182 podcast episodes 🎙️

In today’s episode, we’re reeling in another throwback episode, Joe’s interview with Leah Knobler of Help Scout – a support tool and customer service platform used by customer-centric organizations around the world, from small businesses to high-growth startups and nonprofits.

Leah gives us several actionable nuggets about hiring, scaling, managing, and growing a remote team, a detailed overview of Help Scout’s recruitment process, and diversifying a team of skills and talent.

What to Listen For:

  • 00:00 Intro
  • 01:37 Welcome to the pod, Leah!
  • 05:57 Help Desk Software is the main tool
  • 07:17 Company growth from 24 people to 90 remote employees
  • 12:38 Donut, Slack’s teammate connection app
  • 15:25 The evolution of Help Scout’s recruitment process
  • 23:07 From application screening to proposing an offer
  • 25:31 Remote companies need to be transparent in all aspects
  • 28:59 Excellent people need excellent pay
  • 33:23 How to make sure you’re hiring from a diverse set of background
  • 43:04 What can small companies do to start recruiting diverse candidates
  • 47:31 Find Leah online!

Episode Resources:

Podcast Transcript:

Joe Howard: [00:00:46] Yo listeners. Welcome back to the WP MRR WordPress podcast. I’m Jay. And you are listening to TV, WordPress business podcast, the princess layer on the podcast this week. What a bad ass what’s going on princess.

Leah Knobler: [00:01:01] Oh, you know, I thought it was Friday, but it’s not. It’s just the first day.

Joe Howard: [00:01:05] That happens to me a lot, I think as well. We’re going to talk a lot about remote work and all that in this episode, but I’m like, I’m always kind of like, what day is it today? Like, is it, it must be Friday.

You’re good. Cause it’s only Thursday. Sometimes it’s like a Tuesday and I’m like, is it Friday today? It’s not at all.

Leah Knobler: [00:01:21] You know what though? It’s Friday in Australia, so we’re not wrong.

Joe Howard: [00:01:25] Hey, there you go. And using time zones to our advantage and another, another, you can tell you’re a remote person already, so yeah.

Cool. Leah, uh, very nice to have you on the podcast. Uh, also known as layer nobler. So Leah, you pick layer for the podcast episode because your name is spelled Lea H but pronounced Leah. So it’s a nice way to introduce your name and actually actually, how you say I wanted to bring layer on the pod casts.

Uh, we actually met, cause I kind of randomly DMD you in a random slack group. We’re both part of this kind of like running. Company slack group. I should actually probably look it up, but I can see what it is. It’s just like remote people or remote people ops or something like that. I’m sure. I’m sure if listeners are here, if you email us into the show, yo@wpmrr.com, I’m sure we could get you an invite if you’re trying to learn more about remote stuff, but.

Leah Knobler: [00:02:16] Uh, Uh, weather alert.

Joe Howard: [00:02:19] Weather alert. I’m actually getting, wow. This is actually hilarious layer. I want my people can probably hear that beeping that super loud beep before the podcast, it got super dark here in my area and it’s like almost black outside. It’s only like three 30 in the afternoon. I was like, if this my internet craps out or my power goes out, like we’ll have to reschedule this. I’m so sorry. So we’re going to try and get through this storm, but well.

Leah Knobler: [00:02:41] This might be the first podcast with a tornado in the background who knows.

Joe Howard: [00:02:44] This is it, this is it. We’ve done some live episodes before, but this may be a little bit more background noise and people are used to, um, all right, cool. So we’re part of this remote, uh, slack group and I just kind of DMD you on there recently.

And I was just like, oh, like you work at this company. Uh, I would love to talk to you a little bit more about what you do with that company and how you’re involved in remote work and kind of HR and culture building in that organization. So maybe we can start off just tell the folks out there, um, what you’re up to.

Leah Knobler: [00:03:12] Yeah, thank you. So, yeah, I’m on the people ops team at help scout, uh, or a small, but mighty team and help scout is a software company and we make really helpful human customer support tools. We are officially now 90 people all over the.

Joe Howard: [00:03:27] Wow. 90 people, a lot of there, a good number of people listening who are on small teams, maybe, maybe five, 10, even WP buffs is like 15 right now, but 90 is like a whole nother can of worms.

Have you joined, uh, more recently, like in the last year or so, or have you been there for a little while when you had fewer people on the team?

Leah Knobler: [00:03:47] Yeah. So I it’ll be my four year anniversary this July, so pretty soon. Yeah. So I think I joined, I was about, you know, person 24 or so, so I’ve definitely, I’ve seen some things.

Joe Howard: [00:04:00] For sure. Cool. Yeah. I mean, I’d love to even dig into that a little bit more and learn a bit, and here’s here a little bit about the changes you felt like you’ve gone through going from, uh, going from. 24 people to 90 or 90 plus people were you hired to do also what you’re doing right now? Do you have the same position?

Leah Knobler: [00:04:19] More or less? Yeah.

Joe Howard: [00:04:20] Gotcha. So, wow. So it was HelpScout was focusing on HR early on or culture building HR.

Leah Knobler: [00:04:26] Exactly. I think we, in that sense, we were very lucky that our three co-founders. Wanted to not only build, you know, an awesome product, but they really wanted to build an awesome company. And, you know, early on knew that that doesn’t happen by itself.

It does take a lot of intentionality and, and people whose job it is to think about that. And so at 24 people we already had. Technically three people, ups people, one was sort of more focused on, you know, kind of finance and more HR things, but still like, there are a lot of companies at 90 that have zero people ops people.

So I think it’s made a huge difference and, you know, I think that’s why our company culture is so strong. Um, it’s just that investment from day one.

