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Evolving Enterprise: Building a World-Class Team

March 16, 2022

People are your company’s biggest asset. Attracting and retaining top talent is imperative to build a generational company, but the market for talent has never been more competitive. 

We sat down with Adam Ward (Partner at Growth by Design) and Ruby Hoose (Head of People & Talent at Tonic) to learn how leaders are building rockstar teams in today’s environment. 

Read on for their answers to top questions, or watch the replay: 

How do you create an effective process without sacrificing the candidate experience?

Sometimes you need to slow down in order to go fast. Start your hiring process by aligning your internal hiring team and working to understand exactly what you are looking for in the role. Identify “what good looks like” for the role, and compare candidates to an objectively successful profile—not to one another.

If you’re a small company, one of your greatest advantages right now is speed. Small companies that make slow decisions are giving away one of the few advantages they have against big companies that move slowly. Optimize for a nimble, high-touch process.

Use your hiring managers, founders, and investors at the poles of the process. Leverage them as interviewers to activate hard-to-engage candidates and/or to close high-priority candidates.

The qualities and skills that matter the most usually get screened out by the founder in the last interview. Pull those “knockout” questions to the front of your interview processes to save time.

Showing care for a candidate is free and will always help differentiate you. Make people feel important and heard. Take the time to understand why they’re thinking of changing jobs and ensure that you and your team sell to those points throughout the entire process.

Be consistent throughout the process. A candidate feeling like the company really wanted them throughout correlates highest with positive feedback on the interview process and offer acceptance rate. If you assess and sell throughout the process (rather than just turning on selling mode at the close), then the close becomes a run through the finish.

How do you strike a balance between selling—and assessing—a candidate? 

Ask candidates what they care about in the very first conversation. Sample questions include:

  • “Why would you consider leaving?”
  • “What are you looking for in your next role?”

Make sure the interview team is focused on selling to meet those motivators. The magic of recruiting is when a candidate hears a relatively consistent message throughout an interview process that matches the things they’re motivated by.

Don’t waste people’s time. The further along you go into an interview process, the fairer it is to ask folks to do things like case studies and take-home exercises. Don’t start with big asks on time up front.

Get back to candidates. If someone interviews at your company, you should send them a note no matter the outcome. Remember: The hardest part of being a candidate is the lack of information—a “no update” update is better than nothing. You’ll get points for making the connection even if you aren’t moving them forward with either positive or negative news.

How do you handle keeping up with the market? What are best practices for making an offer?

The shelf life of comp data has gone from 6 months to 6 weeks. Whoever is talking to candidates has the most up-to-date market data—you must respond to the market, but balance the ask against your compensation principles. Here are some other closing strategies:

  • Identify your highest priority roles. Align internally on which roles you’re willing to break your compensation bands for—and which ones you’re not.
  • Proactively embed the story of your company’s success. Starting with the very first conversation with a candidate, share what you can around revenue growth, customer numbers, or any other growth in order to help the candidate understand your company’s trajectory.
  • Point to objective, noncontroversial facts that have already happened (e.g. ARR, MAU, etc.). Ground your reasoning in the fundamentals of your business, and use examples of companies that have already had an exit to paint an outcome picture. Help candidates cross the chasm by telling the story of growth grounded in data that is generally understood or accepted in the market.
  • Consider using visual offer letters. These can be a great way for candidates to better understand the total compensation package (equity being offered and potential growth, how much they are receiving in benefits, base/bonus), and they help to paint a more complete picture. Take credit for all that you’re providing in compensation so there is a holistic understanding. Don’t forget to share both extrinsic and intrinsic gains from joining your company.

Why does employee branding matter?

Your biggest asset in recruiting is your current employees. They can help you sell and can be an incredible source of referrals. Consider building a paid referral program for your high-priority roles (e.g. $5K after the new hire has been at the company for 90 days).

Pay attention to your brand on sites like Crunchbase or AngelList, and consider paid sites like BuiltIn or The Muse to boost your brand in the market. Make sure that the content and story candidates are seeing is relevant and consistent.

Beyond staying competitive on compensation, what are other ways to retain top talent?

Providing performance and growth opportunities is critical to retaining top talent. Think about where you can put employees in stretch opportunities so they can continue to grow and develop their careers.

Consider running “stay interviews” around employee milestones (i.e. six-month mark, one-year mark, etc.). Consider asking employees:

  • How are you doing?
  • Are you enjoying the company? Your role?
  • Do you see opportunities for growth?
  • Do you feel like you’re making an impact?

Acknowledge and celebrate milestones, and use them as a touchpoint for employee satisfaction. Think about what makes people thrive at work and what impacts their ability to succeed, especially now. If you’re a remote-first or hybrid organization, consider offering coworking stipends or finding ways for people to get together in person. It’s also increasingly important to have a strong healthcare/benefits offering and a competitive vacation policy.

How are you dealing with burnout? 

Make sure your managers are using their 1:1s with team members to check in on how they’re doing—not just to run through their to-do list. Be transparent with how you’re doing personally, and get creative with ways to support people to do their best work.

Consider creating companywide breaks/day(s) off. For some people, it’s hard to be the only person on the team taking time off. When everyone is taking a break, it’s easier.

Get more tactical tips in our Evolving Enterprise series: