3 Steps for Successful High-Growth Hiring

Recruiting and hiring in a company experiencing high growth is one of the wildest career roller coasters you can ride as a recruiter. The climb to the top—sourcing a potential hire with incredible skills, making connections, landing great talent—is exhilarating, exciting and full of hope. Plunging to the bottom—losing a unicorn, changing priorities, and re-editing job descriptions—can leave you feeling disoriented. How do we balance those highs and lows? By creating a kick-ass culture and not operating as your grandma’s HR department.

While we do many of the same things traditional HR departments do at OnDeck, our orientation isn’t solely about administering the benefits we offer—although that is important. Rather, we always try to ask ourselves, “How can we help our employees succeed, develop and love their new home?” Basically, we’re running ops, but with people. This distinction helps us stay focused on helping our employees meet and exceed expectations, helps us design compensation and benefits plans to find and keep top performers, and makes sure our team members are never blindsided should something change. We work hard to make sure an email to People Ops never becomes a black hole where questions go into the void, never to be seen again.

Our goal is to delight our community—both current team members as well as the future. This is an important part of what it takes to recruit the best talent for a high-growth organization.

Building a Kick-Ass Culture

A big part of recruiting and hiring in a high-growth environment is creating a culture people want to be part of and will want to contribute to. The challenge is maintaining the culture as you add people and grow. Fortunately, we don’t have to do it alone. Our culture is created through what everyone in the organization does to make it such a great place to work.

A company’s culture is always in the background, either motivating or frustrating employees. For example, if you’re at an aquarium looking at the beautiful clownfish, you never hear anyone say, “Wow, that water is amazing.” Nevertheless if the environment, or the water, weren’t right, there would be no clownfish.

I believe culture is the water—it’s what’s all around you and can’t be seen, but can be felt.

Culture is establishing our North Star and pointing everyone in that direction. We’ve spent a lot of time identifying the behaviors we value and those traits that are taboo with the type of company we want to build. Our values inform everything from the way we work with our team members to the way we conduct performance reviews. It’s why we aren’t content to do things the same way we’ve always done them, just because that’s the way we’ve always done them.

Hiring for a Cultural Fit

Never compromise on cultural fit. Never.

While it might be tempting to hire the rock star just because he or she is a rock star, it could be a horrible mistake. If they bring a negative attitude with them, it can infect everyone around them—regardless of how incredible their professional skills may be.

Of course we want to hire the best people. We’re always looking for A-Players, but how they’ll fit into our values-driven culture is every bit as important to us. I know everybody says that, but it’s important enough to us that we’ve introduced what we call the Culture Interview SWAT Team. These are people throughout the organization that interview potential hires to determine not just whether or not they’ll fit in, but whether or not they’ll be able to succeed here through making lasting and important relationships. In turn, those relationships can help influence positive business results.

Hiring in a high-growth company is a lot more than simply putting butts in seats. It’s about finding high-performers who will embrace our values and can find success here.

Keeping Values Alive

Everyone in our company has a responsibility to help each other thrive and succeed. We spend a lot of energy training our leaders to help build the purposeful culture that keeps employees motivated and our company successful. Some of the things we’re doing to help ensure everyone is contributing to keeping our values alive are:

  1. Making them a cornerstone of recruiting and on-boarding
  2. Including them in our performance acceleration process (also known as reviews)
  3. Accounting for how well our employees, and their leaders, exhibit the values when they interact with their colleagues and our customers
  4. Keeping a transparent work environment so employees can see how our values influence the decisions our senior leaders make

There’s no shortcut to making sure you hire the right people in a company that is growing. While I wish I could say we don’t make mistakes, sometimes we do. But the public comments made by our employees on online forums and through our bi-annual surveys tell me we are getting a lot of it right.

Hiring for high growth means we need to make sure the people we welcome into our company will not only fit in, but also find personal success as they help us build a successful company.

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Written by:
Lorna Hagen is the SVP of People Operations at OnDeck—the country’s leading online platform for small business loans. Under her people leadership, OnDeck has more than doubled the number of employees and completed an incredibly successful IPO.
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