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Identify And Retain Talent with Annamarie Dunn Of Cadence & Kage Spatz

HR Strategy Series, Real Human Resources

Cadence Design Systems, Inc. Human Resources Hiring Strategies

All employees, regardless of gender, really need to get in the habit of going outside their comfort zones, asking for what they want and paving their own path. When you do this, careers expand, opportunities increase, and you just may find a new passion or career path in the process of exploring.

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 Annamarie Dunn.

Annamarie Dunn is the vice president of Culture and Talent at Cadence Design Systems, Inc. She has been with the company for five years and is responsible for leading the company’s employer brand, talent acquisition and recruiting, leadership and development, culture and engagement, and employee communications strategies. She leads the strategy that has placed Cadence on many best workplace lists around the globe. Prior to joining Cadence, Dunn served as the director of Great Place to Work and HR internal communications at NetApp for nine years. Before that, she spent more than 15 years in various marketing roles including employee communications, which paved the way for her career path in HR. Dunn holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in sociology from the University of California, Santa Cruz and a Juris Doctorate from the Santa Clara University School of Law.


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 found my way to a meaningful career in HR in a roundabout way. I spent about 15 years in marketing roles and was always involved with employee communications as part of those roles. I found the employee communications aspect of my work to be extremely rewarding because I was able to shape the company culture and the employees’ work experience. Eventually, I found my way working in an HR organization where I got more involved with driving company culture and employee engagement. I was excited to see the impact that HR had on the business first-hand, which was underscored by hiring the right talent and helping employees make a mark on the company through their work. I decided to make a pivot from marketing into an HR career so that I could expand my role in improving the many facets of the employee experience and help drive strong company cultures. I haven’t looked back since and have built several strategic corporate HR programs where I’m passionate about enabling employees to thrive.

Can you share the most interesting or funny story that happened to you since you started this career?

In 2014, I was invited to join Cadence to help drive the company’s culture transformation. I was excited about the idea of working on this initiative with our CEO, Lip-Bu Tan, and our Senior Vice President of Global Human Resources, Tina Jones. Since I joined the company, we’ve put many programs in place to support the culture transformation that was needed to evolve the business. Programs have focused on diversity, community, innovation and creating an environment where employees feel heard and supported at work. One of the biggest takeaways I’ve learned during this transformation is that a good company culture can make a huge impact on the overall success of the business and that employees can help steer the course if you support them and give them the tools and environment they need to do their best work.

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

Earlier this year, Cadence rolled out a new learning program called, Spark!, which provides our employees with a dynamic platform that aggregates learning content and knowledge from a variety of sources and delivers them based on the skills one wants to develop. Employees get access to many forms of learning, including books, articles, videos, TED Talks and courses that are curated from internal and external resources and delivered via an online portal. Through the program, employees are empowered to drive their own personal and professional development to elevate their careers and the broader Cadence team. The platform also has a social component to it so leaders can share articles and trainings they feel are of value and communicate directly with their teams.

Cadence also rolled out another program last year called, Wave of Change, led by a cross-functional group of employees who are working closely with our executive team to bring new ideas to improve aspects of the Cadence work experience. As a thirty-year-old company, we often hear, “We’ve always done it this way.” The Wave of Change team challenges existing ways of thinking and works with subject matter experts across the company to channel their creativity and passion to make the greatest difference at Cadence, encouraging innovation, uncovering opportunities for professional development and recommending ways to enhance our work environment. By embarking on the Wave of Change journey, our employees have the ability to shape the future of Cadence and make their mark on the company.

That’s fantastic. Let’s now jump over 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.

Hire for culture fit and diversity. Source a wide range of candidates with the skills and experience your business needs but hire for a balance between culture fit and diversity. Cadence participates in diversity events such as IEEE technical conferences and the Grace Hopper Celebration, which is the world’s largest technical women’s conference. We’ve sponsored the Grace Hopper Celebration in the past and have had opportunities to showcase our innovation and employee experiences and interview potential candidates.

Adopt a consistent, culture-focused interviewing strategy. Define targeted behavioral questions that your hiring managers can use to uncover how a candidate demonstrates diverse ways of thinking and how they will also adapt to the important aspects of your culture. At Cadence, we have built a High-Performance Culture framework that provides employees with an overview of expectations and development opportunities at every level. We tie our interview questions to this framework to ensure we find new hires with the key attributes we’ve identified as critical.

Always think about customer satisfaction. Have the foresight to build teams that can deliver what your customers need now and in the future. At Cadence, delighting our customers is at the core of everything we do. Therefore, we make a significant effort to ensure that we are building the right teams who can innovate in the right areas to drive customer success.

Tell your story and get social! Build a strong employer brand that gives candidates an inspirational look into your company and helps them understand the impact they can make by joining the company. The latest sourcing and interviewing techniques all utilize social media to reach potential candidates. Attract their interest by focusing on culture and employees and help candidates understand that by joining your company, they are spending their career in a dynamic, competitive environment where they will be taken care of, encouraged and supported to do their best work and live their best lives. At Cadence, we’ve created customized pages on each of our social media platforms that addresses the candidates we are seeking to hire. For example, we have pages for new college graduates and potential interns that highlight what life is like at Cadence.

Identify the right partners. Be creative to build your pipeline. In addition to arming recruiters and hiring managers with the information and training needed to identify the right talent, build relationships with targeted universities, nonprofits, and conferences. Cadence works closely with universities and professors to provide our software to students pursuing master’s degrees or post-graduate work, for instance. We also support nonprofits like Girls Who Code and AnitaB.org who align with our objectives to support the advancement of women in technology.

