Talent Acquisition Interviews
Is 2013 the year video interview technology reaches the tipping point with HR and recruiters?
Today, a story about showing up - and an in-depth interview with a new friend and show sponsor. The friend is Mark Finn. The company is TalentBox. Here's a little secret. Video interviews are about to become as ubiquitous with employers as phone screens. Get ready. I think 2013 will be the break-out year for this technology.
This is Peter Clayton reporting from New York with a special Talent Acquisition Channel podcast on Totalpicture Radio.
TalentBox is a video enabled, digital interviewing platform providing technology that allows companies, teams and groups to identify, shortlist and recruit top talent in an unusually effective, efficient, and cost-effective manner.
We spend a considerable amount of time on this show discussing and evangelizing the candidate experience (I'm a member of the Candidate Experience Council - CandEs Award for 2013). The good news for candidates is TalentBox delivers a far superior candidate experience than what is typical, providing talent with more opportunities to showcase their potential and demonstrate why they are the right person for an opportunity.
There's another part of this story, too. Video interviewing is about to go mainstream. Mark goes into detail in our interview explaining why: he recently published an article on TLNT (see the link in the sidebar), titled 6 Reasons Why Video Interviewing Will Soon Go Mainstream.
What about showing up? I met Mark at the NY Recruiting Meet-Up Network last month. If I hadn't shown up, I wouldn't be telling you this story!
Mark Finn, TalentBox TotalPicture Radio Transcript
Today a story about showing up and an in-depth interview with a new friend and show sponsor. The friend is Mark Finn. The company is TalentBox and that's. Here's a little secret; video interviews are about to become as ubiquitous with employers as phone screens. Get ready. I think 2013 will be the breakout year for this technology.
Hi, this is Peter Clayton with a special Talent Acquisition Channel podcast on TotalPicture Radio. TalentBox - that's TalentBox.me is a video enabled digital interviewing platform that allows recruiters and hiring managers to identify shortlist and recruit top talent in an unusually effective and efficient and manner.
As you probably know, we spend a considerable amount of time on this show discussing and evangelizing the candidate experience. I'm a member of the Candidate Experience Council, the CandEs Awards for 2013. The good news for candidates here is TalentBox delivers a far superior candidate experience than what is typical by providing talent with more opportunities to showcase their potential and demonstrate why they are the right person for an opportunity. And Mark will speak more to this in our interview today.
The other part of the story is video interviewing is about to go mainstream. Mark recently published an article on TLNT. You'll find a link here on Mark's feature page on TotalPicture.com. The article is titled "Six reasons why video interviewing will soon go mainstream." You might ask what does this mean for you as a job seeker?
So what about showing up? I met Mark at The New York Recruiting MeetUp Network last month. If I hadn't shown up, I wouldn't be telling you this story.
And now, here's our interview with Mark Finn.
Peter: Hi, this is Peter Clayton. We're in New York City today and I am meeting with Mark Finn who is the cofounder and CEO of a new video interviewing platform called TalentBox. Mark, welcome to TotalPicture Radio.
Mark: Thanks Peter, it's great to be on the show.
Peter: Let's start by you giving us a little bit of your background and the background of TalentBox.
Mark: Sure. I'll start with my own personal background and how I came to TalentBox and then give you a bit of an overview on what we're doing and where we've came from on that front as well.
Mark: I spent many years consulting to large organizations in Australia and New Zealand around improving their organizational processes and systems at sort of a C-suite level. I was also working very much at the forefront of technology with a range of businesses as well. We actually came to the idea of TalentBox and the concept behind it through working with one of our clients around trying to find someone to be in a promotional video for their company.
The story really of the genesis of the idea, we put a brief out for someone to be in this promotional video and all of the responses came back and the questions were sort of do a dance, tell us about yourself. We got together with the team and sat around the screen and sort of played all the different videos, and it was a very collaborative process around looking at those videos and saying we think this person is good and we like that person, and maybe not so much this person... you get the picture.
We thought that was a great way to really look at candidates in a sort of application process generally and given that we had been working with these big organizations around some of the challenges they were facing on sourcing and selection and people issues as well, and we thought there isn't a product that we've come across that we feel really improves that process and provides a way for companies to better identify and select candidates, be it for a job or a promotional video or whatever that would be. We had and we have a great group of developers and UX people and HR people, and we thought we can build a product that we feel really meets a need at the moment.
There were also few big factors going in the world that we thought makes it the right time for something like this. Just to name a few quickly, the rise of the cloud, the rise of the mobile workforce, the fact that we're hyperconnected now and it's very easy to get applications in and sometimes you end up with résumé overload. We thought well look, companies also want to be much more efficient around their recruiting spend as well. There's a bit of a trend to bring some of it in house. And we thought let's build a product that allows companies to, I guess, digitize the interview process. We started two years ago and we now have offices in Australia, operations in New Zealand. Here today with you in New York. It's all very exciting and also really exciting that it's a topic that is very relevant at the moment in the HR community.
Peter: It really is, absolutely. Basically Mark, you had a need. You wanted to do these video interviews with candidates for this company you were working with, went out to the marketplace, didn't find anything exactly what you were looking for, and so you built it yourself.
Mark: That's pretty much it. We did have a look. We thought about well this seems like a great idea, why hasn't it really been done on a big scale today? We had a look around the world and thought what are the big changes that have happened that make a product like this in a relevant now and why do we think we can do it now.
T here needs to be better tools there for helping companies and hiring managers in the selection and assessment process. And we thought we sort of had the team to put that together.
Peter: You recently wrote a very interesting article that you can find on TLNT.com titled "Six reasons why video interviewing will soon go mainstream." The first reason you outlined was that the challenge was selection, not sourcing. Are you able to elaborate on that for us a little bit?
Mark: Sure. I think firstly, that comment was a relative comment. There are obviously challenges in both of those processes. What I was trying to allude to is now it's very easy to have résumé overload on the company side of things. If you're a well-known company and you put out a job ad, you can get 600 résumés back very, very quickly. Then the challenge and the time challenge and the cost challenge is really working out to of these 600, how do we sort of see through the volume here and really get down to the 10 or 20 that we're really interested in. So that comment was really geared towards the time challenge and the cost challenge around the selection process.
One of the things we're seeing companies do, because of that résumé overload problem, is companies will put in the job description specific requirements for what candidates have to do. Say for example, "Please say these words in your cover letter" just to make sure that the candidates are actually reading the job description. It's so easy now Peter, to just send through your CV and cover letter at the click of a button and really you want to weed out the candidates that really have considered the job that they're applying for and then interview and look at those candidates. So that comment around the challenges is selection rather than sourcing. is really a relative thing and we're focused on providing companies with better tools and capabilities to improve their selection capability and make it more efficient as well.
Peter: One of the points that you make in this article that I want to take exception with is candidates are comfortable using video. I think that's very true for candidates in your age group, the Gen Y'ers are very comfortable using video but when you get up into the baby boomer generation, they aren't so comfortable using video. But I think the point here is that you need to skill up in this area because this is the trend, this is where this is going. You are going to be asked to do a video interview if you are out there in the job market today, and this is just one of the skills that you need to develop.
Mark: That's a very true and relevant point, Peter. I'd also add to that, I see that as a design or a UX failure on the platform side of things. One of our key - it's actually called our TalentBox mantra and the principles that we sort of aspire to, I guess, when we're building our products and doing what we do, one of those seven points is that if it's not immediately obvious, it's not obvious enough. So we aspire to build products and platforms that are usable by people of all generations. If we're not doing that, then we're not doing a good enough job. We really try to make it something that it is inclusive for everyone. I agree with you that it's just a new challenge in the same way that you used to train and learn for interview skills. This is just another iteration or evolution of that, and I think people will become better and become more comfortable around what makes a good video interview.
Peter: In the last couple of years at all of these conferences, everyone is talking about the cloud and everything is moving to the cloud. Well, here is a concrete example of something that is facilitated by the cloud and wouldn't exist without it.
Mark: That's right. One of the reasons we think it's the right time for the space is not just the comfort with video, but just the cloud allows you to store obviously large amounts of video there that can be accessed at any point. If I was to do this four or five years ago, I would have to send you a 16-megabyte file that would clog up your inbox, which if you then wanted to send to someone else, it would clog up their inbox and it's a very clunky process.
The cloud in a lot of industries, not just HR, allows the content to be stored there which can then be accessed by anyone that you provide authorization to at any point at any time. Now, that's got a lot of benefits, operating efficiency benefits as well as the ability to collaborate on the review process, which is a key element of our platform. Video interviewing is definitely the buzzword at the moment but we're much more than that. We provide a platform that allows companies and hiring managers to collaborate on that review process remotely which just would not have been possible before the cloud.
Peter: Something else you mention in this article on TLNT, the cost per hire is relevant. There's been some articles out there that people don't really look at the cost per hire anymore. That's really not what's considered. But as you point out in your article, companies definitely do care about the cost per hire.
