How to hire and retain talent (including your own) in your social enterprise?

By Servane Mouazan


During our latest Ogunte brainy breakfast with the fabulous Futureheads Recruitment team and a lively group of women in social enterprises, we explored what it takes to hire and retain talent, we tapped in the crowd wisdom, we heard tips from the pros and the peers, and we all went away with valuable commitments. 

This session was hosted and animated by:

The big hiring questions that never go away

  • What do I do first? Hire, outsource, employ someone part-time full time?
  • How do I get the money? How do I set money aside for a bigger post?
  • Small investments, lead to returns, which in turn help us invest more. So, what should be invested in our people, outside of money? 

“Recruitment is always paired with clarity about what your organisation is about, the returns you are expecting and your cash flow. And that is itself also part of strategy.  There is no escape.”


Here are a few of the tips that circulated during our session: 

Before you hire

Think about your ecosystem

Ask yourself:

  • Where are you in this landscape? Who do you serve (not just your beneficiaries, but also other peers), 
  • Whose growth do you contribute to? And likewise who is there to help you grow?
  • What is on offer?
  • What are the “non negotiables”?
  • Before finding out if your future candidates are a cultural fit, what is actually your cultural DNA?
  • What is your management style?
  • What do you need to learn to delegate, let go of… (And why is it so painful now?)

What will you be able to do once you’ve let go of certain activities?

Work on your job description

  • Do you need to write “great, excellent, superb, amazing”? Who do you turn off? And.. what does it even mean?…
  • If many stakeholders contribute to write the job description, ensure they actually meet / talk. The job description needs to have a consistent jargon-free flow, it can’t feel like a patchwork.
  • Do you really need this long list of must-haves, nice to haves. You are hiring a human, not a super hero.
  • Who do your words speak to? Are they gendered? Are they excluding a part of the population?

You know that studies say men tend to apply even if they haven’t got the whole skill set. Women tend to shy away from jobs if they haven’t matched at least 80% of the requirements…. So much talent wasted. Work out what they can or can not do - yet - and make sure they can showcase how they have learnt and delivered in the past. You certainly need some expertise too. What you don’t need is someone stuck in a silo.

If you need a all-rounder, ask for an all-rounder, someone who is clear about what that means on a daily basis.


  • Ask yourself, what is distracting me right now? (collaborations, false opportunities, demands… )
  • What three things am I going to say no to?
  • When you know this, what is then left to do, and what specific help do you need to make this happen?

Interview Stage


Be Kaler at Futureheads say she has stopped giving people “second chances” after she was submerged with over one hundred applications for only 6 vacancies. So if the cover letter or the CV contains too many mistakes or doesn’t answer the requirements, or if the candidates seem to be jumping from one job to another without real purpose, and if this doesn’t really fit with the position on offer, she tends to eliminate them early on.

Remember, you are hiring a person who will help you grow your social business and have a bigger impact. Not a friend.

How to spot potential?

  • Have candidates focus on situational stories, where they illustrate their values or principles with real stories.
  • Ask a what if question… (“What if you were sitting on a pile of money, what would you do first…?”)

After you‘ve hired

Legal questions: what type of contract should I go for?

Evaluate the pros and cons of: ad hoc supplier, shared/part time contract, MOU with associates.

For more resources on various types of contracting, and hiring topics, look at the on ACAS website.  

Quick tip

Start small and let things grow. Amend your plans along the way. Is a full time worker really what you need right now? Are you already employed - as a director?

Growth phase

How to attract great talent when you cannot pay for it yet

Fast answers:

  • Get an advisory board
  • Work on your leadership, your visibility, great talent attracts great talents. Is your passion coming across?
  • Your helpers can join your programmes as participants, provide some valuable insights and also learn from you. Their support will be more tailored subsequently 

Additional resources

At Ogunte, we have used MovingWorlds Experteers, corporate or professional people willing to share their expertise abroad or in a new setting

Paoola, our chief Strategist is extremely valuable to help us validate our services, reframe and communicate our offer better.

On Purpose

This organisation offers 6 months placement of young leaders for purpose-driven businesses in the UK. The service is also available in Paris and Berlin.

Impact Hub, the co-working space for social entrepreneurs, share “non negotiables” in their membership documents as well as their job descriptions.  It’s a set of up to 8 or 10 bullet points that outlines key values, principles and beliefs, which you sign up to as a member or as staff. They use a particular language that fits their community.

DigitalMums: What a great decision to delegate our social media activities to Catherine Horsfield, who trained with DigitalMums agencies and set up her own social media consultancy. Catherine immediately got our values and ethos. She understands the market, the language, and she’s is a great promoter of women in social enterprises everywhere in the world. We value her decisions and her working style and she offers challenging insights. So that’s a win!  

Read the advice of Karen Lynch from Belu Water: “Don’t spend, invest!”

Get a daily drop of sound management / HR advice in your Slack app from the Harvard Business Review (HBR) bot. (1 min read daily) 

About generosity in the workplace

Read this article by Adam Grant. The author of Give and Take explains why generosity in the workplace continues to be more effective than selfishness and why it is critical for personal fulfillment.

Mandalah Global - Discover an example of company DNA/ Culture from this global Conscious Innovation company.

Mandalah’s Culture Guide

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