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Why You Should Invest in Unconventional Talent



What do an administrative assistant, exercise physiologist, and music composition major have in common? They are all among our top hires for software developer roles.

Many stellar engineers have no formal certifications or degrees; some didn’t go to college. We believe that there’s no single “best” route to a role. Often, less-traveled roads can provide invaluable experience and unexpected perspectives.

We’ve walked these unconventional paths ourselves as a self-taught hacker and a first-generation college graduate. We’ve worked at companies where we were the “only” on a team — the only Black engineer, the only trans engineer, or the only woman — and we’ve been told, implicitly and explicitly, that we don’t fit the mold. We’ve been in the room when hiring committees passed up qualified candidates in favor of those with more traditional pedigrees.

Those experiences fueled our passion to hire differently and to encourage other leaders to do the same.

The importance of building diverse organizations has been well-established. Diversity is linked to greater innovation and performance; McKinsey recently found that more diverse companies had higher profits than their more homogeneous counterparts.

In contrast, a lack of diversity can lead to convergent thinking. People who share training and experiences tend to reach a consensus faster because they view problems the same way. However, the long-term impact is less harmonious, resulting in narrower thinking and products that don’t meet their potential.

Building teams with different skill sets and life experiences requires intention. By designing inclusive hiring practices — and letting go of the notion that there’s one ideal candidate type for a role — we can create more opportunities for a range of candidates who are more than capable. Here’s how.

Focus on potential rather than pedigree.

We asked developers at Gusto to talk about their backgrounds and noticed a common theme: many discovered a passion for building software through a mix of self-study, experimentation, and formal classes. Others found their love of engineering through seemingly unrelated jobs, including being a paralegal and a video editor.

We both began our careers with different toolsets than we use today. Many, if not most, skills can be taught on the job; what matters is the desire and core capabilities to succeed. Jobs are changing so rapidly that adaptable learners are in high demand. Many top companies, including Google, Apple, and Bank of America, now focus less on “official” qualifications — many are no longer requiring traditional degrees — and we’re excited to see this trend continue.

The truth is that the skills that seem ideal for a role today may no longer even be a fit in a year. When you’re screening and interviewing candidates, look for ways to explore the capabilities that will enable the individual to thrive as everything around them changes. Consider asking questions like the following:

  • Describe a problem and how you contributed to a solution. A candidate may exhibit problem-solving abilities in unexpected ways. They may have maximized yield in their garden or reorganized a charity event to be more impactful.
  • What were you doing the last time you looked at a clock and realized you had lost all track of time? An open-ended question like this can help you uncover intellectual curiosity and understand what motivates someone.
  • Describe a project you’re proud of that involved working closely with other people. Give candidates the opportunity to demonstrate self-awareness and teamwork; for example, by discussing how they raised up their team and vice versa.

Look for the sparkles in your talent pool.

Unconventional hiring is an exercise in holding up diamonds to the light. You’re training your eye to spot what glitters, which might be someone’s volunteer or advocacy work, music, writing, or an insightful Twitter thread.

One of our most prolific interviewers bases her questions on a candidate’s LinkedIn profile — but not the section you might think. She jumps to interests and the people they follow, rather than starting with education, endorsements, or even experience. Those sparks can be more telling than a job title.

Events and contests can also help you expand your talent pool to people who may not yet see themselves as experienced professionals. We find coding competitions to be rich sources of passionate and unconventional talent. One of our best hires for security engineering was a financial analyst who excelled in a cybersecurity contest. In these contests, sparkling doesn’t necessarily mean winning. Runners-up often make strong candidates because they’re less focused on rushing to complete a challenge and more interested in methodically solving a problem.

Help unconventional candidates envision themselves at your company.

Recruiting non-traditional hires sometimes involves convincing someone they can flourish in a role they can’t yet imagine. Job descriptions, your company’s LinkedIn profile, and your website’s careers section are all venues to reinforce your culture and ethos. Use those opportunities to authentically describe what it’s like to work at your company, then consider how those descriptions may resonate with candidates with different career experiences and backgrounds. For example, look for ways to minimize jargon; insider language could discourage candidates from applying, even if they have a real shot.

