How a prairie InsurTech more than doubled its team during the pandemicGrowth & Scaling
At a glance...
- Nude Solutions, an insurance SaaS company in Alberta, more than doubled their headcount from 29 to 62 people during 2020
- They ensured their talent growth kept pace with their business growth by adopting talent management best practices
- The founding team invested in a dedicated people function to ensure they had the processes in place to streamline administrative HR activities, so they could focus their energy on people and culture
- Before hiring new employees, Nude clearly articulated the company’s values, so they could identify candidates who were the right fit and would enhance the company’s culture
- Business unit level leaders, such as the CTO, focused on creating an environment where employees would want to work by providing the tools and challenges their ideal candidates would want
In the early days of Nude Solutions, an insurance SaaS company based in Alberta, there were only 7 employees. This grew to 29 in 2019 and then more than doubled to 62 by the end of 2020. As a company operating in an industry poised for transformation, they needed the talent to keep up with their growing workload.
In the beginning, Nude Solutions adopted a “get it done” approach to recruitment. The founding team purchased an expensive LinkedIn Recruiter subscription and began reaching out to software developers. As the business grew, this ad hoc approach to talent management wouldn’t cut it, so they focused on developing key strategies to successfully scale their teams.
Creating a People function so they could focus on protecting the culture
Oftentimes, early-stage founders neglect activities like formulating a talent management strategy or putting People processes in place. While this saves time in the short term, it causes strain when the company’s talent can’t keep up with its business growth.
“At an executive level, we’ve always been culture forward,” says Dustin Carl, CTO at Nude Solutions and founding team member. “When there are 10 people, it’s easy to generate a culture by just being that culture. It’s much, much harder at 60.”
Understanding the importance of a strong talent strategy, Nude Solutions hired a People and Culture Manager. The goal was to put more processes in place, so Nude would spend less time focusing on manual, repeatable tasks and more time protecting and evolving the culture.
“My main focus when I started was actually making sure that we had some processes in place so that we could put a focus back into the culture,” says Justine Bartel, People and Culture Champion at Nude Solutions. “We got out of Excel spreadsheets and documents, and onto platforms so that we could have our team self manage and be more empowered to get what they need. We focused on figuring out what the team valued and what was important to them.”
Hiring mindfully and clearly communicating the company’s values to candidates
Just because you can hire someone, doesn’t mean you should. As a people-first organization, Nude kept this in mind when building its team, despite the start-up temptation to get butts in seats as quickly as possible.
“During our hiring process, we make sure that we bring on the right people who have the same goals,” explains Bartel. “They don’t necessarily have to have the same perspectives, because we do want a diverse group of people. But we make sure that people have the same goal to make the insurance world a better space. It’s a good way to scale the culture.”
“You can't force culture,” adds Carl. “It doesn't matter if you say you want to be a people-first organization. If you hire people that aren't people first, it's not going to happen, especially in leadership positions.”
Establishing a formal onboarding process to set new hires up for success
Retention is the under-appreciated flip side of the recruitment coin. Attracting more talent isn’t worth much if you lose it as fast as you find it. While Nude Solutions had a handle on managing culture, it had to work on developing scalable, repeatable processes for other key talent management activities as its business grew.
“In the early days, our onboarding was, “Here's a laptop. Have fun!””, recalls Carl. “It was a half-day meeting with our Director of Development. Now we have an actual process for onboarding, and the pre-hire activities are dialled in.”
Over time, they’ve consciously developed their onboarding process to go beyond rushed meet and greets. Today, their process focuses on getting new hires excited for their journey at Nude and streamlining boring administrative tasks like filling out tax forms, so they don’t dominate an employee’s first few days.
A company-wide email introduces the new member. An experienced employee serves as the new hire’s guide to the company. Plus, a team lunch gives new hires a chance to socialize with their new colleagues. In a pre-pandemic world, a tour was part of the package, but that’s since been replaced by virtual tours. Bartel promises that eventually everyone will get a mass tour.
Deliberately cultivating a place where people want to work
Perhaps the most impactful activity has been crafting an environment where people want to work and build their careers. On the engineering side, Carl says this has been one of the most effective ways to recruit developers.
“I think the most important way to attract good engineering talent is to have a good engineering culture,” explains Carl. “We make sure our developers know that they’re engineers and that we want them to be engineers, not code monkeys. We use a brand new tech stack. Everything is up to date. There’s no legacy code, which is a huge bonus. That goes a long way in attracting tech talent – having a tech-forward culture and a tech-forward organization. I’m a software developer by trade. If I wouldn’t want to work here, why would anyone else?”
Overall, the company uses its employees to continuously improve and enrich its culture.
“Many of our people programs and engagement initiatives are based on the feedback our team gives us,” says Bartel. “Our team is very vocal and very transparent and we are the same way back with them. This allows us to have a culture where people are excited to share and excited to enhance the company.”