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Recruiting, Fostering and Retaining Innovative Leadership

Exclusive IACPR Innovation Panel Interview with Dr. Linda Pittenger

Linda Pittenger Talent Acquisition Channel Interview on TotalPicture RadioLinda Pittenger

Companies that create a culture of risk, change and creative thinking help spur innovation - and build an environment of collaboration and questioning that can provide critical insights into consumer needs and different ways to solve market challenges.

"I think in the past 20 years we've seen what technology has done and the play that it has had in our organizations in so many ways. So you know it led to outsourcing. It led to globalization. It led to us thinking how do we run technology keeping the strategic pieces and outsourcing the transactional pieces. So it's really changed the organization and I want your listeners to understand that the role of big data will disrupt all of that again and it will disrupt all we know about organizations."

Our guest today on this Big Picture Channel podcast from the IACPR Global Conference is Dr. Linda Pittenger. Her career has included everything from start-ups to large corporations - she served as Managing Director at Lehman Brothers, and Vice President, HR for AT&T's Network Services Division. Her current roles include principal of the Pittenger Group and Associate Professor of Leadership, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.

Linda is recognized as the leading industry expert and thought leader on IT human capital. At IACPR, she participated in a panel discussion moderated by Eileen Finn titled Recruiting, Fostering and Retaining Innovative Leadership. Other panelists included Deborah Arcoleo, Director, Global Innovation Center of Excellence, The Hershey Company; Mary Beth Robles, Vice President, Innovation Capabilities and Knowledge Systems, Colgate-Palmolive; and Terri Zandhuis, Vice President, Human Resources, eBay.

Recruiting, Fostering and Retaining Innovative Leadership. Linda Pittenger, IACPR Conference TotalPicture Radio Transcript

Today's Big Picture Channel podcast featuring Linda Pittenger from the International Association for Corporate and Professional Recruitment Global Spring Conference in Philadelphia is brought to you by Jobs in Pods the only podcast where real employers, leading recruiters and staffing agencies talk about their jobs and tell you how to get them. Are the job openings you're posting on your career portal and job boards DELIVERING the quality candidates you want to hire? What if your job ads could tell a story? Describe the culture of your company? What if that job opening could have a real voice? With Jobs in Pods, you can. Visit JobsinPods.com and have a listen to our jobcasts with real employees at companies as diverse as GE, GEICO, RockTenn and Intel. If you would like a free demo of jobs in pods call 203-293-7003 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it - mention TotalPicture Radio and we'll give you a 20% discount on your first jobcast.

Hi this is Peter Clayton. Our guest today on this Talent Acquisition Channel Podcast from the IACPR Global Conference is Dr. Linda Pittenger. Her career has included everything from start ups to large corporations. She's served as managing director at Lehman Brother and vice president HR for AT&T's Network Services Division and her current roles include principal of the Pittenger Group and Associate Professor of Leadership Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. Linda is recognized as the leading industry expert and thought leader on IT human capital. At IACPR she participated in a panel titled Recruiting, Fostering and Retaining Innovative Leadership.

Linda, welcome to TotalPicture Radio.

Linda: Well I'm really, really happy to be with you today, Peter.

Peter: Two part question for you here. Your takeaways from the conference and what are the big issues facing HR and recruiting leaders in 2013 regarding recruiting, fostering and retaining innovative leadership?

Linda: One of the big takeaways that I had from the conference was that I sensed that people realized that things need to change in terms of the way things are done in HR and recruiting. What I didn't sense was a lot of direction in doing that. So kind of on a high level of thinking I think people know there's some kind of elephant in the room but they don't know what to do it with it. So that was a high level takeaway from the conference. But in terms of the big issues I think HR really... they talked about for a decade, about being more strategic and I believe they still pretty much function in a transactional mode because the processes within HR have not changed much in the past decade but the demographics of the organization has changed.

