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How Companies Identify Talent with Karen Oakey of Fracture & Kage Spatz

HR Strategy Series, Real Human Resources

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Fracture Human Resources Hiring Strategies

We as humans have the ability to make individual choices that will either support sending out positive ripples or feed into the spider web of hate. We have to always strive to be better than who we are now.

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 Karen Oakey.

Karen Oakey is the director of human resources at Fracture. Karen’s reputation as a trusted confident advisor in human capital management comes from nearly two decades as a business professional with accomplishments in the areas of strategic planning, change management, employee relations, workplace culture & branding, talent acquisition & development, succession planning, compensation strategy, executive coaching, team building, and diversity & inclusion training.

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

It’s my pleasure, thanks for giving me such a wonderful platform to share my passion for Human Resources. Landing in the HR Industry happened organically through life choices. I started out wanting to be a marine biologist and obtained my bachelor’s from East Stroudsburg University. However, after college finding a job in the field was a bit challenging so I moved back home and began working in retail while searching for an opportunity in the biology space. It turns out, with an analytical mindset, retail operation management was actually a good alignment to kick off my professional journey.

I started out as an hourly supervisor and within six months I was promoted into management where I also met my husband (we’re going on our 20th Anniversary this year!). I worked my way up the management ranks. We started a family and though it was often a struggle to balance my career and parenting duties, I enjoyed learning, developing, and growing as a professional. Then a position elimination hit me, this shifted my thoughts to looking for something new that I could become passionate about. A friend and peer guided me towards the HR Industry in 2010, so at 36 I went back to school for a Master’s in Human Resource Management from the University of Scranton.

Our family had just moved to remote Alaska, so between online studies, a full-time job, being a wife and a mother I had to become a jack of all trades. Despite the years of HR experience that I’d obtained through operations management, I thought it was a wise decision to build my HR foundation by connecting that real-world experience to the fundamental competencies of formal HR training. I love the many aspects of HR from strategy, vision, and mission to the everyday engagement with people. It’s our “job” as HR professionals to support the company’s success while positively guiding all our employees to their success as well. My overall mission is to do better each day and make positive choices that will ripple out into the world.

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?

Don’t ever think or say out loud “It’s going to be hard to top that situation” because the universe will absolutely respond with “challenge accepted”. There are so many incidents to choose from that it would actually make good fodder for stand-up comedy (of course, at the expense of some hapless individual). I remember a situation in a previous job where our client was remodeling a gatehouse, didn’t want a portapotty (required by OSHA) and our employee had a bad bean burrito for dinner which left him only one place to ‘go’ — out in the desert, at night. It didn’t ‘end’ well for anyone, he ended up getting a stung on his butt by a scorpion, required antivenom, and was in pain for weeks. Although it’s not funny (or cheap under WC) to get stung by a scorpion, the entire incident just illustrates a level of random craziness that HR professionals are required to respond to. I honestly don’t remember having any ‘Situational HR’ classes in my curriculum.

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?

ATS Technology. Find the right ATS (applicant tracking system) technology for your company. You will need a program that fits the needs of your team and your budget. At Fracture, our hiring needs were nebulous and recruitment was manual. The overall recruitment process was not in place to support multiple hires across departments. We took the time to do analysis across teams before shopping for an ATS program.

For example, it took approximately six months to manually track all candidates for posted positions in a Google sheet. We also used Slack, Asana, and Google Docs to build out the entire recruitment and interview process. I was spending 20 hours per week above the normal 40-hour week just to focus on recruitment. This is not scalable. However, this enabled our HR Team to fully understand the unique nuances of each department across our company, including both manufacturing and non-manufacturing positions. We were then able to effectively identify an ATS that met both the needs of our teams and budget.

HR/Recruitment Training. Don’t underestimate the power of training those who are recruiting. This is also a fantastic time to ensure that everyone is selling the company, culture, work environment, and expectations in the same manner. Alignment across the company is critical to candidates as they seek their next opportunity. If your hiring teams are not energized and aligned to the company culture and expectations, then your candidates will not receive accurate insight into who your company actually is and what you have to offer.

For example, the HR Team at Fracture focused on making ourselves available to the hiring teams at a moment’s notice to video chat, call, or meet up to provide guidance and assistance. This quick responsiveness on our end, though rare for an HR team, kept the information flowing and interviews on track.

Stay connected to the pulse of what is important to job seekers. Receive training on recruiting and supporting diverse talent in an inclusive company environment. Research how to write better job descriptions and job postings in order to attract top talent that aligns with the role, company, and culture. The expanse of generations in the workforce requires a proactive approach to attract, interview, and have successful onboarding. Don’t underestimate the value of keeping the HR team current and relevant.

Company Expectations. Company expectations, culture, and work-environment are discussed at the leadership level and trickle down into our teams for a unified message across the company. Consistency and transparency throughout the entire team allow for a cohesive process. During these conversations, if employee feedback is given highlighting or indicating that there are issues, managers and HR should explore what’s going on.