Mark: That's right, and it's not just bigger companies, Peter, it's also the smaller ones as well. I'm just going to give you a very basic example of why it is relevant, and when I talk about cost, I include time in there as well because time is money for someone running a small business.
If you're a small business looking to hire someone and you don't necessarily have all of the systems in place that a larger company has, you have to take the role, or someone within your company takes the role, of hiring to schedule all of the interviews one after another to meet with candidates to then provide the feedback back to other people within the company and get them to interview the candidates. Also on the candidate side that the time of going to the interviews that may or may not be successful, there's so much time in there that I wouldn't say being wasted, but could be done much more efficiently and quickly with new digital products that allows small business owners to focus more on what it is they actually are in business for.
That is something where if you can reduce that, then small businesses are able to focus on their businesses and get on with things, so to speak. For bigger companies, definitely it's not the greatest economy even still and anywhere where you can become more efficient around processes in an organization I think is something that should be embraced with open arms. The argument that cost per hire or not tracking or even being cognizant of those sort of metrics is not something that sort of really gels well in the current economy and what companies and shareholders are really after.
Peter: There are a lot of video interviewing platforms out there and a lot of companies have sprung up over the last couple of years bringing these kinds of solutions to market. What is different or unique about TalentBox?
Mark: Firstly, it's not just a video interviewing platform. Video is just one component of our digital interviewing platform. Video is great to be able to get a feel for a candidate, their ability to present themselves, to get a better understanding of who they are as a person. But there's also other parts of a candidate which I'm sure you're familiar with that you want to get an understanding of. With the TalentBox, it's not just about video. We offer companies the ability to create text based questions that allow you to assess a candidate's ability to write and structure answers to questions, as well as multi-choice questions which can test cognitive ability and those sorts of things as well.
So it's not just a video interviewing platform; it's a digital interviewing platform and we're constantly building out the range of tools that are available for companies to build great digital interviews. Video is a key part for sure and very relevant at the moment, but we're really focused on providing a greater suite of products in there for companies.
The other thing I would say is that we've really focused on the user experience of the platform and having something that is very intuitive, very accessible and very easy to use.
Peter: Back to what you were talking about earlier for smaller companies which I find really as interesting and appealing market for this product because when you get into ad agencies and architectural firms and design firms, a lot of those companies, they don't have in-house recruiters and when they hire someone it's the art director or the creative director who is tasked with doing that and it seems like this platform is really designed and built for organizations who don't have full time recruiters on staff but gives them a really cool way of assessing candidates and evaluating who the best fit is for their organization.
Mark: We've really focused on building products that are available to anyone. You don't necessarily have to have the biggest budgets to use our platform. In the case of the ad agencies and smaller businesses that you mentioned, we do provide an ability for companies to capture talent in one place in a very efficient way.
Peter: So you can focus like an ATS for them, an applicant tracking system.
Mark: Exactly. When we were having coffee before Peter, I gave you the example of ad agencies that will typically have on their website 'we're always on the lookout for great talent. If you're interested in working for us, please send us your résumé...' and there's just an email on the other side of that. They're constantly getting résumés through, it's not very organized. They can't see or hear from the candidates as well. With our platform, those smaller businesses can create interviews that they can easily hyperlink to their website and just capture people that might be interested in working for them on an ongoing basis.
Our vision is to provide these products to everyone and not limit it to big organizations exclusively.
Peter: I think a lot of people recognize the role that video interviewing can play in external recruitment. However, you see a much bigger role than that. Can you talk about some of those?
Mark: For sure. You'd be familiar Peter, obviously with the rise of the mobile workforce and the challenges that bigger companies are having to harness that in effective and efficient manner. To give you an example, if you're a global organization and you just won a project to do something and you're looking to staff that project with your best people from around the world, well how do you do that in an efficient way and in an effective way? TalentBox can play a role on the internal mobility side of things of getting your best employees or the right people for the right projects, staffed on those projects.
To give you an example, if say WPP won the account for Coca-Cola and they wanted to look around the world for the best people with the right experience to be on that, you could build an interview that's geared to why do you want to work on this thing? What makes you the right person, etc., etc., and use it on an internal side of things as well.
Other organizations that have big secondment programs for example as well, PWC I know has 170,000 employees around the world that they're moving quite a lot. If you're a partner in say Sydney, for example, and a manager in New York is looking to go over to Sydney to work for that partner, that partner doesn't know the person in New York but they could create a digital interview and say tell us what's your experience in New York, what kind of clients have you worked with, why do you want to move to Sydney? So, it's as much an internal tool as well rather than just an external recruiting tool, if that makes sense.
Peter: We've really focused from the company side on this interview. Talk to me a little bit from the candidate side, how effective is TalentBox for the candidate and how easy is it for them to use? Obviously to create videos, you've got to have a webcam to be able to do that. So, from a candidate's perspective Mark, how do they go about using your platform and can anyone go on there and start making videos?
Mark: I think firstly, the ubiquity of video cameras is it's everywhere. There's one on your laptop. There's one on my laptop. There's one on the phone. If you don't have one of those, you can very easily call up a friend or find a place to do that. I think people are comfortable with video in the use of webcams.
In terms of the candidate experience, I don't think people should shy away from these platforms because it does provide candidates with an ability to let the company know more about themselves, to express themselves, to make a clear argument as to why they should be right for the role.
I've personally had the experience where on paper I thought I was fantastic for a role. I didn't get the role, and I feel like if I could have expressed myself and presented myself, if I had the use of video then at least the company I know they've had the chance to assess me better or they maybe haven't missed something. So, I feel that you should embrace it and it should be a positive thing for candidates.
Another point I'll just make, Peter, is it's not one way video either. So, it's not just about candidates providing a video representation themselves or responding to questions via video. Out platform, for example, allows companies to record videos of themselves, expressing who they are and what their culture is which the candidates can see which we believe leads to better outcomes, because if the candidate can see who they might potentially be working for and if they like them, then that's great and they should go for the role. But then if they don't, that's not the person that I necessarily want to work for, then you don't apply for the role. So it's a two-way straight.
Peter: I want to shift gears a little bit as we're doing this interview we're just about ready to start with most of the large HR and recruiting conferences. You and I will be in San Diego in a week or so at ERE's, New Recruiting Conference and Expo and that follows up with many of the SHRM events and HR today and HR Tech. So what do you see as some of the hottest topics coming up at conferences in these events this year?
Mark: I may be a little bit biased but I definitely think video interviewing is going to be prevalent in the conversations for sure.
In terms of other big things happening, I really think companies are taking their branding much more seriously on the employment and the recruiter side of things. I think the industry has got a lot to learn from advertisers in creating unique experiences for candidates to really attract the best talent. So that's definitely one.
I think mobile recruiting is becoming more exciting and there's some good products coming to market around that.
I think also as well just the constant change, the change globally of the workforce and the key trends that we've been talking about for a while seem to be coming faster than we maybe thought and the challenges for big companies are how to put the systems and processes in place now to make sure they're ready for those demographic and global changes that are coming.
Peter: I think you're spot on with that because no one thought mobile was going to catch on as fast as it did, for one thing, especially in the recruiting and HR space and the importance now of having mobile optimized ways for candidates to apply for jobs using a smartphone. The speed of these transactions that are taking place today it's just phenomenal compared to what it was three or four years ago.
Mark: That's right, and we really have to embrace it and use it in the right context. On a higher level, companies hiring managers and recruiters that are early adopters of these new technologies, I actually include video in that as well because it hasn't yet gone mainstream. I think we'll, in the long run, do well and also attract the best candidates and be ahead of the curve. I think that's important because if you don't open yourself up to these things, you might get left behind.
Peter: Moving forward Mark, where do you see TalentBox going? What are some of your ambitions? Where do you want to be? What's sort of the vision for your company?
Mark: It's pretty simple, Peter. We want to fundamentally improve the recruitment experience for both companies and candidates through innovation and technology. That's a pretty broad statement and a pretty ambitious statement at the same time. But in the article that you mentioned that I actually quoted a Silk Road report which said that only 38% of HR systems were fully automated. We see a huge opportunity in the space as a whole to innovate and provide great products that make the experience better for everyone. We've got some big ambitions and we really do feel we can add a lot to the industry.
We started off in Australia as you know, and now here in the US, looking to be in the UK within six months as well. So we've got a long way to go and we're excited about some of the things going on in the industry and the attention, I guess, that video interviewing is really now getting, so it's exciting.
Mark Finn is the founder and CEO of TalentBox, a video-enabled digital interview platform that has over 100 clients globally. You'll find this interview in the Talent Acquisition Channel of TotalPicture Radio. That's totalpicture.com and included will be a complete transcript of our conversation today.
This is Peter Clayton. Thanks for tuning in to TotalPicture Radio.
