tight-knit founding team, businesses need to develop a continuous cycle of robust talent processes that cover talent planning, acquisition, and management.

We have seen companies that invest in hiring top talent, but fail to retain top performers as potential career paths are never documented or explained to promising recruits. Similarly, we see clients frustrated that their staff does not demonstrate the flexibility and problem solving that is critical to growing businesses — even though the performance management systems do not define or communicate these expectations.


You’ll only be able to solve your talent challenges if you understand the underlying issues. The quickest (albeit scariest) way to understand those issues is to ask your staff. That’s easier said than done. Few management teams at early-stage companies have the experience to know what to ask, or how to get objective feedback without opening the floodgates.

That is why we have developed a free talent diagnostic tool that helps companies understand the underlying drivers of strengths and weaknesses to help them prioritize how to spend their talent resources. Employees spend ~15 minutes completing an online survey that assesses the company’s performance across seven key areas. Once the surveys are complete, management receives a detailed report on the results as benchmarked against peers.

Companies receive customized reports and SGB learning tools

To date, more than 25 companies have taken our diagnostic, and they are already starting to refine their talent systems based on the results. As Nick Quintong, the CEO of PayGo, said about the tool, “OCA’s talent assessment gave our senior leadership team actionable insights, direct from our staff, and a clear bullseye of objectives to enact real change in our organization.” Or as Agnes Mucuha, one of the founders of Urban Coffee, said, “The talent diagnostic is a complete mind shift! and a path to connecting with the heart and souls of our employees! inspiring them to exceed customer expectations, always.”

We’ll be working with selected companies to design ‘right size’ solutions to key issues through targeted 4-week projects. To learn more about our Talent practice or to take the diagnostic today — go to our website!

Related Posts