So you have a global workforce. You have three generations in the work force and they all require various needs yet HR continues to run themselves in the processes within the organization as a one size fits all process if you will and that's not going to work and then secondly I think HR needs to be more externally focused. I don't believe that bringing the knowledge about the external environment relative to population inside the universities, talent development to etcetera to CIOs, CEOs that they're supporting.

In terms of recruiters, again, I think they also need to be more strategic because there are so many of them and they need to differentiate themselves and one way to do that is to consult on roles that are coming up, advise clients on trends, new positions. So that's on the client side and then on recruiting the talent they're all fighting for the same small group of leaders so they need to differentiate themselves for the long term and one of the ways to do that is through relationships.

I know when I was out there as a C-level and the recruiters were calling me I finally actually took a position being placed by a recruiter and as soon as the position was sold and I started work and that 6 months of by end that person got paid I never heard from them again. So I think on the talent side the recruiters need to really pay attention to working that network of talent because there isn't a lot of talent and that talent can work with whoever they want.

Peter: I think that's a really interesting perspective regarding recruiters becoming consultants instead of just doing transactional business.

Linda: Right because they're not differentiating themselves and if I'm a C-level I want to get more value out of the person I'm paying a lot of money to.

Peter: We recently published an interview with Susan Blackburn, a senior executive who spoke at the conference who was speaking directly to this issue. A number of the recruiters that were contacting her when she was in transition were just transactional. They really weren't trying to establish a relationship.

Linda: That's exactly right. That's spot on. Exactly right. So they need to create relationships with the few really good talent available but they also need to provide value to the client meaning the corporate client. So they have two relationships to nurture and frankly I don't think they're doing either of them very well. There are some exceptions but talking in the vast majority of these recruiters everybody's just another résumé or CV that they can use or leverage and that's not the way to do business.

Peter: One of the interesting and somewhat counter intuitive pieces of advice you gave the recruiters at IACPR hire for behavior, train for skills. Can you explain this to us because most of, especially people who are hired for IT roles their skills and certifications are the first things that a recruiter is going to look at?

Linda: Yeah. No. Exactly. Well there's been two... well actually three decades of research on emotional intelligence and fit within jobs and so behaviors are hard to identify and hard to develop in people and the way to find behaviors in an interview is when you interview for the more recent the behavior is performed the more likely it's going to happen again because past behavior predicts future behavior.

So it's easy to identify skills. Do you have C++ or not right? But it's hard to identify are you achievement oriented or not. It's also easy to train someone in C++ and so when you're placing people unless you need an immediate skill at very fine depth in those cases I would hire a contractor get the work done and have the contractor leave. But for your full time work force I would hire those people that contribute the most from a behavioral perspective and then send them to C++ school and let them learn the skills. In the long run you're going to get more out of these people. They're going to be more loyal. They're going to have higher productivity. They're going to collaborate more and I have some very, very big clients that have completely changed the way they hire to screen for behaviors first and then skills but the majority of companies still don't do that.

Peter: Speaking about technical professionals, your background includes significant responsibilities for the care and feeding, recruiting and retention of IT professionals. How do these folks in IT differ from other professionals within an organization with issues related to HR and recruiting?

Linda: This goes back to the HR leaders doing a one size fits all approach. IT professionals, it has been proven, I've been doing this for up to 20 years, that they're driven by different things. One obvious fact is that what works for the organization doesn't work in IT is engagement; so only 22% of IT professionals are engaged in the organization, that IT professionals have the lowest level of engagement of any group within an enterprise. You have to question well why does that happen?

Well that's fine. There's research that will tell you that. I've actually done research on that and they need vision and compassion and if they get vision and compassion they will become very engaged but how often do you see IT professionals sitting down with the leaders of the organization talking about where is this business going and having compassion with those people on IT? They're usually treated as "those IT people" right?

Peter: Right.

Linda: And actually they're very sensitive. They're very creative people. The best technologists have degrees not in computer science but in music, in art. I remember when I was at Gartner the chief analyst had a degree in music because that's the part of the brain that works the same way as IT works. So these are very, very creative people that are typically put in boxes. What's also important to them is professional development.

