Top 5 Ways To Identify And Retain Top Talent with Kristen Leong & Kage Spatz

HR Strategy Series, Real Human Resources

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Human Resources M&O Marketing

In reality, if you find someone that does something better than you, you’ll be able to work as a cohesive team to make your department or the company ten times better. We are only stronger together as a team!

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 Kristen Leong.

Kristen Leong is a Human Resources professional with 12 years of experience in various industries including insurance/financial services, business development services, and sales and marketing. She has a passion for people and helping companies achieve organizational goals. Currently, Kristen is a Human Resources Generalist with M&O Marketing in Southfield, Michigan. Some of her responsibilities include: employee relations, training and development, benefits and compensation, performance management, on-boarding and recruitment, and employment law.

Thanks for doing this! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

I graduated from Michigan State University with a degree in Human Resources. After college, I didn’t have a set plan for myself if I wanted to specialize in one area of HR or do something more general.

I got an internship out of college which quickly turned into a full-time job as a recruiter for a sales and marketing firm. As I learned the ropes of how to recruit candidates for various positions, I was able to train on payroll and benefits and learned the operations side of the company as well. I enjoyed my first job and am thankful for the opportunity it gave me to be exposed to various other things in the field of human resources. It has shaped me as a professional and allowed me to now be involved in all aspects of HR.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started this career and what you learned from that experience?

Starting off as a recruiter, I have seen so many resumes and talked to so many different people. It’s funny to see the things that people would put down on their resume or tell me over the phone to try and get a job, especially when we had a high unemployment rate awhile back. Some were desperate for a job and would say they are willing to learn to do anything as long as they were compensated for it.

I also had to handle the complete opposite situation, where sometimes we wouldn’t get a good pool of candidates for the role I was looking to fill, and had to do some cold calling and think of other creative ways to get candidates interested in the role and company. I learned how to talk to and handle various different personalities while still staying calm and professional over the phone and in person. I had to sell the company and the job to the person since they knew nothing about it. This was a challenge but has helped shape me as an HR professional as well.

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

Currently, I am trying to update and tweak our onboarding process to make it more streamlined and engaging. This will be helpful to new employees brought into our company so that they feel welcomed and prepared to do the job they were hired to do.

Feeling welcome is definitely important. 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.

1. We use Predictive Index Assessments. After reviewing resumes for a specific position and selecting those we find qualified based on what we are looking for, I send a Predictive Index assessment (PI) for the candidate to take. This assessment shows us their innate behaviors. We have built out job profiles prior and then match up a candidate’s PI to the job profile to see if they are a match. This enables us to make sure that we are placing the right people in the right roles. Anyone can say they’re able do a job, but behaviorally, some people may not have the specific qualities to do the job and be happy at it.

2. Another assessment we ask each candidate to take is a Learning Indicator. This assessment tells us how quickly a person can grasp concepts and connect the dots when put in a new situation. There is a baseline number for each type of role we are looking to fill as well that we follow.

3. When trying to find new candidates, I also look back on what sources have given us great matches in the past and continue to invest more time in those resources.

4. Actively listening to candidates when they interview with you is crucial. You may hear about concerning red flags or beneficial qualities that could shape the candidate into the company’s best performer sometime down the road.

5. Above all, you need to be mindful to make sure that the talent aligns with the business strategy and growth plans. You want your employees and your business to grow together.

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

1. Make sure your company is known as a great employer, your reputation will speak for itself.

2. Encourage current employees to refer people to the company.

3. Connect with other HR professionals and network via social media to source new potential candidates.

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

Definitely! I think it’s important for HR to keep up with the latest trends. As our technology and the world changes, our job as HR is to be the most up-to-date on trends so that we can help our employers be the best in that specific industry, as well as make sure employees are being treated and trained to be their best possible selves. Reading HR articles and journals, subscribing to HR blogs, being a member of SHRM, attending in-person HR conferences, watching webinars and networking with other HR professionals via social media are all ways that help HR practitioners keep up with the latest trends.

In my opinion, the most important ones are attending in-person conferences and networking via social media, since you actually get to meet and talk with like-minded people and bounce ideas off of them.

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

We do random Bingo days at least a handful of times a year. It’s a fun distraction for our employees that gives them chances to win gift cards or small gifts throughout the day. Everyone looks forward to the next Bingo Day and the energy around the office during Bingo is typically more energized due to this small perk.

Free food is also an office favorite. We celebrate many of the food “national days” like pretzel day, chocolate chip cookie day and trail mix day. There really is a “national day” for everything. We set up the snacks in our kitchen and let people take what they please. It’s a time for everyone to mingle as well as indulge themselves.

Around the holidays, we did a holiday desk decorating competition. We let people compete individually or in teams, and the winners were given an extra day of PTO. It energized the whole office throughout December, as people came in early or stayed late to outdo their coworkers’ desks and creations. We wound up with life-sized gingerbread houses, fully decorated Christmas trees and some very creative displays. In the end, we gave everyone who participated an extra half-day off.

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 want to inspire other HR leaders, or even leaders in general, that when they recruit people for their team, to always be looking for the next best person or someone that does something better than they do. It’s hard for most people to change their mindset and think this way because if they hire someone that is better than them, that person might eventually take over their job, but that could not be farther from the truth.

In reality, if you find someone that does something better than you, you’ll be able to work as a cohesive team to make your department or the company ten times better. We are only stronger together as a team!

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

“If you light a lamp for somebody, it will also brighten your path,” — Siddhartha Gautama

This quote is relevant to my life, especially my professional life, because I feel when I help out another person, be it an employee or manager, and help onboard them, coach them or succession plan with them, I love seeing the results and having that employee or manager come back to me to say “thank you” or tell me that what I did for them has made them be successful. That makes my heart happy and satisfied, it tells me that I am in the right profession.

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?

I would love to meet Reese Witherspoon. I have been a fan of hers ever since the movie Legally Blonde came out. When I watched that movie during my teenage years, it inspired me that as a female, you can do anything you put your mind to as long as you have the passion to do it and never give up. I also love that Reese is not only just an actress, but also a female entrepreneur who owns her own production company as well as a clothing line.

Thank you so much for these fantastic insights!

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