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In the world of recruiting. Some people have seen it all. They build recruiting teams from the ground up, hired hundreds of people in the best companies in the world, developed their expertise year after year. I'm Robin Choi and I'm on a mission to collect their learnings. These are their stories.


Hey, everyone. So today we're having Emerald Jurgen to talk about capacity planning and forecasting. In a Pascovid era, that's a big topic. And we always have questions about how do you plan, how do you build your current team, how do you organize it? And also what will the next twelve months look like? Obviously, ML doesn't have the answer to all of this, but it's probably in a very good situation to have answers to lots of questions. Emerald started in an agency 2012 Apex system. So background as an agency worker, then moved to benefit Octave Lift, and today is a VP talent of customers. So we're very happy to have you here today. Amel. Did I miss something in the introduction?


No. I appreciate the intro. You did it much better than I could have. I think the interesting thing about me is even prior to an agency, I say my career really started at a well known rental car place. And I think that's the place that really taught me the grind that got me through the agency and helped propel me to where I am today.


Okay. So can you tell us more about the current situation, Augusto, what the team looks like, what's the plan? And then we'll take it from there.


Yeah. So the team at Gusto right now is about 60 people and the breakdown of that is about 35. Yeah, they're about 35 productivity recruiters where the rest of the team is going to be comprised of like program managers, people empowers, which we call people managers at Gusto and then recruiting coordination. As a company right now we're crossing at about 2500. So we've grown a ton over the last year. I think by the end of the year we would have grown about 80% year over year in terms of Pet account growth. So it's been a really interesting time for the recruiting team and more interesting times to come for sure.


So you were about 1100 people last year. Do you have any idea what it will look like in a year?


Yeah. So we're deeply in the midst of planning right now, which is why capacity planning is top of mind for me. So we're probably looking at getting over 3000, maybe closer to 3500. I think it's still very much up in the air. We want to be mindful of growing for the right reasons. Right. So we still have a lot of decisions to make around the different investments that we want to make and making it so that we're doing all the things for the right reasons and not just going for Growth's sake. But like I said earlier, based on previous years, I can only imagine to be another interesting, fun, challenging year for us. So we're just really trying to gear up and make it so that we're set up for success.


Sure. So you're again hiring about 1500 people and you're 60 people in the team. So that's a big ratio. Can you tell us more about the splits and the sources that you have in your recruiting funnel?


Yeah. So the interesting thing about our team right now is that of all the productivity recruiters that we have on board, we only have one source. So everyone else is a full cycle recruiter. And I think that set up is intentional. Right. So if I were to look at our most volume of areas of hiring, which are customer experience and sales and sales operations top roles. Through three quarters, we've hired almost 1100 people versus tech, which on the other side, we've hired about 175, 180. So as we're thinking about the way that we wanted to set up our teams, on the non tech side, we were seeing volume come in through applications and just organic referrals. So we didn't really need sourcing at the top of the funnel. But on the tech side, what we're starting to realize is that as we're trying to embed more qualitative aspects to the way that we hire, whether it's keeping a diversity lens at the forefront of what we do, whether it's trying to hire some skill sets that we haven't historically done in the past, we really want to make it so that we can focus enough velocity at the top of the funnel so that we can get the outcomes that we're hoping for.


So if we're thinking about going into the next year, this is where the conversations around differing investments that we can make in order to make ourselves more efficient are really taking place.


Right. And 170 people just with one source is still impressive. What does the tech cooking team look like? And do recruiters do their own sourcing or how do you get people in the door in the process first?


Yeah. Recruiters do a lot of their own sourcing. We also been able to build a great partnership with our hiring teams as well. We really try to embed through and through that everyone's a recruiter. And I think it really puts us in a position to be successful in light of the great migration of the great reshuffling, whatever you want to call it. It's all hands on deck effort. Right. And we all know coming across and engaging and ultimately hiring top talent is a really difficult prospect. So what we try to do is make it so that everyone is involved. So we really push referrals. We have hiring manager, source sourcing, we have our recruiter sourcing as well, and really just trying to get to a place where we can create enough energy again at the top of the funnel to where we can see the outcomes that we want at the bottom of it. And then in addition, I think as we look forward, what we're going to try to do is really build a couple of different centers of excellence and understanding that as you hit a certain level of scale, the need to specialize in certain areas becomes more and more relevant, more and more applicable.


