How CPOs are defining and creating a people-first hiring strategy

Team working on project in office

5 mins, 35 secs read time

We often hear that people are the key to an organization’s success. This is a catchy tagline, but how do you go from people-first in theory to practice? This was the question guiding the “Creating a people-first hiring strategy” panel discussion at the recent Resources for Humans event. Greenhouse’s Chief People Officer Donald Knight moderated a conversation between Andy Biga, Chief People Officer at GoHealth Urgent Care, Michele Fox, Chief People Officer at LifeLabs Learning and Sherika Ekpo, Interim Chief People Officer at Anaplan. Explore highlights and actionable takeaways from the panel here.

How do you live out the concept of being a people-first company?

Being a people-first company starts with clear and honest communication and openness to feedback. One way LifeLabs Learning brings this to life is through a transparent and predictable compensation philosophy. All employees have visibility into the compensation for every role. The company also encourages employees to adopt a growth mindset. “We really see problems and mistakes as growth opportunities,” says Michele. “The more we learn and embrace change and inspire courageous decisions, the better each one of us becomes.”

Transparency is especially critical during the hiring process, which is why the People team at Anaplan emphasizes the importance of job descriptions. “We know that the job description sets the tone for how you will engage with us,” says Sherika. Anaplan’s job descriptions include some of the key benefits that set them apart as an employer and highlight some of their inclusive services.

Being people-first is not just about getting new hires through the door – you need to continue to engage employees throughout their tenure. While the mission at LifeLabs Learning is focused on training leaders, the company recognizes the role of development in retaining and enriching the lives of all employees. “The idea is not just to make them employable with us, but employable in general,” says Michele. “Being a good employer means we genuinely have your best interests at heart – and sometimes that means you’re going to grow outside of the organization.”

Andy echoes this sentiment: “One of the main drivers of retention and engagement is helping folks invest in their career development here at GoHealth or beyond. Regardless of where your career may lead you, we want your experience here to be positive and help get you to where you want to be.”

Which people-first practices do you highlight during the hiring process?

It’s hard to overemphasize the importance of hiring. Your hiring practices create a first impression and set the tone for what people can expect once they join your organization. So what are some of the best ways to ensure your hiring practices send the right message?

You can start by looking at the composition of your talent acquisition team. “I often say the way to increase representation is to ensure you have a diverse group of recruiters,” says Sherika. “They often pull from their own networks, organizations, former schools and community organizations, so our recruiters help play a critical role in creating that people-first experience.”

Another important step is auditing your job descriptions for inclusion. Michele says it’s important to look carefully at the requirements. Are they really critical to the success of the individual? For example, removing a specific number of years of experience is a simple way to make job descriptions more inclusive. “We used to put in years of experience, but we know that just means that you did that thing for seven years. It does not mean that you did it well.”

Our candidates appreciate that our hiring process is not so focused on if they had this job title or this exact experience, but we want to give candidates that spotlight to really represent who they are, what they bring to the table – and more importantly – how they differentiate themselves. Michele Fox, Chief People Officer at LifeLabs Learning

To really commit to people-first practices, Andy believes structured hiring is key. When you define core attributes that predict success in a role and keep your hiring team on track with structured interviews and interview guides, you create a better experience for all candidates. “What we’ve found is that the more objective your hiring process, and the more structured it is, typically the less bias and the better the results are from a diversity and inclusion perspective,” says Andy.

A few people-first hiring tips to try out

To close out the discussion, the panelists shared some of their key takeaways for anyone wanting to take a more people-first approach to hiring.

Sometimes slowing down is just as important as speeding up
“When you’re growing rapidly, there can be some pressure to speed things up because you’re trying to ensure that the talent pipeline is there all through all of your systems and markets,” says Andy. “We’ve found that as you’re reviewing your process, it’s important to slow down and build in time to actually make a better decision.” Andy believes a metric like time to fill shouldn’t come at the expense of making a hire who would stay longer, be more engaged or be a better team member. “We’re always going back to reevaluate how we make decisions so we’re living up to our standard of hiring the best talent,” says Andy.

Be humble and open to accepting feedback
Being people-first means leading with humility. And, says Michele, “Not assuming that we’re always right or have the best process in place, and knowing when to acknowledge when we have a miss and provide an apology and learn and take actions.” The team at LifeLabs Learning is intentional about responding to every piece of feedback – even when it’s negative. “We’re very thoughtful in making sure that our candidates feel heard and we get really positive feedback from candidates that they appreciate our communication and willingness to take feedback throughout the process.”

Look for new and authentic ways to connect with candidates
Don’t just rely on the way you’ve always approached outreach – be open to exploring new ways to connect with candidates. For example, Sherika is a huge proponent of Slack as a recruiting channel. She loves the fact that Slack promotes authentic, informal communication – and the use of gifs and emojis doesn’t hurt! “I’m excited to know that Slack and a few other companies are revolutionizing the way we do business and communicate, but the way we recruit using a people-first strategy as well,” says Sherika.

Discover even more actionable tips from this discussion – including how to prioritize diversity, equity and inclusion and employee wellbeing – in the recording of the session, available on demand here.

Melissa Suzuno

Melissa Suzuno

is a freelance writer and former Content Marketing Manager at Greenhouse. Melissa previously built out the content marketing programs at Parklet (an onboarding and employee experience solution) and AfterCollege (a job search resource for recent grads), so she's made it a bit of a habit to help people get excited about and invested in their work. Find Melissa on Twitter and LinkedIn.

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