John Delpino is Senior Director of Executive Recruiting for the World's Largest Employer
For over 20 years, John Delpino was Director of Executive Staffing at PepsiCo in Purchase, New York. Then... he moved to Bentonville, Arkansas.
"If you look at the Fortune 500, there are about 100 or 120 [senior HR] people who were trained, at some point in their career, at PepsiCo. No other company can come close, not even GE," says Hal Johnson, a managing partner for Korn/Ferry International who has recruited top HR talent for and from Purchase, N.Y.-based PepsiCo over the years." Human Resource Executive
John Delpino is Senior Director of Executive Recruiting at Walmart. Prior to joining Walmart in 2009, John spent 20-plus years as director of Executive Staffing at PepsiCo. Welcome to a Talent Acquisition Channel podcast on TotalPicture Radio, with Peter Clayton reporting. I met John at the recent IACPR Global Conference in Philadelphia and, as a true legend in HR and recruiting, asked him to share some of his wisdom with us today.
"Some of our best recruiting is done when we literally don't have an open position... Aspire to be a chef not a short-order cook." John Delpino
John Delpino IACPR Interview. TotalPicture Radio
Reimagining, reinventing, meeting today's talent challenges. Welcome to Philadelphia and the International Association for Corporate and Professional Recruitment Spring Global Conference 2013. This is Peter Clayton reporting. TotalPicture Radio's official coverage here at the IACPR conference is brought to you in partnership with Riviera Advisors, a premier global human resources consulting firm specialized in helping organizations develop stronger internal recruiting and staffing capabilities. Visit rivieraadvisors.com for a wealth of resources focused on corporate talent acquisition issues and solutions.
John Delpino is Senior Director of Executive Recruiting at Wal-Mart. Prior to joining Wal-Mart in 2009, John spent 20+ years as Director of Executive Staffing at PepsiCo.
Welcome to a talent acquisition channel podcast on TotalPicture Radio. This is Peter Clayton reporting. I met John at the recent IACPR global conference and as a true legend in HR and recruiting, asked him to share some of his wisdom with us today. John, welcome to TotalPicture Radio.
John: Thanks. It's good to be here, Peter.
Peter: I want to quote from an article that appeared in Human Resource Executive several years ago titled Products at Pepsi. If you look at the Fortune 500 there are about 100 or 120 senior HR people who were trained at some point at their career at PepsiCo. No other company can come close; not even GE says Hal Johnson a managing partner for Korn/Ferry International who has recruited top HR talent for and from Purchase, New York based PepsiCo over the years. John, what was it about Pepsi that produced so many rock stars in HR and recruiting?
John: Peter, it really all started with a guy named Mike Feiner who was the head of HR at Pepsi when I joined them in 1988, relocating from the Frito-Lay division. Michael is a real visionary who effectively demonstrated the strategic value of HR being a key member of the executive leadership team. He set the bar for high standards for quality of hire. His many disciples became the keepers of the flame and for those of us that were around in the late 80s and early 90s, we refer to it as Camelot. You have a business standpoint where we were minting money on the business side, we were taking share from Coke, life was good.
We hired the best talent of the top ILR campuses, as well as experienced folks from people who had great programs like GE, GTE, Ingersoll Rand, and Xerox and put them pretty roughly through field and subsequently headquarters roles. It was during those finishing school assignments at headquarters where we evaluated their influencing skills and capabilities against increasingly complex and more sophisticated problems as well as senior client groups.
Peter: It sounds to me like even way back then in the 80s the C-suite recognized the real value and the strategic value that recruiting and HR could bring to the organization.
John: It's interesting that you mention that, Peter, because I helped this gentleman write the article and did most of the backup on who was where and it was funny, he was only interested in people that were in HR at that time, late 80s-early 90s, that were still in HR. He didn't care about people that went on to become a COO or a CEO or the Vice Chairman at Gateway. So he was very, very purist about his interest.
Peter: That's interesting to hear because obviously a lot of these people then did transfer into different roles within the organization.
John: Oh, yeah, yeah. Some stayed in the organization, some left but went on to be the Vice Chairman of Gateway, the CEO of KFC, the COO of Pizza Hut just to name a few. These are Fortune 500 companies.
Peter: Right. Exactly. Speaking about the article here's another quote from HR Executive:
Make no mistake; shared memories of the PepsiCo HR experience are anything but warm and fuzzy. Quite the opposite, in fact. Legend and personal accounts tell the story of an environment that was, at times, harsh if not downright brutal. "There's no lifeguard at the PepsiCo pool," was one popular expression at the time.
John from your perspective, is this an accurate assessment of what was going on then?
John: Undoubtedly Peter you're referring to the muscle building years, which were a very tough but necessary part of PepsiCo's evolution. So if we hired 10 folks, at the end of a year or two years, two or three would get promoted, and some of them would decide they didn't like the heat in the kitchen and others that didn't get promoted would leave. That was a really critical time of the growth of the organization, but as they over time built a critical base of bench strengths and the culture changed it became a very, very different place.
Peter: One of the things that's so interesting about PepsiCo is the culture of that organization and that you have a true competitor in Coke.
Peter: Yeah. That makes that relationship sort of different from what exists in many corporations when they don't have that one true competitor that they're going to market against.
John: Yeah, we'd wake up every day thinking about if we could take a linear foot of space in a supermarket or poke them in the eye with advertising, that's a pretty good day. Yeah, Roger Enrico was once alleged to have said that if Coke didn't exist we'd have to create somebody to hate. But I think at the end of the day there was a mutual respect for the other guys. We wore blue, they wore red.
Peter: Right. Exactly. John, what did you learn at PepsiCo that's relevant today regarding talent acquisition that you can share with our audience?
John: Some things don't change, Peter. The importance of developing long-term relationships or in today's notion you'd call it CRM, I think having an unyielding standard on quality because like all the recruiters, we really like to live vicariously through the success of others that we helped guide into the organization. I would say what we call today the candidate experience I used to call it the courtship approach, because that has a far different connotation than a recruiting process might conjure up. But at the end of the day, whether a person did or did not succeed in getting the position, they were all consumers or customers. So ensuring the experience was as good on the backend as it was on the frontend was really critical.
Peter: Yeah, absolutely and like we heard at the IACPR conference recently that a number of, even the senior people who were part of some of these panel discussions were talking about the fact that once they got placed in a job they never heard from the recruiter again. Right?
John: It's important what we call service after the sale.
Peter: Yeah, exactly. What's the biggest change you've seen over your career in recruiting?
John: I think far and away probably going back into the late 90s was really technology. It serves as a real leveler of the playing field in large part providing many of the recruiters with much of the same access as our search partners.
Peter: In doing the research on this interview I went on your LinkedIn profile and one of your former associates at PepsiCo wrote this recommendation on your profile.
John is clearly one of the best staffing professionals in the United States. He has superb assessment skills and has a great bias for action. He has trained many HR professionals as well as line managers on the art and science of selecting talent.
Is recruiting great talent both an art and a science?
John: Peter, without a doubt and I try to instill that in over 50 recruiting managers who work for me at Pepsi and there's a quote that I'll use, it dates me a bit. It's phrase from Alvin Toffler's 1970 futurist book called Future Shock where he had a caution which was beware of high tech, low touch. I've asked people about this in a more recent audience and they said what was it email or the fax machine? No, it was ATMs. It was the advent of ATMs overtaking and replacing the friendly and ubiquitous bank tellers. Today's caution is to not let the science and technology forego the art of the deal.
To me, it's imperative to remember that there is another human being involved making critical decisions regarding their career, their family, their livelihood, which requires meaningful dialogue to understand their core needs and motivations and to engage in authentic and empathetic manner with their best interests in mind that things are not easily transmitted electronically nor discernible on a LinkedIn profile.
Peter: John, I have to ask you this question. How were you lured to Bentonville, Arkansas and Wal-Mart out of Purchase, New York?
John: That's a great story so after 23 years at Pepsi I had the opportunity to capitalize on a early retirement window, and I felt full well that I'd be working for a Manhattan based search firm. I was schlepping in and out of the city from Richfield, Connecticut on a pretty routine basis, and I was at the point where I was fielding several offers when I got the call. The call was from Fred Ley who is Senior VP of Global Talent Acquisition at Wal-Mart. Fred happened to be the same person who rehired me at Frito-Lay in 1986 and he asked me if I was relocatable and I said yeah, we're not kind of wedded to Fairfield. He said how about to Bentonville, Arkansas; and I said well I've never been.
Long story short, we made a trip down here, we're transitioned down and today after almost 4 years, I'm enjoying the pure satisfaction of globally recruiting executives to Wal-Mart and we affectionately refer to northwest Arkansas as suburban without the urban.
Peter: From what I understand, you have a pretty great museum there now.