So I think we're at that point in time where philosophically we need to determine where we want to go next. But to me, that's a large part of the reason why I wanted to come here and really deep dive into some of these philosophical challenges, because I think this is where the most fun happens.


And when you say you're trying to get everyone on board and pushing referrals, does that mean that hiring managers will source themselves or share like cold leads or sentence and outreach themselves?


Yeah, both. Right. And I think at this time. Right. It's everyone's responsibility to chip in. And I think as we all know, as recruiters, you tend to see a higher response rate the higher up the food chain the message comes from. And not to say recruiters aren't important, but candidates tend to want to respond to hiring managers or leaders of functional organizations a little bit more than us. So what we try to do is create that interactive relationship where we can come up with sourcing strategies. We can define the types of folks that we want to see in the pipeline, and then coming up with strategy that's going to hopefully help land them in the process. Right. So again, I think where we are in this market, there's no room for delineation of responsibilities. Right. It's an all hands on deck approach, and it's really propelled us to success at this point.


Yeah, I think a lot of companies trying to do this, but on a daily basis, it's very hard to enforce and to get everybody aligned. So how do you do this? Do you organize like do you actually sit with the person and sit next to them and just ask them to send recommendations, or do people naturally do this? And if so, what's there? How did you create the right set of incentives for people to do this?


So I think starting backwards, the right set of incentives is hiring the right person. Right. And there should be no other incentive. That kind of drives the collaborative effort towards where it needs to go. If we want to hire the right people who are going to help us scale effectively and to really maximize the opportunity that Gusto has, we got a partner and we got to do what's required in order to be successful. And then kind of going backwards from there. We really put a lot of stock and a lot of onus into our kickoff meetings. Right. So it's really important as we go in and we meet with hiring managers as we talk to different folks throughout the process that we're really setting the stage of what's to come. And that includes sourcing strategies. Right. It's not just what is the process look like? What are some target companies? How do we both? Or how do we all get on the same page and divide and conquer to a certain degree? Do you have shared connections with people who might be a good fit for this role? Do you have any referrals that might be top of mind as we talk about this role a little bit more broadly?


Right. So I think as recruiters, we look at candidate touch points as an opportunity to sell every time you get a chance to connect. I think the same can be said about the way that we deal with our internal partners as well. Right. You have to be willing to sell the work that goes into hiring the right person and showing them the dirty details in the background that takes place. But I think if you're able to effectively do that. Right, what you'll be able to create is a collaborative environment where everyone understands that they play a huge part in the process and in the coding of the right candidates. And hopefully, more times than not, all that hard work pays off.


All right.




I think everybody will agree that it's the best incentive, but then very hard. And we've seen a lot of companies struggling with making this actually work. But good for you if this works. And so most of the conversations that we had to prepare that recording was centered around capacity planning, which is you're right in the middle of it. Right. So can you tell us more about it? What's your current situation? How are you addressing the entire thing? That's a quite complex problem to me.


And I'm in the thing that I really wanted to work with the company on is really trying to figure out how we prepare for scale. Right. And there are a lot of inputs that go into creating a situation where everyone is set up for success. So what I really wanted to focus on was understanding all the different variables that were going to come into play as we were trying to effectively set ourselves up for what's to come. So as I was thinking about some of the things that were considered in the past, I think one of the things that we did historically was just kind of look at EPD, which is engineering, product and design, or some of the non tech functions as a monolith. And they're not. Right. There are so many different complexities and so many different subsets of engineering in itself that I thought that in coming in and being able to kind of partition them a little bit more and further understanding the different complexities within those different subsets would be really helpful in terms of contextualizing. The true recruiting journey that I would take in order to be able to fill those roles.


So what I've done is spend a lot of time with our internal recruiting team and with our analytics team to take a look back and see what the data tells us.


Where do you get the data from right away? Like your ATS?


