Because we like to do things a little differently
Original art by Guss Navarro
At Seven Seven Six, we’re committed to innovating everything from products to processes. We share our learnings—and what we’d do differently—in the hopes of pushing tech and VC forward as industries. So, with that in mind, here’s what we’re doing with our Talent function.
To start, you may have noticed we’re calling this function Talent Outcomes. We’ve chosen the word “outcomes” to reflect the impact of our work and the accountability we’ll share in the results of these efforts. This function will sit directly next to – and work in tandem with – the Founder Outcomes Team, led by my colleague Cristina Georgoulakis. Together, these two areas of focus will ensure our portfolio companies are values and goal aligned, producing the greatest possible returns and building the future of tech.
In a traditional venture firm, the Talent team is responsible for making introductions to (or even placing candidates at) their portfolio companies. It is hyper-focused on talent attraction and helping their portfolio companies recruit. While this may feel like it solves an immediate pain point, this only represents one very small part of a founder’s real challenge. Getting them in the door is one thing. Creating an environment where they want to stay and a company they want to grow with is another.
Whether the candidate happens to work out or not—it can go either way—filling that role is just one part of cultivating talent. Issues such as building compensation strategy, a performance management program grounded in clear expectations and consistent feedback, building a diversity and inclusion roadmap to drive employee engagement, or working through organizational design and culture challenges are far more impactful in making sure an employee stays. One qualified lead for a key role, enticing as that may seem in the moment, will not enable a company to effectively recruit or retain talent into the future.
We believe that teaching our founders and their leaders how to recruit top talent is far more valuable than helping to fill a handful of open roles. Directly staffing roles for our portfolio companies can’t and won’t scale. Access to our network of over tens of thousands of people through Cerebro (our firm’s proprietary software) will. A direct introduction tool eases top of funnel candidate congestion. The depth of experience in our Talent Outcomes function will give the founders the tools and strategies they need to build a recruiting and retention strategy that scales. This combination of software, coaching, training, and closing will ensure our founders get their key roles filled quickly and effectively.
In addition to coaching and network access, we feel strongly that a company’s biggest competitive advantage is culture. Developing, retaining, and rewarding talent is all a part of our Talent Outcomes strategy and programming. We have no business (or interest) in trying to be executive recruiters to hundreds of portfolio companies. Instead, we’re placing our resources into learning, development, and software to help our founders build sustainable, scalable, and holistic people & culture practices.
The Talent Outcomes Playbook
Our founders will engage with the Talent Outcomes team in a variety of ways:
1:1 Coaching: This is for those “oh s*#!, red alert” moments where our founders need immediate support, guidance and coaching. It might not always be that urgent, but when the founder needs strategic advice from a people & culture perspective, we will be there to guide them.
1:1 Workshops: This is for when our founders need to solve a more complicated problem that will take us a lot of time, headspace, and energy. From building a competitive compensation & job architecture strategy, to revamping recruiting and interview processes, to building a diversity and inclusion roadmap, our Talent Outcomes team is equipped with the tools and experience to go deep with our founders and early teams to help solve their most pressing people & culture problems with precision.
1 to Many: To help us scale our impact, we will build and share resources and best practices to give our founders the on-demand support they need to build talent-dense teams and world class cultures. We will partner with industry experts to bring to live trainings, workshops and the like to help upskill our founders.
Technology: Everything above requires a human with EQ and lived experience. But sometimes, technology can be even more efficient and effective than humans. As we continue to build Cerebro, our firm’s internal operating system, we will develop a world class talent network that will help our founders make connections with other founders, investors, and the best talent on the market for their teams.
The reality is, we’re still a very small team and there is no way that I can do this by myself. We already have well over 50 portfolio companies, 100+ founders, and just one me. The Talent Outcomes team will need to grow as we continue to raise more capital, onboard new portfolio companies and founders, and continue to iterate on how we can scale our support with technology.
As we look into the future, the most critical need we will hire for is someone with deep Talent Acquisition experience. A leader in this space who has done the heavy lifting, helping organizations scale from 0 → 1 → many, that has built and scaled recruiting operations, and has an innate ability to coach senior leaders on how to build diverse, talent dense teams. If that sounds like you, keep your ears and eyes peeled for an open job application soon!
As we like to say here at the firm: we’re just at the starting line. I am grateful to be on this team, doing the work I know and love so very much. I can’t wait to share our progress and learnings with you all as we continue to build this function!
