The COVID-19 pandemic caused many people to reassess their relationship with work, leading to massive numbers deciding to leave their jobs or even change their careers entirely, in a move many are calling The Great Resignation.
This has left many industries struggling, as there are now more vacancies than there are skilled candidates willing to fill them, leading to a highly competitive battle for talent. And as a CMO, you're often not just responsible for recruiting marketers, you've also got to create a brand that people actually want to work under.
Yoni Solomon knows this all too well, which is why his latest appearance on CMO Diaries was all about the struggles of recruitment in the age of The Great Resignation.
You can catch our conversation on the CMO Diaries podcast, but a full write-up is available below:
- What's the state of recruitment like right now?
- Making competitive offers: more than just a salary
- Trying to find the right experienced talent
- The power dynamic has shifted
- Building a workplace culture that works
What's the state of recruitment like right now?
Hey, Yoni, welcome back to CMO Diaries. How are you doing today?
It's good to be back.
It's great to be talking to you. It's been a while since we spoke, so we’ve probably got a lot to cover. Especially when it's a topic that’s very relevant to a lot of CMOs right now. We’re talking about hiring, of course! How are you finding the hiring process right now?
It's competitive out there! I know for a fact I'm not the only marketing leader facing this. Everyone's having real problems getting new talent in the door. But there is a very real war on talent out there! And a lot of CMOs are looking to build out their marketing teams, especially in foundational roles like growth marketing, brand marketing, marketing ops, as well as SEO and content.
It's great from an employee perspective, being so in demand. It's always great when you're in that position. But when you're on the hiring side, it becomes an absolute nightmare! Just getting the applications in and getting them over the line is so difficult.
The application process can be so long that sometimes a better offer comes up before you’ve got them over the line. Sometimes you can't match the offers that big companies are throwing at people.
Yeah, I think it's a sign of a couple things happening all at the same time. One, the bigger tech companies in our spaces are throwing a lot of money at this problem, and that’s related to the great resignation.
Amazon has famously doubled their base salary for a lot of positions. They’re increasing the base salary for engineering talent at the entry level to $350,000 a year in some cases. There are reports of big companies in the vein of Amazon or Facebook that are offering signing bonuses ranging from 10 to $50,000 to get people in the door. I certainly think compensation for bigger companies is going to be a way for them to bring in fresh marketing talent.
There seems to be a lot of issues in the startup marketing space with the candidate’s experience of the hiring process. A lot of candidates are having that experience where people are going through endless rounds of interviews. The process itself is just taking a really long time.
Sometimes when they don't get the job, they're not even hearing back from us. They're not even knowing whether they got it or whether they didn't. And it's leaving a poor taste in a lot of these candidates' mouths with regards to finding that new role.
I certainly think compensation and benefits are going to be really important. But also, as a marketing leader, regardless of your company, big or small, building a great candidate experience is going to be so important.
Making competitive offers: more than just a salary
Well, one of the things we're talking about on our side is the internal sell. We’re selling the community. You're not just getting paid to do the work, you gain access to hanging out with all these great people. You get access to a community.
But you have to find a way to leverage that in an effective way. At what stage in the hiring process do you start making that sale? Do you have it right from the outset? Or should it be something you do in an intro call?
It's tough, especially when you can't offer the same kind of benefits that big companies can offer. What kind of things can you offer that will substitute a 200 grand pay rise?
Well, when talking about compensation figures, candidates are going to make the best decision for themselves. But for me, when building out the team, I was not only a CMO, I was the first marketer on board. Very quickly I needed to get a sense of exactly the kind of talents in the roles that I needed to bring in.
Similar to a product marketing launch, I started to build out my own messaging and positioning. It was almost like a mini message house encompassing our foundational messaging and positioning for candidates. Presumably they’ve worked at bigger companies or more notable companies where perhaps there are better compensation benefits.
When I joined Uptime, I joined as the first marketer. Within the first four weeks of my time there, I mapped out the direct needs of the marketing team based on their strengths and weaknesses. So, I knew that from a content and product marketing perspective, and from a growth perspective, I could come in and really hold down the fort.
But the foundational area where I knew I needed to find talent immediately was marketing ops. This is the way that our data is organized, and the way our campaigns are launched, and the way our systems are connected and configured.
