To hire a team for your coworking space can be tough. And to hire a great team can be even harder! Team expansion is in most cases a consequence of expanding your coworking business. It often happens simultaneously with creating new operational processes.
You might wonder what makes the hiring process successful, or how to build efficiently performing teams, or what are the most important roles to hire when expanding. We reached out for advice to Iris Kavanagh, an industry expert with years of experience in hiring for coworking spaces. Below you can find a recap of our video conversation (and a link to access the video recording).
Iris Kavanagh works with shared workspace organizations to streamline operations and develop dynamic communities. She fell in love with coworking when, as a member of NextSpace Santa Cruz in 2009, she recognized the power of real, in-person community, and quickly started thinking of ways to change the world through the coworking model.
Iris led the NextSpace team during initial expansion from 1 location to 9 and co-founded various industry groups, produced Freelance Camps, and has spoken at various industry conferences.
When asked on the hiring essentials, Iris shares that in today’s labour market you should give yourself at least 3 to 8 weeks to hire and fill a position – it might take a while to source a good candidate and to have that candidate become available to join your team.
It’s always good to know how your process goes – e.g. how many interviews do you conduct, what types of questions do you ask, what steps do you follow. The process that Iris follows includes the following steps:
The job description is very dry and business-oriented, but its goal is to give a clear representation of the position, along with its responsibilities and who the person will report to.
It aims to convey the culture and values of your company and make the candidate want the job
A cover letter and a few additional questions are included along with the detailed description of skills and main responsibilities. That’s a good way to filter candidates and to see if they’re detail-oriented and can follow instructions.
Putting in the ad the salary range you’re ready to offer is recommendable, as it might be a waste of time for both parties to go through the whole process to eventually find out that you are not on the same page.
Knowing where to post your ad is important in order to get the best reach. Websites like www.jobscore.com allow you to organize all your candidates in one place, along with your correspondence, and all your notes.
Iris goes for 4 or 5 interviews, starting with a phone call, followed by a few in-person meetings (this number might depend on the brand, the culture, and the size of the team).
The process always ends with a trial day at the space as it allows seeing the person in action. It also gives the candidate a better understanding of the job and the responsibilities.
Also, some people might have not been that good in the initial interview (because of feeling nervous, for example), but when they enter the space on their trial day, they just shine and convince you they’re the right person.
During those trial days, Iris gives the candidate various tasks to see how they’ll approach them and what’s their mindset and also find out if they’ll be getting along well.
*find out what tasks Iris gives to candidates in the video at the end of this blog post 🙂
Especially in the US, this is super important legally-wise, because it gives equal chances to all candidates. On the other hand, asking the same questions is beneficial for you, because it allows you to make an accurate comparison between applicants.
Asking questions to see if the candidate has done research about the company or the industry might help you figure out if they’re a good fit. If they’ve invested efforts, it shows that they care, and are willing to take the initiative and want to learn more, which is always a good sign.
In addition, hiring people who are passionate about the coworking movement is valuable – ‘It’s not about my space, but about coworking as a movement. I want to hire people that are passionate about that.’, Iris shares.
To wrap up the process, Iris gives the following 5 pieces of advice:
A good mixture of both professional and personal skills is a must.
Candidates with the right combination between hard skills and soft skills create a match between their skillset, and the company needs – the so-called value proposition.
As for personality skills – people who are happy, curious, intuitive and diligent make a good fit for coworking spaces. Time-management and problem-solving skills are also wanted.
Operational roles require people who are big-picture thinkers with an eye for the detail. They should also be highly organized, able to methodically perform tasks while also possessing people skills.
Community people should be highly engaging. They would be also warm and welcoming, but with the ability to set boundaries. They should be able to lead through inspiration and know how to communicate in both pleasant and uncomfortable situations.
Of course, it’s important to have crossover skills, so there’s always someone who knows how to run the space if someone else is sick, or on vacation.
The reason why culture fit matters, is because your community has its own culture, which is most often determined by the inner culture or the vibe of the team itself.
To find a good culture fit, you need to know yourself first:
Once you answer those questions, you’ll know the type of people you want to attract to your team.
With the nature of a scaling business and a growing team, it would be beneficial for you to invest in developing an internal methodology.
First and foremost, make sure your onboarding and HR processes are smooth. People should know when they get paid, what’s their schedule, what additional benefits they receive, how to apply for vacation.
Set expectations around who’s responsible to whom and for what. Make sure those expectations are set right from the beginning and you have them clearly defined
Ensure that you train everybody on the team and you have consistency in that. Whether it’s a particular person who makes the training, or you’re following the same training manual, make sure that everybody is given the exact same information.
Keep regular communication with each member of the team. Iris recommends having short 1on1 meetings (10-15 minutes) on a weekly or bi-weekly basis with each employee, so you know what’s going on with the team.
Ensure each member is empowered to do what they’re good at. When you see a special skill that someone has, you’d want to boost that and develop it, so give them the chance to practice their skill with the job they do and encourage them.
Have a regular review process. An evaluation will help you and your employee keep the right direction. A good period for review meetups is on every 3 to 6 months.
Give people enough time to learn. It might take up to 6 months for a new employee to get the level of mastery in most of the functions of their job. Let the person know that you don’t expect them to know all those things right away but you do expect them to continually advance and build on their knowledge.
Document your processes. Have some kind of guidelines which determine what steps to follow in specific situations, or who to ask for what, or which communication platform to use in which instance. Having that defined allow your team to run more efficiently.
Consider hiring additional team members to take care of memberships, administrative tasks or events, especially if you do plenty of events and they are a significant revenue stream for you.
According to Iris, once you start expanding, a finance person becomes a must. If there’s not enough work for a dedicated full-time person, think about hiring a part-time specialist to take down part of the operational workload.
The more you expand, and the more your team grows, the more you would face the need for someone to manage HR. Considering all roles and procedures, think of what processes you need to handle internally, and what you can outsource.
We know how busy and hard working coworking roles might be and people constantly talk about burnouts. It’s essential to take good care of your team and make them feel good at work.
“Tell your employees constantly how much you appreciate them and that without them you wouldn’t have a successful business. Because that’s the truth at the end of the day.”.
If your teammates worked until late because of an event, give them the next morning off, for example. Encourage them to use their vacation time.
Model good self-care as well. By being a good example, you’d encourage your team members to do the same.
It’s important to make people feel that they belong.
“Allow their personal lives to be part of their work. If they have a dog, let them bring their dog to work. Make sure that the company is welcoming to family members of your staff. Encourage your team to build connections with the community. At the end of the day, that’s what the coworking business is about.“
Provide coaching and self-development opportunities. Develop not only their professional skills but support them in their personal interests and hobbies – hobbies have a positive impact on the person’s productivity and also develop their personality.
Help them manage expectations about their to-do list.
“Honestly, your to-do list in coworking is never going to be cleared. I came into this industry expecting to have my to-do list cleared at the end of the day, and it made me hugely anxious to leave work every day and I had to learn how to manage that expectation for myself.”, shares Iris.
Let your people know you don’t expect them to have all tasks done, but to prioritize and learn, and adapt.
As we promised, here’s a link to access the video recording from our webinar ‘Hiring & Building Teams for Scaling Coworking Spaces’ with Iris Kavanagh.
P.S. If you want to share with us any ideas on topics you’d like to read more about, drop us a line at [email protected], we’d love to hear your thoughts!
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