Saturday 29 April 2017

'Work hard, play hard, be a better professional' - A glimpse into life at LinkedIn Dublin HQ

An interview with Wendy Murphy, LinkedIn's Senior Director of HR in EMEA

Wendy Murphy, LinkedIn's Senior Director of HR in EMEA Picture: Gerry Mooney
Wendy Murphy, LinkedIn's Senior Director of HR in EMEA Picture: Gerry Mooney
Louise Kelly

Louise Kelly

Stepping out of the lift at the barista level at LinkedIn, I was first struck by the noise of the people congregated there - and then the realisation that there were genuine beer taps behind the bar.

The fact that the alcohol isn't generally available until Fridays when some up and coming band arrives to play to employees - and the loud meet and greets are largely business focused - does little to quell the office envy.

I'm here at the firm's EMEA HQ in Dublin and about to meet the region's HR chief Wendy Murphy who arrives with a beaming smile in her corporate blue outfit. I like her immediately.

Naturally, I'd done a little spying on Wendy beforehand (on LinkedIn of course) and was impressed with her diverse CV, something she would later tell me is an attribute she looks for in potential employees.

But I wasn't prepared for honesty - "I never intended to work in HR" - or for her seemingly authentic passion for the job that she's ended up in.

"I did an internship in Eircom to see what HR was all about – and it was really really helpful," she said, "I knew then that this was for me." 

"Engaging with people, the thought that was put into how people’s careers evolved – that just really sparked [the interest]. My core passion and one of my values is around developing people... there was no looking back for me."

From talent acquisition to in-house and general recruitment, Wendy maintains that it's her commercial awareness that has led to her success in the industry - that and her international experience.

"I took a big risk and I moved to Jamaica to work with Digicel. I literally would not be sitting in this chair at LinkedIn if I had not gotten those five years abroad," she said.

"It gave me the ability to scale a business; the ability to diversify and to operate across multicultural industries. I became accustomed to the fast pace, being agile, and going with whatever is thrown at you. There’s nothing better than being in a culture where you have to immerse yourself, to find out who you are and what your capabilities are."

Unsurprisingly, this bucket list of skills, talents and experiences sums up what the LinkedIn HR team look for in their staff. And their recruitment drive is very active.

Last November, the company announced that it was expanding its workforce by 200 new staff bringing the total employees in Dublin to 1,200.  Its new "even better" European HQ building - scheduled to be completed by early April - is adjacent to Dublin's Grand Canal, and next door to the existing offices.

Read more: Top 10 roles hardest to fill in Ireland - as unemployment rate drops to post-crash low

So what can those hoping to get a job in LinkedIn do to impress?

*Agility – That is learning agility, commercial agility, being able to adapt to commercial situations, to customers, to audiences. "Whatever the role is, that you pick it up pretty quickly and you go with it, constantly eating up the opportunity to learn new things."

*Open to change – People that are up for - and don't flinch - challenges when they arise. "At LinkedIn, the pace is incredibly fast – so if you don’t have that adaptability you are not going to survive." 

*Good personality – Those that genuinely care, and are compassionate towards, people. Volunteering and relevant project work on your CV is a good indicator here. "People that will go the extra mile to help a colleague, call it collaborative, call it team playing...I just call it treating people with respect."

*Creative/Innovative – "Someone that has created a video or manages a blog would stand out. There are some really interesting and clever people out that there - I want to see that rich media talent that just grabs your interest."

*Diverse – People who have tried a lot of things and are not afraid to do something different, to jump into a new role that they don’t know anything of the knowledge. "We don’t hire for just one role – we hire for their potential."

 

This really isn't an empty statement. Anyone that is joining the LinkedIn group is flown into Dublin for a two induction program "to be immersed into the culture". And they are made aware from the very outset that they are the makers of their own careers - and they are encouraged to take up all the learning tools available to them at LinkedIn i.e LearnIn portal, class-based training, webinars etc.

"The first thing we say to them is that we’re delighted that they are on the team but they probably not going to stay at LinkedIn forever," she said.

"The job of a lifetime doesn’t exist anymore but we encourage you to use every opportunity to become the best professional that you can be."

Not only does LinkedIn aim to prepare every employee for that step but, according to Wendy, the company strives to make the "journey" as comfortable as possible. And the barista TGIF drinks are just the tip of the iceberg.

 

You know the brief, so what are the perks if you meet it?

*Perk Up – An extra allowance given to employees every quarter. "Employees can spend it either on health and wellness, parenting or animals. It really gives employees other options so they have a more fulfilled and meaningful life."

*Reward programs – Anybody in any part of the company can give another person an award.

*Time outs - "We have all our health and well-being programs, we have our gym, we have meditation, and gurus on staff who take time out of their working day and even hold classes themselves."

*In Day - One day given back to every employee every month so they can transform themselves, the company or the world. "What I mean by themselves, it’s back to the learning – invest in yourself every day. There’s a theme every month so you can follow the theme or read a book or take a class or go online and do a video. You can also go to a charity and do some work there."

*Shut Down Week – Employees get a really good break over the Christmas. "We believe you work hard you play hard but have to enjoy life overall."

Read more: Updating your LinkedIn profile? Here's exactly what (not) to do to grab that dream job

Not necessarily a perk in itself but definitely an advantage, particularly with a diverse and expanding workforce, LinkedIn is "extremely passionate" about DIBS - Diversity, Inclusion - and Belonging. And it's evident from tiny gestures through to formal policies.

"Belonging is probably a new addition to the narrative," said Wendy. "Every employee, no matter what your background, needs to feel a sense of belonging in the company."

In addition to LinkedIn's Out@In - which won LGBT Employee Network of the Year in 2016 - the firm has also established Women at LinkedIn and more recently, Parents at Linkedin which was spearheaded by Wendy herself.

"There are about 1,000 people here and some 50pc of those are non native Irish - and we’ve have 99 babies born in 2016!

"When you’re not from here and you don’t have your parents or grandparents as a network, and when you’re a first time parent and trying to balance a demanding job, it can be a real struggle."

But while some may view LinkedIn's strategies as relatively trailblazing, Wendy admits that the firm has "a really long way to go" and they are constantly inviting feedback from employees in what they could do better.

"It has to be implemented from the top down and from the ground up - we have to make sure even the most junior employees have a voice," she said.

And they are listening. Wendy said that when she emails CEO Jeff Weiner, she will get a response - and that is the same for any employee emailing another executive at the firm.

"We don’t hire for ego – there are no barriers, no hierarchy in that sense and that’s hugely important. If you really want people to have a voice that’s hugely important," she said.

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