Often, tech startups are founded by individuals with a background in software engineering. That’s great for creating a standout product, but soon enough, specialist expertise is required to flesh out other leadership functions.

Nowhere is this more important than HR, people and talent acquisition. The martech industry’s relatively high churn rates, international client bases, and occasional rapid growth stories, are all factors requiring an expert hand to steer the company’s team and culture towards ongoing success.

One such leader is Alex Pusenjak, VP for People & Culture at Fluent Commerce, an API-first order management system based in Sydney, Australia. During Alex’s time at the company, the team has increased from 70 to 170 people, with hires made across the US, Europe, Asia, and his home country.

Alex joined us on the Martalks podcast to share his experience as people leader of a rapidly scaling supply chain technology company. He explained the difficulties startups have in hiring across international borders, how to improve the effectiveness of hiring managers, and how the c-suite can facilitate their HR teams in attracting and retaining candidates.

You can listen to the podcast in full here, or read on for our summary of the key points.

Recruiting a global workforce as your martech scales

As a martech fills out its home market, inevitably, attention turns abroad.

We have previously written about the commercial challenges that companies face in new markets. In recruitment and people, businesses face comparable challenges as they seek to extend their practices, processes and expectations to new working cultures.

The variables that head offices face in new markets include salary expectations, working norms, and differences in notice periods. For example, in France and Germany it’s common for workers to work a three-month notice period, compared to just two weeks in the US.

Alex said that there are also…

“…nuances in terms of what questions are asked… For US roles, we get more questions surrounding benefits, whereas in Australia and the UK, we get more questions around work-life balance… ‘how quickly can I climb up that career progression ladder?’”

With wide variances across different markets, it’s important for HR teams to create replicable processes in the way they hire and retain talent. Notwithstanding regulatory and cultural differences, people and culture present valuable opportunities to create consistency from one global office to another.

Fluent Commerce typically takes around 30 days from the first interview to hire, with candidates facing several rounds in the process. This includes a technical or aptitude-based interview and conversations with hiring managers to ascertain cultural fit.

While this process is the same for all employees regardless of location, hiring responsibility is divided locally between 3 regions. As such, the company is able to blend local knowledge with the requirements of the wider business.

People and culture best practices for scaleups

Like many things at a startup, hiring often takes place with fairly high degrees of autonomy left to individual teams. Alex’s work at Fluent Commerce appears designed to retain the benefits that this lends – chiefly around agility and responsiveness to needs – whilst also enabling the benefits of structure and process that you find at more mature businesses.

A good example of this is Alex’s work with hiring managers – who receive training on best practices in interviews, with a particular emphasis on building rapport in a hybrid setting.

Fluent Commerce also takes a cross departmental approach to foster a community of collaboration between functions – such as introducing non-technical candidates to product designers and engineers. This is part and parcel of fostering team spirit and culture across a distributed organization.

“We view peer interviews and cross-functional participation as integral pieces of our recruiting process…. It allows us to showcase different facets of the role in different parts of the business, which then brings additional points of view into the interview process.”

Of course, effectiveness of such initiatives also depends on collaboration from business’s leadership.

Alex reports that Fluent Commerce’s CEO has a been highly supportive partner. He particularly praises Graham Jackson’s hands-on approach, including acting as an ambassador for the company culture wherever possible.

“He is really invested in the recruitment hiring and overall employee experience process….

When we were smaller, he did have the luxury of being involved in more interviews, which he actually loves to do. And still every now and then, when there is capacity, he will be part of those.

He puts that trust and respect back into the decision makers. He’ll empower hiring managers to make that final call, if they’ve done their due diligence.”

Alex further praises Jackson for taking a keen interest in the employee and candidate feedback collated through the company’s extensive satisfaction survey, working with HR to tweak the company’s approach.

How martechs can succeed at executive hiring

As we discussed in our article on how to hire a VP of sales, effective executive hiring is foundational to a scale-up’s ongoing success.

Fluent Commerce is a company which appears to have done an excellent job of running its own searches. Alex explained how he led a global search for a CTO, involving several rounds of interviews with other members of the c-suite to ensure cultural fit, and an intensive due diligence process.

At many comparable scaleups, the hiring process for startup executives is far less robust – especially in an industry where a lot of senior talent comes in by the back door. Furthermore, such scaleups often seek to recruit outside perspectives – from a different tech vertical, alternative enterprise background, or people with experience of businesses of the size that the scaleup will grow into.

In these cases, process and professionalism around executive hiring is a crucial part of giving those people a soft landing, and confidence in their new employment.

If you’re planning to run your own executive hiring process, you could do a lot worse than following in the lead of Alex Pusenjak and Fluent Commerce, where the approach to people, talent and culture surpasses that of many more mature businesses.

Or for help from a specialist, get in touch with Rosenstein Group.

Executive search for your supply chain scaleup

Rosenstein Group has been at the forefront of martech executive hiring for over 20 years, helping companies across ecommerce, supply chain, sales enablement, systems integration and ecommerce solutions make those crucial hires that accelerate growth.

Our recent successes:

  • include recruiting a VP of Sales for a retail analytics vendor, who delivered the two biggest deals in the company’s history within their first six months.
  • hiring a team of four senior sales professionals for an AI-powered martech solution; all hires exceeded their annual quota.

Carefully curating each of our client recruiting experiences, we consistently deliver optimal performers to new clients, while providing the candidate with a well-matched opportunity in which they can thrive and succeed.

Find out more about our specialism in supply chain executive search.

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