I joined Yahoo Europe as head of talent in August 2004. We had just bought Overture – our paid search arm – and were about to buy Kelkoo, the online price comparison site. We had no talent function and were relying on a handful of part-time recruitment people to help out. We had no training and development function, either.
By the end of 2005, we had doubled our headcount across Europe, both organically and through acquisitions, and sales revenue had jumped, within a year, from $350m to $600m.
I was brought in to support growth and to rebuild the talent infrastructure. My first priority was recruitment. I had to grow our headcount by 550 employees over the year, so I had to reduce the cost per hire and put in place a robust recruitment process. We looked into providing an in-house recruitment facility, but that would have been expensive and time consuming, so we partnered with Capital Consulting, who provided us with recruiters across Europe, working on site. The team reported to me on a day-to-day basis. I had to set their targets and measure their performance. We introduced a very effective ‘war room’ type concept.
At the same time, I built up the training and development function. That’s my core expertise. I developed a learning and development infrastructure and a suite of programmes, the bulk of which were designed and delivered locally.
One of the key areas was performance management training for our managers. I was able to really use my own knowledge and expertise in allowing people to play to their strengths. We put a lot of people through a strengths assessment tool, then fed the results back to training and development, so that we could help them play to their strengths while at the same time allowing management to identify weak areas.
It was a particularly busy time. We kept executive recruitment in-house, so I brought on board an executive recruiter. I was also able to hire a training and development consultant and an administrator – by the end of 2005, I was heading up a team of 10, with a $4m budget. When I left, I recommended that the talent function was split from training and development.