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Ep 391: Scaling Hiring At Speed

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In today’s talent markets, speed is critical when it comes to securing talent. Maintaining speed and quality when hiring is being scaled up is a challenge and is also a position many employers are now in.

My guest this week is Katie Morrow, VP of People Operations at Podium. Podium is a rapidly growing business, and Katie has some great insight to share on scaling up hiring without losing speed or damaging the candidate experience.

In the interview, we discuss:

• Scaling up talent acquisition

• High touch candidate experience

• The mind shift from relocation to remote

• Demonstrating company culture in virtual hiring

• Connecting people to the mission of the business

• Childcare

• The role of technology

• What do the next 12 – 18 months look like

Listen to this podcast in Apple Podcasts.

Interview transcript

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Matt Alder (1m 8s):
Hi, everyone. This is Matt Alder. Welcome to episode 391 of the Recruiting Future Podcast. In today’s talent markets, speed is critical when it comes to securing talent. Maintaining speed and quality when hiring is being scaled up is a challenge. It’s also a position that many employers are now finding themselves in. My guest this week is Katie Morrow, VP of People Operations at Podium. Podium is a rapidly growing business, and Katie has some great insight to share on scaling up hiring without losing speed or damaging the candidate experience. Hi, Katie, and welcome to the podcast.

Katie Morrow (1m 50s):
Thank you, Matt. Happy to be here.

Matt Alder (1m 52s):
An absolute pleasure to have you on the show. Could you just introduce yourself and tell us what you do?

Katie Morrow (1m 57s):
Yes, absolutely. My name’s Katie Morrow and I am a Senior Director of People Operations at Podium. I get to be involved in all things recruiting for the company, as well as people operations, ensuring that we are taking good care of our people here.

Matt Alder (2m 13s):
I suppose, by way of context, tell us a little bit more about Podium or what Podium does, and also perhaps a bit about how things have developed during your time there.

Katie Morrow (2m 22s):
Yes, absolutely. I’ve been at Podium for four years and we have grown tremendous amounts. We are a software as a service company that serves local businesses with everything from start to finish for customer acquisition and interaction, managing all communications for those local businesses with their customers. When I started, we were a reviews product platform for our customers and we’ve evolved over time to include everything including the end of that transaction all the way down to payments for our customers.

Matt Alder (3m 4s):
How is the size of the team developed in those four years?

Katie Morrow (3m 9s):
Yes, we’ve grown a tremendous amount. When I started four years ago, we had about a hundred employees and today we are just about a thousand.

Matt Alder (3m 20s):
Some fairly rapid scaling there. How has your approach to talent acquisition and recruiting had to adapt as the company’s got bigger?

Katie Morrow (3m 32s):
As we’ve grown, your right, scale is the name of the game. What worked when we were hiring 20 people a quarter is very different from what methods we need to put in place to be efficient when we’re hiring close to 200 people a quarter. A lot of it comes down to making sure that we have systems and processes in place that allow us to serve our hiring managers and provide a really seamless experience for them, as well as our candidates, making sure that the experience that they have is a great introduction to Podium and that they feel like they truly understand what the scope of their role would be, how their managers would lead them, and a clear view of what the opportunity would entail if they were to choose podium.

Katie Morrow (4m 23s):
A lot of that comes down to ensuring that we’ve rolled out really prescriptive, structured interviews for all of our evergreen roles across the company, ensuring that our hiring team is making very unbiased, clear, thoughtful decisions through the process, as well as making sure that our interviewers are being trained on how critical providing a very high touch candidate experiences as well.

Matt Alder (4m 54s):
All over the world companies are facing very challenging talent markets at the moment. I’m presuming that it’s no different where you are in the market that you’re operating in. What challenges are you having and how is that affecting your processes and the way that you go about recruiting?

Katie Morrow (5m 11s):
Yes, you’re right. It’s a talent landscape, unlike anything I’ve ever seen before. I’m sure a lot of talent acquisition professionals are experiencing the same thing. In a lot of ways, we’ve seen it as a really unique opportunity. Podium, we’re headquartered in Utah, which has one of the fastest-growing economies in the United States, but for the first time ever, pre-pandemic, we really tried to convince all of our candidates to uproot their lives, relocate to Utah, and join us here in headquarters. The pandemic really allowed us to have a major paradigm shift where we, for the most part, are open to hiring all roles remotely.

