People Operations & Talent: mid-year update


Market Trends

It has been a fascinating year in the People & Talent space, and following on from the previous year we continue to see the growing awareness and understanding Founders & CEO’s have around the value of a solid, world class People function.

As such, companies continue to invest heavily in the people function, and their expectations of what they want from their HR and talent leaders is greater than ever before. They are seeking candidates that have not only scaled organizations from 50 to 120, but have exposure taking companies beyond the 500 employee mark, as well as preparing and taking a company through an IPO.

Hiring managers are also in pursuit of People & Talent professionals who can efficiently use data and metrics to support their functions. Data-driven HR candidates have the ability to show strategic insight on people, hiring, engagement, and performance trends, displaying overall contribution to the company strategy, and financial success.

Diversity & Inclusion has remained a hot topic. CEO’s & Founders are continuing to seek the guidance and long term solutions necessary to build a diverse workforce from an early stage. Companies with higher levels of diversity are proven to be more profitable, and diversity of thought is essential to a well-rounded team.

Hiring Trends

The market remains aggressively candidate-led. The demand for the top 10% of talent continues to pressurize executives to embrace innovative ways to attract and retain hires (another area where hiring a great people leader can add tremendous value). While in-person collaboration is important for company culture, flexible working is a prerequisite for any candidate seeking a new role. There is evidence that allowing an employee to work from home at least once a week can actually increase retention and productivity.

A common theme among HR candidates is a desire to work for a mission-driven company. Startups can be more competitive in attracting top talent by defining their mission and values early on, and by ensuring that mission is a highly visible part of the organization. In order to demonstrate that the people function is a high-priority for your business, candidates should have significant exposure and time with the company founders and C-suite executives. 

Finally, it is important to have a slick and succinct process for closing candidates. Be respectful of their decision making process, but be mindful not to prolong the closing process, as doing so rarely achieves the desired outcome.

2020 Forecast

While Silicon Valley may be known for its thriving startup scene, much of the growth is happening behind the scenes. We predict an influx in technology companies who are offering faster and more efficient services to consumers. These apps and technology-based products require a domestic and local technical workforce, often including hourly paid employees. Therefore, HR professionals with skills managing hourly paid workers will be highly sought after.

As it becomes increasingly challenging to hire top HR talent in the Bay Area, companies will need to challenge the misconception that the top 10% (those “wishlist” candidates who meet all criteria for skills and expectations) are the only employable candidates. As Patty McCord (former Chief Talent Officer at Netflix) wrote, “In truth, one company’s A player may be a B player for another firm. There is no formula for what makes people successful.” There are many candidates with high potential and a transferable skill set who don’t necessarily fit the mold for the “ideal candidate”. Patty goes on to say: “On occasion I even advise companies to hire a businessperson, not an HR specialist, to run HR. Just like any other department or division head, your HR chief should understand the details of your business, how you earn your revenue, who your customers are, and your strategy for the future.” Those candidates who have scaled a company to 300 have the potential to be just as valuable as those who have scaled a company to 1000. We would encourage hiring managers to be open to “risk”, particularly under the guidance of our expertise here at Robert Walters.


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