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Learn How Companies Attract & Retain Talent, with Adriana Herrera & Kage Spatz

HR Strategy Series, Real Human Resources

Businesses are more likely to experience turnover when hires are made because the person seems “fun to have around” rather than because the person “can contribute the most over the next 12-months”.

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 Adriana Herrera.

Adriana Herrera is an entrepreneur and consultant/advisor to tech companies on all things product, e-commerce, and business intelligence. She previously co-founded GrandIntent and FashioningChange.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you share 5 techniques that you use to identify the talent that would be best suited for the job you want to fill?

Tactic 1: Assess Business Strengths and Weaknesses to Hire People Who Can Contribute to Areas of Need:

The person hiring will often hire an applicant that they like the most (often someone with similar interests, skills, background, and experiences) and/ or the person that would be the most fun to have around. These common hiring mistakes result in bad hires that cost thousands of dollars in turnover.

Prior to hiring it is important that the person doing the hiring know, understand, and examine the company’s mission, values, and goals with leaders of the company. To identify the best hires a team must first have a clear foundational understanding of how the business is performing, what areas of the business are thriving, and what areas of the business are weak.

When the person hiring has a detailed understanding of the business’ strengths and weaknesses the compulsion to hire a “buddy” is minimized by the need to identify the person that can best contribute to areas of weakness. When the person hiring has accountability to leadership, that also understands areas of strength and weakness, hires are made with the understanding that there may be a conversation as to why the hires were made and what makes them the most qualified candidate. This reinforces the responsibility/ need to make hires based on qualifications rather than hire the most likable applicant.

Tactic 2: Ensure Job Descriptions Accurately Reflect Immediate and Anticipated Job Responsibilities:

To find the best new hire the hiring manager needs to understand the responsibilities the position will immediately need to perform as well as the anticipated responsibilities over a 12-month period.

Hiring managers write job descriptions to hire for immediate needs and overlook anticipated responsibilities. In many cases, the new hire was a good hire for the job description but not the additional responsibilities. This results in a mismatch of skills and capability that results in turnover.

We highly recommend that hiring managers not think about a position’s title when they are writing a job description. We recommend that they:

● List all the immediate responsibilities.

● List all the anticipated responsibilities based on the company’s mission, values, and 12-month goals.

● Assess if all the responsibilities fit into one job description or should be split into multiple job descriptions (to get the best results we recommend that whenever possible, this process be done collaboratively with relevant stakeholders).

● Develop metrics, and a process, to clearly measure the success of each outlined responsibility.

● Use the results of lists and assessments to draft the roles and responsibilities sections of the job description(s).

Running the above process will result in a clear understanding of the position(s) being hired and reduce the chance that an evolving role will evolve past the new hire and result in turnover.

Tactic 3: Create an Applicant Scoring Process

Businesses are more likely to experience turnover when hires are made because the person seems “fun to have around” rather than because the person “can contribute the most over the next 12-months”. To identify the best hires create standardized parameters by which applicants are assessed and score each applicant based on the parameters. Not having a method to equally assess and score applicants allows for the introduction of bias which results in bad hires, turnover, and operational loss.

Tactic 4: Create a Level Playing Field

An easy tactic to implement is having hiring managers anonymously review resumes. This can be done by:

● Requesting applicants not include their name or email in a resume.

● Informing applicants that you strive to create a level playing field and do not want names or emails included in resumes.

● Letting applicants know that if they move on in the hiring process they will receive a phone call.

● Immediately eliminating submitted resumes from the applicant pool that do not follow directions.

● Scoring resumes that did follow resume submission directions based on standardized scoring criteria.

● Using standardized scoring data to identify and contact the most qualified applicants for interviews.

The ability to review resumes limiting implicit bias helps hiring managers identify the best interview candidates and builds authentic brand value as an equal opportunity employer.

Tactic 5: Use data to help identify the applicant(s) that can best contribute to your business

When there is a process in place, a method to score applicants, and an intention to create a level playing field, data points are developed. To identify the best talent, allow the data to contribute to the decision-making process.

We have seen hiring managers with rich hiring data ignore what the data is telling them, make a hire that does not correlate with the profile of the best hire, and consequently have a lazy team member. Allow the data and process to guide decisions. It may feel uncomfortable at first but when run correctly, the process and the resulting data won’t let you down.

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

Three ways to attract talent in competitive industries include having talented team members visible, adding value at industry events, having an operational structure that allows talented people to grow professionally and personally, and telling the story of why your company does what it does not how it does what is does.

● Have talented team members visible and adding value at industry events: Talented people want to work with talented people. Encourage, and make time for, team members to participate and contribute to community and industry events. This is a great way to retain team members and create visibility that attracts new talent.

● Create an operational structure that allows talented people to grow professionally and personally: We believe in having the right people in the right positions that work smarter not harder. There is no micro-management. Having an operational structure that allows talented people to live their best lives while contributing their skills will attract talented people that feel stifled at their current jobs.

● Tell the story of why your company does what it does not how it does what it does: People want to know their work matters and that it has a larger purpose in the world than making money. Tell the story of why your company does what it does and the impact it has for people and the world. The “why” will draw people in and the “how” (especially if it’s a competitive industry differentiator) will heighten prospective employee interest.

What are the 3 most effective strategies you use to retain employees?

Three effective strategies I have used to retain team members include professional growth programs, flexible work hours and locations, and a work culture that authentically considers individual opinions.

