How Companies Identify Talent with Alison Stevens & Kage Spatz

HR Strategy Series, Real Human Resources

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Paychex Human Resources Hiring Strategies

We’re learning every day, and I want every member of our division to feel inspired and motivated to learn new skills and develop toward their fullest potential.

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 Alison Stevens.

Alison Stevens is the director of HR services at Paychex, a provider of integrated human capital management services for HR, payroll, benefits, and insurance solutions for more than 670,000 businesses. Alison’s team is comprised of nearly 800 HR professionals who are responsible for providing HR outsourcing services, including Professional Employer Organization (PEO) and Administrative Service Organization (ASO) to HR Services clients across the U.S. Her career in HR and leadership spans 25 years in the professional services and HCM outsourcing industries.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! First, please tell us what brought you to this specific career path?

I have been with Paychex for 13 years, leading teams that deliver HR services to our clients. Prior to joining Paychex, I held multiple HR leadership roles in the Washington, D.C. area where I helped companies develop and strengthen their HR infrastructure. I struck “early-career” gold by working at the Advisory Board Company, holding a myriad of roles in both client service and HR. There, I developed a passion for employee engagement and development. During this time, I completed my MBA with a concentration in HR Management, thus establishing a strong academic foundation for my career in HR. I started my career in client service, developed a passion for HR, and now I get to do both at Paychex!

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?

There are so many! As a Chief of Staff early in my career, I learned a great lesson about leadership. I was asked to send an employee home because of the (lack of) length of her skirt. Trust me when I tell you that her skirt was very short, and this was at a time where dress codes at most companies were relatively conservative. This individual was a friend, did not report to me, and I was terrified. I realized at the moment that I had to be direct, but also treat this employee with respect, sensitivity, and confidentiality. She appreciated me taking her aside to talk to her privately, and she promptly went home to change. As I developed as a leader, I continued to learn the importance of direct, timely feedback and leading with courage and care in every situation.

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? Please share an example of each idea.

As a global company with 16,000 employees working across more than 100 U.S. locations, we are always managing and accessing our strategies for identifying top talent best suited to join our team. Our key talent strategies at Paychex include the following:

#1 — Establish a culture of leadership. We make it a priority to support employee development at every level. That focus extends across the leadership continuum to reach every one of our 16,000 employees. We have developed and published leadership competencies that serve as a guide for both self-driven and leader-supported development for employees. As a leader, I’m personally focused on ensuring that my leaders are identifying who their successors are and acting to support and identify next-level talent. The landscape continues to evolve, and we must be ready with the right talent in place to move into the right roles of the future.

#2 — Train the next generation. By offering best-in-class training programs, we attract and retain talent that is excited to make a commitment to a comprehensive learning experience that begins on their first day. This year, we revamped our HR services learning program to provide a comprehensive experience to help HR professionals assimilate into their role at Paychex. The program has been developed to suit the modern learner, incorporating technology, and engaging unique learning experiences to get our new hires off to a fast start.

#3 — Check-in regularly with employees. Once our employees come to Paychex, we follow-up on their employee experience and confirm their engagement levels. We do so by conducting regular engagement surveys that allow our employees to share their points of view and tell us what is on their minds. This crowdsourcing method allows us to uncover what is top of mind for our employees.

#4 — Instill a culture of pride among employees. We work every day to make sure that Paychex is the best place to work and are proud of the recognition we have received in the industry. Instilling great pride in employees can translate to a strong company culture in which employees speak highly of their company and encourage others to join their team.

#5 — Identify and communicate a strong set of values. We have a strong set of values at Paychex and those values are embedded in the fabric of the employee experience, from our behavioral interview process and performance appraisals to our employee recognition programs. We consistently communicate our values to employees and recognize those employees who have demonstrated the company values. We hold an annual event known as “Living the Mission,” which brings together the top performers from our service organization for a week of development, leadership roundtables, and rewarding experiences.

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

Competitive wages are important, but they are not the only component of compensation that should be considered. According to research from Paychex, while 36 percent of small business owners agree that offering a competitive salary is the most effective recruitment tactic, 35 percent identify the most effective tactic as schedule flexibility, and 18 percent say the most effective tactic is offering remote work.

In the increasingly tight labor market, the recruitment process is a two-way street in which both the employer and the applicant should assess if this is the right opportunity for them. HR leaders should respect the candidates’ time and be transparent about the nature of the position and the compensation package. When possible, offer a peer-to-peer interview in the recruitment process so candidates can get a true feel for the culture and assess whether it’s the right fit for them.

Give back. According to research from Paychex, 94% of employees identify working for an organization they feel is socially responsible as important. Invest in a corporate social responsibility program that authentically reflects the company’s values and makes employees and candidates get excited.

If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?

If I could inspire every young American to save towards their future I would. As one of the largest recordkeepers of retirement plans in the U.S., Paychex has a responsibility to continue to educate Americans on the value of investing in a 401(k) account and increase awareness among small business owners on the benefits of offering a 401(k) to employees for recruitment and retention.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote” and how that was relevant to you in your life?

A favorite saying I’ve been referencing recently is “the learning never stops.” I used this quote often during our recent HR service model transformation, in which we trained over 500 HR professionals to deliver strategic HR advice to our clients. It was not an overnight process, and I wanted to ensure that our employees felt supported and confident in our new approach. We’re learning every day, and I want every member of our division to feel inspired and motivated to learn new skills and develop toward their fullest potential.

We are very blessed to have some of the biggest names in Business, VC, 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 be over the moon to have lunch with Julia Louis-Dreyfus. We all have those famous people we’ve convinced ourselves we could be friends with in real life, right? I strongly identify with her sarcasm and adore watching the creative wit and energy she exudes on screen.

Thank you so much for these fantastic insights!

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