Strategic Talent Acquisition in Hypergrowth

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In this episode of the Leaders in Talent podcast, the guest, Alan, the Global Head of Talent Acquisition at Deel, shares his journey from being part of the founding team of a micro-mobility company to leading talent acquisition at one of the fastest-growing companies.

Operating in over 100 countries and hiring 2000 new employees annually, Alan discusses the strategies and challenges of recruiting in four main areas: revenue teams, operations, G&A functions, and R&D teams. He delves into the importance of TA function maturity, the use of technology in recruitment, and developing a company’s employee value proposition and branding.

Alan also sheds light on Deel’s hypergrowth journey, the transition to a fully remote work environment, and the metrics and strategies that drive their success in talent acquisition. Additionally, Alan shares valuable leadership lessons learned throughout his career, emphasizing the importance of values, consistency, and being curious.

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Timecodes

00:00 Introduction to the Leaders in Talent Podcast

00:13 Alan’s Journey to Becoming Head of Talent at Deal

00:21 Exploring Deal’s Global Operations and Recruitment Strategy

02:11 Challenges and Strategies in Talent Acquisition at Deal

05:02 The Evolution of Deal: From EOR to a Comprehensive HR Platform

07:56 Adapting to a Fully Remote Recruitment Process

13:51 Lessons Learned from Leadership and Management Roles

17:16 Key Metrics and Challenges in Talent Acquisition

26:33 Final Thoughts and Advice for Aspiring Leaders

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Connect with Alan Price: https://www.linkedin.com/in/alanprice/

Connect with Adriaan Kolff: https://www.linkedin.com/in/adriaankolff/

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Transcription

[00:00:00] Adriaan Kolff: Alan, good to see you. Welcome and welcome to the Leaders in Talent podcast. Our audience is mainly senior recruitment leaders and leaders in talent. Give me your role as Head of Talent at a Deel. Tell me a little bit more about your journey and how you ended up being the Head of Talent at Deel.

[00:00:19] Alan Price: Great. Thank you very much for inviting me. So I’ll start with my current role. I’m Alan. I’m the Global Head of Talent Acquisition at Deel. We operate in over a hundred countries where we have clients with various service providers from payroll to EOR, et cetera, et cetera.

We have employees in over 105 countries and typically serve of 2000 kinds of new hires every year. Deel is a four year old organization, so it’s pretty crazy in terms of growth, both in revenue and people and operations, et cetera. So there are four main areas that we typically tend to recruit for.

One is our revenue teams, so sales, account management, sales development, and representatives. Some of the infrastructure stuff around kind of revenue operations, et cetera, et cetera. You’ve then got our operations team, which is around customer success, onboarding, payroll implementation, all of these kind of customers, customer supports.

You’ve then got our GNA functions, so finance, legal, HR, et cetera. And then fourthly, you’ve got our R&D teams, which are tech products and data. Those are the four main areas that we support. And then we’ve also got within my team, we’ve got, TA operations and programs, and, number six, we’ve got a sourcing team that supports the four other departments. So it’s pretty interesting.

Prior to joining Deel, I was part of the founding team of a micro-mobility company called Dots. We operated across Europe. I think we got to about 11 or 12 countries during my time there and grew it from zero employees when I started, we didn’t even have a name for the organization. Grew that to a thousand staff in four years.

[00:02:09] Adriaan Kolff: Amazing. Let’s zoom a little bit into your current role at Deel. So Deel, one of the fastest growing companies ever. Tell me a little bit more about when you started at Deel what was the environment that you were operating in and what was the challenge that you were facing as a head of TA?

[00:02:27] Alan Price: Yeah. I think part of the reason why I wanted to join Deel was, coming back to the prior company Dots. So in 2018, we started. We didn’t have entities, we didn’t have employment contracts. We were trying to figure out how to expand into new markets, and create entities, creating all of these things was a big problem.

And, prior to that, also during my time at Uber, which is another organization I worked at, we also faced a similar problem in terms of expanding payroll, going into new entities, employment contracts, legislation, all of these types of things. So that’s what led me here. Then when I joined, it was really interesting because I think you’ll find in a lot of organizations, especially if you have experienced a kind of hypergrowth, you tend to see the maturity of, your R&D teams, your maturity of your sales teams.

