Episode 181

How To: HR and Hiring with Erin Stephenson & Jamie Savage

This month, we hear from an entrepreneur and HR expert about why hiring for culture is important and how to hire team members that will thrive.

Episode Overview

Hiring is so important for a venture’s success, yet the search for talent is a gargantuan challenge for most founders. Business owners need strong processes and a map to make sure their teams survive and thrive. Entrepreneurs must think of culture as a code, one that is built with intention while leaving room for behaviours and methods to reveal themselves organically.

Erin Stephenson, COO and CMO  of DOZR makes sure she hires for culture and includes folks who believe in the work DOZR does – a great practice case study to discuss the ins and outs of HR and Hiring. Jamie Savage of The Leadership Agency, an expert helping build the teams of today’s greatest startups, explores Erin’s experience with us to uncover how women entrepreneurs can make sure their HR and Hiring gestures are done right.


Erin Stephenson is the COO and CMO of DOZR, the largest online equipment rental marketplace. 

Jamie Savage is the CEO and Founder of The Leadership Agency, on a mission to find and hire the best talent for the fastest-growing startups.

The Leadership Agency: The Juggle Is Real article Jamie Savage: Navigating The Uncharted Waters of Human Resources Post-Pandemic article
Startup Canada: Business Owners Toolbox: Module 6 – HR
MaRS: Hiring Roadmap for Startups article
BDC: 5 Essential Steps: How to hire a new employee article
Scotiabank Women’s Initiative: What makes a great woman leader? article

Episode 181

Episode Transcript

Kayla Isabelle (Startup Canada)  00:10
Welcome to the Startup Women podcast, a show where we connect you, Canada’s powerful cohort of women identifying founders, to real stories and case studies of women building businesses supported by true tactical advice from thought leaders and industry experts. I’m your host, Kayla Isabelle, CEO of Startup Canada. Each month, I’ll be sharing the mic with one founder and one expert. Together we will dive into real stories and scenarios and uncover actionable advice for women entrepreneurs across Canada from funding and hiring to sales and scaling strategies. On this show, we cover the most important topics so you can deconstruct the challenges of starting and running a business with the knowledge that goes beyond the surface level. Let’s get started. Erin Stephenson is the CEO and CMO of DOZR, the largest online equipment rental marketplace. Erin is focused on scaling the DOZR team. But with that comes the challenge of ensuring the right people are recruited for the culture that she’s built. Hiring for culture is important too, Erin. And it often can be the difference between a person surviving or thriving in the organization.

Erin Stephenson (DOZR)  02:30
We’ve been very, very intentional about our culture and what we wanted our culture to be as a company. So we set out early on and defined that and wrote it down in a slide deck. You know, we have cultural elements like respect and collaboration, learning and problem-solving customer focus, we make sure that we hire for a culture that’s very, very important for us. So as we’re bringing people into the organization, they need to not only have the skills and experience to do the job, but they have to align with our values and how we do business.

Kayla Isabelle (Startup Canada)  03:01
But what exactly is culture? Where does it come from? And how do you make sure your team identifies with it and embodies it, that’s where Jamie savage CEO and founder of the leading agency comes in Jamie and the lead agency has helped some of the fastest-growing startups make and keep their best hires.

Jamie Savage (The Leadership Agency)  03:20
Culture has never been more important than it is now. Culture is a code. It’s really important. But right now, the reason I say it’s more important than it ever has been is because we are defining it as we speak here today, companies are having to reevaluate a lot of what they thought made up their culture, or defined their culture. You know, we’re seeing a shift, go from this in-office culture mentality, and the things that were very tangible that we thought made up our culture, you know, things that we could see and experience. And that isn’t necessarily culture. And so I think it’s leaving people in a place where they’re like, Well, what is our culture?

Kayla Isabelle (Startup Canada)  04:04
In this conversation we bring together Erin, and Jamie’s experience and expertise to talk about hiring, and how women entrepreneurs can make sure that these gestures and their business are done, right. The ways we hire and how we take care of our people and our teams matter. And although hiring may not get easier as organizations grow, there are certain things that founders and leaders can do to approach these decisions with detail, influence, and impact. Welcome to the show, Erin and Jamie.

Erin Stephenson (DOZR)  04:36
Thanks for having me.

Jamie Savage (The Leadership Agency)  04:37
Thank you so much for having me.

Kayla Isabelle (Startup Canada)  04:38
Yeah. Well, I’m so excited to dive into today’s conversation. But to give our audience a little bit of context around who you are, Jamie, tell us a little bit about yourself and your journey with the lead agency.

Jamie Savage (The Leadership Agency)  04:49
Yeah, so I’m the Founder of The Leadership Agency. I founded the company five years ago, and I come with about 15 years of recruitment experience. And so When I founded the company, I knew that I wanted to help startups make their best hires and grow and lead. And so we get to help build some of the most impressive companies of our generation by doing so. And you know, we are operated and locally situated here in Toronto, Canada, but we’re global, you know, focused, we expanded into the UK in 2021. And to us in 2018. You know, it’s a very exciting time to be in recruitment.

Kayla Isabelle (Startup Canada)  05:28
Amazing, fabulous. Jamie, and Erin, walk us through a bit of your journey as the CEO of DOZR I know you’ve been going through quite a hiring journey these days. What does that adventure look for in your DOZR?

