Recruiting as horizontal function
Entrepreneurs are often so focused on hockey-stick growth that we often neglect one of the biggest factors that will help us get there: recruiting. As the metaphor goes, we need to get the right people on the bus to get to where we want to go. The problem with hiring is that it is time-consuming, fraught with ambiguity, and often leads to frustrating dead ends, as when a prized recruit turns down your job offer at the eleventh hour to join a competitor. Unlike with user acquisition, which is portrayed neatly on a dashboard, you often have no frame of reference to how well your recruiting pipeline is going, or even whether a prospective hire will likely join.
The natural challenges that come with recruiting is further exacerbated when a company is located in Asia. Talent is harder to come by, as the region is more geographically diffuse. Rather than having to only recruit down the street if you were based in a hub like Silicon Valley, the blockchain developer or data scientist you need may reside in another country in the area, like Singapore or Hong Kong. You not only have to sell recruits on the merits of your company, but on the allure of a major lifestyle change.
Though founders have their own particular tactics for how to approach recruiting in Asia, I think the overarching strategy for how to fast-track and improve it is right in front of us – it’s in the open floor plan. The open floor plan is emblematic of the flattening of organizations. Once hierarchical org charts are now nearly horizontal, with founders, executives, managers, and employees all seated together, indistinguishable from one another. Everyone is accountable for getting that metaphorical bus moving in the right direction.
In this kind of environment, founders should change how recruiting is done. Instead of siloing it to human resources, recruiting should be democratised into a company-wide function, and go beyond just trying to fill the vacancies in their own department. Developers can recruit sales staff, marketing people can recruit administrative staff, and so on. The point is that the company must have a green light to pull in talent wherever and whenever they encounter it. Your own team members, after all, will be the best first-level evaluators of who would be a fit at the company.
The advent of social recruiting platforms
Some people might peg these plans as unrealistic — people are already so busy with their own jobs that it would be unfair to saddle them with even more demands. To this argument, I would point to the rise in employee evangelisation. Tech companies are lifting the veil off their once secret inner workings, empowering employees to speak and share their story to external stakeholders. There are now dev blogs, employee branding campaigns that highlight people across the organization, and industry events with booths manned by team members from many different departments.
At TripZeeker, the tours platform I founded, I encourage everyone on the team to be ambassadors of the travel lifestyle in general and our platform in particular. Employees, in short, are becoming accustomed to pushing out positive content about their company — the next natural step would be to help pull in the talent that they’re trying to impress in the first place.
Making recruiting a horizontal function requires enormous change, as I myself am experiencing first-hand at TripZeeker. Team members must make the shift from being task- to talent-oriented. Rather than only try to get the job done, people must be on the lookout for other talents who can help them do it even better the next time.
This approach is no easy feat, as it requires people to swallow their pride and approach the world with humility, but it’s made easier by the growing number of social recruiting platforms in Asia. There’s Wantedly out of Japan, which invites prospective hires to meet team members for a casual chat that can be upgraded into a formal interview on the next visit should there be mutual interest. China also has a smorgasbord of general and specialised platforms that help both companies and employees tap into the latter’s social network for potential recruits.
One of the most interesting platforms to emerge in this space is Recruitday, which is pioneering what it calls social plus referral recruiting. Company employees — and even external part-timers, freelancers, and people in-between jobs — who are collectively referred to as scouts, can refer people from their network to open jobs listed on the platform. All they need to do is share the post to their friends on social, and the scouts can then track the status of their referrals, and the corresponding cash prizes, via the platform’s dashboard.
Social recruiting platforms like Recruitday are necessary, especially in the tech world, because they can get founders past the amorphous goal of hiring the “right” people. They instead provide companies with a framework to enable employees, and even external stakeholders, serve as a recruiting arm that transcends not only departments, but even office walls. Instead of requiring founders or HR people to have a “eye” for talent, these platforms give everyone the capability, the incentive, and the means to bring in promising candidates. But to enable this sea change, founders also need to make a change: They must be willing to let go of recruiting as an exclusive executive or HR function and be ready to welcome top talent however they happen to arrive at their door.
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