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Jeremy Eskenazi, Managing Principal, Riviera Advisors

RecruitCONSULT! Leadership - The Corporate Talent Acquisition Leader's Field Book

Jeremy Eskenazi, Managing Principal, Riviera AdvisorsJeremy Eskenazi

"In many developed economies of the world, professionals are thought-centric-we no longer make things; we think things. So talent is even more important to organizations, and the role of the Staffing Leader is critical." Jeremy Eskenazi

RecruitCONSULT! Leadership is The Corporate Talent Acquisition Leader's Field Book. Welcome to a Leadership Channel Podcast on TotalPicture Radio, with Peter Clayton reporting. Joining me today from Long Beach California is Jeremy Eskenazi, Managing Principal of Riviera Advisors, a boutique human resources consulting firm that he founded in 2001.

Those of you who attend industry events like ERE, SHRM, and IACPR probably know Jeremy, as he's a well-known speaker and contributes his expertise and knowledge to the HR and recruiting communities. If you follow TotalPicture Radio's podcast interviews, you've heard past interviews with Jeremy, a frequent contributor to the program. Riviera Advisors has sponsored our reporting from many conferences and events; and the company is co-producer of a new TotalPicture Radio interview channel: Insights: Amplified.

Jeremy Eskenazi RECRUITCONSULT! Leadership Interview Transcript

RECRUITCONSULT! Leadership: The Corporate Talent Acquisition Leader's Field Book

Welcome to Leadership channel podcast on TotalPicture Radio. This is Peter Clayton reporting. Joining us today from Long Beach, California is Jeremy Eskenazi, managing principal of Riviera Advisors, a boutique human resources consulting firm that Jeremy founded in 2001.

Those of you who attend industry events like ERE, SHRM and IACPR probably know Jeremy as he is a well-known speaker and contributes his expertise and knowledge to the HR and recruiting communities. If you follow TotalPicture Radio's podcast interviews, you've heard past interviews with Jeremy, a frequent contributor to the program. Riviera Advisors has sponsored our reporting from many conferences and events. The company is the co-producer of a new TotalPicture Radio interview channel: Insights Amplified.

Jeremy, thanks for taking time to speak with me today.

Jeremy: Thank you for having me as always, Peter.

Peter: I started this interview with RECRUITCONSULT! Leadership: The Corporate Talent Acquisition Leader's Field Book, the title of your new book, it's rather obvious whom you wrote this book for, Jeremy, but why did you write it?

Jeremy: I wrote the book because first of all, I had a goal to write the book, but also because I felt that although there are lots of books, training programs and other resources for individual recruiter development, there are so few resources for leaders of corporate recruiting and staffing teams.

When I started as a corporate staff leader many, many years ago, there was not a single resource like this for me. Over the years, I've had this book in mind but only now has it come to reality. As I've said for many years, I believe HR is a profession and within the HR profession talent acquisition and staffing is true profession. I wrote this book really as a field book for corporate talent acquisition and staffing leaders to continue to enhance the profession of talent acquisition and staffing.

Peter: Quoting from the introduction of your book, there are so many different descriptors we use to define our profession: recruiting, staffing, talent acquisition, employment, just to name a few. For the purposes of this book, I have chosen to use the word staffing.

Jeremy, why staffing?

Jeremy: I believe that although both the overall profession and I, for that matter, prefer the descriptor 'talent acquisition' - it is much more sexier of course - I choose to use the word 'staffing' because it's the most generic descriptor and here's why.

The word 'staffing' really means any plan movement of staff in, out, up, down and across an organization. The descriptor recruiting is actually just a subset of staffing. What is recruiting?

Recruiting involves sourcing, attracting and assessing usually external candidates for employment. Staffing would include recruiting as a subset, but it also may include other things too, like workforce planning, internal staff movement, employer branding, talent analytics, metrics, program management, contingent worker management. So although talent acquisition as a descriptor is sexy, and I have used it in the subtitle of the book for that matter, not everybody understands that descriptor. That's why I called it staffing.

Peter: I want to get back to this whole issue about human resources and recruiting for a minute, you which is a topic you've discussed in your blog and at industry conferences. The relationship between corporate recruiters and human resources generalists, which is often adversarial and sometimes could be described as hostile. Do you address this in your book?

Jeremy: Oh, yes. Sadly, this is an area that a lot of staffing leaders have to deal with regularly and for that matter so do HR generalists. But yes, I have a whole chapter in my book all about organizational politics and the whole dynamic between HR generalists and corporate staffing leaders is addressed in-depth. As a corporate staffing leader in an organization that has specialized HR teams that work alongside generalists, it is so critical that these teams work together and not in an antagonistic way. The antagonism that exists primarily is because of political reasons - meaning the ownership of the hiring manager and who gets the "credit" for HR activities, and this is just a constant problem that has to be addressed and that's why I have added the chapter to the book.

