Suzanna Thekkekara

NexThought Monday: Three steps to finding and hiring great social enterprise talent

There is a growing interest in social enterprise careers the world over, yet the sector faces challenges in attracting the right talent. Given that it is a relatively young space, it needs to look outwards to fulfill its growing talent requirements. Based on my experiences in HR in this space during the last few years, here are three ways recruiters can do that.

Step 1: The Candidate Pitch

Just like an investor pitch, you need to build a candidate pitch as well. Go beyond the job description and tackle the questions about ‘what’s in it for you (the candidate)’. This pitch needs to showcase the benefits of your organization such as a flat organizational structure, the freedom to be entrepreneurial and make decisions, and the other benefits of working in social enterprise space, i.e. opportunities for global interaction, a culture of collaboration, etc. We often underestimate the intrinsic motivation and subsequent satisfaction that working in the social space offers. The pitch also needs to sell the role and explain what the unique selling propositions are, which could offset some the tradeoffs of working for a social enterprise startup versus, say, a multinational company. Once constructed, the Pitch should be input into job descriptions and into the various platforms you use to source talent.

Step 2: Tapping New Avenues for Talent Sourcing

Due to its very nature, the development space is extremely conducive to creating a high quality of online engagement with people across different professional backgrounds. At Intellecap, one of the effective ways of sourcing talent is the use of platforms like Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. Driving engagement through social media allows us to attract a network of people who share our values and are keenly interested in our work. We’ve received unsolicited requests for internships and job applications from ‘followers’ who have seen value based on what they’ve learned about us here. We’ve also gone on to make fulltime offers to a few candidates in our social media circle.

Other good sources of strong, relevant talent are universities and business schools that teach courses or electives in social enterprise or development. We’ve found partnering with them directly and tapping their alumni networks to be effective. We’ve also learned that talent from postgraduate programs with some relevant work experience works out better than ‘fresh graduates’ in terms of employee retention in the development space.

Other effective sources for talent acquisition are employee referrals, development portals like NextBillion, and the Global Impact Investing Network (GIIN) jobs board, and high quality internship/fellowship programs at Shell Foundation and IDEX.

Step 3: Closing the deal: Once you have generated a candidate pipeline, it is imperative to hire people who share the company’s goals and are passionate about its vision. The candidates to be wary of are those who express interest in the social space, but are unwilling to commit to it immediately. It is best to identify these candidates early on so that the search is not fruitless. Listen keenly to what candidates have to say and what words they stress. Is their motivation extrinsic, i.e. is it driven by the title and money alone, or are they intrinsically motivated by the space, the ability to make a contribution and a difference? Candidates have different motivations depending on their stage of life and career path. Listening closely to the candidate’s motivation can help you understand if they are right for your business, and provide tips on how to sweeten the deal and ultimately make a successful job offer.

Suzanna Thekkekara is a talent management specialist and senior member of the HR team at Intellecap, an advisory firm operating at the intersection of business and social good.

business development, skill development