Erin Stephenson (DOZR)  05:40
Yes. So at DOZR today, we have a team of about 65 people. And we’ve been growing significantly over the last several years, we started the company back in 2015, with just three founders. And we have grown it consistently year over year since then, usually in line with fundraising, you know, you get an influx of cash, and then you can have another hiring boom at the company. So it does come in ebbs and flows. But we’ve been doubling the size of the company almost every year, and this year is no exception. We’re looking at significant growth again, and nearly doubling the team in 2022.

Kayla Isabelle (Startup Canada)  06:19
Wow, incredible. So let’s start there, you know, with this growth, and you know, almost doubling your team year over year that is incredible. Can you describe, you know what his DOZR’s culture looked like? From the beginning. I know that when we talk about hiring, we’re going to go into some deep dives into hiring for culture. But as the leader of the organization, how do you know what you wanted DOZR’s culture to be like, how has that journey been for you, as one of the early stages?

Erin Stephenson (DOZR)  06:51
Yeah, we’ve been very, very intentional about our culture, and what we wanted our culture to be as a company. So we set out early on and defined that and wrote it down in a slide deck. You know, we have cultural elements, like respect and collaboration, learning, and problem-solving customer focus. Those are the core elements of our culture. And we make sure that we hire for culture, that’s very, very important for us. So as we’re bringing people into the organization, they need to not only have the skills and experience to do the job, but they have to align with our values and how we do business.

Kayla Isabelle (Startup Canada)  07:29
And Jamie, is this something that you’re seeing with the startups that you’re working with, around culture, we know it is appearing in all of this thought leadership, so many conversations are being had around, What makes an ideal culture? You know, as people are recruiting and trying to retain employees at top speed at the moment, why does culture matter to you from your experience? And what are you seeing with the startups that you’re working with?

Jamie Savage (The Leadership Agency)  07:53
Yeah, I think that culture has never been more important than it is now. And what I mean by that is, there’s always important, you know, whether it’s to, to hire people for or to help, you know, guide your organization through growth and evolution. Culture is a code, it’s really important. But right now, the reason I say it’s more important than it ever has been being because we are defining it as we speak here today, companies are having to reevaluate a lot of what they thought made up their culture or defined their culture. You know, we’re seeing a shift, from this in-office culture mentality, the things that were very tangible that we thought made up our culture, you know, things that we could see and experience and that isn’t necessarily culture. And so I think it’s leaving people in a place where they’re like, Well, what is our culture, and that’s, that’s great because that’s changing evolution. And I think that culture-based hiring is important. I think that there’s an opportunity to, to grow into change from that because I think a lot of times and a lot of companies, culture is very flawed, we’re seeing that you know, a lot of companies haven’t done the work to be inclusive, they haven’t done the work to be diverse, they haven’t done the work to do all this really important work on themselves. And, you know, you’ll see that reflected, you know, in the hires that they make moving forward into the hires they’ve made in the past, and I think that culture is a really important topic right now. I think we have this unique opportunity to recreate or redefine our culture and in most cases, actually create a company culture.

Kayla Isabelle (Startup Canada)  09:39
Amazing. So let’s go to you know, hiring and HR 101. This is a space that entrepreneurs struggle with daily in either, you know, making their first hire, making their 100th hire as they are scaling rapidly. And it’s a challenge to figure out what the best approach framework is, you know, how do you plan out this hiring and recruitment process. So Jamie, does hiring get easier, the more that you do it, or can your first hire and your 100th hire bring the same level of difficulty? What have you seen in the industries that you’ve been working in?

Jamie Savage (The Leadership Agency)  10:11
Yeah, I think that, from my experience, you know, having grown teams myself, but I think, you know, more relevantly, you know, there’s more relevance in sharing my experience with my client, like the experience I’ve had with my clients. And that is that hiring never gets easy, or it never gets easier. There are easy times or there are times where, or hires feel easy to be made, because it’s the right person, that’s the right time. But the truth is, is that you know, or recruitments, not linear, so it’s never going to be, you know, a magic formula. And, unfortunately, you know, overtime or with more practice, that doesn’t necessarily impact whether it is easy or hard. The truth is, you know, it’s a people lead process and mission. So every hire will be different. Every candidate that you enter for your interview for your job will be different. Everyone who’s making that hire has, you know, has different expectations. But I think that what you’ll see as companies grow and scale, and you know, their business practices do as well, there becomes more rigor, there are more learning opportunities, and you know, you can start to define for your organization, how you want it to be done, you get to have more influence versus just reacting to, to a hiring need. And that is, what will get easier, so to speak, is having that influence on how you make these hires and who you are, and who you hire versus, you know, just having to hire it, because you’re growing so quickly. So I think over time, what that does is it allows you, like I said, to have influence and to impact how these hires are made. 

Kayla Isabelle (Startup Canada)  11:56
And do you have any common frameworks that founders should be familiar with, when it comes to hiring, like, is there a standard approach or standard questions? Or, you know, a length of interviews, etc, that, you know, is sort of best practice for organizations to implement into their business? Or does it depend on what you’re hiring for?

