Key Strategies for Hiring in 2021
We highlight some of the many key pieces of wisdom guests have shared over the last year. Tune in to hear lessons from top hiring leaders to take into 2021 and beyond.
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Highlights from the podcasts
- Dr. Stacey Philpot (Executive Development Consulting) discusses the ways companies are shifting how they think about leadership (0:52)
- Lisa Bougie shares how Stitch Fix assessed for people, values, and leadership (2:56)
- Jodi Bricker’s approach to shaping culture at Quay Australia (5:09)
- Serilda Summers-McGee on building healthy, inclusive workplace cultures (6:30)
- Kristi McFarland explores the value of strong community at New Seasons (7:36)
- Trip Randall’s advice for avoiding hiring mistakes (8:42)
- The two main qualities Aimée Lapic (GoPro) looks for in candidates (11:43)
- Jaime Schmidt on hiring at a fast-growing company (12:43)
- Why Scott Allan hired overqualified talent at Hydro Flask (14:09)
Show transcript – Key Hiring Advice for 2021 and Beyond
Roy Notowitz: [00:00:00] Hello and welcome to How I Hire. I’m your host, Roy Notowitz, Founder of an executive recruiting and leadership consulting firm called Noto Group. We’ve enjoyed working with some of the world’s most inspiring leaders as they’ve tackled the challenge of building high performance leadership teams.
And over the past year, I’ve invited some of these very people onto the podcast to share their indispensable hiring advice and insights. We’re going to do something a little bit different in this episode; I wanted to take a moment to highlight a few of the amazing pieces of wisdom and advice that guests have shared on the show.
Of course we couldn’t share everything. So there’s many, many more pieces of great advice and insight that you can get from listening to the full episodes and all of the guests.
Let’s dive right in.
Stacey Philpot: [00:00:52] The unit of analysis in a company isn’t a person it’s actually a team. That’s a big, big shift because now people are thinking about, “How do I put a team together to do this work?” Because no one single person can do it all.
Roy Notowitz: [00:01:07] That’s my friend and colleague, Dr. Stacey Philpot, a leadership development expert, and Managing Partner at Executive Development Consulting. She joined us to share her perspective on the changes she’s seen in how companies think about leadership.
Stacey Philpot: [00:01:22] That means when they’re thinking about succession, they think about, “What are the knock-on effects of the team around the leader? Or, “What kind of roles or people do we need to support person A in the role versus person B?”
And that, again, is more complicated, but it also allows more opportunity for voices and creativity and innovation. So shifting from thinking about hiring just people to creating teams is one. Another shift around leadership is people are really looking at adaptability as a leadership trait, right?
They’re thinking of talent more as a pool, and it’s going to need to shift and be more fluid. You know, if you think about the COVID-19 crisis, how that’s changed how leaders support their people… communicate, relate… that the, the folks that are more adaptable are the ones who are being more successful.
And so what that means in terms of what people are thinking about leadership is they’re looking for adaptable talent. They want evidence not just that people have subject matter expertise or have an experience set, but that they can prove that they have adaptability. And then the last point would be literally about the importance of diversity and inclusion like we just talked about.
I think companies now understand that if their talent doesn’t reflect their customers and their communities, that they’re going to be judged, often harshly. And that, that is a standard that they have to meet.
Roy Notowitz: [00:02:47] Building strong teams and culture is integral to a brand’s success. But the very idea of what culture is is complicated.
Lisa Bougie: [00:02:56] Culture of course is generated by the people that make up the population of that place and the daily choices they make and the behaviors that they exhibit. And I guess I’m taking the time to define that because I feel like culture is a bit overused these days. And, to be clear, when I talk about culture, I’m not talking about free snacks and craft beer. I think sometimes, especially in the startup world, like, culture is like this amorphous word that people are like, “Wait, what does that mean?”
Roy Notowitz: [00:03:28] Lisa Bougie has led teams at high growth consumer brands like Nike, Stitch Fix, Patagonia, and Gap Inc.