John: Crystal Bridges is phenomenal. This past weekend we were over there because they've got a Norman Rockwell exhibit that was pretty spectacular. There was an article in Southern Living that I got a link to that the headline was Is Bentonville the New Cultural Mecca of the South? A lot of places in the Midwest and perhaps Northeast that are in decline, this place is on its way up.
Peter: I'm assuming the cultures are really quite different between PepsiCo and Wal-Mart but is the process of recruiting executives basically the same?
John: First of all I'll tell you Peter, the cultures are quite different, yes. And actually I think the process is easier at Wal-Mart. I work for Fred Ley and Fred over the last 8 years has done some pretty heavy lifting convincing an organization that was almost an exclusively promote from within organization to not solely rely on promotion from within in the executive ranks. While today we're still at probably 70% plus, it's done so in many cases with a snapshot into what the external market has to bear. We also have senior leaders quite willing to hire in advance of the need. They just have a best athlete on the bench and at the ready. So I'd argue that some of our best recruiting is done when we literally don't have an open position.
Peter: That's really interesting. So you're in a culture now that really looks at recruiters more as consultants than just order fillers?
John: Yeah, it's the old analogy of that I like to train my guys; you don't go into hiring authority with five résumés and ask him who he wants to see. You go in and tell him here's the three I'm bringing in. So you have to get that level of confidence and capability and confidence with the line managers to do such things.
Peter: John, what's changed in your ability and your approach to sourcing and recruiting top talent today?
John: I think I mentioned before Wal-Mart has a voracious appetite to know who the best and the brightest folks are out there and whether it's over the near term or the short term, it's developing those relationships of people that we want on our team and how do we induce the leadership team to be part that process, whether it's Mike Duke going out once a quarter with Fred Ley and having lunch or breakfast with various people that we just want to get to know.
Peter: I want to return for a second, you brought up the candidate experience earlier and obviously there's a lot of conversation today in HR and recruiting about that topic and Jeremy Eskenazki moderated a session at IACPR on the topic of the candidate experience as it relates specifically to the candidate experiences of executives in career transition I was surprised to hear as with all candidates it's not all that great. So how would you rate the candidate experience at the world's largest employer?
John: Actually and I say this humbly, I think it's pretty good and the reason I say that is we have in many cases an unknown geography and so we're like the Avis; we've got to try a little harder to make sure that people have an above average experience. So it's very, very hands on. I spend the day walking candidates from place to place and we get them out on area tours and those kind of things.
Having said that, there's always some room for improvement. I think where the challenges lie more readily, and this is perhaps pervasive across my colleagues, at the professional level it's that constant battle of trying to balance the high req loads that may not avail as much time to squire candidates through the process as you would like. On the executive level, the volumes are lower, the touch is higher.
Peter: What is the average time to fill an executive at Bentonville?
John: An executive, I'd say 90 to 120 days.
Peter: That's pretty fast these days from what I've heard.
John: We have a challenge that things move pretty quick around here and if you're not willing to in 60 days, all of a sudden the internal person can start looking a lot better. Our challenge is to try and get in front of that.
Peter: John, what was some of your takeaways from the recent IACPR conference?
John: I've been involved for the last 25 years at this point and Ed Walsh the former head of PepsiCo being one of the founding members of it, we've been very active over the years, and I first and foremost find that it's a terrific networking forum amongst peers. This particular year I felt the agenda was very rich and diverse. Two areas that I particularly enjoyed, not that I didn't enjoy all of them, but Soren Kaplan's talk about his book Leapfrogging, the implications for innovations. I've already turned on our innovations onto the book. I also to your point, enjoyed the Jeremy's session. He's always a great panel leader and facilitator. I think the sessions in many cases are somewhat validating when you realize you're not suffering in silence but actually dealing with comparable issues as many of your peers.
Peter: One last question for you John; what's the best advice you ever received regarding talent acquisition?
John: I'd have to say there's two. The first one is don't ever settle. Much of our jobs I referred to earlier with the 60 day window, it's to prevent the hiring manager from shooting low and making a suboptimal decision because the outcome is generally not good for any of the parties involved.
The second thing is - and I'll give full attribution of this quote from a colleague and friend Rusty Roof who's a true luminary in the talent acquisition space. The quote was "aspire to be a chef, not a short order cook." If you think about it for a second, a short order cook is in the moment. Long range planning is the length of their arm. Two eggs over easy, rye toast. A chef is creative, imaginative, innovative, proactive, always looking around the corner for new and emerging trends. The sort of things that differentiate a good recruiter from a great recruiter.
Peter: I think that's a great quote. John, thank you very much for taking time to speak with us today here on TotalPicture Radio.
John: Delighted Peter. Thanks for your time.
Peter: John Delpino is Senior Director of Executive Recruiting at Wal-Mart.
You've been listening to the official IACPR Spring Global Conference 2013 podcast series produced by TotalPicture Radio in association with Riviera Advisors. You'll find a complete transcript of this interview in the Talent Acquisition channel at totalpicture.com and a complete library of in-depth interviews featuring talent acquisition and HR leaders in the newsroom and events link on rivieraadvisors.com. Take a moment to visit Riviera Advisors and learn what makes them different. And please connect with Riviera Advisors and TotalPicture Radio on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter.
This is Peter Clayton, thanks for tuning in.
IACPR Closing Session. The Elephant in the Room: Is Executive Recruiting Moving In-House? Can Search Firms Survive?
Some Recruiter I Used To Know:
Now and then I think of when you first called my number
And when you said you had a job that I should try
Asked myself if you were right for me
But you said that we should have coffee
And from that day you showered me with lots of attention
(Parody YouTube video)
David Lord led the closing session at the IACPR Spring Conference - a lively "open mic" discussion with the executive recruiters and HR leaders in the room titled "Banishing the Elephants in the Room." David started by directing our attention to a YouTube parody music video (based on Gotye 'Somebody I Use To Know') changed to Some Recruiter I Used to Know -- the story of a young lawyer pursued by a headhunter (see the link in the sidebar). An entertaining reflection of the perception many people have of recruiters. Elephant #1 at the Rittenhouse Hotel in Philadelphia - the trend toward moving executive recruiting in-house. This trend is real, as recently reported in the Wall Street Journal and BusinessWeek, in an article titled; "These days Anybody can Headhunt." Really?
David Lord is a leading independent authority on the selection and engagement of executive search consultants and on how large organizations can best manage their executive recruiting activity. David has been independently tracking the performance of executive search consultants for more than 20 years, first as a journalist and since 1995 as a consultant to large corporations on the selection and engagement of search firms.Today, David facilitates the Executive Search Information Exchange, a research and discussion group for heads of executive recruiting from more than 50 leading corporations. He is also the founder and facilitator of the Executive Search Academy, a two-day course in best practices held twice a year in New York for corporate executive recruiting professionals.
Stay tuned... A complete transcript of David's interview will air soon!
Best Practices in Enhancing the Candidate Experience for Senior Executives.
There is always competition for A Players. Here's one very real, very timely story told by the participants.
"In three instances I was so taken aback at how what I'll call broken that process was, having used recruitment firms myself in the past and then being on the other side of the desk I really saw where the disconnects were apparent and it all boiled down to communication and understanding the corporate culture and being able to articulate that to a candidate." Susan Blackburn
Are you an HR leader or executive recruiter? You'll want to take the time to listen to this interview. Are you considering a career move, or are currently in transistion? If so, you need to listen to this podcast. Why? our special guest is Susan Blackburn, Regional Executive with Sabadell United Bank in Tampa, Florida. She shares with us, in detail, her recent experience of being recruited by four financial institutions, and what led her to accepting an offer from a bank (having spent over thirty years in the finacial services industry)... she'd never heard of.
This is Peter Clayton with a special Talent Acquisition Channel podcast from the IACPR Global Conference in Philadelphia.
As the competition for top talent in executive roles escalates, companies, HR directors and recruiters need to make sure they are optimizing the candidate experience and, at the same time, elevating their employer brand when conducting searches - especially when that search involves A Players like Susan.
At the recent IACPR Global Conference, Jeremy Eskenazi, Managing Principal of Riviera Advisors, moderated a panel discussion focused on the candidate experience. The panel was comprised of senior level candidates - including Ms. Blackburn - who recently have gone through the hiring process. Joining them on the panel were two corporate executive recruiters, Cormac Cullinane, Vice President, Worldwide Recruitment & Executive Search, Time Warner; and Kathleen Gioffre Global Vice President of Talent Acquisition, Gartner, Inc.
The Successful Candidate Experience - TotalPicture Radio Transcript
Reimagining, reinventing, meeting today's talent challenges. Welcome to Philadelphia and the International Association for Corporate and Professional Recruitment Spring Global Conference 2013. This is Peter Clayton reporting. TotalPicture Radio's official coverage here at the IACPR Conference is brought to you in partnership with Riviera Advisors, a premier global human resources consulting firm specialized in helping organizations develop stronger, internal recruiting and staffing capabilities. Visit rivieraadvisors.com for a wealth of resources focused on corporate talent acquisition issues and solutions.
