You never know where life challenges will lead, but if you embrace them and look for the opportunity to always make a positive impact on your immediate situation things will work out for the best in the end.
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 Sylvia Klarer.
With more than 20 years of corporate and consulting experience, Sylvia Klarer has worked in all major Human Resources areas. Sylvia has led the design and implementation of new processes, programs, systems, and structures in organizations from numerous industries including personal services, automotive, insurance, manufacturing, pharmaceuticals, aerospace, education, software, and business services. Sylvia holds a Master in Business Administration and a Bachelor of Arts degree in Anthropology from McMaster University.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! First, please tell us what brought you to this specific career path?
I started my post-secondary studies in the sciences thinking that I would pursue a career in pharmacy. I excelled in the sciences and enjoyed the analysis and systems thinking that are critical to this type of study. So, when I decided to pursue a graduate degree in business it seemed natural that I would focus on Marketing and the analytics and strategic thinking involved in this type of work. During my first co-op work term at Ontario Hydro, I supported the Corporate Planning Division and happily spent my time analyzing hydro rates in Canada and the US. Interestingly, this first work term was instrumental in setting me on my career path in Human Resources.
During that first work term, I met a gentleman that would show me what a mentor can and should be and he opened the door for me to become passionate about the field of human resources. He offered me a second work term at Ontario Hydro but within the Human Resources Division and it was this experience that permanently changed the direction of my career path. I would eventually complete my Master in Business Administration in Human Resources and Labour Relations.
I encourage those early in their business careers to stay open to new fields of study and work possibilities and to embrace a lifelong commitment to learning. Inquisitive curiosity on many subjects will strengthen our knowledge and skills in our chosen fields but also open doors for our personal development.
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 remember an unusual recruiting situation that taught me to be constantly mindful of my behaviors and to consider unforeseen consequences of my behaviors on those around me.
As the Director of Talent Management and Organizational Effectiveness, I was visiting one of our Canadian sites where I was met by the local HR Director in the lobby of the building when I arrived. A woman entered the lobby shortly after me and so we greeted her and engaged her in a conversation. She requested to speak with the HR person who had just completed an interview with her adult son. She was curious about how the interview had gone and wanted to share her view that her son would be an excellent employee.
My colleague very professionally dismissed the request, and the woman exited the building. I have never forgotten the conversation that followed. Obviously, we discussed the bizarre nature of the interaction, but it was the conversation about the impact on the decision to hire or not hire the young man that stood out. As a parent, I am confident that the woman thought she was helping her son, but that she had not considered how she might be altering the image in the mind of the HR Director of that young man as a potential hire for the organization.
For me, it altered how I approach challenging HR situations in general. I became acutely aware that the staging of a meeting, format of the meeting, the types of questions asked, the words used, together influence how I am perceived and more importantly influence the outcome of these interactions.
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?
Identifying talent is a critical part of the recruiting process and integral to the accountability of human resources as a steward of the recruiting process for an organization. But the hiring decision and the development of a high-performing team is integral to the accountability of the managerial leaders within an organization and so managers should be encouraged to participate as fully as possible throughout the recruiting process.
We also know that the manager-employee relationship is critical to high employee engagement and that the employee engagement level is at its highest point within the first 6 months of hire. With this broader understanding of the strategic nature of identifying the best talent and the link between employee engagement and the manager relationship, it is critical that HR create opportunities throughout their recruiting process to effectively build on the manager-employee relationship to drive high employee engagement and shareholder value.
The following techniques/technologies exist today, but as many of us are working remotely today and will continue to do so in the near future, adapting elements of the hiring process to ensure recruiting success during and post COVID is an opportunity to evolve a best practice that is more inclusive of the hiring managers throughout the process with minimal investment of their time but with high impact on hiring the best team members.
1. Support managerial leaders in designing team roles with clear accountabilities and aligned decision authorities
Effective organization and role design are foundational to the successful hiring of best-fit candidates for any organization. Time invested in designing roles with clear accountabilities will be quickly realized through increased productivity and reduced costs (i.e., higher employee engagement)
An organization structure is more than boxes on an organization chart. An effective organizational structure is a human system based on a clear understanding of role accountabilities, decision authorities, and cross-boundary relationships. It is the framework within which management has chosen to distribute accountability and authority throughout an organization. A well-designed structure successfully layers and groups work into roles, aligns decision authorities, and effectively supports teamwork within and across departments. Well-designed roles are critical for managerial leaders to be able to successfully onboard, coach and develop a new hire eventually leading to a highly engaged workforce.
