It’s not uncommon to hear our employees say that Jones IT is one of the best places that they have worked. You may be fooled into thinking that this is because of all the ping-pong matches and free beer, but when you dig a bit deeper you realize it is because we put a lot of thought into creating amazing culture. In the founding days of Jones IT, Evan Jones was running the company with the help of a few of his friends. We have more than tripled in size since that time, but what has remained is the feeling that you’re walking into an office full of friends. We have found success in keeping our culture consistent as we grow by learning from companies we admire, valuing a diverse team, and organizing our recruiting efforts.
Jones IT may not be operating at the same scale as Google, but we take new additions to the team just as seriously. Every person who works here will influence our culture and success as a company, so we take care at each step. We try to implement best practices from companies that put people first.
I am currently reading Work Rules! by Google’s head of People Operations, Laszlo Bock. I recommend this book for anyone who wants to gain insights to Google’s amazing culture and understand why people love working there so much. Hint: it’s not just the amazing free food! We have learned that beyond keeping employees full of yummy snacks and having a shower in the office, good employers support their employees - whether that means paying for training or giving them time to pursue creative projects. Google also knows how to land good employees because they put a lot of thought into their recruiting process. One of the the biggest takeaways we have implemented from Google is transparency in our interview process. We inform candidates right away about our three rounds: Round 1 - Phone Interview, Round 2 - Onsite Interview with Managers and Peers, and Round 3 - an interview with our CEO, Evan.
In his book, Bock also shares what Google looks for when hiring great talent:
- cognitive ability
- emergent leadership
- cultural fit
- being intellectually humble
Cultural fit refers to someone that will vibe with the crew but also be different in their own way, which adds to the diversity of the group. We take a similar approach to Google with our hires in this regard. When building a championship team, we seek diversity in experience. We want people that have grit and hustle ingrained in their DNA. Education is, of course, important, but we also value soft skills, like critical thinking, that aren't dependent on where you go to school. For example, we agree with Bock that top-notch talent can be found at state schools and that, "the best people from places like that are just as good if not better as anybody you can get from any Ivy League school.” Our employees come from every type of school and a few of them simply skipped college altogether. The most important thing we have found in hiring is that you have to hire the best person for the job, and if you aren't attracting all kinds of people to the hiring pool, you are missing out.
ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM
In addition to hiring candidates from all types of educational backgrounds, we also want to make sure we maintain cultural diversity and gender balance. At my business school we had students from over twenty countries. The diversity of my school contributed greatly to our education because we received exposure to perspectives from all over the globe. An American solves problems in a much different way than someone from France, India, or another part of the world. At Jones IT it can sometimes feel like we are the United Nations. We’re fortunate to have a team with roots around the world, which makes for amazing potluck parties. Gender diversity, however, is a whole different challenge.
The elephant in the room when any tech company makes claims about diversity is that the stats in tech, especially regarding gender, are still far from equal. Unfortunately, women are still getting paid less across the board and most jobs in tech are held by a disproportionate number of men. In our recent round of hiring last year, we were fortunate enough to have found a rockstar female techie that has the uncanny ability to build rapport with just about anyone. However, this brings our total of women in the office to a grand total of three. Hiring women is definitely a concern and challenge we face because we don’t want to become too, “dude-ish,” and miss out on the perspectives a diverse team can bring, both in the way we come up with solutions and how we relate to our clients. I really love the advice of my mentor and friend, Danae Ringelmann, the Co-Founder and Chief Development Officer of the crowd-funding platform Indiegogo when she said, "One of the most important things you can do is get your founding team as diverse as it can be.” The article goes on to clarify, “That means diversity of backgrounds, diversity of ideas, diversity of experiences. A diverse staff is more adept at finding a variety of ways to approach issues as they arise.”
Ringelmann says that change begins with hiring decisions. The problem isn’t that there aren’t enough females that want to work in tech. "I have so many female entrepreneur friends," Ringelmann told CNBC, "When everybody asks me, 'Why are there so few women in technology?' I want to say, 'Have you met all my friends?'” The problem of getting more women working at tech companies is complex and I can’t claim to solve it in one article, but I can say that companies can do better by following the example of companies with a diverse staff. According to IndieGoGo’s diversity report, forty-five of the one-hundred workers at their San Francisco office are women, with forty-three percent of IndieGoGo’s leadership positions also held by women. Hopefully as Jones IT grows, we can emulate IndieGoGo’s example.
