No one ever achieved anything great by playing it safe. Sometimes you have to take risks in order to grow. Your trials become your greatest strength. Take a leap of faith, believe in yourself, and never give up.
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 Ceena Babukutty.
Ceena was born and raised in Houston, Texas and has over 12 years of HR experience. She began her career in the startup world before working with Fortune 500 companies like Expedia, Shell, and Sysco. Her areas of specialization include creating onboarding initiatives, training, performance management, benefits, and implementing HRIS systems.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! First, please tell us what brought you to this specific career path?
In college, I had a professor who became my mentor and that’s where I first learned about HR. He helped me get my first HR job as an HR Assistant Manager. From that day onwards I knew that I had found my true passion. I love HR so much that it’s not work for me. It’s a hobby and I am grateful that I can do this every day.
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?
I have a big fear of public speaking. If it’s one on one, I am great but in a setting where there are more than three people I am very shy and very reserved. It’s quite the opposite of an HR professional. I had to give training in front of 5,000 employees, some in person and the rest on a webinar. I had such severe anxiety and could not sleep the night before. My boss really believed in me and wanted me to overcome this fear. It was training time, and I just froze. I knew the material but when I saw everyone I just froze. I even forgot my name. My boss was watching, and he came up to the podium and just started singing. I laughed and all my fears went away. I got in the zone and there was so much clapping at the end of the training from all the employees. Immediately after the training, my boss at the time said one sentence, “Ceena, I am so proud of you and honored I get to be your manager.” It was a day that I will never forget.
That’s great. Let’s jump over to the main theme of our series. Hiring can be very time-consuming and difficult. What 5 techniques do you use to identify talent that would be best suited for the job you want to fill?
- Create a Candidate Profile
A candidate profile represents our ideal job candidate for a specific role. It includes their characteristics, skills, qualifications, educational background, where they are from, interests, etc.
With this information we can:
A. Optimize candidate sourcing: When you know exactly who you want for a specific role, knowing where to find them is easier.
B. Write better job descriptions: It always starts with the job description. This creates a bridge between the candidate and the potential employer.
C. Improve applicable HR metrics: When done correctly it can guide our employment recruiting strategies from start to finish.
- Hire for Attitude and Train for Skills
A valuable employee is one with the right attitude for your organization. A person’s thought, manner, and general disposition towards another person, idea, activity, object, or thing is all defined by their attitude. Their attitude will be reflected in their behavior, which can either be positive or negative. Someone with a positive attitude tends to react positively in most situations, whereas someone with a negative attitude tends to react negatively in most situations. Most skills can often be gained, while attitude is harder to change. A perfect candidate would have both the desired attitude and the necessary skills.
- Think Outside the Box
We are now living in a virtual world. Every aspect of HR has changed especially recruiting. We had to start getting more innovative with our hiring and recruiting process to attract the right talent. It’s no longer just about a two-page resume anymore. It’s more about social media and utilizing that platform to recruit. It has become more about taking that extra step and giving presentations as part of the hiring process or having candidates take an initial test before even starting the process.
- Develop a Company Culture that Attracts Top Talent
The first, and perhaps most important, priority is creating and nurturing a positive company culture that people want to be a part of. Spending time and resources on attracting the best talent means little if your culture falls short of your employees’ expectations. A lot of times company culture isn’t usually thought of as a “recruitment technique,” however, having a strong culture goes a long way to potential candidates.
- Data-Driven Recruitment
Since we are all in this virtual world, a lot of companies, including ourselves, are investing in different technology platforms to help streamline our hiring processes. Data-driven recruitment helps us create smarter strategies for finding and screening candidates. By utilizing data, it helps with our analysis and gives us better insights into how we can adapt, improve, and streamline our recruitment strategy.
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?
- Recruit Based on Your Company Values
Knowing the most important skills and values for your company helps to fill positions around those needs instead of just hiring one employee to replace another.
- Create an Employee First Culture
Show appreciation to employees through employee-recognition programs, performance bonuses, and comfortable work environments. Without great employees, you can’t have an amazing organization. Help employees unwind as well by creating committees to help with those kinds of initiatives.
- Include Employees in the Hiring Process
Happy employees will stay longer. They also help you attract top talent by showing the best potential hires that they also could be happy working there.
What are the 3 most effective strategies you use to retain employees?
- Open Communication / Feedback Culture
- Employee Recognition
- Employee Engagements
If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?
It would be a movement to never give up on our dreams. We all go through ups and downs in life, and it’s how we get through them that truly defines us. When we think we have reached rock bottom and think we can’t, we really can. All dreams can become a reality if we want it.
Great advice. 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?
Tim Tebow. His entire purpose in life is to make this world a better place. He’s gone through ups and downs but reading how he got through it and never gave up has been so inspirational for me.
Thank you so much for sharing your insights with us today!