Yeah. So we're leveraging our ATS, we also leverage tableau so we can see some visualization dashboard. So now really trying to glean as much as we can from historical performance in order to help inform what's to be expected as we move forward. And then from there really trying to break it down and understanding like, hey, okay. So as we're thinking about capacity planning, what are the three key variables that factor into our ability to hire as recruiters? Right. And the three things that come to mind for me are complexity. Right. So hiring a left handed machine learning engineer is going to be very different than hiring a new grad software engineer who don't work on the back end. Right. The second piece is level. Right. Again, it's not a model. It's hiring someone with junior level experience. And senior level experience is going to be holistically different. Right. So how do we make it so that as we're partnering with our finance teams, as we're partnering with our client teams, that we have a better understanding of the level of hires that they're trying to make as they look to move forward and build organizations?


And then lastly, location. Right. And I think in COVID or in this pandemic, it hasn't been as much of a conversation as it's been in the past. But as we move forward and hopefully we return to a sense of normalcy, location is going to play a huge part in our abilities to pipeline to be able to hire the right talent. So we need to factor all those considerations in now as we're trying to build out a capacity plan that's going to allow us to be as close to accurate as possible. Right. And I say all that with an understanding that as we operate in a startup, things change really quickly and that's fine. Right. But I think as a recruiting leader, as just a recruiter in general, our job is to set expectations. Right. Our job is to help fuel a company's growth. And we can best do that by leveraging data to tell our story in a way that's going to make sense in a way that's going to be cohesive in a way that's going to be considering of as many variables as we can possibly see going into the planning process.


And a lot of people listening to us, they probably don't have the data. They didn't hire 1000 people last year. So what your data looks like broad ballpark for people listening to us. They could benefit from those learnings.


Yeah. So I think in terms of the amount of highs that we're looking to make or where we are at this point in the year, as we enter queue for our fiscal year, we've made roughly 1400 higher. So we've done a lot. And as we've looked back, I think what's important and I can recall being in situations where maybe you didn't have the ATS or maybe you didn't have the tableaus. I could tell you everything that you need to know. You can also leverage benchmarking as well, right. Take what you can from the systems that you have from the spreadsheets that you might have, but also talk to other people. I think capacity planning and hiring in general is such an interesting problem because everyone's going through it all, companies are going through it and there are a lot of different people who are willing to share knowledge and information with you all. So I've also really tried to benchmark and talk to other people about their situations and how they're looking at things because I think again, given the ambiguity of a lot of the stuff that we're dealing with, it's important to try to ground yourself in as much information as you can, even if you can't get it all from your internal systems.


Okay. What would you say is the average quota per occur? So you said that you hired 400 people during last quarter. That's 30. How do you call them? Productivity recruiters. Right. So it's a month, it's about 4 hours per month per recruiter, right?


Yeah. So what we look at it's really all depending on what you work on. Again, we want to be as specific as we can, especially as we continue to scale out. But if I were to break it down a little bit more simplistically, I would say on the non tech side, assuming that you're working on a customer experience role or something, that's a little bit more volume, as you might see, anywhere between 30 to 45 higher than a given quarter versus on the tech side, which in some cases can be a little bit more difficult to fill or just a little bit less of an addressable talent market, you might be looking at anywhere between four to ten hires depending on what you're working on. So it really spans the gamut in terms of what productivity expectations are for recruiters. But what we try to do again is make it so that we're leveraging the data that we can find internally, that we are benchmarking externally, that we're having conversations with managers and recruiters and really trying to get to a place where we can find that nice balance of yes, this is going to be a challenge.


Yes, I'm going to have to put my foot on the gas in order to get across the finish line, but it's still viable and it's still going to push recruiters to be the best that they can be. Okay.


And how do you embed location in all this? What's the goal for location? Is it to increase that productivity? Like say, okay. Now on the tech side, because we're going to hire not in Canada or Europe. We're going to close 15 hires per quarter per recruiter. Is it about this or how do you think about location?