Another way to welcome unconventional applicants is to paint the big picture of a role rather than a checklist of specialized skills, degrees, or years of experience. When crafting job descriptions, we focus on what the candidate can expect to do day-to-day and what we’re looking for at a high level, such as an “interest in complex product development problems.” If we mention specific programming languages, we’ll clarify that you don’t need to know them because there will be training on the job.

When writing job descriptions, focus on the essential components of a given role. For every requirement or responsibility, keep asking why it’s crucial. For example, when we’re writing the job description for an engineering role, we could require that applicants have experience with Amazon Web Services, the cloud service provider we use, but why? We need engineers who understand cloud computing — and the security needs and scale that come with it. That experience with cloud services is essential, but a specific provider is not. We need someone who knows how to drive a car, not someone who knows how to drive a particular make and model. The job description should reflect that; otherwise, we narrow the applicant pool unnecessarily.

Break convention for onboarding and training.

Unconventional hiring transcends recruiting and interviewing. To help a wide range of hires flourish, you need support them at every stage of the employee lifecycle. For example, you might reassess short- and mid-term goals and milestones for the role if a candidate will be learning on the job. In this case, instead of measuring whether a new hire solves a specific problem in their first 30 days, you could evaluate how they’re contributing to the team’s creativity and their peers’ well-being.

Another piece of the puzzle is communicating that you expect new hires to spend time and energy developing new skills. Skill-building opportunities can take various forms, from mentorship to office hours to formal curricula.

Inclusive hiring is just the beginning; ongoing investment is key to supporting candidates once they’re on board.

We encourage every company to think beyond the confines of traditional hiring. Prepare for new hires who shake up your worldview and challenge assumptions about career paths. Continue investing in their growth. Together, chart an unconventional course toward the destination: an inclusive workplace for extraordinary talent.


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Managing people

It's never been more clear: companies should give up on back to office and let us all work remotely, permanently



  • With the rise of the Delta Variant, companies should switch to all remote.
  • All-remote is better for workplace collaboration, the environment, and companies' bottom lines.
  • Companies that switch to all-remote should be intentional about collaboration and technology.
  • Jeff Chow is SVP Product at InVision.
  • This is an opinion column. The thoughts expressed are those of the author.
  • See more stories on Insider's business page.

It's time to go back to the office for good – the home office.

With the CDC's recommendation that even fully vaccinated people wear masks indoors in areas with "substantial" and "high" transmission of COVID-19, employees across industries are wondering what the new future of work looks like. As the possibility of another shelter-in-place order looms, companies are deciding whether moving to a hybrid situation – simultaneously in-person and remote – is worth it.

It's not. Simply put, the concept of "forever remote" makes sense for numerous companies and industries. For many, America's "back to work" isn't a simple light switch, but many organizations are better off to shut the lights off at the traditional office. The switch to all remote will broaden a company's talent pool and increase employee happiness and retention, while limiting a lease and lowering its carbon footprint.

There are benefits to becoming a fully-remote organization. A top example is that the talent pool now goes national, or even international. Organizations are no longer limited to recruiting employees from a given radius to their offices. Asynchronous work helps to open the door for employees to work across time zones to get projects and deliverables completed in time.

InVision, where I work, has been all-remote since its inception. We have the luxury of hiring people living across the US and in 25 countries.

Additionally, without the need for a large physical office presence, companies can save hundreds of thousands of dollars, if not more, on leasing office space or building an expansive campus.

There is also evidence that eliminating an office for all employees to work remotely is better for the environment. Eliminating a daily commute, whether it's driving a vehicle or taking mass transit, helps cut down on emissions. This was initially noticed back in the spring and summer of 2020, when a decline in transportation due to the COVID-19 pandemic led to a 6.4% decrease in global carbon emissions, which is the equivalent of 2.3 billion tons. The United States had the largest drop in carbon emissions at 12%, followed by the entirety of the European Union at 11%.

In a June 2021 McKinsey survey of over 1,600 employed people, researchers found about one in three workers back in an office said returning to in-person work negatively impacted their mental health. Those surveyed also reported "COVID-19 safety and flexible work arrangements could help alleviate stress" of returning to the office. Not everyone who works for the same company is going to get along. In an all-remote environment, it is far easier for people who are at odds to simply avoid each other. HR won't have to spend nearly as much time mediating between (or terminating) office Hatfields and McCoys.

