Here’s What Talent Agility Looks Like (redux)

rubber bandsMary managed a small team consisting of 3 employees. The positions they held were coveted jobs in a small but well-known company. With few exceptions these employees tended to be entry-level professionals who used these jobs to launch their careers – ultimately moving on to bigger and better things at other organizations. Even though salaries were below-market and there was limited career mobility due to the size of the organization, morale was high and the employment experience enjoyable. Tenure for these positions was in the range of 18 months or so which meant, as you can imagine, just about the time an employee became extremely proficient and productive, s/he opted to move on for another opportunity.

The department had numerous and varied accountabilities and deliverables over the course of any given year but core responsibilities could be boiled down to 6 primary areas:

  1. Make the widgets
  2. Market the widgets
  3. Sell the widgets
  4. Invoice for the widgets
  5. Ship the widgets
  6. Service the widgets

While all 3 team members needed to have some familiarity with all duties, the job descriptions looked like this for years:

  • Employee A: Responsible for 1 and 2
  • Employee B: Responsible for 3 and 4
  • Employee C: Responsible for 5 and 6

Stuff got done.

But then, one day, both Employees A and B tendered their resignations. The two-week countdown began as Mary realized it was going to be her and Employee C (who had been with the company for 6 months) running the show for the foreseeable future.

Initially Mary approached the hiring process as most managers (and HR professionals) do: she resurrected Job Descriptions A and B and set a course to hire employees who would perform function 1, 2, 3 and 4. After all, she reasoned, Employee C was slaying all the dragons with functions 5 and 6.

But then she stopped. Perhaps, she thought, if I provide a bit more variety and the chance for staff members to contribute in different ways, we’ll not only get the work done but reap the benefits of employees staying for longer periods because they’re continually learning and exploring. Maybe if they have the chance to do something new – something that builds on what they already know – we’ll all benefit.

So she talked to Employee C (who for 6 months had been responsible for shipping and servicing the widgets) and asked her “what would you like to do? What do you want to learn? What functional areas interest you?” Employee C said “I’ve always wanted to market and sell the widgets but I know those tasks are assigned to two different jobs. So I’m not sure what we can do.” 

But I’m sure you’ve guessed what they did.

Mary decided to be much more fluid in her operational model; versatility was in and rigidity was out. Rather than creating positions and praying-and-hoping that employees would stay long enough to develop deep-deep DEEP expertise she opted for a new model that encouraged the development of skills and the need for employees to tackle new challenges. She adopted a high-touch and constantly evolving approach that provided for task rotation every 6 months; this not only kept team members interested and engaged but ensured cross training in a fully team focused environment.

While the jobs continued to be ones that young professionals used to merely launch their long-term careers, tenure for the department increased from 18 months to close to 3 years.

I call that talent agility. I call that winning the battle.

After all…sometimes the “war for talent” is waged within.


this post originally ran in 2015 


Anecdotes, Stereotypes, and Hiring Cojones

cojonesLast week I had the pleasure of participating as a “mock interviewer” (Lord….how many times have I done this in my HR career?) for a batch of fresh-faced interns in the Baton Rouge Area Chamber’s InternBR program.

The goals of the program are, through a series of workshops and training sessions, to enable participants to (1) develop professional communication and leadership skills, and (2) engage in the Baton Rouge community through service and social events.

Let me tell you…this was week seven of the eight week program and these kids (yup…they’re kids to me) were first-rate!

During the course of several hours (we had lunch! and social time!) each intern went through a very brief “mock” interview with a local business or HR leader. We, the interviewers, received resumes earlier in the week and had the chance to run the process however we saw fit for the 3 interns we were assigned. They were expected to give feedback to each other as well so all four of us (my 3 interns and me) sat in a room together and dove into the artificial chaos and madness of the job interview,

In my room I ran a panel –peppering each of the interns with questions in turn. (I thought it was fantastic of course – I was like the host of my very own HR game show!). While I switched up some queries, one question I asked of all three candidates was “Describe your ideal job?” I like that question; in my estimation it helps me understand motivational factors and provides a jump off stage that leads to a conversation about organizational expectations and culture.

All three of them – a Mass Communication/PR student, an Accountant (B.S. in Accounting and an MBA), and a Computer Science student (software developer) – said pretty much the same thing (and I’m paraphrasing here):

“My ideal job is flexible so I can spend time with my family. I want a job that provides me the opportunity to work from home. I want to work for an organization where I am respected and valued.” 