Because LinkedIn doesn’t tell the whole story
Original art by Guss Navarro
Hi, y’all. Chris here, writing from a space of immense gratitude for the opportunity to lead and build the Talent Outcomes function at Seven Seven Six.
I can’t wait to tell you all about what we are building and how we are thinking about approaching things differently on the Talent front, but I thought it would be appropriate to share a bit about myself first. In true Seven Seven Six fashion, I’ll let my LinkedIn page give you my resume rundown and take this space to share my story instead.
My Love Affair with All Things People & Culture
For those who truly know me, there’s no wonder as to why I fell in love with the people function. My upbringing and my identity have shaped my perspective and guided me through my career. These formative experiences sparked the drive to build thoughtful, inclusive, and thriving workplace cultures.
I am the byproduct of a low-middle income, split family from upstate New York. Both my mother and father are Licensed Clinical Social Workers. My dad is a practicing therapist and my mom is a care coordinator for adults with disabilities. Very early on, they instilled in me and my siblings that our success should be measured by the lives we touch, not the money we make or the status of our job. They taught me how to be in tune with my emotions, how to understand people and their motivations, the value of a strong work ethic, and that everyone has something special to offer this world.
In college, I studied international business with a minor in economics and Russian studies – the latter perhaps being a little less practical – but I was always fascinated by the world of business; the way it is ever-evolving, deeply strategic, and curiously dynamic. Outside of the classroom, I ran track to exhaust my energy and exercise my competitive nature. But, as a gay man who was coming to terms with his identity, I struggled to find my sense of belonging and true community.
It is this combination of experiences that have been woven into my career over time, giving me a deeper purpose in all that I do. My life’s work is to ensure that people feel engaged, inspired, safe, and included in their workplaces, and to help organizations achieve success through their people strategy and practices. I have spent the last decade of my career directly impacting the lives of people, giving them the tools to thrive at work and enabling greater results through people optimization. I have helped to build several successful organizations, all while keeping the human experience as the primary focus. Now, I am ready to scale my work, supporting the 776 portfolio companies as they build world-class organizations.
I didn’t set out to be an “HR Guy”, but I have to say – it feels pretty right to me.
New Role, New Function
And so our work together begins! I can’t wait to share with you how we’re thinking about Talent at the firm and why this function is going to have a massive impact on the success of our investments. Until then, be well and follow me on Twitter for a peek behind-the-scenes of 776 and pictures of the best cat in the world – Apollo!
An experiment in recruiting a team that knows a thing or two about recruiting
Original art by Guss Navarro
If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times: people and culture are at the heart of everything we do here at Seven Seven Six. From our founders and their teams, our investors and the communities they support, to this first generation of firm employees, nothing is more important than the humans dedicated to making change in this world.
Closing our second core fund in late 2021 enabled us to bring our vision for the 776 Talent Outcomes team into reality. While it’s still in early days, we’re excited to share more about what this budding team has been working on, takeaways from our recruiting experiment this last spring, and what’s on deck.
What is Talent Outcomes?
The Talent Outcomes team is a critical function that supports our portfolio companies with human resources, talent acquisition, DEIB efforts, and culture development strategy.
We track every single incoming ask from our founders through our operating software Cerebro. What’s at the top of that list? You’ve guessed it: People & Culture requests. Through this data, we quickly understood it was imperative we establish a team to help founders build thriving, sustainable, and inclusive organizations. And it’s through our decades of experience as operators that we know we can do this work more effectively and efficiently than anyone else.
We’re committed to pushing our industry forward, and how we think about Talent in Venture is no exception. Follow us on LinkedIn and Twitter for more on our perspective soon.
Recruiting for the Talent Outcomes Team
Back in April, we decided to run a recruiting experiment. We were inspired by questions we’d heard several times from our early-stage founders seeking help with their talent needs:
- How do I recruit for a role when I’m open to the level or years of experience a candidate may have?
- What if I want to hire a few people for a newly formed team? It’s basically the same job description, right?
- I found more than one candidate that I love during the interview process and I think they’d work well together. Can I hire more than one person?
Being curious ourselves as to how startup hiring may play out in this new work era, we decided to try something different: instead of posting individual job requisitions for each potential role on the Talent Outcomes team, we decided to post a general application. Because this was a new function at the firm with many configuration possibilities, we chose to cast the widest possible net. We were curious what would happen when we intentionally broke our best practice.
