Win the Talent War – Nicole Olver of Contently
With a growth of 749% in the past three years, Contently is included in Inc. magazine’s Top Five Thousand Fastest Growing Companies. As their Head of People Operations, Nicole Olver is excited about their progress. She’s also proud of them being chosen for Crain’s Best Places to Work in NYC List in 2015 and 2016. Founded in 2010, Contently’s excellence has earned them the business of such prestigious clients as IBM, Facebook, Walmart, and American Express. And Digiday named them the best content marketing platform of 2015.
Time-Stamped Show Notes:
[00:00] Introduction to Nicole Olver, innovative Head of People Operations at Contently.
[02:12] Australian-born Olver shares a little about her personal and professional background prior to joining the Contently team.
[02:40] A crash course in the unique services that content and talent marketing company Contently provides for its clients and how it is accomplished.
[03:45] Methods employed by Olver’s team to consistently attract and retain the most talented employees.
[05:20] If a prospective employee thinks they have what it takes, this is how they can get in touch. Excellent tips on what Olver is looking for in new staff.
[06:40] Olver lists her biggest challenges in finding the right people to hire, and what she means when she says she wants staffers who have “agility.”
[08:02] The tactics utilized by management to uncover the potential of a candidate beyond the cover letter and résumé, and a peek at the Contently interview process.
[17:24] Performance evaluations and Olver’s overhaul of the system that effectively made feedback more valuable to employees and management.
[21:26] How Olver prepares a staff member for negative feedback and provides data to back up the discussion.
[24:00] In final words of wisdom, Olver talks about attitude and how she uses it every day to give it her all.
What Kind of Company Is Contently and What Does It Do?
Nicole Olver, Head of People Operations at Contently, describes the company as “a content and talent marketing company, specializing in matching companies with talent. We have 100,000 creative contributors that companies can tap into to help with any of their creative content marketing needs, as well as the software to house all of these interactions.” These talented contributors include journalists, producers, graphic designers, videographers, and photographers, many having won prestigious awards within their fields. In addition to these freelance professionals, there are 110 current staffers, spread between London, New York, Los Angeles, and Minneapolis.
“We help companies tell great stories. It’s the art of actually talking about who you are, why you’re there, and how we can do it in the most interesting and creative way,” explains Olver.
How Contently Attracts Top Talent
People have plenty of reasons to want to work for Contently, not the least of which are the perks. These include competitive pay, a grown-up vacation policy, a pet-friendly office, health, vision, and dental care benefits, educational credits, meaningful equity, 401K, Friday lunches, quarterly company outings, and paid parental leave.
Not surprisingly, Contently has had a good deal of strong talent coming to them through LinkedIn and from their Employee Referral Program. Talented freelancers looking for great companies can check out their informative site for freelancers, while professionals looking for jobs within the company can visit their job listings at Contently.com. “Look for a good match,” suggests Olver. Passion carries more weight than a master’s degree, though the degree is certainly not a detriment. “We’re looking for someone with passion and experience for the role, but also someone who has really got the hunger. We’d love to see someone who truly understands what we’re doing and wants to be a part of it.”
Biggest Challenges in Finding the Right People
Often Olver is looking to hire someone who can play more than one role, or excel at more than one task. Versatility makes an employee more valuable to a growing company like Contently. “We look for an applicant with agility, rather than just experience that was streamlined into only one very specific task.”
Contently is a great place to work, but with an intensive interview process. An applicant could meet with up to seven people during the course of Contently’s interviews. Input from each interviewer is considered and weighed against that of the others before a decision is made. Many of their roles are also skill-tested during this process, so they actually get to see the person at work, which is an invaluable hiring tool. “The interview process,” says Olver, “can take a couple of weeks to a couple of months, depending on the role. The higher level the role, the longer the process.”
The Performance Evaluation Taken Up a Notch
Olver started with Contently in February, and in examining the performance review processes, she noted that they pivoted on the company’s three stated values, which are: Own It, Be a Giver, and Be Awesome. The problem with that was that the reviews tended to be overwhelmingly positive, and while all positive reviews feel good, they don’t encourage growth. “One of the things I did was take away that model and replace it with Start, Stop, Change, and Keep. It is a 360 model. We first get the employee to do a self-evaluation, then we collect feedback from four to five other employees on behaviors the employee should start doing, stop doing, change, or keep.”
The manager then collates the feedback and presents the findings to the employee in an anonymous way. Using this model, the feedback actually became a lot more constructive. It is not always the behavior that is a problem, it may just be the perception of the behavior, and that too can be addressed. With this data and feedback in hand, the conversation now can be more of a coaching session, and they end up getting much better results.
Words of Wisdom
“I am a massive Beyoncé fan,” Olver confesses. “My best friend got me a plaque for my office when I got this job, and it says, ‘What would Beyoncé do?’ The answer is always, ‘Just be super-fierce.’ It’s about giving 110%. It makes me just want to go in to work and rock it every day!”