Yeah. So I look at a location a couple of different ways. Right. The first of which is what you said. Right. Like increasing the total addressable market. Right. If you're open to the entire United States, it's going to give you many more people to recruit from than just San Francisco or the Bay Area. Right. So I think that's one component of it. But the second component of it why I find it so important as you have that capacity planning conversation is hiring in differing locations is difficult. I can recall one of the bigger learnings in my career. Back when I was at Austin, it was an opportunity for us to go and recruit in the Canadian market. And what I did and what we did initially was we went into the Canadian market in Toronto and we went in with a very specific Silicon Valley type value proposition. We were like, oh, we're fast growing. We're this, we're. That right. But what we didn't take into consideration is that the motivations and the things that would drive people to be interested in the job might be different in a different location. Right. In a different region, in a different setting.


So when I talk about location, it's to better understand where do we want to go and where do we want these people to be located so that we can create a value proposition that's going to match. Right. And I think once you're able to better understand that and not have this one size fits all approach to the way that you recruit candidates from different parts of the country or different countries in general, you're going to be set up for a lot more success because you'll be able to speak to the motivations that drive them and not the motivations that might drive you as the recruiter. Right.


So part of the discussion is obviously capacity planning forecasting. And the other part of the discussion is in the post COVID era and the post COVID era open the whole new possibilities for locations like tons of cities, countries, time zones. How do you conduct your research? How do you pick which cities, which areas to go to? Is this like more iteration or do you use market research? How have you done this?


So, yeah, it's a little bit of both, some iteration. Right. You kind of cast a wide net and you see where it takes you. But also just research in general. Right. I think just in terms of just scaling a team or scaling a company, you always want to be mindful of the scalable talent pipelines that exist in a city and a region in the country. So if I were to look at, like the proliferation of the different campuses or the different tech hubs that we see throughout the United States. Right. I think some of the things that you'll see consistently are great University systems. Right. Very diverse markets. And those kinds of things don't change no matter where you want to go. So you're always looking for opportunities to kind of create somewhat of a honey hole of talent where you know that, hey, these are going to be folks who are going to fit the mold of what we're looking for today. Right. There's going to be a system or a University system in place that's going to allow for more talent to be created. And hopefully, as you're thinking about it, from a representation and inclusion standpoint, it's going to be a place that's going to allow us to kind of continue our journey and our mission to create the most diverse company possible.


So those are the things that I typically look at when I'm considering locations or as I'm having conversations with folks around locations. It's how do we do more good in more places. I think if you can lead with that kind of mindset, then you can find a lot of great talent. Right.


And you're also well, obviously as everyone, but you're taking a specific angle on the remote experience, and you're currently hiring for a head of remote experience, right?


Yeah, great call out. So for us here at Gusto, what we're really trying to do is meet employees where they are both in terms of life, but also location. And we really need to embrace that. They're going to be a couple of different working styles. Right. We're going to have folks who are 100% remote. We're going to have folks who are going to be coming into the office five days a week, and then the majority of folks are probably going to be somewhere in between. Right. And I think for us, what we want to do is we want to make sure that the experience is the same. Right. And when I say the same, I don't mean equality, because I don't think that's going to be the right metric here. But equity is where we're going to go after here. Right. So in hiring this kind of remote, what we want to do is to make it so that we're empowering our gustees to do their best work and to have the most equitable experiences. And I think as we continue to move forward from a recruiting lens, remote interviewing is not going to go away.


This is going to be our default way of interviewing as we go forward. And it makes the most sense as we continue to kind of drive this experience forward, to have someone who is going to be overseeing it, to make it so that it's scaling with the company. The last thing we want to do is create an experience that's not going to scale and create inequities with people who are coming into the office. So we think it's a worthy investment, and we think it's an investment that will continue to see pay dividends over the long term.


Okay. So going back to capacity planning. So obviously you start with the headcount. So there is a headcount for the next fiscal year, and then you start from this, and then you start playing those broad quotas like, okay, we know that on that role after on market research, after talking to our peers and after looking at the past data that we have, we know that on this role we'll need one recruiter to hire ten people and then move from this. But also the headquarters can change and in lots of situations will change. And also there is natural attrition. Right. And it's very difficult to predict those two big variables. So how do you account for this? Do you have a secret recipe that you want to share? Yeah.


