How Lyft Scaled from 80 to 850 Employees in 2 Years

By Jack Hershman Published on May. 22, 2018

In the realms of high growth tech firms, talent is the nucleus of success. Ron Storn, Vice President of People at Lyft knows this.

And since swapping a role at Facebook to wield the people sceptre at Lyft has grown the groundbreaking peer-to-peer ridesharing service from 80 to 850 employees. What’s more, is that he did in just over a couple of years.

Storn highlighted just how important the use of data is to his continued success.

What does it take to reach the top of the HR function within a business?

In today’s complex business environment, understanding the company’s business is table stakes in becoming an HR leader.

Business acumen is essential to function as a true people partner to the CEO and other execs. Talent acquisition, coaching, data analyzing, and evangelizing are other key skill sets found in new HR leaders.

A shift in mind-set from bureaucracy to nimble drivers of change has made the HR leader an ally and partner.

HR has turned into a creative solutions center where the leader works to facilitate, not hinder, the fast pace of company needs, employee wants, and industry trends.

Every key decision for the company should be analyzed from a finance and people perspective. The company vision or a key decision may work financially, but not without the right people equation – having the right people, in the right role, at the right time of the company’s lifecycle is critical for a company to realize its vision and achieve its ultimate goals and outcomes.

As we see data pervade nearly every function within business, how is that impacting HR and how are you utilizing data today?

Investing in people is probably one of the biggest costs a company has. And being able to measure the ROI on this investment is critical. Because this return calculation is so important, understanding and analyzing data has become a huge factor for succeeding in HR today. Many companies have approached this in the past through engagement surveys, but HR is being challenged to be more predictive with this analysis.

We are trying to use more data in the recruiting process given our high growth.

With rapid scale, we need to know how to quickly access the metrics for a successful candidate. If we could help pinpoint places in our process which cause candidates to drop out, or factors which may lead to more successful long-term employees (like where we hire from, specific skill sets/experience which make people successful at Lyft, or interviewers who have a high success rate in identifying top employees), we can be more effective in our hiring practices.

Compare hiring processes today with those of the past – what differences are there and how do you think hiring is becoming more scientific?

There are a few key differences in hiring practices:

Past hiring practices would center on evaluating the core technical skills a candidate possesses for a function during the interview process.

Today, technical skills are the baseline; culture fit puts you over the top.

Employers are seeking spirit, drive, collaboration and team orientation.

Questions are derived to assess key cultural elements during the interview process that makes candidates successful in each company’s environment.

With the advent of social media (e.g. Facebook, Linkedin, Glassdoor), employers and candidates have access to and can share information that was not readily available in the past.

In some ways, social media makes employers jobs easier as employees and candidates both feel like they have multiple avenues to research or share their experiences at a company.

It helps to advertise company culture and practices, and gain feedback on what is working well. Unfortunately, it sometimes works the other way too and you usually find out pretty quickly when culture or candidate experience is poor.

There is still an important human instinct to vetting and engaging with people, especially since culture is so important to the modern company/workforce that has to be layered with the more scientific approaches.

Lyft is working to roll out a quality hiring metric analyzing data of people who joined 6-12 months out – how are they performing? Were there key interviewers or key feedback during the interviews that were good pre-indicators? Are there school or company commonalities to predict success?

Our goal is to have a deeply routed data and scientific approach in assessing candidates.

Businesses dedicate a lot of time, effort and money into trying to understand their customers. Why isn’t there a similar investment into understanding their own employees?

I think this is changing as there has been a shift in the way companies are thinking about their employees, which in turn has changed what’s expected from a great People team.

However, again, measuring human nature and behavior is hard to do. For years, the commonplace approach was to create employee surveys with focus groups set up afterwards to help action the results.

What is changing is the ability to be able to take the results of an employee survey and then cross reference this with other things – social data, company performance data, benefits data to help direct some of actions the company then takes.

What is the biggest challenge when leading the HR function of a company that is experiencing hyper growth?

We are not yet a global company, but are experiencing rapid US growth.

In 2.5 years, Lyft has scaled from 80 employees to over 850 employees. We have grown from one central office to 3 key corporate offices and 10+ satellite offices.

Our main challenge is to keep our quality of hiring and culture intact. We are right in the midst of this challenge iterating and soliciting feedback to help scale our growth in the most efficient and effective manner. The last 50-100 hires sets the tone of your culture.

Instilling an understanding of our 4 key core values (Be Yourself; Create Fearlessly; Uplift Others; and Make It Happen) and training new hire interviewers to appraise candidates consistently across the US is critical in scaling our company. New Lyfters can apply these learnings by taking an active role in assessing and onboarding future hires.

Communication and employee tools, landing teams, and threaded goals are also essential in developing and scaling in diversified markets around the US.

Why is employee engagement so dismal in the UK, US and other leading economies and what can be done about this?

Other countries place more importance on work/life balance than some of the leading economies. As technology has advanced, being able to balance this in a healthy way is harder to do which causes people to burnout quickly.

Allowing people the ability to focus on the jobs and lives in ways that scale for each individual is becoming essential.

With so many generations in the workplace right now, this is not an easy task. We are now seeing a paradigm shift towards a more human centric focus.

Companies are trying to build wellness, mindfulness, benefits programs to help address this. We are also starting to see this in learning & development programs designed for individuals to adapt (self awareness & success tactics that work for them) but also for managers/leaders to identify and support these efforts.