Joe Howard: [00:05:12] Yeah, that’s cool. I’m at 14 or 15 people I’m already starting to feel like we really just need like, maybe not a full time dedicated HR or like people ops person, but we at least need someone who’s like 50% on like, just like there’s a lot of stuff to do around people optimization.

And I try not to say that in like a two data-driven way. People are complicated and it’s not just about the numbers, but literally just in terms of like managing, helping to manage the team and make sure everyone’s in a place and has the opportunity to perform at a high level and to, to be happy working your company, I think is really important.

Cool. I mean, most people know help scout. So I think especially people in the WordPress space who do support, they kinda know helps get like help scout. Okay. Help desk software support and support software in general is the help desk software. Main piece of software there, or are there other things you guys are up to?

Leah Knobler: [00:06:03] Um, yeah, I’d say that’s our, our main piece. Um, we do have. Uh, a component of that called beacon that we’re really excited about and always making better that’s, you know, a more thoughtful way to do a chat chat bot situation. And like so many, our quarterly done in ours, you know, obviously I’m biased, but is, is just a smarter way to do it.

That’s, you know, being more transparent with your customers, um, actually letting them know if there’s a real person there or. Emailing in, and then also providing, you know, embedded docs knowledge so that they can still try to just solve their own problem.

Joe Howard: [00:06:39] Yeah, this is super helpful to minimize support. Load support. We do is a little bit more people have issues with their WordPress sites. So they’re emailing us in to help. And that’s kind of like the whole point of our company. So it’s harder for us to do like help doc stuff. But if we had like a product or a software, uh, I mean this stuff, having people be able to help themselves is enormous.

Is enormously helpful. So cool. I’m on the site right now and it just helps scott.com and I see you are using beacon on help scout.com. Yeah. Cool. So, okay. Let’s, let’s kind of be tangented a little bit, but I want to go back to those 90 people at helps. You are 24. I’d love to, to hear about a little bit more about kind of that change from 24 to 90 and what that’s looked like in terms of like your position, what are the, like the big things you’ve had to tackle as you’ve grown to such a, almost a hundred people.

Leah Knobler: [00:07:31] Yeah. I’m like, Ooh, where to begin. Let’s see. I think the biggest growing pain we’ve experienced and it’s, and we’re not unique in that is just communication and collaboration. Just the more people involved, the harder it gets and, you know, communication can easily get diluted or, you know, you start forgetting to bring in the right people at the right time.

And then. I think some people would argue, well, also doing that in without an office makes it even harder. Um, I don’t think it’s necessarily true. I don’t think the office matters a lot of folks that I know who work in offices say that they have the same problems with communication and collaboration. So if anything, I think remote teams were more intentional about all of this.

And we’re thinking about it all the time. Since we know we don’t have an office, but it’s still, it’s still a struggle. You know, when you’re a 25 person company. Just about everyone can probably know what’s going on everywhere in the business. Um, there’s just, you know, less people. So, you know, what’s going on and, you know, you want to move fast to do something.

You grab these three people and then you can do it. But you know, that doesn’t scale as, as they say, and as teams get bigger and, and projects get meatier, there just needs to be, you know, more, more thoughtfulness there and more structure and more process. And I think our team. From the early days, loved not having too many guidelines and too many processes, but that’s just what happens.

The bigger you get, you kind of need structure and you kind of need some guidelines. So we’re trying to find that happy medium for our company. And so I’d say, you know, those are, that’s probably the biggest thing you’ve noticed you notice. And just that, you know, the bigger you get, you know, not everyone can, can know everybody else, intimately, you can do your best to, to make that happen, but it’s just the nature of the beast.

And so a lot of the stuff I think about are, you know, ways to keep everyone, at least knowing each other a little bit. Um, so we do something we call FECA, which is a lovely Swedish word for having, you know, a break with somebody and you get coffee and. A pastry of some kind. And one of our, someone, someone early on at help scout was Swedish and gifted us that term that we still use.

But it’s essentially in slack. We have a FECA channel and if you’re in there, we have a bot thank you, donut, who automatically pairs us and you know, a monthly cadence. And then you are just supposed to have a video chat with them about nothing work-related and it’s just a nice way to automate. Um, as you get bigger, you know, when I first started, I paired everybody, which was madness then.

Right. You know, I remember we hit like 50 people and I was like, I am wasting too much time pairing people up for them. I have other things to do. So luckily yeah. Solutions for that. And we still do it. And you know, people really love that and getting a chance to just meet everyone across the company. And then.

I also every month do something. I affectionately call, uh, our troop talks, which is probably a terrible name, but, you know, help scout or Scouts. So a troop talk, but yeah, exactly. Yeah. On brand. Uh, but I think of like a fun question or topic, you know, question starter ice breaker situation, and then everyone hops on zoom at, at a time we all kind of go around picking turns, answering whatever the question was.

So we had one yesterday. And it was about odd jobs or what’s your like weirdest past job that you had and everyone just takes, turns, you know, sharing. And it’s a way just to get to know people a little bit and to take a break from what you’re doing and see faces, which is really important in remote work.

You know, so much of work can just get lost in slack or just, you know, paper docs and collaborating without actually seeing someone’s face. So I’m always trying to think of ways to bring that human connection back to remote work.

Joe Howard: [00:11:07] I love all of that stuff. I find that with our remote team, finding ways to talk about things that are not work is difficult because it’s hard to, when you have a zoom call or a video call about a specific topic, you just sign in and you start talking about that topic.