Jamie Savage (The Leadership Agency)  12:15
Yeah, I think that for recruitment to be successful. And, and repeated success, it’s more important for organizations and companies who are hiring, to remember that successful recruitment is equal amounts of probability and urgency. And so when you go to market, and you have a job that you want to hire for, you have to be urgent, you have to remember that this is people’s time, this is there, you know, their dedication to the process. And so that can’t take an exceptional amount of time. And you have to be relevant in the probability aspect is you, you have to be relevant you what you ask the market, your expectations of their experience, they’re expecting your expectations of what you want to pay these people, how you want to lead them, and what you expect their contribution to be to the organization. That has to be relevant. That has to be probable the market has to respond. And so I think it’s going into each search with realistic expectations. And with urgency, and with mindfulness around people’s time, I think that is the best framework. And I think there are methodologies out there that are proven to be very successful in some organizations, and probably not in others. You know, you can subscribe to things like top grading and psychometric testing and things like that, but that’s not going to work for all companies. So I think that it’s more of a mindset and more of a recognition that you people you want to hire are just that they are people and you need to be urgent and have realistic expectations.

Kayla Isabelle (Startup Canada)  13:57
Hmm, that’s really helpful advice, Jamie. Yeah, it just feels, I think, very daunting to so many entrepreneurs, you know, to get this right, that the stakes feel so high often as well. So that added pressure and that natural urgency is important. But there are so many other variables as well that are at play. So I think that’s helpful feedback for our listeners. Erin, you shared that one of the biggest challenges that you faced as a leader at DOZR has been growing your talent and retaining DOZR’s culture while you shift from a startup to a scale-up and this is something that we’re seeing a lot of entrepreneurs struggle with. Is this an ongoing challenge for you? How are hiring for culture and that approach that you prioritize embedded into this growth strategy? Can you walk us through with maybe some concrete examples of what that looks like for you?

Erin Stephenson (DOZR)  14:43
Yeah, absolutely. Hiring for culture is probably the most important factor that we consider when we’re bringing new people onto the team. It’s that X factor. It’s that element that makes the difference between somebody surviving and somebody thriving in the organization is of huge importance for us. It can’t be discounted – having skills and experience for us is sort of the baseline, that’s like the minimum requirement for integrating the organization. And when we look at culture, it’s a combination of things that we consider as a combination of the values that we have as a company and want to make sure that the hires we bring in share those values, but it’s also looking at the realities of the job. And we have to be honest with ourselves as startups about what the realities of the job are because they can be quite different than they are in larger organizations. So a key example I think about processes, you know, some people need process, they thrive on it, that’s just a fundamental part of how they work. For us our startup process is not something hugely important. It certainly wasn’t when we were early stage, and it does change and shift over time as the company grows and scales. So we need to make sure that we’re clear about the realities of the job, and that we’re bringing in people that fit those realities. If we bring in somebody who wants a lot of processes, and we don’t have that, they’re not going to thrive. And that does change as we scale, we start bringing in, you know, a lot of new employees and the need for process becomes greater. And so we also have to shift our expectations as a company about what we’re going to offer our employees and make sure that we’re, As Jamie mentioned, staying relevant and keeping up with where we need to be as an organization. And it also takes a lot of intention, you have to be intentional about doing it, really understand what your values are, really understand those realities of your job. When you’re, you’re a small startup, and it is the founders that are living and breathing that culture and embodying it, a lot of that culture gets passed on through osmosis with those first few hires. But as you scale and you grow, and you start bringing in new people, you can’t rely on that process of osmosis anymore, that with each new hire, that gets diluted a little bit. So you have to be intentional about what you do to embed that culture into your organization embedded into the new hires that you bring. So part of that for us comes from hiring for culture in the first place and making sure there’s that initial alignment. But we also have to be mindful of the onboarding process and make sure that we are onboarding people to our culture at the same time, and then embedding it in everything that we do and reinforcing our culture and everything that we do as well.

Kayla Isabelle (Startup Canada)  17:36
It’s tricky stuff. There are a lot of different layers to this. And I’m curious to get both of your feedback on this. Do you think that the culture of an organization comes top-down, from founders to employees as you know, organizations scale? Or is it something that that almost naturally builds over time through the teams that you bring on? Where does culture come from? Jamie, what are your thoughts on how intentional you can be about building a culture versus it kind of happening organically?

Jamie Savage (The Leadership Agency)  18:07
Yeah, I think that it’s a bit of both. And I can, I can speak from my personal experience. So when I founded The Leadership Agency, five years ago, one of our missions, or my mission was to help build the most impressive companies of our generation by helping them make their best hires. And I didn’t want to be, you know, excluded from that I wanted to build a company that was better than any company I’ve ever worked for. And so I think, you know, from the very beginning, I had a unique mind frame. I had, you know, goals and a mission, that, you know, goals I wanted to accomplish, and a mission that I didn’t want to lose focus on. But truth be told, you know, my culture and my mindset, and you know, where I was two or three years ago, as a founder, and as a leader in the company, is very different than where I am now. And I can confidently say that that has been influenced and impacted by the people around me continuously, the people who once worked for my company, who maybe no longer do, but the people who’ve been there since day one. And I think that that is, you know, an example of, sort of, like, you know, what Erin mentioned, like this osmosis process where you’re continuously learning from each other and being influenced and impacted by one another. But you know, I also think that more often than not, and I don’t know if this is always a positive thing, but it’s really, you know, top-down, and I don’t always get the best experiences or best exposure to cultures when, when it is LED and directed that way when there is no room for growth and improvement, because like I said earlier, like, I think we’re all seeing that culture. A lot of cultures within companies are quite flawed, and it’s quite open for negotiation right now, because we’re all trying to figure so much out and I think that you’ll see companies who aren’t open to change and flexible, you know, and doing the work for their company. They’re the ones who are likely I lead with a linear mindset that it is top-down. So I think that we’re quickly seeing a sort of drinking from a firehose, in terms of that experience. Companies who have one mindset and a company in companies who have others.

