What I learned at #GHOpen: Scaling through empowerment


In February 2016, I joined Amino as the first internal recruiter, head of talent, “help-anywhere-you-can” team member — a role familiar to anyone working at startups. When I took this role, I knew that I’d be the only team member in the Talent function, meaning there wouldn’t be a lot of direct knowledge sharing or brainstorming. For that, I would need to surround myself with a network of likeminded individuals who face similar challenges.

Recently, I attended a conference hosted by Greenhouse (Greenhouse Open, or#GHOpen), which was essentially two days of deep conversations revolving around People, Talent, and Culture. In these two days, I was able to meet people I have only seen on LinkedIn, learn new subject matter, and come away with actionable ideas to help me in my role. Here are my two biggest takeaways that can help anyone thinking about operation efficiency and team engagement, regardless of company size, shape, or product.

Scaling through empowerment

Recruiters have been tasked with owning the talent acquisition process. Not only are we tasked with it, we are often expected to execute with little (or no) help. Given said circumstances, recruiters have learned to operate independently… but a better approach is to think about recruiting as a team sport. If Lebron couldn’t do it alone, neither can you.

If you’re like me, you’re expected to increase your output without increasing headcount. The Hiring Management Alignment session at #GHOpen sparked a conversation around how to solve this problem with two tactics:

1. Train and empower everyone at your company to be a recruiter. Why this works: as good as you are at selling an opportunity, the message is several magnitudes more impactful coming from a potential coworker or manager. Plus, getting more people thinking about recruiting and equipping them to recruit will naturally drive more candidates into the funnel — unexpected encounters at a meet-up, in-transit, or the obvious: referrals! Training others on how to be a recruiter also frees up your time to think about broader challenges and solutions.

Pro-tip: Training could mean a lot of things, but a good starting point would be to teach other employees who, what, when, where, and how to sell and evaluate candidates.

2. Empower your hiring managers to drive the hiring process. Why this works: hiring managers get to know candidates more intimately — a deeper understanding of their interests, career trajectory, and areas of improvement. These are things we as the recruiter pick up on during the interview process but get lost in translation. Hiring managers also have more context to provide suggestions on creating and improving an effective hiring process. Plus, it’s incredibly powerful for candidates to have an engaged manager throughout the process as it provides a strong signal to what it might be like to work for them.

People and Career management

One of the major trends at #GHOpen was the the emergence of the new “People Team”. Previously, recruiters have been tasked with thinking of creative ways to attract and hire more people to our company. In this evolution of the People Team, we are still thinking about recruiting — but more importantly, we’re thinking about employee engagement.

So how do you keep your employees engaged? Well, the simple answer is that you keep them happy. But then how do you keep them happy? Below, I outline some proposed solutions, as discussed at t #GHOpen and in conversations that followed.

People leave (and stay) their company for two reasons: (1) their manager and (2) career development.

For managers: Here are a few questions you can ask yourself to help think about individual on your team:

  • How often are you having the “career” conversation with members of your team? Do you know where each person wants to be in the next quarter, year, five years? How are you helping them get there?
  • Do you know what motivates each member of your team?
  • How are your 1–1’s? What are the courses of action that follow?

After #GHOpen, I’ve spent some time exploring this area further. I found that there are a bunch of tools (such as GetLighthouse and 15Five) to help managers get organized and stay on track.

Leaving a role is a lot of work: putting in notice, saying good-byes, starting a new job, etc. Most people would rather stay put, but are often unaware of the career opportunities available to them within their company.

Pro-tip: Provide opportunities for people to learn outside of your organization. I interviewed with a company where a perk was a learning stipend to take an educational class per quarter. How awesome is that?!

Going to #GHOpen was an amazingly inspiring experience. I was able to take away so many actionable nuggets as well as pie-in-the-sky ideas to ponder over. More broadly speaking, I got to meet amazing individuals in the community, learn from their experiences, and come away with short-term and long-term applications. This was a good reminder to continually build new relationships, cultivate existing ones, and add value anyway you can to those around you.

I’m thankful that Amino cares about its employees and sent me to this conference. I’m back and even more engaged than before (this is me sipping my own Kool-Aid). If you read this and you’re like “Hey… I think about this stuff too,” please reach out — would love to grab coffee and talk shop.

P.S. One last thing: I would highly suggest reading ‘The Alliance’ by Reid Hoffman, Ben Casnocha, and Chris Yeh. Chris was fantastic on the one of the panels at #GHOpen — he’s the real deal!

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