Hiring for Super-Fast Growth (654% in 4 Years!): Q&A with Appnovation’s Warren Wong

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Appnovation’s Global VP Talent & Culture talks about the recruiting strategy that keeps the Deloitte Technology Fast 50™-listed company’s hiring in pace with growth. Tweet it

Warren Wong, VP Talent & Culture at Appnovation Technologies

“Our headlights for who we need to hire are very short.”

That’s Warren Wong, Global VP of Talent and Culture at Appnovation Technologies, a website and app development company that grew 654% from 2009 to 2013, and was recently named #22 on the 2014 Deloitte Technology Fast 50™ listing of the fastest-growing Canadian technology companies.

He specifies: “We get two, maybe three weeks at most.”

Wow. How does his talent acquisition team do it? How do they fill roles quickly enough to keep pace with booming international demand and secure the calibre of talent that repeatedly brings home industry awards for the company?

What’s the secret to hiring for such super-fast growth?

Warren kindly agreed to a little Q&A …

“Our first principle is to not recruit positions that we do not have an approved job description for …”

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Can you share some of the numbers that illustrate Appnovation’s explosive growth?

Since I started in this role in 2012, our company has doubled in headcount and revenue, year over year. We’re averaging 100+ new hires per year. In 2014 we opened three new offices: Montreal, Cardiff, and Saint John. This year we’re planning to open one in France, and potentially one or two more by end of the calendar year.

Related: How Recruiting Social helped Appnovation make 44 hires in 8 months

How do you create and manage a recruitment strategy when the growth and change is happening so quickly?

First and foremost, you have to really understand the company business strategy. Then you have to understand what’s in the sales funnel, and finally what your current delivery capabilities are (Tweet it).

Where the talent acquisition team comes in is filling the gaps between current staff complement and what you need to complete work that’s coming in. For example, if Sales has opportunities that requires a delivery team of 65 people, but we currently have 50 available, the delta is 15 new hires, either from full time hires, contractors, or vendors.

As I mentioned, the headlights are only about two weeks out, maybe three weeks at best. So what we need to do is build a talent acquisition team and talent acquisition strategy that is really nimble, agile and flexible. Because it is really demand-based recruiting, as opposed to forecasted recruiting, which makes it that much more challenging.

We counter the challenge by trying to be laser-focused on defining our requirements for each role.

How do you maintain that focus?

Our first principle is to not recruit positions that we do not have an approved job description for from the hiring department. That’s what I call a ‘wild goose hunt’.

With every open role our talent acquisition specialists will conduct a discovery meeting with the hiring manager and really define and understand what that job description is and the nuances that come with each unique role. We appreciate that that description could change, but at least it gives us a baseline. It becomes our road map.

“… Work closely with the entire executive team, but also with marketing so the brand and image you’re creating is consistent.”

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How do you keep hiring managers engaged in the recruitment process?

Our talent acquisition team does a very good job of constant communication with the hiring manager, and in terms of updates and also updating the job requisition on a regular basis. We have a lot of communications around that: there’s one-on-one between the hiring manager and recruiter, but we also have weekly ‘talent acquisition scrums’ and weekly reporting that we provide back to the line business (Tweet it) in terms of who’s in the pipeline, who’s in the offer stage, etc.

Lots of communication.

Do you have any advice for HR leadership at companies that are about to embark on really quick growth?

You need to work closely with the entire executive team, but also with marketing so the brand and the image you’re creating is consistent.

And there’s an opportunity for talent management to continue to keep the pulse on the business and to be the mirror, in terms of the image that we’re trying to create. A lot of that has to do with listening to people at various levels of the organization. What we have set up here at Appnovation is what I call ‘listening posts’, and they range from our employee engagement survey to one-on-one care meetings with staff, and also the skip-level meetings that I have with the entire organization.

The reality is that talent management is very much a staff function. We serve and enable the organization. If you take that servant leadership perspective, and see HR as an organization enabler, you’ll have the the right view on what value you can contribute.

From an interview with Christian De Pape. Learn how Appnovation made 44 hires in 8 months

“… Talent management is very much a staff function. We serve and enable the organization.”

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