Hiring for digital roles is in fashion, with both agencies and businesses building multidisciplinary teams including positions that didn’t exist a few years ago. In my years working in digital marketing, I’ve done my fair share of hiring, training and firing and for the most part, I did an alright job… But experience and all, 1 out of 3 times, I still got it wrong.
With the help of a few tools, I’ve developed a much more powerful way to find, hire and train for digital roles. Today I will share some insights into our hiring process, a process that defines the success of the agency.
One of the many mistakes we learned from last year was that of making business decisions without data. From budgeting to hiring, we spent the first few years in business jumping from one situation to another in a reactive way, using our common sense and following guesses here and hunches there.
The funny thing though, is that we went through it all convinced that we actually had a plan.
After a series of events and changes to the way we work, Danny introduced us to a fantastic book called ‘Traction: Get a Grip on Your Business’ that provided us with a series of tools we use on a daily basis. Some of these have been crucial to the hiring process.
Getting the Right People in the Right Seats
It all starts with defining how the right people look like and you can’t do that without identifying your core values as a company.
I’m not talking about the feel-good list of principles you wish your core values were; I’m referring to what’s really important to the critical people who make your company work. Your core values could be “leave work late, seek and destroy, and teamwork is for losers” if that’s who you truly are at your core – if people don’t share these values, they simply won’t fit in.
With your core values at heart, defining whether an employee is right for your business becomes incredibly easy. In a performance appraisal meeting you can say “one of our core values is ‘have a flexible mind’, but this behaviour didn’t reflect that.” At this stage you will have a clear picture of where each of your employees sit in regards to what’s critical to your business.
Once you understand who the right people are, you can start thinking about where should they sit. Forget about job descriptions for a minute and think about what are the essential responsibilities and results for which they are accountable. For us it meant identifying the 5 major responsibilities of each role in our agency, this gave us clarity around what the right seats looked like.
The last step is to identify who in your business is responsible for each seat and ask three questions about every person:
- Do they ‘get it’?
- Do they ‘want it’?
- Do they have ‘capacity to do it’?
After going through this exercise you will also find out whether someone is sitting in the wrong seat.
Hire Slow, Fire Fast
If you have someone on your team who doesn’t share your core values or fit into the culture, you can be facing three possible scenarios:
- The person is sitting in the wrong seat.
- The person needs more clarity around your values and his/her accountability area.
- The person needs to be let go.
At NeoMam we use our core values when interviewing job applicants. We filter out candidates that aren’t culturally aligned to us, so we know that the people we’re bringing on board are the right fit.
The mindset of hire slow, fire fast allows us to make sure that people are a cultural fit before introducing them to our team. At the same time, by following this principle we avoid the struggle of trying to force someone to be something they are not and making them and the team suffer as a result.
Some people say it’s a horrible mindset to live by but it depends on how literal you take it and how humane you are throughout the process.
Are YOU Ready To Hire?
At this point you should have a clearer picture of the different roles in your business, their key accountability areas and the ‘permission to play’ values that everyone should have to be part of the team.
You might find that there are some empty seats that need to be filled in, so it’s time to jump into the hiring process — not so fast!
Here’s where most people get it absolutely wrong.
The fact that you know which job you need to hire for isn’t enough information for you to put out a job offer and start interviewing candidates. Before doing any of that, I’d recommend you to identify WHY you’re hiring in the first place and have a series of discussions with different members of your team before posting an ad.
I’ve put together a simple flowchart that should help you get started:
> Scenario 1: You’re hiring for a new role
1. Fit the new role into your accountability chart
Forget about titles and organisational charts, and learn how to structure your organisation around function. Every time you are considering a new role, grab your accountability chart and define where that role sits based on its primary function. This will help you provide visibility to everyone else, particularly those who will work in direct connection to this new role.
2. Define the key areas of accountability
With the key function of this new role in mind, define a maximum of 5 key areas of accountability. Ask yourself ‘What are the 5 main responsibilities of the person who holds this position?’
Be clear and to the point. Forget about broad terms that don’t mean anything or, even worse, mean different things to different people.