Anything wrong with that answer? I didn’t think so. I quite liked it.

But, as I told the group, while “I” like it (and explained to them why I ask it – as pointed out above) not every hiring manager or recruiter they meet with will view their response positively.

Total crap of course…but also the reality.

An answer such as theirs is what keeps middle-aged folks clutching their pearls and bemoaning the state of the current workforce. It’s this sort of answer that causes endless debate amongst the dinosaurs on the HR Talk Bulletin Boards and at my local SHRM meetings as they kvetch and moan – “these kid’s today don’t understand about paying their dues” and “it’s not all about them.”

As sick as we are talking about generational differences (KMN) it never seems to end; we had a heated discussion about this at #truNOLA the other week. (REALLY HEATED!) And just yesterday I attended an event discussing talent and recruiting in the Baton Rouge community and a roomful of recruiters and talent leaders tossed about clichés and generalizations about you-know-which-generation left, right and center.

So yeah…this is an anecdotal tale based on my sitting down with three individuals. Nary a statistic in sight. But anecdotes lead to stereotypes, don’t they?

Guess what though? Once upon a time when I was a single mother with a young daughter I wanted the same thing as these graduates in 2016. I, quite frankly, needed the same thing. I had to find a job that allowed me to leave by 5:15 PM so I could get to the day care center before it closed at 6 PM. I needed a job that provided flexibility on snow days. I needed the opportunity to work from home when my daughter was sick because I had no other resources or options. Also note – we worked from home in those pre-PC days; I took stacks and stacks of paper home to compile reports or sort through resumes and call candidates, via my landline-home-phone, in order to conduct phone screens or schedule interviews.

I wanted meaning and a higher purpose as I grew my HR career; I chose to work for a non-profit agency (with incredibly low pay) because not only did I believe in the mission but it also provided a warm and nurturing work environment.

I’m far from being a fresh-faced grad but I’ve searched for all of those things… and I bet you have too.

We just didn’t have the courage to ask for them.


Analog or Digital? Recruiting Hourly Workers

job board paperI recently got to chat with my friend Tim Sackett about the challenges many organizations face when sourcing, attracting and hiring hourly workers. We discussed some techniques and tools that have worked well for us and, hopefully, will work for you too!

As Tim said…..

“I go to a lot of recruiting conferences each year, and I’ve noticed recently that I can find a large number of sessions at those conferences on how to recruit technical and IT talent, nurses, and other white-collar professionals. But what I never find is a session on how to recruit the hourly worker. Remember Joe the plumber? Yeah, that guy!

Hourly workers are increasingly becoming some of the most difficult hires we make in our organizations. Does this sound familiar? “Oh, anyone can do that, Tim! Just put up a job posting and schedule some interviews. The ones that actually show up get the job.”

Unfortunately, you would be shocked at how many organizations still believe this is how you hire your hourly staff. Frequently, very little attention and resources go into these hires, and yet they can make up a majority of your workforce. Take a look at your recruiting budget right now. What percentage of your budget goes to hourly hiring versus professional hiring, and how many hires is that for each?

What I see in my business is that most organizations spend anywhere from four to five times as much on professional hiring as they do on hourly hiring, and I’ve seen that run as high as 10 to 20 times more! There’s no doubt that professional hiring is more expensive, but should it be five to ten times per hire more?

Organizations need to understand this difference in cost-per-hire between hourly and professional positions. In many cases, great talent acquisition leaders can find extra money in the professional hiring budget to incorporate some new techniques and tools to better hire hourly employees.”

Read the rest of this SHRM article –> Viewpoint: Recruiting Hourly Employees in a Digital World   — we had some good suggestions if I do say so myself!



The #tru Community – Louisiana Style

truNewOrleanssquare300x300I’m looking forward to a fun day! It’s #truNOLA time and we’ll be learning, sharing, collaborating and furthering relationships within our HR and Recruiting community.

I love everything about these events.

This is the third #tru I’ve hosted in Louisiana; we held #truNOLA in 2012, #truBatonRouge last year, and now we’re set for the 2016 iteration.

So what do we have in store? We’ve got tracks about Branding the Entire Employee Lifecycle and Applying the Candidate Experience to an Individual Applicant. We’ll be talking about the Recruiting of Veterans and How to Recruit Industrial Labor (from an ever-narrowing pool of interested candidates).