Kayla Isabelle (Startup Canada)  20:13
Interesting, so interesting. Erin, what are your thoughts? Is corporate culture something that’s created? Does it reveal itself? Does it come top-down? What’s your perspective?

Erin Stephenson (DOZR)  20:21
You know, I agree with a lot of what Jamie said, I think it starts top-down in that the founders need to be intentional about what their culture is, give that some thought write it down, you know, but then you have to be flexible to listen to the feedback that’s coming from your employees, and you’re in ultimately have to walk the talk. So we could create a beautiful slide deck that says, These are our values, and this is our culture. But if we don’t actually live it and breathe it every single day, and then embed that into every element of the work we do, it’s not going to feel authentic, and it’s not going to feel real. And then you end up with this disconnect, which is, I think, what Jamie’s talking about her experience, where the leaders are saying the culture is one thing, and the rest of the employee population is saying or feeling that it’s something else. And so it does take a lot of work to make sure that if you are intentional about your culture, that you have that alignment, and that you’re embedding that into the day-to-day experiences of your employees. But you naturally have to take that feedback, and, and shift and adjust. And as your company scales and grows, your culture shifts as well. When you’re only a five-person company, you know, you just think, act and operate differently than when you’re a 100 person company. And each sort of growth stage along the way your culture naturally shifts and adapts. And so you have to be open to that as a leader.

Kayla Isabelle (Startup Canada)  21:50
Great. And I love that you said at the beginning, write it down. I think that’s something that many entrepreneurs and many, you know, employees or employers for that matter, they struggle with actually putting concrete words around what their culture is, like, it’s sort of this amorphous feeling or energy or, you know, it doesn’t feel concrete enough. And I think there’s a lot of power in writing down, you know, your corporate values, what does culture mean, within your day-to-day? What are examples of what that looks like? Like the more structure, I think, from a recruitment standpoint that we can provide and saying, Hey, here’s the type of culture we’re looking to match when bringing you on to the team, that helps everyone through the recruiting process. So I love the simplicity of that suggestion, or just write it down. And some of it, you know, we’re not gonna be able to write to in perfect detail what it is. But that’s a good start.

Erin Stephenson (DOZR)  22:39
Yes, we wrote our values down early on probably within our first year. And within the first few hires that we had as a company, we went through a planning session, we wrote down our B hag, you know, big, hairy, audacious goal, what our vision was, where we were headed, and a fundamental part of that was what our values were, and it formed the basis for a lot of our hiring decisions going forward.

Kayla Isabelle (Startup Canada)  23:03
That’s great. So many of the entrepreneurs listening to this podcast are at a very early stage in the development of their businesses. And building from a really strong foundation, developing repeatable hiring processes, getting some step-by-step feedback is something that at startup Canada, we get asked for very often. So Jamie, when is a good time for solopreneurs? Very small teams or, you know, independent founders, when should they be considering hiring? Are there certain signs that tell organizations that it might be time to hire? What are some of those cues?

Jamie Savage (The Leadership Agency)  23:35
Yeah, I think the simple answer to that is if you’re thinking about it, you’re like, it should have been done yesterday. Like I, I think that that’s so much easier said than done. And I completely understand and empathize with that from being, you know, an early-stage founder, myself of a bootstrap company. And I think that you know, one of the best decisions I ever made, as a founder as an entrepreneur was if I hired from day one. And, you know, that comes with its challenges. But I think the cues to look for, or the data to support, you know, the decision you’re trying to make in terms of hiring, regardless of the line of business that you’re trying to hire, whether it’s sales or marketing, or finance, is looked at just that the data, reverse engineer, you know, your numbers and, and ensure that you’ve got the run rate like you’ve got the revenue to support that you’ve got, you know, the right, whether it’s a leader to lead this new hire, there’s a lot of different factors that go into, you know, determining whether or not it’s the right time to make a hire. But I think as early-stage founders and as early-stage companies, I think that more likely than not, the answer is yes, go ahead and make that hire and, you know, it should pay off. Ultimately, you know, the ROI is proven very quickly with hires. Yes, there’s onboarding, yes, there’s training. There’s a lot of measurement that goes into different hires and the ROI attached to that. But ultimately, you know, my simple answer to that is yes, go make a hire.

Kayla Isabelle (Startup Canada)  25:14
Just dive right in. I love it. And, you know, building job descriptions is something that I think many organizations either do extremely well or not very well, as we’ve seen, you know, especially in this economy right now, you know, people are shifting jobs people are, we’re in a totally different environment than we were even at the beginning of the pandemic. What do you think is sort of the secret sauce, have clear job descriptions that you’re retaining? Or you’re recruiting that top talent, with that clarity that is required for them to understand what they’re signing up for? Jamie, I’ll ask that question to you. And then maybe Erin, you can add any additional context from your experience?