And then when the meeting’s over, you kind of can close a window and not have a chance to have some of that, uh, brushing of shoulders and like getting to know people on a personal level, which ends up being really, really important to being able to work together and trust each other. And Katelyn has come into our company.

She’s our head of marketing and she, uh, She makes us do gratefuls at all our stand-ups. So every standup we’re saying something we’re grateful for that week. And that actually is really eye-opening to getting to learn about each other. You know, people are grateful about their families. People are grateful about the thing they did in church last week or with our church group.

I mean, you know, you really get to know people at a different level, which is super helpful. I’d love to even dive into a little bit more of those things, just cause I want to clarify things for myself also for listeners, but FICO was what you talked about is that FIC.

Leah Knobler: [00:12:03] F I K a.

Joe Howard: [00:12:07] Strike one F I K a. I thought it was. I think it’s very cool that I think a lot of people who are kind of leaders in their area of business, feel like I have to have all the ideas and I have to like, implement those ideas. And what you just said was, I want to repeat, because you said like one of our employees was Swedish and had this idea and now we use it and I think.

That happens a lot. And a lot of the job is not just having all these ideas and implementing them. It’s just, it’s listening and being open to new ideas and concepts. I thought that was really cool. Slack bot. I had to talk about slack bot. We use slack, but we’re like pretty shitty at it. And don’t use like cool slack stuff that we probably could use.

But, um, does the slack bot like randomly pair each other? Does do like, answer a few questions and then it pairs people like, how does that work?

Leah Knobler: [00:12:51] Which is the cutest name for a robot in slack. Um, and it’s all random. So if you assign it to pick a channel and then it just randomly pairs people in that channel, sometimes it’s not, you know, it’s just a machine.

So there have been moments where you get the same person again very soon, but these are the flaws, but it’s really helpful. And it’s, what’s nice is it’ll connect you and start a DM between you and that person and is like, Hey, you’re you, two are paired, you know, get a chance to. Sometime in the next four weeks and then it’ll follow up in another week or two and it says, Hey, have you had a chance to meet?

And so it’s amazing. I think to get a reminder, cause that’s half the problem is everyone wants to talk. It’s just, we’re all so busy. And so it’s like, Hey, and then it’ll say, did you have a chance to meet? And you hit yes or no. And so it’s pretty smart. And then every now like a month or so it sends me some stats, which I like too, because he can see how many conversations happened across the company.

And that’s always fun to see that people are really still doing it. Yeah, what’s cute. What’s cute too. And what’s become really cute in the FECA channel is after someone has a FICO, they usually take a screenshot of the, of the zoom and like they’re making like funny faces or doing something and then they share it in the channel to be like, you know, so-and-so and I just had a great FECA and I think it just also like encourages everybody to be like, oh, I want to do that and share a cute picture.

Joe Howard: [00:14:11] Yeah. I love that idea because I think a lot of motivation, I’m always thinking about ways to motivate my team and to not even in the traditional sense of like, I need to motivate them for them to perform better and like get our numbers up. But like, I feel like I just need to motivate. I like, I’m always looking to.

What’s the point of doing this. If we’re not performing at a high level, like, of course we want to like always do better and improve and see what else we can do and push our boundaries and outside of our comfort zone. And there seemed like to me, there’s kind of like two ways. Sometimes you can like kick people in the bud a little bit and there can be like a little bit of like, you know, we can do this better, but I like this idea of like, it’s almost like this FOMO way of like getting people to do something it’s like, if enough people send out funny video pictures, of course you’re going to be.

Hmm, I got to have this call because I need to send out a cool video or cool screenshot as well. So I dig that.

Leah Knobler: [00:14:59] It’s called peer pressure.

Joe Howard: [00:15:01] There you go. Oh yeah. That’s a lot. That’s what, that’s what that is. Peer pressure. I know that one.

Leah Knobler: [00:15:07] You know, it can be for positive.

Joe Howard: [00:15:09] Yeah, there you go. Peer pressure for good. Yeah. You some patented on that. Yeah, very cool. Nice. Uh, and I think we were talking a little bit before this call and you mentioned that you’re also helped with the hiring process and. What’s the, what’s the evolution of that been like, uh, kind of going from, I guess, 2,490, but just like in general, we have some hiring tarred.

I figured out it’s really not easy at all. And to find people who are, uh, not only a good fit for you for, for your company, culturally. Who are not like just really good at interviews, but are actually a good performers and, and are at like the right time to like really want to join your company and are going to have a high impact there.

And I mean, there’s just so many facts. That’s like three things I said, but I feel like there are a hundred. Um, what what’s, what’s your role in that? And, and, uh, Yeah, I guess.

Leah Knobler: [00:16:03] I, every time we kick off a hire, I’m always reminding everyone on the hiring team. I say they, one hiring is hard.

Hiring is hard. It’s hard. It’s a bunch of humans making decisions about other humans. And the data says we’re not really good at that. So, you know, first of all, I think. Well, I was very lucky. I came into, I inherited a process that was pretty well thought out. Actually, our CEO, Nick and my boss, Becca had started to really develop a pretty solid process.

And what’s so fun and interesting about our co you know, remote companies in general is you hire people you’ve never really met in person. Um, and that’s just, you know, something to think about, but so. What’s important to us is having a really standardized process each time, uh, just for consistency, you know, to reduce bias and each hire.

We also have people do a short take home project. And so, you know, each role that we open a candidate probably has, you know, three to four video chats with different people. And is that the, is that the first step I’m just trying to get like kind of a timeline of exactly how this works. What are. Yeah. All right.

I’m going to get real into the weeds and just tell it to you. So go for it. Let’s break it down. Actually wrote a whole blog post about this on our, our help scout blog as well. Right? Okay. Well, we’ll link it in the show notes when we’re done. So you’ll shoot. Make sure to shoot it to me so we can include it.

