As a savvy entrepreneur, you’re probably more than familiar with the rise of Facebook and its fresh-faced founder, Mark Zuckerberg. What you may not be aware of is everything that happened after his bio flick The Social Network.
In other words, the day-to-day business intricacies that keep Facebook at the top of its game.
One of the ingredients in the company’s secret sauce is the simple fact that Facebook treats its employees well — free food, free dry cleaning, as well as a lot of other enticing benefits. But make no mistake — the key attraction is the company’s culture and the vision of Zuckerberg, its leader.
Zuck has ‘turned’ many an engineer. For some critical hires, the conversation started with, “No, thank you, I’m not interested.” But Zuck would then take the prospective employee on a long walk up a trail into the mountains (a tactic borrowed from his idol, Steve Jobs), a walk that ended on a hilltop with a breathtaking view and the culmination of Zuck’s pitch, perfectly timed. That walk completely changed minds and showcased Zuck’s vision.
That Facebook’s team is one of the strongest in the industry isn’t the result of luck; it’s the result of Zuck’s strategic approach to hiring the best.
The lesson: Develop smart hiring strategies consistent with your cultural values to bring the right people on board.
Team building extraordinaire
The right people are not those who have the right competency; they are those who have the right attitude. Some of the most successful businesses have a non-traditional, strengths-based approach to hiring – hire the best talent first, then worry about finding the right role for them.
Facebook is one example of such a business: Facebook knows how valuable the right people are. A lot of times, they hire engineers for their skills and their vision of the future.
Once a new hire is in the office, wondering what his responsibilities are, his instructions will be something along the lines of, “Take a look around, figure out what the problems or opportunities are, and help bridge them.”
The company encourages its workers to form teams around projects they’re passionate about, because Facebook’s leaders clearly understand that great work comes out of doing what you adore.
Not only does this approach ensure that employees give their best to the project, but it also provides opportunities for career growth based on smarts and competence, not on credentials.
In that sense, everyone is equal. You are recognised and respected based on your contributions to the improvement of the product; your résumé or your age doesn’t matter.
Facebook is a company where ideas turn into products whether you are an intern or the CEO himself. “Pixels talk,” says Joey Flynn, one of the designers of the Facebook timeline. “You can do anything here if you can prove it.”
The flat management structure at Facebook supports that approach. For a US-based company, there are very few vice presidents. Matt Cohler, Facebook’s fifth employee, says: “We were determined to keep things as flat as possible. The harder we make it for people to invent together, the faster we fall behind.”
Andrew ‘Boz’ Bosworth, who taught Zuckerberg’s artificial-intelligence class at Harvard and is now Facebook’s director of engineering, concurs. “God forbid we spend a single day not trying to prepare for tomorrow’s Facebook. You’ve seen company after company that rose to greatness struggle with scale, struggle with culture,” he says.
Offer your employees a non-traditional career path that is based on their contributions and value-based behaviours and not on their age or credentials.
Challenging the norm
What’s more, the best leaders recommend hiring outside of the industry. An outside look can offer a fresh perspective and often re-energises the company. Steve Jobs was one such leader.
“Part of what made the Macintosh great was that the people working on it were musicians and poets and artists and zoologists and historians who also happened to be the best computer scientists in the world,” he said.
Southwest Airlines is another company that believes in hiring outside of its industry in order to find the right people. The strategy must be working: For the past 40 years, Southwest has been challenging the conventional wisdom successfully.
Despite being one of the smaller airlines, Southwest has not only stayed in business, but prospered, becoming a customer favourite and an industry darling. Sherry Phelps, top executive in the People Department, explains the company’s hiring philosophy:
“The first thing we look for is the ‘warrior spirit.’ So much of our history was born out of battles – fighting for the right to be an airline, fighting off the big guys who wanted to squash us, now fighting off the low-cost airlines trying to emulate us. We are battle-born, battle-tried people. Anyone we add has to have some of that warrior spirit.”
Southwest’s HR department prefers to recruit teachers, waiters, and police officers as opposed to airline industry veterans. “We would rather take an eager, hungry, customer-oriented mind and mold it to what works well at Southwest, than try to change the habits of someone who’s come up through an organisation that views life differently,” Phelps says.
Every now and then, Southwest hires employees of other legacy airlines. But according to Phelps, it doesn’t happen as often as anyone might think. Southwest is a brand that understands what makes its employees tick and what attributes it is looking for in a new hire. And that attribute isn’t necessarily prior airline industry experience.
In 1962, John F Kennedy visited the NASA space centre. He noticed a janitor who was deep in his work, sweeping the room the president was touring. Kennedy greeted the man: “Hi. I’m Jack Kennedy. What are you doing here?” Without any hesitation, the janitor responded: “I’m helping put a man on the moon, Mr President.”
Hire for attitude. Skills can be taught. Passion can’t.
Why You Should (Seriously) Stop Hiring People
Employing a whole bunch of people means you have a ‘real’ company, right? Wrong. The best thing you can do for your young company is to hire slowly… very slowly.