The successful candidate experience. As the competition for top talent in the executive roles escalates, companies' HR directors and recruiters need to make sure they are optimizing the candidate experience and at the same time, elevating their employer brand when conducting searches especially for senior level talent.
At the recent IACPR Global Conference in Philadelphia, Jeremy Eskanazi, managing principal of Riviera Advisors moderated a panel discussion focused on the candidate experience comprised of senior level candidates who recently have gone through the hiring process as well as executive recruiters from Time Warner and Gartner.
Hi this is Peter Clayton. Joining me today for the Special Talent Acquisition Channel Podcast from the IACPR Conference is one of the candidate panelist Susan Blackburn who recently joined Sabadell United Bank in Tampa, Florida. Along with Susan, we have with us Adam Lloyd, president of Webber Kerr Associates, a retained executive search firm based in Tampa. Adam conducted the search for Sabadell United Bank and successfully placed Susan in her new role.
Susan, I'd like to start with you. You shared a fascinating story with the audience here at IACPR regarding your career transition and how you were approached by different companies in both internal and external recruiters.
Susan: Certainly. As I have shared, I've been in banking for quite some time, 30+ years, and had never found myself in the openness or being receptive to talent recruiter and when I found that I was interested in a search, I had several firms calling me. The differentiation between them all really was a difference in collaborative mode versus I have an agenda and that's coming first, and that's really what I saw early on in the process.
In my search there were several firms that had reached out to me whether they were in house recruiters or external companies that had been hired by firms to recruit.
In three instances I was so taken aback at how what I'll call broken that process was, having used recruitment firms myself in the past and then being on the other side of the desk I really saw where the disconnects were apparent and it all boiled down to communication and understanding the corporate culture and being able to articulate that to a candidate. Other disconnects were just timing issues, whether it was a what I'll call a discombobulated process that really wasn't well thought out and then was a poor reflection on the company that I might have chosen to work for or the recruitment firm.
When the process did work which ultimately led me to making a positive career decision it brought it down to where the stars aligned. I had a talent recruiter from an outside firm who first off had done a tremendous amount of homework in level setting what the expectation of his client was and then translated into him vetting with potential candidates in a more factual, open and transparent way. That process started on the front end, it carried out through the interviewing and ultimately my job selection.
Peter: You know a lot of what was being mentioned in this panel you took part in today was this whole issue around transparency or not right? So can you delve into that for us a little bit more specially with some of these firms that were really pursuing you quite heavily and weren't being all that transparent about the role and responsibilities?
Susan: You're so right. What I had found was in several instances they were more focused. When I would ask pointed questions about their company and their role, trying to help them create the compelling story as to why I should work for them and again, I was very transparent in saying I have several options on the table, it was very difficult for them to focus internally and the feedback that I was getting is why I shouldn't work for others as opposed to why I should come with them.
I believe now in retrospect that so much of that was either a recruiter or someone internally who felt uncomfortable with the balancing act that they had to play and I'll explain that. Obviously as the person who is doing the recruiting, my ownership, if you will, my paycheck is going to come from the company that ultimately is going to hire that candidate. So being able to feel that alliance is critical but the flipside to that is being able to work with a candidate that you can be equally open and honest. If there's some disconnect between what you think that candidate is looking for or what that company is looking for and that match isn't right, the 'silence is golden' doesn't work here and that, I think, is what trips them up.
As I started to do my own homework on corporate cultures of companies that I might choose to work for because you certainly aren't going to rely just on the one person If you're not getting that information it became apparent to me in the process that my talent recruiter whether that was internal or external was not able to keep that balance going.
Peter: You have mentioned that you had this Sally Field moment. Can you describe that for us, please?
Susan: I did. You know, having been an executive for quite some time and carrying the leadership role, I wasn't in a job search and so at the moment that I had what I'll call the aha moment that yes, I was, and people started calling me, it really bore to many, many years of not taking that recruiter's call. There is no gap. I'm satisfied so I'm not going on a search. I think I likened it to lint on a sweater. Once there's a gap in your satisfaction and you're more receptive to take the call, you're listening on the other end. And I had a period of time where my organization was going through a lot of change, outside recruiters knew that was taking place and so they were contacting me.
It was the first time in my career that I had ever considered looking outside and I call it that Sally Field's moment where it's, "They like me! They really like me!" You know, and I'm going to be able to say, "Maybe I will go look for another role." Well, then you start to dig deeper and you find out that there's quite a lot of research that needs to go into that process.
Peter: One of the things I found really interesting about your panel is the fact that the senior level executives on that panel were not used to going out and doing a job search, had never actually been in that position before. They'd always been recruited by someone who was a referral or moved up within an organization, had never gone through that process of being contacted by an internal or an external recruiter. You mentioned that the external recruiter did a much more professional job of when connecting with you. Can you explain that process to us?
Susan: Certainly. And I want to come back to when you're looking at C level or senior level the roles, those individuals have led companies. So regardless of what their mindset had been in the past, these are - I hate to use this overused term but Type A take charge people. I will tell you that that process for that person regardless of what the motivator is, they're interviewing you, they're interviewing that company to determine "Is this the place I want to work?"
And in my particular case, I was measuring up these other companies when the recruiter who I'd never met before presented me with a company that I've never heard of. And it was startling. My first reaction was, "No, I'm not going to have yet another player in the fray." What made the difference? It was that external recruiter who had done his homework, looked at the skills and my background, knew culturally what the company was trying to accomplish and I call the PhD, he read the person, he was humble or use humility in the process of being transparent, honest, he had a role, I knew what it was, he knew what my role was, he knew what the role the company would be, and then he was deliberate, and was persistent.
That process really formed that three-legged stool and at first it was the bridge between he and the company but he quickly was able to bring me into that so that through this process of level setting was this the right opportunity for me, for Sabadell United Bank the recruiter played a key role for both of us and it was a much different experience than what I would call the sales pitch that I was hearing from other recruiters and a process that was well thought out, well vetted, and yet very transparent.
Peter: You know, I think that's a really interesting perspective because so often, when these internal recruiters go out and connect with someone like yourself, they have this assumption, "Well, of course, you would want to work for our company. It's a wonderful company."
Susan: Absolutely! You know, the other thing I've heard used so often is relationship. And I get that. I am all about relationship. I sell on that. But today's person is not just saying, "Hey, because I like you," or "You're a nice person," there has to be far more substance underneath that. And I have had so many chummy recruiters call. I don't need any more friends. I have a lot of them already. I need information. And so I think again that approach- what I'll call that sales approach- it has to have substance. And oftentimes, all I'm saying is, you know, the people connector, but nothing underneath it and it really has to be a different game in today's market for someone to shop and then buy.
Peter: Let's get the recruiter into this conversation. Adam, you dealt with a pretty tough customer here. I mean, she knew what she wanted, she had no idea who this bank was that you were pitching to her having been in the financial services industry for 35 year, so how did you approach Susan and get her interest?
Adam: Yeah, well, Susan's quite a talent and she mentioned substance and information. In our assessment of the market and it starts with a research, we identified Susan as quite a talent in our marketplace. You can align skill set, we have an understanding of what her career path has been. So the mentality in engaging Susan and talking to her is, hopefully, I have a conversation with her and in doing so and I think our panel today did a great job in discussing the importance of long-term view it's really how can I connect with Susan yes, of course, I have an opportunity today that I'd like to discuss with her and maybe that lines with her interest, perhaps it doesn't.
But Susan is definitely somebody that we're interested in engaging and speaking with so really in talking to her and again with any executive that you have the opportunity whether it's sitting down and having coffee or speaking with on the phone, you want to maximize the time they have spent and I think in our profession, oftentimes that means maximize your time by qualifying which personally, to me, I like to use the time to talk about the organization representing the opportunity and really approach him or her with a more exploratory, soft conversational type of meeting.
So when I approached Susan, first thing I wanted to do is really just get an understanding of where her mindset is right now. Is she in the marketplace? Maybe she's not even open today to even listening to opportunities. So first we're going to understand what is her mind set, what are her interests, and then, based upon some that initial information that she's providing me, I can then, hopefully be informative as I can about the opportunity and we'll determine if it's something that makes sense to proceed with today, if not, down the road, hopefully, there are opportunities for us.
Peter: So you had one recruiter approach you with a "Let's have a conversation and just see if there's a fit here," and other recruiters come, contact you saying, "We want you to come to work for our organization," is that basically the way it went?
Susan: Yeah, it really was and until you get through that initial dialogue, how do you know? And so, again, once felt a little abstract and one felt very much like a well thought out plan, "Let's have a conversation," and carry it.
Peter: One of the other things I would love for you to kind of deconstruct for us which also came out in the panel discussion, is the engagement. When you first started talking to these various financial organizations that wanted to bring you onboard, what was the differentiator between Sabadell and these other players?