Katie Morrow (6m 0s):
Our talent pool has increased exponentially and that’s been a really great silver lining for us in our hiring strategy to be able to reach a much bigger market. That’s been something that’s been helpful. I think what’s helped us win talent in such an aggressive market is being very transparent about our culture to ensure it’s a solid fit, not only Podium but for the candidates as well. I think now more than ever, employees and candidates are demanding that it’s a good fit both ways and ensuring that the company genuinely cares about what they value and what’s important to them.

Katie Morrow (6m 47s):
I think Podium has a very strong culture and we do a really good job I think of taking care of our people and we just need to be more transparent and articulate that throughout the recruiting process to make sure that candidates can understand that picture.

Matt Alder (7m 7s):
Very keen to know more about your culture and we can come onto that a bit more in a second. Before we do, I’m just interested. How has starting to recruit people remotely when you were very much of a face-to-face culture before, how have you had to adapt, and has that changed things? Obviously, we’re talking about the upsides in terms of broadening the talent pool but has that brought any challenges?

Katie Morrow (7m 37s):
Yes, absolutely. When we invited candidates into our space and they were able to walk around our building and meet our teams face-to-face, that energy that comes from having your team in one centralized location is really palatable. People can feel it. They can get a sense of making that human connection. Will I be able to learn from this person Will I be able to be mentored by them? Is this the kind of culture that I can thrive in? All of a sudden, all of those in-office perks or obvious culture that you get from walking into our building was stripped away.

Katie Morrow (8m 23s):
We had to be much stronger communicators. We had to be able to communicate all of that through a zoom video interview. That presented a unique challenge. People accepting a job and working for a company and a new leader when they’ve never set foot in the building or never had a chance to meet that person face-to-face was a little bit uncomfortable for people at that beginning of the transition and, and for us too. It was a transition for our hiring managers to feel like they were taking a leap and a bet on a candidate that they’ve had never had the chance to meet in person.

Katie Morrow (9m 10s):
It was just a little bit of training and really a shift of perspective that now we have found. We are able to be so much more efficient in the interview process when we do video interviews versus requiring somebody to come back and forth. I think that in-person experience is really irreplaceable and it’s making sure that we have documented culture, recorded culture, things like a video or a video tour of the building so we can replace that in lieu of people being able to walk around the physical space.

Matt Alder (9m 48s):
Are there any other kinds of tactics or lessons you’ve learned from that process in terms of how you communicate the culture virtually?

Katie Morrow (9m 57s):
Yes. A lot of it is training our interviewers to ensure that when you’re two minutes late to an in-person interview, it’s not a huge deal. When you’re two minutes late to a video interview and you have a candidate sitting there staring at a blank screen, getting more nervous by the second, it’s a really big deal. Making sure that our hiring team is prompt and on time in making sure our recruiting coordinators sit in on every interview to get them started to make sure that that transition goes well and that our candidates are not nervous and that they have somebody to speak to and break that ice.

Katie Morrow (10m 41s):
That rapport-building portion of the interview is something that we can’t skip anymore. It’s critical to us being able to close those candidates out at the end of the day because it’s really their only opportunity to make those personal connections to their interviewers.

Matt Alder (10m 55s):
There’s some really interesting and valuable stuff there, but I think the thing about being on time just really resonates with me because since the pandemic and all of my meetings had moved to be virtual, I’ve never had to apologize more for being one minute late to meetings because it really does. You really do notice that and it really does make a difference. You talked about your culture a lot. Talk us through. Obviously, retention is as important, if not more important than recruiting and acquiring talent at the moment. What do you do to make sure you keep the talent that you have and what is it that makes your culture really unique?

Katie Morrow (11m 41s):
Great question. You’re right. It’s challenging. I think what’s unique about Podium’s culture is we really empower every individual to be those culture champions. I think one of the most important values that we have is to think like a founder, operate like a founder, which really translates down to ownership in really empowering all of our individual contributors. It could be your first job out of college and we want every individual to own their role, own those decisions, and really be empowered to have an impact in the organization.

Katie Morrow (12m 29s):
I think that that lack of hierarchy is critical to making sure that people feel connected to the mission of the business and really making sure that they feel like what they do on a day-to-day basis drives Podium’s mission of empowering local businesses forward. That has been something that’s really resonated well, especially through the pandemic as I think every single one of us knows somebody that owns a local business and had their dream be put at risk through the last 18 months.