When does a start-up begin to feel like a proper business? For many people it comes down to two things: Renting a fancy office and hiring a whole bunch of people. And because these two things signify success in many peoples’ minds, founders tend to rush into them, hiring a bunch of employees and installing them in a freshly-painted office. However, according to Sam Altman, the president of Y Combinator, it’s the worst thing you can do as a founder.
“One of the weird things you’ll notice as you start a company, is that everyone will ask you how many employees you have. And this is the metric people use to judge how real your start-up is and how cool you are. And if you say you have a high number of employees, they’re really impressed. And if you say you have a low number of employees, then you sound like this little joke,” says Altman.
“But actually it sucks to have a lot of employees, and you should be proud of how few employees you have. Lots of employees end up with things like a high burn rate, meaning you’re losing a lot of money every month, complexity, slow decision-making, the list goes on and it’s nothing good.”
Growth is a good thing, of course, but the kind of growth is important to pay attention to. You want your sales to grow. You want your revenue to grow. You want your profits to grow. You don’t want your expenses to grow any more than is absolutely necessary to facilitate revenue and profit growth.
“You want to be proud of how much you can get done with a small numbers of employees. Many of the best YC companies have had a phenomenally small number of employees for their first year, sometimes none besides the founders. They really try to stay small as long as they possibly can. At the beginning, you should only hire when you desperately need to. Later, you should learn to hire fast and scale up the company, but in the early days, the goal should be not to hire,” says Altman.
“And one of the reasons this is so bad, is that the cost of getting an early hire wrong is really high. In fact, a lot of the companies that I’ve been very involved with, that have had a very bad early hire in the first three or so employees never recover, it just kills the company.
Early hires are tricky, argues Altman, because they are more like co-founders than employees. They will be entering the business when it is still young, so they need to be motivated by the same things that are motivating the founders.
If they need ‘management’ in the traditional sense, and if they care about things like working hours and number of leave days, they probably won’t work well in a start-up. So, when hiring an extra hand becomes an absolute must, you need to fight the urge to employ the first decent person you interview. Hold out for someone you could picture as your co-founder.
“Airbnb spent five months interviewing their first employee. And in their first year, they only hired two. Before they hired a single person, they wrote down a list of the culture values that they wanted any Airbnb employee to have. One of those was that you had to bleed Airbnb, and if you didn’t agree to that they just wouldn’t hire you. As an example of how intense Brian Chesky is — he’s the Airbnb CEO — he used to ask people if they would take the job if they got a medical diagnosis that they have one year left to live. Later he decided that that was a little bit too crazy and I think he relaxed it to ten years, but last I heard, he still asks that question,” says Altman.
Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg was similarly careful about hiring in the early days. “Mark Zuckerberg once said that he tries to hire people that he’d be comfortable hanging with socially and that he’d be comfortable reporting to if the roles were reversed. This strikes me as a very good framework. You don’t have to be friends with everybody, but you should at least enjoy working with them. And if you don’t have that, you should at least deeply respect them. But again, if you don’t want to spend a lot of time around people you should trust your instincts about that,” says Altman.
3 Steps To Find And Keep Top Talent In Your Business
In just ten short years digital solutions have revolutionised the way we do business — but have they changed the way you hire and engage staff? Here’s how you can use online tech to find and retain top employees.
The world is more connected than ever before. This has opened up endless possibilities for businesses, and allowed companies to understand their markets better, to collaborate more effectively internally and target prospective clients and talent more accurately.
Having said that, I don’t believe that human resources as a discipline has been given the necessary attention online, especially alongside other disciplines such as marketing, sales and customer relationship management. Those who work in human resources, particularly within medium to large businesses, know that there are challenges when attracting the best talent and doing so within tight deadlines.
I’d like to share with you a simple model that I’ve developed that should help you effectively consider how HR management lives within the business and operates online. The model is called the TOE: Talent, Organisation and Employees. It answers the very simple questions of: How do you attract talent; retain your best employees; and enable your employees to engage with prospective talent — all encompassed by technology?
This model demonstrates how businesses can no longer rely on B2C or B2B communications, but that the key to successful communication is H2H: Human-to-Human. This is where empowering your current employees to attract talent on your behalf becomes powerful.
I break this model down into three steps: Attract, Retain and Engage.
1Attract: How does your organisation attract talent?
Here you outline the type of talent you’re after and you draw up a persona that includes the possible online ‘watering holes’ where this talent may be found. You may want to make use of the four dimensions of audience profiling as well: Motivational (the why behind the career); Demographic (the affluence and life stage); Attitudinal (emotions, preferences or needs states); and Behavioural (what are they doing online?).
From there you evaluate the type of content that would most likely resonate with this talent group. It may be something like an eGuide within their field of interest; a How To guide similar to this one; a video interview with a big player in the industry that speaks positively about your business.
You also want to showcase your business as an employer of choice and so this content needs to showcase the inner working of the business, the culture, the people and the ‘team’. From there you would use programmatic media buying (or platform marketing) to effectively target this talent group online.
