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5 Ways To Identify And Retain Talent with Olga Patarroyo & Kage Spatz

HR Strategy Series, Real Human Resources

DentalPlans.com Human Resources Hiring Strategies

I have a psychology background, so when I interview candidates, I introduce a quick and fun conversational game where candidates end up sharing behavioral preferences without even realizing it.

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 Olga Patarroyo.

Olga Patarroyo is the Senior Director of Human Resources at DentalPlans.com. With more than fifteen years of experience, she collaborates with senior management to lead strategic HR planning and organizational culture that aligns with the corporate mission, vision, and goals. Before joining DentalPlans.com in 2015, Patarroyo worked in a variety of HR management roles in international corporations, as well as being a thought and behavioral coach for multiple years. Formerly, she received her bachelor’s degree in psychology and master’s degree of business administration from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

One of my first HR experiences was when I implemented an “Actively Caring” culture into the university food hall at Virginia Tech, where I worked part-time while pursuing my bachelor’s degree in psychology. I measured self-esteem, self-efficacy, empowerment, and belongingness, among other factors. And as intrinsic motivation increased, employees and customers began noticing an improvement in customer service and teamwork. This experience solidified my passion for applying theory into workplaces, which led me to later getting my MBA with a concentration in human resources.

Can you share the most interesting or funny story that happened to you since you started this career?

Getting your foot in the door after college can be tricky. Being that my only HR work experience at that time was as a Training & Development Assistant, I was under-qualified for managerial HR roles, and overqualified for HR administration roles due to my MBA. I did not let that stop me and decided to search for work at a multi-national corporation in the Telecom industry, in any department, to network and gain insights into what the HR needs of different departments were. I gained experience in legal, marketing and sales support.

While I was in a sales role at that company, an HR Manager position became available and I was persistent in throwing my hat in the ring for that job! It took some time, but ultimately, I was given the opportunity at an HR Coordinator level and was promoted to HR Manager soon after. I realized that having hands-on knowledge and experience in the business allowed me to excel in the role as a true HR Business Partner, which taught me to replicate that in all my future HR roles.

This also helped me learn the importance of being open to the right opportunities, having a goal in mind, and that humble persistence pays off.

Are you working on any exciting new projects at your company? How is this helping people?

Our company mission is to enable people — our customers — to lead happier, healthier lives one smile at a time. In alignment with that, we are working on transforming our workplace into a well-place, so our employees are empowered to lead happier, healthier lives as well.

We recently launched a new DP wellness program, which provides educational tools, events, referrals, and other wellness resources to employees in all areas of health, including physical, emotional, mental, financial and social. And as a result, we were just honored as one of the Healthiest Employers in South Florida by South Florida Business Journal.

One example project is our annual Health Fair — we offer free biometrics and angio-screenings, fit-bits, exercise bands, yoga mats, yoga classes, massages and more. Such screenings have helped us identify, and in-turn, see a decrease in high risk factors year after year.

Another example is that our employees have the opportunity to exercise every hour on the hour with one-another, led by a fellow employee who has a passion for fitness. And the best part — participation is increasing!

Fantastic. Let’s now jump to 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? Please share an example for each idea.

a. Culture — We look for candidates who are driven to make an impact in the role they will play at DentalPlans.com and share our values and beliefs. We look to recruit those whose passion aligns with our vision of enabling people to lead happier, healthier lives, one smile at a time. One important characteristic we look for is their customer service orientation, which includes servicing internal customers. We also look to hire people who enjoy working in a collaborative, fun and entrepreneur-style environment as we all roll our sleeves up to meet and exceed our goals. We want employees who are humble, but love to win, and who have the ability to balance managing a high sense of urgency while maintaining excellence in all they do.

b. Technical Questionnaires — As HR Business Partners, we meet with the hiring manager and create a recruitment strategy depending on the role. We define if a questionnaire will be sent to candidates prior to interviewing to assess their match from a technical perspective but also gauge their interest level. We have found that those that complete these written pre-assessments appreciate the process when we bring them for a face-to-face interview, as it helps them understand what is important to us as a company.

c. Behavioral Assessments — Since I have a Psychology background, as part of the HR interview, I introduce a quick and fun conversational game where candidates end up sharing behavioral preferences. For final candidates, we have them complete a Predictive Index Assessment which provides us with additional information and corroborates with our analysis of the behavioral interviews.

d. Teamwork — The hiring manager considers the feedback provided by all team members who interviewed the candidates as they share their thoughts on fit and value-add. When a candidate is hired, their on-boarding is easier as they already met various team members giving a feeling of belongingness from day one.

e. Candidate Experience — Our office environment reflects our engaging culture. During the interview experience, after having met with different team members, great prospects always express their excitement at the possibility of joining our team. Others just follow protocol with not much expression of how they move forward to next steps. We aim to ensure all potential candidates leave with a positive impression of our company by making the selection experience unique. We have found that working in a positive environment and belonging to a culture they believe in is a main factor in their decision-making for candidates.

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?