Katie Morrow (13m 8s):
I think we’ve done a really good job of ensuring that each one of our people feels that what they do really does matter to helping save those businesses. I think that founder mentality, that extreme ownership is something that pulses through our whole organization and it’s really powerful.

Matt Alder (13m 35s):
I suppose, one of the biggest issues for many people during the pandemic has been childcare and balancing childcare with working, particularly when that’s happening remotely. I’ve read that Podium has done some interesting things in that area. Could you tell us a bit more about that?

Katie Morrow (13m 54s):
Yes, absolutely. We have currently about 80% of our workforce here in Utah. We decided, you’re right, that childcare is a big barrier to being able to remain in the workforce and so we decided to open up a childcare facility on site at our headquarters, which is not very common in the US, especially companies of our size. We did that. We opened last July of 2021 and the center has space for 50 children between six months and five years old. It was a dream and an ambition of ours long before the pandemic but I think through the pandemic, we noticed that a lack of childcare really is a barrier for individuals to be able to give their all, focus on work, and their career goals while homeschooling or tending to their younger children.

Katie Morrow (15m 1s):
This was something that Podium could do to lighten that load and to really help all of those working parents and our communities ensure that we were helping provide a really long-lasting solution.

Matt Alder (15m 15s):
That’s amazing stuff. It’s something that I wish more companies would do because it is so important and it does mean more people can come back to the workforce or still stay in the workforce.

Katie Morrow (15m 33s):
Yes, we’ve had an amazing response. It’s been life-changing for the people that use it. I don’t have a child in the facility, but I feel an immense amount of pride to work for an organization that actually makes the financial investment to solve a really hard problem. I think that we see that across a lot of our employees, feeling a lot of pride working for a company that’s willing to do the right thing.

Matt Alder (16m 4s):
You’ve already mentioned video interviewing as being a key part of your recruitment process. How else does technology help you, I suppose, both in recruiting and in broader HR?

Katie Morrow (16m 13s):
Yes. I think one of the fun things about working for a technology company is often you can leverage your own tools and be able to have that experience of one of your customers. We do, in fact, use Podium through our interview process. Podium offers an SMS texting feature and in today’s crazy talent market where candidates are often interviewing with five to 10 companies or have five to 10 offers that they’re deciding between, speed of hiring is so critical to be able to even be competitive in that process or that decision.

Katie Morrow (16m 60s):
As soon as a candidate or a prospect becomes a candidate, we start using our platform and texting them through the interview process for little things like scheduling their onsite interviews to following up on offers through the Podium platform. We have seen our response time from a candidate standpoint go from one or two days when it was an email to minutes when it’s a text. That enables us to really close down the time to fill process because candidates always have their phone in their hand and they can shoot back a quick text so much easier than replying to an email.

Katie Morrow (17m 48s):
That’s been part of our critical technology that we use in order to hire really very efficiently in today’s market.

Matt Alder (17m 56s):
Final question. Obviously, as we’ve learned in the last 18 months, it’s impossible to predict the future. I’m interested to know what’s next for Podium. What are you going to be focusing on for the next 12 to 18 months?

Katie Morrow (18m 14s):
Great question. Continuing to grow, continuing to operate at scale, and make sure that what we’re doing today is going to work when we’re a thousand-person company, a 2,000-person company, and a 5,000-person company, and getting ahead of that through ensuring that our hiring managers are trained really well. I also think that’s something that’s critical for us. A huge opportunity is to really focus on our diversity recruiting efforts. Utah is not a super diverse state, but nationally, we have so much opportunity to ensure that we’re recruiting female candidates and underrepresented candidates that will really round out Podium’s team and help us reflect back on what our customers look like and what they value.

Katie Morrow (19m 14s):
That’s something that we will really focus on over the next 18 months.

Matt Alder (19m 18s):
Katie, thank you very much for talking to me.

Katie Morrow (19m 23s):
Absolutely. Thanks for having me.

Matt Alder (19m 25s):
My thanks to Katie Morrow. You can subscribe to this podcast in Apple Podcasts, on Spotify, or via your podcasting app of choice.

Matt Alder (20m 23s):
Please also follow the show on Instagram. You can find us by searching for Recruiting Future. You can search all the past episodes at recruitingfuture.com. On that site, you can also subscribe to the mailing list to get the inside track about everything that’s coming up on the show. Thanks so much for listening. I’ll be back next time and I hope you’ll join me.

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