I also knew I needed help in design, because I didn’t want to be in Photoshop messing around and trying to design things as we were heading towards a rebrand. I wanted to be really specific as a hiring manager, as opposed to trying to cast a really wide net. I wanted to be really specific and really focused on the roles that we were trying to fill.
And then, as we were looking outward for those roles, I wanted to look inward at our own networks. I had some really solid candidates that were applying externally for these roles. But ultimately, the incredible brand designer and incredible Head of Marketing ops that I found both came from my own personal network.
Our head of marketing ops came to us from G2, where I had two plus years of experience getting to work with her. Our brand designer was actually a referral from another designer that I've worked with.
When you think about it that way, marketing is all about connections, and in that same vein, so is recruiting for marketing talent. As a CMO, you should lean on your own network, lean on your own connections. Ultimately, you're bringing people into a small and lean team.
Anyway, the more familiarity and comfort that you have with that initial talent that's coming in, the faster you're going to get to market. Filling those two roles with familiar people allowed us to move very quickly on the rebrand on the website. This is all stuff that was happening in flight, as we were onboarding.
Trying to find the right experienced talent
As a startup, you don't really have the luxury of time to be able to train people up in certain positions. You need people you can trust to hit the ground running. That's maybe another advantage that bigger corporations have. They can afford the time to invest in future talent, whereas startups need that talent now. They need someone who's got the experience to hit the ground running.
Someone who can design up an amazing logo and an amazing brand really quickly without having to be trained how to use Photoshop and stuff like that.
In terms of finding experienced candidates, where have you been looking? Is it just within your own network? Are there any other resources that have been really useful?
Yeah, when it comes to looking for experienced talent within product marketing, I do want to put in a very shameless plug for the PMAs product marketing job board. It's the single most visited product marketing job board on the internet. And certainly, when I was at G2, we were in a similar war for talent, where I needed to find two new product marketers, and quite literally, this was even before COVID.
Before all of this stuff, I was not able to find two experienced product marketing candidates. And within probably four weeks of posting on the PMA job board, I was able to source two quality candidates that ended up joining my team and were incredible.
But when it comes to finding experienced candidates, I tend to look towards my own network. I think, especially for a startup CMO who's looking to position themselves for coming to a new company, you're also bringing your network and your connections with you. That's another big reason they want to bring you on to a team.
And so certainly, for my brand designer, and former head of marketing ops, those were two experienced candidates that were in my network that I knew I could trust and get started with. But there's a great counterbalance on the team where, along with bringing in experienced folks, I also have an awesome entry-level marketer on my team.
She’s new, but she’s hungry and driven. Her process of coming on board and learning the tools and the ins and outs of marketing allows her to play a generalist role across many projects. Finding that right balance as a CMO between experienced and newer talent is honestly good for refining your management skills.
You can allow less experienced hires to grow and develop while also allowing them to play a generalist role across different teams and functions. It's been really important to our success so far at Uptime.
The landscape for less experienced marketers has never been better because there's so much demand for jobs that people are adjusting their requirements for experience. People are willing to give more leeway in that respect.
But there are certain roles where you do need someone who knows exactly what they're doing from day one. In an early-stage startup, you don’t have the time to be training up someone to manage PPC or demand gen, for example. That can be tricky, right?
When it comes to hiring, how do you pitch this to more experienced candidates when there are bigger companies hiring, right? There's no shortage of opportunities at companies that can offer greater compensation, better benefits, whatever those big pitches are going to be.
This is where I think that it's good for CMOs to approach these job descriptions and these hiring motions in the same way that you deal with marketing campaigns or product launches. Getting the job description onto your website, getting it broadcast out across social media, and getting it on to the most relevant job boards is so important. All of that isn't that different from the way that you try to generate buzz and awareness for a marketing campaign. It’s also essential to empower your internal teams at the company to search their own networks to see if they can come forward with referrals.
I think establishing a really solid referral network within your own employees and teammates is one thing, and then you need to really nail down your messaging and positioning of the value proposition in coming to your company for candidates.
When I was pitching Uptime to new candidates, I wanted to pitch a fast-paced high-growth company that's growing 100% year over year. I wanted to give them the results and the metrics, and let them see that we're an established company growing very quickly.
