Lessons learned scaling Deel to 1000 people, fully remote

May 11, 2022

In a recent xCollective podcast, Beer Zandt spoke to Dennis Valkema, Country Manager at Deel for the Benelux. Deel, a company that facilitates global hiring compliantly within minutes anywhere in the world, has one of the most extraordinary growth stories in recent years.

Growing remotely from zero to 1000 in a window of three years, it’s impressive to say the least. And growing from $1mio to $100mio in 18 months, even more. As a specialist in hiring remote talent, we’ve asked them everything there is to know. What are the business benefits for hiring talent globally, and how to benefit as a founder?

Remote work, not just a pandemic trend

It has become increasingly clear that the remote and hybrid working trend has been gaining popularity over the past few years. This trend, catalysed by the pandemic, is clearly here to stay. With a growing number of established multinational businesses and smaller startups embracing remote working, Deel has been perfectly placed to offer a solution to businesses considering hiring overseas talent.

“Five years ago you saw a culture of controlling that the work was done, rather than trusting that the work was going to be done. Then all of a sudden, there was a lockdown and everyone was working remotely. A change in mindset was needed, regardless if you liked it or not, it’s here and that’s something to be aware of.” Says Dennis. Adding that, when you are aware of the change and adapting to it, you can be super successful and benefit from the remote working trend. Obvious to state, when you don’t adapt and stand still, you’ll create an instance gap towards your competitors that do adapt.

To underline the importance of remote working and how this trend is here to stay, it’s important to understand the shift in benefits employees find important. As Dennis mentioned, “If you look at 5 to 10 years ago, the most important benefit was pay and commission. Later, when the startup and scale-up wave started, equity became an important benefit as well. Now looking at the same stats, the most important benefit across the board - miles ahead of pay, commissions and equity - is definitely flexibility in work.”

It should be noted that remote or hybrid working is not just about being able to work from anywhere. It’s mostly about a better work-life balance without the feeling of being controlled, but with the trust that the job is getting done. Dennis adds, “as the great resignation is definitely happening and is fired up with the feeling of wanting the freedom of choice and the trust that you are getting the job done, it’s important for employees to take remote and hybrid work serious.” So remember, if competing for digital talent, enabling hybrid or remote working is an imperative.

Being a manager of a remote team is far more challenging

Although it may sound as easy as letting everybody just work from wherever they want, it must be understood that managing a hybrid or even remote team is far more challenging. It requires a different leadership style, skill set and mindset. Deel succeeded in growing their business remotely in such an impressive way by making sure that the companies culture was clear from the get go.

“The culture that we work in is very transparent and low entry for everyone involved, whether that’s a customer or an employee. We believe that you need to value an employee as much as you value a customer, because it’s an equal playing field for everyone involved in the business.” Dennis tells us.

Besides a transparent culture, within Deel they encourage employees at all levels to be authentic. “Everybody can have a bad day, but be open about it. Remember that not everybody is the same, and that it’s important to ask for help. You have to realize the importance of authenticity during the recruitment process, make sure that you hire the right talent that fits your companies culture. Be honest if there isn’t a match, even though you want to fill that seat, you have to realize that in the end employees only stay if they feel a cultural fit.”

Building a cohesive culture

Remote and hybrid work is more than implementing your solutions. It requires a fundamental change in company culture, but building a cohesive culture is easier said than done. As special when you have to connect with employees across the globe. The serendipity moments, the coffee machine discussions and chats, they tend to happen less. Especially when everyone is busy.

“You get in a call, end the call, get in the next call, and it’s all about what the topic of the call is. So it’s a challenge. But the best way to look at it, from our experience as well as what we're getting back from our customers is; if you want to succeed at it, don’t look at it from the work angle, but look at it from the connecting angle. Meaning, it doesn’t matter where you work, it matters where you connect. For some people, connecting online is enough and others want to connect offline. Facilitate that, but do it smarter. Meet to celebrate successes or just to get together, rather than to work.”

On top of facilitating technology to connect online and locations to connect offline, you need to take your employees by the hand and not expect them to have a natural interest in other people, as odd as that may sound. Training not only management, but every individual in the organization to ask the right questions and show true interest in their colleagues is a key success factor. Dennis explains by giving an example of a very common question within Deel. “Where are you calling from today? Oh, you're in Amsterdam today. How was your trip? What are you up to there?” Simple questions that actually make far more connection than sitting in an office talking about that job that needs to be done while you're physically together.

Final piece of advice on hiring and working remote

At RocketX we always preach that talent acquisition should be treated the same as customer acquisition. Build an omni-channel talent acquisition engine by leveraging a strong employee value proposition, employer brand and integrate it throughout the entire talent lifecycle. Consider talent acquisition as a sales role and also incentivise accordingly. In the end, you're selling the company to talent, which is the most fundamental resource in building a strong company and setting you up for success.

Dennis couldn’t agree more. “What's interesting about this is, if you look at the companies that have been successful in hiring talent it wasn't just about the brand, it was about their approach to recruitment. There are more and more companies that take this approach and also compensate recruiters in the same way as the sales department.”

Want to learn more about Deel's story or hiring and working remote? Listen to the full story on Spotify!

Let's shape the future. Together.

Let's shape the future. Together.

Let's shape the future. Together.