If it was a SaaS-based organization and operations, you typically tend to see a little bit more mature. And then from a talent acquisition perspective, a lot of the mindset is about. Here’s a vacancy. How do I go and fill it as quickly as possible and all of these things? And whilst a lot of that is, valuable is really important.

You have to think more broadly about what is a TA function, right? So as we came to, or as I came to look at the TA function, I split it into a number of different categories. So firstly, it was the people. How do we make sure that they have the right understanding about the roles for which they’re recruiting?

Being able to make sure that we’re targeting recruiters in the right way. So what measurements, what is success in terms of recruiting, right? And the TA enablement, you’ve then got like the processes. There’s number two. you’ve then got, the architecture in terms of technology. So applicant tracking system to use.

Do you want to invest in tools like Metaview, for instance, for artificial intelligence, et cetera, et cetera, around the interviewing process. what skills do you want to evaluate? So that could be the testing tools that you would buy from a software platform, et cetera, et cetera. You’ve then got some of the strategy around employee value proposition and employee branding, DNI initiatives, et cetera.

And then the final thing is like, how do you bring it all together in terms of a program kind of function? So a lot of that was, was there. But it wasn’t necessarily mature. So a lot of the work that we’ve been doing over the past year is about maturing a number of those different categories.

[00:05:02] Adriaan Kolff: Tell me a little bit more about the type of company that deal is for the people that are unfamiliar with Deel and what makes deal a unique environment. And then as a follow-up question, what was the challenge when you really started off? You know what you just described and how did you break that down off of what the focus on?

[00:05:19] Alan Price: So I think Deel is one of these organizations that is just growing so fast, so quickly. This is publicly available information now, but I think the first year in terms of ARR, they got to 5 million in ARR, which is insane for the first year. In the second year, they grew that to 50 million, 30, or 300 million.

We’ve just announced. Well, today’s date, which is around March 2024, we’ve just announced 500 million in ARR. Oh, so it’s really a very fast organization that we started. The core product that we started was an employer of record. So EOR, and that would basically mean that if you wanted to hire a software engineer in any country, let’s say Poland, right? But you didn’t have the legal framework, i. e. the entity, employment contracts, all of these areas, then you would start to get into, difficult surroundings to be able to onboard and have that worker work for you, right? So we started with this EOR product in which we can then hire compliantly around the world.

We started to see that as a big opportunity. So that’s our core product. We started to see that we’re building a fintech business ultimately and payments business. In order to pay a lot of those EORs around the world. And then we started to see big traction in payroll software to be able to not only payroll EORs. That we would service our clients, but also run payroll internally for a number of other organizations. So we just announced, that we’ve partnered over the last few years with a number of large organizations to run their global payroll. So I think that’s really interesting as we start to deep dive more into it. We’ve launched an HR information system. To be able to firstly integrate the URs into existing HRS tooling, but then equally have a standalone tool to be able to run a lot of the HR topics that you would tend to see in an HRIS. Yeah. we’ve just acquired a learning management tool, Zavi, in the last couple of weeks as well.

So as we dive more deeper into actually bringing a lot of the functionality that people and HR leaders and TA leaders need today, is to integrate that into a kind of one, one, one platform.

[00:07:56] Adriaan Kolff: So when you started the old super fast growing, fully remote, your recruitment team, you’ve never seen in person and very high targets. Explain to us what those first three to six months looked like for you. How did you shape it.

[00:08:16] Alan Price: Yeah, it’s an interesting one. I think that the volume of hires has always been there, right? Because if you look at our revenue teams, for instance, it’s quite a simple calculation. You have a certain amount of, people that then equals a kind of quota and attainment and targets. and then that equals a kind of geographical kind of expansion into new, into new markets. You then have the R&D teams that need to support that in terms of features and, and infrastructure.

You’ve then got, our operations team on customer success, onboarding, payroll, implementation, and payroll management, to be able to run payroll, in a variety of different countries compliantly. So you typically tend to see that there’s a high degree of investment that you need in order to grow. That means that we have to run very quickly to deliver. Hires and make sure that there’s business continuity, but in the first, three months, three, six months or so, it’s Hey, what are the skills we’re looking for? How do we evaluate those skills? Who should evaluate them in the interviewing process and in what format should we evaluate? And we had to do a little bit of work around, what are the functional skills. Someone’s really looking for one of the functional practices. If you take, for instance, software engineering, your functional skills of no JS or Java, but then waterfall methodologies in terms of practices, et cetera, et cetera, and like pace and speed is, it’s something where we need to evaluate.