But I also wanted to balance that out with how this can be a role that you can build your lifestyle around. We’re running a globally dispersed company, working virtually, asynchronously, with employees across three continents. That’s pretty freaking’ cool, right?
The way that this asynchronous working process happens is it allows us to essentially run a business that's up and going 24/7, 365 days a year. People take breaks when they need to. People have a lot of freedom and flexibility.
I think that the coolest thing about working at a company like Uptime, even in the age of the great resignation, is that we've been running a fully-dispersed company for several years with virtually no attrition over the last 12 months.
This is almost unheard of in SaaS. As a CMO, start to get very comfortable with selling your company and really nailing down those value propositions in terms of better flexibility, good benefits, and the opportunity to own more of the function that you're coming into work on as great ways to try to bring talent in. Ultimately, you’ve gotta sell it just like a product, just like a marketing campaign.
The power dynamic has shifted
It's kind of like a reverse of what people have done in terms of hiring in the past, even fairly recently, right?
Yeah.“Tell me why you should work here.” That used to be the way. The power dynamic has totally changed.
Yeah, talent wasn't in demand. It was job roles that were in demand. It's interesting that asynchronous work hasn't resolved this issue. There are loads of think pieces about how remote work is going to open up new pools of talent. But it just doesn't seem to happen in that way.
It seems that people are either happy with remote work or they're looking for that kind of flexibility that you were talking about before rather than more contract-driven career paths. Is there a way to coax people back to this kind of work?
I don't know if there's a way to coax people back into a way of working that perhaps didn't work for them. The biggest point of contention or feedback I've heard with employees is this frustration with the old way of doing things. I had someone articulate this to me so well. She said that she had been tailoring her life around the job, rather than being able to tailor the job around her life.
The things that she was bringing up that were stressors weren't compensation or benefits. It was the frustration of the commute, and the rigid working hours. She brought up the challenge of needing someone to come into the apartment and fix something during the day, whether it be a bathroom or a sink and not being there.
She was frustrated at the rigidness of her job, and it made it difficult for her to get the things done in her day-to-day life that she just really needed to deal with in a quick and efficient way.
And remote work is a beautiful solution to that, in terms of flexibility and being able to get stuff done. If you're sick, and you're not well enough to go to work, it doesn't mean you're not working, you can still do a bit of work at home. You’re maybe not jumping on meetings or Zoom calls, but you can still make sure you're hitting your deadlines. It doesn't stop everything completely.
What you said about tailoring your life around work really ties into a philosophy many have taken on recently. You shouldn't be living to work, you should be working to live. Work should allow you to do things with your life. And that's a great thing.
And it just means there's an extra challenge for us who are looking for talent to be able to cater towards that. It's not a bad thing that people are looking for a better work/life balance. It's a fantastic thing. We should all be fully on board with it. But it just means that we've got that extra challenge in terms of recruitment.
I think what's really interesting about the shift is that, at first, everyone’s said, “Oh, my God, how can I supervise my team? How can I make sure that we're still performing, that everyone's putting in the right amount of hours and that everyone is driving the right amount of results?” But at least from what I've experienced with my own teams, and from data that I've seen, we're seeing increased productivity.
We're seeing more of a focus on outcomes, rather than just outputs. I think we've moved away a little bit from that very rigid 9 to 5 mindset. Instead, it's allowed people to really focus on their KPIs. And managers have found that they can trust their teams.
In fact, I think the greater challenge for me as a startup CMO in a remote environment, along with other managers who are working remote environments, is how are we building really strong, remote cultures that keep people engaged with their teams? How do we make sure they don’t become victims of the great resignation? We don't want to lose people. It's not a matter of performance, it's a matter of building culture.
Building a workplace culture that works
We recently had a conversation about silos in organizations and how easy it is for marketing to get siloed. It can be even worse in a remote setting because you suffer from ‘not in the room syndrome.’
There have been loads of studies on it in terms of the impact it could have on your mind. But it's mainly been studies around female employees taking maternity leave and how it can have a big impact on their career because they're not in the room with people.
But it can apply in remote/hybrid settings as well. With remote work you've got to be clear as well, that people don’t get kind of stuck in a rut when they're in that environment. Everyone’s still a major part of this company. You’re offering many opportunities in terms of career development in a remote setting.