Jamie Savage (The Leadership Agency)  25:51
Yeah, absolutely. I think that you know, it’s a perfect segue into the previous question about, you know, waiting for the answers or, you know, knowing when to do something. And I think that when it comes to job descriptions is you don’t want to necessarily wait for all the answers. If it says entrepreneur, you’re likely never going to get them. So you want to move forward with purpose. And I think job descriptions are a great product of that it’s purpose-driven. That’s exactly what a job description is, is there’s the purpose, there is  measurement, there are expectations. So I think that creating a framework of you know, a few simple things and job descriptions often get confused with job postings, they’re quite different things. A jjob posting is an advertisement, it’s what gets someone interested in your organization. So you have a lot of really cool creative liberties. There when it comes to job postings that will get someone enticed, so treated as such, because they’re not one and the same. So when you read a job description, don’t post that online, because that’s not what’s going to get someone to want to work for your company. A job description is usually, you know, released or used as a tool in the recruitment process where like, Hey, thanks for applying, thanks for interviewing, here’s the job description, let’s go over together, I’ll send it to you. So it isa much more detailed document and holds a lot more weight when it comes to actual employment versus just getting someone to want to apply and be interested in your company. So job descriptions, to start there are very detailed, so be prepared to invest in detail there, because that is its purpose. And so really outlining what you want this person to be able to do, whether it’s a hard skill, job description, having certain hard skills and technical aptitude and abilities, whether it is a creative mindset in what maybe it’s a marketing role, and outlining what your marketing department looks like today. And what you want this person to contribute to that and how they’re going to be measured. That’s also very important to put in a job description, measurement, and so on. A job posting is creative, it’s something that you can leverage your brand and your culture. You know, Erin’s talked so much about that. And as this job posting, is a great opportunity to shine a light on your culture, because people want to know about that. So I think that creating two different documents is important. And researching job descriptions, see what’s out there, see how other people talk about their jobs, because there’s usually a lot you can correlate a lot of what someone’s doing with one company to another, don’t copy and paste, that’s not going to work. But get a framework, find something that inspires you, and you relate to in terms of what this job is. And remember that there are two different documents.

Kayla Isabelle (Startup Canada)  28:29
And it’s such a good comment, Jamie. And even in my positioning of that question, I was saying, you know, a job description, imagining a job posting and a description in the same sort of buckets. So that’s such an important distinction and level of detail. And when it comes to recruiting in such a competitive environment, this is a key piece of advice, I think, for a lot of founders that are looking to recruit amongst so many other founders who are trying to recruit so great, great insight there, Jamie. Erin, as it pertains to, you know, hiring, embedding into the culture of your organization as well, do you have any tips on how you’ve approached job postings versus job descriptions? And where that line is drawn of hiring for culture and hiring for skill set? How do you approach that within your organization?

Erin Stephenson (DOZR)  29:16
Yeah, I mean, a job posting is so much more than a list of skills and experience that you’re looking for, or tasks that you know, are gonna get checked off during the workweek. As a startup, you know, we can’t always compete with other companies on salaries, we can’t always compete with them on brand name and things like that. So you can use your job posting as a place to set yourself apart, sell your vision, you know, we always have a section at the top of our job descriptions where we describe our company and what we’re doing and how big the market is and how you know, impactful what we’re doing is how we’re changing the world. You know, but work by what we’re doing and how employees that come and join us. are going to change the world by the work that they do. So we’re trying to sell that vision, we’re trying to get them excited about the potential that coming to work for DOZR has. And I think it’s really important to have that information in your job posting to help differentiate you, especially in such a competitive market from the hundreds of other job descriptions that these candidates are looking at. And it’s important to look at your job posting beyond the posting itself, you know, what is your employer brand? And what is that experience that the candidate has? Once they apply? Right? So you have your job posting up somewhere, but then what are they? Are they going to a careers page? And what does that career page look and feel like? And what is that experience that they’re having when they get there? And so making sure that your employer brand is on point and that you’re really selling that vision and, and even elements of your culture that you can speak about in your job postings and on your careers page to help build that excitement and that momentum with the candidates that you’re attracting. I think that’s important.

Kayla Isabelle (Startup Canada)  31:05
Good. And that’s free, as well, that to your point around, you know, competing against salaries, etc. That’s a lever that as a scrappy, early-stage business, you have a lot of space and creativity to play there. So I think to founders that are bootstrapping, as well, that’s a great piece of advice with something that’s very cost-effective and brings your brand to life. Jamie, are you finding any platforms are booming now during, you know, this hiring season? Where are people getting the best applicants or finding top talent for their organizations? Are you seeing any trends during this time period that would be helpful for our listeners?

