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Heather Flynn Of ASML Reveals Her Top HR Strategies with Kage Spatz

HR Strategy Series, Real Human Resources

ASML Human Resources Hiring and Retention Strategies

Minimize the time your recruiters and sourcers spend on administrative work. Emphasize to the team the importance of connecting to candidates where they are and how they want to be engaged (text, phone, social media, etc.).

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 Heather Flynn

Heather Flynn is head of U.S. talent acquisition at ASML, a high-tech employer that makes big machines that make small silicon chips. Her team hires more than 1,200 technical roles a year across seven key ASML offices in the U.S. Heather has been leading recruiting functions for more than 19 years. Prior to ASML, she led the global marketing, sales and communications recruiting teams at Nike for six years before shifting to a tech start-up. Heather recently presented at leading talent acquisition conference SourceCon Spring 2019 on “Lessons learned as a leader; leading small and large recruiting teams.”


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

As an eager new college graduate, I dove head first into a sales position. I spent endless hours making phone calls to win business, but rarely heard back from companies. Even if I did reach someone, I often received a cold, uninterested reception from people who found me a nuisance. This experience was deflating. I wanted to be appreciated and the constant rejection made me explore other professions where I could provide greater value. This led me to a recruiting agency where I enjoyed the opposite experience. Not only did people return my calls, but they were excited to talk to me! I was helping people find a job — a necessity that not only impacts an individual’s livelihood, but their overall happiness.

As I shifted from an agency to in-house recruiting, I soon found my value was multiplied. Most CEOs cite finding the right talent as a key priority that helps ensure the success of their business. I also love the challenge and thrill of building and leading a high-performing recruitment team, partnering in their success to further broaden our impact. I am truly lucky to have found my passion — work that brings value to both individuals and companies.

Can you share the most interesting or funny story that happened to you since you started this career? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

I always like to find humor in everything. Work is no different, even when a new, big responsibility is sprung on you. Three months after accepting a job, I received a call from the head of procurement who was excited to work with me on making progress with the contract employee population (a very large workforce in this instance) and vendor management. I politely said she must be mistaken, it wasn’t my responsibility. I then called my boss who said “Congratulations!”.

Imagine my surprise that after 14 interviews for the job this fact never came up. Now I consider myself a professional of the interview process, after all it’s a key function of recruiting. But clearly, I missed something key about my job scope, despite asking every question imaginable. I never shy away from hard work, but obviously it’s important to know that it’s your work to begin with in the first place.

Humor is important to me as well. Fun story! Are you working on any exciting new projects at your company? How is this helping people?

At ASML, we strive to have continuous candidate engagement. We are actively expanding our processes and tools to help our sourcers and recruiters really engage with talent for the long term. Even with all the technology advancements, this is still a business about connecting with individuals, building relationships and knowing people — knowing if they will be a good fit for your company, if they will thrive, if leaders inside your company will hire the right people for now and in the future. The more we can do to remove administrative tasks and give recruiters the capacity to really connect with their business leaders and candidates, the better our recruiting process and engagement will become.

Wonderful. Let’s 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?

1. Be authentic as a brand and company to attract the right talent. We use all potential communications channels to promote our story, highlighting what kind of company we are and what candidates can expect if they joined ASML. It’s all about finding the right fit, for the individual and the company.

2. Meet candidates where they are. We spend a lot of time at industry, career and university recruitment events, engaging in valuable face-to-face time with talent. We also use social media, since many job seekers increasingly leverage these platforms to connect with companies and identify career opportunities. We have found great success for different candidates in different venues; it’s all about meeting talent in their preferred location or channel, which varies depending on the audience.

3. Host exclusive events to reach high-value candidates. Recently, we hosted a three-day event at our Wilton, Conn. office for 15 PhD students. They spent time learning about the company and engaging with our most senior leaders to better understand who we are and what they could expect from ASML. It was a significant investment of time and money, but everyone involved said it was worth it.

4. Interview people for learning potential and growth mindset. We are a high growth organization and need people that can help us grow. Many thought our next-generation technology would never see the light of day, but we are now shipping to customers worldwide. So, what’s next? We need people that want to make the impossible possible, so we ask interview questions that gauge their ability to innovate and grow in the face of adversity.

5. Get feedback. We survey candidates who we make offers to and those we decline. We want everyone to have a great experience with us, even if we don’t hire them. We review the feedback regularly and look for ways to improve the candidate experience. Since we are looking for a very specific skilled talent, it often means candidates we decline may only be missing one thing. We want those individuals to gain that experience and be open to talking to us again in the future.

With so much noise and competition out there, what are the top 3 ways to attract and engage the best talent in an industry when they haven’t already reached out to you?

