It’s Global TA Day
As our rock spins today, we collectively celebrate the hardworking, colorful individuals who create the TA industry. Naturally, we’ve invited an incredible guest, Denise Bindelglass, to join us for this Global TA Day episode of The RecruitingDaily Podcast, where we’ll focus on how to effectively scale your talent acquisition team in 2021.
Denise joined ActiveCampaign as vice president of people about three and a half years ago. Since her start, their team has grown from 170 individuals to nearly 1,000 global employees, with a hard-hitting and rapidly expanding TA team.
Needless to say, Denise knows her stuff when it comes to scaling your people power.
Questions we answer today: In the midst of hiring scarcity, how do we grow our teams effectively? What priorities have changed during the COVID climate for both candidates and recruiters? How do you get the rest of your team to appreciate the importance of talent acquisition?
There’s always more, but you have to listen to learn.
Please drop those thoughts in the comments.
Listening Time: 28 minutes
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Ladies and gentlemen, this is William Tincup, you are listening to the RecruitingDaily Podcast. Today we have Denise on from ActiveCampaign. We’re going to be talking about how to effectively scale talent in 2021. Kind of a holy grail of questions. And I know a lot of people, both in HR and in TA are trying to figure out how to scale in uncertain times, if you will, and Denise has done some really, really good work, team’s done some really good work, and I can’t wait to kind of talk to her about this. So Denise, would you do the audience a favor, me a favor and introduce both yourself and ActiveCampaign?
Absolutely. And thank you for having me.
For such a difficult topic, by the way.
So Denise Bindelglass. I am the head of people for ActiveCampaign, which is a Chicago based, HQ based company that focuses on helping our customers really connect with their own customers. So we are in the customer experience, automation space. I joined ActiveCampaign about three and a half years ago when we were about 170 employees, a couple of people on the… Couple of employees on the People Team, everyone was in Chicago. Fast forward to now, we are going to crest 1,000 employees across four continents. The team in particular, the talent acquisition team has grown substantially. We built out an internal TA model and yeah, it has been fast and furious. I’ve been running People Teams for probably longer than I would want to admit across a number of industries for really category leading brands across mostly tech, e-commerce, publishing and financial services.
Well, first of all, congratulations on the growth. Second, we at RecruitingDaily are happy ActiveCampaign customers, we love it and are in it every day. So let’s think about scale, because you all have, let’s say 100 to 1,000, just keeps the numbers around for those nonmath majors.
Let’s focus in on the HR and TA side of scale first as we think of it, because I talked to somebody this morning, they were talking about how hard it is to get recruiters, to actually recruit recruiters these days.
From sourcing, to employer brand, to recruiters. Everybody in TA, there’s scarcity. And so how have you gone about it in the times… Again in 2021, but in your time there, how have you kind of brick by brick thought about building the team that will help the company scale?
Yeah, well, I will say it is absolutely hard at the moment. When the bounce back from the economy happened earlier this year post COVID, who are the first employees that you’re going to hire back? Recruiters.
Right? The professionals. And then after that it’s usually sales team, and then after that it’s everyone else. So I think everyone has suffered from this. I will say that when we started building out the internal TA team a few years ago, clearly it was easier than it is today, but I would say the TA team in my opinion tends to be the most underfunded-
… team in the company, right? They are dealing with all the pressure, added pressure right now for back fills. We have at ActiveCampaign on average, a couple of 100 jobs open at any given time. And we tend to not use outside recruiting firms because we like to tell the story ourselves. So anyway, I’m not answering your question.
No, you are. No, you are.
I’m saying [crosstalk 00:05:27] how difficult it is, we have tried to create a culture within our TA team, within the People Team of just great solidarity, empathy, the opportunity to tell this story. So in the future, when you can go out and say, “I was part of a company growing at 70% and I helped create this brand that despite our success no one knew.”
The 85% of the candidates that we talked to have never heard of ActiveCampaign despite our success. So to be a part of that story, and to be able to say that you were on that journey and a part of building that scale, I think really speaks to the talent.
