Above: photo by Getty/Bloomberg
Nobody, says Kate Gulliver (MBA 2009), chooses to work somewhere just because they offer a free lunch. “I think people care far more about being excited about the content of the work they’re doing,” says Gulliver, the global head of talent at online home goods retailer Wayfair. “They want to know, ‘Do I feel like I can add value and make a difference?’”
Gulliver manages a 300-person team at Wayfair dedicated to helping the growing e-commerce company recruit and retain talent. Her role is strategic, too, analyzing data and working with her fellow executives to determine direction and how hiring can impact that direction. Working in an ultra-tight job market for a growing company—and with years at Bain Capital’s private equity group giving her insight on the importance of strong teams—Gulliver offers her fellow alumni a unique perspective on managing the modern talent market.
Do you use new technologies in recruiting? What aspect of the process do they address?
—Kathy Murray (AMP 112, 1993)
GULLIVER: We are seeing value in solutions that are focused on the top of the funnel—prospects versus actual candidates. An extremely tight job market forces us to think about attracting candidates differently: We’re not necessarily looking for someone who is on the market, we’re looking to start a dialogue with somebody six months, one year, even two years out from a job transition. One tool we’d like to use more is advanced email marketing techniques, engaging with this prospect cohort the same way that we think about engaging with our customers.
There is also some interesting work happening in process improvement for recruitment. That includes innovations aimed at scheduling, which is extremely painful and time-consuming when you’re hiring in volume. Also, how do you screen résumés more effectively and build better algorithms for that process so that you can respond to prospective applicants sooner?
How do you remain competitive in retaining talent, and what is most difficult about it?
—Bo Ekelund (TGMP 15, 2005)
GULLIVER: Retaining talent is a function of having an engaged and motivated workforce. So how do you keep talent engaged and motivated? There is a table stakes component that I believe is compensation related, and we obviously try to benchmark and maintain that. But once the compensation piece is there, I think what gets people excited about a job is their team, feeling they have impact on the broader company goals, and being intellectually engaged by the work. For us, that means allowing our employees to follow their passion and change roles. We call it the career jungle gym—you can go up, but you can also move laterally. People’s careers usually take multiple shifts throughout their time at Wayfair, and we love that. We think that makes us stronger as an organization. We tend to hire not for subject-matter expertise, but for a broad set of skills that are applicable to many of the jobs that we have internally, enabling employees to move throughout the organization.
Knowing employees want to make a difference is fantastic, but how do you measure and convey that difference to them?
—Kate O’Donnell (MBA 2016)
GULLIVER: We do that through transparency and data. Any employee can access our internal systems to see data on trending revenue and customer delivery. We also share successes in biweekly emails from the CEO and in quarterly all-company meetings. Each starts with broad business metrics and then goes into a deep dive on a particular function with one of the leaders within the business so the rest of the company can learn about the work there. If your work is highlighted, you understand and see the impact of that work.
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Want to learn more about the latest trends in attracting, hiring, and retaining talent? Read PwC's 2018 Global CEO Survey on Talent Management. Additionally, a recent Mercer study shows that organizational commitment is closely tied to employee confidence and engagement in the work that they do. Dig more deeply into these concepts by browsing HBR's collection of talent management articles.
Class of MBA 2009, Section I