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How to Grow Your Team By 5X Without Breaking a Sweat

October 19th, 2021 5 minute read
In 2014, medical diagnostics platform LumiraDX was a very small company in a niche market. But they had a big dream: to make healthcare portable and accessible to everyone, particularly in developing and third-world countries with a low standard of care.

By the time Global Talent Acquisition Lead, Dan Caines, joined the team in 2019, they’d grown to 300 people and were looking to uplevel their talent acquisition strategy. Dan helped grow the team by 150 people in one year as the sole recruiter. He made the last 50 hires in a single quarter, with just a small applicant tracking system (ATS) as software support. (Okay, we’re nerding out a little—but those are some impressive stats!)

Hiring was starting to slow down. Then, in spring 2020, COVID changed everything.

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At the time, LumiraDX was primarily focused on research and development (R&D), but they were uniquely positioned to help ease the burden on healthcare systems worldwide. It meant a complete shift in the business, from R&D to manufacturing and distribution. And it meant scaling rapidly, without many talent acquisition processes or resources in place.

Luckily, Dan’s the kind of guy who enjoys a challenge. LumiraDX currently employs about 1500 people worldwide, a whopping 500% increase from the time he joined the company in fall 2019.

Dan joined me to share specifics about how he scaled the team at LumiraDX to meet the needs of the moment, despite recruiting for a relatively unknown company in a niche market.

From manual recruitment processes to digital tools

Dan describes the evolution of recruitment at LumiraDX as “a bit of a journey.” 

Back in April 2020, Dan worked with just one other in-house recruiter. They needed to scale the staff by 2-3x in a 12-month period, all while shifting the nature of the business away from R&D and toward manufacturing. At the time, there were no formal systems or processes in place to speak of—just a lean talent acquisition team and a small ATS. In other words, they needed help. 

At the time, their approach to recruitment was very manual. “Time to hire was massive,” Dan told us. 

Using just a few basic digital tools like video interviews, team interviews, and tracking SLAs for metrics like response time, they cut their time to hire in half. One-way video interviews helped with volume and removed the need for recruiters to conduct full-on screenings for each applicant. With just these tweaks to the hiring process, conversions from interview to offer were better than one in two. 

Candidate feedback on the hiring experience at LumiraDX continues to trend positive, but Dan says they’re still on a journey. In 2021, they’re still about 15% reliant on agencies to help them scale as quickly as they need to—but that’s less than half of their previous volume. 

Keeping agency spend down and “getting under the skin of the business” have always been key focal points for Dan. He made a conscious decision early on to learn about the business from the inside out, from entry-level to senior roles. He made 50 hires in just three months while working as the sole recruiter, and filled 150 open positions in his first year.

That boots-on-the-ground point of view proved invaluable when recruitment ramped up in 2020, enabling Dan and a small team to scale LumiraDX from a headcount of 300 to 1500 employees globally.

Shifting business focus and recruitment strategy

Pre-COVID, LumiraDX had been primarily focused on research and development. When leadership saw an opportunity to assist in the global pandemic by shifting to manufacturing and distribution, it meant a shift in recruitment strategy too.

“We took it in two stages,” Dan said. At first they relied heavily on messaging from recruitment agencies, LinkedIn, and social media. This tactic wasn’t fancy, but it worked well. The medical diagnostics industry is small, and a large percentage of new hires came from in-house referrals.

“Sometimes the worst thing you can do is to go Big Bang on your brand,” says Dan. “The nature of our business just isn’t like that.” Added to that, LumiraDX didn’t have the luxury of a well-known employer brand or widespread name recognition. 

Instead, Dan and his team focused on word of mouth, “drip-feeding” the brand into the industry and working with third-party suppliers to get the word out. 

Today they’re in Stage 2 and focused more on in-house messaging, with an improved careers page and more mindful use of social media.

“If you’re not a consumer brand, you need to go about recruitment differently. If you go Big Bang, people are just going to ignore it, because it’s just another bit of noise in their social media. It’s about understanding what messages you want to put out there.”

It’s all about the data

When we asked Dan what he’d do differently, knowing what he knows now, he said, “Data, data, data.” 

No one could have predicted COVID—but he wishes he could have leveraged data to better predict growth so he could have ramped up hiring faster.  “Shiny tech comes along when you have the data to back it up,” he says. LumiraDX is hoping to add a more robust ATS to their tech stack in the near future, and Dan wishes he’d had the data to support this kind of purchase last year.

And what was the most challenging aspect of scaling staff by 5x at a small company? Starting from a dead stop. Big companies have infrastructure in place for talent acquisition teams to lean on: employer brand recognition, processes and systems, large recruitment teams (and budgets), etc. Small businesses like LumiraDX don’t have that infrastructure, so Dan had to start from scratch. 

Now that hiring has leveled out somewhat, systems are at the top of the priority list. Their HRIS is good, but they need a more robust recruitment tool to help them grow more efficiently in the future. Implementation of any new software can be painful, he admits. But once you have the systems in, “the journey after that is so much better.”

Join us each week for more tales from the trenches and best-practice people guidance.

About the author
Tom Hacquoil
Tom Hacquoil
Tom is the CEO at Pinpoint and he's passionate about building world-class teams.