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Is Groupon’s problem talent (or recruiting)?

Recently, deal site Groupon fired their CEO of four years, Andrew Mason. His letter of resignation of sorts (actually his goodbye letter) has been posted everywhere and has given some insight into the quirky leader who led the company through an epic public offering failure.

There’s a lot of commentary about the way he led and some of the effective and not-so-effective things he did at Groupon. Much of it focuses on Mason himself. However, I think there is another aspect to consider: The impact of talent throughout the company.

I think that it’s safe to say that in four years, he had some influence on the talent coming into and leaving the organization. And while a CEO can have a massive impact on the company, the day-to-day leaders and even recruiters likely have a similar, if not larger impact.

So if you follow my reasoning, it may not be that Groupon had the wrong leader (that’s for someone else to analyze); it may be that they may had the wrong talent to move the company forward. And I suspect that this may be a lingering problem in many companies recovering from the Great Recession.

In addition and probably as important is the culture that gets built by the people at the top and the people responsible for hiring. I’ve read a lot about Mason and some of the geeky, eccentric things he did, and while some of those seem creative to me, maybe they weren’t right for Groupon or maybe they didn’t create the right environment. In any case, a culture was built and the question is: Was it the right culture and how did their recruiting process support that culture?

For example, this blog post, titled, “How Not to Get Hired at Groupon,” written by a Groupon recruiter, got mixed reviews. It seemed to put the candidate second and the recruiter first. While the person writing it may have wanted to seem hip and very “silicon valley” (even though they are in Chicago), it probably did more harm than good. But the bigger question is: Is this the kind of culture they wanted to project?

I bring this up because the post was from a year ago when Groupon probably felt like they were up and coming and still had some steam. A year later, I doubt if they or any jobseekers would feel the same about them.

But this is a good example of how recruiters can have a big impact on the way talent comes into an organization. Personally, after reading the post, it seemed to me like they didn’t have a very efficient process and one that perhaps was not easy for the candidate to navigate. Add this to a recruiter who may come off a bit arrogant and you may be turning away more high-performers than you attract.

It remains to be seen what will happen to Groupon, but ultimately their talent (or lack thereof) will decide their fate. But for the rest of us, it’s a reminder that having good talent is critical to innovating and moving a company forward. Your recruiters and recruiting process can play a big part in that effort.

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