Osbourne Clarke
Maru Inplacement

Key ‘takeaways’ for people directors scaling teams at speed

25 May 2021

Story by
Sarah Rice


For any start-up, moving into the scale-up stage is exciting and rewarding. It means your “baby” is growing and bringing value. But it also means you need all hands on deck to grow the business and serve customers well.

As organisations enter this fast growth phase, they’re oftentimes faced with a unique set of challenges as they try to evolve. That’s why during this time people experience plays a crucial role by nurturing any businesses’ most valuable component – it’s people.

Changing Times

The hospitality industry has been put through the ringer over the last 12 months; with restaurants, bars and other food businesses forced to close or restrict service.

A recent Just Eat report observed a 79% increase in online orders in the first quarter of 2021, nearly double its forecasted growth rate, as a boom in eating at home during the coronavirus pandemic continued in the UK. We saw this come to life when we found ourselves helping to process more than one million orders per week in the last year, a 750% increase.

In turn we needed to scale-up to continue serving customers. Our team quadrupled from 50 to 200 employees across nine markets over the space of year.

As a result our people experience efforts needed to evolve. The transition from start-up to scale-up is difficult at the best of times, but doing so rapidly during a global pandemic presents a unique set of challenges across the board.

Recruit Smarter

A recent report by The Scaleup Institute indicated that 46% of all scale-up businesses view access to talent is a priority challenge to overcome (2021). We all know that a company is nothing without it’s people; but during a period of rapid growth having the right talent, in the right roles at the right time has never been more important for success.

Many scale-ups fall into the trap of over investment just to ‘bulk’ out the team, but remember recruitment drives always need to be meaningful or run the risk of wasting staff resources.

To combat this timing is key for any efficient recruitment plan – remember to ask yourself: ‘When would be the best time to hire for this role? On the other hand waiting until a department is desperately in need of support could have catastrophic consequences, while under-investment could leave you with a half manned ship. It’s all a balancing act.

Engage Better

Recruiting talent is only half the battle. A key element of any scale-up is motivating and retaining employees.

The best way to do that is to prioritise employee engagement within growth plans. Setting aside time to listen and gain insights from team members regularly.

Businesses can’t afford to cut corners and assume what suits their team members. It takes time to enhance the employer experience. At Deliverect, listening to what our team members want has helped us prioritise our benefits package, the training session we invest in and the social causes we support.

Breaking down hierarchy and asking employees exactly what they want and need to feel supported in the workplace will serve to develop a talent force aligned with an aligned company culture, which ultimately boosts retention for the long term..

Key takeaways

As the world slowly returns to normal, so will confidence in the wider business landscape.

The talent is there – the biggest challenge we face is knowing how and when to invest in talent wisely (both new recruits and top talent). People teams need to be able to sit side-by-side with business leaders in order to drive the people agenda and attract, support and retain talent as a number one priority in the journey of scaling up.

By working collaboratively with senior leadership, people teams are better equipped to design and foster a happy working environment for all which is key for retention and engagement.

Jennifer Gardner serves as Head of People at Deliverect, a SaaS integration platform connecting restaurants with their customers digitally



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