Five Ways To Identify And Retain Fantastic Talent With Fiona Chilcott & Kage Spatz

HR Strategy Series, Real Human Resources

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My personal motivation and inspiration to bring about social change is around having kindness and compassion as your core values in an organization.

As a part of my HR Strategy Series, I’m talking to top experts in the field about their five ways to identify and retain fantastic talent. Today I had the pleasure of interviewing Fiona Chilcott.

Fiona is Hotwire’s Chief People and Culture Officer focused on developing people strategies, driving cultural change initiatives and organizational transformation programs across Hotwire’s business. Fiona has extensive experience as an HR Executive, most recently as General Manager, People & Culture, Energy Supply & Corporate Functions at Origin Energy. Prior to that, she held senior HR roles for companies including ANZ Bank, Asteron (Suncorp) and Lexis Nexis.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

I originally studied a degree with a focus on politics, but through a series of opportunities ended up in an HR role, which I have enjoyed more than I think I would enjoy a career in public office.

Can you share the most interesting or funny story that happened to you since you started this career? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

I have many entertaining/mortifying stories from my long career in HR and in many cases the truth is definitely stranger than fiction! However, the most interesting part of my career has been the opportunities to work in different countries and experience so many cultures. Indonesia was a fascinating place to do business, particularly in learning how to navigate cultural complexities.

Are you working on any exciting new projects at your company? How is this helping people?

We are continuously looking at ways to make Hotwire the best agency our people will ever work with. We have made a number of improvements recently in terms of parental leave policies — our goal is making it as easy as possible for our employees to have a family and still grow and develop in their careers. Supporting women to balance family and work is a passion of mine.

Right now we are also planning our annual Bootcamp where we are flying our entire workforce to Dublin, Ireland, to get together, build relationships and celebrate our people and the amazing impact they have on our business every day. We also have great recruitment referral bonuses and new business bonus programs.

Another unique program we offer is called “GOHotwire!”. It’s an experience that gives employees the opportunity to travel to another Hotwire office around the world, meet with colleagues and clients, share our different office cultures and participate in global events and activities.

Fantastic. 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.

  • Internal referrals — it is not groundbreaking or particularly exciting, but time and time again the best hires we make come from referrals from our existing staff. We pay very competitive referral fees to encourage people to tap into their network. Not only do we find we get quality candidates, but they are typically also the right cultural fit.
  • Aqui-hire is something we are currently considering and is a different way of recruiting quality teams through the acquisition of smaller agencies.
  • We are in the process of launching a new Employee Value Proposition which we developed in conjunction with our employees. The EVP will support the group in marketing ourselves more effectively to potential future employees.
  • Using our “Thoughtful Working” philosophy to try to attract people who may have left the workforce to have a family, for example exploring part-time/job share options and really thinking outside of the box in terms of who we are targeting. Thoughtful Working is not just about working from home, it is a philosophy we live and breathe which is that work is a thing you produce, not a place you go and we encourage our people to work where they will be the most effective for their clients, their colleagues and themselves.

With so much noise and competition out there, what are the top 3 ways to attract and engage the best talent in an industry when they haven’t already reached out to you?

First and foremost, I believe it is our reputation as a fair, trusting, transparent and fun employer that makes us stand out. We have the right mix of a compassionate and fun culture paired with really exciting work opportunities, whether that’s working with top brands or being able to travel globally. It is a small industry and employees talk to each other about benefits, culture and what makes an organization a great place to work. I believe our employees — past and present –say good things about Hotwire. It is also important to pay attention to websites such as Glassdoor where former employees will post reviews about their experience of working with Hotwire.

What are the 3 most effective strategies used to retain employees?

  • To answer this question, I am going to park the obvious with regards to remuneration, reward, and benefits. It goes without saying that if you are a serious company in the US, your organization needs to stay competitive in terms of the benefits offered to employees. Hotwire has excellent employee benefits and the employees who join us from other organizations are always impressed with our offering. However, beyond benefits:
  • In my experience retaining employees is about understanding what motivates your people on an individual level. One size does not fit all and so we like to find ways to build career growth opportunities around a person’s personal passion and purpose. Providing the employee can present a solid business case, we have built practice areas to support individual growth which goes a long way towards retaining and motivating our people.
  • Thoughtful Working — we offer a best in class flexible work environment for our employees which sets us apart from most of our competitors. Thoughtful Working is not just about working from home, it is a philosophy we live and breathe which is that work is a thing you produce, not a place you go and we encourage our people to work where they will be the most effective for their clients, their colleagues and themselves. Many of our people choose to come into the office each day, because they prefer an office environment and being around colleagues to stay motivated, other employees will choose to stay at home, because they have a long commute and they can be more effective cutting out travel time, others work in a park, coffee shop or wherever they find their creativity is stimulated. Time and time again employees who join us from other agencies are amazed with the amount of freedom and trust we offer our employees to work in the most effective way.

In your experience, is it important for HR to keep up with the latest trends? Can you give some examples of what this looks like?

It depends on the size of the organization that you work for as to what kinds of trends you’d be interested in pursuing. For larger organizations, a big trend right now is how they’re using artificial intelligence in the recruitment process. I’ve read some interesting case studies about using AI and robotics to actually filter through applications and finding ways to on-board people without having to do so many touch points through the recruitment process. For organizations like ours (midsize) one of the trends I’m looking at is ways to help students pay off their loans. For our younger employees who are right out of school, a big focus for them is how they get themselves out of their immediate debt. To help with that pain, we’re looking at trends around the equivalent of 401k matching but for student loans.

Other trends are around performance reviews — these trends tend to change from one year to the next, where some experts believe formal annual performance reviews are somewhat obsolete if you’re already having regular 1:1s with your manager. This also requires managers to be very diligent in how they manage their people and make sure there’s a regular cadence of manager meetings.

Often with people, it’s the tried and tested things that remain important to them — benefits, career development and paths that are individualized and tailored to individuals, and a great culture. Those are the things that continue to help retain great talent.

Can you give an example of a creative way to increase the value provided to employees without breaking the bank?

The biggest thing that stands out for us at Hotwire is the concept of Thoughtful Working. It’s not just words on a page — it’s people’s lived experience. As I mentioned earlier, Thoughtful Working is a philosophy that work is a thing you produce, not a place you go. This empowers employees worldwide to work truly flexibly and to work where they will be the most effective for their clients, their colleagues and themselves.

We also provide a lot of advanced technology. We invest heavily in technology to make sure people can be successful with their work no matter where they’re working and have technology be as least disruptive as possible to their experience.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?

My personal motivation and inspiration to bring about social change is around having kindness and compassion as your core values in an organization. There is research that shows if you have compassion and kindness as something that’s the driver of how you make decisions and do business, it can be very contagious and starts to build a culture of kindness and compassion that we want to be a part of in business.

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

“People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel” — Maya Angelou. This is relevant to me because I want to live my life, both personal and professional, as someone who shows kindness and compassion to others and this quote sums that up for me.

Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private lunch with, and why?

My favorite actress to watch at the moment is Olivia Coleman and I think she would be hilarious to have lunch with. She was amazing in The Favourite, but it is actually her role as Godmother in the British comedy Fleabag which has me in stitches.

Thank you for sharing your expertise with us today!

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