How Companies Identify Talent with Nancy Parsons of CDR Companies & Kage Spatz

HR Strategy Series, Real Human Resources

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CDR Companies Human Resources Hiring Strategies

If we can help people, particularly younger people, understand themselves and drive their lives and careers in a better direction, then we are doing the best we can do. I think it will change the world if we could do it at a much greater scale.

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 Nancy Parsons.

Nancy Parsons is the Founder and CEO at CDR Companies, a combination of the newly established CDR-U Coach, LLC., and CDR Assessment Groups, the second of which she co-founded with Kimberly R. Leveridge, Ph.D. With over 33 years of experience, Nancy has published two books and more than 70 articles on leadership and development.

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

Thank you for having me. I began my HR career in the energy sector as a generalist and also handled labor relations then later gravitated more towards leadership development and talent development work. By the late ’80s, I was designing 360 performance feedback instruments for an energy pipeline company where I was the HR director. I figured out that the best way to solve “people” problems in the workforce was to get ahead of them by helping leaders become more effective. I grew weary of the fire fighting in HR and shifted my focus to leadership development. In the ’90s, I moved into training leaders in coaching skills and then became an executive coach. Once I was introduced to personality and motivational measures, I was hooked and saw this as the best way to revolutionize leader performance and development. In 1998, my business partner and I started CDR Assessment Group (now CDR Companies, LLC) and I haven’t deviated from that vision since.

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?

Obviously, with my long tenure, I have many stories I could share. Here’s an intriguing one. Tom, a Vice President of Organizational Development (OD) of a large pharmaceutical retailer, was being interviewed by a global food manufacturing firm for the position of Chief HR Officer. Tom decided he wasn’t going to make the move without having the CEO of the hiring company and would-be boss, “John,” take our battery of assessments, the CDR 3-D Suite.Tom asked me if I would be willing to perform an analysis to compare his own results with John’s to see if they would be a good match working together.

I was intrigued by his bold idea and explained to him that I had never heard of any external candidate requesting an analysis of the hiring executive, especially the CEO; however, I couldn’t resist and said yes with the condition that John completes his own confidential coaching feedback session to better understand his results. John, taking a leap of faith himself as he had never been exposed to our assessments, agreed to the process.

We went forward and I completed the pair’s analysis. As it turned out, this match was not made in heaven or even close. Tom, an extreme change agent and a visionary maverick, had a dynamic working style that would be more than John or his C-Suite team members could have reasonably tolerated. John’s business needed someone to implement reasonable changes steadily by balancing and building trust with incremental movements rather than bold, sweeping new designs.

After the analysis of the two’s data and our discussion, both left with a clear understanding that the pairing was not in their own or the company’s best interests. They had tremendous respect for each other though, due to the analysis, no job offer was made.

What I learned, or confirmed, was that making sure that individuals are a good fit for the job and the key team they are joining, is the best way to avoid a very costly, lose-lose situation.

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? Please share an example for each idea.

I am delighted to share our approach. At CDR Companies, we have a highly effective process for identifying and selecting the best-fit candidates for job vacancies. These steps, which have been refined based on years of scientific research and experience, have been successfully used to not only identify, but retain top talent, while saving valuable time and money in the process.

Step 1. Analyze Job Requirements.

The first step is to clarify the job needs, expectations, and why the job exists. List the key deliverables, accountabilities, and the “must-haves.” Often times, hiring managers overload job descriptions with too many requirements, setting unrealistic standards that make performance impossible. For example, some job descriptions emphasize that a candidate must be both strategic and operationally focused. Clarification of these terms and their respective importance is necessary because most candidates will be better at one of these rather than both therefore, one should use due caution to be realistic. Once this exploration is completed, a job description can be written and analyzed by assessment consultants.

Step 2. Next, screen applicants or candidates to those you THINK you want to interview.

The hiring manager or hiring team should review the submitted applications to select those they believe would be a good fit for the job. These candidates should, on paper, meet the qualifications for the role and appear to be a promising fit.

Step 3. Administer valid assessments with candidates

This step is the most critical when it comes to both identifying and retaining top talent. For those candidates that pass the preliminary application screening the next step is to administer a validated personality and motivational assessment. Prior to this step, the assessment firm’s consultants should set cut off scores, based on a job analysis and their research database, that align personality and motivational characteristics with the specific job requirements of the role you are planning to fill. Those candidates whose assessment scores pass within the cut-off scoring ranges should be the only ones interviewed. Without assessments in the process, it is not uncommon for candidates who interview best to perform the worst and vice versa. The assessment provides an objective way to take a deeper look at one’s innate capabilities and they predict performance with statistical reliability. They are also diversity neutral therefore there is no adverse impact based on race or gender.

4. Complete personalized interviews with top candidates

Now that you have narrowed down your candidates based on qualified applications and assessment scores, you can move on to the interview process. Interview the top candidates using your organization’s standard questions, but also include personalized questions based on the candidate’s assessment results. These questions should give you a better understanding of how an individual’s profile characteristics will show up and contribute to or hinder their success.

5. Complete standard hiring procedures

For your last step, you want to make sure that you are doing your due diligence. Before making a job offer to your top candidate(s), complete reference checks, background checks, and any other procedures that your HR team has set in place.

Thank you again. 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?

The number one thing that I have found attracts and engages top talent is providing opportunities for development. When employees can see a path forward, they embrace the progress. If you want top talent to apply for your jobs and actually stay at your organization, you must ensure that they know you care about their professional growth and development

Secondly, you need to present a culture that attracts those who you want. People are looking for experiences, not just another job.They want to feel valued, appreciated and they want career care!

Third, you need to put dedicated time into your online presence and company brand. If you follow the first two steps, your employees should be excited to talk about their work within your organization and should be brand ambassadors that really fuel the fire for attracting new talent through digital and social avenues.

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

The most fundamental thing a manager can do is show each employee that they value and respect them always. The leader needs to show they are delighted that each employee joined the organization and that their contributions are appreciated and valued.

Next, assuring that each employee has developmental or career enrichment opportunities is a must. Investing in talent development for each employee is essential so that they can build their own personal plans for success and fulfillment. Research shows that personalized development is KEY to retaining employees. Keep in mind, companies always lose their best people first, not their weaker performers. So, if top performers do not feel valued or are underwhelmed with the work they do, they are likely to leave.

Last, help all employees understand their role and contributions to achieving business goals. Have meetings with top leaders to discuss company goals and challenges. Each employee needs to have a solid understanding of the business strategies, goals, core values, and client services standards to be successful. A great book to help guide this process is The Advantage by Patrick Lencioni.

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 I could inspire a movement, it would be to equip everyone with the right tools to gain a deep level of self-awareness that is essential to drive their performance, career, and development in the best direction for themselves. Today, only 10 to 15% of people are actually truly self-aware, so this translates to many career and performance missteps and lots of unhappiness.

We are 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?

Elon Musk — I’d love to hear more about his story, his future vision, and pick his brain a little with questions.

Thank you so much for sharing your insights with us today!

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