So, how exactly do you quickly pivot to remote again and stick with it? The key is intentionality. Teach managers to make a point of celebrating wins and good work on group calls. Build encouraging collaboration into managers' Key Performance Indicators (KPI)s. Take advantage of face-to-face opportunities by holding in-person, all-company all-hands meetings as a time to build culture, not a time to just do more work.

Treat working groups to dinner (use some of the money you saved on your lease!) and let them get to know each other as people. To be intentional, invest in new ways of working that are oftentimes better ways of working: reducing necessary meetings and adjusting more feedback sessions to asynchronous collaboration. Meetings that remain on calendars should be reserved for the purpose of being highly engaging and energizing moments for teams to brainstorm and do generative sessions.

Second is technology. By now, we're all familiar with the likes of Zoom, Slack, and Microsoft Teams, but there are other products that can actively improve collaboration (full disclosure: I work for InVision, which makes one such digital collaboration tool, namely Freehand).

Take a thorough look with your IT team (and talk to your employees) to see what they need on a day-to-day basis. What tools does your accounting team need? Do they differ from what the marketing team needs (spoiler alert: they do). And don't force everyone to use the same tools. If your accounting team loves Microsoft Excel, that's fine for them. I can guarantee, however, that your product design team is not going to use it.

Finally, invest in your employees' ability to make the transition (again).

GreenGen, which provides green energy solutions for businesses and infrastructure projects, had one of the most pioneering ideas. "We had our employees do a two-day work-from-home resiliency test. This was to ensure that everyone's home Wi-Fi was adequate so that all of our documents and materials were easily accessible online, and that we could troubleshoot any potential problems preemptively," said Bradford H. Dockser, Chief Executive Officer and Co-Founder of GreenGen. "Ensuring that our team members got monitors, mice, and keyboards at home made the transition seamless." With that sort of intentional stress test, GreenGen didn't skip a beat.

Above all, the main key to returning to the home office for good lies within communication. Technology and innovative products have helped to bring colleagues closer together virtually, as people work from anywhere at any time. Initial shelter-in-place orders taught many businesses across industries that remote work can be just as effective, if not more so, than the traditional office model. Businesses should make the call to go all-remote permanently. Their employees, their investors, and the environment will all thank you.

Read the original article on Business Insider

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Managing people

How to Boost the Morale of Your Employees



Employee morale is something that every business owner needs to consider and not just because it makes the workplace a nicer place for all (although this is a very important reason). High morale can result in improved productivity and overall team performance, employee loyalty and greater engagement, but it is also not easy to keep morale high and this can create a range of problems in the business.

So, how can a business improve the morale of the employees?

Use an Interior Designer to Redecorate

One study revealed that 97% of workers believe that the workplace symbolises how they are valued as an employee, so you will certainly want to create a comfortable and stylish workplace for staff (especially if they are returning after COVID-19). 

The same study showed that 65% claimed that they would consciously improve their performance in a more comfortable environment, so a smart way to improve morale would be to hire an interior designer to redecorate and use trade interior suppliers to secure the best office furniture for a more comfortable and attractive office space.

Work/Life Balance

Work/life balance has always been an important factor for staff that can have a huge bearing on morale, but particularly since COVID-19 which has changed people’s ideas and attitudes towards work (and life). You need to make sure that your company is providing the chance for a good work/life balance, which you can do by ensuring that staff are not overworked and stressed, with flexible work and the option of working from home (many are adopting a hybrid work model).


It is hard for employees to feel happy in their role if they do not get much chance to engage and socialise with their colleagues. This is why you should encourage employees to spend time together inside and outside of the office, which you can do by arranging informal social events after work. You cannot force people to get along, but by arranging informal events it can make a big difference to relationships and lift morale.


Following this point, one of the most important steps to take not only for morale but for general performance is good communication between management and staff. You should be providing regular positive feedback to keep morale high, but you should also keep your door open and make sure that it is easy for staff to come forward when they have ideas, issues or questions. 

These are a few of the most effective ways to lift morale that could make a big difference to your company in more ways than one. Improving morale can improve individual and team performances, encourage staff loyalty and create a positive workplace atmosphere that everyone can benefit from.

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Managing people

Is Telecommuting Right For Your Business?



Telecommuting is a big aspect of working life for many people, with evidence suggesting that more and more workers are interested in doing it sometime in their career – if… Read more »

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