Our Philosophy on Talent

By Marie-Eve Bernard

Great companies can only be built with great people. This is something that Francois Lafortune believed in deeply and he knew Talent needed to be a priority when he was starting Diagram. It’s so important that it’s built into the definition of what Diagram does – we start with big ideas, we turn them into businesses, we rally passionate teams and we catalyze success. Francois knew that if the companies that Diagram would be building didn’t have talent support, they wouldn’t become the world-class businesses that he was determined they become. This is where I came in. I was the second hire at Diagram and share Francois’s philosophy on just how crucial great people are to building businesses. I have seen first hand just how big of an impact bad hires can have and how great ideas mean nothing if there aren’t great people to execute on them. My task was straightforward but very ambitious, build out a Talent and HR team that would be there every step of the way to support our portfolio companies as they’re launched, took their first steps and scaled up. 

Talent and HR are a critical part of early-stage startups but can be quite tricky. For starters, early-stage companies don’t usually have someone responsible for HR and it is typically the CEO or COO who takes on the task. Once early-stage founders have exhausted their immediate networks, they will usually need a more sustainable source of Talent, driven by a challenging hiring process and a keen eye for strategic hiring plans relevant for their industry. 

On top of having to recruit, interview, negotiate and hire, it often falls to the CEO to do all the administrative HR tasks. These include but aren’t limited to setting up payroll, onboarding new hires, building out policies (time off, HR policies, employment agreements etc). While hiring is a key responsibility for a Founder, it can be overwhelming when they are also focused on leading the company, refining product-market fit and bringing on early-stage clients or partners. “While building my team is my responsibility, I couldn’t have done it as quickly and efficiently without the help of Marie-Eve. She is the HR and strategic advisor that we trust to take care of the details.” highlighted Nesto’s CEO, Malik Yacoubi.  

Diagram knew that, in order for its global technology companies to succeed in their bold mission of improving the world, they would need to have a strong in-house Talent and HR team. Diagram’s Talent team works directly with Founders to support them in everything from recruiting to onboarding to performance reviews. We also help deploy benefits and compensation and training. We provide Founders with turnkey HR processes that have been field-tested and that can be tweaked to fit the entrepreneur. We are also able to provide feedback on hiring plans, role definition, and benchmarks for future growth. Diagram’s Talent team even guides CEOs on how to deal with employee departures and challenging situations. Finally, founders really value the network of candidates we’ve built over the last 3 years and our ability to leverage that network to find the right person for key roles. 

It’s important to point out that we aren’t an external support system, we basically form the Talent and HR department within each company at a certain period in their growth. What makes Diagram’s model even more unique is that Diagram’s Talent Team is also a startup best-practices school. This means that every team member we hire is trained with the same tools and processes and, if needed, can become a temporary or permanent member of a portfolio company. In some cases, our team members went on to lead the Talent & HR department of our portfolio companies. It is an extremely unique experience, one that I have never before seen in action. 

We have the opportunity and the challenge of working with different founders, different teams and company cultures. We believe that implementing a challenging and rigorous hiring process is the key. Out of all the candidates that apply and that we contact, only 3% make it through. We ensure that our companies are only hiring the best possible employees in terms of technical skills, soft skills and culture fit. To maximize success, we train founders and CEOs while adapting our process to their own philosophy and business culture.  

Early employees are key to a startup’s success. Only a few hiring mistakes can be devastating to a startup with only a handful of employees.  We make sure that every hire can deliver on short and mid-term objectives, that we help founders define and clarify. We’d rather hire on the ability to deliver results rather than on role requirements. We also hire slowly at first to make sure that startups can integrate new employees while maintaining their culture. We also make sure to start recruiting only when we and the founders are clear and aligned on the role definition, the new employee’s objectives, the budget and the timing.

After having started 6 companies (Including Diagram), our team’s experience and knowledge allow founders to minimize risk when hiring, integrating and growing employees. Although our companies are still young, we’re currently seeing an extremely low turnover rate which shows that our process is working. Since July of 2016, we have hired 450 employees for these 6 different companies.

Stay tuned for more updates as we launch world-class companies, explore the Diagram model and highlight seasoned Founders.  If you are interested in joining our team as a Talent and HR specialist or any other position within our ecosystem please visit our site