April 27, 2017

5 effective steps to hire for digital transformation

Software is eating the world. In the 1990s, Craigslist hollowed out newspaper classifieds. In the 2000s, iPhones swept landlines away. Today, shoe companies reinvent themselves as brands that 3d print custom footwear. Who’s next?

You might think that hiring for digital transformation means recruiting a lot of nerds who know the latest technology. You’d be dead wrong. As Netflix, Google, Facebook and Amazon have already learned, the people you need to hire are the flexible, innovative and entrepreneurial ones. They’re not afraid to fail. They can pick up new techniques very quickly. They’re curious.

These aren’t hard skills. These are values. Values-based hiring is how you’ll find them.

How top tech companies hire

In a famous slide deck on culture, Netflix laid out its values, with specific examples of what they look like. Like every company, Netflix aspires to hire well. Unlike most companies, it pays underperformers handsomely to go away. The result is a culture of employee excellence that allows Netflix to dispense with a lot of traditional Silicon Valley perks. The people Netflix wants value smart colleagues above those perks.

Google understands that it needs to keep hiring curious people who learn fast. It defines this quality as “Googleyness” and expands it thus:

We want to get a feel for what makes you, well, you. We also want to make sure this is a place you’ll thrive, so we’ll be looking for signs around your comfort with ambiguity, your bias to action and your collaborative nature.

Facebook’s hiring process reflects long consideration. Once, the company’s motto was “Move Fast and Break Things.” Having presumably broken enough things, the company switched to “Move Fast with Stable Infra.” In much the same way, an early emphasis on credentials has been replaced with real interest in candidates from non-traditional backgrounds. Facebook’s process is designed to encourage hiring managers to slow down and look past first impressions.

Amazon’s contribution to hiring excellence is its Bar Raiser programA Bar Raiser is an experienced Amazon employee whose role in the hiring process is to determine whether a candidate, if hired, would be in the top 50% of Amazon employees. Every candidate undergoes a Bar Raiser interview.

Netflix, Google, Facebook and Amazon are very good at what they do, but they’re not perfect. They still struggle with superficial pattern-recognition and the urge for shallow “culture fit”. But these digital giants have learned a lot about how to hire for business success.

How you can hire for digital transformation

You need to be ready for digital transformation. You can learn a great deal from those who have gone before. What Google and the others have tried to implement, future rivals – maybe you? – may yet perfect.

To hire for digital transformation, you don’t need people with specific domain knowledge. You need people with curiosity, who pick up new skills, and who are resilient in the face of difficulty. You need to staff for a future you can’t predict.

The good news is, you can identify these candidates. Highly successful hiring organizations like Netflix, Facebook, Google and Amazon have five habits.

  1. Know your values. An Enron list of nice-to-haves is not enough; define how values are shown.
  2. Commit to fit. Prioritize values alignment all the way through the hiring process.
  3. Be mindful. Don’t let fancy credentials influence hiring decisions.
  4. Reward the right things. Perks are much less meaningful than working with great colleagues.
  5. Live your values. You have to walk the walk and let underperformers go.

You can make these habits your own. Start by downloading our new white paper, The Five Habits of Highly Successful Hiring Orgs. Or sign into Unitive’s hiring platform and get started today.

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