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June 5, 2020

Flight Crew Series: Brian Tao on the Skills Needed to Source Talent

Welcome to The Flight Crew Series where we sit down with our team members around the world to get to know them better. We talk about the careers that led them to TripActions, what their roles look like on a daily basis, why they believe in their teams, and even their favorite travel memory. The participants were selected by their peers for the incredible work, team spirit, and how they embody TripActions values. Read more from the series here.

This month we connected with Brian Tao, Talent Acquisition Manager, who joined TripActions in July 2019 right before the company-wide event Connections in which all employees flew into headquarters from around the world for a week of learnings and bonding. (And how we wish we could do it again this year!)

Brian began his career in recruiting and found a passion for the sourcing side of the equation. He grew to love recruiting and, after his first company was acquired, he joined Uber. While he enjoyed the experience, an opportunity to build came up at TripActions.

“I enjoy the aspect of building,” explains Brian. “When I was asked if I was interested in potentially coming over to help build the sourcing function at TripActions, it was a really interesting proposal. While I had experience in both sourcing and full lifecycle recruiting, sourcing has always been a really huge passion. It is the art of finding and engaging the best talent possible in the market.”

“I started right before Connections intentionally because I thought that it would be a really good opportunity to really dive deep, learn a lot more about the business, and really connect with our employees from around the world, says Brian.

Inside the Talent Team

Most people don’t understand the depth of the HR department or all the different roles and functions that lay the foundation for finding, hiring, and keeping great talent. And it’s organized a little differently at every organization. Brian gave us some insights into the rising role of the sourcer at TripActions and across the tech industry.

“Sourcing is part of the full lifecycle of recruiting. When most people think about recruiting, they think about the motions of having a recruiter who facilitates your interview process, preps you for the interview, and ultimately makes an offer,” says Brian.

“But what is becoming more and more prevalent and sought out in the market is this notion of finding really talented sourcers. These are people who are searching for a needle in a haystack, for the diamond in the rough, the best candidate out there that might not be applying. I'm sure you've heard this many times, but the best candidates are never looking.”

“It's really going after that passive talent, building a relationship with them, and getting them engaged in TripActions and eventually getting them into the funnel to interview with us. It’s going through the steps of attracting them and working with them to get them even more intrigued and interested about TripActions. It’s very top of the funnel. If you think about it even from the marketing lens, it's similar to that lead generation piece. I hate to use this analogy, but it's almost like the SDRs of recruiting.”

It is also a highly operational role. Instead of managing a dozen active candidates, the team is managing a list of hundreds of prospects that he has to follow up and continue to engage. It is the high touch that really gets someone through the tunnel, explains Brian.

“You can't really find the perfect candidate or the perfect person or even a pool of top candidates for a specific role without understanding the talent landscape. There's a big piece of research in terms of understanding where these people live and what companies they’re at. Also, we have to make sense of the landscape from an overall background perspective and do some mapping. This is the piece that makes a sourcing role really unique and different from the rest of recruiting,” says Brian.

Crafting Culture

The People team at TripActions plays a critical role in setting the company up for success from an employee perspective.

“Our people ultimately come first,” says Brian. “Our job is to make sure that we’re cultivating culture and growth within the company. Within the broader People team, there are different functions. The success arm ensures that our leaders are able to set their teams up for success and work through any employee situations that come up. We also have the operations arm to ensure we have a strong foundation from a systems and process perspective. We have teams that take care of compensation and benefits and people development as a whole. All of these functions work together really closely to ensure that our people at TripActions feel supported and can also bring their best selves to work and do the best possible work while here. The talent team is the very forefront of all that, especially in regards to working with prospective candidates and new hires who aren't even part of the company yet. It’s our role to really engage candidates and highlight how we do all these things to differentiate ourselves as an employer in the market.

Crafting and growing a company culture begins as soon as you first contact a potential employee. People are what ultimately create the culture. Candidates don’t join an organization — people join people. The people are what ultimately make the culture at TripActions.

“Culture is a very nebulous topic,” says Brian. “It's this huge overarching thing that's also super ambiguous because you really have to feel the culture to know the culture versus talking about the culture. It's very easy for a company to talk about cultures from a very buzzword perspective. But it's a very different type of feeling when you actually step in the doors and can feel it. When it comes to recruitment, we describe the culture as passionate, explain how lively the office is, and express the energy that’s felt around the work we’re doing and excitement of changing the landscape in travel and payments.

The team is also responsible for bringing in a diverse talent pool filled with different perspectives and backgrounds, which becomes even more important as the company grows.

“How do we incorporate diverse perspectives and diverse backgrounds into the way we hire to really continue to propel the company forward?,” asks Brian. “We still have a lot of work to do in this area and that’s okay. We’ve done some thinking on the recruiting side of how we can start having these conversations internally. Ultimately, I think it’s how we create a welcoming environment and community for people of all backgrounds and perspectives. A community and company where everyone is equally empowered, able to drive impact, and grow their career with us.”

TripActions: Built on Values

Brian has intimate knowledge of the six values that TripActions operates on and uses them as a guide when assessing potential candidates. They’ve also guided his experience at TripActions.

“The value that I love and resonates with me the most is ‘It’s all about the users. All of them. All the time.’ It is our North Star in terms of how we operate. In recruitment, we don’t serve external customers but we do work with our hiring managers and team leaders. We’re also serving our candidates,” explains Brian. “It resonates with me so much, because it really helps us formulate our philosophy and thought process around how we should treat everyone as a talent acquisition team. It guides the overall experience we provide to our hiring managers and sets our candidates up for success.”

Brian also resonates with the value ‘Raise the bar,’ because it ties into the organization’s philosophy around being resilient in the face of challenges and learning how to operate in unexpected situations.

“What I’ve seen across the company is people being willing to jump in and really raise the bar and be thoughts about how we set ourselves up for success. It’s how we continue to grow to be an even better team and product defining the market.”

While hiring is temporarily paused as an unfortunate effect of the COVID-19 pandemic, the recruiting team has channeled some of their experience and knowledge into helping former employees prepare for new jobs. The recruiting team provided introductions for direct referrals, coaching sessions, resume reboots, and practice interviews.

As business travel starts to resume, however slowly, the recruitment team at TripActions is starting to think about the next chapter at TripActions and how they can prepare to continue attracting top talent to grow and best serve our customers and communities.

Culture is an integral part of what makes TripActions and allows us to work together to innovate quickly for our customers and users. To learn about how we’re supporting travel managers, finance leaders, and HR professionals during this unprecedented time, see here.

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