Awesome. So, you know, typically the process is the first step is what we call our value add screen. So a long time ago, this used to be called culture fit, but our culture screen, but a lot of the writing out there and best practices to move away from calling anything culture fit because you tend to then.

Think about it as like who’s hired, who can we hire? Who’s just like us and for most tech companies, that means you’re male and you’re white and help scout certainly had that problem also, but we can get to that later. So we changed it to value add. So it’s like, you know, we’re looking at what values does this person.

That we don’t already have, or that we need more of. And that first conversation is always with the hiring manager. And I think that’s fairly unique. Um, usually, yeah, a lot of, I think companies, they talked to just a recruiter or, you know, someone tangentially related to the role, but right, wait in the middle or, sorry.

Right in the beginning, hiring managers get to meet this person and sort of ask big picture questions about, you know, values, values, alignment. It doesn’t get too who into their skills. It’s just sort of getting that sense. Oh, yeah, like they’re, they have good examples to draw on to a lot of the, the preset questions we ask at this stage.

And if that goes well, then they have what we call the tech screen, where they do get into the technical goodness. Um, and it’s usually with someone else who would be on that team. Uh, you know, for example, if it’s an engineering role, another engineer on the team, and we’ve worked really hard over time now to make sure we’re not just asking quizzy computer science questions, but questions where they can demonstrate the skills they have and, and in their decision-making and, and what they know.

Um, And then if that goes well, uh, we have a logistics call with me, which we love to do at that stage because I personally hate it. When companies don’t talk about benefits or salary until right at the end, I think it’s not fair to the candidate. I think it’s messages that maybe you’re hiding something or that it’s.

You’re not comfortable talking about it. So we kind of move it up to the third conversation and we just get alignment. Um, I shared a little bit about how help scout does salary, which I think is still, probably fairly unique in that we have a transparent salary formula. We don’t, you know, we don’t share everyone’s salaries, but we do share the formula and there is a unique one for each team.

And it’s awesome. I think because it keeps us grounded and we’re not just pulling numbers out of a hat for some people and not others. You know, it’s been salary formulas. It definitely been like linked to, I think helping reduce the gender pay gap and all of these good things. So we talk salary, we talk timeline and go over the bed if it’s, and then I always like to ask some fun, you know, values, company, culture, questions like that, just to get another sense of, of who they are and what they’re motivated by.

And then it’s usually that goes, well, they have a take home project and I think that’s so important for remote. Roles, because I think just by nature of remote work, you have to be pretty solid at working independently and pretty experienced in what you do. Um, it’s just, you know, a little bit harder, I think, to.

You know, you’re just working with people across time zones and things might be a sink. So you just really have to be a self-starter and a pretty good project manager across the board. So the project helps us kind of get a deeper sense of their skills in that. And it’s, we always try to make them relevant.

So it’s not wasting their time. And we always now cap how much time we ask them to spend on this because. You know, people are already working. Probably they have families, they have kids, they have needs. Um, so we want to be as respectful as we can and not ask too much but enough so that we can get a sense of what they’re able to do and give them a taste of like, Hey, is this the work you’d want to do so I really see it as a two-way street.

And what we recently did. I love is we pay everyone for their time. So we ask them to keep track and then they invoice us and it’s nothing, you know, breaking the bank or anything, but it’s a gesture that we appreciate their time and energy. And I think that, I think that means a lot. And then. We’ll have other folks on that team.

Once we get, you know, projects back, uh, review them whenever possible, we try to remove any identifying information from the project so that the rest of the team, you know, doesn’t know who this project they’re reviewing because sometimes, you know, the project review or maybe was interviewing them. So again, a way to just reduce bias and try to, you know, have just at that point, the project.

Speak for itself and then they’ll give scores. And then we all, we get together and discuss the projects. And then we reveal whose project belong to whom. Um, and then, you know, the hiring team with the hiring manager and myself, we kind of look big picture now and it’s never just project alone. Um, and it’s like, who is.

The value that we need and who is bringing something that we were setting out to find. And also, you know, you just, who’s going to make us better. And also hopefully be a good addition to the team. And again, though, this is where I say hiring is hard and you can think you have all the knowledge and to reduce that risk and make a good hire.

And sometimes it doesn’t work out, but, you know, we try our best to. Look for certain things and certain signs that might predict it will work out. And we go from there, we make an offer and then we sell it.

Joe Howard: [00:22:52] Cool. Oh my God. This is excellent. I think 80% of people listening just hit the like fast forward 32nd button, like 10 times, because the end, if you haven’t, you probably should.

You need to write down this whole process. Uh, like I just did. I’ve got some nice notes here. How long does this whole process take from, uh, an application coming into an offer coming in?

Leah Knobler: [00:23:14] Uh, I will say it really varies and it varies role to role. Certain things are really, I think, harder to hire for than others.

We used to for awhile care about, you know, time to hire and metrics like that. And we wanted, you know, from posting the position to hiring somebody, like they say, the dream is around 30 ish days in a dream world. Yeah, absolutely. But I think over time I have pushed more than. It doesn’t it, it should, you know how long it takes, doesn’t matter as much as did we get a quality candidate?

Is this a great hire, you know, it’ll cost more to rush it and hire someone that maybe we didn’t feel as great about, but we’re trying to hurry. And if it doesn’t work out, we do it all again. That’s a lot of money and a lot of time. So I think everyone is bought into the value of. Being really deliberate and intentional and not rushing anything to make sure you’re pretty solid on who you’re bringing on board.

