PR Agency’s Hiring Strategy Helps Them to Thrive

Leilani Thrive Hiring Strategy

Back in 2000, Leilani Abels was a fresh-faced 25-year-old who wanted to have a positive impact on the PR industry and the wider world. This ambition led to the creation of her own agency and she’s now celebrating 20 years as the Founder & Managing Director of Thrive PR + Communications. The business has grown from a one person operation to now having more than 60 team members across Australia and New Zealand, with offices in Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane, the Gold Coast and Auckland. 

While people are the heart of every business, it was more important than almost any other factor that the people hired at Thrive were working towards a common goal and were a good fit for the company’s culture. Indeed caught up with Leilani to find out how she’s created a place people love to work, her advice for other small businesses growing their teams, and how Indeed has helped play a role in her hiring strategy.

What do you love most about your job?

Receiving positive feedback from clients, journalists or industry contacts about the Thrive team. I regularly receive texts or emails raving about what we’ve delivered which makes me very proud.

What is the most difficult part of your job?
Finding great talent is an ongoing challenge for us, and felt broadly across the PR industry. Fortunately we are constantly focusing on our people and prospective talent and so we continue to attract high calibre talent, who are drawn to the clients, culture and scope for career development at Thrive.

Why is Thrive a good place to work?
Our people come first and our team need only to look around them to find great mentors, motivators and role models. We’ve let big business go because it’s more important to us to retain great talent and ensure our team know we’ve got their backs. We pride ourselves on our commitment to our team. We are constantly trying to better the way we provide support to our team, particularly for women and working mothers, with industry leading flexibility, parental leave and return-to-work policies. 

One of the recent initiatives that I’m most proud of is ‘Thriving in the Community’, our volunteer program that gives Thrivers one day a year of company time to spend volunteering for a cause of their choice, an investment equivalent of around $100,000 of company time.

In your experience, when do you know you need to hire new talent?
We keep a very close eye on our resourcing and the capacity of our team, and can generally forecast accurately what our activity will be over the coming weeks and months. We plan our recruitment and new hires accordingly, but also are always watching the market and will create roles for really great talent that we want to get into the agency. 

It’s one of the benefits of being an independent agency, that we can be nimble in regards to hiring decisions and it’s common for us to meet great talent and create roles regardless of immediate impact on the bottom line.

In a small business, there’s no room for bad hires. What’s your most important interview question?
It’s always a question relative to values, particularly integrity and passion as everything else stems from those things. Most important to us is bringing people into the business that positively contribute to culture, who have strong values, who are team players, who are motivated and thirsty to learn.

What challenges have you faced finding the right candidates for your business?
Identifying talent in a competitive market is always a challenge, and Australia’s visa laws can make it more complicated. To sponsor someone locally, businesses must advertise in two locations for more than 28 days, so it’s essential that we advertise all of our roles. This can be costly, so using Indeed allows us to advertise all roles with confidence that we are also meeting government regulations while broadening our search for quality candidates.

Partnering with Indeed has also really helped us in narrowing the field and engaging with quality candidates. As we’ve entered new markets such as Queensland and New Zealand, where the Thrive brand isn’t as well known as well as it is in Melbourne and Sydney, we need to make sure we cover all bases in our search for great talent so Indeed plays a key role as part of our search.

How have these recruiting challenges affected the business?
Thrive has been on a steady growth trajectory for years, with our expansion into new markets in Queensland and New Zealand in more recent times. We always hold out for the right talent and have been fortunate in being able to lean on teams in other locations when needed. We have a ‘one team, one dream’ approach that means physical boundaries don’t matter. We have the technology in place to ensure our teams can support each other and service our clients from any location.

How long have you been using Indeed and what was the reason for including it in your hiring strategy?
Thrive has been using Indeed for a little over a year. We tried out the ‘free to post job ads’, as a medium-sized business, it was a great way to try before buying. We immediately started to see that we were getting strong and well qualified candidates across not only our consultancy roles but also across our business support teams like HR and admin. Posting to Indeed is now a key part of our strategy for all roles.

Prior to using Indeed, describe your approach to sourcing talent?
With talent attraction a key priority for Thrive, we’ve used a variety of different tools to achieve this. Word of mouth and referrals from staff members is a channel that has always worked well, and we’ve also used online job boards and recruiters.

What are the main benefits Thrive has experienced since using Indeed?
Our cost to hire has reduced. We have used the ‘free to post’ listings on many occasions. We did an audit when we first started using Indeed and saw that we were getting better quality candidates from our job listings on Indeed. As a medium-sized business operating across< Australia and New Zealand, Indeed has really helped us to attract attention from talent who we otherwise might not have come across whilst helping us meet government regulations around visas as mentioned earlier.

What advice do you have for other small business owners when hiring staff?
Indeed has a lot of great free tools to help with recruitment, from narrowing down the field to what type of questions to ask in interviews. Using these resources has helped save us time and ultimately money, and helped ensure that we’re appointing the right talent.

Would you recommend Indeed for startups or small-to-medium sized organisations?
I would absolutely recommend Indeed. Their online resources with sample job ads, position descriptions and tips and tricks is really vast. We work across a vast array of industries and many of our clients are now using Indeed. Closer to home, my neighbour is a plumber and he only uses Indeed for his recruitment now. Indeed has such a broad reach with candidates across a wide range of industries.

What’s the most valuable lesson you’ve learned in starting and running your own business?
Don’t be afraid to pick up the phone and make things happen. I’ve seen it pay off throughout my career time and time again.

The importance of relationships is critical. During my career I’ve worked hard to maintain fantastic relationships with people and media that I’ve worked with. It’s amazing what you can achieve when you have genuine relationships built on mutual trust and respect, for the benefit of both parties.

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