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Matthew Handford


SVP People

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Beer and dogs will only get you so far: how Hootsuite is attracting and retaining millennial talent


In less than 10 years, Hootsuite has seen rapid growth, generating over 14+ million users, with offices across the globe from London to Sydney. It has grown from 70 members of staff in 2012 to 1,000 in 2016.

To sustain a successful business it’s therefore important for us to attract the right individual for our organisation. By bringing together the right culture and expertise, we recognise as a team, we have the ability to help this organisation meet its goals quickly.

With the exciting announcement of our cash flow positive status we reflect on our company’s progress and the learnings we’ve faced over the last 8+ years.

Employees are looking for more than just perks

Hootsuite can no longer be categorised as a “start-up” but this is how we have been viewed as a company. It’s usual for companies transitioning from small to medium scale to find themselves losing the positive parts of their start up culture. At Hootsuite, it’s important for us to maintain the high energy buzz and environment for all our offices globally.

We are of course known for our fun culture but we learnt early on that prospective ‘owls’ want more than just entertainment and social offerings. Sure, we have beer on tap and allow dogs in the office, but those perks are expected and it takes more to interest top talent.

A key strategy for us is to provide a working environment that is more than just perks but a place to build the foundation for your career and a world class learning experience.

Nurturing the millennial workforce is a priority

In the next 10 years, millennials will become nearly 75 percent of the overall workforce and it’s important for us to retain talent. This demographic are known for changing jobs every 2.5 years and the challenge for us is to understand why this is happening.

We created a “stretch programme” allowing high performing individuals to spend one day a week trying a new position

When it comes to fostering leadership in talent, Hootsuite has a number of programmes which are achieving great results. We created a “stretch programme” allowing high performing individuals to spend one day a week trying a new position over a 90-day period.

At the conclusion of the trial, the employee has an opportunity to jump full-time, once his or her role has been filled. Although this is just a pilot programme, we've already had half-dozen participants and it means we are able to retain smart, passionate employees who want to grow and evolve.

We have also initiated regular Friday meet ups where we encourage members of the team to share their ambitions over a casual beer. A great example of how Hootsuite enables talent to develop is an employee who started as an accountant several years ago, however he expressed interest in becoming a developer. This interest was nurtured and we provided him with the support and time to eventually reach his goal.

Testing out different methods of accomplishing tasks comes naturally to the millennial worker, it is therefore important for us to adjust the working environment to the individual.

We have also initiated regular Friday meet ups where we encourage members of the team to share their ambitions over a casual beer.

In my experience, millennials have the courage to advocate their ideas and to strive for constant learning opportunities. This is a real opportunity for companies such as Hootsuite.

Build an internal community

We recognise that career opportunities are important to our staff. We encourage staff members to share their accomplishments and success within our company and that’s important for our culture.

If an employee feels like their team members are invested in their personal growth, they will be more likely to develop a stronger loyalty with not just our company, but the people within it.

As a result, smart organisations today are realising that, in addition to managing common aspects like culture and benefit packages, they must also quickly adapt to new approaches to organisational change and specific needs of their staff.

We host regular ‘town halls’ which is a company-wide meeting where CEO Ryan Holmes shares updates on the state of our business. We pride ourselves on open communication and Ryan also produces weekly videos on our Facebook for Work channel to share breaking company news, solicit and respond to feedback and provide transparency into the business.

Looking beyond growth

Many organisations go through similar stages in their development. We are at a really exciting part of our journey and it’s important to continue being forward thinking. With a maturing organisation, our task is now to develop leadership capability and individual skill sets globally.

To be truly great, we need to continue growing without breaking our core values and identity

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Matthew Handford

SVP People

Read more from Matthew Handford