Brilliance is evenly distributed but opportunity is not; This is the bane of Andela’s mission – connecting software engineers to global opportunities. Sayo Alagbe as the Global People Strategy Manager for Andela knows all about the intricacies of developing and hiring talent. As the thinker behind some of Andela’s strategic talent initiatives in Africa in the last few years, she takes us on a journey through the people, processes and procedures behind managing talent and the impact of this on a $181 million venture-backed organization such as Andela.
Talent Management Is Underemphasized
Talent management is something people tend to overlook or only consider in terms of hiring and firing. But it broadly covers the entire career experience of an individual. I’ve spent 6 years at Andela and witnessed a big evolution in that time – in the beginning, we were a learning-led organization but now we’ve evolved into a product-led organization. Because we started as a learning-led organization, some of the people we employed didn’t have the level of software engineering skills required in the market. This meant that we had to upskill them, which we did through the Fellowship.
Behind The Scenes of Talent Management
When we were still a learning-led organization, through our learning department, we built learning programs to help support the growth of our engineers. We organized specific one-month programs to train engineers on soft skills and improve their communication, teamwork and other qualities necessary to have a world-class professional. In situations where there were performance issues, we always worked with our engineers to create SMART action plans to guide them in levelling up their performance. In doing this, we had to spot the deficiencies of the engineers and work on them specifically through a series of high focus training and activities.
We worked with our learning facilitators to create a Performance Improvement Program (PIP) which helps us constantly assess the performance of the engineers and intelligently inform our decisions to promote, refer or retain such talent. By identifying different levels of performance, we could direct our energy towards rewarding the high potential individuals accordingly while helping low potentials step up their game and improve on their deficiencies.
As a product-led organization, we’ve enabled our people manager to ensure they are practising continuous performance management with their teams. From setting OKRs, to weekly or bi-weekly 121s, to quarterly performance reviews, to 360 feedback cycles to annual reviews, this helps ensure managers and direct reports are constantly connected and are able to share any performance concerns.
In order to set the pace for your employees, it’s always important to start the enablement from the managers themselves. With the manager training series set up for managers and directors at Andela, we train the managers to interact well with their teams and build a culture of excellence around the organization.
Hiring The Right People
Andela’s data-driven matching boasts a 96% success rate in providing companies with engineers and required talent. One of the reasons for this is the emphasis on values. It’s important to always ask: Is the employee aligned with the values and mission of the organization?
At Andela, we have a mnemonic for our core values known as, “EPIC” which stands for Excellence, Passion, Integrity and Collaboration. To hire the right people, your hiring process must have tests to ensure that the individual’s mindset and potential is in line with your goals. After hire, new hires also go through a probationary period, usually about 3 months. The aim here is always to determine if the new hires are really fit for the job or if they need more time to adjust.
Interviewers must also identify who is value fit or who could become value fit within a said time of training and evaluation. In order to do this, your business models, mission and values must be clear. Don’t just look for a job seeker or someone who’s looking to make more money but someone whose mindset and potential is aligned with your goal and wants to have lasting impact and have a great experience at your organization.
Working Remotely – The Benefits and Downsides
Before we went remote totally, we already had engineers working remotely with companies in the US, UK and China. In 2019, Andela trialled remote-first operations in Ghana and Egypt, and we went fully remote in 2020 which meant that we’ve had to manage several remote teams and keep everyone motivated. In managing remote teams, communication is very key.
Moving to remote-first also aligned with our longer-term roadmap to connect talent to opportunity and enabling Andela to accept engineer applications from all over Africa, not just in the cities and countries where we had a physical presence. Today, we now have engineers from countries we weren’t operating in, including Morocco & South Africa.
Our intentional performance management approach ensures that we don’t have to micromanage anyone. We trust our employees (engineers and non-engineers) to deliver on their set tasks and we provide the necessary atmosphere for them to thrive. We aim to ensure managers run a quarterly performance review to discuss the successes and challenges for the past quarter and plan ahead for key objectives and improvements in the next.
Going remote has not been without its challenges. The effect has been heavy on engagement. We had to get creative about this by using apps to properly engage employees and help each other bond.
At Andela, we have a mantra called, “YOYO” which means “You Own Your Own”. We believe that employees must be personally responsible for their growth and therefore interact with the management to get the training they need to upskill in any capacity needed. Once an employee identifies a growth need, we work with the employee and his/her people manager to determine the best approach to tackle this need.
To do this, it’s essential to understand your growth needs and apply strategies accordingly. We focus on training, not just the engineers but the managers themselves. We conduct regular talent reviews to make sure that the employees are constantly working on themselves to improve and move on to bigger and more demanding projects on their journey to career excellence.
Building A Talent Network
We have a large pool of engineers available. This is what helps us to consistently outsource the right talent without running out. We understand the needs of our clients and the profile of the talents and skills they need. This makes it easy to match people who fit the profile to respective organizations that need their skillset.
The world needs a talent network to sit on top of the global hiring market and reduce the complexity involved in sourcing, selecting, and working with global talent. Our shift to a network model puts Andela in a strong position to connect long-term, pre-vetted talent with great leaders and tech companies.
Take it to the Next Level
Documentation is very important. Your policies and mission as an organization must be defined and there should be clarity on what you hope to achieve so your employees can personally connect with it. Implement policies that encourage employees to work with members of other teams or departments. This helps to harmonize the workflow across the entire organization and improves working relationships.
Ensure you hire only the best and have the resources to ensure that they grow on the job while creating an atmosphere that is warm, friendly and reduces the pressure of work. When you invest highly in an individual’s growth, they, in turn, will reciprocate by upping their performance levels and delivering on their tasks.
Sayo Alagbe is currently a Global People (HR) Strategy Manager for Andela, $181 million venture-backed technology services organization. She supports Andela’s global staff as a trusted business partner to multiple leaders, managers, and employees. Sayo has been both a generalist and specialist in the HR space for 8+ years, helping to align business objectives with employees and leadership in policy and processes creation, EVP creation and execution, HR tech implementation, employee experience partnerships, and talent management activation. She firmly believes in equity and equality. Outside of work, she volunteers as a Circle Lead for Blazers and Baby LeanIn Circle