Brittany Ho, a customer advocacy specialist in Hootsuite’s Vancouver office, participated in the stretch program a year ago because she wanted to learn more about other parts of the company. When she stretched from her role on the customer team to corporate development, Ho worked on a project to help decrease bias in the company’s hiring process.
“I had a great, positive experience,” said Ho. “I went into it just knowing this is a learning opportunity for me.”
The stretch experience helped her understand the responsibilities of the corporate team, make strategic decisions and build relationships with different types of people.
“It’s a really great learning opportunity especially because I think it’s unrealistic that someone will be happy in their role for five years. So this is a really great way to learn about a different part of the business,” Ho said.
The program has been a success, with leaders now pitching programs to lure talent to their teams, according to Hootsuite senior vice president of people Matthew Handford.
“What we want to do is provide career experience an employee would normally not get,” said Handford. “The other big piece we’re after is we’re trying to build a culture within the organization and leadership team around sharing talent.” He added, “We realize that learning needs to be a constant practice. Employees need to continually have leading-edge skills, which drives progression, which is one of the big aspects of retention we’ve found.”
Hootsuite is expanding the Google-inspired concept to tackle the problem that Poole originally struggled to solve: covering maternity leaves. It is bringing the program to Singapore, which has a shorter maternity leave provision than other countries where Hootsuite has offices. Because the program is designed around the idea of offering employees short-term rotations, it would not make sense as a maternity-leave option in countries where the the leave periods are much longer, such as Canada.
Offering these types of opportunities, whether to cover leaves or encourage personal development, can help companies be places where people want to work. Wheatman said it is a missed opportunity for companies if they don’t provide employees with growth opportunities, because these types of programs can help identify and retain top talent.
“When you provide people with these situations, the company is demonstrating that they are committed to their employees’ growth and they are looking for ways to grow talent within,” Wheatman said.