One way to attract and engage with top talent in your area is through continuous branding. Throughout the year, we put DentalPlans.com in front of the community through community relations, media relations and other initiatives. That brand recognition has led qualified candidates to our job fair booths time and time again, and has helped us create a pipeline of interested candidates awaiting an opening.

Another program we created to stand out among the competition is our Employee Referral Program. Think of your employees as your brand ambassadors and remember that passion is contagious. When employees are satisfied in their jobs, they can be your best tool for recruiting other passionate employees that, too, align with your company mission, values, and beliefs.

Lastly, at DentalPlans.com we leverage social recruiting solutions with partners such as CareerArc, Glassdoor, LinkedIn, Indeed, among others, to drive awareness to our company culture and thereby attract and engage the best passive talent.

What are the 3 most effective strategies used to retain employees?

The first step to retaining employees is understanding them — knowing what motivates them and what does not. I have a psychology background, so when I interview candidates, I introduce a quick and fun conversational game where candidates end up sharing behavioral preferences without even realizing it. For final candidates, we also have them complete a Predictive Index Assessment which provides us with additional behavioral information — such as what motivates the candidate. We then use that information once they’re hired to create a unique onboarding experience that is tailored to their needs. Managers also find this information helpful, as it helps them identify the best ways to communicate and set goals with each team member, leading to increased retention.

Next would be to recognize employees every day. At DentalPlans.com, we have our Create-A-Smile Program where employees can recognize their peers for exemplifying any of our company beliefs or values. We then use this feedback to determine and reward our employee of the quarter.

Last but certainly not least, we focus heavily on fostering an engaging office environment that reflects our culture, which is all about being happy and healthy! We survey employees often to ensure our in-office activities, such as free massages, spirt week, health fairs and more are meeting — and exceeding — the changing expectations of our workforce. This feedback is extremely valuable in helping us continue be a top place to work in our local area.

In your experience, is it important for HR to keep up with the latest trends? Can you give some examples of what this looks like?

Keeping up with trends is extremely important for any HR professional, and that goes beyond just hiring trends to include workplace and wellness trends, among others. I find it helpful to attend local and national SHRM events. From these, I’ve gained learned about resources such as Givitas, which is a service that lets you share HR knowledge and expertise with peers in a very simple way.

Another way to keep up with new workplace movements, is by joining and participating in HR groups on LinkedIn, and attending LinkedIn Local Meetings, which allow for face-to-face connections. I’ve found my local group to be a key resource.

Nonetheless, with today’s digital world, there are no limits to the information you can find online if you focus on the right places. For instance, researching nationwide and global best places to work in sites such as Glassdoor, LinkedIn, TheMuse.com and Fairygodboss can provide HR leaders with innovative ideas and positive trends to apply to their own companies.

Can you give an example of a creative way to increase the value provided to employees without breaking the bank?

The first step to providing value at little or no cost is to discover what drives your employees. For example, our workforce is interested in giving back to the community, so we created our new DP Cares Committee which coordinates opportunities for employees to volunteer and give-back to those in need. This requires us to invest time rather than money, and the reward has been far more valuable.

Our employees were also interested in sharing recipes with peers, which led to our monthly potlucks. Now those who share a passion for cooking or baking can enjoy friendly competition and great company — increasing morale without breaking the bank.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?

I would love to inspire people to follow a Total Wellness & Positive Mindset Change Movement! Leading by example is the best way to inspire others. When our CEO asked me to lead wellness at work, I was not at my best physical shape, but was very excited to take on the challenge.

At a Quarterly Town Hall meeting, I opened up personally and announced that we would be launching a new program called DP Wellness in an effort to transform our workplace into a well-place. The goal was to reinforce that each of us had a choice to be proactive and decide to change our wellness habits; be it physical, emotional, mental, social, spiritual or intellectual.

At that time, I publicly committed to begin my journey in physical wellness and found a program that I believed would work for me (GetFit21 / ChayanneMovement). Within six months, I had already lost 30 pounds. Employees noticed and acknowledged the positive changes and were excited to hear my secret: “Begin with a change in Mindset”.

As a psychologist, I always knew the power of the mind in emotional, mental and social wellness but had never connected it to physical wellness. After noticing the physical changes in myself, I realized the first thing I did was change my mindset — instead of focusing on dieting, I focused on creating healthy habits with the support of the coaches I met through the above-mentioned program.

Today, my healthy habits journey continues, and so does my drive to influence others — at work and in my personal life!

That’s an impressive way to lead by example, congrats! Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change”. — Wayne Dyer

I have been blessed to have lived my life based on this quote. The first time I read it, I realized it was my way of being. When I was ten years old, I went into a comma for one and a half days. Ever since, I see everything in life with a different perspective and choose to see the beauty in everything as a result. It may not be easy, but no matter how terrible things may seem, there is always a positive way to look at them and to respond accordingly.

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?

I would love to have a private lunch with Oprah Winfrey and have a thoughtful conversation about how HR professionals can impact people’s lives. Oprah has met so many wise individuals that I consider life teachers, and I would be delighted to gain her insights into how all of that could be applied into the corporate world.

Thank you so much for these fantastic insights with us today!

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