Wistia, Director of Talent. I lead our hiring function, managing a team of 5.
Tell us about your team!
How big is it?
I lead a team of 5 - 4 recruiters, and 1 Talent Acquisition Operations Associate.
Where are your teammates located?
They are all working mostly remote from Boston/Massachusetts. Our office is located in Cambridge. I lead the team remotely from Manhattan, and travel up roughly 8-10 times per year.
What does your team do? What are you responsible for?
We are responsible for all things hiring at Wistia, from headcount planning, compensation strategy, hiring manager and interviewer coaching and training, to recruiting.
What are the components of a strong remote culture?
Relationships are at the core of a successful remote team, and when you’re fully remote you have to intentionally create time for relationships. There has to be time for small talk and joking around and there has to be a genuine interest in each other’s lives. When you only know someone through Zoom screen, and Zooms only pop up when there is a specific agenda attached, it is so easy for your culture to feel less human and connected.
Strong remote cultures are built on strong connections. Strong connections are built with Hailey.
How do you make sure your team is happy and engaged in their work?
Now more than ever it is critical that employees feel engaged with their work. The benefit of the employment relationship has to be truly mutual or it will be very short lived.
For me, it starts with hiring - I hire people who demonstrate a genuine passion and interest in the work they do, and I make sure that the specific growth they are seeking in their career is exactly what they will get from the role I’m hiring for. When that fit happens, I do my best to make sure my team is growing and preparing for the next leap in their career even if that means they leave me after 2 years. When people feel invested in and not “owned”, when they are truly growing and they sense that their growth is my priority, that’s when magic happens.
We also work together as a team to remove any redundancy in our work. I don’t ask my team to do anything that doesn’t add value to them or to the business. We are outcome oriented, and if we can’t get our work done in 35-40 hours each week then something is broken. This doesn’t mean we don’t work HARD - we do. We simply prioritize working smarter. When we think this way, better business outcomes correlate with happier teams.
Lastly, we take advantage of our unlimited PTO. My team understands that they have room to put life first when it’s necessary, and we all work together to cover for folks when they’re out. When I notice it’s been longer than 3 months since someone’s last vacation, I encourage them to take some time even if they don’t have plans to travel.
Too many companies drive their recruiters into the ground, and for what? Recruiters are the face of your culture to the market. When they are unhappy it shows, so it is actually business critical that they love their job.
When people feel invested in and not “owned”, when they are truly growing and they sense that their growth is my priority, that’s when magic happens.
What's your biggest challenge as a remote leader?
My biggest challenge is connecting with my team, and understanding deeply where they specifically need support. When you’re by your team in a group of desks, you can see in real time what they are struggling with and offer support. When remote, they have to signal for help when they need it and that creates a gap. Not everyone likes to ask for help, especially when they are remote and they want to maintain a perception that they are on top of it. But also, not everyone KNOWS when they need help in the first place.
To manage remotely a leader has to be ultra present. They have to ask questions and dig for examples all without coming across as probing or “micro-managey”. It is a fine balance to strike, and one that takes consistent work. It’s also another reason why focus on relationships is so important.
My Remote Manager Toolbox
Team dinners/happy hours. Virtual cooking classes. On a smaller level, we always make time for casual conversation in our weekly team standups.
We did a remote jeopardy event once which was fun. There has also been a lot of trivia (through Mentimiter) at Wistia in general (which is something we did before the pandemic too).
Products & Tools
At Wistia we use 15five. On my team specifically I think Slack is a great tool to stay connected virtually. We use tons of gifs and custom emoji’s. The tone is always positive and supportive in our internal team interactions.
Resources for remote leaders
I’m a huge fan of HBR (Harvard Business Review) and all of their podcasts and publications. I recommend all leaders subscribe to their magazine and their leadership podcast as well.
Make your company a great place to work
"Adding Hailey has been by far the lowest effort, highest impact thing we’ve done to bring our globally scattered team together!" - Mary Grace Reich