Lisa Bougie: [00:03:36] At Stitch Fix, what it meant is an actual architecture that consisted of three pillars: our people standards, our values, and our leadership qualities, and those pillars were supported by a foundation of feedback.
So ultimately, we had three people standards. We had four values, we had five leadership qualities and we used that operating system every step of the way in the hiring process. And so let me be more specific. So we had a three step approach to hiring. The first was the phone screen. We used that initial phone screen to vet specifically for people standards.
They were bright, kind, and goal-oriented. And we chose those words with a tremendous amount of intention, meaning that we chose “bright” and not “smart.” We chose “goal-oriented,” not “ambitious.” We chose “kind,” not “nice.” So we really put in the time and the energy to make sure that our word choice was as crisp as it possibly could be relative to the place that we wanted to create.
And so ultimately, yeah, like if you didn’t come off as bright, kind, and goal-oriented in the phone screen, you didn’t move to the next step.
Roy Notowitz: [00:05:01] Jodi Bricker, CEO of Quay Australia, shared how she continuously assesses culture at a rapidly growing brand.
Jodi Bricker: [00:05:09] You know, I listened to one of your latest podcasts. I think it was Dr. Ted Freeman and he made a remark about swimmers who understand the temperature of the pool and that if the pool is too hot or too cold, it’s going to affect performance. And that’s my job, is to constantly take the temperature. And I do that by, you know, asking a lot of questions. I check in a lot with all levels of the team.
I do a lot of skip levels. I walk around and sit next to people — when we were in person. Now I set up 15 minute virtual chats with just different people in different functions so that I can get a real assessment of: how are people feeling and can they continue to be pushed or do they need a break? And I always think of it as a dance.
I’m always in a dance with the team. If the team is dancing a little too slow, I’ll turn up the pace. If the team looks really tired, I’ll bring it back down. And so it’s really just about being on top of the temperature of the org.
Roy Notowitz: [00:06:15] Culture is key to attracting and retaining exceptional talent. Serilda Summers-McGee is a workforce development and human resources expert, so I asked her about how companies can build teams with healthier, more inclusive cultures.
Serilda Summers-McGee: [00:06:30] Most people know, already before we show up, what the problems are. Be responsive to those problems. So today, if you know that people have been coming to you and have been expressing complaints, have expressed concerns about management practices or behavior of staff and workforce.
I implore you today to address it. And if you don’t feel like you have the skills to respond, cause you don’t know what to say… “Oh, they came and talked to me two weeks ago. I’ve been avoiding the conversation I think is going to go away.” By the way, not going to go away. Use this as the call to action, to go and start to have those conversations because the remedy of all toxicity is direct and frank communication about what’s going on with accountability.
“All right. So this happened, this can not happen again. Strike one, step one.” Right? So it’s, it’s really just about taking that first step to even own and be responsive to what’s what’s happening in your ecosystem.
Roy Notowitz: [00:07:29] In her work at New Seasons, Kristi McFarland understood the value of a strong community and culture. Here’s Kristi.
Kristi McFarland: [00:07:36] When you choose to work somewhere, you choose to work there for a lot of different reasons; for what it feels like to be an employee there, who you’re working with, what you’re accomplishing at the end of the day. That moment when you tell somebody, “I work at New Seasons Market.” And you get that reaction of, “Oh, I love New Seasons!” Right?
Those are the reasons why people choose to work someplace. And you think about pay and benefits and perks. And, you know, those are like price and convenience from a customer perspective, they’re just sort of table stakes. Right? And it’s much more about the experience and what it feels like to be there every day and whether you want to be part of that community.
And so, I do think that those are the types of things that make you a much more compelling place to work and can be factors in what people weigh about where they stay and where they want to grow.
Roy Notowitz: [00:08:32] I loved asking guests about their biggest hiring challenges and mistakes. Some of the most profound insights that we heard came to light in their responses to that question.
Trip Randall: [00:08:42] Oh gosh, you’re going to need another podcast for what I wish I did 10, 15 years ago. Can we extend?
