How Propeller is Changing Things Up
As a People and Change consultant and organizational culture fanatic at Propeller, I’ve been closely watching the latest trends in hiring and onboarding, employee engagement, and team culture. Current events have shifted ways of working for most of the teams I interact with, begging the questions: What is the Future of Work? and How are the hiring and onboarding processes changing to meet the new virtual normal?
Propeller prizes our people and places a large emphasis on creating internal culture to reflect that. Our consultants and staff make the magic happen here. They’re responsible for delivering high-impact results for our clients, which is why recruiting and hiring excellent talent is so important to us.
When shelter-in-place edicts were announced and many of our clients tightened their budgets, we responded in a similar way. And while Propeller’s recruiting team maintained contact with current prospects, we put new job offers on hold.
Today, after working to bring our hiring, interviewing, and onboarding processes more in line with our diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives, and the new remote work norms, we’re excited to be hiring again. That said, there are some critical thoughts and processes that went into this work to enable us to more effectively recruit, hire and onboard candidates in this new, virtual world. Below, are some excerpts around this work from an interview I held with Jodi Nelson and Julia Rine, two members of our all-star recruiting team.
Q: How is Propeller adjusting the recruiting process to ensure that our hiring coincides with our commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI)?
JR: We have a number of things going on to improve our process in general, and they coincide with the equity and inclusiveness focus of the firm. There is also a separate initiative to increase the diversity of our candidate pool. We need to improve the equity and inclusion of our internal functions, but we also need to find different places to discover candidates. One of the things I’m working on is creating relationships with organizations that focus on diversity such as the National Black MBA Association and MBA programs at HBCUs, as well as other professional organizations.
JN: Rubrics are the number one thing that we are working on to create a process where every candidate has essentially the same experience in each stage of the interview. For example, we’re outlining specific criteria that interviewers should be measuring in each interview question at every stage. Propeller held DEI training last month as a firm, and one of the positive outcomes was the realization that we first had to make sure everyone was in agreement on what the rubric measuring sticks would be—before we started using it as a candidate evaluation tool.
Our goal is to eliminate, or at least reduce places where bias can come into the process. For example: we rely on referrals a lot at Propeller, but we realized that has the potential for anchoring bias. If an interviewer sees that a candidate was referred by someone internally, they might hold the bias that the candidate will also be great, and could approach the interview looking for all of the great things that confirm that assumption. Also, typically referrals come from people that look like and have similar backgrounds to the people referring them, so if we want to increase our diversity, we don’t want to rely on our referrals as much as we have in the past. We are now hiding referral information from the interviewer. We are also retraining our interviewers on unconscious bias, so we’ve put together a lot of materials to offer specific examples of what we’d like and not like to see in evaluations, including potentially biased language such as comparing one candidate to another or taking note when a candidate is overdressed for an interview.
Rubrics are the number one thing that we are working on to create a process where every candidate has essentially the same experience in each stage of the interview. — Jodi Nelson
Q: What is Propeller's perspective on culture fit in the workplace?
JR: The belief at Propeller is that ‘culture fit’ is no longer the appropriate terminology to use in the recruiting function. Culture itself is fine and encompasses a lot of things once you are talking about employees in the workplace, but as far as recruiting goes, we want to get away from using the words culture fit because it implies we want candidates to fit within a certain box and it can also be a convenient dumping ground for bias in interviews. We want to steer away from the word “fit” and lean towards the word “add.”
Q: How is Propeller making accommodations in recruiting and hiring practices to ensure a standardized experience for candidates when you’re conducting most of it virtually?
JN: Much of our interview process was virtual to begin with. We have added what we call Interview Primers that we send out before each stage of the interview – a one-pager that reviews different aspects of our culture, career growth, or other aspects of life at Propeller. They are built intentionally to be cumulative, so if a candidate makes it all the way to the final interview, they’ve gotten four of these Interview Primers, and have a pretty good snapshot of Propeller.
Q: How does Propeller plan to onboard candidates, especially in a virtual environment?
JN: When people start on the first day, they have a lot of the same questions. A big part of onboarding before March was going out to lunch with the managing director to talk about the strategic plan. Now that that’s happening over Zoom, and we send them a DoorDash gift card for that meeting. Additionally, we started a “People You Oughta Know” program that I think will be key going forward. When Propellerites start, they get assigned four people. We try to diversify both background and location so that in their first 90 days, they set up conversations with those people to help get them familiar with Propeller.
Q: How else has Propeller changed its recruiting focus since March and in response to new client needs?
JR: We have two different things going on at all times: passive applicants, and active scouting. From my perspective, we are doing some of the most strategic active scouting we’ve ever done because we are focusing on a very specific, narrow set of skills and looking to fill roles that we have never hired for before. One of them being an IT specialist role. It’s an exciting time for us because there are new roles, new processes, and new realities in our world that are all converging. We’ve had a great opportunity over the last six months to look at our process and strategy.
From my perspective, we are doing some of the most strategic active scouting we’ve ever done because we are focusing on a very specific, narrow set of skills and looking to fill roles that we have never hired for before. — Julia Rine
Q: What do you think is most important to candidates at this time?
JR: Moving forward, work will be extremely different and remote work is going to be the expectation and no longer a perk. Candidates, whether they’ve lost their jobs or not, are going to be looking for companies that are forward thinking about what work looks like and how we operate successfully in this exceedingly virtual environment.
Q: What is most important for Propeller, and recruiters in general, in looking for candidates moving forward?
JR: Adaptability and resiliency, which goes along with our tenet of Grit. Being able to stand when things are tough and move forward, has always been, and will continue to be one of the most important things we look for in candidates outside of the required skills.
JN: A willingness to roll up their sleeves and do what needs to be done, knowing that you will sometimes be doing non-glamorous work. As 2021 becomes a rebuilding year for many of our clients, we’re looking for people who can step in and do what needs to be done for our clients and to help Propeller grow. That’s always been true, but especially as things are changing so quickly and there are lots of new types of opportunities to support our clients.
As 2021 becomes a rebuilding year for many of our clients, we’re looking for people who can step in and do what needs to be done for our clients and to help Propeller grow. — Jodi Nelson
Q: What advice would you give to recruiters?
JR: It’s good for recruiters to extend grace to candidates right now. A ton of people don’t have jobs in this economy, which is a scary situation to be in—and people obviously want to get out of that situation as fast as possible. Having some grace and being open and compassionate about circumstances for candidates right now is really important.
JN: We really try to treat our candidates with a lot of respect, even if we are saying no to them in the process. So, if candidates ask us for feedback, we are always willing to give it. We want to help people be successful. For me personally, I work in recruiting, because I want to help people find fulfillment in their career. And obviously, I hope that for a lot of people they would find that at Propeller, but if not, I want to help people, even if it’s just giving them one little piece of advice that will help them with a future application or interview. I hope that other recruiters are doing that, too.
Like many companies out there, Propeller is strategizing how to adapt our hiring process to this increasingly virtual environment. While this is a snapshot of our current plans, we firmly believe that these practices will need to constantly be analyzed and adapted for the modern workforce.
Interested in learning more about Propeller’s People Strategy perspective? Check out this article by new Propellerite, Alexander Winston, who discusses his experience onboarding in a virtual environment. Think you might want to work with us? Take a look at our open roles! Or, if you’re investing in building up your own strategies as a company, visit our People & Change headquarters to learn more about the services we provide, and get in touch with us. We’d love to talk about how we can help you and your team think about People Strategy for the future.