I am sharing a speech that Roman from Jooble made at a conference in Amsterdam recently. He allowed me to post it here. Roman is such a humble and brilliant soul. I can’t wait to see him again in the near future in magical Kyiv.
First, I want to admit that I’m worried, for the last two years, I’ve only presented in front of a laptop. And if something went wrong, I just closed the laptop and complained about connection problems. I’m afraid I can’t do that today. But I thought that if something goes wrong, I can just run off the stage. Don’t be surprised.
I am glad to meet you today here, in the fantastic city of Amsterdam, with beautiful houses, cozy bridges and a unique atmosphere. My name is Roman Prokofiev, I am co-founder of Jooble, one of the biggest job search aggregators in the World. And, today, I want to tell my story. I should tell you, it isn’t a story about white unicorns and pink ponies, I’ll speak about things that you can’t imagine sitting in this big roomy hall. If you feel too emotional, I recommend skipping my speech.
This is a map of Ukraine. I was born in Kherson. Cute city in the Southern part of Ukraine. Not big compared to other Ukrainian cities, but quite significant as a European city, like four hundred thousand people. Kherson watermelons are a famous brand like Californian Oranges or Thai Pineapples. The City where I first fell in love, where I had my first fight, and where I found my first closest friend.
Today, I can’t visit my place of birth. Because demented and power hungry midget decided to capture my city. I can’t hug my friends and relatives. I can’t even come to the graves of my grandmother and grandfather, with whom I was close. There are no working schools, hospitals, shops or restaurants. Everyone who stayed in the city hides in houses and apartments and prays. They pray a lot, hoping the Ukrainian Army will save their lives.
Sorry for digressing. I left my native city more than 20 years ago, came to Kyiv to study and with my close friend Eugene, also from Kherson, we established Jooble. At that time, we had one simple idea, create one website, where job seekers could find all jobs. We had no ambition to create a great company. We are engineers, we just wanted to develop a valuable product for users.
What is Jooble today? Today we are a global company. Our services work in 69 countries, all major economies except China, all emerging markets and some exotic countries like Costa Rica or The Philippines. According to data from SimilarWeb, we are number two aggregator after Indeed and number six in the entire jobs and careers category. On a working day, we send over 4 million clicks to job sources. We have a team in 26 countries, but most are in Ukraine.
Do you remember COVID? I bet you remember. No flights, no restaurants, no cinemas, no offices. We were sitting at home trying to imagine the future of humanity and, of course, future of our businesses. Many businesses have suspended job postings in the face of complete uncertainty. We stopped seeing people in the office and I don’t know how you feel but I felt like I have no business anymore, only links to Zoom. I thought that was a tough time.
Before February 24.
Noisy sound, isn’t it? Ukrainians hear this sound almost everyday. This is an air raid siren. You should run to a bomb shelter when you hear this sound. Otherwise you can be hit by a rocket. Or by missile shrapnel. It’s quite hard to live a so-called normal life. Let me show my colleagues.
You can’t see Natalia because she is the photographer. She helps our employees manage all financial issues. She works in a sleeping bag because it is eight degrees Celsius in the bomb shelter. Meet Veronica. She is a Tech Writer. She works in the bathroom. Do you think it is a strange place to work? I think so, but the bathroom is the safest place in the apartment, it has no windows. There are usually a minimum of two walls between it and the window. No one wonders if you join on a Zoom call from a bathroom or toilet. Meet Plombir, he is a CEO’s dog, he is in a bomb shelter. Of course, if you love your pets, you can’t leave your pets in the apartment, you should manage their logistics to a safe place.
What is the hardest decision you have ever made in your business? Please, try to remember this decision. Right now. I’ll give you a few seconds. What was this decision? Maybe you had to fire 10 employees in one day? Or maybe fire your best friend? Or maybe after 5 years of struggle you had to close your business? I started my first when I was eighteen, so I have almost 20 years of experience as a manager. But the hardest decision was a few months ago, on March 10.
It was ten p.m. I just finished my work day. I had a call from my employee. “Roma, please, help me. My wife and the children are in Mariupol. They have no food and electricity. They are sitting in a basement. There is no way to escape from the city. But, a group of russian soldiers offered to find and bring my family for twenty thousand dollars. I have no money, please, help”
Of course, this decision is not about the money, life is priceless. If it was a question about medical treatment, I’d pay without hesitation. But should I pay this money to my enemy? A Russian soldier has evaluated the life of the Ukrainian family at twenty thousand dollars and is ready to risk being killed during an operation. But am I ready to take responsibility for the death of his family if something went wrong? How will I feel, if today, I decline this option and tomorrow a missile shoots this family`s house? Even if this operation is successful, how many families that stay in Mariupol don’t have the money to save their lives? What would you decide?
I declined the offer. Three days later, they escaped from Mariupol. Was I happy about the right decision? No, because thousands of people couldn’t escape. Mariupol looks like this today.
You thought COVID was a crisis? Let me show you what my crisis looks like.
I don’t want to tell you about War anymore. I want to make my speech helpful and share what we have learned. What is essential in a crisis? We realized three key things: we should act quickly, transparently for all employees, based on our values. Let me show our day, February 24, the first day of the War. We use Slack, so I can for sure reconstruct this day.
Five a.m. russia invades Ukraine, hundreds of blasts in all cities. The invasion begins. Unimaginable things become reality.
In less than three hours we send messages to all employees, forget about your job, save your lives. Your life is the only thing that matters right now.
At nine o’clock, we create the rescue team to help our employees get to the hope spots. Simultaneously, our rescue team tries to find a safe place for themselves.
Four hours after the invasion, we decide to shut down top 2 markets in terms of profitability – russia and belarus. Is it a hard decision? An invasion started in our country 4 hours ago, we are in complete uncertainty about our future, for sure, we understand that we need money to support our employers, to support our country, but we realize that there is no room for negotiations. We can’t bring value to a country that kills people.
