If You Can't Find Them, Build Them

Posted by Spencer Pitman

February 20, 2014 at 4:39 PM

At PCR we talk quite a bit about how we combine two main factors to drive excellence in output: our technology and our team. The beauty of technology is that it is relatively easy to access and implement, as long as we are continually educating ourselves on evolutions and disruptions, and we remain agile enough to never overcommit to a given tool. We are a major HubSpot partner for our marketing activity and consultancy, and our stack includes a variety of exciting resources for collaboration, information management, organizational evaluation, and even transportation (you’ll see a post about my Uber experiment soon).

On the team side we’ve adopted an agile, responsive approach that empowers the highly intelligent people we hire to contribute upwardly through our organization’s development. We’ve learned a little bit about hiring well (mostly from making mistakes), and we’re getting better at identifying the people who will be successful in an environment like ours (it’s not just smart people or necessarily people with a ton of “experience”). More than anything we’re learning that the people who will come in and thrive with us are a small, curated subset of the applicants we generally drive. They are startup people who want to work in marketing, or maybe marketing creatives who wish agencies operated more like technology companies. They are people who understand that effective creative organizations have operating systems that are being continually refined, not business processes that hamstring execution and output.

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Recruiting these people is incredibly difficult, partially because they are incredibly rare. We have decided that instead of recruiting them we are going to build them.

Apprenticeship As Human Dev

Over the past few months we have developed an apprenticeship intensive for college students that focuses on rapidly maturing people through the skills tiers outlined in the Essential Skills Matrix. This is a paid, residential program designed to challenge high-achieving students to become the type of people we want to bring into our team. Many of these students will likely wind up working somewhere else after they graduate, but the hope is that we can create a model for internships that businesses like ours all over the place begin to use so we can stock the proverbial pond with the type of people we want to hire. It’s a bit hubristic, but we think these people are going to make any business better.

The problem we face is that the students who are the ideal profile for this type of program aren’t neatly consolidated into the universities within our direct reach. They are all over the country, and because of their level of achievement, they are the envy of some huge names in summer jobs. We believe we have a program that is fundamentally better than any other in the country (for the students, not necessarily just us), and will wind up being a hell of a lot more fun than a summer sleeping under a desk at GS, but we run into the issue of exposure. How can I get my program in front of these kids without incurring tons of monetary and time cost in travel? How do I compete with the majors?

Enter WickedSmart

As we should expect, the solution comes in the form of technological disruption. Even better, the technology is literally being developed down the street from us. The Ignite innovation laboratory is creating a really fantastic dual channel manager called WickedSmart. They’ve built a network of students looking for paid internships (which, really, is probably all students) and are beginning to allow companies to post programs on the tool. I posted ours, created my ideal profile and was immediately matched with about 200 potential candidates. I was able to select from among those and extend an interview invitation to the candidates I thought best fit our program, and within a few hours was scheduling interviews. Within an afternoon, I’m given the chance to talk to to the kids who I would normally be crowded out of speaking to by big firms offering such great positions as data-enterers or coffee-runners.

The tool itself is pretty good, though the UI/UX is definitely still beta. I’ve been working directly with the dev team on streamlining navigation pathways and providing usability feedback, which is exciting to do from the exterior. What is really astonishing though is the quality of the student network that WickedSmart has curated. These are some of the best students in the country, and hugely geographically diverse. They are people who are excited to use technology and have the vision to look at a small organization like ours and see the advantages we offer over a program with a bigger name. They are our ideal candidates. After months of attempting to drum up interest via outbound methods (travel, speaking, leveraging connections and attempting to forge new ones) and returning little result, WickedSmart gives us access to a quality network that they have built and managed. Once again, what companies like PWC are spending millions a year to do (there’s stories about internship and career fairs being swarmed by dozens of recruiters from single major firms…pretty frustrating when you have less people on your payroll than they have just trying to hire students) a tool has allowed us to have access to for a fraction of. The scales are being tipped in our direction by technology, which we feel is an elegant continuation of our ongoing narrative.

WickedSmart is exciting because it further substantiates what we are seeing every day. The feedback channels of our stack, our team, our organization and our customers all work best when they work in concert and when they reflect one another. We want technology that is as capable of quality output as our team, and we need our team to be as agile as the technology we put in their hands.

Oh, and we’re really psyched about our apprenticeship program.

This article was originally published on medium.

Topics: Strategy