Peter: I think that's really smart because you're so right, you can't ignore corporate politics in any of the functions within an organization. I mean you really have to be aware of what's going on.

Jeremy: Peter, honestly I think the biggest job for a corporate talent acquisition leader is managing corporate politics and keeping the politics away from the day-to-day of individual recruiters on their team. That's the biggest job.

Peter: There's a graph in your book called the staffing organization maturity model that outlines four stages in corporate staffing. Can you paint a picture for our listeners of what this is all about and why you've included it?

Jeremy: Basically I call it the recruit consult staffing organization maturity model and it basically just shows the various stages that staffing organizations move through as they mature. So the model is really designed to show how the various elements of each stage affect staffing results and what enables the organization to move from one phase to next. The model really helps to explain to the readers of my book the costs of the earlier stages and the benefits as the organization moves from stage 1, which is more of a hit-or-miss decentralized model, to stage 4, which is planned and profitable strategic recruiting. It sort of helps them to visualize what each stage looks like and what are the outcomes. Here are the four stages.

Stage 1 is decentralized recruiting Stage 2 is internal recruiters are hired Stage 3 is process improvement initiatives Stage 4 is strategic recruiting.

Basically this just outlines what each stage looks like, the results in terms of speed, quality, costs and pipeline. Pipeline, as you know Peter, that's the process to recruit and develop candidates for future recruiting needs. If we're on a sports team and we have people sitting on the bench, it's kind of like that. And what the staffing team needs to look like from order taker in stage 1 to what I call trusted a trusted adviser in stage 4.

That's basically what the model does and it also helps to describe the transition enablers needed to move from each stage to the next. For example, to move to stage 2 to 3 generally, one of the transition enablers is that the recruiting process is recognized by the organization, not just the HR organization as a critical business process. So that's kind of what that model looks like. It's basically a picture of where you are today and where you're going to go in the future and what does it look like, what do the results look like, what's the team look like, etc. It just helps us to see visually where we need to go.

Peter: Jeremy, a good deal of your book is focused on the topic of workforce planning. Give us an overview and what are some of the major disconnects you see in your consulting work regarding workforce planning?

Jeremy: Workforce planning is pretty scary to a lot of HR and talent acquisition professionals, but it's pretty simple really. It's just the process of assessing workforce content and composition to respond to the future business needs and it really is the key to true strategic staffing and recruiting. What it really is, is that it's a systematic process to analyze the gap between what you have, organizational talent-wise and what you need in the future. It's as simple as what do we have today and what do we need in the future.

One of the biggest disconnects to your question is that most organizations just don't do workforce planning at all. Specifically, they don't do this kind of planning which involves basically these staffing leaders engage in a real dialogue with business leaders about what the future business plans are. The reason they don't do it is because a lot of organizations, and it's pretty scary actually, is we work with a lot of consulting clients and when I talk to business leaders about their future plans, some can't even answer the question. They frankly don't know. They have done zero planning at all. So a lot of people don't do workforce planning because in order to do workforce planning, you have to talk to the business about what their future plans are and frankly, a lot of businesses don't do it very well.

Peter: I really find that surprising that the companies not only don't engage into workforce planning but don't even do something basic like having a business plan. It's like, that's really amazing.

Jeremy: It's also funny, Peter, is that a lot of times I'll talk to staffing leaders and I'll say, "Have you received a copy of the business plan for the next XYZ period," and they will actually say, "No, I haven't." I think to myself how can you possibly build any sort of planning, strategy or research plan if you don't know what the business plan is?

One of the very first things that a staffing leader needs to do in order to design a whole workforce planning process is to find out, is there a business plan and if there is, sit down and talk to somebody about it. it's as simple as that. A lot of these HR folks are very intimidated by workforce planning because I think it's all analytical and they are intimidated or fearful, it's being too difficult, or not even possible in their environment. The fact of the matter is, it's not hard at all and it can involve a very simplified process of simply asking the right questions of the business on a consistent basis and then capturing that information to be able to analyze it. I outline a very simple and non-intimidating way to implement this type of workforce planning in the book but it really isn't that scary. It sounds scary because people think spreadsheets and retirement charts and things that scare people, but it's really not that hard.

Peter: As you know a famous quote from Peter Drucker, "What gets measured, gets done." An entire chapter of your book deals with metrics and economics and staffing function. Have the new systems and technologies that have been introduced in the past of couple of years help staffing address this issue?

