How Companies Identify Talent with Delmar Johnson of HR Brain for Hire & Kage Spatz

HR Strategy Series, Real Human Resources

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HR Brain for Hire Human Resources Hiring Strategies

Be mindful of how much you give away, because serving from an empty cup serves no one, least of all, you.

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 Delmar Johnson.

Delmar is the Founder and CEO of HR Brain for Hire™, a boutique HR and People Relations Firm helping growing businesses build teams and create processes and systems to position them as employers of choice. With clients based across the U.S., Delmar has been honored with the Spark and Hustle Small Business Resiliency Award (2018) and nominated for the Best Small Business Startup Award in 2014. With over 20 years of experience, Delmar founded the brand HR Brain for Hire™ as a trusted and resourceful solution for first-time employers in need of affordable, efficient, and top-notch recruitment, training and HR services. Delmar is the Author of the Best Seller, HR Is Sexy! The Truth About Human Resources and Why It’s Necessary for Your Business, as well as the author of Seasons of My Soul: A Life Journey Through Lessons Learned in a Dry Place and has co-authored other books. In addition, she was nominated and recognized as a finalist for the Indie Author Legacy Award (2016). Delmar has also been a guest speaker at several conferences and empowerment events. Connect with Delmar online at

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

I will have to take you all the way back to my high school years and my involvement in the business vocational program and group that exposed me to working in an office environment and with people. It appealed to my 17-year old senses and with unbridled conviction, without knowing exactly what HR really was, I made up my mind of which direction I wanted to go. This was further provoked by a college fair that my hometown held every year for graduating seniors. After visiting several of the college booths I landed on the school that would become my alma mater. The university had an Office Management program, with a Human Resources concentration that appealed to me, and my inspiration to pursue that path of a career was solidified. What I knew as an impressionable teenager is that it involved helping people. One of my senior class teachers asked one day, “what do I want to be after college?”. Boldly I said, “I’m going into human resources.” The rest, as they say, is history.

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 think back to the time I was a Senior Compensation Analyst with a very large global corporation. It was a challenging role and an equally great company to work for, and part of my responsibility was traveling and doing very early morning onsite employee meetings. Can you imagine talking with a group of employees at 5:30 in the morning about their pay and the effects company changes may have on how much they will be paid? One occurrence I vividly recalled happened basically up the mountainside of Colorado while snowing. That in and of itself was interesting, driving in that weather through the mountains in a 4-wheel drive; however, the kicker was when managers intentionally were in the room when the meetings began — it’s funny when I think back on it because it was to defray any hostility or frustrations employees may take out on the messenger. When I think of stories like that it reminds me of what I share with fellow colleagues and business owners all the time, that employees simply want to be heard and seen as valuable. While at the same time, leadership must possess a level of awareness of how to manage and engage employees appropriately so what is communicated, is informative and understood by the receiver.

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?

Don’t rest your laurels on a resume and phone call to identify and retain fantastic talent. It takes a little more strategy and finesse than that. The process to onboard the kind of talent you desire within your organization starts before the interview. Let’s call it the pre-talent blueprint.

Here are five techniques I would use to fulfill a job opening:

1. Intimately understand your business culture. When positioned with intention, it drives everything you do, including your decision making of who will want to come and play. Business culture is the foundation on which an organization is positioned to scale and grow. With any new hire or team member potential, it’s important to determine their alignment with our core values and expectations. It’s equally as important to hear from the job candidate on how they see themselves fitting the culture.

2. Be clear about what the job looks like on paper and create the avatar that fits it. Take what you need and the gaps to be filled out of your head and put them on paper. Create a visual of what the job will consist of when it comes to tasks, responsibilities, skills, and other areas of importance. It then becomes easier for us to identify what kind of skillset job applicants would need and the kind of work ethic and personality we prefer.

3. Know what you as a company will bring to the table when the talent shows up to sell you why they are the ones to choose and keep. I’ve seen too often through years of being in the human resources industry, applicants, as well as organization representatives, put all the focus on what candidates are bringing to the table to add value to the work environment. I’ve always been of the mindset, it is also important to know what will the company bring to those individuals who are intrigued by what we do, to the point they are persistent to learn how they can become part of its success.

