Hiring the whole person: The why and how of a great talent acquisition program
Reading time: 7 minutes
As the Great Reshuffle sweeps through the US, attracting the right talent and building a genuine culture is on the minds of every C-level executive — including those outside of the US, who worry that their country is next.
It’s widely known that building a strong culture has massive benefits. According to studies quoted in Harvard Business Review, “disengaged workers had 37% higher absenteeism, 49% more accidents, and 60% more errors and defects… They experienced 18% lower productivity, 16% lower profitability, 37% lower job growth, and 65% lower share price over time.”
Obviously, the costs of a poor culture can be staggering. Other studies indicate that American companies “have spent nearly $223 billion over the last five years dealing just with the turnover associated with toxic workplace cultures and poor people management”.
At Rangle, we’ve taken steps to create a strong talent acquisition program and build a company filled with some amazing folks. In this post, I’ll share my thought process and actionable steps for building a great culture, starting from Step One: The hiring process.
The foundation of a great culture is psychological safety: The feeling that a person can be their authentic self in their environment, without risk to their wellbeing or relationships.
It may seem obvious, but many people have the experience throughout their career that they cannot share their true thoughts, or express their authentic feelings or behaviors in the workplace. This can be as small as changing the words and phrases they use to adopt ‘biz speak’ to fit in at their company, or as damaging as hiding sexual orientation for fear of losing their job or damaging their professional reputation.
Over the last two years, the Talent Acquisition and People & Culture teams at Rangle have actively worked towards a culture of inclusivity and empathy so that all Ranglers can bring their whole selves to work. This starts with the underlying principles and values that have shaped our unique talent context at Rangle.
How do we hire the whole person?
Following the first wave of lockdowns, an aggressive and competitive talent market made companies think about new and innovative ways to attract talent. As a result, my team and I re-imagined the entire candidate experience, tailoring it to the individual so that they felt able to bring their whole selves to the interview process, from the point of submitting their resume to the final offer meeting. The reason this works so well here at Rangle is because our People teams truly care, and enjoy creating connections that include getting to know people outside of their skills. In our interviews with candidates, we ask them about their hobbies, their interests outside of work, and try to get a sense of what makes them tick.
The most important step for me in redoing the recruitment process was ensuring that the flow, tools, and steps on the interview journey were accessible and inclusive to people of all abilities. My team audited the existing hiring processes and updated the candidate journey where needed to ensure that anyone who was applying to Rangle was properly accommodated. This included a full accessibility audit for the application process on our careers page — We rewrote job descriptions to remove bias, ensuring gender neutrality. We removed any jargon that might be off-putting to candidates who were applying from outside the tech sphere, but who had the relevant skills and aptitudes that would make them a great addition to our team. We then completed training for hiring managers, including uncovering unconscious biases, allyship training, and how to ensure inclusion in the hiring process.
During interviews, for example, our managers accommodate the candidate’s needs by offering the option to choose video-free calls, which can be distracting or discouraging for neurodiverse candidates.
Unfortunately, I’ve seen many talent cultures where the accessibility statement on the careers page was the beginning and end of considering the needs of candidates with disabilities. I hope it goes without saying that this isn’t enough to ensure your team is attracting the widest possible range of talent. The candidate's experience at organizations like this will cause a large proportion of people to self-select out — narrowing the talent pool and damaging the company’s reputation as an inclusive employer.
The second most important point for my team was ensuring culture fit from the earliest stages of the interview process. Above all else, we hire for culture fit, culture add, and potential. Jim Barron and Mike Hannon of Stanford University found that the organizations where founders said that culture fit was their top priority are significantly less likely to fail. We’ve found this to be the case in practice at Rangle.
How do we create psychological safety in the interview process and beyond?
When we felt that we had created an accessible and inclusive candidate journey, I turned my attention to exploring psychological safety in the interview process. This is critical. If you prioritize culture fit, you need to know that your candidates can be their authentic self in the interview process.
The first way we keep psychological safety top of mind is prioritizing values alignment over traditional resume skills. In simple terms, this means that while skills can be taught to a promising candidate, values are not so easily changed. And having the right values is the key to becoming a successful consultant at Rangle.
"Values over rules are key for encouraging originality."
Adam Grant, Professor of Organizational Psychology at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania
Throughout the selection process, we think about the whole person, encouraging the hiring team to look for potential rather than just work experience, and to be open about their own careers — demonstrating their authentic selves to encourage the candidate to do the same. It’s not uncommon for our talent team to receive emails from candidates sharing a follow up article, book, recipe or simply just expressing how much they loved getting to know our hiring managers. Whenever I receive an email like that, I know that my team has achieved our goal.
Rangle’s core values, Brave, Kind, Curious, Open and Driven, are the basis of how we evaluate candidates, and we look for examples of these in the candidate’s storytelling about themselves.
Curiosity — asking the right questions and relentlessly adapting — is especially key to our mindset, understanding that learning is based on experimenting and iterating.
By nature, our hiring teams are curious about our candidates, including what drives them and what their passions are. In turn, we prioritize being honest about Rangle, without upselling or misleading candidates about our culture in order to hire. After a rocky year in the context of the first wave of pandemic lockdowns, we ensure that we’re honest about the ups and downs we faced in 2020, and how we learned from our mistakes to rebuild a thriving culture.
After a candidate is hired we celebrate with them through a strong and engaging onboarding process. In addition to sending a welcome kit to each new hire and setting them up with a home allowance we partnered with our People & Culture team over the past two years to ensure the first weeks of onboarding for each new hire are warm and welcoming — with opportunities to learn about the business, mixed with opportunities to nurture relationships with new colleagues.
We encourage our new hires to join Rangle’s communities of practice so that they can find their tribe on Day One. We also introduce them to our internal Slack groups that focus on community building like book clubs, sports teams, pets, crafting, music and gaming. Finally, we set them up for Rangle Roulette, where new and old Ranglers alike are matched for 1:1 coffee chats. This is in addition to our formal onboarding process that includes training and bootcamps on each of our client-facing and supporting departments.
What is the end-to-end candidate experience?
My team’s mission, to build an outstanding and inclusive recruitment process that showcases the best of our culture, organization, and community, was my guiding principle for all the new processes I implemented.
We know that each applicant is an individual, and so we set a goal to treat everyone who applies to Rangle with respect and empathy. We prioritize connection and communication — even if it’s not as efficient, we value sending a personalized message to candidates over automation and canned responses.
Leaning into our Bravery value, if we haven't lived up to our promise to communicate clearly and often with our hiring managers or candidates, we own up to it. After all, we are human, too. We send Starbucks gift cards to any candidate we have not communicated with within a timely manner, along with a sincere apology.
Along the same lines, we collect feedback from candidates and are constantly evaluating our tools, methods, and practices. We send surveys during the hiring process, and once again after a candidate has joined Rangle. With our commitment to being Open, we demonstrate that the interview process is a two-way street: Candidates, whether they are ultimately successful or not, should have the opportunity to express their feelings and opinions about their experience with us.
Our work echoes the process of our product management teams in how they map a user journey to uncover a solution to a problem they may be facing for our clients. Putting ourselves in the candidates’ shoes, we are honest about our successes and our shortcomings.
It takes time and work to search for a new job, and that effort is worthy of respect. Kindness encourages us to remember that applying for jobs is tough. Being empathic to our candidates is fundamental to how we work. Curiosity leads us to ask the right questions to find the right candidates, and to get to know them as real people.
Are you interested in joining Rangle? You can learn more about our organization and our open roles on our careers page.