Imagine being at a family gathering or visiting old friends you haven’t seen for a while. Chances are you will eventually be asked this rather innocent question: So how’s work?
On the surface, this question can seem quite trivial (depending on who’s asking, of course). But if we scratch that surface, it actually opens up a whole slew of other questions that may – in some cases – even hit the existential nerve (what am I doing with my life??).
So how is work, really? Well, we find that the complete answer to that question depends on two things: the employee’s relationship with his or her company and the company itself.
Considering that we spend about one-third of our lives at work, it makes sense to find a position that fulfills us. So let’s start at the very beginning of every employee-employer relationship: going through the selection process – and later on, we will also reveal how we at Content Insights guide those who have earned a spot among our ranks.
A candidate today may become an employee tomorrow
In order to unearth answers as to what constitutes a ‘good’ job position, first I needed to find out how we pick our crew at Content Insights. As always, I went straight to Alex, our Head of People Operations. After all, she was the one who ushered me into our cheeky little collective.
“If the company wants to offer a job position that is considered good,“ she explained, “that company needs to have a plan, a.k.a. the employer branding strategy.”
For those who are not familiar with the term, an employer branding strategy refers to the reputation a company has in the industry as an employer. Or to be even more specific, just ask yourself this: if you owned a company, what would you offer to your employees apart from a regular – and hopefully enviable – salary?
No doubt, financial stability is an important aspect of an employer’s attractiveness, but there are many other things to consider too, such as work-life balance, training courses, reward system transparency, market position, quality of product or service, and sense of community within the office, to name a few.
And on top of that, recruiters also must consider one very important thing: the experience of each individual candidate throughout the hiring process.
“Candidate experience is a crucial part of the employer branding strategy”, Alex tells me. “A candidate today may become an employee tomorrow and those that don’t make the cut will nonetheless continue to carry that experience with them, which can, directly or indirectly, affect the company’s reputation.”
Since leaving a good impression on the potential hirees correlates with how that job position is perceived, how do we create an experience that feels comfortable and on-point?
Leaving a good first impression (the before, during and after the interview)
Once the job applications start pouring in after opening up a new position, the company’s responsiveness to emails and calls, willingness to further clarify assignments, candidate treatment – all these factors contribute to creating a company image where people would (or wouldn’t) like to work at. The impression companies make before, during, and after the interview serves as something of a mutual filter. Put another way: just because we are interviewing potential hirees, that doesn’t mean that they aren’t, in a way, interviewing us back. It goes both ways.
During this instance, our practice is to accentuate our Employee Value Propositions (EVP), whether it’s through hiring ads, certain career blogs, etc. We find these commandments or tenets give people a better sense of what they can gain by joining and, more importantly, contributing to the collective. But we are also aware that it’s up to each individual to weave their own personal context into those values.
Here’s an example of what the EVP looks like at Content Insights:
- Work on innovative products
- Work in a mission-driven company
- Work with experts
- Learn from the best in the industry
- Freedom to grow
- Tailor your own development and career path
- Take part in a no-bullshit culture
- Life-work balance
- Competitive salary and benefits
Companies should keep in mind that each value proposition has to be realistic. By sugarcoating things, they decrease the chances of attracting the right men and women for the job – and even if they do succeed at that, retaining them will pose quite a challenge.
Alex highlighted that – generally speaking – sometimes all it takes is for candidates to step into the office to really know if a job suits them or not. “It’s a gut feeling, really,” she says. “Even if the interview goes well, sometimes candidates just feel it inside them that something is off, while in other cases their faces cannot hide the fact that they are truly interested, amazed even. It’s the vibe of the working space – people just feel it, even though that’s something you or I cannot affect in full.”
Another thing worth mentioning is that, throughout the process of selection, giving feedback is – or at least should be – imperative. Candidates are most likely to prefer to hear an explanation as to why they didn’t make the cut. This information is invaluable as it helps them to recalibrate, increasing their chances of landing a gig somewhere else and, hopefully, sometime in the near future.
And what about those who do get the job?
