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Matt Hanford

Snapshot: Matt Handford, global SVP of people, Hootsuite

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In this exclusive with Human Resources, Matt Handford, global SVP of people, Hootsuite, shares the people initiatives behind the firm and its successes.


What is Hootsuite’s vision for business growth and how are your people initiatives addressing that?

Hootsuite is poised for significant growth. We’ve grown from 70 staff in 2012 to 1,000 in 2017 and are continuing to expand and build across the world.

The human capital agenda or people strategy is very specifically fuelling the direction of the organisation – whether that is innovation, product development or the way the sales teams operate.

We are building a learning community, which is the big idea behind our people strategy. With this programme, we’re taking all the attributes of talented, Millennial generation digital natives and trying to capitalise on it in a way that helps them progress quickly.

What would typically take seven to eight months, we made happen in five months. It is a viral and participative workforce model that is aimed to fuel people’s desire to learn and progress. It’s going to attract the most diverse and inclusive environment globally and helps to differentiate us from the pack.

The People Movement programme is now a part of our KPIs and is helping to quickly and aggressively move people around and help them gain different learning experiences. At Hootsuite, the goal is to move 20% of our workforce through different lateral, promotive positions or temporary ones, and we’re seeing tremendous success in many markets, especially in Asia Pacific.

We are building a learning community, which is the big idea behind our people strategy.

What are some of the top workforce campaigns Hootsuite has implemented recently?

The work we’re currently doing is around the relaunch of our employment brand. We’ve built a very strong culture and employment brand early in our start-up stage, but now Hootsuite’s at a point where it is larger and we need to be more aligned to that.

As part of this, we’ve launched a programme called “Stretch”, which is an opportunity for individuals to change their career direction, volunteer in another department or take on temporary assignments on top of daily work where they’re given room to take on something else. It has been incredibly well received.

The other initiative I’d love to talk about is “Hootsuite Life Champions”, which comprises 25 people within the organisation who have volunteered to build curated content for us. It’s all about showcasing internal experiences that are aligned with our new employment brand.

We’ve also recently launched an employee assistance programme (EAP) that is available globally to Hootsuite employees and enables them to reach out to a third party discreetly about any personal or professional issues they are facing. By connecting employees to third-parties outside the organisation, the goal is for the EAP to support talent.

Can you highlight some of the successes and results of these campaigns?

Yes, definitely! In Asia Pacific, as part of our People Movement programme, we’ve successfully managed to move 20% of our staff to new roles, across departments. The other success we’re having is around our leadership education programme, where we bring in experts to help us increase the velocity of learning for people managers and people leaders, as well as engagement and the quality of leaders. We’ve been testing this on three different cohorts this year and are loving the results. We’re going to try and figure out a way to scale that across the organisation.

Finally, I’m also immensely happy with our hackathon initiatives – from which we’ve actually seen new product ideas emerge. One that stands out is “the random coffee generator”, which basically lets people sign up and then randomly pairs them with someone else within the organisation. The idea has gone viral within Hootsuite and is really helping to foster a strong culture.

Don’t take your people or what they want from their jobs for granted. 

What are some of the other initiatives expected to be announced soon?

The one that we’re currently testing and planning on launching is called “leadership forums”, which comprises forums of top talent or emerging leaders that build a cross functional group. They’re all at very similar levels. Hootsuite then brings in external professional facilitators who create real curriculums of learning that are taught over a 12-month period. The issues they address are wide, but also specific to teams.

The idea is to create a sophisticated learning model, but one that is sensible, logical and team-oriented that you typically won’t have access to until you reach a certain level of seniority. I think that’s a very different approach to doing an introductory leadership training course, where a first-time leader is moving a level up.

What’s your advice to organisations when it comes to developing their talent and workforce?

Don’t take your people or what they want from their jobs for granted. I think the success of the Stretch programme shows that people want non-linear careers. It’s important to move away from the old, traditional ways of thinking when it comes to building HR initiatives and workforce campaigns. There’s a lot of learning experiences that you can create and a lot of learning structures that are extremely effective, which don’t necessarily look like classroom training.

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