Oh – and we’re gonna dive into a debate about In-House vs. 3rd Party Recruiters as we ask the question “Can’t We All Get Along?”

A BUNCH of good stuff – check it out here.

Huge thanks to our sponsors (without whom this would NOT be happening!) – HROnboard and Clinch. Seriously – go check them out if you haven’t already.

You can follow along today using the hashtag #truNOLA. Oh, and here’s a fun story….there’s a New Orleans rapper on twitter named @JSLUGG500 who uses the same hashtag; I’m sure he can’t quite figure out what-in-the-hell is going on…..


Crime and Punishment: Hiring the Burglars

hamburglarA few nights ago, as I learned via the Nextdoor app on my phone, some people in my neighborhood had their vehicle stolen out of their carport. They walked out the door in the morning, keys in hand, and BAM – “WTF – where is the car?”  This happens, sadly enough, with alarming frequency in various neighborhoods around town, so was not an unusual circumstance.

But, Baton Rouge being what it is, everyone knows everyone else so I ended up having a conversation at work with our Advertising Manager who lives 6 blocks from me and 2 doors from the unfortunate victims. (Yes the car was locked; the vehicle had keyless entry that apparently presents an even easier opportunity than old school hot wiring).

Anyway…when my co-worker and I were discussing this, lamenting the sad state of affairs in our solidly middle-class neighborhood I told her the story of how my house had been burgled circa 2012. Middle of the day thing: the burglars stole electronics (gentlemanly in their frenzy, at least they didn’t RIP the shit off the walls), tossed my jewelry box, opened the china cabinets, flung the silverware and china hither and yon, and manhandled my underwear. The latter evidenced by the fact that the dresser drawers were open and my panties were, quite literally, in a wad. Icky.

(note to would-be-burglars….. don’t be googling my address. We are fully alarmed, literally a 60 second drive from the main Baton Rouge Police Command Center, and now have multiple cameras taping everything from every angle. Don’t even think about it).

So here’s the backstory to what is forevermore known as the Schooling Home Invasion of 2012.

Picture it: 2 months before the break-in on some random weekday. Mr. S. had left for work while I, ever the late riser, was still getting ready. At 7 AM the dogs started barking so I checked the driveway and peered out the window: no cars and no people. I headed back to the rear of the house and continued readying myself for a day of super-freaking-important-HR-work (!!) and got to the stage where makeup, jewelry and underwear were in place. The dogs, once again, went into a frenzy so, in exasperation, I stormed down the hallway and headed into the sunroom, a good-sized room with multiple French doors looking out on the patio/deck/backyard,  to address the ruckus. I admonished the dogs in a motherly voice to “STFU” and simultaneously came face-to-face (through the French doors) with “criminal dude.” In my underwear and earrings I probably scared him more than he scared me.

I screamed, freaked-the-F-out, and called 9-1-1.

Later, (much later), after the Schooling Home Invasion of 2012, I realized that “criminal dude” was casing the joint and deciding if it was worth the time to share with his fellow miscreants. “Dudes….I’m telling you….they have little dogs that sound more vicious than they are and there’s loads of stuff we can grab.”

(note: we have since added a vicious KILLER dog named Mr. Crumples and although we have way too many TVs for a household of 2 people you need to remember, potential burglars, that we are alarmed and the police station is a 1 minute drive away!)


There’s an HR/Recruiting/talent attraction lesson in there.

Our candidates…our applicants…our casual visitors… are checking us out. Casing the joint. Aren’t they?

“Is it worth it?”

“Should I tell my buddies?”

“Will there be a ROI if I spend some time there?”

“Is it worth the risk?”

“Am I gonna land in jail?”

“Sweet fancy Moses I hope I don’t have to see an HR lady in her underwear…….”

Look… I love my recruitment marketing employer branding folks as much as the next gal. I belong to EB Facebook groups, follow #EBChat on the twitterz, and have pontificated on the topic myself. But let’s strip it back down to the basics and forget the fancy names – this is all about letting people get a glimpse of the real job, the real company, the real deal, and the trade-offs.

Many a recruiter, trying to land a coveted and in-demand candidate, wonders what the candidates need to see, feel, and experience. Big dollars are spent. Budgets are created. Pictures? Snapchat? Content? Video? Manufactured BS designed to win an award?

Maybe – just maybe – those candidates simply need a glimpse of the underwear.


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