We’re all moving fast, and we all have an idea of how we think things should be done, according to our own personalities and value systems. When others operate differently, rather than rushing to judgment or solving for the ‘wrong’ problem, it would go a long way if we could slow down, seek to understand and be curious.
As VP of People Operations, Kelly Battelle is responsible for hiring the industry’s best talent and for creating a positive, collaborative work environment at GumGum. With more than 20 years of human resources experience, Battelle comes to GumGum from The Walt Disney Company, where she served as the global media giant’s Senior Manager and HR Business Partner. Battelle is based in Venice Beach and holds a BA in Sociology from Washington State University and a Certificate in Coaching from The Coach Institute.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! First, please tell us what brought you to this specific career path?
Although I’ve considered different career paths, I grew up with a mother who was an HR executive. I was often with her at the office. She was a leader in a very male-dominated field, paving the way for other professional women, which was inspiring. She never pushed me to get into HR, but I think growing up in a corporate environment and having similar personality traits as my mom and seeing her in action planted some seeds around how to influence the human component of the corporate world. I didn’t think I would go into Human Resources, but after college, I went on a series of informational interviews at different companies and ended up getting an offer to join an HR team at an early tech start-up. So the apple didn’t fall far from the tree!
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 was running my own career coaching business in Los Angeles for about five years when I decided I wanted to get back into the corporate world. Since I had moved to LA when I started my business, I didn’t have a great HR-related network in LA at that time, so I knew I needed to get out there and make new connections in the area. I reached out to someone who I used to work within Seattle, who was now the head of talent acquisition at a major LA studio. And he was like, “Crazy, I was just talking about you!” It turned out that an engineer I had recruited back in the very early part of my career in Seattle was now the head of technology at the same studio. I guess they had been talking about how they need someone like Kelly to come help at the studio. And there I was. It was such a clear proof point for me that connections matter — and staying up with your network matters too.
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?
First, before posting a role for recruiting, it’s ideal if the HR Business Partner works with the manager who is hiring to get clear on core responsibilities, skill sets, ideal characteristics of a candidate and what success would look like in this job. For example, we recently worked with a department manager in sales to fill a similar position in another city. By slowing down and digging in with the manager, we found that, while 80% of the job was the same across all territories, 20% would be unique to the particular location because the target accounts were different. That knowledge helped refine the search and gave the recruiter a clearer sense of what type of sales candidate we needed to go after.
Second, the recruiter needs to do a good job of sourcing. Rather than just waiting for active candidates — inbounds — they need to find passive candidates, who might not be looking for that job but are working in similar roles with complementary skill sets. We recently filled an SVP-level position with someone who would never have known the position was available had we not reached out to him, because he wasn’t looking.
Third, in a well-thought-through interview process, where each person interviewing a candidate has a specific area of focus. This ensures that candidates are not hearing the same question over and over, allowing us to cover a much wider range of topics overall. We get a much richer sense of who that person is — a holistic view of the candidate — and a faster evaluation. We’ve had great feedback from candidates about their interview experience with us as a result of this approach.
Fourth, with every leadership candidate, I focus on the question: What have others told you is your leadership style? Then I segue into: Every leader has something they’re working on developing or enhancing. What is that for you? I’m listening to whether the leader is self-aware of their leadership style and also self-aware of where they may need to make some improvements. Excellent leaders are constantly learning and adjusting. If candidates hesitate on either of those questions or give super-basic responses — that’s a red flag for me with respect to their leadership capabilities. We needed leaders who are strategic and self-aware.
Finally, I really pay attention to the questions candidates have for me. If a candidate isn’t curious about the company, the role, the team — that’s cause for concern. Hopefully, they’re interviewing us as much as we’re interviewing them. We’re looking for thoughtful, inquisitive candidates because we expect those characteristics in almost every role at GumGum.
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?
One is having a well-rounded employment branding strategy: Get clear about what your unique value proposition is, what makes your company unique, and why team members join and stay!
Another is to think like a marketer. Be in a lot of places and talk about more than just open positions. You can’t wait for people to apply online through a few job portals, then be surprised if you don’t get the volume or quality of candidates you want. Have a large online presence across multiple platforms, be at career fairs and industry events, publish articles about what the company can offer.
The third is making sure you have a talent acquisition team that understands what it means to have a sourcing strategy for reaching out to passive candidates.
If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?
One of the things that I coach on the most is: seek to understand. We’re all moving fast, and we all have an idea of how we think things should be done, according to our own personalities and value systems. When others operate differently, rather than rushing to judgment or solving for the ‘wrong’ problem, it would go a long way if we could slow down, seek to understand and be curious. Often there’s a good reason for doing things differently and that approach may very well complement our own way of doing them.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote” and how that was relevant to you in your life?
My favorite quote in the world is, “If the only prayer we ever say in life is ‘thank you,’ that will be enough.” Gratitude is everything. That’s from Johannes Eckhart.
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?
Oh yes. Brene Brown. There is something so humble, relatable and absolutely inspirational to me about her. She has this balance of intelligence, wisdom, and insights that makes me want to listen, learn, and implement. She seems very approachable as well. I’d be curious how she balances all of the parts of her life and how she copes under stress. And what her secrets to happiness are, thus far in life. I’ve been fortunate enough to see her speak when I was an HR Business Partner at Disney. And I recently took a ‘Dare to Lead’ workshop by one of her certified facilitators. Having lunch with her would be a dream come true.
Thank you so much for these fantastic insights!