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How Companies Identify Talent with Stephen Bailey of ExecOnline & Kage Spatz

HR Strategy Series, Real Human Resources

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ExecOnline Human Resources Hiring Strategies

To whom much is given, much is expected.

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 Stephen Bailey.

Stephen brings a passion for helping executives and their companies solve their most pressing strategic challenges through innovative technology solutions. Before ExecOnline, Stephen served as the CEO of the Frontier Strategy Group (FSG).

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

I went to college at Emory University in Atlanta and then continued to make my way up the East Coast where I went to Yale for law school. After working at a large firm, Wilmer Hale for about a year and a half in Washington DC, I left to join an early-stage startup company called Frontier Strategy Group, which is a leading information services partner to emerging market executives.

I left Frontier to start ExecOnline back in 2011, 2012 because I was fascinated by what was happening in the online education space and really felt like it had the power to totally disrupt the education industry and really change the world. With my B2B background as CEO of Frontier, I was particularly interested in what was happening in the corporate learning landscape because there really wasn’t a great model for how to develop and train those leaders.

I’ve been growing ExecOnline and our team ever 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?

I began my career as a chief executive at the height of the 2008 financial crisis with very little money in the bank and a very unclear strategy for how our company would navigate it. I quickly learned that there is an opportunity in every crisis and used the downturn to rapidly innovate our product suite to become more relevant and important to our customers. One thing you learn in a global crisis is that customers go from having many different priorities to a much narrower focus on key challenges that they are often willing to pay a lot to solve.

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 of each idea.

This is definitely a passion of mine. I still interview every person in the company as the last step before we make a final hiring decision. It takes a lot of time, but it is a great way to get to know everyone at the company before they start and it gives me a sense of whether we are continuing to recruit the right people into the organization at every level. I believe all good things come in threes so here are three tips:

1. Focus on creating the right job spec. Often one of the biggest problems in identifying and hiring talent for a role is misalignment on what key stakeholders are looking for. This often manifests itself at the end of the hiring process when stakeholders are discussing candidates and everyone is prioritizing a different set of skills and attributes.

2. Make sure you define who has input into the hire and structure the hiring process accordingly. Ideally, there should be no more than 5 stakeholders involved in a hiring decision and, thus, no more than five people interviewing a candidate. More than 5 people both make it difficult to make a decision and can often create an extended and frustrating process for the candidate.

3. Use interviews to assess whether a candidate shares your company values, not just whether they have the right skills. There are many talented people who might fail in your organization because they are not aligned with your company culture, even if they are great on paper. For example, one of our company values is “passion for what we do” so I begin every interview by asking candidates “what interested them in ExecOnline” to get a sense of whether they are just looking for a role or are passionate about the mission of our company.

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. Lead with company values and mission — the best way to attract the talent you are looking for is to clearly articulate what your company stands for and cultural values it reinforces and rewards

2. Communication is Key — Company & Employer Branding — Demonstrate why your company is a great place to work.

3. Your current employees are your best recruiting weapon — your highest performing people likely spend a disproportionate amount of their time with other talented people who could be a great fit for your organization so empower your current employees to refer their peers and colleagues

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

A fundamental rethinking of how we invest in education in the United States. Especially during this time of severe economic inequality, education is the only true equalizer that provides each of us with the opportunity to succeed in our rapidly changing and increasingly complex global economy. Despite this, we as a country continue to reinforce massive educational disparities (which will become massive economic disparities) by funding our primary and secondary public education systems at the local level largely through a property tax system that ensures schools in affluent neighborhoods are well-funded and those in underprivileged neighborhoods are underfunded.

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

Two quotes from my Mom:

“To whom much is given, much is expected.”

“There are no excuses, there are only reasons.”

These quotes have definitely influenced me more than any others. They remind me that I have a responsibility to have a positive impact on the world and any barrier can be overcome to achieve that impact.

Wise words! 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?

I’m watching “The Last Dance” right now so I’ll say Michael Jordan. He was definitely my favorite athlete growing up and I’ve always wondered how he maintained his level of motivation to be the best, year in and year out, both on and off-court even after achieving so much.

Thank you so much for these fantastic insights!

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