Whether your company is well established or a new startup, you should approach hiring as a way to build the company, not just fill a position. Hiring is a huge responsibility that will determine your company’s culture and its future.
My first two companies were built on the model of "move fast and break things" and heavily funded by VCs. The lessons I learned from those dot-com era ventures — and the pain of having to lay off good people — led me to completely rethink how to hire people at my current company. It hasn't been easy, but now 31 percent of my company's North American employees have been with the company more than 6 years, and 12 percent more than 15 years. Here are five things I've learned in the process.
Resumes that focus on achievements in sales, promotions or other business success don’t always produce the best candidates and are more times than not a red flag for me. Watch out for the possessive adjective “my,” such as “my team” or “my account manager.” A boastful person doesn’t make a collaborative team member. Instead, look for a candidate who shows their cooperation on projects and is comfortable giving credit to others.
Education and experience are valuable, but a global perspective is probably even more so. Study and work conducted outside of hometowns, especially abroad, show that the person is likely curious, exposed to a variety of different experiences and willing to understand different perspectives.
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Additionally, look for candidates who show an interest in their own personal growth, not someone who simply wants to repeat what they’ve previously done in their past employment. Sometimes experience can be overrated — and maybe even a liability — as the individual might not want to learn from others or try new methods. You have to be willing to give someone the opportunity to exceed your expectations as well as their own.
Look at the applicant’s volunteer service, mentorships, extended education and activities. A lot can be gleaned from their social media accounts — they’ll show you what kind of content they gravitate towards, if they are inclusive or if they are out for their self interest. There are many altruistic people who want more than an income and who look for participation in a greater purpose, where they can find fulfillment from the company on different levels, intellectually, emotionally or spiritually.
To decrease turnover and hire for the long term, companies need to offer more than short-term benefits. It’s become a common practice in Silicon Valley to give employees an equity stake in the company in exchange for accepting a below-market salary. These employees bank on a financial windfall after an IPO or a sale. Despite some headlines, the unfortunate truth is that over 90 percent of startups fail and even when they don’t, stock options very rarely become valuable.
Companies should absolutely share in their wealth after an IPO or sale, but by offering equity as it’s currently done in Silicon Valley, entrepreneurs should be prepared for employees to turn over every two to four years, as startup culture encourages people to hop around collecting shares from different companies. An entrepreneur focused on growth and positive impact would not want employees and executives focused on an exit.
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Conversely, profit-sharing gets the entire team focused on building a healthy and long-lasting business because everyone gets a share of the business' success. This builds greater buy-in to the company’s mission, helps keep employees motivated and fosters a company building mentality rather than a stock appreciation mentality.
Employees can get a profit check even when profits are flat. There is nothing wrong with taking care of your people, vendors and community even in slow periods.
Your people need to know that you care about them and their future. The most valuable employees are the ones who want to seek out new challenges and ways to grow. Sometimes experience is overrated if the person doesn’t show an interest in growing with the company. If an employee shows commitment and passion in their current role but requests consideration for a promotion or transfer to another department, they’re showing you they want to stay and are up for proving themselves in a new way. In addition to promoting from within, business leaders should find the time to send an email thanking individuals for the work and value they bring to the company. Make the time to do this as often as you can.
Build community through annual company-wide awards. Don't focus on sales numbers or other competitive goals, but on awards for employees who volunteered to help others on projects, made themselves available and reliable the most and contributed to a positive company culture.
This is a significant part of my company’s culture manual. This policy is a personal one to me and stems from my Baha’i faith. My religion views gossip as worse than physical injury, because gossip is destructive. The emotional pain that people feel after hearing that they have been spoken about in a negative way often lasts much longer than physical pain and can be more difficult to heal. It will erode the trust developed in the team environment, hurt the confidence of valuable people and have people you would want to keep with you suddenly looking for new employment. Individuals who engage in gossip will not last long.
The team will ultimately determine the kind of company you build. When a candidate walks in the door, pay attention to how they greet the receptionist and interact with other people in the office. Hire genuinely kind, honest people, and you'll be hiring them for the long term.
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