While COVID-19 brought sectors, including tourism, restaurants and bars, to their knees, other industries like tech boomed. As individuals across the world sought new ways to stay in touch with friends, family and colleagues when they couldn’t see them face to face during the pandemic, communications tech company Twilio flourished.
As a result, Twilio’s workforce has grown doubled every year since 2018. Four years ago, Twilio had 1,000 employees, it is now projected to have 10,000 by the end of 2022.
This level of growth is not only a challenge from a talent acquisition and recruitment perspective but also from a talent management perspective.
Prioritize management excellence
Wilhelms noted that his team at Twilio realized that having “focus was the key” – so they prioritized onboarding, performance management, and people management excellence.
Twilio has around 1,500 people managers, but the challenge is how to figure out who is going to be a good manager? Then, looking beyond that, thinking about what support they needed.
The tech company, therefore, decided to take a “fresh approach” to people manager excellence. Wilhelms and his team embraced the ‘say, measure, teach’ method, instead of jumping straight to teach.
“This isn’t a knowledge gap, this is a knowing, doing gap” – this means managers know what they need to be doing, but don’t necessarily know how to do it.
“We need to create more focus and accountability”, and to be clear to those in management positions what is expected of them and how they can improve every day.
One test that Twilio sets its managers is to ask “would your team hire you to be their manager because of the value you provide”?
“Think about a golf or a tennis coach, the performer hires their coach because they improve their performance. If you gave all of the folks in your company that same discretion over their manager, how many of them would hire their manager?”, asked Wilhelms.
Wilhelms shared that, for Twilio, giving managers a dedicated coach over a few months with the help of BetterUp seemed like a better approach than having a passive learning approach.
It allowed managers to use their coaching sessions to ask questions, such as “is there something you could be doing more or less of to be a better leader”.
Twilio has seen its manager effectiveness score increase from just above 70% to around 88% in March 2022. Currently, 60% of managers have signed up and they have access to a BetterUp coach for six months at a time.
“I’ve been in talent management for a long time. I’ve never been able to move [the needle] like this”, concluded Wilhelms. Future success will come from Twillions (what Twilio calls its employees) teaching and learning from each other and creating more mentorship opportunities within the company.