Job Postings. Job Postings should be more than just inserting your full job description into the job board. Job postings should include position description, transparent expectations, skills needed to be successful, and benefits with pay. The company’s mission, vision, and values should be stated.

Time to Hire & Defined Interview Process. Take the time to clearly define the overall interview process for the company, specific to each team and position. The process likely varies depending on the role. Provide the expectations to each member of the hiring team. For example: does the HR/Recruitment Team have everything they need to post an opening ranging from the position requisition, job description, job ad, and application questions? Does the hiring team know the turnaround time for each step in the process from the resume review to the first HR Interview, then second and third interviews with a hiring team for more functional/technical questions? Is there a homework assignment or assessment? Will there be an on-site visit or reference check? Overall, provide how long it should take to fill the position to the hiring team. Any delay on their part can cost the company qualified talent. Job seekers are not just interviewing with your company. Using this approach gets all members of the hiring team aligned to the expectations. This allows the HR team to pull data to calculate the time and cost to hire in the future.

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?

Career Page & Company Branding. It’s not just about the external customer-facing pages. If your company website does not have an updated careers page that shows job seekers what it’s like to work for your organization, you are missing the boat. Job seekers are not only interested in the pay. The culture, work environment, mission, vision, and core values of the company are important factors as well. Take the time to tell your company’s complete story instead of a short summary. Don’t take your careers page for granted because it’s a silent recruiter for your company.

Fracture’s Career page was buried on our website and not easy to find. We felt that if a candidate mentioned it during an interview, they had dug deep. The page had done what it needed to do but as recruitment priorities escalated, we knew we needed to better tell our story to job seekers. As an agile development shop, we worked with the right teams to place our careers page on the main page of our website and updated our story to better explain who we are. We are already getting fantastic feedback during interviews.

Think outside the box. Advances in communication technologies and the growth of social media provide the opportunity for companies to think outside the box. Finding the best job seekers can be daunting and it’s tough to know where to begin. Using these resources will allow companies to tap into new pools of talent and experience. Don’t be afraid to try new things.

Social Media Blasts are a great way to get attention. Create a witty catchphrase for the position or company and put it out on social media.

LinkedIn is a fantastic professional networking platform and has a group for everything. Do your research, make a request to be added to the page, and then socialize on behalf of your company.

Don’t be afraid to reach out to your community to identify local groups that specialize in IT, marketing, creativity, customer support, HR, etc. Offer to host an on-site meet-up at your place. You could provide food and an engaging speaker. Showing off your company’s grounds and providing a sneak peek behind your doors fosters organic word of mouth about who your company truly is. It will help in recruitment as positions are opened.

Recruitment is not just a function of HR; all employees should own the continuous dialogue of defining the company and letting the community know who you are.

One of our hiring teams recently brought forth the idea to initiate a ‘speed dating’ interview to the hiring process. We are now working to collaborate and put in place a way for our candidates and hiring teams to ask a series of timed questions. This will allow the employer to gain better insight into the candidate’s experience in a more relaxed setting. Fracture is in the infancy stages of entertaining this interview addition but feels there is value to both the candidate and company.

Many times when I’m out to eat, I take the time to get to know our servers. In a college town like ours, serving is often a temporary job for them while they finish their education or training. This approach is similar to the speed dating interview. I ask targeted questions throughout the meal to see if they are a good fit for any current openings. My questions are geared toward behaviour to determine if there is a cultural alignment to our team, but nonetheless fits the model of speed dating.

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

Simply be a good human being. So many initiatives in the world today revolve around this basic tenet. I believe that if we create a movement of doing what’s right, being positive, and serving others it will create a ripple effect out into the world. There’s too much negativity in the world over small issues that don’t matter and not enough positive energy aimed at larger issues that really count.

We as humans have the ability to make individual choices that will either support sending out positive ripples or feed into the spider web of hate. We have to always strive to be better than who we are now.

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

I have two that have become part of my core.

“We all cross each other’s paths in life for a different reason, in various seasons; we may not know the why at the time but usually, that makes itself clear.”

Continuous self-reflection has definitely supported my inner growth.

Being positive and setting positive intentions in all we do, both personally and professionally, will create a ripple effect that spreads in ways and to places we will never know.”

There’s a lot of animosity in the world and it only seems to be increasing. Add that to the fact that we never truly know what others are going through and it just makes it that much more important to find ways to be positive. A simple ‘how are you doing?’ might be the difference in a person’s day. Be the change.

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?

Without question that would be Brené Brown for me. Brené has such an authentic perspective into what it takes to be a good human being which ultimately flows into our professional lives. I continuously turn to her resources when I am in need of supplemental training and positivity.

Thank you so much for these fantastic insights!

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