4. Gather feedback from trusted colleagues within your organization that will play a part in the development of the “right talent” and how best to retain them. It takes a village. No one person should have the sole responsibility of ensuring employees are content and happy. In my opinion, the responsibility falls on management, human resources, and the employees working together to find balance in a relationship that is strengthened through consistent communications, transparency and people development.

5. Understand picking fantastic talent will take patience, a keen sense of awareness and due diligence in the process of elimination through targeted interviewing. Personally, I’ve never known to recruit great talent to be a rush job. The core actions needed to solidify the talent that best fits your work culture is patience, coupled with sourcing activities like solid interviewing that helps to make the best decision possible on who the next top employee could be.

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?

1. Start where you are. What talent is already in the house? Take an assessment of the skills, talent, and gifts, that have already been invested in the growth of your business.

2. Level-up your awareness of what’s happening in the community in which you run your business. For example, make it a point to identify networking and community outreach opportunities to connect with people outside the walls of the business. It’s not just up to HR Brain for Hire™ as an employer, but it’s up to the team to scout out potential team players. It’s a win/win for both sides.

3. Create an opportunity to tap into potential talent through referrals and have an incentive attached to it that will be paid out after a retainable about of time.

What are the 3 most effective strategies you use to retain employees?

Create a culture that is two-fold, intentionally transparent and relationship-focused. Both sides of the same coin represent the new currency to scale and retain the desired talent. As the African proverb goes, “if you want to go quickly, go alone, if you want to go far go together”

1. Develop a strengths-based company. So often we as human beings in society and even in the workplace are conditioned to only focus on what is not perfect or what is not being done right. Continually developing strengths create a more skilled and learned, as well as engaged workforce.

2. Demonstrate your keen awareness to develop your people. An evolved and well-rounded staff creates a workplace atmosphere people are drawn to and want to stay long-term. Professional development is essential to retain key performing employees.

3. Intentionally pay employees a level of wage that’s not only comparable to the market and geographic data but consider the kind of work culture you’ve developed, the level of other skilled and talented co-workers you have, to offer a fair and competitive wage that demonstrates you want them there.

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 inspire a “you are a unique genius” movement. So often within the walls of Corporate America and workplaces around the nation, too much focus is aimed at what employees don’t do right, or what they’re not as sharp in doing than the next person. What if we took that same energy and redirect it toward what is “so good” about your team of employees, your community leaders, your family, your school, people at all levels.

Imagine developing and sustaining a group of individuals, whether in the workplace, or in schools, or in the community that adopts a culture that focuses on the strengths they possess and what they do well. Inevitably a domino effect occurs, and new leaders emerge, new skills and talents are identified that could be better utilized in organizations, schools and even at home. And that’s not all, how about the power of cross-training evolves as a normal practice, no longer creating a silo of one person who knows how to do one specific thing.

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

“Be mindful of how much you give away, because serving from an empty cup serves no one, least of all, you.”

This quote has been relevant to me even more so in this new season of life and profession that I’m navigating. Too often though past experiences, I have not been the best in ensuring that I refuel myself emotionally, spiritually and mentally, so that I can serve others in the marketplace, as well as in life from a place of energy and focus. As I continue to mature in age and in business, I am much more conscious and recognize it quickly when I find myself reverting to my old ways of operating from an empty cup.

We are very blessed to have 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?

Janet Bryant Howroyd is the person I would love to have a private lunch with. Not only is she a history maker as one of the few Black women with a brand worth in the billions; she is also a leader in the human resources industry by way of her staffing/personnel empire the ActOne Group. I had the pleasure of seeing and hearing her at a 2019 entrepreneurs conference in Atlanta and enjoyed her energy and wisdom she shared. I also refreshingly admired her down to earth vibe and the fact her family was a large part of the growth of the organization over the past decades that it has grown and expanded.

Thank you so much for these fantastic insights!

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