Team Building For The Win

A recent Inc. Magazine article offered a glimpse of 4 Extreme Hiring Tactics and left me thinking more about our recruiting efforts at Viget.

While it’s great to see tech jobs back in fashion again, it feels like there’s once again ample opportunity for careless and reckless approaches. Within the last year, I caught wind of one company offering a signing bonus if you come from a company on their list. Some companies on the list were ranked higher than others and there was greater reward for leaving from the top tier. While luring people from high-performing companies might make short-term sense, I don’t think it’s a wise strategy. How long before a new employee leaves you for higher pay elsewhere?

Fortunately, there are some that are trying approaches worth paying attention to.

The Nerdery

The 4 Extreme Hiring Tactics article offered a couple of interesting alternatives. In one example, Minnesota-based The Nerdery is mentioned as extending a referral bonus to the general public. This is nice because it encourages anyone to make a referral. You earn $100 if the person you recommend lands an interview and $400 if a hire takes place. I like this idea because it provides incentives while widening the recruiting base without the consequences of luring by greed. This indirect reward system is simply friends helping friends for the benefit of all parties.

SumAll

In another example, NYC-based SumAll was mentioned with focus on their 45-day trial period after which the company votes to retain a person or send them packing. It’s reminiscent of the now famous offer of $2000 to quit Zappos after training. While this might seem elitist on the surface, I don’t think it is. You have 6 weeks to make a good impression and either you stay or you go. It’s also try-before-you-buy for both you and the employer. It’s far easier to walk away politely when you know there’s a known evaluation moment. The focus becomes training and retention. This appears to be working well for SumAll as they’re reporting only one person has left the 35-person company in the last two years.

nGen Works

nGen Works, a Jacksonville-based and fully distributed company, actively boasts of their Friendgeneer network. As I understand it, Friendgeneers are a trusted network of contractors who supplement project needs as opportunities arise. Some are eventually invited to join the core team provided there’s mutual interest. Slow and steady – I like it. 

Viget

At Viget, we’re fortunate to have Emily and Anna who focus every day on helping us find talented people with whom we want to work. In my role as a design team leader, I think about this often since one of my responsibilities is to build and retain an awesome team of remarkable people. To date, our approach has been the older, (perhaps) wiser equivalent of “slow and steady wins the race.” We’re very thorough in our initial screening of candidates. I often tell people, a stand-out portfolio gets you in the door, your amazing personality gets you the job.

Our slow and steady approach means that we often have to be thinking about future hires as deliberately and thoroughly as current ones. In doing so, I like to think of myself as a college athletic coach looking for that special high school athlete that’s going to help take my team to the championship in the next couple of years. This search for raw, undiscovered talent never ceases. It’s constant, it’s competitive, and it’s taxing – especially when you lose. That’s all to say that it takes effort, but it’s a methodology that I believe yields better long-term results than any short-term recruiting gimmick or incentive ever could.

You may wonder what this looks like. Here are some of the measures we’ve taken in recent years:

  • Internships: Summer internships allow for discovery, nurturing, and (most importantly) time. We love to find rising seniors because they have a unique combination of early ambition and malleability.
  • Studio Tours: We host tours that allow others to see the inner workings of our operation. These have led to internships which have led to jobs.
  • Community Events: We’re active in various local design, tech, and start-up communities. A great place to meet prospects or get referrals.
  • Coffees & Lunches: It’s just nice to get to know someone in a casual setting. Also, who doesn’t like food?
  • Everyone Recruits: While we have dedicated recruiters, everyone at the company takes an interest in finding people they are inspired by and want to work with. Recruiting bonuses are offered if someone you recommend lands a job.

It’s also worth mentioning is that we like to hire ahead of new work. Sure, this presents certain risks. For example, there are costs to bear as a client services company when a new hire isn’t not billing right away. We think of it as orientation and training, treating the cost as a valuable investment. New hires hear us joking about enjoying this time because it won’t last long. We prefer this to reactionary hiring because it puts focus on finding the right people and prevents us from compromising high standards just to fulfill contracts and meet deadlines.

Take Your Time. Hire Smart. It’s Worth It.

There will always be gimmicks and incentives in a competitive market. Innovation is a good thing and I’m sure over time there will be good examples to learn from as it relates to hiring and recruiting. Being a part of a growing and thriving industry is exhilarating. While we’ll continue to pay attention to what others are doing, we’ve seen the benefits of being slow and methodical about growth at Viget. It’s just what works for us.

Tom is vice president of design and works in our Falls Church, VA, HQ. He has over two decades of experience as a designer and team coach, and works with clients such as the University of Pennsylvania and The Chronicle of Higher Education.

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