So they want to attend that conference. They want to get reskilled whereas a manager, they don't care about that much about it. Once in a while they'd like to go to a conference but to IT professionals these are very very important and this is what engages them yet companies have cut their training budgets, don't send their IT professionals to conferences and again these are our drivers.

And then finally titles. So a lot of organizations have cut out levels to flatten the organization so there's fewer titles. Well that's great. You can have corporate titles but I also believe you should have IT titles in addition to the corporate titles. So someone coming into the organization might be a junior programmer and in six months they become an associate programmer and in another six months they become a programmer.

All the while they might still have the same corporate title. You need to nurture these people with titles because that's what they really, really enjoy and they also enjoy the ability to be labeled something like a distinguished member of technical staff or a fellow, and in the typical HR titles, none of that suits the IT organization.

Peter: I think that's a really interesting perspective and both of us in our background have AT&T and for a number of years I was producing films for AT&T, Bell Labs and AT&T Labs for their fellows program who were recognizing the people who are actually providing the cash to AT&T; the people who have invented 800. I mean that was an invention.

Linda: That's exactly right but unfortunately even today in today's environment, AT&T is cutting their Bell Labs budgets over and over again. It's now seen as an expense. In its heyday nobody touched the laboratories ability to care, nurture and motivate technology professionals. They're second to none. There's no one who could touch them. They were so ahead of themselves but I still think that model works very well now and some companies are trying to emulate that. So there is promise but to me that's what provides the thought leadership for us in America are laboratories like Bell Labs.

Peter: You actively consult with CEOs and CIOs of global 100 companies. Linda, what's on the minds of the C-suite these days especially as it relates to HR and recruiting issues?

Linda: The C-suite I think they're looking for strategic partners from HR but I believe they're rarely getting them. A lot of them will come in. They'll say "Linda, I need a Chief HR Officer. How much do I pay?" And my answer to them is "Who do you want?" So you can pay $80,000 or $5 million. What are you looking for? How do you view HR as part of your business and what it can do for you?" And once I get them through that conversation then they start saying "Oh yeah. You know what? I need to change this job. I need to pay more. I need to get the right person in."

So it's really back to what's the role of HR in that enterprise and does the C-level see it as a tactical function that's a pain and something they had to deal with or do they see it as something that can be an enabler of their business and that differentiates who they hire. Unfortunately there aren't a lot of HR professionals that are highly skilled at being that strategic partner. But C-suite folks, you're looking for advice on what should my structure be. Help me nurture the culture that I need to achieve my business goal. What are the emerging roles out there? What are the emerging trends like big data?

These HR partners, I got the sense when I was talking about big data the other day at the conference they were going "Wow. I better read about this." Well this has been going on now in the head lines for over a year. So where are those people and why aren't they supporting their C-levels on "Hey this is going to be a differentiator in business?" Not only do we need to hire the right technology people. We need to hire the right managers and guess what folks? There's not going to be enough around.

So we need to deploy some strategic ideas around how to recruit and retain these people but I don't get a big sense of that happening and then finally I think HR's management silos still. So the compensation guy or gal doesn't talk to the performance management guy or gal. Everything's managed. Talent management separated from compensation. They're all managing their own. There's a director for each of these processes and to me the best HR organizations are those that integrate those processes. So what you want to manage performance for aligns with how you pay for performance and a lot of times the two don't meet.

Peter: I know you're writing a book on big data, a topic on the agenda of many HR and recruiting conferences and certainly discussed by HR leaders and recruiters, something that really got my interest at the IACPR is when you were talking about the staggering number of unfilled data jobs and data management jobs that currently exist and that this is going to become really disruptive to corporations who aren't able to bring in these types of skills into their companies.

