What Wave Does to Bring Humanity Into Talent Acquisition

Stefan Palios

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I can share from personal experience how difficult hiring can be sometimes. Yet it’s part of a founder’s job, so it’s something we must simply get through. Thankfully, there are intelligent strategists who think about talent acquisition all day long, like Joshua Siegal, the VP of Organizational Effectiveness at Wave. Speaking with PACT, Josh shared what Wave does to bring humanity into their talent acquisition process.

Key takeaways:

  • Hiring is not just about filling a role. You’re also providing a step on an individual’s career path.
  • Deliver on what you promise to employees and be honest about the things you can’t deliver on.
  • Changing jobs is a big deal for someone, so your job as an employer is to make that change as comfortable as possible.

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You can theoretically forgive companies for not being totally honest about the bad parts of working there when it comes to talent acquisition.

After all, they need talent in the door.

But when you remember how much of your life you spend at work, suddenly the empathy fades away.

Wave understands this reality, so the company is not interested in lying to people to get a signed employment agreement. Speaking with PACT, Wave’s VP of Organizational Effectiveness Joshua Siegal shared what the company does to bring humanity into their talent acquisition process.

Think about “full stack” talent acquisition

Josh leads organizational effectiveness at Wave, which includes:

  1. Talent acquisition.
  2. Learning & development.
  3. Connecting employees into the vision, mission, purpose, and shared values of the company.

“My job starts with bringing the best and brightest into the company,” said Josh. “But it’s not over once they come in the door. We have to think about levelling people up with the skills, tools, and capabilities they need to deliver for Wave and grow in their own careers.”

This framework extends the purpose of talent acquisition beyond hiring someone to do a job. Instead, you’re hiring someone who is on their own career journey and your company is a stop along the way, whether long or short.

Make a promise to deliver (then do it)

Wave has a big splashy careers page like most companies do. But the reason behind its success growing from a small startup to over 300 people, according to Josh, is one simple thing: Wave delivers on its promises to candidates and employees.

“As you articulate your employment brand, it has to be authentic,” said Josh. “It has to talk to people in a real way, sharing what to expect, telling them what they are stepping into, and showing them what their career journey will look like.”

Josh also said that things will change over time and that’s fine, as long as you’re delivering on whatever you promise.

Lean into your strengths

Wave doesn’t pay absolute top-of-market salaries and is upfront about that. But it can - and does - pay competitively. From there, Josh leans into Wave’s strengths to get a leg up over its deep-pocketed competitors.

“We had to lean into the strengths of our stage,” said Josh.

For Wave, leaning into the strengths of its stage as a company meant employees could do meaningful, challenging work that will accelerate their careers differently than if they went into a larger institution. For example, everyone at Wave has the opportunity to contribute to something that directly touches customers.

“Career development and growth in a dynamic startup, scale-up, or fast-growth environment is a beautiful picture to paint,” said Josh.

Control what you can and be honest about what you can’t

While the strength of fast-growth organizations like Wave is meaningful work, the downside is lack of predictability.

For Josh, this is an opportunity to be honest - and creative - with new employees.

“When you’re growing quickly, it will be dynamic,” said Josh. “You can’t wrap your arms around all of the variables.”

For example, the challenge is that no one at Wave also can tell you exactly what the org chart of the company will look like in 36-months or the exact job opportunities which will be available, which can be a unique challenge for individuals who like clarity and structure in mapping out their career progression. However, Josh said Wave can promise there will be new, dynamic, and meaningful opportunities for those with a growth mindset to step into.

“For many this is great and creates a dynamic environment to learn, play, and grow,” said Josh. “For those who work better with rules & structure, this can be challenging.”

Wave then backs up their claim that people will learn new skills regardless of endgame by embedding learning & development into their organizational effectiveness mandate, ensuring it’s not just a marketing ploy but a genuine investment (that goes back to delivering on promises).

Be careful about what you show candidates

Candidates see what you put out online. If all you talk about is offsites, axe throwing, or catered lunches, that’s a sign about what you value. On the same token, if you share employee success stories, growth, or challenging problems people are stepping up to help customers with, that shows what you value as well.

This isn’t advice to not share fun employee outings, said Josh. It’s just a reminder to think about what you’re communicating with candidates via what you share online.

Care beyond a hiring decision

Wave turns down a lot of candidates in its hiring process, but Josh is adamant that their engagement with Wave doesn’t end there.

If Wave rejects someone, they do two things for them: first, they offer feedback and sometimes even provide coaching sessions for rejected candidates to help them improve for next time. And second, they help them connect into job opportunities at different companies. Josh and the talent acquisition team will often reach out into their personal networks to help place the candidate elsewhere if they are talented but there isn’t a spot for them at Wave.

“Anyone could be a candidate in the future or start a business that might become a Wave user,” said Josh. “So it’s critical to be human and act in an empathetic way.”

You’re helping people make a big life decision

While recruiting tactics and processes might change from company to company, every candidate faces the same reality: changing jobs is a big life decision. Even if they are leaving a bad employment experience, the change is still a big deal.

Knowing that, Josh’s ultimate goal is to ensure the process is comfortable for candidates. He said when that happens, the baseline talent assessments get easier to do and you build goodwill throughout the whole process even if you don’t hire the person.