We have already taken steps to combat the gender gap by taking a hard look at the percentages of men and women that were applying to our jobs. We knew that there was room for improvement when we were getting an overwhelmingly large number of male resumes for our technical positions. We went back to our job ads and realized they made us sound a bit too much like a tech bro, so we revised and tried again. Since adjusting our job ads and taking a few pointers to improve our workforce, our numbers have gotten a bit better. We are off to a great start, but we’re not stopping there. The sooner we can stop perpetuating the myth that women don’t like technology and aren’t pursuing careers in it, the better off we will all be.
Posting jobs, sorting through resumes, and interviewing candidates could easily be a full time job. However, our size does not yet demand a full time recruiter. This isn’t ideal, but it’s a challenge which most smaller businesses will have to overcome. We handle recruiting through an in-house recruiting committee that kicks it into high gear when we have a need for new talent. Our process for recruiting goes a bit like this:
- We always try to hire first from candidates referred by our current employees and even our clients, in a few instances. This has proved to be a great strategy because chances are high that the great people we work with will happen to have excellent friends.
- The next step is to actively hunt for profiles on LinkedIn and AngelList that fit our requirements in talent and character. Character is hard to ascertain from a resume, but there are certain keywords, trends in work history, and outside-of-work activities that pique our interest. Generally what we are looking for in this case is a positive answer to the question, “Does this seem like a good person?”
- When the previous two methods of recruiting fails, we recruit through online job boards. Job boards are the worst method of recruiting, in our opinion, because the best candidates may not even be applying to our job posts. In addition, it is always hard to attract the right fit for our company with just a few bullet points.
Despite having just trashed the effectiveness of job boards, we do end up having to use them quite often because we keep growing so darn fast! Ziprecruiter is a tool that we heavily rely on to ease the vast workload of recruiting via job ads. This subscription service posts our jobs to over 100 of the most visited job boards, websites, and social networks on the Internet. As candidates apply to our jobs and we collect resumes, we are then able to efficiently organize them into three categories: Not Interested, Not Sure, and Interested. Once we respond to candidates, we can further filter candidates by their application status: Rejected, Contacted, Reviewed, Hired, and more. Ziprecruiter also allows us to add custom notes and tags. We save a ton of time with the email templates and automatic job posting functions as well. In addition to Ziprecruiter, we use Trello to manage the interview process. However, that is just our personal preference.
One of the biggest hassles of scheduling phone interviews, video chats, and onsite visits is the back and forth of finding the perfect time to meet. Assistant.to is really a godsend for this. If you use Gmail, it allows you to select blocks of available time for your candidate to choose from and automatically puts those times in your email. Once your recipient selects one of these time slots, the event is automatically created on your calendar. Voila! You just got a few minutes of your life back...
After our three rounds of interviews and agreement between the hiring team, we send our newest hire an offer through Zenefits. Once our newest Jones IT rockstar has accepted our offer, Zenefits streamlines our benefits process with an HR Dashboard. The Zenefits system allows us to manage, analyze, and care for our employees. Employees receive self-serve accounts, so they can get what they need, when they need it. This frees up precious time for our managers to do what they do best… manage your IT!
We’re experts at onboarding and offboarding employees. We utilize a project management approach via Trello to make sure the whole team is responsible to divide up tasks and get things done before the new hire’s first day. We also use automations to handle the repetitive stuff that a computer can do better than we can. We’re so good at offboarding former employees and getting new employees ready to go that we even handle this for our clients. This is one bit of our secret sauce that is a bit out of scope to go into here, but if you want some pointers you can always get in touch.
Growing our business is something we have learned as a result of our customers growing. It was a natural step to hire more techs as our current customers’ needs expanded and as we attracted additional customers. Through it all, we have been lucky enough to become the company we are today with the help of our fantastic partners: YOU, the customer! We see our relationship to our customers as a long term partnership in each other's success. This means we are here for you at every step of the way, whether it’s planning your IT strategy or sharing business advice. Watch this space for further tips on the tools we use to communicate and seamlessly juggle all the projects necessary to manage our customers’ IT.