Jamie Savage (The Leadership Agency)  31:42
Yeah, I think that you know, there’s your very traditional job board, like, you know, communities, you know, and there’s, there are the usual suspects there, there’s yours indeed, there’s, you know, LinkedIn has quite now a robust platform, there’s a lot of, you know, disruptors coming to, to the table as well, which I’m there for it, I’m excited to see that I think that whole industry needs to be enhanced, which I’m excited to see if it does. And then you know, there’s your very traditional referrals, like employee referrals is a very strong and important strategy, I think, but you know, like Erin mentioned this, your employer brand is so critical right now, we are so dialed in as humans right now, um, you know, to social media, and to, in areas of, you know, exploratory, like decisions where, like, maybe we would want a new job right now, I don’t know, but, you know, we’re dialed in, we’re not collectively, you know, I can’t speak for everyone, but a lot of people right now are working from home, their schedules have changed, we have different access to things than we did before, when we’re sitting in the office nine to five. So you’re seeing a lot of people, you know, take a different approach to job searching, and to being, you know the  line between passive and active candidates, right? If you’re active, actively applying to lots of jobs, you’re going into interviews versus passive, you’re like, if a recruiter reaches out to me, then maybe I’ll make a call. But you’re sort of sitting back, I think that the answer is now somewhere in-between those two definitions and that people are doing a very research-based approach to job applications or research. So content is so important right now leading with Thought Leadership and subject matter expertise. And like Erin mentioned, you know, making sure you’ve got a centralized place of sharing whether it is a careers page, or a really good landing page that outlines your company culture and your mission and so on. Because people, if they want to find you, they will find you. And that now is the time where people have a different point of in a different level of access to this information, so give it to them. And that’s the best way I can say it is that its recruitment and sourcing and finding candidates is never going to be a strategy where you invest all your time and money or put all your eggs in one basket, so to speak because that’s just not the way it ever was. But now more than ever, you want a whole bunch of different engines running at the same time. So you want your job postings up, you want to, as I said, a strong, you know, at work, like Erin mentioned, a really strong recruitment brand. You want a good social media presence, and you want to make sure that all of your reviews are organic, and up to date, so Glassdoor, Google and so on, create a presence wherever you can. And if you’ve got the time, and you’ve got the money and the resources, put some really good content out there. And it’s not just about why you’re a great company to work for because people aren’t going out there. They’re wanting to know what products you’re releasing, or what markets you’re disrupting. Are you purpose-driven? These are all things that people are like, hey, this company is perfect. driven, they just raised a Series A, they just hired this leader I can see on LinkedIn, therefore I’m interested in this company. So there are all these different things out there that are enticing people to look at your brand and look at your company to potentially want to work there. So if you just posted a job and nothing else, likely that person’s not gonna find you, or are the characters. So it’s a pretty, you know, all-prong approach to this.

Kayla Isabelle (Startup Canada)  35:24
Yeah, so many layers to it, that all make that kind of secret sauce. I love it. So I would love to ask about interviews because this often is another question that we get from entrepreneurs is how do you master an employer and interview process to identify this as the candidate that’s going to join our team? Erin, what do interviews look like a DOZR? Can you walk us through the nitty-gritty of what that process is involved with? And how it’s maybe evolved? Based on, you know, what has worked and what hasn’t worked in finding those great hires for your team?

Erin Stephenson (DOZR)  35:57
Yeah, absolutely. Interviews are so important. As part of this hiring process, particularly to make sure you’re hiring for the right culture, as well as the right skills, we tend to lead a three interview process at those are, which I think is pretty common out there with most companies. So interview one is usually just a basic assessment of skills and qualifications – do they have what they need to do the job? Interview two is typical with the leader of that particular team, where they’re doing a deep dive into the skills understanding, you know, how deep their knowledge runs, how broad their knowledge may be. And also, you know, how they think about things, how they approach problems, how they, you know, approach growth and learning and things like that. And then interview three is a culture interview. And that always takes place with one of our founders, one of our three founders meets with every single candidate that we bring into the company, to make sure that they’re going to be culture fit and the founder exercises kind of guideposts to make sure that those decisions are stable. And that’s been our process. For as long as I can remember, I think what has evolved is the speed in which we implement that with a competitive labour market, right now we need to move very fast. So from the time that we post the job to schedule that first interview is often going to be you know, less than a week, we’re just kind of waiting for a good volume of candidates to come in. So we can start making some of those decisions. And we don’t wait for every single application to come in before we make a decision. And we look at them as they come in and make decisions, you know, on the spot, but whether we’re going to bring them in or not. And, you know, often will move from interview to an offer within one to two weeks, sometimes faster. It could be three reasons, three days, if everybody’s schedules aligned. And we could do that we’re prepared to move that quickly. And I think we must have definitely noticed a correlation over time of moving slower and having less success with successfully attracting good candidates.

Kayla Isabelle (Startup Canada)  38:23
I love it. Erin, I just got chills. The speed of that process is so fantastic. And as somebody you know, potentially interviewing, I’m sure that’s appreciated on the other side that, you know, a traditional job-hunt, these processes taking months and you know, all these different stages and waiting. It’s exhausting. So I think yeah, there are benefits on both sides with that more rapid approach. Jamie, over to you, what does an engaging, honest and effective interview process look like from, you know, some of the startups that you’re working with? Are there some great green flags to look out for when interviewing? Are there some solid red flags to watch out for? What do you advise your clients to look out for as well?