So, you know, a long answer to how, how long it takes, but ideally still though, you know, 30 to 40 days. Is is, is good.

Joe Howard: [00:24:16] Yeah, I dig it. And I think that’s really important what you said that, uh, if you, uh, rush the hiring process and you may hire someone faster, but they may not end up being a good fit. Um, you know, you spend 10 hours hiring someone.

Uh, they don’t ended up being a good fit. You know, you’re going to spend another 10, 20, 30 hours really, again, looking for the right. But if you spend 20 hours up front looking for the right person, not only will you not have to repeat that time, but you’ll have someone sooner, you’ll be able to go through that onboarding, which depending on the company, you know, could be a couple of weeks.

But I mean, honestly, I started WP offs. I still feel like I’m onboarding. So onboarding is, it’s kind of some somewhat never ending, but, uh, but yeah, to be able to have someone to be able to hit the ground running is important. And if, uh, if it’s a difference between someone who’s really, really a right fit and someone who.

You know, you’re kind of tossing a coin in the air that could make a big, yeah, absolutely. Yes. All right. There was something else I wanted to touch on here. Salary formula, transparent salary formula. Very cool. There are a lot of companies that are starting to do this now, help Scouts. One of them, I know buffer does something similar where they have a very transparent formula.

Again, we’ll link to the blog posts. Maybe you have that included in there, but. You said you feel like this and it has shown to kind of reduce things like, uh, the gender pay gap. Is that the kind of primary reason you started using it? Was it kind of something that, uh, that candidates seemed to like, was it just overall seemed to be a positive kind of net win for them?

Leah Knobler: [00:25:49] Uh, I think all of the above. Yeah. Uh, I, I think our co-founders, again, just in starting helps. Wanted transparency just to be a huge, you know, pillar of what we stood for. I think remote companies need to be really transparent, maybe more so. Well, no, all companies should be transparent. Yeah, exactly. In it remote company though, you just have to do it.

I think. Differently, right. Again, you don’t have this office wherever it’s coming to for some, all hands to learn something, you have to have a lot of shared public knowledge and resources that people can find whenever. So, you know, and just, we do regular town halls with our CEO. We do quarterly, all hands, everything is always recorded.

So it doesn’t matter what time zone you’re in. So yeah, just transparency matters. And to really put your, you know, your money where your mouth is, I think a transparent salary formula. Shows that you’re really committed to transparency. It means that you’ve put a lot of time and effort into thinking about how you value positions and then what growth career growth and what promotions and raises look like.

And. You know, I think then that it just boosts, I think company morale, because you know where you’re going, it’s not a mystery of like what your next raise might be. And it’s not a mystery of like, what’s the, you know, where could I end up or like, what’s realistic for me. And what’s great is we don’t have, you know, fixed once a year performance reviews.

We really believe in a culture of feedback, which I know is kind of buzzwordy, but, you know, everyone meets with their coach. Uh, which is what we call supervisors or managers you meet with your coach every week. And you’re always talking about performance and, and what level you are on the salary formula and how to get to the next level.

And that’s essentially what promotions are at help scout. We don’t, we’re not very big on titles, um, which is actually another, you know, hot button item. I think, as you get to be a bigger company is okay, maybe. It makes sense to have titles. Uh, we’re sort of still figuring that one out, but for us promotions and growth, you know, is rewarded by, with moving in our salary formula.

So it’s just, it’s a really useful tool. It’s a useful tool to keep things fair, to keep things transparent and to talk about it. Yeah. Progression and development.

Joe Howard: [00:28:12] Yeah. I mean, I really love everything I’m hearing. I think I’ve always wanted to run a very transparent company from, from day one. I think a lot of as being still a small company and someone’s still scrappy and just having a lot to do some of this stuff has gotten pushed off longer than I would have wanted to.

So like I wanted to do that. Something like this for a little while now, just haven’t quite gotten around to it. And there are other transparent things I’d like to do, but just kind of have not kind of found the time to like really dig into that and do it yet. But this conversation has motivated me. So people listening, maybe in the next few months here, you’ll see some changes here.

One, one question I did have was like, let’s just use me as an example of our company is example. We’ve got like 14, 15 people on the team. Now, the, what if I implemented this. This structure or this transparent pricing. Uh, and there are like a couple of people on the team who’s who come out of the formula and their salary decreases.

What, what do I do? What, well, we can, again use me as an example, but maybe there are people listening to go, wanna implement this too. And they’re thinking something similar. What’s the, what would you, what would you do in my shoes?

Leah Knobler: [00:29:18] That’s interesting. What would you do though is before, I mean, you wouldn’t make the salary formula in isolation without I think having all the data and you’re looking at it and saying, you know, these 14 people by roles and years of experience are getting paid this much.

And I think probably before you even would make the formula, you know, I would just cross track and assess that, you know, there isn’t any huge discrepancy for people doing the same role. You know, but getting paid drastically differently. And if yes, assessing, okay. Why was that decision made and what, what happened there?

And those are the things that I think really have to correct and be mindful for. But typically I think if you were to move to a transparent salary formula, I don’t think you’d have that issue. I also, I don’t, I personally wouldn’t feel comfortable, comfortable lowering anyone’s salary. I think it would be more all right.

Well, everyone is going to be brought up to speed up to, up to level. I know for us, we largely made, picked our, you know, salary numbers. Based on market rate data for Boston, as well as what is in line with our values. So it’s not just a loan, you know, we picked Boston market rate, you know, like the dream for us is we really want to get to like the 90th percentile of the Boston market rate, which is high.

