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Hiring Employees

Be Like Zuck

Lessons on building a team from Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook.

Ekaterina Walter

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Mark Zuckerberg from Facebook

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.

Read Next: Branson on Why Hiring Should Be Your Number One Job

 

Ekaterina Walter led strategic and marketing innovation for brands such as Intel and Accenture, and is currently a cofounder and CMO of Branderati. She is an international speaker and author of the WSJ bestseller Think Like Zuck: The Five Business Secrets of Facebook's Improbably Brilliant CEO Mark Zuckerberg and co-author of The Power of Visual Storytelling: How to Use Visuals, Videos, and Social Media to Market Your Brand. Ekaterina sits on a Board of Directors of Word of Mouth Marketing Association (WOMMA). Her thought leadership was featured on CNBC, ABC, NBC, Fox News, First Business Chicago, TechCrunch, WSJ and more. You can find her on Twitter: @Ekaterina

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Hiring Employees

4 Benefits Of Business Process Outsourcing For Small Businesses

Using data outsourcing has many benefits for your small business and is something you need to consider should you want to improve and make your company more efficient.

Tasmin Copley

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When starting a business, you don’t always estimate the amount of work and skills needed to operate and manage your business efficiently. But that’s where business process outsourcing (BPO) comes in handy, and can save many startups from going under before they’ve barely begun making waves in the market.

Take a look at your small business. Are you constantly searching for qualified and experienced people to undertake tasks but never having the funds to employ and fill all the necessary roles? Do you find that most of your time, as manager, is spent on administrative tasks that don’t directly contribute to any of your company’s goals?

The way you’re going to save your business and grow it at the rate you initially projected, will be by outsourcing these activities to computer and data processing services who can overlook those details while you attend to your business. Using data outsourcing has many benefits for your small business and is something you need to consider should you want to improve and make your company more efficient.

1. Rely on the professionals

One benefit of using data and form processing services is that you can rely on the professionals to get the job done. Their business is to monitor, process and report on the processes of your business that you entrust to them. And you won’t have to worry about hiring and training a whole new team or spending countless hours on those mundane tasks. Data processing, marketing or accounting is their speciality and they know exactly what they’re doing.

And the best part is that there are a variety of business processes that can be outsourced.

Related: The Surprising Tasks Your Competitors Are Outsourcing

2. Save time on most business processes

A great benefit of BPO is that you will no longer be responsible for the tasks you didn’t necessarily sign up for when you started the business. This means you can take every minute saved by outsourcing to develop the areas of the business that made you start up in the first place.

Different department functions that can be outsourced include:

  • Human resources: The hiring process can be a long and draining one. Outsourcing your human resources means there are other people responsible for filtering through hundreds of CVs and applicants based on what you’re looking for through a series of high-quality-candidate databases. All you’ll need to worry about is the final interview and meeting.
  • Marketing: Understanding your target audience is important in business. And marketing is the tool that allows you to engage, manage your brand reputation, acquire new customers and maintain your current client relationships. But if you aren’t a marketing firm, there’s a chance you’ll miss these ROI opportunities, which is where outsourcing would be the best option.
  • Customer service: Not many small businesses can afford to operate and set up a 24/7 call centre within their offices. Outsourcing call centres to manage your customer support is more common than you may think and will save you the effort and resources of creating a new department in your company.
  • Finances: You business’ finances are arguably the most important asset that needs to be tracked and managed. We can’t all be financiers and since finance is so important in business, outsourcing your business finances is advisable. You won’t find yourself spending more than you can afford, you won’t have to worry about payroll, tax preparation or any accounting activities. Your financial BPO will take care of it all and you can stick with what you know best about business.

By making use of business process outsourcing, you’re allowing yourself and your employees the opportunity to hone in on the skills you already have instead of trying to find time to learn new ones that aren’t related to your everyday job description. This will also allow your company to become more efficient in its industry as the focus will be solely on the business’ product or service offering.