Susan: Again, I had one bank who candidly, my mentor from 20 years ago, was asking me to come onboard. He had a new opportunity. I had a very large bank that was looking at me to take a significant leadership role and then there was another bank that was a Florida bank that would have given me a lot of geography to say grace over and all three, by a job market standpoint, would have been intriguing. But what was the difference for me?
Well, first, I have to tell you that having hired so many executives in my career, I needed to make sure that not only today - this wasn't just a job - but that culturally, I would blend in with that leadership team. So some of my analysis was clearly on the financial strength and structure but more as the vision and where was that company heading. So I needed to understand that and I needed to understand the role that they were asking me to come onboard for, how would that fit in with the organization over the long haul?
For whatever reason, I'll share, that there was a disconnect, I didn't fall in love, the rose-colored glasses just came off, and nothing compelled me to take that. The other, I'll have to say is that as you're a banker in a market as I had been for so many years, I had my own reputation. And when you're selling brand A, and you're telling your clients and your market area "brand A is great." And now you're turning around and all of a sudden, "Oh, no, I really meant brand B."
You know, for me I was like, "How am I going to be able to that?" When I talked to my recruiter and I spoke with Sabadell, I really was looking not at tomorrow but I was looking at a vision for 5, 10 years down the road and when this bank said "Today, Susan, we are the 6th largest bank headquartered in Florida. But make no mistake - we intend to be the largest bank headquartered in Florida within the next few years." That perked my interest. How? In a declining market, how do you intend to do that? And that's where relevancy came in.
As I looked at the landscape of banks in the Florida market or even across the country, what's going to take place? Is the small bank going to be there even at all? Are they going to survive? What about a regional bank, are they going to be merging and forming super, you know, super large banks? How's the landscape going to take place? And then I thought, what is it that my clients and is the Florida market were I'm housed, where is that going to be?
When I look at a global company that's focused on international trade and I look at the Florida market and I see how the Florida market is emerging from this last economic slump to say we need to capture our piece of the global market, we have port systems, we have a quality of life, we have airport structure, we have infrastructure and technology, biomedical, we have phenomenal schools in the state - how are we going to capitalize on what we have, a good workforce - because we have a lot of people who need to go to work in Florida - and use that for a longer economic window of growth?
In my opinion, when I was going to go to go market with a new company, it was clearly one that had relevancy to the economic driver that Florida needs and when that matched up for me, it was totally apparent that I was going to go to work for a bank that was unique, coming into the market, had the strength and the stability but the vitality that was going to carry them forward for the next 10 years.
Peter: Adam, when you first spoke with Susan about disposition, did you think to yourself, "Wow, this is the candidate right here. I just spoke to her. Now, what I need to do is present her to my client at Sabadell and convince them that this is really the person that they need to hire?
Adam: My first initial take and impression of Susan was "Wow." This- and so she say self-proclaimed type A that you can even pick up in your first interactions with her but absolutely very impressive. I mean, again, we researched and we determined through our efforts in terms of tangibles and skill set, Susan appeared to be very qualified on paper. And speaking with her, personally, if you ever have the opportunity to meet Susan, I think her intangible attributes even outweigh her skill set on paper and I think that's where kind of that impressive factor sets in.
So to answer your question, yes, we had a shortlist of candidates that Sabadell United Bank was scheduled to meet with. In my opinion, based upon, weighing in those intangibles, the culture fit and then the challenge is, well, I mean you look at, what motivates Susan? What excites her? You know, she's very well entrenched in network within her community. She's very in-tuned with what's going on with the larger banks and regional banks, and then you know. So here's this bank that she's never heard of and this challenge and this opportunity, it was really interesting to see, once all these components and conversations took place, more so, my concern was, where's Susan's interest going to align?
Peter: So we have a highly qualified candidate that seems to be a really perfect fit for this position however there's culture that has to align in a role like this. So how soon once you met with the people at this institution did you realize that there was a cultural fit and this could be a great role for you?
Susan: You know I will tell you, the first engagement was what I'll call in my backyard and it perked my interest but I was a bit cautious because I wasn't certain. Here we have a male dominated organization and at the time they had no female executives on their team, it was out in Miami, would there be a cultural fit just with that dynamic and would there be communication issues, logistics, they had never moved outside of their South Florida region, how was that going to make the connection?
So shortly after that first meeting I was invited to come to Miami and visit the rest of the leadership team' the CEO of the company, the chairman of the board, a long time board member who had founded the company and what I found was energy. Now I have a lot of energy and that is one of the things I pride myself in bringing to a work place is enthusiasm and mobilizing a team through what I'll call a process of change. That's one of the things that I find just energizing and it really is probably my passion.
When I saw that that's where the leadership was, that they knew what it was going to take to move the organization forward and not just "Hey this is the way it's always been so we want to keep that." They were not compressing at all. They were blowing the top off this company and they were saying we want to bring in people who can help get us there and I spoke with so many folks that day that were on the executive team and one after another aligned.
So it wasn't a team that had disconnects amongst its leadership. Everyone was saying the same thing. They had bought into where they needed to take the company as a collective team and they had gone out and looked for someone who would complement that enthusiasm for change, not stifle it. So when I saw that it was a reaffirmation that Adam had done a good job.
Peter: Adam initial meeting obviously we've got a couple of excited people on both sides of this equation. From your perspective how do you then manage the process forward?
Adam: So again we've talked about, in my profession, finding that balance. You're working with both sides so I wanted to be transparent and open. Of course with Susan in terms of where they were right now in their decision making process, many collective feedback and thoughts that I could of course provide her following the meetings. Additionally it's equally important to really see where Susan was following some of those discussions and I say anytime you walk in to an organization and you meet folks you get a feel. There's a feel. It's sometimes something you can't describe but sometimes things they feel right or you feel "Gosh, I belong here. This is the type of organization I fit in." Aside of course of what you think individually.
So in moving forward, obviously, things such as compensation, you think of what are our time lines here, what are our objectives, are Susan's initiative within the first six months maybe in line with what Sabadell's trying to accomplish as well in their growth strategy. We want to see that everybody's on the same page. Hopefully there's mutual interest and then in addition to that hopefully we have all of our data and our information around logistics and compensation and things of that nature in place as well.
Peter: Susan, how long did this whole process take once you first met with the executives of Sabadell?
Susan: I think it was as short as 3 weeks.
Susan: You know what? If I think back it would have been inside of a month and in that respect, I will tell you that probably sold me as much as anything because when you know that it's decision that can be made where people are willing to collaborate quickly, I mean we were doing this over a holiday, I believe it was early December, we were wrapping up towards the end of the month, I think I actually was contacted with an offer during the Christmas holiday and I started to work on January 2nd so it was a rapid process. It sold me on the concept that the company was nimble. And I think that's as key as anything.
I've been on the other side of that desk so it's "Make sure you're going to hire the right person," but if you go at it with "We have our information, we've done our research, we have validated the research, we have dug in deeper and gotten comfortable with all of the cultural shift and we've vetted the issue, now let's just make that offer. If you can sense that that's the alignment with your candidate and on the frontend, salary and those discussions typically shouldn't be a deal breaker because you've gone in on the front end with your homework so everybody knows throughout the process, if you're discussing a position, what that range should look like, so it was just a matter of "Let's wrap this up," and there are some incidentals obviously that everybody has to kind of go back and forth and make sure you're validating, but really it, for me, demonstrated again that this company was nimble, they had people in charge who could make a decision at certain levels, they had delegated or put people in accountable roles that were decision-making roles that could have make those offers in the absence of somebody who's on vacation, if you will, or whatever. So it worked out well. Well, it was a quick and right decision.
Peter: One last question for you, and I really appreciate your time this afternoon, based on this whole experience that you have gone through with all of these different financial institutions and the way they approached you, the way they made offers to you, what recommendations or suggestions would you like to share for especially the internal executive recruiters out there who are out there trying to capture the interest of folks such as yourself?
Susan: I think first of all it's contacting people that you don't necessarily know are going to be interested. It's knowing the candidates in the market whether they're employed someplace or they're unemployed. Looking at do we have a library of executives that we keep track of, that we know upfront and have validated what their skill sets? That's how I would obviously approach it is to keep my inventory alive and when I do make those touches and someone is ready for more conversation be prepared with a lot of information. Busy executives don't have time to do an external focus particularly if they're employed somewhere else. They're focused on their own company.
So I think that's very key. I think the balancing act in understanding where the transparency with the employer and the recruiter needs to take place I think that's critical and then making certain that the communication touch points are timely and the best reflection of your customers.
Peter: Well again thank you so much both of you for taking time this week with us today on TotalPicture Radio. We've been speaking with Susan Blackburn who is a regional executive with Sabadell United Bank and with Adam Lloyd who is the president of Weber Kerr Associates, a retained executive search firm who placed Susan in her current role.
