Hiring and onboarding new talent is a significant task that many companies deal with regularly. One of the most challenging parts of this process is team placement. How do you determine the best team for a new hire?
There are two general approaches to making team assignments: Static Team Placement and Flexible Team Placement. The static strategists take the time to determine the new hire’s strengths and weaknesses through multiple rounds of interviews and a thorough analysis of their resumes. Flexible teams do their best to assign new employees to a team that will be a good fit, knowing they may need to adjust later as the employee and company become more familiar with each other. Each tactic has its place, but at Lucid we have found that flexible team placement works wonders with our smaller company and flexible team structure.
The majority of our internship and full-time positions are filled by new graduates, which brings a variety of challenges. One of those challenges is that often candidates are interviewing for positions they will start after they graduate, which could be six or more months in the future. That makes it hard to determine what teams will have positions to fill. In many cases, the candidates have not fully determined what it is in software that they enjoy as they have not had the real-world experience to figure that out. To deal with these constraints, Lucid’s policies allow for flexibility in team membership throughout the careers of all engineers.
Lucid promotes a culture of constant learning. We encourage engineers to try something new or change to a different team if they are looking for new challenges. We are also an agile company that can change focus or priorities quickly. This creates an environment in which trying new things, exploring the code base, and working in different areas of the company are strongly encouraged. This both benefits Lucid’s style of development and is great for engineers who enjoy taking on new challenges and learning new things. Having flexibility has the added benefit of team placement not being a large deal if guessed wrong. If a new hire sees an opportunity that looks interesting on another team, they can simply bring it up to their team lead and be moved in a relatively short period!
Benefits of Flexibility
Liking your job is an important metric when it comes to retention, productivity, and building a good company culture. Lots of factors contribute to an employee’s happiness, however, the team they’re on and the work they do is a good portion of that. With a less flexible framework, teams are decided once, with team interviews as the determining factor in which team the new hire will join. This has a higher chance of putting them on a team they may enjoy, but it’s not a guarantee that your new employee will land in the right place. If the team placement is wrong, two things have happened. First, the time spent on onboarding team members and conducting interviews is lost, and second, that employee is now stuck on a less-ideal team for the foreseeable future.
Hiring in a more flexible environment allows teams to be adjusted because new hires are encouraged to explore other teams and determine where they fit best. Encouraging employees to look around and see what other areas or teams interest them has a couple of other interesting benefits. One is that they get used to taking their career into their own hands. Setting the expectation that each employee controls their career can help them organize and create new roles and activities that align with their skills and interests. Lucid has seen many innovations come from even first-year employees.
Because some employees may be hesitant to ask for a team change, we encourage managers to check in with each of their team members weekly in their one on ones to see if they are feeling engaged and excited about the team’s work. This promotes discussions that may lead to exploring other team options when appropriate. This has the benefit of distributing tribal knowledge and other tips picked up over the years.
From a company goals perspective, this is also a practical framework. Lucid needs to be able to pivot quickly, as the visual collaboration space can change at a moment’s notice. Having a culture of flexibility has been vital in these quick shifts. This has helped Lucid in the past to develop a new product in under five months. See the article here describing Lucid’s quick creation of Lucidspark.
When done wrong, this can cause people to never feel comfortable and not be as productive if they don’t like to/can’t switch contexts and still be productive. However, Lucid rarely moves team members involuntarily and has many people in product who have been on the same team their whole tenure.
For us, it works
Each company has its own culture, product area, and size that can all play a role in how its product teams organize and hire new talent. For Lucid we use an extremely flexible approach to all parts of the process, starting from team placement and continuing throughout the organization. This flexibility supports our innovative brand, our values, the fast-moving product environment we thrive in, and a growing product team.
For other companies, hiring may look different but work out just as well. The important thing is that how you hire and assign teams is a purposeful decision. The impact these differences in culture can have on a company and employees is not something to ignore.