So I think, as I said earlier, what we try to do is we try to Bake an Attrition at the front end of our process. Right. So at least we can build enough capacity into our system so that if things go somewhat to what the plan is. Right, we'll be set up for success there and we'll be able to make it so that we're hiring ahead of Attrition in most cases, hopefully, and stopping teams correctly so they don't see any productivity drop offs. But I think the reality of the situation is like things do change relatively quickly. Right. And I haven't been in a business yet that stuck to plan 100% for the entire year. So I think as a recruiter, as a recruiting leader, I think what's important is to really build those relationships with your clients to make it so that you have an understanding of what's coming around the corner. Because again, to me, my primary responsibility is to truly set expectations around when they can expect headcount to come into the door. And I can't do that effectively unless I'm able to understand what their needs are and what's coming around the corner.


So I would say my secret recipe, again, is trying to Bake in as much variability into your process as you can. That's within reason, the secondary piece is going to be trying to build those relationships and continually following up to understand, okay, what's next? Right. What's around the corner and really reverse engineering your way back to a place where in the same vein that as I talk to candidates on a day to day basis, they don't want to just hear about what the job is going to be today. Right. They want to understand what that three year plan is. They want to understand what impact am I going to be able to drive today and tomorrow? And I think the conversation that we have with leaders needs to somewhat reflect that as well. Right. Kind of reverse engineering your way back to a place where I know what your three year vision is. So I can reverse engineer my way back to understanding what your needs are today. So with that level of insight, with that level of knowledge, I think as things change, you'll still be able to come up with a plan that's going to be in alignment with that longer term goal.


And it's not going to feel as overwhelming as it might if you feel like you're continually being blindsided. Right.


And you also mentioned to me before that you're trying to think of the entire recruiting function almost as a team of recruiting teams is the goal to be more agile and be able to adapt quicker because they're smaller units as well.


Yeah, 100%, right. And I think, again, setting expectations is the key. Right. And setting expectations that craziness is just going to happen inevitably is also a reality of being in this role to me. And this is an interesting concept that we've been talking about a lot as I looked across the market and just seeing the trajectory of businesses, it's like the idea of platformization or being able to build small teams within teams that have a little bit more agility, have a little bit more amendability, so that as they're partnering with specific clients, as they're partnering with specific teams, they can shift and bind with the team while still leveraging the resources of our larger center of excellence, which is the broader recruiting team. So being able to set best practices, being able to leverage scalability processes where we can, but at the same time, they're still having these smaller teams that can work with these different segments of these different teams that are still growing, they are still evolving and are still iterating without it being too disruptive. So I think this is going to be a concept that we're going to see more companies leveraging is building small teams within larger teams so that they can truly be partners to the business and grow and ship with them.




So obviously, things change. And how often do you update the recruiting plan? How often do you do this? Is this every quarter? Every six months. And how do you do this on a regular basis to make sure that it's still up to date.


Yeah. So we want to review this every quarter. Again, a lot of things change, but I think a monthly cadence of change, at least from a recruiting team, is a little bit too frequent. I mean, it takes a little bit of time to open up a role, to create a diverse subset of candidates that you can have interview against that role. So every quarter feels like the right cadence for me, where we have an opportunity to kind of revisit the goals and the capacity plan that we put forth. We have an opportunity to kind of look back and glean some learnings, like, what went well, what didn't go well? What can we change? What can we iterate on. And then how can we reinvest in the partnership with the business to help them understand what's to come. Right. So again, going back to what we talked about earlier, you may not have access to all of the data, but there's no better opportunity or there's no better time to start creating a culture of data than now. So really start trying to create these plans that you can somewhat hypothesize and see where you land and iterate over time.


But you got to start somewhere. And I think what you'll find is that the business is going to be so much happier and so much more receptive to these types of conversations. If you can bring these levels of insight to the table, and if you can provide that level of consultancy services to them because they're super busy, they're not going to do all this stuff. So the more that we can position ourselves as true partners to them, the better off will be in terms of not only getting what we need done in terms of that partnership and having that all hands on deck approach. But I think as you go back to the drawing board and you're having larger scale conversations around resourcing, being able to leverage that data to help tell your story around why you might need more recruiters and why you might need to build out a source and function, it's just going to go a lot better.


