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The Job Of A Dyn CEO: Hire And Retain The Best Talent

People are a company’s best asset.  A company might have a great idea, customers or product, but it’s still the team in place that’s responsible for executing.  Without them, you have nothing.

The responsibility for that team starts at the top, ensuring there is the right mix of people to get the job done.  In the beginning, that means a team focused on a single mission but that is still able to do everything.  As the company grows, it means a team with more individual tasks that does everything while still focused.

I’ve read about sales-centric CEOs who are finding new customers and getting them to buy.  Another type is to sell a job, a role, or an opportunity.  The act of convincing someone to work for you has gotten easier as we have become more established (paying people helps) but it’s not always easy.  Regardless of the economy, the best talent is always in high demand.

Since staff is probably the biggest expenditure, who works and what they work on is vital to coordinate to get the best return on staff dollars.  I don’t think there are silver bullets to deal with hiring and retaining talent, but there is a universe of tips.

Hire Smartly

Hiring the best talent means you find the right skill set and personality to fit the roles that the growing company needs.  Companies hire programmers, accountants, engineers and sales people and the CEO needs to be able to filter great, good and also bad candidates.  There are many ways to assess technical skills and character skills.  Read a bunch of stuff on it and pick what you agree with.  There will be a million of people telling you that you’re doing it wrong.

You only want to hire when you know you have the right person.  Don’t hire because you have to.  Most of the bad hiring decisions that we’ve made were because we were on the fence and rushed the decision.

The best place to find candidates is in your network.  This cannot be overstated.  People you know you understand more than not will share your values and will be more passionate.  Typically, you’ll have to be more flexible on job responsibilities but that can be accommodated through altering the roles of future hirings.

There is an extremely subtle remark about hiring.  The assumption is that you are hiring the right person at the right time.  In a growing organization, there are near-unlimited wants for additional help and resources.  It may also be that the person not asking for resources is the person most in need; they just don’t even have time to ask for help.  You have to distill down who the right people are.

One thing that we do is administer the Strengthsfinder to new employees, something we have also done with candidates to help decide between people.  It’s helpful to think about how they approach problems and how they work in teams.  Other useful tools are the MBTI (Myers-Briggs Type Indicator).  There’s no right or wrong personality type, but it helps to choose between candidates and get a more complete picture of a person.

(By the way, we’re always hiring.)

Retain, Review And (Sometimes) Release

Great! Your new employee shows up on their start day (not everyone who accepts actually shows up), so now what?  We do a variety of formal and informal things to make sure that we can keep people engaged.

We have a first day routine that helps get people integrated into the company.  They get to meet peers, people they work with and people that they don’t frequently see.  After 30 days, we like to do a quick pulse check, see how people are doing and make sure that the basics of communication are understood to help ensure that people are getting enough of the right type of feedback.

From there, it’s every six months for a performance review with a general idea of no surprises.  It starts with a self-evaluation and then moves to a manager review.  The important part is to look at the deltas and talk through them.

Sometimes, exploring different roles is important.  A person may want to transition to something more complicated or they want to try something different.  It’s all about people and being flexible and real makes it easier.

We’ve been fortunate to only have a handful of people ever voluntarily leave after each of those conversations.  In the end, you cannot be upset or unhappy.  Our professional life is a path and we ultimately lease (not own) talent.  I cannot say that I’ve learned much from any of those incidents, but they do give pause to make sure that we’re still a cool place to work. (I’m still waiting for someone to leave Dyn to start a company.  That would be bittersweet.)

When thinking about performance or termination, you first look at the company/manager.  Are the responsibilities clear, are the concerns clear and would a different role be better?  Only when those questions are exhausted do you think about what a person can do differently.  Maybe they learn different or don’t quite understand what they are supposed to do (and are too proud to ask directly).

It’s a dialogue over months.  If you believe in no surprises, bad performance and ultimately termination shouldn’t be a surprise.  It doesn’t mean it’s easy though.

If things don’t work out in the end, you cannot beat yourself up.  Think about what lessons you can learn and then move on.  It’s better to keep score: think how many people that you hired three years ago that you still work with and get better with each hiring decision.

This is the second in a series. Read the first post here.


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Whois: Jeremy Hitchcock

Jeremy Hitchcock was Founder of Oracle Dyn, a pioneer in managed DNS and a leader in cloud-based infrastructure that connects users with digital content and experiences across a global internet.