1. Invest in the brand. In the U.S. this year, we made a significant investment to launch a new branding campaign to raise our profile, awareness and perception. We are a very well-known tech company in Europe, but not widely recognized in the U.S. We also don’t make a consumer product, which makes us even less recognizable. The goal of the advertising campaign is for us to become better known, and for our audience to remember a few things about us: that we are a high-tech company in the semiconductor space and an attractive employer. We have a great story to tell, so typically once candidates know about us they are very interested.

2. Build relationships, beyond events. It’s important to not always focus on an immediate return on investment (new hires), but long-term relationships. There is value in investing in a university’s research programs or student projects, serving as guest lecturers and sponsoring clubs or student events. True, not every student will join your company and you won’t be able to utilize all research findings. But you will play an important role in strengthening the overall talent pool as well as pushing innovation forward, which benefits everyone. Additionally, graduates are only just entering the business world. While their careers might not start with your company, it could be a second, third or final step. If the next-generation of innovators already know about you, it is more likely they will consider the company as a future employer or make recommendations to their peers.

3. Focus on candidate engagement. Minimize the time your recruiters and sourcers spend on administrative work. Emphasize to the team the importance of connecting to candidates where they are and how they want to be engaged (text, phone, social media, etc.).

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

ASML has very low turnover as a company, and especially as a technology company. As a growing company, we are focused on retaining employees as much as bringing in external talent to meet our business’ needs. While growth provides ample opportunities for many to advance their career, it’s still important to know what motivates employees to stay and develop tailored responses. This includes:

1. Empower employees in their own professional development. We task employees to oversee their career and give them tools and training to do so.

2. Develop managers. Foster leadership skills among managers to equip them with the knowledge and tools to help develop their team.

3. Offer many career advancement paths, beyond people management. We let people continue to build, learn and develop without needing to lead and manage teams.

Thank you for that. 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?

It’s important for every professional to know what is happening in their industry or profession. It doesn’t mean every technology or trend is right for your company or team, but you should know what is available and the potential impact on your company. It connects you closer to the business and makes you more valuable to your stakeholders.

We joined a great professional network, CareerXroads, where I connect with other recruitment leaders to share best practices, ask questions and get help. I’ve also attended specific conferences on subjects in my industry and professional field. But most importantly I have my own professional network of recruitment leaders who I worked with at Nike and have now all moved to other companies — invaluable sparring partners who you already know and trust.

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

I believe all employees want to be valued and recognized for their contributions. This is very individualized to each employee based on how they feel valued. But a few ideas. If your company already offers volunteer days, schedule a team event to improve engagement and connection. Every so often, send employees home early on a sunny Friday afternoon to start their weekend early. Email an individual and copy their peers, clients or boss to praise a specific accomplishment, highlighting what they did so well and why it matters.

During annual reviews, show employees a statement that contains their total rewards. This could include base salary, bonuses, Long Term Incentive plans, Sort Term Incentive plans, employee stock purchase plan, volunteer days, vacation time, sick time, paid holidays, medical and dental coverage. Essentially, your complete compensation and benefits portfolio. It’s important to remind employees about all the ways the company tries to reward their contributions.

While there are varying leadership philosophies, I believe it’s important to personally know your team. I like to connect with each person and know their family, hobbies and interests. Then I can ask about it on a regular basis and show them, if it matters to them, it matters to me.

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?

That’s easy; I’d promote a caring movement. Take the time to learn about each other and our differences, as well as our similarities. I think loneliness (and lack of meaningful connections) is a key contributor to feeling sad and depressed, so the opposite holds true. The key to happiness is your connection with others and relationships that matter.

I recently listened to a podcast “Inside the Hive” that featured Scott Galloway on the “algebra of happiness” and how to take time to connect and engage with your tribe. It takes effort, but the pay offs are endless. It feeds your soul. We all need time for this. Both at home and in the workplace. I truly believe everyone should help each other: “If you aren’t helping them succeed, then you are contributing to their failure.”

That’s what it’s all about — helping one another! Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

Author Dan Millman wrote a book “The Way of the Peaceful Warrior,” which states, “A lesson is repeated until it is learned.” This is applicable at every phase of life. It could be dating the wrong person repeatably, or having the same argument with your parents, or taking jobs for the money knowing it is not what matters most to you. I have learned all these lessons, some faster than others.

Another one is from basketball star Michael Jordan: “Hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard.” Someone that is talented still must work hard, practice and hone the skill to stay sharp. You don’t just wake up good at something. This applies in all aspects of life.

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?

One of my all-time favorite entertainers is Howard Stern. I periodically listened to him in the 90’s when he was still in a “shock jock” phase. Now, he does some of the best interviews I have ever heard. He spends hours with his guests, where most interviews are only minutes long. He can really connect with people and get new stories from them.

Two of my favorite athletes are Joan Benoit and Bo Jackson. I was fortunate during my time at Nike to personally meet both. They were transformational — what Joan did for women in sport and Bo a professional athlete in two sports. They are both amazing.

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