Jamie Savage (The Leadership Agency)  39:03
Yeah, that’s great. I love that you asked about the green flags because the green flags are exactly what will determine what happens next in my opinion. I love Erin’s, you know, process and mindset around interviewing because you know, a lot of times people ask me about recruitment. I’m like, there is no magic number, there’s no magic formula. I wish there was, it would be so easy, but I guess if there were I would be in business but I love that you know, Erin’s answer that was like three interviews urgent, because I do think that three interviews are a really good number. I like it when clients, you know, are offering with that mindset. I think that’s key so I love that she leaned into that because it is important. Now the green lights I think are something equally as important to address because that will determine what happens next. I look at interviewing and how I advise my clients to look at interviewing as a sales process and an engagement. So if a candidate has shown up to the first interview, and there are greenlights, for example, have they shown up on time, are they prepared, do they have the right level of skill set, and these are these things you can determine in advance. But more importantly, in that first five to 10 minutes, you know, really looking for those green lights, because now what’s going to happen next is you’re going to commit time, and you’re going to invest in this candidate, because essentially, what you want in the first interview, is a tip for the candidate to want to invest their time. Moving forward, will this person want to come back for the second interview, and the third interview, and even in some cases, you know, do a presentation or do an assessment of some sort, you want, if you want this candidate to continue that process? It is, I think, the company’s job to ensure that that person walks away with an amazing experience. They know everything there is to know about your culture code, your vision, your mission, what you’re looking to do as a company, your goals, your roadmap, your leadership style, and so on. Because if this is a candidate who has the green, green flags, as we say, you then now want them to want to come back so that you can get them to now answer those questions for you, which typically takes place in the second degree where you’re going to then really assess, okay, does this person have the skill set? Do they have the resiliency the curiosity that we need the drive and determination and all those things, but typically, where I see the success happen is when there’s a commitment made on the employer side first,

Erin Stephenson (DOZR)  41:31
I agree with Jamie, I think making sure that you’re selling your vision, your brand, what that role looks like, what they’re going to get out of it, what’s the value beyond the paycheck that they’re going to get coming to work for you is hugely important. So definitely, in that first interview, you have to make time to share that with the candidate. And also make sure you give time for them to ask questions as well, it’s an interview process on both sides. So it has to be a fit for them, it has to be a fit for you. And so making sure that they’re able to ask questions can be valuable. And in fact, sometimes the questions can be revealing, and they can be a green light or a red flag as well.

Kayla Isabelle (Startup Canada)  42:13
I love that back and forth, that it is truly an exchange. And I think people are challenging that power dynamic that was historically perceived that you know, you’re applying for a job, you’re in this posture where you’re trying to get that job and the employer has the power. But now we’re seeing that dynamic completely shift, which is interesting to see from the kind of an employee perspective because there’s so much choice out there. And I think it’s high time that you know, employers are accountable to make that experience, positive and going within that sales posture that Jamie started mentioning, bringing them on board and prioritizing that, as opposed to, you know, putting all the pressure on the employee or price prospective employee in terms of onboarding, nurturing employees, building a team, etc. This, I’m sure has evolved as well, during your time, Erin, at DOZR especially, you know, having a remote team, a strong culture is becoming more and more important. And retention of employees on the other side of things, you know, there are a lot of choices for people to be navigating and shifting gears a little bit career-wise, what has worked well to retain and keep employees engaged during such a challenging time. 

Erin Stephenson (DOZR)  43:22
Yeah, you know, we moved to remote work during COVID, as many, many other companies did. And it’s been a really interesting journey. For us. I think. It used to be that I knew everybody at the company, and I interacted with them every day in the office. And then as we continue to grow through it, COVID, there’s, I would say, at least half of our staff that has never set foot in our office, and that I’ve never actually met face to face. And it’s just a different dynamic. And it does present more challenges when it comes to building that culture and retention as well. So we have a remote-first policy, and our tagline for that is to work remotely gather socially. So we do try and, you know, have regular events for a team where we can get together in person when it’s safe to do so, or virtually as well, maybe when that’s more appropriate. And sometimes they’re just informal events. You know, coffee chats and things like that. And sometimes there may be more, more planned and scheduled. But that’s something that we need to be able to keep the spark alive and keep those relationships going. But it doesn’t end there. That’s not the be-all and end-all, we have to build a foundation upon which those relationships can flourish and that comes with the day-to-day. So that’s where it comes back to walking the talk and embodying your culture. So for us a huge part of our culture is  around learning and development and problem-solving, and we look for people that embody those values. And so then we need to walk the talk and make sure that they’re able to experience that in their work every day. So that comes down to things like giving them really challenging and meaningful work, making sure that they feel like they’re making a difference, opportunities to collaborate, you know, on the things that they’re working on being able to put ideas forward, no matter how crazy they might seem, and actually haven’t taken seriously and see some of them, you know, be developed and, and put in front of our customers. So when we can embed that type of work, and have it aligned with our values, I think that is what helps lead to employee engagement. And at the end of the day retention,

Kayla Isabelle (Startup Canada)  45:49
I love it. And Jamie, over to you with looking at retention, you know, as senior executives on various teams are founders, measuring retention, being kind of a be all end all metric these days. Understanding the environment that we’re currently in, does the idea of retention, you know, are we reframing what that looks like? Are we managing expectations of how long we might be even able to retain team members? What can leaders do to sort of get comfortable with these shifts? Employee arrangements? And what advice do you have around when things might not be working? What if you have, you know, brought somebody on that you don’t want to retain? What does that look like?