Roy Notowitz: [00:08:47] That’s Trip Randall, a highly regarded leader who spent over 20 years at Nike assembling and guiding remarkable teams.
Trip Randall: [00:08:54] Yeah, my number one at the top of that list was be clear on the brief, for sure. I would say another one is — which sometimes sounds counter-intuitive and I can, I can almost hear people going, “Oh, this is what leads to problems.” But I do believe in trusting gut, you know, I believe that in the roles I was in and, and where I was personally for me and with the teams, I was on that by the time I came to hiring someone, my gut was pretty close to the role, to the needs of the team, to the, to the, to the role this would play on a team of different personalities.
And then just the gut feel you get as you’re working through with a candidate. So I would say, trust your gut. Interestingly enough, my third one would be, don’t get too close to your gut. And I go back to everything from unconscious bias. Don’t hire you. Don’t hire yourself. Verify your findings, do all the work to almost prove your gut true. Do everything you can to poke at your gut instinct. “I believe this is the absolute right candidate.” Go out and almost try to prove to yourself that you’re wrong.
And if you can’t seem to find any evidence to the contrary, then go with your gut. I’m a believer on that. I’d also say, and this is one that for me, you know, listen, we’re all so damn busy. We want that job filled and we’ve all known people, or either been that person who, when a job is open for a certain amount of time… you’re doing the job. Someone else is doing the job. It creates other stresses that might bring you to a position to cut corners or, or go faster than you should. And I would say open the aperture, take the time to look beyond some of those usual sources, even if the pressure is on to move more quickly, look beyond those, those playing fields.
Jodi Bricker: [00:10:31] I think the biggest mistake that I’ve made in the past is hiring out of just desperation.
Roy Notowitz: [00:10:37] Here’s Jodi Bricker again.
Jodi Bricker: [00:10:39] You know, when you are desperate and, again, you lower the bar or you don’t go through the full process because you feel like you can’t go another day without someone hired, that’s usually a dangerous thing to do.
It’s like going to the grocery store when you’re starving. And from that, what I’ve learned is I try to meet with people all the time. And I constantly have a queue of people that I’ve met, that when a need arises or an opportunity arises, I go to that queue. And that’s why networking is so important. You know, that’s something I’d love to emphasize for your audience and particularly the women in your audience. The real thing is to network with people you don’t know, so that you’re already in their Rolodex by the time that a job comes up.
Roy Notowitz: [00:11:27] ABR. Always be recruiting.
Jodi Bricker: [00:11:29] That’s it. That is one of the biggest parts of my job is just constantly meeting people and working with our talent.
Roy Notowitz: [00:11:37] I also want to share what Aimée Lapic, the Chief Digital and Marketing Officer at GoPro had to say.
Aimée Lapic: [00:11:43] I have had wins and losses for sure. I think the reason I put so much emphasis on positive attitude is because in the past, when I hired for the skillset and the expertise, and didn’t focus as much on the “how;” how the person will show up, how they’ll accomplish the results, it backfired in terms of team dynamics, their ability to be successful long-term within the company or long term within the role.
And so I, I pay way more attention to that. I really am hiring for that positive attitude and the agility, you know, growth mindset is a real thing that is critical in business today. The ability to learn and grow from your mistakes. And so I’m trying to very much hire for that. Not for the job I’m hiring now, but for the future of that person and where we need to go as a company.
Roy Notowitz: [00:12:37] Hiring at a fast-growing and entrepreneurial company comes with its own distinct challenges and opportunities.
Jaime Schmidt: [00:12:43] You know, there are times when I probably rushed into hires a little too quickly because I would wait so long until like the very last minute where we were desperate for help. And then just maybe not take the right time to do the best diligence. Recruiting for a startup is interesting. I think there’s some people who can do it and there’s others who just can’t work in that environment.
Roy Notowitz: [00:13:01] Jaime Schmidt founded Schmidt’s Naturals in her kitchen in 2010, and in 2017, the business was acquired by Unilever.
Jaime Schmidt: [00:13:10] And you think about, like, somebody taking a job at a fast growing company, like Schmidt’s and it’s a risk for them, right? They’re really putting a lot of trust in you with this new company to help enable their success too.