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

Create a strong company culture. It’s no mystery that prospective employees want to be in a positive working environment. Word can travel fast, so as HR practitioners, it’s important to foster a positive employer brand and partner with executive management to drive a culture that’s transparent and where people are treated well. That way, you’ll attract employees who are committed to doing their best work.

Get the word out. Create publicity campaigns and use your social media channels to tell your story to build your reputation as a great place to work. Better yet, have employees tell your organization’s story for you. Encourage employees to share their stories on social channels because authenticity is key. If you do a good job of creating a rewarding environment for your employees, the sharing will happen organically.

Commit to driving change. Always challenge yourself to evolve with changing times, drive innovation and explore new and unique opportunities. This ensures your organization appeals to employees both now and in the future.

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

Keep employees engaged with challenging, meaningful work. Employees are inspired by meaningful work that allows them to explore what’s possible and push the limits of innovation to solve tough challenges. They want work that creates purpose, a sense of fulfillment and facilitates career growth. Make sure they understand how their individual work makes an impact on their team, the company, and the world.

Set the tone for the company’s culture from the top.Culture matters. Culture drives employee engagement, which leads to business results. Seek leaders who will work tirelessly to create a positive work experience for everyone in the organization, give everyone the chance to contribute in a meaningful way and make an impact. Ultimately, this type of environment fosters employee loyalty, productivity, and longevity. Senior executives who drive a culture of transparency, trust and respect will see employees who are more fulfilled and perform at their best.

Create employee benefits programs and perks that help employees thrive. Listen to your employees and put the programs in place that they are asking for to help them do their best work and live their best lives. Regularly benchmark yourself with others in your industry to ensure you are offering competitive benefits packages and perks. Keep in mind that perks don’t make a company a great place to work, but they do contribute to improving employees’ lives, supporting them in their times of need and helping them give their best to their work. Employees also want to know that they work for a company that is doing the most it can to be socially and environmentally conscious, so it’s important to put programs in place that support community giving, environmental sustainability and diversity and inclusion. At Cadence, one area of focus is advancing women in technology. For example, we’ve created a forum that provides women with opportunities to network, develop themselves and explore growth and advancement opportunities. We also have robust community giving programs in place, such as employer matching and volunteer time off, and we sponsor many giving programs such as Rise Against Hunger, Team4Tech and Our Season of Giving.

In your experience, is it important for HR to keep up with the latest trends? What are some examples of what this might look like?

It’s a must for HR professionals to continuously evolve with the latest trends, or you risk losing your greatest asset — your employees. HR trends focusing on the future of work and machine learning and AI are big topics today. Being knowledgeable on where the industry is headed and looking for ways to bring in programs, tools and technology that will keep your HR organization offering the most innovative and competitive programs will keep the entire company productive and doing their best work. At the end of the day, all of your HR programs, your culture and even perks and benefits are in service of your most important asset — your talent!

It’s also not enough to just offer the standard medical, dental and vision benefits anymore. Make sure you create a comprehensive and competitive benefits program that fits in with modern living, and employees will feel taken care of and have a stronger sense of support and satisfaction. Such benefits might include fertility services, college planning services and legal services. Employees lead busier lives than ever, so putting programs in place that create convenience is also a plus. For example, provide services on your company’s campus so that employees have fewer errands to do before or after work such as gas delivery services, laundry services, car detailing and maintenance, meal preparation services and mobile medical and dental appointments. Lastly, provide employees with a flexible work environment so they can do their best work with less stress and optimal productivity.

What would be a creative way to increase the value provided to employees without breaking the bank?

Find ways for employees to do something they are passionate about outside of their day-to-day job responsibilities that won’t break the bank. For example, at Cadence, we offer five paid days off annually so employees can volunteer in their communities. Of all the programs we offer, this one has consistently yielded the most positive feedback. We’ve found that our employees are inspired by giving back to the community and doing something they are passionate about. This program lets employees make a difference in their communities and to the world, creating a broader sense of fulfillment and offering a unique work-life balance where they can do something they are passionate about during work hours. The incredible part is that a volunteer program like this requires no additional budget to put it into place.

So nice to hear about programs like that. 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?

I always encourage employees to be ambitious, to take risks and try new things, and to walk through doors that open for them in their professional and personal lives. I would call this the “Make Your Mark!” or “Make an Impact!” movement. There is a lot of diversity data I’ve seen that shows that women in particular want to be perfectly qualified or experienced at something before they can put themselves out there to try something new. And I’ve seen this through our own diversity and inclusion efforts. That said, I would also give the same advice to men. All employees, regardless of gender, really need to get in the habit of going outside their comfort zones, asking for what they want and paving their own path. When you do this, careers expand, opportunities increase, and you just may find a new passion or career path in the process of exploring.

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

I am always inspired by the quote from Neale Donald Walsch that states, “Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.” This quote has relevance in my life because it’s important that I always feel like I’m learning, growing and moving forward in life — both personally and professionally. I’ve tried many things professionally from marketing, to legal work, to a career in HR. On a personal level, I love to travel and do things that scare me a bit and make me push my limits. I recently went hot air ballooning and climbed the Sydney Harbor Bridge!

Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, 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?

If I could have lunch with anyone, it would definitely be Elon Musk. He’s a brilliant person who’s pushing the boundaries of what’s possible. I love that he sees obstacles as opportunities and dreams of things we never imagined possible.

Thank you so much for sharing these valuable insights with us today!

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