Business Essentials: 'You don't have to be gay to work here but you can't think in straight lines'

The owner of Gaydar has to look outside its community for new recruits. How can it help them to adapt?
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The Independent Online

He explains the origins of the company: "During 1999, a friend asked the two entrepreneurs if they could help him with finding a boyfriend since he was too busy running his own business. They had a look at the internet and at the time there was nothing relevant.

"So they decided to write an online program which would make the communication process much easier."

The initiative evolved into Gaydar.co.uk, which grew at a rate of 10 per cent a month in the first year to a total membership of 78,000. A year later, it boasted 221,000 members, and today the figure has reached just over three million for both Gaydar.co.uk and GaydarGirls.co.uk, as well as associated brands.

QSoft now owns a radio station, GaydarRadio.com, and a travel network, GaydarTravel. com. The group is also about to relaunch its Rainbow Network, an international gay lifestyle and information website.

So far, Mr Muniz explains, it has been relatively easy to find the right staff for all QSoft's projects because it can hire within the gay community it serves, as well as friends of that community.

"These people are already familiar with the ethos of the company and the services we offer," he adds. "But now we are moving into travel, radio, news and entertainment, so our marketing is becoming a lot more diverse. We are looking for people outside the community to help us in the specific areas we are expanding into. For example, we know we need to bring in experts within sales."

It is looking to recruit a fair number of staff too - 10 for the relaunch of the Rainbow Network alone.

"The crux of our dilemma, then, is that we are now bringing in more people and, furthermore, people who are potentially unfamiliar with our culture and with the community we serve, and definitely unfamiliar with our products," says Mr Muniz. "So we want to set up an induction process that provides a grounding in these areas, as well as sensitivity training to our audience if they don't already have an understanding or awareness of it."

In particular, he would like to know what the content of the induction process should be, the length of time it should take and how it should be run in order to hold the attention of new recruits and ultimately be an effective introduction to working at QSoft.

www.qsoft.co.uk

WHAT THE EXPERTS SAY

Nick Russell, Associate Director, The Work Foundation (Consultancy)

"While QSoft's vision - to serve the needs of the UK and international gay community - is clear, the values that define how its staff behave towards customers, suppliers and colleagues are unlikely to be explicit.

"Induction is a process of clarifying those values. It will be positive and reassuring for new arrivals if the commitment to diversity and respect that the company expects from others applies equally to its own employees' attitudes and actions. A video or presentation about the company's vision and values will be valuable for all staff, not just newcomers.

" 'Godparenting' is a great way of helping inductees to understand the informal culture. An experienced employee, ideally from the same work group but not the boss, takes responsibility for introducing their 'godchild' around the organisation and being available to explain the company's quirks."

Kate Douglas, Human Resources Director, I-Level Group

"Induction is vital if individuals are to learn enough about QSoft and its activities to perform their role quickly and effectively.

"Experiencing a one/two-day programme of presentations from senior managers, with culturally driven activities such as competitions, would provide a mix of work context and familiarisation with the community and culture. Senior manager involvement will show how important the process is.

"Personalised ideas include employee photo maps, an info pack on local amenities, and a 'buddy' to introduce them to colleagues, take them to lunch on their first day and generally answer their questions."

Rebecca Clake, Organisation and Resourcing Adviser, The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development

"It is important to tailor an induction programme to the needs of the individual employee, so they adapt to their role quickly and meet the people they will be working with. Giving new starters a 'buddy' might help too - perhaps someone outside their team. This way they get to meet other people, find out what other departments work on and become more strategic in their thinking.

"You can't avoid the more standard areas such as making sure the employee knows where the facilities are. The induction is also a great opportunity to make sure new starters understand the organisation's visions and values.

"Some of the new recruits might need a more detailed introduction, so it may be worth getting someone in from the gay community to discuss what's important to them. Only when staff understand the customer base will they be a success."

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