Cultivating sustainable team growth

Companies are made up of individual people; even Apple, the world’s biggest brand, would mean nothing without its employees. Imagine if Apple was hiring random people and their board was changing all the time. The recent departure of Jony Ive led to a one percent reduction in Apple shares.

While this may seem a small number, it was caused simply by one Apple employee leaving the company. This shows the importance of keeping your team and growing your business.

Bringing the right people on board is important for any business, particularly startups. Once a startup has obtained funding and has shown that their concept will generate revenue, it sounds like the perfect picture and is ready to begin. However, the startup must think about the people that will be present for this journey. When it comes to hiring people or finding the perfect talent, things are getting more difficult.

Where can I find the best people? Are they really good at what they are doing? Are they trustworthy? These questions can go on forever. It is nearly impossible to conduct a full-scale exam for every single candidate. Even if this were possible, how could you predict their future behaviour?

When it comes to human behaviour, the behavioural economics principle can help make things easier for you. The principle allows you to identify particular behaviours and helps you to keep your best talent in-house.

Steady team growth starts with the right job description. Usually, companies include all the expectations of the candidate point by point. While this process sounds very normal, it can lead to cognitive overloading. This is when too much information is delivered to the brain; the brain cannot make a decision and is likely just to ignore all the information. You might be looking for someone who can digest the entire job description and fulfil all these expectations. Unfortunately, the human brain is not evolved like a computer, and it has a cognitive capacity. When it cannot process information, it ignores it.

The solution is to categorise the job description into seven points. Where does the seven come from? Based on cognitive psychologist George A. Miller’s research (1956), seven is the perfect number of choices for our brain. You can categorise the job description into seven groups and add descriptions under each category.

Unconscious Bias

Another very common issue with job descriptions is unconscious bias. Your background, personal experiences, societal stereotypes, and cultural context can unconsciously influence your decisions and actions. For example, some roles for a creative position sound like the company is looking for an engineer. Although the startup needs a creative person, unconscious bias has prevented this from being clear in the job description. To prevent this, make sure the wording is reviewed carefully. If possible, send it to a proofreader and mention possible biases. By changing a couple of words, you can find the right candidate much more easily than you imagine.

Halo Effect

Another bias that can have a negative impact on recruitment is the halo effect. This is the tendency for an impression created in one area to influence opinion in another area. For example, you may not initially like the candidate based on something that is totally irrelevant to the job description. This can lead to your brain framing everything subsequent thing that person says as negative. Or, the opposite may occur. As humans, we, unfortunately, experience this without intention or awareness. In order to avoid this problem, try to be as objective as possible and write down every answer that the candidate provides. These answers should be judged after the candidate has left. Another alternative is to give each candidate a number and do not write their name on the assessment form. This can help to reduce the halo effect.

Dunning Kruger Effect

The next potential issue is the Dunning Kruger effect. This is a cognitive bias; a person mistakenly assesses their cognitive ability as greater than it is. The candidate may have an excellent CV and interview but may be unable to deliver what was promised. The solution to this is to ask the candidate specific questions that will assess their level of knowledge.

Fairness Effect

Once your team has been set up, it is vital to consider fairness. No one would enjoy an unfair work environment; working overtime, never complaining, delivering the results, but payment is delayed for two weeks, and at the same time, there is a new coffee machine in the office! Such a situation will trigger feelings of unfairness. The fairness effect can be observed on animals as well. So, we are hardwired for fairness. A small accounting error or forgetting to appreciate the overtime of staff may result in employees leaving your company. When an employee leaves a company, they take with them their knowledge and expertise, and you will have to start the whole hiring process from scratch. Always be transparent with your team and consider things from their position.


Uncertainty is another factor that people do not enjoy. When will the next tube arrive? Where is my Uber ride? How long do I have to wait in this queue? All these uncertain events make our life much harder. Our brains love to be certain; they want to know what will happen next. In a startup business, things may not go to plan. Indeed, this is the nature of all businesses. The key point is to be clear; even if conditions are worsening, you should inform your team of what is happening. It may be that someone on the team has a solution to your problem that you had not thought of. If your team sense that something is wrong but are given no information about what is happening, they will feel like they are waiting indefinitely for a delayed train. This may lead them to look elsewhere for a new role that will provide a greater level of certainty.

In summary, running a team can be difficult and there is no perfect recipe for retaining employees on your growing team. However, by using the behavioural economics principles discussed above, you will be able to create a path for steady team growth. As mentioned previously, these suggestions are not only for startups; even global brands may experience problems with steady team growth. To maintain steady team growth, use these principles and analyse the situations heuristically.