You’re a real employee who's got a learning and development path before them. That's something that needs to be clear as well in terms of recruitment.
One of my favorite things that we do at Uptime is that we’re always hopping on to these mini zoom calls just to check in and chat. Or if someone has a question, let's have a face-to-face call rather than just talking over Slack.
A lot of these moments in the past would have been made by leaning over their office cubicle and asking a question. We could brainstorm things more easily. Just finding these little mini moments throughout the day to see people's faces has been challenging. We need to take a moment and remove ourselves from whatever hive mind tool we're all completely plugged into and really interact with people.
But trying to have those really human moments with each other is not easy. We want people to feel like they're part of a team, like they're part of a company. We don’t just want people sitting alone in a room, quietly working for an entire day.
I do think that’s the greatest challenge to keeping remote talent. We feel perhaps a little bit detached from the larger company, or even a little bit lonely in the day-to-day.
Definitely. And employee wellbeing is a major part of being a leader in any kind of organization, CMOs included. It's can be incredibly difficult to keep track of employee well-being in a remote setting. It's very difficult to take someone to one side if they’ve had a bad morning. And what you see of people on Zoom doesn’t necessarily represent reality.
Exactly. I don't even see how long they're working.That was one of the biggest advantages of being fully in-person. If I was working late and I noticed that a team member was consistently leaving very late, that was a sign that perhaps they have a little bit too much going on.
I think rather than being so afraid that our remote employees aren't working enough, we need to be really attuned to who is working a little bit too much. If you see that green slack button on for certain employees at all hours of the night, then that might be when you need to step in.
The same goes if you notice that they haven't taken a day off in a long time. Being really attuned to these things is going to be incredibly important for battling the great resignation. We're finding again and again that people aren't underperforming in their homes. In fact, they're actually burning out in their homes, because their work/life balance is being thrown way out of proportion.
Definitely. And if you’re in a small apartment, for example, you could be literally eating, sleeping, and working all in the same room. It takes a lot to get yourself out of the work groove and get yourself back into the enjoyable parts of life. It can be difficult to switch off at the end of the day.
As organizations, we need to provide those outlets for them to do fun stuff. For example, you can have a few beers over Zoom, or have a trivia night. You can use Zoom to arrange all kinds of things other than work events.
Marketers are always thinking about how we build strong cultures and communities around our products. I think we have to think the same way around flexible and remote environments. How do we build strong communities and cultures with our own employees?
This is going to be key to attracting talent, right? If you're really caring for employees, that's a place where people are going to want to work.
It's gonna make or break your ability to bring in talent. The key to winning the war on talent is being very specific with career paths, hiring intentionally for your roles, and offering the best possible experience for candidates. We need to create the kind of culture and environment where they can be their best professional selves.
There’s always this big debate among recruiters over whether the pay scale should be on the job advertisement. We think it should always be on it, especially if you have a fairly long-winded recruitment process with multiple stages that people have to go through. They want to know that they're actually getting a decent payoff at the end, especially if it’s a senior position.
If people get to the end of that process and they’re on entry-level pay, they’re gonna be very disgruntled. They're not going to recommend other people to apply there. You want good word of mouth, so even if people don't take the job, they might still recommend you if they’ve had a positive experience.
It’s mandatory in the New York City area to include the salary on the description now. I think we talk a tonne about candidate experience when hiring. I think finding and sourcing the right candidates, and then interviewing them and making sure that you're finding the best is really important. But taking on driven junior talent, as I’ve said, can be really valuable as well.
For CMOs everywhere, just remember, think about hiring in the same way you think about your marketing campaigns. Thinking about your messaging and positioning is important. Winning the war for talent is going to make or break our ability to to really succeed for the various companies and segments that we're in.
That’s something we're gonna dig into in the future, not just in terms of filling certain roles, but the onboarding processes and training people up as well.
We're sure our readers is looking forward to it as well. I'm sure they've enjoyed this conversation.
Let me just say, if you’re struggling to hire in marketing, you're not alone.
We're all struggling at the moment. Thank you very much for joining us again, Yoni. It's always a pleasure, and we'll be back soon with another CMO Diary.
Are you struggling with hiring as a CMO? Have you found the perfect way to attract dynamite talent? Head to the CMO Alliance Community Slack Channel and join the conversation with CMOs around the world.