Well, I love that as you’ve… Within TA you mentioned some super important worth us highlighting. One is TA is generally underfunded, but also unappreciated or underappreciated because of how hard the job is to go find talent and then walk them through the paces that need to be walked through.
I love how you’ve kind of encapsulated some values for the TA team that kind of like, for them to kind of build around solidarity, empathy being able to tell a story. There’s something to momentum to be able to… You’re a part of something that’s doing good work, growing, et cetera like this. That’s a positive thing.
What have you found from folks that you’re hiring throughout HR and TA, what do they care about as candidates these days? What have you found that maybe is different from the past or questions you get asked or your recruiters get asked that you probably would have been blindsided or not thought of before? What do they care about?
I don’t know that this is necessarily new over the last few years, but I think as a SAS company, we certainly engage quite a number of candidates who are of the millennial generation. And they cared very much about diversity, equity and inclusion. Even if they’re not underrepresented themselves, they want to see that on the interview panel, on the interview loop.
They also care quite a bit about social giving. So as a successful company, are we doing our part in terms of volunteering, which has been harder over the last year or so, as well as giving back to our communities? So I think those two things, social giving, giving back, social responsibility and diversity and inclusion are almost requirements. Whereas perhaps maybe 10 years ago, they might’ve been luxuries.
Right. [crosstalk 00:09:03].
Yeah. The other thing I would say is career growth. Today, everyone is, well, impatient because they should be and they can be with their careers. So I’ve been at this for a long time and I would say years ago you would kind of wait for a promotion. Today, you expect something… Workers today expect something to happen in pretty rapid fashion.
And if it doesn’t, then there’s someone else across the street who will hire you. But the other thing that I think is somewhat less obvious is just a really successful financial company to work for because if you don’t have that, if you don’t have really good investors, if you don’t have a solid plan for sustained growth, then career pathing can’t happen.
Great benefits and perks can happen. I’m so lucky that I work for a company that is financially so stable and successful, that I am able to offer new benefits, new perks, compensation changes, career pathing on an ongoing basis. But if we weren’t successful as an organization, then I obviously wouldn’t have any of that at my disposal. And I think that that’s something that candidates need to dig into a little bit deeper.
So when you focus with your TA team, the price quality speed discussion usually kind of comes up in different forms, but price is usually the cost of hiring in general. Speed, how fast can we hire? How fast do we get response time? What’s our interview process? How can we go from nine interviews to two? All that stuff and then quality of hire, which is…
All these things are important, no doubt. Driving the cost of hiring down, increasing the quality of hire and making things faster. Like, “Yes, I want all of those.” What have you tended to kind of focus on in ’21 and maybe even in ’20 that you’ve seen yourself, “You know what? I want them all. I want all three of those things, yes, but right now let’s kind of make sure that we’re doing a great job with one of these things.”
Well, if I had the answer to that equation, [inaudible 00:12:01] a much better person. It is an ongoing struggle to balance the time to hire with the quality of hire. And we care very much about, again, diversity and under-representation. We have hiring goals beyond that. So it’s really hard to balance those three things, if you think about it. When you’re growing at this pace, 70% a year, and trying to also factor in the difficulty of the market and the difficulty of diversity. So it’s really… Of course, I, I don’t have the right answer, but I would say-
You do. You have the right answer for you and-
Yeah. So personally, I always believe in the quality of the hire, even if it takes longer to fill. And that is not easy right now, given the demands and given how fast we need to grow for our customers. But I do believe that, and I think my colleagues would agree, that if you don’t get it right, most of the time, you’ll never get it right all the time, but if you don’t get it most of the time, you will pay for that down the road.
So we have tried to be as meticulous as we can in the technical interview, in the fit for certain culture, but you run into some issues there when it comes to potential bias.
But really just trying to calibrate against quality versus time to fill.