That said, there were core pillars we wanted to maintain as a part of our recruiting process:
- Open. Publicly posting job requisitions in VC is still incredibly rare. Because we believe that the best way to maximize returns is to have a diverse team with a wide variety of perspectives and experiences, we continue to host open applications for every role.
- Inclusive. We’ve been building high-performing, diverse teams for well over a decade. When it comes to inclusion, we know that language and clarity of the role matter. With every job posting to date, we clearly state what the role is and what the role is not. In this wide-net approach, we adjusted to reflect what the function is and is not. As always, we encouraged interested candidates to apply, even if they felt they didn’t meet all the requirements.
- Useful. Striving for the win-win-win scenario, we craft every job application with care. We want applicants to learn something about themselves and find clarity in their own journeys through our process. Every task or question needed to serve as an opening for personal growth. Anything we ask of an applicant is meant to be something they could use as an exercise in self-reflection or in building their personal brand.
- Cloaked. We developed a process during our Operator-in-Residence application evaluation that helped us to view candidates’ initial responses without their name, title, or pedigree associated. Just the raw responses to the open-ended prompts in the application. We very genuinely don’t care about resumes, where people went to school (or even if they did), or who they know. We wanted to maintain this practice in this application process, as well.
So, we posted the role with open minds, hoping to gain new insights. We received over 250 applications and began our assessment process. As with all things we try here at Seven Seven Six, we are choosing to share those learnings here, in hopes that you all can find some sort of value in your own work.
We must admit, shifting our recruiting approach provided more challenges and learnings than we had expected.
Where we could have done better:
- Having so many different types of applicants with a wide range of levels and areas of expertise made it incredibly difficult for us to prioritize and evaluate what we were actually hiring for. The hope was that reading through a variety of applications would provide clarity on what we were looking for in this early team development. The reality is that it offered more confusion, demonstrating the obvious need for individual job postings that clearly articulate the role, approximate level, specific skill sets needed, and – yes – compensation.
- We overestimated the time savings we thought we’d earn back by having one application for multiple roles. We took much longer than we had planned to evaluate the applications, turn around feedback, and invite candidates to interview with the team. The result is that it took us double the time and we only hired one person, creating the need to go back to the market and start a new process from scratch to grow the team further.
- We still need to work on broadening our amplification channels for posting jobs. When it came down to our top applicant pool, we discovered that many candidates were within our first degree networks. Speaking personally, this particular job posting was certain to host many familiar faces; People & Culture is my strongest community. As the hiring manager, I was genuinely surprised to see the names of the finalists once they were revealed. The list included former managers, mentors, friends, coaches, former colleagues – heck, even my aunt made the first round cut, unbeknownst to me. I was torn when I saw these results: happy to have so many talented people in my life that wanted to work at our firm, but also frustrated that we didn’t reach more people. There must be more than a handful of HR professionals I don’t know (yet)!
What we committed to:
We also want to call out the things that were really, really hard but worth the effort. We were challenged at times and debated wavering. We’re glad we didn’t.
- We rejected referrals. We continue to simply offer our careers website to apply and leave it at that.
- We didn’t second-guess our process. This was an experimental job posting and application process. Much as we may have wanted to shift course midway through, it was important to understand all of the learnings on the backend so that we could ultimately better support our founders.
For all of our failures and learnings in this process, we’re very proud of our results.
- We maintained our early—and now best!—practices. By keeping open applications, writing inclusive and clear job descriptions, seeking to provide utility in each process, and hiding personal identifiers in the initial evaluation, we were reminded of why challenging status quo hiring practices is something we love. We continue to find joy in getting to know our candidates in this way and are rapidly growing our networks of incredible, capable humans. These commitments take time and energy, investments we’ll continue to make.
- We decided to start with a leader. After much hemming and hawing, we finally made the realization that we needed a true industry leader with deep People & Culture expertise to help us build the roadmap for this team. Building the team haphazardly without a vision wouldn’t set anyone up for success. Once we made this distinction, we reread all of the applications and were able to quickly pull out the candidates that we wanted to learn more about.
Meet Our New Talent Outcomes Leader
With all of that, we’re excited to share that we have found someone phenomenal to lead this team. Our new Talent Outcomes Partner is Chris Vanzetta. Chris has built an incredible career leading HR & Talent teams for over a decade at companies like Target and Reddit. He knows firsthand the challenges of building young organizations from inception through hyper-growth.
We cannot wait for you all to meet him, hear more about his vision for Talent Outcomes at Seven Seven Six, and learn how he plans on growing this team in the future!