*Insight on Demand | Success factors to high velocity hiring in Digital*
Updated: Jan 29
We are often asked for our view on what is an achievable hiring cadence in niche Digital skill areas. Either this, or we find ourselves providing our view of what is achievable! There’s really no one answer and what is achievable is based on a myriad of both subjective and objective factors, such as skills and level sought, assessment methods, available resources and employer branding. That said, there is a way to express what might be achievable in a typical hiring sprint of 3 months, provided certain factors are in place and what those factors need to be. One of the main hiring areas where this question comes up is Software Development, so I will use this as a platform for discussion, though the principles can still be applied more broadly. Also, bear in mind, 'Software Development' is a broad term itself, so can include areas, such as Devops and QA.
As a case study, I will use a discussion I had very recently with a very high profile and successful CTO, who leads one of the largest and fastest growing technology hubs here in Malaysia. He was able to provide a host of 'Success Factors' as to how to achieve hiring velocity in this area. This can hopefully serve as a useful yardstick to the many digital hubs looking to rapidly upscale their people resources. Being realistic and setting expectations is vital to avoid disappointment and ending up fatally off track with delivery planning. The fact is, it takes time to get hiring right and subjective factors like employer branding do play a role. Whilst being 'new on the block' gives you a blank canvas and opportunity to build something without any negative backdrop, the reality is candidates are more drawn to established brands either locally or internationally. In short, it’s harder for newer startups building from scratch, though with the right success factors, it's possible to build momentum and it can become easier.
Optimal hiring cadence...
- In the case study above, a peak rate of cadence 2 hires per week was achieved;
- So in a typical, 3 months hiring sprint, c. 20 hires were confirmed (offer and acceptance).
This can be considered an absolutely optimal hiring rate and at no point have I come across a higher velocity rate of hiring in this field in Malaysia.
So HOW was this achieved?
Access to expat talent - There can be no illusions on this, to build resources at this rate requires a blend of local sourcing and expats, whether this be relocators, perhaps for the senior roles, or expats already on the ground for a more easily facilitated EP transfer. Typical proportions of local to expat is 70% local to 30% expat. Despite current conditions, it is still possible to process visas albeit with some delays and, for those businesses without a visa platform in place, there is still ample scope for facilitation via MDEC or Talentcorp, so if you haven't done so already, it's worth investigating to ensure this avenue is available to you.
Openness to all levels - Employers have to be realistic about being able to hire 20 plus candidates, all at the same level, with the same skill set on a ‘cookie cut’ basis. The reality for businesses hiring at this scale is that such teams are likely a compound of experienced candidates with high skills coverage for the particular environment, combined with some candidates with high ‘values’ plus transferable skills fit, and an aptitude to learn. Successful employers that are able to scale often hire on such wider criteria, on the basis specific skills and frameworks can be taught and this works well if you are hiring and assessing candidates based on factors such as ability to problem solve and learn quickly. This principle applies, of course, to hiring graduates and many smart employers are capitalising on the current abundant supply of high calibre graduates with a hunger to learn. After all, the best way to breed loyalty is to give people opportunities.
Well resourced talent acquisition function - Talent acquisition done well is labour intensive: It requires extensive energy to build long lists of potential talent; messaging of the right personalised nature; use of employer branding to elevate and upsell opportunities and entice talent to your business; coordinate the entire process through an effective candidate journey through to onboarding; plus all the escalations in between! These are very easy tasks to underestimate and the reality is it needs a ‘squad’ of specialists to make the magic happen, especially in the competitive market we operate within.
Effective employer branding - This is linked to the above and is the main tool your squad of talent acquisition specialists will need to leverage to entice talent effectively. What is your company’s reputation and what % of candidates are open to opportunities upon hearing the brand and the opportunity at hand? How well is this articulated online and can the candidate get a grasp of the company vision, values and opportunity based on what they can acquire in a well curated format? This even applies to whether there are well crafted job descriptions for all roles to create a positive, clear impression with potential candidates as to what the expectations are for each role in terms of competencies and deliverables.
Systematic approach to screening - It's important to achieve a blend of being creative whilst being process led to achieve these numbers. It's critical to employ a ‘project’ based approach, perhaps using an agile methodology, supported by a tool such as Trello, to keep all stakeholders aligned to enable fast decisioning and process transparency. In terms of interview process, it's important to take candidates through a slick process that assesses the competencies you need in an efficient way, whilst also adding in the human touch to enable candidates to take on the insight they need to make a comfortable decision, having built a level of chemistry with the brand and management. An ‘open day’ model, either physical or virtual, works well in this sense, to enable assessment at scale with quick turnarounds. However implemented, it's important to give candidates a clear itinerary of the process that you then stick to, to ensure commitment throughout and to avoid candidates dropping out. There of course needs to be effective feedback throughout, so candidates perceive the process as a positive learning experience, which translates to better employer branding and conversions of offer to acceptance.
These are 5 principles that would be a good idea for any Digital employer looking to hire on mass to look more closely at. I didn’t go on to talk about compensation and benefits and how this area is managed, as it’s a whole different topic. The fact is, whilst salary plays a role, it can be quite surprising how failure to address the factors above have a far more inhibiting effect on the ability to hire at scale. The task of hiring at the kind of volumes outlined is a massive task for most business looking to establish a new development hub and there’s no easy way of going about it, though it’s possible to take comfort from the case studies of those CTOs that have worked hard on these areas to make a success of it and, in so doing, build an attractive employer brand that helps draw the attention of the region’s best talent, which is a great place to be.