Then you look at your behaviors and your, and, and your culture, these, the type of people that you want to have in the organization that they align with your culture, all of these areas. And then fourthly, you’ve got your business impact. To make sure that you’re actually delivering real value over time. And then how do we assess for that during the interview process? So I think that was a, a key piece of work that we did at the, at the start of 2023.

[00:10:21] Adriaan Kolff: In terms of running a fully remote interview. How do you make sure that everyone is aligned on what you want to achieve while you’re driving and, to have that same buy in terms of your strategy?

[00:10:40] Alan Price: it’s interesting because when I, during the pandemic, everyone could have gone remotely and I was of the mindset because I was running a people function at the time I was of the mindset Obviously, everyone wants the pandemic to end very quickly, right? I was super motivated to try and organize kind of office events and bring people back to the office and kind of really drive that collaboration and that communication, those water cooler moments, all of these things. It wasn’t that I was pro coming back to the office like five days a week, but I wanted to have that blend and in-person kind of meeting. And then I’ve just changed my perspective over time, actually. I think there are certain values and some benefits that you can get in working fully distributed and remotely for access to talent and, really objectively evaluating kind of the hiring bar because it doesn’t necessarily matter, especially for, population, where you’re actually based as long as you’re time zone centric and you, your functional skills, practices, behaviors, business impacts, all of these things, in terms of getting people aligned, I think it starts very clearly with what is the purpose, what are you trying to do?

That starts at the organizational level. And then how do you disseminate that into your team, having, trying to have that personal connection. So you’re able to bring people through. With your vision, right? But then also be very clear about what are the kind of the main objectives that we need to achieve and then how do you provide that support and that framework? We have to do a lot more in terms of, it’s very similar to pandemic days, but like really trying to do like remote events. So we would do games nights and all of these things. and I think one of one of the real learnings that I’ve had is Especially going from a fully distributed global, global workforce is slack is your office.

And that is really great in terms of connectivity. But if you’ve got 100, if you’ve got employees in 105 countries around the world, it’s always on and you have to set certain boundaries. With, you can’t just leave slack on all of the time you have to set kind of periods that you’re away and do not contact and all of these things to make sure that you, just don’t go fully immersed in work, right? And then being very clear with your colleagues as well around times in which, it’s your evening or is your morning because if you look at Slack and three o’clock in the morning, someone’s going to be up. There’s a real adjustment that I think people, and I definitely made that over the first three to six months.

There’s a real adjustment that people have to really just think, Oh, no, it’s gonna be great. We’re gonna go to this work, work from home anywhere, kind of environment. And, there are certain considerations. I think people need to, need to pay attention to it.

[00:13:51] Adriaan Kolff: Kind of switching gears a little bit, right? You’ve seen a lot of different well-known companies. You’ve been in leadership positions. If you look back to Alan, a couple of years ago and where you are now, what would you tell yourself in your first management role? what were some of the mistakes that you then made? And what have you learned over, over, over time?

[00:14:12] Alan Price: when I started like my first, what were the first mistakes that I was making as a manager, there were a lot. I think that. being instructional and telling someone how to do it as if you were doing it in your way Yeah, I think that’s lesson number one I think people need to just figure out and develop their own kind of pace and ways of working Yeah, I think one of the key lessons that I learned is to really have a vision and have a, have core values.

And I spent, and, my, former CEO at Dots, he, says to me, Alan, what are your values? And I was like, I’ve got values and he’s no, but what are they concretely? And I was like, okay. And I couldn’t reel off. These are my three values or four values that I really care about.

So he’s go away, have a think about your values and then make decisions based on your values and not necessarily on the individual circumstance. Because if you’re then guided by your values, then you become consistent. And if you take decisions at face value. It can then mean that you actually are inconsistent, and that’s probably if you ask a number of different people, like working with people, if there’s inconsistency, it creates confusion, and then you’re not sure which way to turn. And then it actually stops innovation stops all of these other things. Yeah. and that, That it’s okay to fail kind of mentality, right? So be very clear in terms of your vision your principles and your values. And then you become, I think, a lot more consistent with how you approach a variety of different challenges.

[00:15:59] Adriaan Kolff: Is it something that your team also knows in terms of what you find important and what your values are?