This is Peter Clayton. Thanks for tuning in to TotalPicture Radio.
You've been listening to the official IACPR Spring Global Conference 2013 podcast series produced by TotalPicture Radio in association with Riviera Advisors. You'll find a complete transcript of this interview in the Talent Acquisition Channel at totalpicture.com and a complete library of in dept interviews featuring talent acquisition and HR leaders in the newsroom and events link on rivieraadvisors.com. Take a moment to visit Riviera Advisors and learn what makes them different and please connect with Riviera Advisors and TotalPicture Radio on LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter.This is Peter Clayton. Thanks for tuning in.
Leapfrogging - Creating a Breakthrough Culture
HR leaders and executive recruiters are trained to avoid risk and don't like surprises. Why should they embrace Soren Kaplan's concept of "Leapfrogging?"
Soren Kaplan, keynote presenter at the IACPR Spring Global Conference, is Managing Principal, Innovation Point, the author of Leapfrogging and the founder of the Leapfrogging Alliance, where he advises start-ups and also consults Cisco, Colgate, Disney, Medtronic, Visa, and others. He led the internal strategy group at HP and is an adjunct professor in the Imagineering Academy at NHTV Breda University of Applied Sciences in The Netherlands.
Leapfrogging connects new research, unconventional strategies and practical tools for navigating the seemingly "messy" process of achieving business breakthroughs. The book draws upon Soren Kaplan's twenty years of hands-on experience, research studies from universities around the world, and case examples from global companies, start-ups, and nonprofits - including Gatorade, Intuit, OpenTable, Philips, Four Seasons, Colgate-Palmolive, Kimberly-Clark, Etsy, Apple, Google, and many other smaller firms. He was interviewed by Peter Clayton in Philadelphia at the IACPR Spring Global Conference.
Leapfrogging gives HR and recruiting leaders the tools to do exactly what they're taught to avoid: embrace uncertainty and invite surprises. Soren shows how anyone can harness the power of surprise and demonstrates that...
Soren Kaplan - TotalPicture Radio Transcript
Reimagining, reinventing, meeting today's talent challenges. Welcome to Philadelphia and the International Association for Corporate and Professional Recruitment Spring Global Conference 2013. This is Peter Clayton reporting. TotalPicture Radio's official coverage here at the IACPR Conference is brought to you in partnership with Riviera Advisors, a premier global human resources consulting firm specialized in helping organizations develop stronger, internal recruiting and staffing capabilities. Visit rivieraadvisors.com for a wealth of resources focused on corporate talent acquisition issues and solutions.
Hi, this is Peter Clayton reporting from the beautiful Rittenhouse Hotel here in Philadelphia. We are at the IACPR, the International Association for Corporate and Professional Recruitment Spring Global Conference 2013 and I'm sitting down with Soren Kaplan who gave the keynote address here this morning. He is the author of Leapfrogging and Managing Principal at Innovation Point where he works with organizations including Visa, Disney, Colgate-Palmolive, Metronics, Philips, PepsiCo and numerous other global firms.
Soren, thank you so much for taking time to speak with us today.
Soren: It's a pleasure, Peter. Good to be here.
Peter: So right after your session, there was a session on innovation which actually had several of your clients in there, and they left up one of your slides on Leap Competencies which I want to talk about in a few minutes. First of all, your book called Leapfrogging, I think it would probably be helpful to our listeners if you would define for us what leapfrogging actually means.
Soren: The whole field of innovation has boomed and blossomed and what I wanted to do is really just write about innovation from the perspective of a term that it would apply to anyone not just products and services, but if you want to innovate or take things to the next level, you want to leapfrog to the next big thing whether you're in an HR department or you're in a finance department or you're going after product services. I wanted to create a term that essentially anyone can understand around creating the next big thing.
Peter: A lot of what this leapfrogging has to do with and a lot of about what you write about in your book is the element of surprise. From my experience most folks in HR and recruiting get paid to make sure there are no surprises. So how does this concept of leapfrogging and your ideas around surprises being really great for business and great for innovation mesh with an HR or recruiting leader?
Soren: First, you're absolutely right, and part of my research I went on to Amazon, did a search for management books with surprise in their titles; 100% of them are about how to avoid, minimize or prevent the phenomena from occurring. Business hates surprises, point #1.
Point #2 is that if we want to go after new territory, whether we're going to reinvent one of our HR department or whether we're going to go after a new market, the fact is if we're blazing new trails we've got to live with a little uncertainty. Uncertainty, the heart and the essence of uncertainty is surprises. Good things are going to happen we can't anticipate and bad things will happen we can't anticipate and we have to be ready for them. So surprise really is about dealing with uncertainty which is everyone's business today in today's environment.
Peter: Yeah, that certainly is true, and you kind of went into the definition of what a business breakthrough really means and Soren, that's one of the terms du jour in Corporate America like innovation. Everybody's talking about business breakthroughs, but what does that really mean and how do you really identify when there is a breakthrough?
Soren: To me there's different levels of breakthrough also, but a breakthrough to me is something that really challenges assumptions and makes you kind of think. The fun example that I gave in the meeting was pop rocks. When I was a kid I tried pop rocks and I thought to myself "I didn't know candy could do that." And so whether it's the things that we hear about Cirque de Soleil, iPads, whatever, they challenge our assumptions about what we think is possible.
Now you can look at that on a small scale if you're just in the HR department and you're going to kind of reinvent how you do something, or you can look at it on a whole scale business model standpoint and you want to surprise the market. The notion about breakthroughs is that - and your comment about surprise - in order to do things that surprise others in a positive way, that challenge assumptions and add value, we've got to go through a process where we experience and tap into surprise ourselves so we can get to the point where we know what we want to do to surprise the market.
Peter: One of the examples you gave in your presentation around breakthrough which I found really interesting and which you wrote about in your book, is DuPont and the example you gave really came out of the legal department and you really don't think about lawyers doing much around breakthrough. Can you tell us about that?
Soren: I wanted to find an example of a breakthrough in a big company that might be the least likely place you'd look. So a legal department in a company like DuPont, their legal department, their chief legal officer, Thomas Sager, reinvented the legal department. They had had in the late 1990s about over 300 law firms working on their dime. They essentially reinvented the whole legal model for a corporate legal department. They scaled it back down to about 37 firms, I believe.
What they did is they started instead of incenting their attorneys by paying them by the 6 minute increment like most attorneys are, they decided to create an incentive system so that they would resolve cases faster and more efficiently than before and that became the metric. So they completely changed the business model. They also decided to shift how they look at lawsuits. Rather than looking at them as something to fight, they decided let's look at lawsuits as giving us competitive and market intelligence to say well maybe there's ways in which we can learn from these lawsuits and improve our businesses and maybe it's cheaper and more effective to actually change ourselves rather than fight the lawsuit.
The last thing they did, which I think is admirable and critical in today's environment, is they incorporated a value for diversity in their own legal department because they want their legal department to reflect the diversity of the markets in the world they're in and then they've cascaded those values and those requirements for diversity amongst the law firms that they work with as well so that they can reflect the diversity in terms of the kind of representation that they provide.
Peter: In that example, I would assume that that individual had to do first was get buy in from the C-suite to go ahead and implement this very radical change that you just told us about. I think that is so true, especially with large corporations which I know you do a lot of consulting with; if the C-suite doesn't buy it, it's not going to happen.
Soren: The challenge with a lot of these "breakthroughs" is that - and I talked about this in the presentation - a lot of times there isn't data that tells us what to do. We can't basically say "Look at the data, we need to do this." We might know that there's a problem or there's an opportunity, but it's really in finding the balance between our gut instinct about what we believe we need to do to add value to the market, to our customers, to ourselves, to our organizations and the data that supports that. So it's this balancing of data and intuition and you need to communicate that to the C-suite and others in a way that lays out the business case but also the compelling view of where this could go and why you need to really create a transformational change.
Peter: One of the audience members asked I thought what was a really great question in that after your presentation she got up and she said "Tell us, Soren, about the companies that aren't part of your slide presentation here, the ones that didn't follow your recommendations, the ones that aren't doing breakthrough work, the ones that you went in and did consulting with and left them and hit yourself in the head in going "Oh man. What's going on here?" How does that translate in the real world out there where there are companies that just aren't Kodak.
Soren: Yeah I get it. I'm going to oversimplify this and basically say and my answer included this in the session; in order to get innovation you need either to give people time or you need to give people resources. You look at some of the great examples from the past, 3M at one point was a very innovative company and they were known for giving people a day a week to innovate in whatever area they wanted to. That has been adopted by other companies like Google.
