Community Engagement

It’s a challenging and divisive time right now — and one where it’s easy to feel equally distanced from the rest of the world, but oddly closer knowing how many of us are feeling the same emotions and dealing with the same struggles. It also shines a light on the impact we can have as a community — a local community, a staffing and recruitment community, a global community — when we focus on how we can serve one another.

Atlanta-based technology staffing firm eHire has made this a focus for years. It starts with their core foundational values, which you can see when you enter their office. The initials of these values spell out “CARPE” — as in carpe diem — with the initial “C” standing for “Community.”

Tim “Coach” Wellmaker, who up until recently was a principal director at eHire and part-time eighth-grade football coach, loves to speak to the strength that community brings to business, and has gone so far as to say directly that community engagement can grow revenue.

But can focusing first and foremost on helping others actually produce stronger business outcomes?

Unexpected Outcomes

Every business is looking for ways to increase revenue, but not all of them are paying attention to old-school methodologies that need a new spin, said Wellmaker. “At a time when competitors are flat, we’ve gone from $0 to $45M in the last ten years, most in the last five years as our community work has developed and paid dividends.”

The best example comes from Wellmaker’s work with the Technology Association of Georgia (TAG), a group that connects businesses with tech practitioners — a great group for eHire to be involved with. Wellmaker himself sits on the board of an association called TAG-Ed, whose mission is to raise awareness of STEM disciplines for local youth via programs and internships in Atlanta.

As a board member who has expertise with Atlanta’s tech workforce, Wellmaker was pulled into doing some pitches for the Atlanta Chamber of Commerce to convince tech companies to come to Atlanta. One pitch he was pulled into involved a global name-brand tool manufacturer that, based on the pitch, chose to build their Innovation Center in Atlanta.

About a year after that pitch, Wellmaker got a call from the company. They wanted eHire to help them staff all of their director-level roles at the Innovation Center, which turned into a more than $3M revenue stream over 14 months.

Sure, it’s a long play to rely on this kind of community engagement to drive revenue, but it eventually does. “It’s an investment in people,” said Wellmaker, who cited his company’s revenue last year as nearly entirely coming directly or indirectly from community relationships.

Encouraging Involvement

For staffing and recruiting leaders looking to build a similar model, it’s important to teach this level of engagement from the ground up. Wellmaker said he hires with this in mind, even looking for recruitment talent — usually fresh out of college — not based on GPA, but on the characteristics that demonstrate highly social and capable individuals, such as if they’ve managed fundraisers, were part of welcome committees for new classmates, and if they held outside jobs while in school.

The interview phase is an opportunity to dive deeper and learn about that person’s passions, both their desire to participate in philanthropic efforts, but their love of the specific work eHire is doing with technology. For example, if a recruiter is passionate about data science, that’s a trigger for Wellmaker to connect that person to local data science meet-ups.

Most importantly, when eHire’s team members show up at these networking events, they’re not congregating around the bar looking to pounce on every decision-maker they find that may have staffing needs. Rather, they first and foremost look for ways to serve. They find the person running the meet-up, and see if they can help with space or concessions for future meet-ups. Ideally, maybe they end up on the board of that organization after putting in time helping the group succeed. By adding value, they can build relationships and eventually earn the right to see if their fellow board members or participants in the organization could use their help.

“‘Earning the right’ is a concept that can be played out not only in the community engagement model, but in a phone call with a technologist that you’re recruiting for. As recruiters, we have to get to the truth and we have to get into the kitchen with the candidate very quickly,” said Wellmaker. “You do that by building rapport and eventually earning the right to ask very personal questions about income and work-life balance. It takes patience and investment.”

By earning that right, it becomes much easier to not just become a reliable source of help for others in the community, but become the go-to person for your specific skill set, in the case of eHire’s recruiters, building a tech workforce in Atlanta.

Measuring Success

To make this a real strategy, Wellmaker and eHire are serious about community engagement. For recruiters at eHire, community engagement is evaluated in the same way as other metrics for success like candidate placements and interviews conducted, which we’ve seen is not always the healthiest approach for evaluating success when focused on in isolation.

Per Wellmaker, everyone at eHire has to participate in two outside events per month, and that’s something the company celebrates and honors team members by, as well as builds performance plans around if a team member isn’t keeping up. Standard one-on-ones follow the CARPE framework, evaluating team members based on all of eHire’s core values, which also include accountability, respect, passion, and excellence.

If community engagement is done right, it can help anyone create liquidity in their career with networks of individuals that are both able to help and willing to help you. It seems to have worked wonders for Wellmaker, who recently started the next phase of his own personal journey as head football coach at Loganville Christian Academy.

To hear more about Wellmaker’s journey straight from the coach’s mouth, check out episode four of the You Own the Experience podcast.