How HubSpot recruits the best Millennial talent in the world

Katie Burke, chief people officer for HubSpot

Attracting remarkable talent globally at scale has been one of the three keys to the success and growth of inbound marketing and sales platform HubSpot, according to its global head of HR, who said a keen focus on attracting Millennials has been particularly important.

“For many technology companies, including ours, talent is our most precious resource, so attracting, retaining and growing remarkable people in seven locations across every department is a tall order, but it’s imperative for our goals as a company,” said Katie Burke, chief people officer for HubSpot.

“As a people operations team, we are active participants in this business objective, both by building a world-class recruiting team and system, but also by building a world-class employment brand to engage top candidates before they even consider making a move.”

HubSpot, which has grown from US$255,000 ($321,250) in revenues in 2007 to US$270.97 million ($341.37 million) last year and now has some 1700 employees and boasts 30,000 customers across 90 countries, has focused particularly on talented Millennials, according to Burke.

“Millennials get a bad reputation for being demanding – the truth is everyone, regardless of age group and work experience, wants a job that is mission-driven and personally fulfilling, so we aim to deliver that for all of our employees globally,” said Burke.

“Similarly, I’ve never met someone who enjoys being micromanaged, so we are building a culture heavily predicated in autonomy to give people ambitious goals but lots of flexibility on how they achieve them.”

Burke also said HubSpot’s leadership wants the company to be one where curious employees thrive and grow, and it offers a range of unconventional learning and growth opportunities ranging from employee master classes to a mini-MBA program with professors from Harvard and MIT – for many millennials.

“If you’re not growing, you’re going, so we invest heavily in environments to help individuals grow professionally,” she said.

“Talent is our most precious resource, so attracting, retaining and growing remarkable people in seven locations across every department is a tall order, but it’s imperative for our goals as a company”

HubSpot’s inbound recruiting team focuses heavily on content, community, and creativity to engage with talented Millennials and other candidates around the world, Burke explained.

This includes a blog specifically devoted to employee growth stories, a proactive approach to engaging with Glassdoor (Burke responds to almost every employee review on the platform as she says she appreciates the feedback from Millennials and other employees both present and past), and even an experiment to accept applications via Snapchat for ten days.

“We know our candidates are looking for remarkable places to bring their talents, so we have to showcase how we are different early, often, and with impact,” she said.

“Finally, our co-founders and the vast majority of our executives tweet and blog regularly, which gives candidates and employees alike a front row seat to what we’re thinking about, reading, and hiring for at the moment.”

Apart from talent acquisition, Burke said there have been two other keys to HubSpot’s success – one of which is building a diverse and inclusive work environment.

Research consistently shows that diverse teams perform better, according to Burke, and in building a global network of more than 30,000 customers, she said it is important to attract a diverse workforce and create an inclusive place to work where everyone can be their authentic selves.

“We’ve developed an incredibly strong global women’s network that focusing on programming to help us attract and grow top female talent at every level of our business,” said Burke.

“Our goal is to make culture at HubSpot like a great family recipe – similar elements but it improves and evolves based on location, time, preferences, and needs”

For example, HubSpot is involved in International Women’s Day celebrations globally (along with content and toolkits shared with companies globally to celebrate on their own).

The company also aims to have a long-term impact on the role of women in technology more broadly, and has hosted two different Hackathons internally focused on “adding the women back,” which highlighted female leaders in technology so that women are more visible in tech more broadly.

“You can’t be what you cannot see, so we really want to shine a light on women doing amazing things in tech already as we grow and scale,” said Burke.

Another important step has been to infuse empathy and belonging into the company culture, according to Burke, who explained an initiative called Humans of HubSpot, a moth-style storytelling event which allows people to share their experiences with racism, failure, acceptance, self-care, and a host of other topics often deemed more “personal” than professional.

The company also helps “first generation” candidates considering careers in technology, and has set up a website with resources, tips, and ideas to help those who are the first in their families to go to college or consider roles in technology prepare for interviews, share their work, and network to identify opportunities and roles that are a good fit for them.

HubSpot has also adopted the “Rooney Rule” and created a grant program named after Lorrie Norrington (a HubSpot Board member) to help improve the gender and racial diversity of external hiring, so every role director level of up at HubSpot includes an interview with a female or to help improve the hiring pipeline of senior talent over time.

“You can’t be what you cannot see, so we really want to shine a light on women doing amazing things in tech already as we grow and scale”

A third key to the company’s success has been in making culture a competitive advantage, Burke explained.

“As a company, your products will change, your leadership will evolve, but your culture is what will determine your long-term ability to succeed and innovate,” she said.

“One of the things I’m most proud of at HubSpot is that we aim to keep our culture at the cutting edge versus trying to keep it the same as we grow.

“Our global offices are a great example – we don’t want them to ‘fit’ the cookie cutter mould of our corporate office; we want them to add to and help improve our culture as we grow.”

HubSpot’s Sydney office has led the way with an initiative called “warm and fuzzy week” which is designed to share positive sentiments among colleagues during particularly frantic times of business.

“Our goal is to make culture at HubSpot like a great family recipe – similar elements but it improves and evolves based on location, time, preferences, and needs,” said Burke.

As a relatively new company, Burke acknowledged that start-ups get a lot of press, and she said it has been important for HubSpot to operate as a “scale-up”, which “in my view means we get the same speed, adrenaline, and excitement of a start-up, but with a more established global business and brand – it’s a unique combination of stability and agility required to operate a scale-up,” she said.

“I think our employees get the benefit of learning a ton and getting exposure to a rapidly scaling global business.”

“As a company, your products will change, your leadership will evolve, but your culture is what will determine your long-term ability to succeed and innovate”

This comes with a number of pros and cons, she added: the pros being ongoing additions of global offices and grow in each of the business’ locations, and maintaining a commitment to transparency even as employee numbers top 1700 people.

“The cons (if you can call them cons) are a global business means a lot more moving pieces to communicate with everyone, so face time gets harder,” said Burke, who recently visited Sydney and Singapore to get some more face time with employees.

For other HR leaders looking to create a more agile business culture and drive business results through strong talent management, Burke’s advice was to push themselves and their teams on what they can share with the business.

The arrival of Glassdoor, Comparably, and countless other technology applications means that your candidates and employees know more than ever about what happens inside your business,” she said.

“Rather than fighting that (which you will do at your company’s peril), embrace it, and really lean into ways that you and your team and your company can be more transparent about things your employees and candidates value deeply.”

In addition, Burke recommended “overinvesting” in internal communications, as she said employees can only act with information and context they know, so keeping messages as a company relevant, simple, and actionable for employees globally is imperative.

“We still have work to do to get this well done at scale, but it’s a skill that far too many HR organisations overlook, and your employees suffer as a result,” she said.

“Spend time ensuring your employees are engaged, educated, and empowered by your company’s message – your business results will thank you.”

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