We hire based on our core values. They are front of mind when we’re selecting interview questions and we are looking for answers that reflect who we are and how we work.
As a part of my HR Strategy Series, I’m talking to top experts in the field to teach prospects what hiring managers are actually looking for, while also supporting business leaders in their hiring and retention strategies. Today I had the pleasure of talking with Jennifer L’Estrange.
As someone who started in IT, moved to HR and has worked on projects in more than 10 countries, Jennifer believes that anything can be learned, given the right context, attitude, and support. She strives to help clients achieve their goals and transfer knowledge internally to their organization so that they achieve ongoing, sustainable change. Jennifer has worked in HR Management roles and led Change Management projects focused on leadership development, organizational culture alignment, restructuring, and process change. Over the course of her career, she has covered the full range of HR processes across multiple countries and organizations. Now as the Managing Director of Red Clover, Jennifer and her team work with clients to address some of their most challenging change problems.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! First, please tell us what brought you to this specific career path?
Like most of our team, I didn’t start my career in HR. I started in a technology role and eventually grew to lead IT project teams in database management and application development.
I was working as the project manager on an HRIS project and was really interested in the people processes; I learned that if the processes work, then the business works. A little while later, I approached my mentor and asked if there was an opportunity to move into HR. He had a vacancy but he also had a succession plan that he was using to fill it. Luckily for me, all three people on the succession plan turned him down and I landed a position as a HR business partner supporting an IT organization across three locations.
As part of that role, I managed a site closure and major reorganization. It was my first exposure to organizational change management and restructuring. It’s the sort of work that deserves to be done well and we had a great team there. From there, I went into a global organizational development role and took the lead for a multi-function, multi-country change management and restructuring project. I’m pretty sure no one wanted that job either! It was an amazing opportunity, a ton of work and set me on a course to focus my career and now our consulting practice on managing change.
Can you share the most interesting or funny story that happened to you since you started this career and what lesson you learned from that?
We work with employee populations that range from GED to PhD and I have realized that, while the vocabulary may change from one organization to the other, the fundamental people problems are the same. It was an eye-opening realization and shifted the way I think about and approach leadership challenges. It also changed my assumptions about the transferability of solutions from one industry to another. Now, we’ll take an idea that was born on a project at construction client, adapt and apply it to a tech firm.
Wonderful. Now let’s jump into the main focus of our series. Hiring can be very time consuming and difficult. Can you share 5 techniques that you use to identify the talent that would be best suited for the job you want to fill?
Firstly, we make sure that the job description is well written, meaningful, communicates the company values and clearly explains what we are looking for in a candidate. We don’t short-cut this step and even for our positions inside the firm, we revisit the job description every time we post an opening.
We’re always hiring. Even if we’re not hiring. Our consultants come from varied backgrounds and we’re always on the lookout for great talent. Most of our clients are in a growth mode and we encourage them to do the same.
We have partnered with TTI Success Insights and assess candidates for communication style, motivators, and competencies before the in-person interview. Generally speaking, we use results to select better questions. It enriches the overall experience and helps us make the most of the time we have with the candidate.
We use behavioral interviewing when we meet candidates. The best predictor of future performance on the job is past performance. We identify the competencies we need to evaluate by position and keep the questions tightly focused on getting examples of how the candidate has acted in similar situations in the past.
Most importantly, we hire based on our core values. They are front of mind when we’re selecting interview questions and we are looking for answers that reflect who we are and how we work.
With so much noise and competition out there, what are your top ways to attract and engage the best talent in an industry when they haven’t already reached out to you?
1. Great content that adds value and provides thought leadership for people in our industry or interested in learning about it. It builds brand recognition, credibility, and engagement with an audience in advance of active recruiting efforts. We’re a small company and our last active job posting had over 100 candidates.
2. An active online presence, including some of the top job board sites to share information on our vacancies as well as our employer brand. We share information on vacancies with our professional networks online. Our last hire was a referral through a moms Facebook group!
3. We’re always talking about what we do and ‘scouting’ for talent in unlikely places. While our consultants have proven leadership and change management experience, they didn’t start their careers in HR. We look for and find them in unlikely places.
What are the 3 most effective strategies you use to retain employees?
1. An opportunity to make a genuine contribution to the business and make a meaningful difference for our clients
2. Actively managed performance and development plans, with the investment to back it up
3. A voice in the decision-making process for employee benefits and perquisites.
In your experience, is it important for HR to keep up with the latest trends?
Yes, but honestly, HR should be setting the trends through active engagement of their employee populations and approaching it the same way we address customer needs.
What are some creative ways to increase the value provided to employees without breaking the bank?
Flexible workplace practices. When we work, where we work, how we show up to work. Flexibility is valued by employees and it’s virtually free. It does mean that the performance development and reward processes have to be firmly in place and aligned with this practice or managers may ‘fall back’ on evaluating people based on presence when there’s a performance issue.
If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?
· Stop requiring college degrees for jobs that don’t really need them.
· Focus company resources on investing in their people with the same mindset that they use to invest in R&D and marketing.
· Change in federal law to make company-sponsored student loan repayment more tax effective.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote” and how that was relevant to you in your life?
“The fish starts to stink from the head.”
I’m not sure where the quote comes from originally but my mentor taught it to me when we were working on a project together. If he’s reading this, I’m sure he’s laughing!
Everything starts with the leader, the “head”. If they come into the room with the right mindset, anything is possible. If not, and the leader is passive, disengaged, toxic or whatever, it’s an uphill battle that we’re probably going to lose. The fish starts to stink from the head.
Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world whom you would love to have a private lunch with, and why?
Jocko Willink and Leif Babin. They communicate leadership development concepts in a way that “sticks”. Their books have directly influenced our Core Values. Never before have I dropped everything to drive an hour and stand in a line for another three hours to get a book signed. I did it for them and every new hire gets a copy of Extreme Ownership on their first day. I’d love the opportunity to learn who influenced and mentored them as leaders, what they learned and why.
Thank you so much for these fantastic insights!