Do not let your job define you. Work hard and do something you love, but remember, it is just a job.
As a part of my HR Strategy Series, I’m talking to top experts in the field to teach you 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 Jenn Mann.
Jenn Mann leads a global HR organization with a diverse workforce of more than 14,000 employees. She is responsible for developing and guiding SAS’ talent management philosophy, as well as articulating the organization’s strategy for acquiring, developing, rewarding and retaining the best talent. Mann was selected as HRO Magazine’s Chief Human Resources Officer of the Year in 2015.
Thank you for doing this! First, please tell us what brought you to this specific career path?
I have been in Human Resources for 25 years. My interest in the field was sparked by an Organizational Psychology class I took in college. I have worked in the technology sector for most of my career and love it. The industry changes so rapidly, and because of that, I have been in a constant stage of learning. Human Resources is one of the few roles in an organization where you get to learn a little about every part of the business, and that is why I have chosen to stay in the field.
Do you have any interesting or funny stories that happened to you in your career and were there any lessons you learned from that?
As for funny stories in my career, I am afraid I could never put those in print. I have come to expect the unexpected, and I will leave it at that. I will say the most interesting part of my job is the people I meet. I’ve been fortunate enough to meet CEOs from some of the most incredible companies around the world, including lunch with Jeff Bezos. I’ve also had the privilege of meeting Arianna Huffington to talk about SAS’ holistic approach to investing in our employees’ well-being. And I had the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to testify at a Senate Congressional hearing to discuss educational requirements for a 21st-century economy.
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?
It’s really important to know what sets you apart as an employer of choice and to leverage those differentiators to build your employer brand. Your employer branding shows people what makes you special and why they would want to come work for you. It’s what makes your company unique to candidates who are looking for jobs. We’ve spent the last year really enhancing our employer branding experience because we know…job seekers say the reputation of a company as an employer is important. Being part of a great culture and work environment is important to today’s job seeker, and we want people to feel like they have a true understanding of what it’s like to work here. We produce a lot of stories and information to really pull back the curtain and give people an accurate depiction of what it’s like to work here so they can decide if we’re a match.
It’s also really important to know your target audience and where they are. You should know the profile of the candidate you’re looking for. For example, we’re hiring sales account representatives in a specific area in Europe with a particular skill set. We put together a targeted campaign to a targeted audience, with targeted messaging and saw a higher than average industry engagement rate. We knew this meant the message was interesting to our audience and was driving the action we hoped for, i.e. the right type of candidates apply for the job, increase our number of followers which meant an increased pipeline and we were able to fill the positions.
Another great way to attract top talent is through referrals — great people know great people — so, why not get your employees involved? We launched a four-week social referral campaign for our hard-to-fill niche roles. The campaign was run globally where we asked business leaders to send out new social content each week for employees to share. Employees were encouraged to share referrals from their social networks. The campaign not only brought in great new applicants but it also built a buzz around offices and brought employees together to achieve a common goal.
And finally, we offer full-time, paid academy roles for those early in their career to bridge the gap between academic life and for some, their first full-time role.
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 you treat people like they make a difference, they will make a difference. This applies professionally and socially. I think we could all be a little kinder these days and remember to treat people the way you want to be treated.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote” and how that was relevant to you in your life?
One quote to sum up a life lesson is hard for me. I am at an age where you really start to question things you once thought were important. In your 40s and 50s, you begin to experience life changes you could never imagine, for example, you may become the caregiver for your parents, you may experience the loss of a parent, your kids may go off to college leaving you an empty nester, or you may experience your first health scare. All of a sudden, the things that you thought were so important or consumed much of your time don’t seem important. I have experienced all of these over the past three years.
A couple of years ago, just days after my father passed away unexpectedly, a friend who was writing her first book asked me if I would share a letter to my younger self to be included in her book. The theme of my letter was “If I knew then what I know now.” At the end of my letter, I shared a few of my life lessons:
1. Do not let your job define you. Work hard and do something you love, but remember, it is just a job.
2. Always put family first. You will never regret it.
4. Be healthy. Without your health none of the rest matters.
5. Don’t spend more than you make, and always give some to others.
6. Don’t let self-doubt prevent you from trying something new.
7. Always have a circle of female friends to lean on and be there for. Life gets busy, but at some point, they will need you and you will need them, so don’t neglect those friendships.
8. Find a creative outlet or hobby to nurture your spirit.
9. Get a good night’s sleep.
10. If you are going to do it, do it well.
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?
This is tough to answer because there are so many people I’d love to have the opportunity to meet for so many different reasons. But…can I give two?
In the business world, I’ve always been inspired by Mary Barra, the Chairman and CEO of General Motors. I saw her on a panel a few years ago, and my appreciation for her grew even more. She has a humbleness about her and is not overly aggressive. She is direct and takes action. She works hard and doesn’t expect anything to be given to her. She influences by action and not words. It’s really inspiring to see.
The other person I’d love to have lunch with is Dolly Parton. She comes to mind for me because I recently saw a documentary by Ken Burns about her on PBS. You don’t have to know or like country music to be inspired by Dolly. Many may not realize the path she paved for businesswomen. She was bold to go out on her own in a male-dominated industry at a time when women didn’t have the support to do so. In her 70s, she is still one of the highest-paid women in country music. She’s a true testament to resilience. Through all her fame she has always remained kind and humble and completely unapologetic about who she is. Her one desire is to make people happy…and who wouldn’t want to meet someone like that?
So much value for our audience to take from this. Thank you again for these fantastic insights!