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How To Identify And Retain Fantastic Talent with Alanna Conant & Kage Spatz

HR Strategy Series, Real Human Resources

tripleseat-employees-hr-alanna

When you are dealing with people for a living you need to remember that you don’t know what that person has gone through or how their day started…you need to remember that when you are interacting with them.

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. The goal is to support HR leaders in their hiring and retention strategies, while also teaching prospects what hiring managers actually look for. Today I had the pleasure of speaking with Alanna Conant.

Alanna is the Director of People Operations at Tripleseat. She started her career in a big company and quickly realized that the fast-paced, collaborative and innovative environment of startups were more her speed. Helping multiple small companies build their human resources departments from the ground up has been her mission for the last nine years.


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

Graduating college I was not sure what I wanted to do. The last couple of months I went to some career fairs and there were recruiters for some big companies there. Rather than talking about the jobs they were sourcing for, I started talking to them about what got them into the role they are in. After hearing what they got to do on a day to day basis I realized that HR life was the life for me. I have done all aspects of HR from pre-hiring background checks to recruiting to payroll and benefits. The thing that keeps me here is working with great people and realizing I am making a difference in their day to day life.

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?

At a company I worked for we had acquired another company and I was to go down and do the open enrollment meetings in their office. The office was our largest with about 250 people in it. The office manager was walking me around introducing me to people and I heard someone behind me say whose daughter are you walking around. Not really phased by it I kept walking and talking to the new staff. Later that day when I started to lead the benefits meeting, I saw the woman who had asked if I was someone’s daughter. Her face was blank/confused as I guess she had thought I looked too young to be leading our benefits initiative. I learned that you should never judge a book by its cover and that I should always enter every situation confidently (but not cocky).

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

Currently, I am working on many things. My current organization did not have a designated HR function before so I am working on getting things organized such as review processes and procedures for things. I think the most exciting thing I am working on is team member engagement. Luckily, our team member engagement is very high. But I am looking to take it to the next level. When you have high team member engagement you have people that enjoy where they work ultimately making my job just a little easier.

Fantastic. Let’s now jump to 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.

At most organizations that I have worked for culture fit is the #1 thing we look for. At Tripleseat we truly believe that if you fit culturally than you can learn the job.

1. Just talk to them as a person- If they can continue a conversation around what they do on the weekend or what they enjoy doing is key. This helps me see if they can explain things well.

2. Ask leading questions on how they work with others- Sometimes if on their resume they have team sports on there I will ask about that or ask how they stay engaged with a corporate team if they are remote. This is important because we are very team oriented. If someone feels as if they are part of something than they are more likely to be engaged.

3. See how they handle explaining past places and why they left- If someone is able to be positive about a past role even if it was terrible goes a long way. It shows they can see the bright side of an experience or hide annoyance well. Which is key in our company as we are customer centric!

4. Work ethic- Asking questions that help me tell if they are willing to do what it takes to get the job done. Examples: How do you handle a busy day? Or When you have a big vacation coming up how do you handle making sure you get the work done before you go?

5. Extracurricular activities- We love when people have a side talent or an outside hobby. We are a true believer of work life balance. And we have a goal to have a Tripleseat band at some point!

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?

We have been lucky and a lot of our team members are embedded in the industry and are able to refer friends and sometimes family. But outside of that the three ways would be truly showing our culture, being human, and let the product speak for itself. A lot of people in the industry have either heard of us or have used our product. That alone gives me an in when speaking to potential talent. But not making it overly salesy and creating a rapport with the candidate is the best way for them to realize that we practice what we preach when it comes to culture.

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

1. Culture- Having a culture that everyone truly loves is hard to come by and something that keeps people around

2. Progression- Making sure that we are always working with each individual to make sure they understand what they want to do within the company and how we get them there is huge and keeps people engaged.

3. Executive Engagement- When team members see that the executive team loves what they do and where they work it resonates throughout the organization. A huge plus to Tripleseat is that the executive team truly treats everyone as if they are family.

4. Having dogs in the office!

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?

Yes and no. Trends change all the time and are impossible to keep up with and implement. But I do think it’s important to keep up with trends that go towards the company culture and population. I have been at various organizations with different team member make up and making sure I regularly took the pulse of what people were looking for was very important. Then I was able to see as new things came up and if they would be worth implementing. The biggest mistake HR can do is implement something that doesn’t fit the organization. We want to make sure we make an impact with everything that we do and if things that are not wanted are implemented it makes it seem as if HR isn’t paying attention or don’t care. An example is at a past employer we had some negative feedback on the vacation policy that was in place. At the time unlimited vacation policies were becoming very popular. We took the time to do research on what would work for us and rolled out a flexible vacation policy that went over extremely well.

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

Team Member Appreciation- Once a month we bring in a sweet treat (different every month) and we celebrate team members and their birthdays, anniversaries, etc. it varies in cost but it is a great way to get everyone together for an hour and give a big thank you for being part of the team. We also put out a Happy Birthday slack for every persons birthday which may cause some slack notification overload but is great when you see 75 people wishing you a Happy Birthday. Especially for the remote people.

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?

Positivity- Figuring out a way to ensure that everyone gets a little bit of positivity every day. When you are in the thick of working/stressing you forget to think about the positive. In the past, I have implemented fun fact Friday where you start Fridays with a fun fact to my fellow team members. I have also done wacky joke Wednesday. They are stupid but people start to appreciate them and look forward to it every week. Great way to start the day!

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

“A little consideration, a little thought for others, makes all the difference.” — Eeyore (Winnie the Pooh)- This quote is the reason why I can be successful as an HR professional and in my day to day interactions and relationships with friends. When you are dealing with people for a living you need to remember that you don’t know what that person has gone through or how their day started and that you need to remember that when you are interacting with them. I take the time to get to know everyone I work with so that if something seems off I can pick up on it and try and help. People are quick to think one way about someone or an interaction but if they step back and look at it differently it could make all the difference.

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?

One person I would love to have lunch with would be Ellen DeGeneres. Not only would the lunch be full of laughs but she spreads such positivity in so many ways. It would be great to be able to ask her for some insight into why she does it and how she continues to enhance the positivity when there are so many reasons to not be positive.

Thank you for these fantastic insights!

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