I think the way that I’ve… It’s the same way that you’ve phrased it, it’s we have to be as fast as candidates. So candidates are fast, okay? They make decisions fast, that’s fine. And top talent has plenty of options. So they’re even faster than-
So from a perspective of speed, we need to be as fast as our candidates are. So our own audience, the people that we want to hire, the people we’re targeting, et cetera, we need to be as fast as they are, or as slow as they are. So we need to kind of pace ourselves depending on their pace. And you’re right.
I think quality of hire is how you measure yourself, is again at retention, how they perform so that you don’t have to fill that position again right away. That they stay, that they’re productive, and that we, as a company, have a chance in retaining their talent. And you can’t get there. And I think cost. The cost part, which is really interesting, a couple years ago, I think cost is still important. It’s never to not going to be important, but it becomes third on the list for a lot of folks. And again, every company is a little bit different. So let me-
Sure. Yeah. I think that’s right. But make no mistake, we’ve certainly shortened our process and made it more [crosstalk 00:15:37] in 2021.
2020 was very different year. We had a bit more of a luxury given where the economy was, but I would just say, we are realistic in terms of the heat of this market and how responsive we need to be.
What I love about that is that’s adaptive, right?
So your teams recognized, you’ve recognized we need to… Our seven step process, we need to cut it down to five. Okay. Well, that’s just responding in a great way. It’s responding to the candidates. That’s listening, it’s understanding and getting feedback. So that’s just smart. Let me ask you a different type of question, and this is more how do we get the rest of the organization to appreciate talent acquisition? What can we do? [crosstalk 00:16:46] bits of advice, words of wisdom.
Yeah. No. So we’ve made it very clear. If you are a hiring manager, do not look to the TA team to fill your jobs. This is your responsibility. Now, the TA team probably is your biggest source of talent, of candidates, but do not look to them to fill your jobs. This is on you.
And so I would say that messaging is met with varying degrees of success, but we have implemented some very specific reporting and some data that presents itself in terms of like, “Okay, who have you sourced, for example, in the last week and who have you moved forward as a candidate to the next level?”
So very specific. We’ve given every one of our hiring managers and even non hiring managers our LinkedIn recruiting seats. We expect them to source. If you open up a new role, a new requisition, before the TA team will even begin to fill that role, we will ask you to source at least five profiles. And what that does is not only kind of get the hiring manager in the mindset of sourcing themselves, but also make sure that the TA professional and the hiring manager are aligned on what that spec or what that candidate profile looks like.
What I love about that is you’re making them do the job, so they’ll respect the people that actually do the job.
I love that. First of all, that’s just fascinating to me. First of all, I can imagine those first conversations with hiring managers that maybe didn’t come from that environment, where they could just kind of bully recruiters around and lead them around by the nose and create job descriptions that are wackadoodle.
They probably don’t respond as positively to that, however, the way that you flip that, you flip the script on that to like, “You do the job, get us to a place,” and then they’re going to do, because they’re professionals, they’re going to go and do the work, but we’re going to be on the same page.
We’re not going to spend a lot of time going back and forth on an art project. We’re going to know exactly what you want because you know what you want. I absolutely love it. First of all, it’s fascinating. And you’ve transcended into some type of a Yoda level because most global heads of talent acquisition and people leaders, they haven’t got to this point, they’re still being led around by the nose by their hiring managers.
So I love the way that you’ve reframed it in a repositive way. How do you find praising your team internally, the things that you do for your own HR and TA team, what do you do to kind of keep them inspired? Because it can be a soul sucking endeavor. It can be very vastly rewarding, especially once the offer letters are accepted and people start… There’s momentum and people, you see them take off in their career. There’s a lot of positive parts of recruiting, but there’s also a lot of rejection management, et cetera.
Sure. [crosstalk 00:20:43].
How do you keep them motivated?
It’s a really tough job. It is. You’re answering to usually very senior executives and you’re in the weeds. And so I have just so much respect for my team. And again, part of it goes back to what I said earlier, which is, just being part of an incredible journey. And there are a few companies, maybe more out in the bay area, but not as many in Chicago who have really seen this kind of growth.