Here’s a glimpse into a section of NeoMam’s Accountability Chart to give you an idea:
3. Discuss the new role with the leadership team, as it might impact upon existing ones
Our leadership team works very closely together and we all sit at the same table to discuss issues that might impact upon the business. Adding a new role to the accountability chart might trigger changes in the way we work, so before posting a new job search we all meet to discuss what this new seat could mean for the wider team, our production process and our clients’ experience.
This is not how it used to be and I’m sure it’s probably different from how you handle the hiring process yourself. Most businesses will leave hiring to the managers – “here’s your budget, do what you need to do.” But in reality, adding a new member to the team is a discussion that will have an impact in the business as a whole, so the entire leadership team has to be part of the process.
> Scenario 2: You’re hiring for a role to support another employee
1. ‘Delegate and Elevate’ session with said employee
Sometimes the workload is too much and a team member will come to you asking for help. What happens next is usually a search for a junior or assistant role to support the employee in need of assistance. Unfortunately, just because you bring someone new it doesn’t mean that the workload will magically fix itself – it can actually get worse if you throw a new person into the mix that has to be trained.
Before putting your job ad out, you need to sit down with your employee and fill in the Delegate and Elevate™ sheet.
Take a piece of paper and divide it into four quadrants:
Then ask your employee to write down a list of everything he/she does during a day, and drop each item on the list into one of these four quadrants:
- Things he/she loves to do and is good at.
- Things he/she likes to do and is good at.
- Things he/she doesn’t like to do yet is good at.
- Things he/she doesn’t like to do and is not particularly good at.
Once everything has been allocated, take the items in the bottom two quadrants (i.e. Don’t Like) and delegate them.
You’ll find that there will be a clear job role for whoever will join to support the person who needs help.
This is an exercise we all go through on a quarterly basis. It helps us to focus on the tasks we’re good at and creates a path of growth for each member of our team.
2. Update said employee’s key areas of accountability
Once you’ve identified the tasks and responsibilities that will be delegated, you will need to review the current key areas of accountability assigned to your employee. Make sure that the function he/she performs is crystal clear.
3. Incorporate the new role into your accountability chart
After reviewing and updating your accountability chart, it’s time to fit the new role. Make sure to define the 3-5 key areas of responsibility, which you will probably be able to draw from the Delegate and Elevate exercise completed on Step 1.
> Scenario 3: You’re hiring to replace an employee that left
1. Review your accountability chart to ensure the role you’re hiring for is clear
When someone leaves a seat, it’s a great opportunity to reflect on what happened and have a critical look at the role. I try to do this in all cases, even when the person just moved onto a different role internally. There’s always a chance to improve upon your organisation’s structure.
Sit down with your accountability chart to ensure that the role you’re about to hire for is still relevant to your business as it is. If not, update it and share it with the leadership team to make sure everyone is on the same page.
How to Find, Hire & Train: The NeoMam Way
With all this information at hand and your internal processes up to date, you’re now ready to kick-start the hiring process. This is how we do it at NeoMam:
Our 4 Steps to Finding Talent
Step 1: Write a crystal clear job ad that actually means something
Step 2: Put together a test based on day-to-day activities the candidate would perform if hired – keep guidance and explanations to its bare minimum
Step 3: Interview only those candidates who have done well on their tests
You’d be surprised of the number of people who are extremely skilled that will send back a fantastic test. Don’t waste anyone’s time by interviewing candidates who haven’t successfully completed the test.
Step 4: Prepare interview questions that will help you scan candidates for cultural fit – use your core values as a compass
One of our core values is ‘Better Together’ as everyone in the team values collaboration and collective intelligence. We hold each other accountable and know that each campaign we launch into the world is a product of our work as a team. This is a very important element of who we are, so we ask candidates questions that will help us understand where they stand in terms of working with others. For example, we will ask them to tell us about a time when they’ve found it difficult to work with someone.
We’ve tested the candidate’s technical skills and understanding of the role, the interview is for us to define whether they are a cultural fit.
Our 3 Steps to Hiring
Testing and interviewing someone is not enough for us to make a decision, all shortlisted candidates will go through two in-person meetings that will define whether they get hired or not.