Linda: Absolutely. So what's happened is technology has enabled to, at a low cost and with fairly excellent sophistication, take raw data and have it answer questions for us. Without getting too technical I'll kind of leave it like that. And so there are many companies that are realizing this and they are setting themselves up to really ask the strategic questions that big data can answer and in many cases this can change your entire business. It can triple your revenues, quadruple your revenues, decrease your cost - I mean there is just so much value that big data can do for a company.

The problem is because the technology happens so fast there aren't enough people, i.e., data scientist that can analyze this raw data that have the brain power to create the algorithms that will give the answers to the companies and even the universities, I helped start the first business intelligence and analogs program in the north east. There's very few of those out there and they're just in the process of starting to graduate their people this May.

So the number of people coming out of programs will not even touch the need and McKenzie quotes there'll be 190,000 unfilled data scientist positions or data analytics positions by 2018 and a half million gap of managers who will manage big data organizations. So some of the companies for example Deloitte has created a relationship with the university where they're training their people on certifying them rather than giving them degrees and I think that's an excellent approach.

So they're taking current employees and skilling them on big data. But these companies, the bottom line is these companies that don't play will be left behind because the companies that do play will be making so much money and have such a differentiated model that they're the ones that are going to exceed but surprisingly there's a lot of C-levels that still think "Oh this is an interesting articles in the New York Times and Wall Street Journal." They don't quite get what this means.

Peter: Speaking about big data, there was a whole section in a recent Wall Street Journal on the topic. It included an info graphic that I'd like to point out a little bit here. Mining the data mountain, the tab keeps growing as organizations collect mountains of data. They're spending more and more to make sense of it all. Estimated total of IT spending driven by big data in billions of dollars 2013 about 35 billion. By 2014 that'll increase close to 45 billion and by 2016 almost 60 billion dollars will be spent by corporations trying to make sense out of all of this big data and one of the data points that I found particularly interesting of the survey business professionals and this survey was conducted by MIT Sloan Management Review, 58% say analytics has played a more intricate part in their organizations' strategy and operations than it did just even 12 months ago. Only 8% say analytics has greatly helped innovation in human resources. So it seems to me, Linda, just looking at this info graphic HR really isn't paying as much attention to this big data trend as they should be.

Linda: You're absolutely right and again big data and the ability for them to not only get it based on their business but buy it from vendors can absolutely change the way they're doing it. What worries me the most and hopefully when the book comes out we'll have this some advice for people. My co-author Dave Belanger is from Bell Laboratories; we're talking about how to structure big data as well in terms of the teams. So if these organizations are just growing big, big data groups, that's not the right answer.

So it really needs to be treated like innovation groups: small working teams that are made up of data scientists, some marketing person, a sales person, maybe a client. So it's all about small teams to create the innovation and ask the right questions that big data can answer. It's not about growing a huge organization. That won't pay off for the companies.

Peter: As I mentioned at the top of the show, you were on a panel at IACPR focused on innovation that included a couple of executives from large corporations with innovation in their titles. Now you've seen these programs from about every single angle. From your perspective who's driving innovation in large corporations? Is it HR? Based on your experience, do these innovation taskforces illicit any sort of measurable results?

Linda: That's a great question. I think it's driven by the C-level, the CEO maybe even the CIO. I don't think HR has a good play in it. I think you can't structure innovation. I think that innovation has to be in the culture and people have to feel free to fail in the culture. So that's something you can't create overnight but I do believe innovation could have... You could have a chief innovation officer in the organization that is more of the band conductor that brings together the people and they facilitate the process and you need to grow rotating small teams that go into, I call them quantum leap teams.

They go into hiding for several months and they pick each other's brains and they brain storm and then you put them back in their jobs and you create another team and then when the ideas come to fruition and they're decided to be funded then that gets built by a regular team within the organization. The other thing that I like is the use of outside design firms to come in and facilitate and also look at your business because they're not wearing rose colored glasses and they can see things that you can't see and then finally I think organizations need to budget this.