And so to be part of that… And now we have recruiters who are not just in Chicago, but I think they… I have to give huge kudos to my TA director, Sasha, who’s just, again, it’s all about the leadership, right?
And so she has created an environment where people want to follow her and be mentored by her. So I think building that internal team and letting them know that this is an internal team, we are focused on doing this ourselves. We’re focused on telling the story, we have a robust employee branding team, employer branding team on the marketing side, that provides great support. And don’t underpay them.
Don’t underpay your recruiters. It’s stupid.
Right. Don’t hide the money.
Don’t. [inaudible 00:22:30] in the market. [inaudible 00:22:33].
Compensation might know technically a little bit more than they do, however, they’re really dangerously close to comp folks. All right.
So two things on the way out, because again, this is really a show about how to effectively scale your talent acquisition team in 2021, and you’ve given people great advice. I mean, already words of wisdom, nuggets have been dropping, but two things on the way out. Advice that you would give new recruiters and advice that you’d give your peers. So we’ll bifurcate those, and then one is you’ve got a brand new, fresh, shiny recruiter, what’s the advice that you give she or him and, and what does that look like?
And then when you’re, when you’re with your peers, what advice do you give them about how you’re doing it and how it’s working for you?
I would say on the first topic, craft an amazing story, craft a story and modify that story to your candidate audience. Right now, we are sourcing. We cannot rely on inbound applicants, especially, again, we’re successful, but very few… The majority of candidates have not heard of us so we are always telling the story. So that story has to be super compelling.
And again, as a recruiter, as a TA professional, you are a marketer all day long. You’re a salesperson, you’re a marketer. So put your marketing hat on and think about what that script is, what that five-minute elevator pitch, what that one paragraph email on LinkedIn needs to look like and sound like, because it is a war out there right now.
And that messaging is just super important. And I would say absolutely the same thing for my peers. It is all about marketing the company and creating a story and a pitch that resonates with your audience and your audience are potential candidates.
The other thing I’d say to peers is, there is no magic bullet out there. There’s nothing that we’ve thought about, or frankly anyone else has thought about that is like, oh, the benefit, the perk, the comp that no one’s thought about, no.
Magic bullet. What?
No. It’s all about packaging, and what is it that you can say from a long-term perspective and a short-term perspective that is going to resonate. Well, we used to do massages. We all do equity. We all do bonuses.
It’s like price of admission at this point.
Yeah. Table stakes.
Yeah, and table stakes. So no one’s thought of anything completely different. It’s just how you package that up and present it. And again, I will say it again, restating the strength of the company and its long-term potential investors is super important.
I love it. First of all, I love storytelling. I love that giving that advice to people new to the profession. Genius. What advice do you find yourself talking to your peers about?
Again, I would say the same.
Just the same things as I would say to a TA team, packaging that up.
Making sure that you are relevant against your peers. So again, for us, SAS company, fast growing SAS, what is everyone else doing? We pay attention to what’s happening on the West Coast because what happens on the West Coast tends to come East and just making sure that you’re, if not ahead of the game, doing what you’re consistently needing to do to be at least on par with the industry and then one step ahead would of course BE ideal.
I love it. Denise, thank you so much for being on the RecruitingDaily Podcast.
Thanks for having me. It was fun.
Absolutely. And thanks for everyone listening to the RecruitingDaily Podcast, until next time
William is the President & Editor-at-Large of RecruitingDaily. At the intersection of HR and technology, he’s a writer, speaker, advisor, consultant, investor, storyteller & teacher. He's been writing about HR and Recruiting related issues for longer than he cares to disclose. William serves on the Board of Advisors / Board of Directors for 20+ HR technology startups. William is a graduate of the University of Alabama at Birmingham with a BA in Art History. He also earned an MA in American Indian Studies from the University of Arizona and an MBA from Case Western Reserve University.