Jeremy: I don't believe in anything in staffing that is not measurable. I did include a whole chapter on this subject and not only is the chapter on metrics, but it's also about economics of the corporate staffing function. Specifically, how do we pay for the costs associated with staffing and how do you fund the function? As it relates to your question about the systems and technology, have they helped staffing address the issues of measuring the function? Well the answer is yes and no. Yes, the technology is out there like applicant tracking or talent management systems, whatever you want to call them now, along with the sophisticated ERP and HRIS systems. They have allowed easier access to data and to reporting a lot of the data and analytic tools. The problem is that much of the benefit of those tools is rendered useless if the data input into the tools is input incorrectly or inconsistently. Bad or no data in, equals bad or no data out.

The software tools are sold with all sorts of sophisticated bells and whistles and reporting tools and lots of data fields that are preloaded that can be reported on. A lot of these applicant tracking systems will allow for reporting on minute details of the staffing function. But in order to get that data reported, it has to be input. That requires a lot more administrative input and time for recruiters to actually put that information in. That forces them to create dozens of what we call actions that have to be reported on and the challenge is to balance really what you need, what's the cost of acquiring the metrics versus the value of the metric.

I go through this in the book in a rather pragmatic way. I actually share a story, a pretty bad horror story of my own, about spending way too much time on reporting on metrics that HR created and not on metrics that the business wanted or even cared about. There's a funny little story in the book about that.

The answer to your question in the long run is, these technologies out there have made recording on data that has been input much easier. The problem is the inputting of the data.

Peter: Right. I've also heard a metaphor of a lot of these systems, are sort of like a cable, remote control that have all of these buttons and all of these things that people really don't know what they are or what they are or even how to use them, right?

Jeremy: Exactly. It's a very good analogy. I personally have the same problem with my cable remote.

Peter: I'd like to talk to you about employer branding and the candidate experience. I've heard this brought up a lot in conferences that I have been attending and you discuss these two hot topic issues in your book, so give us your prospect.

Jeremy: I have to say that this whole candidate experience "hot topic" is annoying to me because, frankly, the candidate experience has always been important to organizations and to me in particular. We've been talking about this issue here in Riviera Advisors and myself for more than ten years and even speaking at HR staffing conferences as far back as ten years ago. But due to the ebbs and flows of the economy, the issue on how candidates are treated, not to mention all the new transparency tools like GlassDoor and Vault, have made this issue a much more "odd" topic for various consultants and other influencers to glom onto.

As I shared earlier, I have a whole chapter on it. I call the chapter, by the way, The Power of Relationships. I discuss how to create a candidate-friendly philosophy inside of the staffing function. One of the easiest ways to do this and have a better candidate experience is simply just create a set of guiding principles that everyone in the organization will agree to abide by as they relate to handling candidates. For example, never requiring the candidate to skip lunch during a day of interviews or agreeing to contact the candidate via telephone with any status updates on the status of their interviews within a certain agreed period of time, or agreeing that hiring managers and other interviewers will have read a candidate résumé in advance of their interviews. You laugh, but it's shocking people, they don't think about these things. Basically the idea is to have a better candidate experience, you have to have a slate of these sort of guiding principles and you have to measure them. To measure the candidate experience, the mere act of asking candidates whether they were hired or not by the way, to provide their anonymous feedback on how the experience when for them is almost enough to improve poor staffing team performance in this area because they all know you're collecting and measuring in this area. Frankly, I think it's really important. That's my feedback on that.

You asked about employer branding, and again, I have always had my eye on this issue for my entire career. Good staffing leaders always focus on the whole picture. Candidate experience and employee experience all drive the employer brand and I do share in the book some employer branding, contents specifically that it cannot be done by just hiring some ad agency to come up with a catchy slogan. I do share two case studies on how to create an employer brand message, based on reality, specifically employee and candidate experiences. That is also in the book and I spent a lot of time on that.

Peter: So much of this, Jeremy, really seems to me to be common sense, especially around the candidate experience, returning calls or sending an email, saying thanks for your interview and we'll be back in touch. The common courtesy little things like that, is it just because these staffs have been cut to the bone that these things are just ignored?

Jeremy: That is the excuse that they will share with you but to be honest with you, the book and what we're talking about here is all about staffing leadership. Honestly, my view is that it's not about the economy. It's not about the staffs are cut. It's about the leaders not setting an example and leading by example. Recruiters are fairly assertive personalities and if they are not told that this is a requirement of the job and be shown the way to do things, specifically as it relates to these guiding principles and candidate care, and things of this nature, they may not do it because they don't have time. So this is a leadership thing. Frankly, it's not hard to lead. It's hard to put yourself out there and tell people this is the way it needs to be. That's what I say in the book, is that this is a leadership thing. It's really not about the economy or time.