3. Reduce operation costs

The reason why small and large businesses choose to outsource business processes is the opportunity to reduce operating costs. Also, it’s incredibly convenient and stress-relieving to not have to try and do a job you don’t quite understand and aren’t qualified to do.

BPO reduces operating costs as you won’t have to spend money on new employees, employee training or the equipment and software to carry out those tasks. You will also be saving yourself time on tasks that don’t need to be done in the office. That time can then be put into business-focused activities that can make your company more efficient in the product or service it offers customers.

Related: 5 Time-Consuming Tasks Small-Business Owners Should Outsource

4. A competitive edge

Having the extra time to focus on the real work your business does, will give you a competitive edge. And not only in the industry of small businesses. Having the resources to make your business products efficient and the best on the market has the potential to make you a competitor amongst larger businesses.

By choosing the right BPO companies, your business will also be operating with the latest technology and software – without you having to pay extra for it. This is an edge above most small business who attempt to do everything on their own before they’ve established the necessary profit margins to make those upgrades and remain consistent in their development.

These are just four of the many benefits of BPO. Make the smart business decision and use BPO to your advantage. It’s a quick, easy and affordable way to build your company and witness exponential growth.

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Hiring Employees

How Your Company Can Easily Attract Fresh Talent

Well, there are many ways to go about attracting fresh talent, the easiest of which are…

Tasmin Copley

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The minds that are walking out of university these days have so much potential and power which many companies are longing for. Fresh new minds that are eager to start working and applying themselves in the “real” world. The best interests of your company lie in attracting this fresh batch of millennial talent. So how exactly could you do that?

Provide opportunities to learn

Millennials are after experience and career growth. They want to know that the company they will be working for is prioritising that journey. And what better way to encourage them on their career path than providing learning opportunities within the business?

A few of the main ways companies provide their employees with opportunities to learn are through internships, learnerships and mentorships.

  • Internships: An internship is like a pre-entry level position where interns have an opportunity to learn the ropes and figure out if this is, in fact, the industry or career they want to be building a career in. This is an extremely valuable and appreciated opportunity for most graduates and a way for companies to easily spot talent. If both parties are happy with how the internship has been carried out, all the employer needs to do is offer up a permanent post.
  • Learnerships: What is a learnership? And what are the benefits of a learnership in a company? A learnership is an educational training programme that companies offer to employees which allows them to gain work experience while learning industry-relevant theory. It’s more than a basic internship as learnership jobs can lead to a registered NQF qualification. This is beneficial to the company as they can be certain that all their employees are equally knowledgeable about their work and millennial applications will be flooding in for the opportunity to add further education and experience to their CVs through this opportunity.
  • Mentorships: Fresh minds are still newbies in the business and want to know that they’ll be taught (not spoon fed). This is where companies can offer mentorships that new employees can work with seasoned employees to gain business tips and insights that will help them become better. This is what graduates are looking for, an opportunity to learn from the best in order to be the best.

Related: Hiring Tip: Ask About The Candidate, Don’t Talk About The Position

Be an innovative environment

You can’t expect to attract fresh minds and creative talents when your company lacks an innovative environment. People want to know that they will be challenged and inspired every day by their work environment. And it’s not about working overtime to keep your new employees stimulated, but about making sure they have the resources, creative team members and freedom to think outside of the box.

They need to know that their innovation will be encouraged and supported. When advertising for vacancies, don’t be afraid to mention some of the innovative projects you’ve done. It will definitely excite any innovative minds on the job-hunt and those are the types of people you need to elevate your company.

Provide flexible work schedules

Flexibility is the work-trend at the moment and young people are looking for flexibility from their jobs. Being flexible with your work schedules is in your company’s best interest for more reasons than just the talent you’ll be attracting:

  • Discourage the turnover rate of employees as they will have an increase in employee satisfaction.
  • Increase in productivity from punctual and purposeful employees.
  • And there will be an opportunity for extended business hours to increase customer satisfaction.