[00:16:05] Alan Price: It’s a good question. I’m still learning, right? I think in general, I think in general, yes. you continue to have to over-communicate. I think that’s one of the lessons. Also, I’ve learned in my career that, continue to repeat, continue to bring everyone back to the actual main objectives you are trying to achieve over communicate. if you tell someone one more time, it doesn’t necessarily matter too much in terms of the strategy and the vision kind of piece and always linking back.

There’s a really interesting book that I read, measure what matters. I wasn’t sure, I can’t remember exactly who, who authored it, but, if you’re, if it’s everyone very aligned in terms of your objectives and then you measure what really matters, if you don’t do anything with that number, stop measuring it. And that was one of the other learners that I really had with me. So then it’s just very clear. There are three or four things you really pay attention to. and those are your defining kind of prince. Yes. Yeah.

[00:17:16] Adriaan Kolff: For you now in the growth environment that you’re at, what are some of the key metrics that you look at?

[00:17:25] Alan Price: The key metrics that we look at, firstly today is the volume of hires. Volume of hires. We’re in a growth-based environment. We’ve just announced a thousand net new roles. There’s probably going to be a few more than that. But then if you include a number of other, roles that come up, backfields, and kind of changes, there’s a huge amount, right? So this quarter, the volume of hires is really important for us. And how we measure the volume of hires is actually what we call pace to go. So how much of the quarter have we had? Is it 30 percent, 60 percent, 70 percent, whatever it is? And then how are we tracking progress to go?

[00:18:09] Adriaan Kolff: You’ve done 200 hires so far, so you know you’re two-third on the way to meet your quota. Yeah, exactly. And then you look at where you are during those three months to see if you’re on track.

[00:18:25] Alan Price: So, let me break it down. If you have 300 hires per quarter, that’s, 100 hires a month. So then you know, okay, how many recruiter screens do I need to do? What is my conversion rate from recruiter screen to hire? Because then you can say, okay, if I need to do, 10 percent of all hires in these films, I need to get to 3000 recruiter screens in order to then get to 300 hires with that 10 percent conversion, right?

Similarly, what is your conversion metric? hiring manager screen. What is your conversion metric on team interviews, final interviews case studies, et cetera? And you can see your, funnel conversion. So then, are you ahead of where you need to be or behind in terms of your topple funnel recruiter activity or team interviews or source candidates, whatever it is?

So you can then say, okay, we’ve just launched a number of these new roles. We have, but it is not going to be equal to a hundred. You start to say, the priority is top of the funnel. We need to do the recruiter screens first. Cause they’re all new roles. Yeah. Then it’s okay.

As the pipeline matures, then what about the team interviews? And as then it starts to mature, then, and you get into that cadence and that run rate, and then you start to see if your hires, play more so you can then see okay I’m at 50 of the recruiter calls that I needed to do. I should be at 30 So we’re on track.

If I then look at the conversion rates, how are we tracking against them? The team interviews and all of these other areas you can actually start to tell the story of these new pipelines. They’re coming through. We’ve done our conversion rates. We needed to do over here the the conversion optimization is working quite well.

Or it could be off. So you’re able to identify the main problems and ultimately Where are in terms of offers conversion rates from offers hires, etc, And that’s really powerful reporting that a lot of senior leaders actually want to know They don’t necessarily want to know is the role filled They want to know, do I have confidence that the team is going to fill it within X, Y, Z period of time?

And it’s really that confidence piece that I find is really important, not just what the number is. yeah. So pace to goal is one of the big areas, that we really drill down on because it has a number of different offshoots, as I’ve just mentioned. The pace of hiring and candidate experience.

I think it is one of those metrics that you typically always tend to center on. And the pace of hiring, do you mean time to hire? So, we look at it from a couple of different aspects. So when was the role opened? This is when it was hired, right? Yeah. but equally known candidates to hire.

So when they come into your funnel, from an application or referral or sourced, whatever it is, then, the candidate, what is the time before they’re hired? And you want to know a couple of areas. You want to know what is the interviewing cadence in order to make a decision on do we want to offer?

And then from offer through to hire, that’s the other metric. Cause if you’re taking two, two and a half weeks to generate the contract back and forth, In terms of offer negotiation, all of these things, then that should be disconnected from time to hire. So that’s the second metric that we, that we tend to, tend to center down on.