All aboard the onboarding process
Congratulations! You are now officially a member of the Content Insights collective. So it’s most likely Monday morning. You enter a two-story warehouse-like building, go up a flight of L-shaped stairs, pass through a huge kitchen, enter your office to the left (or right, depending on what they are paying you for), sit at your desk – in the meantime, you say hi to everybody you clock – and what happens next?
Even if the entrant is thoroughly familiar with the work he or she has been hired for, leaving a newly recruited employee without proper guidance in an unfamiliar office environment can be disorienting. More than that, it is counter-productive. Now, you might be thinking “who on earth would do that to begin with?”, but it happens, and more often than we probably realize.
Finding common ground at such an early stage of a professional relationship takes a lot of listening and patience. We’re all human and thus different from one another, so a certain amount of time will need to pass before we get each other’s quirks and idiosyncrasies.
On one hand, yes, it is necessary that the new recruit gets thoroughly acquainted with the industry, the terminology, the established processes within the company, and so on from the outset. But on the other, teams and their leaders also need to understand that what may be business as usual to them can still be quite abstract and challenging to newcomers for months to come. Failing to consider that eventuality will likely create mishaps and communication gaps further down the line, causing unnecessary problems.
This explains why the onboarding process is crucial. It serves not only as a system to introduce new hirees with the company’s business operations but also as an invitation to establish open, free-flowing communication.
Our basic onboarding process takes a month to complete. It includes explanatory sessions of what Content Insights is, our mission, the CI app, company values, products, policies, rules, clients, and how we function as a whole – and this is just for the marketers. We also have, for instance, data engineers and data scientists in our ranks, which necessitates that each team has an introductory course tailored specifically to its needs.
But the most important aspect of onboarding is getting to know the person everyone will be working with – and that is what takes most of the time, depending on the personality, of course.
Another thing that Alex emphasizes is that at the beginning, especially during the first few weeks, newcomers shouldn’t be bombarded with information. We always leave room for things to settle. Failing to do so can overwhelm and demotivate the recruit, which in some cases may even cause tension, thus increasing the risk of reopening that job position a bit too soon.
Here’s a little tip: try to remember what the things were that you wanted to hear when you started your job. Maybe sharing that empirical knowledge with new recruits will lift their spirits and help them acclimate better during those shaky, early stages.
Access to resources from a supportive environment
One of our hiring policies is this: we give extra points to people who – besides being the right fit for our company culture – feel comfortable to work on their own initiative. In general, working in startups typically requires individuals to take a more proactive approach. Our company is a relatively small one, counting no more than 30 souls, so we are no strangers to jumping from one project to another whenever necessity demands it.
Now, we are aware that this prospect can seem overwhelming and this is why having a supportive environment is so crucial.
Apart from having access to an ample knowledge base, as well as tools and supplies, we find that a helping hand is one of the most valuable resources a company can have. We all come from different backgrounds and possess various skills, but knowing how to pool all that knowledge – even if it is just for meeting a deadline – can be extremely engaging and also liberating for each individual. After all, one person can never accomplish what two or more can.
We offer help to those who ask for it. That is why we encourage employees to be honest and direct with their intentions, no matter how unnerving or complex they may seem. As we mentioned in our blog about building meaningful relationships at work, at the end of the day, clarity and understanding are the wheels that set things in motion.
Another little tip: people often tend to mistake criticism for support. Saying ‘you could have done this or that…’ compared to ‘I believe you can do this…’ are two separate things. Both serve a useful purpose but employ the former without the latter for too long and it can send a wrong message.
So, when is a certain job position “good”?
Frankly, we think this is down to the individual. So far we’ve seen people who work within an inch of a deadline, and some who prefer to work steadily (while wearing a pair of slippers); some prefer repetitive tasks, some jump from project to project; some follow their intuition, some get all analytical; some thrive in chaos, some keep their desks spotless; some are great at kicking-off projects despite not finishing the ones before, while some will not stop until that Python code is flawless… Point being: there is no perfect job or employee. It’s all relative.
As a wise old wizard once said, “all we have to do is decide what to do with the time that is given to us”. Our individual contributions are as unique as we are and it’s those very differences that make us interesting, and thus the job itself.