Step 1: Introduce the candidate to the team
As I mentioned earlier, teamwork is a very important element to all roles in our agency. To us this meant changing our hiring process and incorporating a new stage where we bring all shortlisted candidates into the office to meet the team.
A candidate visit includes:
- Each team member talks about who they are and what they do
- The candidate shares his/her story
- Everyone discusses favourite movies, books, hobbies
- 15-minute Q&A with the team to address any doubts the candidate may have
- Ping-pong or foosball game – if they dare
Step 2: Take the candidate for coffee with the founder
Right after meeting the team, Danny (our CEO) shares his vision with the candidate over coffee. The conversation then drifts onto NeoMam’s core values and where the agency is heading.
Step 3: The team shares their impression on each of the candidates
Once Danny is back from his 1-on-1 meeting, we all sit down and share our impressions. As a manager, this is a very valuable for me as it helps me identify any potential red flags before we make an offer to someone.
Note that this doesn’t mean that the team will ultimately choose who to hire. At the end of the day, the decision is still the manager’s to make but by this point I can make a well-informed decision based on this wealth of information and different perspectives.
Training for Digital Roles
According to Fast Company, if a new employee is going to quit, chances are it will happen within the first six months. What is more, a study by Equifax Workforce Solutions shows that more than 40% of turnover happens within the first month, and another 10% or more leave before their first anniversary.
This means that your onboarding process has to be designed to keep your new hire engaged from day one.
THE FIRST WEEK AT WORK
I’ve made the mistake of loading new hires with information that only left them feeling dizzy and potentially worried about whether they would be able to keep up with the rhythm of our office.
Having learned my lesson, I now spend time designing their first week at NeoMam to provide our new team member with:
- Basics of their role
- Outline of our production process
- Clear understanding of NeoMam’s accountability chart
- Information on the history, vision and culture of our agency
- Overview of our industry
With these pointers in mind, I put together a schedule for the first week that the candidate will receive on day one:
THE FIRST 90 DAYS
During the first three months, I’ll meet with the new team member regularly to continue to provide him/her with guidance. These chats will include a mix of check-ins at their workstation, informal conversations during lunch, ping-pong games and 1-on-1 meetings over coffee outside of the office.
The first performance review will be carried out at the end of the first month, which gives me enough time to identify areas of improvement and clear goals to be achieved by the end of the probationary period.
The hiring process above will continue to be improved based on what we learn. The NeoMam Way requires everyone to be involved in one way or another, so it might not be the right process for your organisation.
If you’re taking something from this blog post, let that be the importance of looking at the bigger picture before bringing anyone new to your team. It can be exhilarating to see the numbers grow but don’t lose sight of the business you’re running and the people who are already on board.
Over the past year we’ve learned that the need to hire is a weakness and not a badge of honour. Henry Ward wrote a fantastic blog post on how to hire that resonated with our leadership team, he said:
Hiring is not a consequence of success. Revenue and customers are. Hiring is a consequence of our failure to create enough leverage to grow on our own. It means we need outside help […] It is not something to be proud of. It is humbling to go back to the labor market, hat-in-hand, asking for help.
- Get the right people in the right seats. Before making any moves towards hiring, make sure to review your organisation’s structure by creating an accountability chart with clear areas of responsibility for each role. There can be one person sitting in more than one seat but you can’t have two people occupying the same seat.
- Hire slow, fire fast. Spend enough time during the hiring process to ensure the person you’re bringing into your team fits your culture, gets the role, wants the opportunity and has the capacity to fulfill the function. When you spot an employee who isn’t a good fit, don’t delay letting him/her go as their presence will have a negative impact on everyone else in the organisation.
- Delegate to elevate. Think of delegation as the ultimate development tool for your people.
- Design a hiring process that gives candidates a clear understanding of the role and what’s expected from them. Prepare a screening test to avoid wasting time interviewing people who are not a good match.
- Organise the new hire’s first week and have a clear plan for the first 90 days on the job. Workshops, meetings, team activities and daily check-ins are crucial to keep your new team member engaged and excited about their new job.