Jamie Savage (The Leadership Agency)  46:29
Yeah, I think that there your question about, you know, does it look different now than it did before? And the answer is yes, I think that what we’re starting to see is that our measurements, like our measurement around ROI, and retention is changing. And I think that we used to measure that in a very traditional way of tenure. And I think that you know, retention is, yes, we’re retaining our employees. But, you know, Erin made such a powerful point about giving people really meaningful and important work to do. And I think that that is so critical in our evaluation of retention, and the goal of it, right. So if we have people in our companies, and you know, in my clients, companies, I’ve seen, whether it’s leaders or individual contributors, I think that you know, allowing people to define what is meaningful to them, and what, you know, important work is to them, you know, as long as it’s in line with the business, obviously, but I think that, you know, if we don’t have powerful, meaningful work for people, then is it? Is it worth it to keep them, you know, is it worth it for their career path to stay within your organization? Probably not. And so I think recognizing that early, and, you know, leaning into it more now than then than ever, I think is so important, because I think we make some difficult decisions that don’t always end in the result that we would hope, which is to keep people for a long time, they’re happy they contribute the organization, we grow. But I think that a lot of time, we’re forcing that. And we are a square peg round hole situation. So I think that leaning into what it is that they want to do, how they want to impact the organization, and you know, what goals they have for themselves. And if that lines up with the business, then fantastic, make it happen, like, literally just make it happen. Um, you know, if that ultimately benefits the business and helps the business grow, then why not? And I think that there’s never been a more interesting time to lean into agility. I think that you know, I can speak on my behalf that three years ago, if you would have asked me if I would have ever thought that I would be, you know, a work from home culture, I would, I would have told you not. That’s impossible. We are in office culture, we, we learn this way we grow this way. Now. I mean, I haven’t stepped foot in the office in two years. So that’s really important. If you would have asked me, you know, two years ago, if I was going to ever think about being a four-day work week company, I would say No, that’s impossible. We have way too much work to do every day all day. And here we are, over a year. And you know, our revenue has doubled. And we’ve expanded into new markets, and we’ve grown as a company. We’re an out-of-office culture, with a four-day workweek. So I think now is the time that we’ve all proven to ourselves as leaders that we are a lot more agile than we ever thought we could be. We’re a lot more capable of change than we ever thought we wouldn’t be. So I think that’s the discussion to be had.

Kayla Isabelle (Startup Canada)  49:34
I love that, that’s so interesting. And I love this evolution – like it is encouraging to see how much you know, shaping and flexibility there can be in the future. Do you both maybe I’ll pose this question to Jamie first and then over to Erin, do you have any predictions on the future of hiring and interviewing and recruitment and kind of this employee experience? What is it going to look like moving forward? And is there anything that you’re particularly excited about?

Jamie Savage (The Leadership Agency)  49:58
Yeah, I think that recruitment has always been continuous, like, you know, there are times where the company, you know, Erin said to like so much of growth and growth of people. It’s so ebb and flows, it’s so dependent and correlates directly to, you know, capital to raising money. And I don’t think that will ever change. I think that’s a natural, you know, growth pattern. But I think the one prediction I have is that recruitment is now not a dial that we move forward, or move back, it’s a deal, that’s good, pretty much stay turned on, I think recruitment is going to be a lot more continuous, and much bigger business practice, and then even think, I think that you’re going to see a lot of companies invest heavily, and as they should, in house talent, you know, leaders, people who are leading talent, people who are leading, you know, bringing talent, talent, branding, recruitment, HR people, that that umbrella of process and business focus is going to get a lot bigger. And I think we’re going to see a lot more seats at the table, you know, with people’s mindset, and leadership focus. So I think that recruitment will be a continuous dial, it’s not going to move up or down, it’s going to be there. And you’ll see companies invest in it a lot heavier than we have in the past. And I think that you know, it’s, you know like I mentioned earlier, it’s never going to get easy. It’s not going to, there you go. So buckle up.

Kayla Isabelle (Startup Canada)  51:43
Exciting, definitely. Erin, what do you have in terms of predictions, future hiring, interviewing, recruiting? Is there anything that excites you about the future as well?

Erin Stephenson (DOZR)  51:52
Yeah, absolutely. I think recruitment is shifting and changing more this year than I think I’ve ever seen. The movement towards remote work has flipped everything that we’ve ever known about recruitment on its head, it’s the combination of remote work, and it is a really competitive candidate-driven market. You know, the benefit of having remote work is you’ve got a much broader talent pool to work from, it used to be that we were hiring people that lived within, you know, a 50 kilometre radius from her office. And now, that’s, that’s not even a factor anymore, right? We can hire anybody anywhere in the world. If they’ve got the skills, the talent, the mindset, you know, the culture fit, you know, the, there’s no boundaries anymore around where they can be located, they can kind of work from anywhere. The flip side of that coin is that with it comes many more, much broader sets of opportunities for your candidates. So your pool of competition has gotten much wider, as well. And there’s this, this sort of underlying feeling of movement, right, people are a little bit restless, they’re looking to see what else is out there. So there, I think recruiting is going to be a huge focus, certainly for us. But I think for many companies, and the way that we find talent, the way we look at them, the way we think about them is going to be different this year.

Kayla Isabelle (Startup Canada)  53:26
Great. Great, exciting times ahead, I think, yeah, it’s, it’s gonna be really interesting to see how things evolve. But I think there is a huge opportunity for emerging purpose-driven, you know, startups and small businesses that are emerging during this pandemic. It’s a unique opportunity to be building very different types of cultures. And, you know, building incredible businesses along the way. So I’m encouraged with what we’ve seen so far. But disruption is here. And it looks like it’s here to stay. I’m gathering so far, exciting. So I want to thank both of you so much for joining us on the startup women podcast. This has been such a great conversation, and look forward to seeing where both of your organizations go next. Exciting times ahead.

Erin Stephenson (DOZR)  54:08
Thank you so much for having me. 

Jamie Savage (The Leadership Agency)  54:09
Thank you.


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