2. Invest in an Applicant Tracking System
If you have not already done so you should explore the cost-benefit of investing in an applicant tracking system (or ATS). An appropriate software that automates the process of posting jobs and finding qualified talent will save your company time and money and should support involving your managers in a time effective and efficiently as you configure the ATS to meet your specific organizational needs. An ATS will often include one-click job posting to multiple sites, applicant sorting, and interview scheduling. There are many options available, so be sure to do your research and find the best applicant tracking system for your company’s budget and size.
3. Leverage social media to identify passive candidates and personalize value-added messaging
Passive candidates (those not currently in the job market) are often seen by managers to be the most qualified and the ideal fit for their job. Getting your managerial leaders involved in your social media strategies will allow them to personally reach out to this pool of candidates. Your managerial leaders will be able to begin building a positive relationship by demonstrating that they are truly interested in the ideas and talent these potential new hires have to offer. You will be building a bigger pool of candidates from the outset. Added bonus: Using social media and connections will help you identify these potential candidates as well as raise awareness for your company.
4. Go beyond the applicant tracking system (ATS)
Now is the time to explore the capability of combining the function of your ATS with the functionality of CRM software. Consider how the integration of these two disparate systems can be brought together to improve both the active and passive candidate experience through automation of personalized messaging to both talent pools.
5. Create opportunities for managerial leaders to take a lead role virtually with targeted colleges, universities, industry, and trade associations
Managerial leaders should be supported in volunteering to speak at industry events, writing articles to be featured in industry publications, and participating in targeted job fairs.
Managerial leaders should be positioned as the voice of the company reaching out to the future talent and leaders in your industry. This can be achieved today with less time commitment by your managerial leaders as the world pivots to more virtual job fairs or virtual industry events that eliminate the need for travel to an offsite event for the managerial leader. I believe that these events will maintain a remote participation opportunity even when we come out of COVID. Remember, these virtual events also provide an opportunity to import these contacts into an integrated social media/applicant tracking system/process to build on this potential manager-employee relationship in a targeted way.
And finally, remember that the interview itself is often the final assessment of “best fit” by both the manager and the potential candidate. Multiple touchpoints prior to the final interview will help create a comfortable environment where both parties can make a sounder assessment about a “best fit” hiring decision. This will ensure you find someone who is both talented and a good fit for your 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?
Reaching potential talent that has not initiated a recruiting interaction with your organization today is challenging but not impossible. Technology has broken down many barriers to reaching this “untapped”/ “untouched” population but that alone is not sufficient to successfully attract and engage the best talent in the industry.
- Build a culture of engagement in which employees feel passionate about their jobs, are committed to the organization, and put discretionary effort into their work. Consider participating in a form of independent industry recognition of the success of these efforts e.g. Great Places to Work, Canada’s Top 100 Employers, Canada’s Best Employers. The acknowledgment of an independent award for achieving high employee engagement levels will attract potential candidates to your organization.
- Create social media strategies that will organically grow the awareness of your organization. Share information about your company on platforms such as LinkedIn, Facebook, YouTube. Consider including recruiting videos, testimonials, team building, and philanthropic events. Show the world what differentiates your company and makes it a great place to work.
- Implement a robust referral program. Recognize employees for promoting your organization as a great place to work and for recommending a new hire. Be sure to align any referral program with your business and people strategies.
If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?
I believe that truly inspiring an environmental movement would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people. Building on the movement of leaders such as Greta Thunberg to reduce the impact of human activities on the earth and all its inhabitants will allow society to adapt to the changes in the environment and find sustainable ways to improve standards of living for everyone and foster a more fair and open society. The impact of climate change on the lives of those today and in the future alone should be enough to inspire the world to embrace this ideology — unfortunately, it is not accepted by all.
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?
Dave Ulrich. I would like to learn more about his career path and experience in helping organizations and leaders deliver value. Specifically, I would like to understand how he believes the HR function will continue to evolve. What’s next for HR?
Thank you so much for sharing your insights with us today!