Ask not what your employees can do for you—ask what you can do for your employees.
Traditionally, hiring has focused on: How will you, the candidate, help the company grow? Companies view salaries as investments and scrutinize employees’ output to see whether the investments are paying off. People performance tools (think performance improvement plans) are all about maximizing employees’ contributions to the company.
If the talent crisis has taught us anything, it’s that this employer-employee dynamic is overdue for a change.
During the hiring process, employers should lay the groundwork for parallel growth between the candidate and the company as a whole.
Right now, I’m hiring 1-2 people per month at my startup, Upscribe. In this hyper-competitive talent market, there are three big things that high-quality talent is looking for in their company:
- Values alignment
- Diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) systems
- Alignment in trajectory (parallel growth)
The first two should ring familiar to anyone hiring in 2022. This article focuses on the third: aligning an employee’s personal growth and the company’s collective growth.
Make the interview process employee-centric and radically transparent
A huge problem with the status quo interview process is that candidates are conditioned to lie to interviewers. Hoping to get hired, candidates tell interviewers what they want to hear—often a misrepresentation of their true ambitions.
What happens two years down the road, when the employee gets a better offer, wants more responsibility or wants to turn into a solopreneur? The half-truths exchanged during the interview process start to come out; the foundation of the employee-employer relationship starts to show cracks that were there all along.
To nip this problem in the bud, I’ve been experimenting with radical transparency in the interview process. It revolves around a key reframe: If we (Upscribe) do right by you, you will help the company succeed. When I frame the conversations that way, candidates’ eyes light up, because it’s honest, forthright, and all about them.
Radical transparency means acknowledging that their career growth will probably happen largely outside of Upscribe. They may be with us for two years, learn a lot and take their talents elsewhere. I understand that that’s how the world works. Why beat around the bush? When I frame hiring conversations this way, employees can see that we give them resources that might take them in a different direction—away from Upscribe.
Where they might be inclined to view getting hired as an option-limiter, we show them that it’s actually a door-opener.
Then, post-hire, nurture your people’s personal/professional growth by:
- Being a sponsor (as opposed to a mentor). As I’ve written before, a mentor is a coach, but a sponsor is an angel investor, jumpstarting the sponsee’s career. The sponsorship model builds in natural incentives—key to any growth relationship. Sponsorship also means betting on up-and-coming talent. Adopt a growth mindset, and believe that a truly talented individual will grow into a role, even if it means learning on the job.
- Exposing employees to the inner workings of your company. This is something I’m doing right now with one of my employees. During his interview process, he stated that his five-year plan revolved around starting his own company. I’m all for that. In the meantime, I’m sponsoring him. I’m letting him sit in on all my meetings, absorb the hidden machinations of startups, and gain insights that he couldn’t get anywhere else. It gives him a personal reason, while he’s here, to give the best of himself and get the best in return.
- Investing in community-building to help your team grow their networks. I know that my people are getting contacted by recruiters all the time. Knowing that, I can either, a) Bury my head in the sand, or b) Proactively provide networking resources. I go with option b). For example, I give my employees a list of 10 companies in our space, and say, “I would like you to go meet your counterparts at all those companies.” It’s a win-win: It helps my employees expand their networks and learn more about their jobs, and it helps Upscribe learn more about how to differentiate ourselves in the space.
Professional dynamics are in major flux. Employees have more options than ever before. Employers can fight an uphill battle against this trend, or they can ride the wave, reimagining hiring and workplace practices to use the trend as a strength. As a want-to-be surfer, I’m always an advocate for riding waves. Radical transparency and mutual investment constitute my surfboard for this one.