If you offer and implement it in the right way, flexible working hours are probably the easiest way to retain current and attract new talent to your company.

Be digitally relevant

Having the latest technology and digitally-advanced business processes shows new talent that you’re all about adapting to the constantly changing environment. They will want to work for you because this strive for relevance means they will constantly have opportunities to improve and find new ways of taking the company and industry forward.

Related: How To Know If You’re Mismanaging Your Staff

Start by improving your office processes and being more digitally savvy. The more “ancient” your ways of doing things, the less fresh talent you’ll attract. People don’t want to sit and struggle through admin when their time could be spent on something more useful and relevant to the current era.

By making the most of technology, it also shows that your company chooses to be “green” with how they conduct business. And being part of a “save the planet” movement while doing your day job is what most young people strive to do these days.

Every company can easily attract fresh talent by implementing the above practices. And the resources that are spent is nothing compared to the revenue these new minds can potentially bring in by being part of your company.

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Hiring Employees

Youth Employment An Opportunity

South Africa has a high youth unemployment rate – it is vital for business to consider alternatives for youth employment.

Henry Sebata

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A young female graduate with hands-on experience in setting up and running community projects, had resourcefully turned a hobby into an income-generating small business to support herself,  while seeking employment… a skilled person, wouldn’t you say?  It took her five long months to find employment – and in that time she received 50 rejections – 50 rejections with no useful feedback as to why she was being turned down.  We employed her – and within the first few days she’d surpassed our expectations, had added ‘value’, so much so, that two weeks later we assigned her to a project.

It’s this kind of potential that company recruitment approaches seem to overlook!

There are 6-million unemployed young people in South Africa – and the social and economic transformation economy that  is crucial for the country, is an economy that has been growing at less than the minimum 5-6 percent required to shrink unemployment, largely due to the under-performance of main institutions.

Related: Entrepreneurship – A Greener Pasture For Young People

Business accustomed to turning problems into opportunities of value-creation regards the South African Education and Training system as one that does not deliver in equipping young people with the requisite work and readiness skills.  There are government tax breaks and grants which provide opportunities for short term employment, but unfortunately these do not create value, nor are they sustainable as they are not used strategically.

Last year I had the good fortune to attend the Youth Employment Enterprise Skills Solutions (YEESS) summit in Nelson Mandela Metro – engaging with the young attendees I found that they were determined to change the view held by business that they are considered a risk, to one which recognises that they can, and do, add value and assist in realising opportunities, particularly because of their age -related attributes that give them the edge.

Young people

  • are a cost advantage – they cost less (South African staff is paid on the basis of the years of work rather than the value)
  • have a higher level of energy – they work faster and for longer hours
  • have flexibility – they learn new tasks /systems quickly, and are often more innovative
  • can increase revenue – they enjoy engaging with customers, and being ‘entrepreneurial’ (eager to promote products and services in the market)

Business should consider these opportunities – the model that many businesses currently use pays young people a stipend which usually just covers their living costs and employs them for a short period; and then the norm is to “find” something for them to do to keep them busy… a soul-destroying experience that in no way creates value and is certainly not one on which to build a career.

Related: Funding And Resources For Young SA Entrepreneurs

Alternatives to the existing model are to:

  • clearly pinpoint the opportunities and define the value (that the potential employee is required to add)
  • provide training – measuring potential is a challenge – a short training programme for job-seekers can clearly identify the ones who benefit most, and are thus likely to be the most valuable – and there is the plus of 4 BBBEE Skills development points for the training of unemployed people
  • provide a ‘proving’ period (3 to 12 months) where goals, expectations and support are clearly laid out -this provides an important business foundation experience in a productive environment considerably improving the chances of the young person’s absorption into the business culture.

By changing the way one views youth unemployment – to see youth employment rather as an chance to reduce costs, increase revenue and contribute to the building of skills and training future entrepreneurs – presents the perfect opportunity for business to contribute to the country’s future stability and gain economic returns.

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