At two o’clock, we pay the upfront salary to all employees. Our CFO managed this process from his broken car on the road from Kyiv, he and his family couldn’t escape from the city due to a car breakdown but he did his job.
We set up a video call for employees. We have no answers about our future, but we want to be together in this challenging time.
In the evening, we start different projects to tell the World the truth about the War. We are in the TOP1000 most visited sites in the World. We feel that we must use this to draw attention to Ukraine.
Today, 5 of our employees serve in the Army and we pay them a full salary, this decision we made on the first day of the invasion.
As you can see, there are a lot of decisions about our employees. This was our priority and that gives a result. Look at our eNPS. In ordinary life, our eNPS is around forty, that’s good for a company of our size, but not great. In War time, when a lot of people feel depression, anger, pain, frustration, we have sixty-four eNPS score.
Why is it important? It is not only about being humane but is essential in terms of business. Because if you care for the employees, they will care for the Customers. A month ago, we researched how happy our customers are with our client service, here are the results. The most popular answer is “Very satisfied” with more than fifty percent of responses. “Satisfied” is at forty percent. Why is it important when your Customer is satisfied? Apparently, because of your revenue.
We increased our revenue by forty-seven percent in 2022 compared to 2021 despite the fact that we closed one of our biggest markets. Of course, if I said this happened only because of our caring for the employees, it would be only part of the truth. Further, I’ll tell you about other important decisions, maybe you’ll want to apply some of them in your company.
But first I would like to remind you that there are no bad or good choices. Context is important. Decisions that helped us may hurt your company. It is an important reminder, especially for the next one. We cut all bonuses for our sales team. Yes, all bonuses. Only the salary, like any other position in the company. A sales person’s salary is not dependent on the revenue that their customer brings to the company.
Why do we think it is an important decision? Because if you pay a bonus for revenue you send a clear signal, bring me revenue at any price. You can spend a hundred hours teaching your sales team how to understand Customer needs but your people are clever and they understand that if they want to fly with their family to Three Valleys on Christmas they need to make money. Obviously, you sales guys have different goals with your Customer and that isn’t sustainable in the long run.
We don’t have a sales team, we call it a customer success team. And this is not rebranding, we want to help our clients reach their goals in the long run and help clients achieve success. We don’t want to achieve good revenue results this quarter or this year, we want to work with our Customer in the long run and we have no other idea except to help our clients succeed.
I guess you would like to ask how many salespeople left our company? Because bonuses for sales are as common as rain in London. Only one person. Not because we offer huge salaries, because, we select the right people.
There are a lot of books on how to hire the right people, but few books about how who are the right people. Many managers think that the right person is someone who always achieves goals or is a so-called top performer. Except, you are not an owner of an industrial factory that produces nails, it is complete nonsense. Because exceptional results are archived by exceptional teams, not individuals. If you play football and attract Michael Jordan, it doesn’t help, for sure.
For us, the right people are people that match with company values. The standard hiring process has 3 interviews, 2 of them are about values. Values are not about my love for a certain candidate. It is pretty structured information that I am looking to process in the interview. I’ll tell about Jooble values, just as an example.
Passion to work – I love to work, we are looking for people who choose what they are doing even if nobody pays them, just because they like it. Owner mindset – we are looking for people who decide how to grow instead of waiting for tasks. Internal locus control is crucial, we want to work with people who know that they are the reason for everything that happens to them. We are looking for people who can look at things from different viewpoints and can empathize. We as a company strive to be better every day, so we need people who desire to be better today than they were yesterday.
We have 5 to7 questions for every value and know what answers are good for us. Each value has 4 levels of manifestation, level A – great match, level D – red flag. During an interview, we are building a matrix like that where we evaluate the manifestation of each value. For example, if I ask about the biggest mistake and the candidate tells me a story where in fact he or she isn’t guilty, it happened because of a bad HR or a dumb CEO, it is a red flag. If someone says to me that they like critical feedback, I always ask them to give me the last example. You will be surprised, but often, there are no examples. Depending on the seniority level, we are looking for different manifestations. For a senior position, we look for at least two As and no Cs. For a junior position, two Bs are enough.
Such selection helps us build a high-efficiency team that has the same understanding of what is good and bad, how to act in the best alignment with our Customers` goals and build partnership relations.
I want to say thanks to our Customers. If I spent all 20 minutes I wouldn’t be able to mention all of them, but this is thanks for the special occasion. When the invasion started, we realized that we needed money to pay upfront salary, to save our people from hot spots, to find a safe location in the Western part of Ukraine. We explained the situation and asked our customers to pay their invoices not in 30 days as usual, but as soon as possible and all of them paid their invoices almost immediately. This is what I call Partnership. Thank you.
I want to say thanks to our Competitors. When the invasion started, we shut down one of the biggest and most profitable markets for us – Russia. Our Competitors could use this situation to get their market share but instead they followed the same path and shut down their businesses in russia too. It is a great example, that humanity and western values are more important than money. Thank you.
How can you help Ukraine? Of course, if you want. An excellent example is cooperation with pracuj.pl. They created a special category and offer to post jobs for free if employers are ready to hire Ukrainians. It is a powerful message to Companies, you can discover a pool of new candidates, over 5 millions Ukrainians today are in Europe, they are highly educated and hardworking. Help your Customers to succeed and you will succeed.
Thank you for your attention. Sorry if some of my messages hurt you. Things that are happening in Ukraine are terrible and there are no words for it to sound fancy. But, as you can see, when you select the right people that respect what they are doing, care about Customers success, it is possible to run a business under any conditions.
If someone from your team complains they’re having hard times, please, tell them the Jooble story!