Right. For a company that is not data driven at all, what is the most main numbers that they need to get to be better capacity planning. Like, obviously, number of hires per person will be leading different roles. What are the numbers do you recommend people track?


So I think the Holy grail of recruiting metrics of sort is really just understanding your funnel metrics. Right. Pastor rates. It's something that everyone can understand, and it really informs how much work you have to do in order to get to where you want to go. Right. So if I can understand that I have to put in 100 candidates at the top of the funnel to get to one hire, what's the likelihood that one person can do that? Maybe not great, right. Maybe. What about two? Maybe better. Right. And then being able to kind of find that balance of what you need in order to get to that level of input at the top of the funnel. So although that's really elementary and probably didn't make sense from a mass standpoint, but I think just that high level of understanding of what those past two rates are and what those funnel metrics looks like can be a really great starting point as to where you need to go. And with that being said, the thing that I love about that is you don't need a big fancy ATS in order to kind of calculate that.


Right. Like, if you're looking at one role specifically, you can see how many candidates that you've brought into the funnel and you can see how they're passing through. And what I would advise people to do is really leverage those insights to be able to communicate with your hiring partners or your hiring partner on a regular basis how things are going. Right. Because it can really help identify some bottlenecks in the process. It can really help them understand how much effort is required into going in to hiring one person. And it can really build a lot of recruiter empathy once they understand the data behind the scenes. I think you'll have a lot more respect from them and a lot more consideration as they ask you to do a bunch of different things.


Right. Okay. Well, thanks a lot, Emma. We'll close this discussion with the two regular questions. The number one is, what's the number one advice that you would give to your youngest off? And the second was the most impressive person you'd like to hear on the podcast. Let's go with the first one. First.


Yeah. So the first one, I would say is keep your eyes on the prize. Right. And I think about that a lot because recruiting is a very interesting profession. I think we often get caught up in the now and in the future. And I say that because it's topical to me as I'm dealing with trying to finish off the year strong and trying to plan for next year as well. But in a lot of instances, we're brought into companies to really help take them to the next level, and you've got to be able to find that balance. So how do we get the job done in a great way today? But also how do we set ourselves up for success in the future? And the minute you start taking shortcuts or start shortchanging your future is the minute that you start creating a lot of pain points that future you're going to have to deal with. And it's only going to get Messier because again, the operation is bigger, the base that you're building your processes off are bigger. So really keep your eyes on the prize and make it so that you're leveraging whatever data, whatever insights that you can glean in order to really set up that pathway for success so that the work becomes easier and more efficient versus harder and less efficient.


Right. And I've seen it both ways. And trust me, it's a lot when you're not set up for success in the future. We'll cross that bridge when we get to a mentality, the bridge always comes and it's never great. Right.


So the main advice you give to your younger self is make by life easier as the older self.


Exactly. Set yourself up for future success. And then to your second question. One person that I would like to see on here, and I was thinking about this a lot. But one person I would like to see on here is Matt Warby. So right now he is a VP over at Lyft and he had a significant chapter over at Google and I think he's someone who's been able to effectively wear a multitude of hats and really create great relationships with execs. And I think that's something that as a recruiting leader, you're always working towards right trying to find those ways to really gain the ear and gain the trust of executive leaders and understanding what data points, understanding what are the key triggers that gets them interested and keeps them engaged. And he's someone who's done it at a really high level in a couple of different places. So he'd be someone who I think would be great to have on this podcast to be able to kind of hear what his story is and what are some of the things that are top of mind for him.


Cool. And we plan on doing one episode on building relationship with the leaders as well, so they could be the right person to do this. Thanks a lot, Emo, and we'll stay in touch.


All right. Sounds good. Thank you.


Hey, there. This is Robert. Most of our listeners come from word of mouth, so thanks a lot for your support and if you enjoy the players, please keep on sharing it with your team and friends. Stay tuned for the next episode and if you can't wait, follow me on linking for more content on recruiting catch you next week, bye.