How To Identify And Retain Top Talent with Lauren Kramer & Kage Spatz

HR Strategy Series, Real Human Resources

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Lola Red PR Human Resources

We hire based on our core values. One of them is “We Are Good People.” I get this question so much — “what are you looking for in a candidate” — and I always say it is so simple — we want GOOD people.

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 Lauren Kramer.

Lauren is the Vice President of Talent & Resources at Lola Red, a leading digital public relations agency based in Minneapolis and Denver. In her role, she oversees professional development, workplace evolution, talent + hiring and internal relations. Prior to Lola Red, Lauren served as the Executive Director of Wagstaff Worldwide, overseeing lead campaigns for some of the country’s most laudable food and travel brands. She spent the formative years of her career working for The Sundance Institute (Park City, UT) and The Trump Hotel Collection (Chicago, IL) in their marketing and public relations departments, respectfully. Lauren lives in the Minneapolis suburbs with her husband, Tyler and their daughter, Nell. Outside of the office, she is an avid wellness advocate, lover of traveling and pop culture aficionado.

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 always knew I wanted a career that melded my personal interests of vibrant events, people and high energy with my education into one. Fortunately, going to school in Chicago allowed for accessibility to many opportunities. Without a doubt, the trajectory of my career started at my internship with Gen Art, which, at the time, was a leading arts non-profit that supported the future of film, music, fashion and more. It was there I met a woman who took me under her wing and got me my first role out of college, opening a luxury hotel in Chicago where I was the PR & Marketing Coordinator.

This role taught me everything — how to network, how to lead meetings with C-Level executives, how to be creative and to always remember that I was never too good for any task (Need me to fix the printer? I got you. Want coffee? Leggo). I believe so strongly in the power of internships because I can say with such confidence that, for me, and for so many I know — if you take advantage of what they have to offer, you can become indispensable and this can set the tone for what is to come.

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

People love that my first job out of college was for the Trump Hotel Collection; it always leads to some interesting conversations. We were opening the landmark property for the organization and the family was very involved in the development. Regardless of how I may feel now about what that brand represents — at the time (12 years ago), I learned so much and had an amazing boss who gave me a voice at the table, provided me ownership of projects and truly entrusted me to get things done, even though I was only six months out of college.

Are you working on any exciting new projects at your company?

Always. Though I started in PR and marketing, over the years I have evolved so much in my role and what was important to me. I’ve always had a love-hate relationship with our industry in that it is a lifestyle job — personal life and work-life are so intertwined which can often lead to burnout. Owning the people component and the culture component in a company became so incredibly important to me.

What are your top 5 techniques to identify the talent that would be best suited for the job you want to fill?

1) They Offer Something Different: As a company that is constantly evolving and upskilling/reskilling its teams and services, we are looking for people who right out of the gate can sell us on something different they offer. Whether it is a professional background, specific skill, personality — we want unique people with unique backgrounds who just may be smarter than us to teach us a thing or two in a compelling way.

2) Speaking Each Other’s Language: To me, you either know if things are flowing or if they are not in an interview. There is nothing better than being with a potential new team member and you feel like you are accomplishing something — together. The chemistry is there, there is a balance in conversation, you’re learning, they are engaged, you are engaged.

3) There’s a Vision: For a smaller business like ours, I can typically sense if I can envision someone in the space and with our clients and our team. Do they have that something special, something unspoken that just clicks? It’s a feeling more than a specific trait or skill. You envision them collaborating with your team, rising the ranks in your organization, leading your clients. It doesn’t happen often — but when it does, it is magic!

4) They Have Perception: This is one of my favorite characteristics of anyone. They are perceptive! Someone who exudes this trait will sense when things are or aren’t working for a client, they know when a team member is a bit off, they know how to take command and get on someone’s level. This bodes so well in a service-related industry like ours. It also, to me, signals a level of emotional intelligence which is absolutely vital. And in an interview setting, a perceptive person will take the right cues, position themselves strongly and have a command (but not overtake) the conversation.

5) Good Person Vibes: With our organization, we hire based on our core values. One of them is “We Are Good People.” I get this question so much — “what are you looking for in a candidate” — and I always say it is so simple — we want GOOD people. In a small business, culture is everything, it affects our team and our clients. A good culture = happy clients. Any clash in personality can throw the whole thing off. So when I initially vet candidates I just want to get to know them on a personal note — are they kind, are they respectful, how do they carry themselves, what do they do out of work.

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

● Get your team out there to grow their network of amazing people!

● Marketing your culture — get the people who love your company for who you are. Get the great people to come to you.

● Keep it real — we really try to communicate, engage and provide opportunity to anyone who comes our way with genuine interest, care, and excitement for what we do. We keep it real with them for what we are looking for, where the opportunities are and how we may be able to help them, even if it isn’t with our business.

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

● Trust

● Transparency

● Accountability of Leadership

In your experience, is it important for HR to keep up with the latest trends?

For me, I am more interested in fundamental shifts than trends. To stay smart, savvy and relevant, you need to vision for shifts that are happening with workforce, people, business overall and your industry.

Some ways we do this are: Acknowledging and supporting the boom in gig and AI. Being a service industry, where our staff and relationships with our clients is key — how do we maintain this while also understanding the workforce is changing. We look at our staffing model, evolution of our services and needs consistently to try and forecast what this looks like.

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

We are a small but mighty company. I would say we are always trying to think of small things like using the Calm app for meditations, doing a planting or painting afternoon. Simple things that are fun and calming.

We operate with full transparency. For us, this has been the best way for our employees to understand their value and that their voice matters. We try, as a Leadership Team, to have their opinions and thoughts guide our actions. What is more telling in providing value than that trust in their opinions?

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?

Compassionate management. A few years ago I went on a retreat rooted in what compassion can do for our relationships and it affected me so greatly in what kind of manager and leader I want to be and how this sort of mentality can affect our team, our clients and community.

I have and always will lead with heart. There is such a balance, it doesn’t mean you are submissive to your team or you don’t hold your ground, it just means you do it with thought, perspective, care, and understanding. This goes so far. I am always surprised by people who do not exercise compassion in their lives — it affects everything they do, the relationships they have and is such a cause for unnecessary tension within a business.

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

“The soul is attracted to people

the way flowers are to the sun.

Surround yourself with those

who only want to see you grow” — Pavana Reddy

I was always taught through family and mentors to surround yourself by good people and people who want the best for you. This has shown true in all aspects of my life — give your energy to people who build you up, who make you better, who want the best for you and you for them.

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?

The Fab Five of Queer Eye

Thank you so much for these fantastic insights!

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