So when you look at the dollar that they spend they spend some portion on running the business, some portion on improving the business and hopefully some portion on innovation and the percentage of money spent on innovation is significantly low and so I think companies especially in the incoming decades with this big data, companies needs to reevaluate their spend and try to lower their running the business and fund more money for innovation and most of that money will go basically down the toilet except for that one thing that might create a billion dollars in revenue. They can't expect to win every month. That's just not the way it works.

Peter: One more piece of advice you shared with the IACPR audience was to tap into the wealth of knowledge and expertise at your local college or university. Obviously you now have worked on both sides of the fence so to speak. You're currently in academia but for most of your career you were in leadership roles with large corporations.

Linda: I've been in academia now two years full time but my entire career I was in the corporate sides and I never ever had a relationship with the university, used an academic professional. It just wasn't on the radar and shame on me and shame on all the professionals that don't. So I'm kind of on this bandwagon now that I'm on the other side. These people are brilliant. Not only do they have availability to all research on any topic that you want but they consult and they consult so much cheaper than the big consulting companies and they are so much smarter.

The limitation is that they haven't worked inside your company or they haven't worked in the energy industry or the consumer products industry and some have but most haven't. But they bring with them facts and facts are a friend and a lot of times the consulting companies will bring best practices or best guesses but these people bring facts. You can provide a grant to students and get six students working on a project for you for next to nothing because all the students want is to have their tuition paid for and then they're also the source, these professors are the source for your future workforce.

I mean they know who the great students are and so you have this whole campus recruitment program that you pay all these campus recruiters and spend all this money when if you have relationships with the computer science department or the MBA program guess what? You can have access to the best of the students for free. So why don't we do that? I didn't do it either so I'm not trying to point a finger at anybody but wow I really got smart about this and if I ever did go on the other side again back to corporate IT you can bet I will be the first one to have relationships with all these universities because they're on the forefront of research, they have your recruitment, your students and they're low cost with high benefits. So it's a no brainer to me.

Peter: I think that's some terrific advice. One last question for you Susan. What haven't we discussed that you'd like to share with our audience today?

Linda: I think in the past 20 years we've seen what technology has done and the play that it has had in our organizations in so many ways. So you know it led to outsourcing. It led to globalization. It led to us thinking how do we run technology keeping the strategic pieces and outsourcing the transactional pieces. So it's really changed the organization and I want your listeners to understand that the role of big data will disrupt all of that again and it will disrupt all we know about organizations.

I view that as a very exciting time to be in enterprises but I sincerely believe the people that get on the band wagon now and are first to do this will be the winners and we will see another series of big companies that don't exist anymore because they failed to get on this bandwagon and so I really want to share and get your listeners to take this seriously and start to think about "What does this all mean for my organization?" And then consult to their C-level to say "What are we doing about big data? What's our strategy? Have we thought about this? Maybe we need to make this an agenda item at our next board meeting. How are we funding this? How are we getting the people?" And I think that would be the biggest gift I could give to them.

Peter: Linda, thank you very much for your time today and I really enjoyed meeting in you Philadelphia.

Linda: You bet. Thanks for having me.

Dr. Linda Pittenger is the principal of the Pittenger Group, an associate professor of leadership Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.

Thanks for tuning into our podcast today. You can subscribe to TotalPicture Radio and Jobs in Pods on iTunes, Stitcher Radio and many podcast aggregation sites. connect with TotalPicture Radio and Jobs in Pods on Facebook and Twitter. Sign-up for our newsletter on totalpicture.com. And remember, call 203-293-7003 - or email info at jobsinpods.com and mention TotalPicture Radio and we'll give you a 20% discount on your first Job in Pods jobcast. Thank you for listening!

This is Peter Clayton. Thanks for tuning in.

Peter Clayton

About Peter Clayton

Peter Clayton, Producer/Host, is an award-winning producer/director of radio, television, documentary, video, interactive and Web-based media who has created breakthrough media for a wide array of Fortune 100 clients.


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