And because we want to hire excellent people, you got to pay them excellently. That’s what I like to say. I’d say we’re, we’re close. You know, certainly compared to the bay area, we’re probably, you know,  Not as close, but I think a lot of the things they’re doing out there or out of control, so, you know, yeah.

So I don’t even want to talk about them actually, but yeah, it was something I do love and to speak to our values is we pay our customer support people probably better than any company pays their customers for people. We, and that’s because we value it. We see. The worth of great customer support people and that it also drives revenue for our business.

So, you know, and there’s some of the most technical people on our team. So trying to just, you know, Rewrite the norms about, you know, a lot of people, I think, oh, customer support, that’s entry-level and basic, and the lowest paid. And so we’re trying to flip that script because it’s not the way to look at it.

Joe Howard: [00:31:41] Yeah. And I totally agree with that. I think, um, I mean, support is really at the core of what we do. So doing great support is, is, is really important for us and not just great is even probably too low. Like we really need to provide excellent support, but we’ve totally find that providing great support.

Is in itself kind of at fuels, a lot of the sales and marketing. I mean, it reduces churn, which is huge for us. When people come to work with us, you know, may, if we provide great service, they’ll say that’s a great company. Like they do a great job. If we like provide outstanding support for people, they’re going to tell their friends, they’re going to tell moms they’re going to they’re there.

Uh, everybody. Um, and that’s what drives a little bit more. Uh, towards us. So I’m totally with you. I think, uh, putting a big focus on customer support, not just as an entry level position, but just as a, as one of the most important positions is important as the head boss position for me. Right. So, uh, I’m I’m with you on that.

Cool. Diversity and inclusion. This is a good one. We talked a little bit about, uh, using the, uh, Using that formula to do things like reduce the pay gender gap. Um, which I think as, I mean, it’s in my personal opinion that all businesses have a responsibility to continue to, to focus on that. And there’s also this, uh, I, you know, I think responsibility of not just.

Like you said, kind of recruiting white male technical people to do a job. I firmly believe that that more diverse team and studies have shown. I could point out a few studies, but a more diverse team is going to allow you to problem solve better. It’s going to allow you to do a lot more than just everyone in your company.

From the same background thinking the same way. Um, so how do you guys tackle making sure that you’re hiring from a kind of diverse set of.

Leah Knobler: [00:33:29] Let me take you on a journey and fast forward or rewind, actually.

Joe Howard: [00:33:35] The words I want to hear, I think before an answer, so.

Leah Knobler: [00:33:37] Perfect. The time was 2016, really. Um, and so as I said, you know, 24th person in, it was pretty easy to look at our, about us page and all our photos and say, oh, you know, without much guessing we’re pretty white and large, largely male.

And then as I got to know, you know, everyone I’m like, oh, our engineering team is also largely white and mostly male. And. This, you know, this is, this is diversity. Inclusion has been, you know, near and dear to my heart. For my whole life, you know, I think, you know, I was a psychology major in college. I was a New York city public school teacher right out of college.

Like I’ve just always cared about making sure people feel included can be their authentic selves. Yeah. And so I just started looking at our hiring and I was like, what’s happening here? And you know, there’s a lot of writing about this too, that often small tech companies, the first hires look a lot like the co founders and.

I looked at the RS and I was like, yep, check. That’s true. It’s really easy when you’re trying to just get yourself, your company off the ground and go, and you want to hire really quickly. And it’s often who, you know, and then you want to just go, go, go to just make the business work. It’s hard. I think, to be thoughtful and like, wait, let’s think about how we’re doing this right now.

You know, unfortunately that doesn’t seem to be the way co founders and CEOs are thinking, but I think that will start to change or is changing already. So we got ourselves into a lot of what they call, you know, diversity debt as I was, you know.

Joe Howard: [00:35:12] Diversity debt. I actually love that terminology. Cause you hear technical debt all the time.

I understand that concept. Diversity debt is not actually one I’ve heard of before, by like makes sense. Cool. You’re teaching me.

Leah Knobler: [00:35:23] Add the, at the sound effect of, you know, a little or, you know, So, yeah, we were in a hole. We were in a hole essentially. Like, and then it’s comes the longer you wait to really think about if your team is homogenous, the harder it is.

So I guess this is my advice. If you are a company of 10 or less people, congratulations now is the time to start thinking about this. You can make such a difference. So that’s and if you have questions, just email me. But here we were, you know, 24 people. And so I started looking at our most recent engineering hires and they were all white guys.

And so I was like, all right, how did this happen? And you kind of need to. Look through the stages of each hire. And I, you know, I already just said to our process and I realized, I was like, well, most of the project stage, usually we have, you know, anywhere from like four to eight people get to project stage almost every time all of them are guys.

So yeah, of course we’re not going to hire a woman if we’re not even getting women. To the project stage. And so then I went even earlier and I was like, okay, let’s just look at who applies. And it was really, you know, tedious work and you can’t officially know because they don’t check a box. Like I am a man or I’m a woman when they apply, but you can based on some assumptions, try to do some rough data calculations.

And if we just apply, you know, opened a role, let’s say a JavaScript engineer on our web. Posted it on a few places and just waited, you know, easily, we could get a hundred to 300 applicants. And then, so I went through everyone who applied and it, the number of women who applied it was like less than 2%.

So of course we’re never going to hire a woman that it’s like the chances of that are almost a miracle. Really. Absolutely. And so now that I had done all this, you know, sleuthing of the problem, I was like, okay, well, I know, and I’m reading and I’m seeing, there are lots of women and underrepresented minorities that exist in tech.