With the use of offline and online data, targeting carefully selected channels, the ability to address this talent group personally and at scale is very possible.
Channels that work for attracting talent include:
- LinkedIn: Particularly sponsored stories and inmail
- Programmatic third party: Especially when an effective data management platform is incorporated, such as a tool like Google Double Click as a DSP (demand side platform) and Blue Kai as a DMP (data management platform)
- Facebook: Focusing on dynamic content that can easily be shared.
2Retain: How does your organisation retain top talent?
If there’s one thing that can be said about social media and the Internet, it’s that it has opened doors of communication in a new way. Communication between top executives and personnel is what breaks down the barriers of hierarchy and builds the sense of ‘team’.
This is where you want to enable effective communication through tools like Facebook for business, the Intranet, and smaller huddle groups that can be formed on tools like Slack. This is also where you want to find ambassadors within different business units and clusters that can be catalysts for conversation between the different layers of hierarchy.
Through this process you want to equip your employees and make them believe they’re working for the best business in the industry. That’s why sharing success stories, sharing tools for career advancement, and competitions, is important.
Channels that work for retaining involve:
- Facebook for business: Chances are your employees are on Facebook already
- Slack: A collaboration tool for task teams
- Intranet: With chat and forum capabilities.
3Engage: Are you Enabling Your Employees To Be Your Voice?
We all know that when a brand talks about itself it’s not as believable as when our peers talk about a brand. That’s the gist here. You need to develop an online policy that enables your employees to engage with prospective talent online.
From here you want to identify certain passionate employees that you feel most embody your brand values. The next step is to encourage them to connect with and converse with their peers online, thus portraying why working for your organisation is preferable. You want to equip your ambassadors with great content to share so that they engage as thought leaders.
Great content may come in the form of thought leadership blog posts generated by your organisation that can be shared by your ambassadors online.
Channels that work for engaging involve:
- Twitter: This is the foremost tool for easily jumping into conversations online
- LinkedIn: LinkedIn groups which are industry-specific are the best place to get involved in conversations online and to connect with peers
- Forums: Industry-specific forums are a great place to get connected and to share your expertise
The role of employees
Human resources is any business’s cornerstone. Even the most machine-heavy businesses need people. And that doesn’t mean only people who can do a job, but rather, people who make a difference in an organisation. That’s why attracting the best talent is not only a must, it’s imperative.
Through the above-mentioned model, I demonstrate how communicating from the organisation to the talent pool is only one piece of the pie. The most important piece is, without a doubt, the human-to-human element; the channel where your current employees become your ambassadors, and in turn start attracting talent on your behalf.
Hiring The Right Person Is Critical When Growing A Business
But how do you find the right mix of people?
There is no escaping the fact that human capital is often a company’s greatest asset. The right people actualise opportunities into results that boost not only business and financial growth, but inspire innovation.
By building a bigger pool of knowledgeable people, entrepreneurs can create different groups that all network and collaborate to deliver their unique skill-sets, be it strategic conceptualisation or creative support, ultimately your business’ growth will only benefit.
But how do you find the right mix of people?
The Cost of Mr./Ms. Wrong
It can take up to 6 months to 1 year to find out that you have made a hiring mistake and the cost implication is a big one. It is believed that a bad hire costs a business 50% of the employee’s annual salary. But it also goes beyond that, there is the cost of job advertisements, time associated with screening and shortlisting, administration and placement fees which impact your bottom line.
Once they enter your business there is the time associated with mentoring and training the person to get them to be where they need to be.
Realising you’ve made a bad hire takes time and in the months that lead up to the employees last day, your corporate culture could be severely disrupted.
Disengaged employees are likely to place strain on the rest of your workforce, while apathy and negativity may spread through your offices before the employee’s departure. But there is light at the end of the tunnel and all is not lost. It’s simply about learning how to find the right person!
Technology is Your Best Ally
Traditional hiring practices have become less accurate and difficult to measure, so in the information age it seems illogical that we are still using them.
We live in a world where technological revolutions are constantly changing the way we do business, and advances in recruitment technologies are reducing the chances of making a bad hire.
Through science and technology, entrepreneurs can now make informed decisions when making new hires, based on both culture and skills.
The right kind of technology can even automate part of the workflow that comes with repetitive and high-volume tasks of the HR function, leaving your manager free from CV diving, and giving them time to focus on the people in your business that are the right fit.
Through deploying people analytics using the data and data analysis techniques you will be able to understand, improve and optimise the people side of your business, thus improving growth and profit potential.
The logic is simple, predictive analytics to create a predictive model that determines future probabilities. Did you know that today there are algorithms that can predict potential and performance for recruitment, development and retention? Let’s not forget that machine based learning is not influenced, by emotional tags like personality, looks and familiarity. In fact, algorithm will only continue to learn from new data that is input to increase the accuracy of the solution it comes up with.
We all want the best for our business, and no venture is without risk. However, it’s also about mitigating that risk, and the simplest way is to do so is to make sure that the right people for your business keep revolving that door that creates opportunities for all.
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