I spoke with two dynamic innovation leaders that summed up for me the real-life candidate and talent experience in today's breakthrough companies.
Peter McLachlan, Chief Producer Officer at Mobify, talked about his talent identification and retention strategy. The mobile company provides technology solutions for retailers that aspire to engage their customers through a positive user experience. Similar to Apple, the company focuses on creating exceptional, seamless user experiences that continually update to match societal needs. It's about streamlining and improving the user experience.
What I discovered when talking to Peter? People matter at Mobify. Peter understands that it’s individuals that move organizations forward. Identifying the right talent for Mobify is the critical step and probably the most important thing the company does on a constant basis. Hiring is their number one priority.
How do they pick great people? According to Peter, it begins with a thorough interview process that includes what I’d call two traditional rounds. First, a screening interview and then a group interview followed up with a day onsite to problem solve or present solutions in a real work scenario.
The last time I heard of this kind of approach was about 15 years ago. A McKinsey partner I knew insisted on working with the team directly at interview stage to identify culture and vision to create a mutually beneficial stress test to determine their compatibility with the company.
That’s when the lightbulb went off for me – again - on the importance of behavioral skills or the "human" aspect. Take artificial intelligence and automation out of the equation, and we’re reminded: people drive companies forward. They're the minds and energy behind the technology. Technology is a tool that is transforming how we work and what we do as well as the needed skills but behind it all, a company is a dynamic organization driven by the capacities of its talent. Talent must be able to integrate into the corporate culture to be effective in their position.
When you invest in a group interview process, you might be part of the hiring team giving feedback where you can pinpoint if the candidate is the right fit for the team and company growth. Identifying culture fit is a critical piece in the hiring process. It’s a major factor in determining whether or not the candidate is someone who the company will be able to retain over the long term. And vice versa – talent can assess the organization and decide whether or not getting hitched for 2+ years is is a wise career move. Talent is king and group assessments are powerful. Like a well-running engine, workers must fit in with the culture to keep the company moving forward.
When candidates turn into employees, then what?
I enjoyed a spirited conversation with Simon Weaver, VP Engineering at Salesforce. Before Salesforce, he was instrumental in the development of the A.I. tool Evi, which was acquired by Amazon in 2012. Evi became Alexa and this voice control system will revolutionize daily life as it moves into the mainstream. You may have recently seen Alexa featured on Mr. Robot. It's a prime example of how technology is transforming not just work but also our daily lives. It's the next big leap forward in computing and AI.
Innovation happens through human progress. It's the driver behind the breakthrough technology turning our world upside down. The company remains competitive through the quality and effectiveness of the talent they hire. But the process doesn't stop after someone is on-boarded, there must be an ongoing talent development plan in place. Simon supports a 6-monthly rigorous management evaluation to identify if talent and the "job" aligns with the company vision. Based on such an assessment the company can make better judgment calls on the necessary adjustments and tweaks to maximize contribution and productivity. Work has become about the ongoing pivot.
What does this mean for new hires in the first 6-months or first few years of working in an innovation company? As market needs evolve, priorities shift and talent must adapt quickly. Agility, the ability to influence, effective communication skills, and adaptation to changing priorities become critical abilities. These behavioral skills create the foundation for a workforce that can maneuver rapid changes impacting both work and life. It boils down to adaptation and collaboration with a built-in feedback loop.
Humans make companies, technology is important and culture fit is critical to being effective because in today's workforce innovators drive the world FORWARD.
Caroline Stokes is the founder of FORWARD an international executive search and executive coaching company for innovation leaders.