Why aren’t they coming to these jobs? All right. Right. Well, we’re just, you know, help. Scout’s not hugely known and a lot of them are already employed and perhaps happy where they are. Let’s see what other companies are doing about this. And that’s the beauty of the internet. I fell into a Googling hole.

Cool. And just read all these things about companies trying to diversify their engineering teams. And I stumbled across a blog post. I believe by the VP of engineering at Gusto, where they were talking about some pretty radical moves there, making time to work on this. And one of them was that they were dedicated to sourcing a hundred percent female and underrepresented groups only.

So anytime they were spent, you know, spent recruiting, they were only recruiting people from underrepresented groups. And I was like, huh, that, that is something. So that’s exactly what we need. Our problem is getting folks in the door and, and diversity hiring the candidate pool from the beginning. And it does doesn’t it doesn’t happen unless you are proactive.

So I kind of put together a plan based on Gustos efforts and some more things that I read and I presented it to our CEO and my boss. And I was like, listen, we have never really recruited at help scout. You know, we’re only 24 people. This is new for us. I wasn’t hired to be a recruiter, but I would like to add this to what I’m doing.

And I want to go out there and find great people to add to this team. And oh, by the way, I’m only going to reach out to women and underrepresented groups. And they were like, okay, luckily it wasn’t a hard sell. And I, you know, I showed them, I also showed them the data of like, what’s happening with our engineering hires as is.

And I was like, we’re never going to do it. It’s never going to get better. Like something needs to change. So it was, it was an easy thing to say, let’s try it. And luckily, you know, we, we were really experimental. It helps go to, so they were like, okay, go for it. And so as like, okay, I’m going to become a recruiter now, too.

Okay. The good news is, as I tell a lot of people, if you have empathy and you’re a good writer, you have a company you believe in, you have the makings of being an excellent recruiter. It’s not rocket science, you know, science it’s, it’s finding. And then again, there’s all the information you need on how to recruit is on the internet too.

So I did some, a lot of reading and self study and. You know, learned about Boolean searches and LinkedIn and all these fun tricks and things to find LinkedIn profiles and how to get their email addresses, which feels a little creepy. But, you know, I, I justify it by I’m like I’m reaching out, I’m being very polite and I have some really great news to share.

Joe Howard: [00:39:58] Yeah, totally. If you’re reaching out to market them, something is a little different than reaching out. I would like you to apply to this job.

Leah Knobler: [00:40:05] Exactly. And I think the real differentiator. Yeah. The message has to be human. It has to be real. And so I, you know, maybe you can kind of tell, I like to have fun. I can be silly and sarcastic.

And so I make them, the messages are just human and, and I linked to a lot of the blog posts I’ve written about our culture. And so I give them a taste of actually what it’s like to work here. And I pointed. How their background actually seems on paper at least to be a really good fit for what we’re looking for.

And here’s why. And so when you open a message and it’s from someone who’s actually talking to you like a human who’s, like taken in what you’ve done, and then is sharing you with you a job that’s relevant, that, that matters and leads to some pretty great reply rates. And I spoke pretty candidly in my outreach to folks.

I care about making help scout a diverse company and that everyone can bring their authentic selves to work. I started working folks responded, people were interested and I feel lucky, like help. Scout’s already a great product. And we were already, I think, a, a company with a strong culture and. It was evident.

So, you know, you have a strong bill of goods to sell. People are intrigued and interested. And so all of this effort targeted effort expanded our hiring pools, and then sure enough women, people of color were actually making it through the process. And these are excellent candidates. I think a lot of people at first too, are like, well, you’re lowering the bar, all those things that are actually horrible and, and really insulted.

Things to say, and I was able, you know, you disprove it easily. And we actually started, you know, after doing all this outreach from 2016 to then 2017, our engineering team went from 5% to 13% women. So in one year, That’s pretty big change is 13 is 13%. Good enough? No, but I think with, you know, diversity inclusion work, it’s, it’s moving pebbles to move the mountain.

You can’t move the mountain really in a day or in a year. So, you know, starting in 2016 at five, 5%, and now we just concluded our most recent demographic survey. We’re 23%. So again, now we have the story of you’re able to tell over time and I can point to the fact that yeah, it’s because this targeted recruiting works, it makes the difference.

And of course we, we hire the best person for the role. It’s not, we’re only hiring, you know, X, Y, Z, but you have to expand. The candidate pool to make this happen and it’s not going to happen by just the status quo.

Joe Howard: [00:42:44] Wow. Yeah. So much, so much good stuff in there, man. The question I have and I guess kind of how I want to start to wrap up is for people at small companies, maybe people are agency owners of small agencies, maybe some even freelancers out there who are even thinking about like bringing on some contractors who may turn into full-time people, but.

What kind of the small things, what small things can people do to start their, um, recruiting of, uh, of making sure that their team starts off diverse and doesn’t even get to the point of having this diversity debt, um, are there small things that, uh, that little companies can do, um, at the onset that, uh, maybe it will help them to actually be able to.

Find candidates from a diverse group backgrounds when they don’t have kind of resources that help scout my half, you know, three people on the team with all these ideas. Maybe they’re one person with like, you know, five hours a week to focus on doing more recruitment. What can we people do in five hours that’s small.

Leah Knobler: [00:43:42] I think if you’re a small company, you know, then have it start having those conversations. So much of it too is being mindful. Like if you don’t talk about it, it’s not going to happen. So. If you’re a 10 people or less, you know, I think you can look around then and figure out your demographic data.

And say, all right. I’ll 10 of us actually are guys. I think you need to start thinking about, okay, the next couple of hires, even more than we need to balance the ship and be intentional about that with each hire. So like talking about it and feeling comfortable talking about it, a lot of people get you here, inclusion, and I think it can turn a lot of emotions from people for different reasons.

