Written by Justin Black
At Glint, we are proud of the outstanding Organizational Development Science team we have built. It was very important to our company, product, and customers that we bring in the best people. It wasn’t easy to get it right, but we made it happen. Here’s the story of how we did it.
Glint’s mission is to help people be happier and more successful at work. Our customers use a powerful and beautifully designed People Success Platform to achieve that goal. The OD Science team is responsible for ensuring our customer’s programs and approaches take advantage of the latest science and practice from industrial-organizational psychology, organizational development, and related fields. Sounds pretty typical, right? Not at Glint!
The employee engagement industry has been in need of disruption for a while now. Leading survey practitioners like ITSG started making public calls for a better blend of design, data science, and organizational science five years ago. Innovations in employee engagement practices — just like those in performance management — had been coming steadily in the form of incremental tweaks and changes that barely moved the needle forward. The industry really needed a paradigm shift if it was going to catch up to advances in other applied sciences and be seen as vital to business success.
Glint’s OD Science team was created to not only provide best-in-class consulting and thought leadership for our customers, but also to inform and guide the design and evolution of our amazing product, and finally to develop best practices for the new world of real-time, data-driven, OD science — where continuous feedback and coaching, and the empowerment of managers and individuals through data and cutting-edge technology is beginning to radically transform organizations.
If we were going to answer this call to revolutionize the industry at Glint, we needed a modern OD Science team that was fit to take on the challenge. We needed to seek out talent who understood 50+ years of organizational science on engagement and performance, and yet were willing to challenge all of that to see what was still relevant and practical in today’s world of work. Each person on the team also needed to be able help customers master the art and science of data-informed conversations in service of continuous improvement, which requires strong business acumen and interpersonal skills. And because Glint is a high-growth company, hard work and high tolerance for ambiguity had to be on the list of qualifications too!
Goutham Kurra, Glint’s co-founder and head of product, helped us translate Glint’s values — positivity, authenticity, connection, and transformation — into a list of behaviors to look for. We placed a lot of weight on one’s level of curiosity during interviews. We asked questions aimed at tapping curiosity such as, “What’s the one thing we all do in this industry that you’ve always wanted to change?” We looked for people who were willing to challenge the definition of the problem, not just come up with interesting solutions.
In addition to the right set of personal characteristics, we also knew we needed a mix of experience (exposure, type, and tenure) to foster the right conditions for creativity across the holistic team. Each individual needed to complement and supplement the whole.
Our interview approach is inspired by Google’s four-interview process and mostly behavioral in nature. The final stage of the interview is an on-site presentation to members of Glint’s executive team and existing OD Science team, who jointly roleplay a customer’s executive team as part of a case study presented by the candidate.
We interviewed hundreds of people just for the first handful of roles on the team. It wasn’t easy to find people who met all the criteria. Through our personal networks and the help of a recruiter, we worked hard to build a diverse pool in terms of experience and interests. And many Glintsters invested lots of time speaking with candidates.
As the founding member of the team and leader responsible for growing it, I honestly almost caved a number of times during the hiring process. I had personally interviewed SO many people. “I’m sure they will have an immediate impact,” I’d tell our CEO, Jim Barnett. And each time he’d respond, “But are they A+ Rockstars?” It’s hard to say yes to that and it’s important to be able to.
Even though it created significant work up front, we tried to hire most of the early team members in one big wave so that we could form together. Given the mix of experience and the unique problem Glint was trying to solve, people came together through different paths. Some started having known all the industry rules, and had to learn to break some of them. Others had to learn the rules so they could understand the impacts of breaking them. And all of us had to learn to behave like designers.
The wait, time, and effort has paid off significantly. We have built (and continue to build) an unbelievably talented team. This is in part a testament to Jim’s successful CEO career. He knows the most important thing a leader must do first is build and place the right people on the right teams.
Today, Glint’s OD Scientists bring internal experience from leading companies like Amazon, Delta Airlines, IBM, Intuit, Namely, Nielsen, Starbucks, Symantec, The Home Depot, and United Airlines. Many of us held consulting and consulting leadership positions at firms like CEB, IBM/Kenexa, and Sirota. We have a nice wide range of tenure and a high average, about 20 years, of industry experience.
Each person on the team brings a unique blend of experience, perspective, skills and passions. It’s this proprietary blend of individuals that makes the OD Science team at Glint unstoppable and irreplicable. Over a short period of time, they’ve been able to impact our customers, product, and science in ways that I could have only imagined when writing the job description for this role. When I think back to the seemingly impossible task of assembling the first group, I feel grateful for the encouragement and support Jim and Goutham gave, even when I didn’t want it. Because at the end of the day it’s all about building a team of rockstars.
Building a team of your own? Here’s what I learned:
- It was helpful for me to write down Glint’s mission and values, what I thought the team would need to accomplish over the next 3 years to be successful, and a list of the things I thought they would need to do on a daily basis. From there it was easy to draft a quick list of the key characteristics of a successful team member, which I shared with peers and Glint’s founders for input and revision.
- Standard, one-page interview forms clearly defining the role and success criteria helped streamline the interview process. Keeping it simple allowed the interviewers to really listen.
- Clearly understanding executives’ expectations and having their support to meet those standards was critical to our success.
- Diversity of experience and point of view matter. It is easier to hire and manage a homogeneous pool at first, but over time the benefit of investing in diversity outweighs any up-front costs.
- The team needed time and space to form and build connections. Assigning everyone to cross-functional design projects helped accelerate that development.
About the Author
Justin Black is the Senior Director of Organizational Development Science at Glint. For more than a decade, Justin has been helping high-performing and innovative companies like Amazon, Facebook, and Southwest Airlines understand and take action on their people data. Prior to Glint, as an executive at Sirota Consulting, he advised senior leadership teams on employee engagement and led the firm’s Innovation function. Find him on LinkedIn.