I think creating a diverse and inclusive workforce with minimal bureaucracy is essential. Employees should be treated as part of a team and not as a number.
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 Jane Keith.
Jane is the chief human resources officer at IFS, a global company of 3,500 that creates and manages component-based software for ERP, enterprise asset management and field service management initiatives. In her role at IFS, Jane leads a human resources program charged with ensuring optimal employee engagement, recruitment, talent management, and business HR across the organization globally. She’s also responsible for creating a cohesive and collaborative HR team that continually has its finger on the pulse of the business. Prior to joining IFS, Jane worked for more than two decades at Hewlett Packard and Hewlett Packard Enterprise.
What brought you to this specific career path?
My “first career” was in PR and events management, where I was constantly hiring staff to support motorsport grand prix events globally. This gave me great insight into recruitment and experience working with talented people. That job naturally flowed into HR. I was fortunate that HP sponsored me through a number of professional education programs and afforded me the opportunity to be involved in a number of transformational projects. I absolutely love my field and how it allows me the opportunity to build relationships with people.
Sounds like a really fun way to start your career! Can you share the most interesting or funny story that happened to you since you started in HR?
When I was a junior HR consultant in IT, I started a new role in a part of the business I knew very little about. Rather than qualify some unknowns, I started making assumptions — and when a leader talked about the “delivery organization” I had a vision of people driving around in vans delivering boxes. How wrong I was — this was our services business and they delivered projects — not items in a box. I felt so dumb when I realized, but I learned a valuable lesson in the process: If in doubt — ask!
Are you working on any exciting new projects at your company? How is this helping people?
At IFS, we recently launched an enormous corporate social responsibility (CSR) program in Sri Lanka — effectively, we are sponsoring a village! We asked employees to use their Volunteering Day Off coupled with other local events to raise funds to purchase life-changing initiatives such as water sanitizers, education materials and building materials — all in an effort to help rebuild a school. We have a large workforce in Sri Lanka (over 1,000 employees) so it’s a country that is close to our heart.
IFS has also launched a global fundraising initiative called the IFS Foundation. While it is still relatively young, the spirit, passion and collaboration of the IFS family is amazing — I have total faith we will make a difference.
That’s wonderful. Now let’s 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 best suited for a position you’re trying to fill?
1. A resume or CV only tells one part of the story. Connecting and understanding candidates’ motivations in not only their work life, but also their personal life, can serve as a key indicator for how they might fit into our culture.
2. I like to build a trusted relationship with a candidate and give them the opportunity to not only talk about their achievements, but also things they would have managed differently. I’m a firm believer in learning from mistakes. We are human, and life isn’t perfect.
3. For leaders and managers, I focus on their management style. I think it’s important that every manager wants to coach and develop people. If this isn’t an area they have much experience in, then I ensure that we put a buddy manager in place to show them the ropes. I am also a firm believer in teamwork. Even if you are in a stand-alone role, you will need some kind of support — so I delve into the candidate’s experience of working in great and not-so-great teams. This gives insight into how they interact with people and whether they seek out support when needed.
4. Recruitment is the most valuable investment an organization can make, so spending the time to get it right is critical and can affect the bottom line (both negatively and positively). I think it’s healthy for a candidate to meet a good number of people as part of the process, so they can also assess whether the organization will be a good cultural fit for them.
5. Once you have found your ideal candidate and they have accepted, I think pre-boarding is essential. Reach out regularly, send them reading material and get them connected to members of their team BEFORE they start so they feel welcome and like part of the family.
Valuable tips! With so much noise and competition out there, what are the effective ways to attract and engage the best talent in an industry when they haven’t already reached out to you?
First — showcase what your company stands for in an authentic way. Whether you love or hate social media, it’s a great way to give insight into your organization. Make sure your approach is genuine and features true-life stories that reflect your company’s culture and operating style. One of the things I love about IFS is the adoption of Workplace — one of the best communication tools I have seen. It’s easy, credible and people here use it for all sorts of purposes — whether its to celebrate success, ask questions, find solutions or just wish a colleague happy birthday. I also believe that people should run to a job and not away from one, so to attract someone to your organization, you need to build a rapport and understand their motivations. Be practical and know that now might not be the right time for them to move but keep in touch and stay top of mind. My philosophy is that we are all talent scouts in business.
What are the 3 most effective strategies used to retain employees?
Create an authentic culture. Give people opportunities to broaden their experience — whether that’s being part of a project team, a new initiative, or a CSR event — but gently push them out of their comfort zone and challenge them to think about their career. Too many people join a company and get stuck in a rut. A good culture encourages individuals that maybe on paper are not a 100% fit for a role — but will take a chance because the enthusiasm and will to succeed is there. I’ve personally benefitted from this myself, and found it is valuable to feel slightly uncomfortable or challenged, as you will stretch yourself and grow.
In your experience, is it important for HR to keep up with the latest trends?
Yes, I think it is, but my advice would be to remember that we are in the business of people, and people flourish when we create authenticity and collaboration. I’ve seen too many organizations that put up PowerPoints and posters professing who they are and what they stand for, but whose leaders don’t actually believe or behave in that way. This creates a “them and us” type of organization which, in my experience, is very unhealthy.
I think creating a diverse and inclusive workforce with minimal bureaucracy is essential. Employees should be treated as part of a team and not as a number. Offering flexibility on how and where they can work is very important — however, this can easily get lost or have a downside if someone works from home 100% of the time and doesn’t feel part of the culture. Personally, I think the trend of moving away from annual ratings and trying to fit people into a box is unhealthy — it can be a subjective and time-consuming exercise with very little benefit for the company or the employee. If you truly believe in talent management, it doesn’t become an annual exercise that gets put in a folder and never looked at again when roles or opportunities become available.
Can you give an example of a creative way to increase the value provided to employees without breaking the bank?
Create an environment of trust and appreciation. Doing this costs practically nothing but adds real bottom-line value to your organization. Trust and respect are earned — set out your proposition and ensure EVERYONE lives it — starting with your senior leaders. Don’t set expectations that are not real — you will just leave a trail of disappointment behind you.
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 love CSR activity that gets employees engaged with their local community. Our CSR mission at IFS to sponsor a local village in Sri Lanka will have a massive and visible impact on people’s lives.
The other area is giving young females more confidence to lean in and punch their weight. I feel I have a duty to keep the door wide open for everyone, but the younger generation of females is in danger of being influenced by the wrong role models who worry too much about what they look like, what happens on their Instagram page and who likes them. In my view, this is a dangerous and harmful environment and not real.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson” quote? Can you share how that was relevant in your life?
“Don’t sweat the small stuff.”
In today’s fast-paced, high-tech environment we can easily get caught up in something negative someone has said or posted, and it can feel all-consuming. There are a number of downsides to getting older — like having to wear glasses or more grey hair — but with experience and age comes wisdom. When I look back on the small things I used to worry about, I realize they were unimportant. The big things are family, friends, colleagues and making a difference to someone’s life — not whether someone likes or dislikes a post!
Is there a person in the world or in the U.S. with whom you would love to have a private lunch? Why?
It would have to be David Attenborough. He is the most amazing man, who has traveled the globe and seen things that most of us would never have had a window to, if it hadn’t been for his documentaries. What we have been privileged to experience through his eyes is awe-inspiring. Makes you realize how vulnerable and fragile our planet is. I would also love to quiz him on how it has affected the way he lives, his life and his approach to things.
Thank you for sharing so many valuable insights with us today!