How GetUp! hired 39 new staff in just two months

Aline Van Koninckxloo is the Operations Manager at progressive community advocacy organisation GetUp!. Over the past two-and-a-half years, Aline has been a driving force in GetUp!’s phenomenal growth, designing and implementing new HR and recruitment processes and helping to adapt a start-up culture to that of an established organisation.

Ahead of her presentation at the 2016 Not-For-Profit People Conference, Aline shares how GetUp! managed to hire almost 40 new staff members in just a few months during the 2016 federal election campaign – and what you can learn from their experience.

Hi Aline, lovely to chat with you! To start us off, how much has GetUp! grown in the two-and-a-half years you’ve been there?

When I started there were only 20 staff, and in June 2016 at the peak of the federal election campaign we had 72 staff, so the growth has been huge.

There was also no HR and no processes – everything was very much ad hoc. If you needed to hire new staff or a new team, you would recruit them and do it your own way. It was chaotic and inefficient.

So my role was to bring a bit of order to the recruitment process. We’re a progressive organisation, so my main objective was for our HR to be progressive, as well as fair and efficient.

So fast-forward to 2016, and you needed to hire 40 new staff members for GetUp’s federal election campaign. What are the main challenges you faced in hiring so many people fast?

The biggest challenge is always to make sure you have the structure to support all the new people. There’s no point hiring all these new staff if you can’t get them onboarded and started with their new role immediately.

It’s a massive challenge when you want to hire really fast – you want the processes to be working really well and for everyone to buy in to those processes. So preparing the organisation for the growth was really essential, and I spent a lot of time getting staff on board for how we were going to achieve it.

A large influx of new staff at one time can pose a significant risk to an organisation’s culture. How has GetUp! navigated this challenge?

Defining our culture was part of the process of building that structure before we started hiring. When we had a smaller staff two years ago, we did a whole lot of work with defining our culture and identity – bringing everyone on board to make sure we all agreed on what GetUp! is and what it means for us to work here.

And because we brought everyone into that journey, we had lots of buy-in into that culture and everyone was really on the same page.

After that, it’s all about finding people that are really excellent but who also want to be a part of that culture. I don’t like to say that we’re looking for people who ‘fit’ in the culture because that would be very close-minded – we definitely want people who bring something new and diverse, and enhance our culture. However, we need the willingness to be part of it.

When we interview, we always ask candidates about their vision for GetUp! in the next ten years, what they think the organisation should be doing, and what kind of organisation suits them culturally. And once we’ve hired somebody, a big part of our onboarding process is to introduce them to our culture and values.

Hiring people under time pressure can also potentially negatively impact the quality of hire – so how did you ensure GetUp! maintained its standards for excellent and talented staff during your election recruitment campaign?

We have a thorough recruitment process with many steps. We always follow the process but try to go through it quicker!

Usually applicants fill in a questionnaire online and submit their resume. In that questionnaire we’re already asking why they want to work at GetUp!, which campaign resonates the most with them, and what’s their feedback on one of our latest campaigns. This first stage helps us come up with a shortlist of candidates who have great potential and ensures we don’t spend too much time with candidates who aren’t 100 percent interested in the role and in the organisation.

In the next round, shortlisted candidates will receive a written exercise to test their creativity, strategic thinking, and writing skills. That’s very demanding, so we usually have a bunch of people dropping out at that stage.

We review those tasks without looking at names – that helps us be objective and select the people who are the best and not necessarily the ones we know.

In the interview, we have lots of tricky questions and role-plays, especially if you’re going to be in a leadership role. And for senior roles we do a second round of interviews. Then we do reference checks, and then only do we hire. All these steps allow us to take through to the next stage and spend time on the best candidates only.

It’s essential for this to work to have a good applicant tracking system and a recruitment process with clear responsibilities and timelines for all staff involved in the process.

So once you had these new staff on board, what sort of new HR processes did you need to put in place?

Most importantly I needed to be very present for all staff. It was a bit overwhelming for our staff to have 39 new faces come on board at the same time and it was daunting for all these new people not knowing anybody – not knowing who they should approach if they have any issues or if they’re unclear on something.

So I needed to make sure I got in touch with all the new staff individually and that I was there to support them. And I needed to ensure everyone, new or not, felt part of one big team. That’s not something I need to do as much when we hire one person at a time.

Secondly, with all the new hires, a lot of people had just become managers and maybe didn’t have much experience managing other people. That was a big challenge also – to make sure they’re prepared for it and that they have the minimum management skills they need. So once all the new staff were onboarded, we also had to make sure we supported all the managers and gave them the tools and support they needed to be good managers.

And finally, what else will you be sharing in your presentation at the Not-For-Profit People Conference?

Aside from what we’ve just chatted about, there are three other things I’ll highlight: one is what are the priorities for onboarding people well and quick, what the onboarding process looks like at GetUp!, and what lessons we can take from it.

I’ll also talk about the innovations we’ve brought into our recruitment process, and how we’ve been creative in something that sounds really boring. We tried lots of new things, some of which worked well and some of which didn’t.

The last thing is talking about how a progressive organisation can have a progressive recruitment process – a process that’s fair and objective, and in which candidates have a good journey. That even if they don’t get the job, they still feel like they want to apply again and recommend GetUp! as an employer to other people.

Thanks Aline!

Want to hear more about how Aline helped grow GetUp! to be the organisation it is today? She’ll be presenting her session, ’39 new staff in just two months: lessons from GetUp! on how to hire excellent people fast’, at the 2016 Not-For-Profit People Conference, which runs on November 21 and 22. Tickets are available until November 15 – get your ticket here.

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  • Name *
  • Website