You then look at the candidate experience and then you break that down into what are the main buckets of what candidates are really excited about or not excited about during the interviewing kind of process. Because then you can harmonize and refactor a lot of your, a lot of your processes, right?

It’s the same from hiring manager surveys as well, right? To be able to ascertain, the quality of hire is, is a, is an important one for us. How I tend to think about it. Yeah. How do you measure that? It’s a big one.

[00:22:27] Alan Price: I personally don’t believe that you can measure and own the quality of higher metrics within TA. I think you have to measure the quality of the process and the quality of the process for us. What are the skills you’re looking for? How do you evaluate them? When do you evaluate them? In what format should you evaluate them? Either from an interview or from an exercise or code review or whatever it is.

And then, who should evaluate them? And then as you then roll that into, okay, we’ve hired someone, right? What was our impression of functional skills, functional practices, behaviors, and business impact? Now, how do you measure those and get really strong, solid feedback submitted, right?

And then when it does work out or it doesn’t work out, whatever it is, how do you then deep dive into it and say, Hey, we thought that this person would be really. And they weren’t. why is that? because our interviewing processes are a bit off if their abilities don’t match what we thought that they would be.

Equally, there’s also a lot of insights of, yeah, we thought this candidate would be good, like soft. Yes. Versus Strong. Yes. But actually, some of those people tend to be, the highest-performing people, right? So why is that? So what should you do more of? And what should you change? I think that’s a consistent question that you need to always be, always be asking.

[00:23:55] Adriaan Kolff: In terms of where you are now, what, is one of the biggest challenges that you’re currently facing as a leader?

[00:24:07] Alan Price: The biggest challenges. There’s a lot. So right now for, for us, it’s really about, we’ve got, fairly decent sized kind of recruiting team, et cetera, is getting, caught up all aligned in terms of, talent acquisition enablement.

And also interviewer kind of enablement, right? And what are the resources and how do you build programs around that where there haven’t historically been programs that have always been built, right? So I think that those are one of the challenges, recruiting operations, having the right data, the right insights, being able to connect those insights to an organization that is, that has grown, and then we want to ask slightly different questions, right? Where do we see success in the sense of kind of retention, quality of higher, where do we need to double down? Where do we need to, what is the data showing us when you look at functional skills, practices, behaviors, business impact, and who ranks strongly? In the interviewing process what data and insights can we then draw to say, Hey, this is, what we should be targeting here or here?

So that could be the country. That could be industry. Now I’ll give you an example. We, within our sales organization, for instance, there are some really great people working at the big tech companies, right? If you look at LinkedIn, if you look at Google, if you look at all these other places, there’s, we see a lot of success actually in.

In the would-like product versus the must-have products. So LinkedIn is a must-have product, right? So are their salespeople the best or are they, is that a must-have product? And what’s the complexity of the sale? So we actually see a little bit more, We see people doing really well that have come from the would-sell as opposed to the must-have sell, right?

Not to discount people at LinkedIn and other areas, please come and join us. There’s opportunities everywhere, right? But when you move into kind of that objective hiring, you tend to see, Hey, let’s not just go for the kind of the halo CV, right? Let’s let’s have a look at, a number of different backgrounds and be very objective on how to hire and double down on your, you top of the funnel, right? Yeah, because that’s where you got to get the most conversions.

[00:26:33] Adriaan Kolff: Alan, as our final, closing question. what is something that you would like to share with our audience that are inspiring leaders or recent leaders in that sense? what is something that you feel like you wish you would have maybe known like early on or something? Yeah, just as a kind of final thought.

[00:26:56] Alan Price: I think I’ve always tried to really understand the fundamentals of the business as number one, in order to have that business kind of conversation and real strategic conversation in which you can then align the people resource to delivering kind of business kind of goals. And so that’s something that, that I think is very close to my heart. in terms of kind of advice, what would I give advice? It’s just to be curious. Asking the right questions and There was a, it comes to mind, there was a book actually so I would encourage everyone to read a book called Radical Candor. So I love that book classic. And, I really like the Care Personally and Challenge Directly.

[00:27:56] Adriaan Kolff: Alan, thank you so much for your time.

[00:28:04] Alan Price: I really appreciate your insights and your feedback. And let’s get ready for our recruitment leadership events. Thank you very much. Cheers!

Our guest:

Global Head of Talent Acquisition at Deel

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