● Create Professional Growth Programs: I ask every person I interview, “If you could be doing anything with your life what would it be?” I’ve had interviewees say everything from “I would like to be a scuba diver instructor” to “I want to start my own business”. There is no right or wrong answer. I genuinely want to know because then I ask myself “Do I have the resources, team members, or connections, that can help them do what they want to do?”. If I make a job offer, included in the offer is ”You want to do XYZ in life. I can help you by introducing you to XYZ and by creating a plan to develop the skills to get there.”

Creating opportunities to help team members achieve professional/ life goals does not require much. In some cases, it’s an introduction to someone to mentor them. In other cases, it is ensuring that they are given opportunities to develop new skills. When team members are invested in as individuals they feel valued which helps them stick around when recruiters knock on their door.

● Give Your Team Flexible Work Hours and Locations: There is an established view that in order to build a company everyone has to be sitting in the same building at the same time. Being flexible in work hours and locations doesn’t mean compromising on outcomes. I believe that when the right team members are guided by the right processes, metrics, and deliverables, people can be located anywhere and work at any time. This belief has allowed me to recruit and retain senior-level talent with growing families that need schedule flexibility to emerging talent around the world. Flexibility in when and where work is done is an inexpensive incentive to provide team members.

● Create a Work Culture that Authentically Considers Individual Opinions: When a team is made up of talented passionate people there is guaranteed to be differences in opinion. I have been able to retain top talent by building processes to ensure when differences in opinion on strategy, tactics, etc. happen, everyone is heard, contributes, and is valued.

Rather than “argue it out” we run a process to test suggested strategies and/ or tactics. A process eliminates the chance any person is favored over another and that egos are not inflated or deflated. A process also reinforces the idea that we are working together towards the best solutions and that no one person is “right”. A process also results in data. Data gives the team insights as to what the best solution is (which is most often a hybrid solution developed from the insights of each tested strategy or tactic).

Ego and “dictatorships” in the workplace can result in talented people turning over. I have been able to retain top talent by creating work cultures without ego where people are genuinely heard.

What are some creative ways to increase the value provided to employees as well as their happiness (without breaking the bank)?

Two ways to increase value to team members without breaking the bank include creating professional growth programs and setting aside dedicated time to celebrate.

Professional Growth Programs: As shared, professional growth programs are a great way to provide team members value without breaking the bank. They make team members feel invested in and cared about as people, not just an employee. This goes a long way with team member positivity and morale.

Dedicate Intentional Time to Celebrate: Value to team members doesn’t always mean “stuff”. Praise and recognition of professional and personal accomplishment goes a long way. Prior to the decision to build a remote company, I would do something called “Phat and Happy Fridays”. Every Friday towards the end of the day we’d do a “Phat and Happy Hour”. During this hour the team would chill, enjoy treats, and write on two different colored sticky notes what they were “Phat and Happy For” that week. One sticky note was for work accomplishments and the other was for personal accomplishments. The sticky notes were then placed on one wall that everyone passed entering and exiting the office.

Every time a team member walked in and out of the building they would see the sticky notes with their accomplishments alongside team member accomplishments. When visitors came into the office they’d see a large wall covered in colorful sticky notes that said everything from “Deployed without bugs” to “Potty trained my son”. It became a talking piece for visitors and the sticky notes built bridges amongst the team. Team members would wait to see what others stuck to the wall and then be genuinely stoked to hear about and celebrate whatever it was. Giving team members dedicated intentional time to celebrate is an easy way to give them value, while making them feel valued, without breaking the bank.

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 have two brothers with special needs and have grown a career in an industry where people who look like me and with my background are underrepresented. I am very aware that consciously and unconsciously people seek to befriend, work with, and build communities with people who look like them and/ or who have had similar experiences. Wholeheartedly I believe every person has value, skills, talents, and personality traits that can enrich any life and can contribute social and economic value to any community.

I would love to inspire a movement in which we all become aware of our biases with the intention to reframe them. Throughout our lives we have all inherited biases. Some of these biases we are aware of, other biases we are not aware of. I would love for people to understand that having biases makes them human. They are little bits of information and experiences that have been deposited throughout one’s life. I would also love for people to understand that not acknowledging biases, and seeking to reframe them, places limits on their life experiences. A bias limits one from seeing the truth about a person…their personality, abilities, talents, strengths, and individuality.

If we individually had the courage to allow ourselves to be vulnerable and bring our biases to a conscious awareness with the intention to reframe them, then as a society we’d all be more comfortable with one another resulting in more fruitful friendships, collaborations, and communities.

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

As a young girl, my father would tell me… “You can leave work and someone can have stolen your car. You can ride the bus or walk home and your house could have burned down. Many things can be taken from you. The one thing no one can ever take away from you is your knowledge…with that you can do anything…you create possibility.” My father’s statement paired with my mother’s “…find a solution…there is always a solution…” framed the way I see the world.

Hearing these quotes growing up gave me curiosity, an appreciation for information, and a sense of empowerment. I am constantly learning and tinkering. It is because of my parents that I was never afraid to be an entrepreneur. Even when things haven’t gone as planned, I have never felt hopeless because as long as I have the ability to thinklearn, and do there is always a solution because I create possibility.

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?

Michelle Obama is an educated, accomplished businesswoman, and philanthropist with a healthy marriage and family who also happens to be a woman of color. She has a track record of building systemic solutions to problems that have both positive social and economic results. I would love to have a private lunch with Michelle Obama to talk shop and life.

Thank you so much for these fantastic insights!

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