Like many of our peers, Zapier is hiring more modestly in 2023, as we look to see the impacts of the investments we made in 2022.
As a manager on our Talent Acquisition team, I sat in 1:1s with my team weekly and heard their anxiety as they’d ask about whether new roles would be opening soon or what projects they could take on—some even directly asked if we were at risk of layoffs. But the real question they were asking was: “How can I add value? How can I show that I still belong here? How can I make myself a critical part of the team at Zapier during this time when I can’t do the things I was initially hired to do?”
In 2021, I hired four people to join my team; three of them had been previously affected by layoffs. Their anxiety was rooted in the experience of having been laid off recently by similar companies under similar circumstances.
I know these are tough, painful decisions for any company. Sometimes, layoffs are truly the only option. But at Zapier, we made a different choice.
Leveraging the skills of our team
We care deeply about each and every person at Zapier. We know that their potential and ability goes far beyond the core work they were hired to do.
And we also realize a downturn is temporary. We worked hard to build our talent acquisition team, growing from 15 to nearly 40 between October 2021 and June 2022. And that team did amazing work, growing Zapier from 550 to over 800 team members in 2022. Did we really want to lose all of that recruiting talent only to spend all of those resources again hiring new people down the road?
Instead, we decided to lean into our values. We defaulted to transparency by bringing our team into our hiring plans early. We defaulted to action (and leveraged some amazing Learning & Development initiatives at Zapier!) to help our team members broaden their skills. And we built the robot, finding ways to do more with our current resources.
In this case, we built what we call our secondment program, a temporary reassignment program, where Zapier teammates move to a role or work on a project outside the job they were hired to do. (You may hear this referred to as the “quiet hiring” trend, but at Zapier, this isn’t the first time we’ve utilized flexible staffing models to avoid layoffs—and we know it won’t be the last.)
To meet our hiring needs in the first half of 2023 didn’t require our full team. But rather than simply laying off a portion of our team, we’re leveraging their skills and experiences to add value across the business in critical areas. And we’re helping our team explore career paths that interest them. This will make them better recruiters, and it will help Zapier be more resilient and agile over time, instead of being reactive to market conditions.
What secondments look like at Zapier
We wanted each team member to find a role that would align with their growth goals while helping us achieve our goals as a company at the same time.
As part of this process, we worked with teams across Zapier to collect and vet their projects. We got input from our team members and then advocated to specific teams to create projects that aligned with their backgrounds. We also looked at roles that were being cut from our headcount and saw opportunities for our team to contribute in areas where leaders wanted full-time team members but couldn’t make those hires due to budget constraints.
Knowing that Zapier is doing what it can to utilize its current talent in other positions is refreshing.
Randy Jackson-Alvarenga, Associate Talent Sourcer at Zapier
And then we put it in the hands of our team: they were able to indicate preference for the projects they were interested in taking on. We realized that this was a vulnerable position for team members to be in. While our team was focused first and foremost on meeting the needs of the business, we didn’t want anyone to feel pressured to work on projects that didn’t align with their interests and goals. And I’m proud to say that we accomplished that, with each team member landing in one of their top-choice projects.
Here are some examples of how it turned out:
One team member took advantage of Zapier’s “Golden Path to Data” (an internal upskilling program) and will now be working with our Data team.
Another teammate, who had been completing coursework in product and design (thanks to Zapier’s conference and education budget), is now able to apply those skills on a project with our Product team.
We have two team members leaning into other teams to help cover parental leaves.
And a few team members are working on projects around Diversity, Inclusion, Belonging, and Equity (DIBE), internal communications, and employer branding—areas that will build on and leverage the skills and experiences they’ve gained as recruiters.
And so far, the folks who’ve started their secondments are finding a lot of value from it.
Randy, a talent sourcer who’s now working with our Learning & Development team, is excited to experience a new role that still aligns with his interests and skillset. “When I look out at the job market right now, it’s a bit nerve-racking. I’ve already been through one layoff, but knowing that Zapier is doing what it can to utilize its current talent in other positions is refreshing.”
Megan, a recruiter, has been working with our Events and Internal Comms teams (she’s actually working directly with one of her very first hires at Zapier!). “I love that I can use my skillsets as a recruiter to positively impact the work other teams are doing within our organization,” she said. “I’m grateful for this new avenue to explore, and I’m excited to continue forward on my personal and professional growth journey.”
Growing beyond our roles
We didn’t hire our talent acquisition team simply to be TA professionals. We hired them to be Zapier teammates. And our secondment program is one way that we’re committed to that.
For some team members, we suspect this might be the launch of a new career path—and that’s great! Their experience in talent acquisition will make them that much more valuable no matter what they do, and we’re thrilled to be able to play a role in accelerating their path into other fields. For others, this will allow them to move critical work forward for our business in the short-term and allow us to hit the ground running with hiring when it comes time, which will only work to our advantage in the long run.
I’ll end with something Anitra, a recruiter at Zapier, told me, which I think sums up how beneficial our secondment program is for both Zapier and for the teammates involved in it:
“I’m incredibly grateful that I work for a company that says it values people and demonstrates that via its actions.
A while back, I shared with my manager that I was interested in expanding my knowledge related to insights and design—we made it a quarterly goal for me. I’ve been able to learn UX/UI from a top-notch program via access to my own personal learning and development budget. And I now have the opportunity to put my UX/UI learning into action via our secondment program. I am gaining real world experience, broadening my relationships, and continuing to have impact at Zapier via my project work with the Insights and Design team.
It’s so easy to throw out words like human-centered and people-first. It’s completely different to have tangible examples of what that looks like in action. Zapier has the language, the walk, and a culture that truly exemplifies it all.”