20 January 2021

Creating a Scalable Hiring Process for your Scaleup: Chapter I

When startups become scaleups, optimising processes is key. Not focusing on turning every single process into a growth engine, will make your exponential growth curve soon transition towards a linear or even flat line. And although it’s (unfortunately) often underestimated, your hiring process is one of the most critical ones. Why? Well, simply because you need amazing people on board fast to execute your strategy, while each mishire can slow down your growth. 

This blog is written for the Recruitment/Talent Managers who are one of the first HR-hires in a scaleup (often between 25-60 FTE), who are responsible for designing a scalable hiring process. I will explain the one trick to start with in order to create a scalable hiring process for your scaleup, by making use of the Five Whys Model.

Scalable hiring practices: A quick introduction

A scalable hiring process. Sounds fancy, but what is it actually? My definition (and note, that’s not the official definition ;-)) of a scalable hiring process for scaleups is as follows:

A scalable hiring process is a hiring process that is still capable of achieving its hiring KPIs/metrics if the number of job openings is multiplied by 10 tomorrow.

So, as you can conclude from my personal definition, it’s all about hiring practices being the engine, rather than the break on your business growth.

One thing to keep in mind before we get started

Firstly, before getting started with scaling up your hiring process, write down your (desired) hiring KPIs/metrics, as well as the results of these metrics so far. This helps you determine which component of your hiring strategy needs most attention. Here are some examples:

  • Efficiency metrics: Time to hire, cost per hire;
  • Quality metrics: Quality of hire, retention rate;
  • Diversity metrics: (demographic) diversity ratio;
  • Culture metrics.

I spoke to 32 scaleup Recruitment/Talent Managers. They all had the same struggle.

From the period September to December 2020, I joined my colleagues in 32 sales calls with Recruitment/Talent Managers, who were one of the first HR-hires in a scaleup company. 

We asked all 32 Recruitment/Talent Managers the exact same question: What made the founder/CEO of the scaleup you’re now working for decide to hire you? 30 out of all 32 people gave the exact same answer: Because the hiring process isn’t scalable.

Alright, so that was the main issue. A non-scalable hiring process. But what was the underlying cause then? Now, have you ever heard of the Five Whys Model? To reveal the actual root cause of a problem, you need to ask why five times. So that’s what we did. And again, the answers were very similar.

Problem: The hiring process isn’t scalable.

Why is the hiring process not scalable?

Because it relies too much on a few specific people, such as the founders and first employees.

Why does the hiring process rely so much on a few specific people, such as the founders and first employees?

Because they are the only ones who can assess well enough whether someone fits the culture and job.

Why are they the only ones who can assess well enough whether someone fits the job and culture?

Because the people who came on board only recently aren’t fully capable of accurately assessing this.

Why aren’t the people, who came on board only recently, fully capable of accurately assessing this?

Because they lack a deeper understanding of the indicators of skill requirements and cultural requirements.

Why do they lack a deeper understanding of the indicators of cultural fit and job success?

Because the current culture and job criteria aren’t quantified.

Alright, so that’s the actual problem. As the input to assess fit isn’t quantified, only the people who are working at the company long enough have sufficient feeling with it. Well, that’s definitely causing a lack of scalability. Because if you think about my definition of a scalable hiring process again, in this situation, multiplying the number of job openings by 10 would mean that founders and first employees have to spend all day interviewing people.

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Don’t start with assessing candidates. Start with assessing the team.

So, scaling up your hiring process is all about quantifying what it is that you are looking for, so that a fit assessment not fully relies on the founding team or early hires. In order to achieve this, all you have to do is assess the current team. And no, you don’t necessarily need a professional tool for that right away. You can also start assessing your team manually by taking the following steps. Please keep in mind though that, eventually, an objective assessment mechanism will increase the reliability of this analysis. 

Step 1. Identifying cultural traits (cultural fit)

Even if your scaleup has cultural values, it’s important to also translate those into actual behaviours. Ask everyone in your company to pick one other person, preferably from another team, and write down three characteristics of this person:

  1. One characteristic describing the way this person interacts with colleagues (i.e. open/direct);
  2. One characteristic describing the this person’s work style/attitude (i.e. being conscientious);
  3. One characteristic describing this person’s contribution when discussing new ideas (i.e. being critical).

After everyone has done this, start looking for similarities in the answers. The stronger a certain similarity, the bigger the chance that this behavioural characteristic represents your culture.

Step 2. Team skills and gaps (job fit)

In order to identify team strengths & weaknesses, follow these three steps:

  1. Write down the 3 most important activities per team (i.e. for Sales: Schedule demos, getting new customers on board, adapting the sales process to market trends);
  2. Now, link 1 (soft) skill to each activity (i.e. resilience, problem solving, adaptability);
  3. Let everyone in the team rate each other on those 3 (soft) skills. When counting all rates, you will see that likely one skill will represent a strength, whereas another skill will represent a weakness or a gap.

If you have this information, you know where to focus on with the next hire for this team. 

How Equalture can help

Here at Equalture, we have built a feature to analyse teams and culture, which we call our Teams feature

You can configure your teams in this feature, and link a team member to one or more teams. As soon as someone is linked to a team, they receive an invitation to complete a set of neuroscientific games, which we use to measure skills and personality. 

This feature provides you with the following insights:

  • Team-level: Industry Comparison. We compare your teams to similar teams in the market.
  • Team-level: Strengths & weaknesses. We identify the games on which your team performs above average, as well as games on which your team performs below average. 
  • Company-level: Cultural traits. We identify games on which the majority of your team members have scored consistently. 

Scaling up processes in order to grow, of which hiring is one of them, is all about scaling up shared knowledge regarding this process. As long as crucial information is only in the heads of a handful of people, scaling up will never become more than a desire.  

So to all Recruitment/Talent Managers out there, who have the ambitious task to create a scalable hiring process for their scaleup, I hope this blog has provided you with a solid starting point. Soon I will publish chapter II as well.

Cheers, Charlotte
Co-Founder & CEO