Your firm just won a big, exciting new account you’ve been pursuing for some time. It’s the best news an ad agency can receive (next to that flattering, splashy feature in CA). It’s worth celebrating.
BUT… The account is a gorilla. Suddenly you realize that you’re going to need more people to properly service this account—more creative people to dedicate to the account’s multiple departments; more project managers, maybe an account manager to either lead the account, or take over other accounts as you shuffle current personnel. You may even need more admin people to handle related agency functions.
It’s a really bad time to realize your recruiting program is virtually non-existent. How do you find good people fast? You put out feelers, hoping to get some referrals. You post ads on social media and major online job boards. Maybe you rush through screening and interviewing. And now, a few months into your new, bigger agency, you find all kinds of internal problems are developing.
The creative director is struggling with the new, larger workload and the new people—and egos—he needs to integrate into the team. The new project manager is butting heads with the production manager and the account executive she’s supposed to work with. The accounting department is complaining that some of the new employees aren’t posting time and expenses currently and billing issues are arising. And the new account manager and the account supervisor seem to hate each other.
These new frictions and conflicts are causing your previously fun, stable culture to go haywire. Processes and procedures are breaking down; inefficiencies are occurring, and you are ready to tear your hair out dealing with the problems. All of this is happening while you try to manage the demands of your new, powerful client.
Hiring too fast can greatly disrupt culture and morale if you fail to pay due attention to two important areas of hiring—cultural/values fit, and personality.
Hiring Is a Process
Scaling up too quickly can affect everything from overhead to conflict management. To keep your hiring process from overwhelming your otherwise healthy agency culture, follow these key steps.
Recheck your values and mission. Before you recruit, know the kind of person or people you want to find. You want good alignment of values, and need to ask that candidates accept your agency’s stated mission. If you haven’t defined these, sit with core employees and managers to hammer out a set of values and define your mission.
Know what you can afford to pay. Set salary ranges and grades for all new positions. Check that they are competitive. List benefits and perks that may sweeten the offer.
Open networking channels to ask for referrals. Business contacts may be able to steer you quickly to likely candidates. Screen all referrals against your priorities and screening worksheet (see below).
Decide what your priorities are. What core needs and requirements must the new hire meet? Where can you be flexible?
Use a screening worksheet. Focus on your priorities and the five core areas:
- Ability:the education, experience, talent and key skills to do the job
- Willingness:a team-oriented, pitch-in-and-get-it-done attitude
- Manageability:trainable, direct-able, but also able to get the job done without micro-managing
- Future growth:they have career goals you both feel the agency can help with
- Problem solving:able to think on their feet, flexible, agile
Seek diversity in candidates. Look for people from different backgrounds, levels of experience, industry experience, and yes, gender and ethnic perspectives. As important, seek people with different skills to help expand your capabilities. A more diverse team leads to better, more innovative ideas.
Consider freelancers and contractors you already know. You may already work with people who could step seamlessly into your open positions.
Post ads on job sites and agency social media. Create a website landing page for people to contact your HR person and submit resumés.
Consider a recruiter. If you need higher-level people, enlist the help of a recruiting firm.
Do more than one interview. Phone screening plus at least one in-person interview are essential. Ideally, have a second person at the agency also interview candidates. This helps reduce bias.
Test candidates! Personality and intelligence testing of your final candidates is a good way to confirm you get the right people in the right positions. In certain functions, skills testing may also be advisable.
Have an onboarding and orientation process. When you throw your carefully selected new hire in at the deep end and expect them to sink or swim, they’ll probably sink. Offer them the proper support and training to help them swim with the best. Mentor new hires so they absorb your values and embrace your culture.
Hiring fast usually means hiring with regrets. Don’t move too quickly to build your core staff. Use freelancers and independent contractors as backup employees until you find the right new people. Also, consider which of your existing staff can move up and lead the effort for your new gorilla account. Promoting from within gives you a chance to hire more entry-level people, and helps to manage payroll costs. Your team will be grateful you believe in their abilities, and new hires will see that you have a path for advancement.
Need help with recruiting, screening and employee testing? Contact Second Wind’s Right Fit Recruiting for assistance.