And so I think there’s a lot of give and take on both ends. It’s not easy. I don’t think there’s a magic recipe, but one thing that was really important to me or that I noticed was working well was when you’re interviewing somebody and when they’re in the door, it’s who cares about those traditional questions when you’re interviewing?
Right? Like, I feel like for us, what worked really well was just hearing somebody say what impact they could make on your business as it stands today. And I think even the resume, like I overlooked the education and some past experiences… it didn’t matter. It was more like get in the door. Let’s talk about, like, why you’re passionate about working for Schmidt’s and what can you do to show real value?
Roy Notowitz: [00:13:59] As general manager at Hydro Flask, another quickly growing brand, Scott Allan planned for future growth by seeking out candidates who were overqualified for the position.
Scott Allan: [00:14:09] You know, our searches… it wasn’t just “Go get a body, go get a person that looks qualified that we like, throw them in the role.” It was like, these are really important, you know, stages for the company.
So that would take time. And in the time from where we started working with your team and saying, here’s what we’re looking for to getting to candidates, the business may have evolved. And the things that we’re working on are a little bit different, a little more complicated. So we’d see candidates that maybe looked overqualified to start.
And by the time we get through the process are still overqualified, but we’re, we’re growing into them. I think that was eye opening. And that you really have to kind of look down the track a bit too. And if the business felt like it had a pretty high ceiling as to where we could take this, then yeah, it’s great if you can hire an executive that can scale with it.
And there’s always an art form to that. You can hire people that are too far off that, you know, upper end and they just can’t operate at the reality of your business. There’s certainly the risk of building a bigger team and the business can’t afford it. And you’ve got to go backwards.
Those are all real risks in the business. I think for us, we were fortunate that, yeah, we’d hire people and they were initially over qualified and within a few years, man, we’re putting them to work at the range of their skillset, just through, through the growth we had.
We didn’t want to fool anybody, you know, have them come in and say, this is not what I signed up for. You know, be pretty transparent about that. And that was always the piece around, can they get their hands on a bit? You know, they don’t have a lot of resources, some of the executives we hired, and these are our reality, you know, we have this big vision, but we have a lot of little alligator type things, you know, in the, in the weeds right now to deal with.
So yeah, I think just being transparent, just being, being honest with people and, you know, doing the onboarding and pulling them into the team pretty quickly. And then just fun stuff that was around, you know, like the realistic job preview technique that you guys taught us. I remember our… he’s been promoted to a Senior Vice President of Divisional Sales, but he was our VP of Worldwide Sales.
His RJP was, you know, how would we go to Canada? What’s the right way to take our brand to Canada? You know, we want to focus on premium outdoor distribution. We’ve gotta think about logistics. We’ve got to think about the right starting point, the right way to service it and the economics and everything.
And, and so, you know, Mike came in and did a great job. And I think three months later, you know, we were meeting and, you know, we’re going to Canada. He’s like, “Well, how, how are we going to go to Canada?” And I said, “Well, we’re doing what you said… please don’t tell me that was all a bunch of you-know-what!”
He goes, “No, no, no. I was just curious.” I’m like, “Yeah. That’s why we hired you. You have that expertise, you impressed us and, and seem really solid as, as the team kind of poked holes in what you presented, everything seemed pretty solid.” So, you know, I think if you aim it at here’s the, really the things that we need to be working on and you’re the right person to do it, then, gosh, get them in there and start working on that. There shouldn’t be too many surprises ideally.
Roy Notowitz: [00:16:54] Thanks for tuning in to How I Hire. Visit HowIHire.com for additional information about our show. For more great insights, be sure to check out each of these episodes and interviews as well as others on the website. You can also subscribe for free wherever you get your podcasts.
I want to thank everyone who’s joined me as a guest on the podcast, as well as all the listeners for tuning in. Thanks for being part of the How I Hire community.
This podcast was produced by Anna McClain. For more information about her great work, go to AOMcClain.com. We’ll see you next year!
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