Peter: A number of years ago, I was sent out to San Francisco to shoot a film for a financial services company who was moving its trading floor literarily across the street to One Sansome Place in San Francisco, a beautiful new facility. It was all state of the art and yet the employees were freaking out having to move. Honestly, it was across the street.

This whole issue around change management and just the whole topic of change, especially within corporations, it's such a gnarly topic. In my experience, these change management initiatives are usually driven by internal marketing functions that come up with clever little things that they put on posters and things. Where does staffing fit into change management?

Jeremy: That's a really great question and I totally understand that because I've personally been involved in lots of moves in my life and I know that when people have to move, even from one desk to another or across the room, they get upset.

One of the biggest parts of the job, of a corporate staffing leader is to manage change. Again when you're a recruiter sitting there doing day-to-day recruiting and you get promoted because you've been in the job for a long time, they never tell you that the job of staffing leader is going to involve managing politics, managing change management, all of these things. Really, it's probably one of the biggest parts of the job.

Just take a look at our profession: staffing - the pace of change and how the process of staffing actually gets accomplished. Over the past fifteen years, we've gone from a largely manual paper process to comprehensive, automated, technology-assisted processes but the pace of most businesses today are extremely fast and change inside of the organization is constant. In staffing, because we react to the business change, we are regularly assaulted by curves in the road.

I believe we should be well aware of how to manage change. That's why again in the book, I've included a whole chapter on change management for staffing leaders, and I do share some tips on how to prepare and to manage change pretty well, including a case study of how I personally was involved in the change management environment when I was a corporate staffing leader. Frankly, I share many of the missteps that I made in that process for my readers to get a chuckle out of and learn something from.

Peter: What you bring up is so important because companies are reinventing themselves every day. So when a company reinvents itself and refocuses what its strategy is and what markets it's going to go after. Obviously, that's going to heavily impact the staffing of that organization.

Jeremy: Absolutely. Although we like to say we're very strategic and we should be and we are in many cases. Staffing also must react to the business change, and that changes on a daily, even hourly basis. Change management is really one of those critical steps in being effective in this job.

Peter: I have one question I've been meaning to ask you. The title of your book, RECRUITCONSULT!!, consult is all in caps with an exclamation mark - why did you design it that way?

Jeremy: Obviously, I'm not very good at grammar but in the long run, obviously I do feel, based on what we've already talked about, that recruiting and recruiters specifically are much more focused when they're good on the consulting piece, rather than on the transactional and administrative piece. Consulting with hiring managers and business leaders on the specific needs of the organization as it relates to talent, consulting with various candidates on working with them to understand their backgrounds and how they might fit - the whole idea of consulting is really more important to me than recruiting. The recruiting part of the going out and finding candidates who are saying things like that, although is very important, the consulting piece is more important in my mind. You can't have one or the other, they have to come together. So that's why I call it, RECRUITCONSULT!! - you have to have them both together. I think consulting is much more important and I mean it really seriously, so I put an exclamation point after it. So there you go.

Peter: Is that what you would consider to be the big idea that your book addresses?

Jeremy: Yeah, honestly the biggest "idea" that the book addresses is that simply that the leader of a corporate recruiting and staffing function is truly a leader of a unique function. The staffing leader is truly a professional leading a team of other professionals in the profession of recruiting and staffing. So the role of a staffing leader is not just some administrative functionary, running a department of gears and cogs, it's truly a profession and it's a legitimate and strategic role in any organization.

Peter: What didn't I ask you about RECRUITCONSULT!! that you would like to share with the audience?

Jeremy: I think we covered pretty much everything. I would like to share with the audience that I'm thrilled that our profession is continuing its evolution and really becoming a very valuable part of organization success. I do hope that my book provides some resources to those in this important role. I value anyone's feedback, so when people do read the book, I really welcome their feedback. They can give me feedback directly on our Facebook page, which is!. I look forward to feedback. Not everybody will agree with me and that's okay, but I want to continue the conversation.

Peter: Great. Jeremy, thanks again for taking time to speak with us here on TotalPicture Radio.

Jeremy: Thank you again, Peter. I really appreciate it.

We've been speaking with Jeremy Eskenazi, managing principal of Riviera Advisors, a boutique human resources consulting firm. His new book, RECRUITCONSULT!! The Corporate Talent Acquisition Leader's Field Book is published by Star Roundtable Press and is available at RECRUITCONSULT!.net or through Visit Jeremy's feature page in the Leadership channel of TotalPicture Radio. That's for a complete transcript of our interview and resource links.

This is Peter Clayton reporting. Thanks for listening.

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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