The companies when I walk away and I think they're really going to have a hard time innovating is when every one's heads down focused on quarterly numbers, they don't give anyone time to think about adjacent markets or the future, that the metrics and rewards are so driving towards short term thinking that there's no room to innovate. All it takes is a leader of a team or a leader of a business unit ideally or the CEO to loosen up the reigns a little bit and recognize "Yeah we have to deliver on today's results but we also need to foster this kind of thinking and we're going to give people a little time and we might set aside a little resource to reward people or to separate out an organization that can start to experiment a little bit."
I'm over simplifying it but when you look at process, structure, metrics, rewards - those things, when none of them are in place, then that's going to be a big challenge.
Peter: So many companies today are just driven by the quarterly results and Wall Street expects them to hit the numbers and if they don't hit the numbers, their stock tanks.
Soren: I totally agree with what you said, and there are things that you can still do to stir things up. For example, the New York Times, an icon in the traditional publishing business, they've now opened up their corporate office to start media start ups that are doing innovative things, so that they could just kind of bring the outside in and cross fertilize some of the ideas and shake things up a little bit. It's doing "simple" things like that that can really help to start to change the culture.
Peter: I want to go back to innovation for a second, fresh in my mind we just go out of this session, you had a slide from the Wall Street Journal which showed the number of times that corporations had used the word innovation over 33,000 time and how many of those companies are really innovating.
Soren: I think that that's indicative of the environment.
Peter: The corporate buzzword du jour.
Soren: That's exactly right and it's too bad because innovation has become a buzzword but it's still so important for companies but it's become watered down. So the slide I showed, showed that over 33,000 times in 2012 the word innovation showed up in the Fortune 500 annual reports. Also, that same slide showed that in a 90-day period last year, over 250 books were written with the word innovation in their titles and there's never before been so many resources on innovation.
The challenge that we have is to really make the topic meaningful for organizations when there's just so much buzzwords out there. You'd think we'd all have it nailed because there's so much resource out there, but in actuality I think it's more confusing than ever.
Peter: One of the things you did in writing this book, which I think is really cool, you moved yourself and your entire family to Paris for a year to write this book. What was the motivation behind that?
Soren: The first motivation was I traveled the world with a lot of global companies; I wanted to give my family, my two daughters who were 9 and 11 at the time, a cultural experience outside the US. That was one goal. We put them into public school and they didn't speak any French. So it was a marvelous struggle and an illustration of the adaptation of kids who they adapted pretty quick and spoke the language after the first year.
But the other thing is I wanted to write my book and I felt like I needed to push my own comfort zone, push the comfort zone of my family in order to see my own work in history and knowledge from a different lens, in a different perspective, and that experience definitely helped to do that. I stumbled into a little café, which out of 35,000 bistros and cafes is ranked the number one coffee spot in Paris, all of the things they're doing around innovation really inspired me and they became a focal point, actually, of my book and the theme of surprise percolated, so to speak, out of me after stumbling in that little café.
Peter: At one point in your career you led the internal strategy and innovation group at Hewlett Packard, a great storied company who if Meg Whitman called you up today, what would you tell her?
Soren: When I was at HP in the late 1990s, HP had been an icon in innovation. At the same time, HP was also moving to a spot where it was a $40 billion a year company, over 100,000 employees and the growth had stalled. We actually called it the growth stall. How do you grow that 10% a year when you're already a $40 billion a year company? The challenge that HP had at the time is that we would only fund a new business if we could prove it would be a billion dollar business in three years, and that notion of experimentation had started to fade even then.
What would I say? There were some real values that HP had called the HP Way that pretty much has started to disappear in that company. I think that there's some elements of it around really being close to the customer, around this collaborative dimension that I think that they could probably get back and tie back in to the heritage of where that company came from to really start doing some things that foster innovation in a different way.
Peter: You mentioned this in your presentation, it took Apple 3 years to develop the iPhone. HP was in the tablet business for 10 minutes. To your point, some of these things just take time to get out there to develop and to get market adaptation. It doesn't happen overnight.
Soren: I shared that Apple experience because three years in a tech world is an eternity.
Peter: It is, absolutely.
Soren: When I was at HP we told the story inside. The LaserJet took 11 years to get to market, and there was a tolerance at that time at HP to steward things along and to cultivate them and to recognize that a big disruptive innovation might not happen overnight. I think it's challenging in today's environment because in some internet mobile space it is happening relatively quickly overnight, but I think that that's... I don't know that that's necessarily the rule. I think that there are examples of that but in the end, we need to be able to be tolerant of things taking a little bit longer than overnight.
Peter: From your perspective is corporate entrepreneurship an oxymoron, or does it really exist?
Soren: I definitely think yeah, it does exist. Some of the examples that I shared today are examples of that. I think that the question is how do we either find the individuals who are already doing it because that's who they are, they happen to work in a big company and not be outside being an entrepreneur. They're inside trying to make a difference, identify those folks and really give them more resources, tools and visibility and then be able to create the kind of environment that allows for that little extra time, that little extra motivation, resource recognition, doesn't have to be financial so that others can recognize 'you know what, leapfrogging, doing things radically different to kind of add value and challenge assumptions, anyone can do it in no matter what role they're in.'
Peter: You've developed a set of what you call leapfrogging tools in your book. Can you describe what some of those are for us?
Soren: What I try to do is distill down the process of what does it mean to create a breakthrough and there are times in which it's exciting and there are times in which I call it the failure zone. You've got to push through the process or you're going to give up and you'll never succeed. The model is called leaps and what basically leaps is it's a step by step process, although I wouldn't say it's step by step. It's really iterative, in which you go through the path from listening to yourself in order to figure out the value you want to create in the world. That's where data won't necessarily tell you to do it. You have to listen to the value you want to create for yourself and for the market.
The E is explore, go out there in the market and talk to customers and talk to people you wouldn't normally talk to.
A is Act which is take small steps again and again. So you might fail but that's okay. It's all part of the learning process.
P is persist which is about failure. It's like taking the surprise out of failure.
Seize, the journey is the destination. The last step is really recognizing you've got to be humble with all of this. You've got to go through a process where if you're going to learn about yourself, you're going to challenge your assumptions, you shouldn't think you have the right answer because if you do, you're probably going to be wrong.
So it's really about those dimensions and going through those in an iterative way so that you can learn and adapt to whatever breakthrough you're trying to create.
Peter: I think one of the main reasons that they asked you to speak here at the IACPR Conference is because of this Leaps competencies that you've developed. As you know, the recruiting industry is going through massive transformations and I think that having some kind of a structure like what you've developed is only going to help them because they do need some breakthroughs. They need to push the boundaries out there. They can't operate their business the way they have for the last 15 or 20 years and survive. When you go in and talk to HR and recruiting departments what is the biggest concern that you see and what of your book, of these leapfrogging takeaways is most useful in a recruiting or an HR environment?
Soren: I think one thing that's in a lot of the people's mind is the retiring baby boomers. That's a big kind of talent suck.
Peter: We're never going to retire.
Soren: I think in today's financial environment no one may retire ever.
I think that from an HR standpoint, I get called in a lot of times to do leadership development on innovation and when I come in, a lot of times I'm with cross functional teams that might be from R&D, marketing, strategy, product development, HR, legal, finance. A lot of times what happens is I get people coming up to me from HR, finance, legal and they say "How does innovation apply to us? Innovation is for marketing or it's for product development."
Peter: Right. Exactly.
Soren: I think that it's HR's job and overall to help understand what kind of environment do you need to create in the company culturally so that everyone sees some element of innovation applying to their job and then demystify this glut of information out there on innovation and say "Here's what we believe we need to do in the world to make a difference and if we want to achieve these kinds of things for our customers, for the market to benefit the world maybe from a triple bottom line perspective we need to do things differently."
That's what innovation is. You don't have to call it innovation. You have to call it adding value to the world, adding value to the company. That's really at the essence what innovation is, and I think we're getting caught up with the buzzword innovation.
Peter: One thing that I didn't know is how YouTube started.
Soren: That's a great question. I gave at the end of my presentation a little innovation quiz and I showed a number of different companies, including YouTube. YouTube started out as a dating website. The idea was somebody might put a who wanted a date, put up a video of yourself kind of saying here's who I am, here's who I am interested in and someone else might see it, post another video of themselves and trying to make this social connection. Didn't exactly work out that way but obviously YouTube did work out when they opened it up and broadened it out.
Peter: Yeah it sure did. Soren, thank you so much for taking time to speak with us today on TotalPicture Radio.
Soren: Thank you Peter. It's been great to be here.
Peter: Thank you.
You've been listening to the official IACPR Spring Global Conference 2013 podcast series produced by TotalPicture Radio in association with Riviera Advisors. You'll find a complete transcript of this interview in the Talent Acquisition Channel at totalpictureradio.com and a complete library of in-depth interviews featuring talent acquisition and HR leaders in the newsroom and events link on rivieraadvisors.com. Take a moment to visit Riviera Advisors and learn what makes them different, and please connect with Riviera Advisors and TotalPicture Radio on LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter.
This is Peter Clayton. Thanks for tuning in.
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