The biggest fail would be just to ignore it because it might make you uncomfortable or it might be hard. I say lean into it. You’re only going to be a better company for doing it. So yeah, the talking about is so important. And then for us also, we started doing demographic surveys when we were, you know, around 20 people.

So it’s better to not assume everyone’s identity is. And instead, you know, even if you just have a Google form, There are really great examples of demographic surveys for free that you can copy that survey monkey has, and you can just make a Google form and send it to your company and, you know, make it optional, but ask that everyone fills it out and then you get data on who’s around you.

Who’s working for you. And it just is incredible data to have to know then what teams and what areas are more homogenous or actually where. Teams are actually pretty diverse or do we have an age-ism problem or, Hey, look, this is pretty awesome. Only the two of us actually have a bachelor’s degree. How interesting is that to demystify that you need all these, this education to be in tech, you know?

Oh, I didn’t realize we have two vets. Like just, you learn such interesting data and you don’t necessarily, you know, you don’t know who said what, but you’re able to just know. A bigger, you know, a more clear picture of this company that you care about and that you’re trying to support and keep engaged, knowing that help scout, we have, you know, 36% are parents in some capacity or caring for someone full-time.

Yeah, that’s really helpful information to know, like let’s really care about work-life balance we already do, but we also have a, you know, a good amount of people here who have their work doesn’t stop when they log off slack. And yeah, I dunno. So I would say pretty soon on do a demographic survey get a sense of who’s around you and then set goals and intentions based on that.

Joe Howard: [00:46:19] I think that is an excellent place to wrap up. I think that’s a really good point that you don’t know what you don’t know. So the first part about the first step towards solving a problem is knowing that there is a problem. Uh, and so being able to measure that and yeah, doing a demographic study does not take long, especially if you have two people, three people, you, you know, that’s pretty easy to.

And then, I mean, the other thing you said, which is something I think not everyone always thinks of, but it’s just like, you have to have that goal of like, where do you want to get to? And like you said, you guys went from, I think 5% to 13% female representation on the, on the engineering team. 13% is not where you want it to be, but to go from 5% to 13% in one year, Is moving in that right direction at that point, it just takes time to, to get there.

And now after multiple years of that, you’re up even more so maybe eventually to 50% and beyond. So yeah, exactly. Fingers crossed cool layer. This is awesome to have you on. I learned a ton. Either we have to have you back on, or we do webinars at WP boss. I think people would get a total kick out of having you do a webinar all around HR and remote, uh, remote hiring and all that stuff.

So we’ll talk afterwards about that. I think that’d be dope.

Leah Knobler: [00:47:28] Awesome.

Joe Howard: [00:47:30] Yes. All right. Uh, wrap up. Uh, last thing I always ask, well, two last things, I guess first, the first of the last things is where can people find you online? Maybe some social stuff, if you’re doing that or websites or et cetera, all that.

Leah Knobler: [00:47:47] Yeah. I love Twitter. So I’m close to my thousand followers. So if it, if it comes from the show, Thank you, but Leah is nobler hard to remember. Follow me on Twitter. Feel free to send the LinkedIn requests. Yeah, those are the main.

Joe Howard: [00:48:03] Cool. I’m going to hover over and stock your Twitter profile to wait until you’re at 999.

And then I’m going to make sure that I’m the thousandth. So sorry. I can’t get cool. And people can go to help scout. Calm, if they want to learn more about help scout, I think kind of previously known as kind of help desk software to help you with your support team. But it looks like you guys are kind of growing into even more than that.

Um, kind of becoming a more all in one solution for talking with customers. So if you’re interested in doing some more with that, feel free to check out, help scout. They do some great work over. And they have a very big focus on making sure their team is diverse and hiring great people. And they did. I mention they have a very transparent pay structure and all this amazing stuff.

If you didn’t know that, then I guess you fast forwarded through the episode, but cool. Then later, last thing I always have our guests ask our listeners for a little five-star iTunes review. So if you. Giving them a little ask. I would appreciate it.

Leah Knobler: [00:49:05] Right now. Ask him.

Joe Howard: [00:49:06] Right at this very moment.

Leah Knobler: [00:49:09] Please. And especially because of this episode, five star review.

Joe Howard: [00:49:15] Yes. And in your comments, please tell us something you learned about this episode. Make sure you give, lay a shout out that way. We can send her a little screenshot and say, Hey, look at this. Someone gave us a little review and there was. I’m a give our own podcast and awesome review for this episode.

Cause I totally learned a ton. Yes. All right. If you have any other questions for the show, feel free to email us in@yoatwpmrr.com. I do personally, man. Inbox. And I’ll get back to you, you know, like within some time, maybe not like today, but like, you know, pretty soon if you’re a new listener, we have a ton of episodes.

You have hundreds of hours of content and you already binge Netflix and you’re all game of Thrones is over now. So I guess if you haven’t watched it, you can go back and binge that, but you shouldn’t, you should go and binge something. That’s gonna be helpful for growing your business. Go through back through some old episodes.

You don’t have to listen to all of them, but choose a few that you’re like, oh, this really applies to me right now. WP MRR. We have a whole video, of course, around helping people implement ongoing and recurring revenue into their business by selling these ongoing care plants like we do at WP bus, pretty much open source that whole business and gave it to you in a nice video course.

So if you’re interested in doing. Feel free to check it out and make sure you grab that 30% discount on the website. That is all for this week. We’ll catch y’all next Tuesday late. Thanks again. It’s been real.

Leah Knobler: [00:50:38] Yay.

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