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Pitney Bowes VP Rose Velez-Smith Shares Her Top HR Techniques with Kage Spatz

HR Strategy Series, Real Human Resources

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Everyone wants to feel like they are adding value, so including employees in important decisions and initiatives is key. Helping them feel confident in their skills and keeping them current is essential.

As a part of my HR Strategy Series, I’m talking to top experts in the field about their five ways to identify and retain fantastic talent. Today I had the pleasure of interviewing Rose Velez-Smith.

Rose M. Velez-Smith is currently Global Vice President of Human Resources for Pitney Bowes. She is responsible for partnering with businesses to develop the human capital strategies necessary to successfully execute on business strategies. In addition, she develops strategic workforce solutions in the areas of employee relations, engagement and development, recruiting, talent acquisition, mergers & acquisitions and legal & regulatory compliance. Rose joined Pitney Bowes in 2001, holding a variety of leadership positions within the organization including VP, HR SMB, VP, HR Shared Services and Workforce Services, VP HR, Services Solutions, Operations Director ‐PBMS, Region HR Director — Metro NY and Enterprise Human Resources Director (West Region).


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

It was very early on that I learned about my passion in HR. I became an intern in HR (Personnel) while in high school and determined quickly that I loved the field.

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

I have several funny and interesting stories, however, one that may be of interest is the fact that I spent some time in the business running a P&L. What I learned during those years is: 1) having transferable skills allows you to try new things, 2) knowing the business and having a relentless focus on the client is key, and 3) taking a risk when others take a risk on you is very rewarding. It is truly one of the best career moves I ever made.

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

There is so much happening with our transformation at Pitney Bowes. In 2020, we will celebrate our 100th anniversary. Leading for the long-term has been a major focus the past couple of years. When you boil it down, leading for the long-term is all about culture and talent. Helping our talent keep their skills contemporary, while staying true to our values “to do the right thing, the right way” helps them win, which in turn helps our clients win.

We have also been very focused on enabling the organization to have a “coaching culture.” Encouraging managers to help not only those who report into them or within their area succeed, but those across the whole organization. That’s the mindset we are promoting.

Fantastic. Let’s now 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 that would be best suited for the job you want to fill? Please share an example for each idea.

Once it is determined that a candidate has the required skills for the job, you truly are faced with trying to determine how well they will fit into the culture of the organization. This does not mean thinking the same as everyone but, fundamentally, do they have a passion around the values that ground your organization? For example, if your organization believes it thinks “client first,” asking great questions around how that individual connects the dots on how their work impacts the client is very important. If your organization is about teamwork, then asking questions on how they have exhibited collaboration and held others accountable would be important. Making sure the candidate will fit within the culture of the company is as important as having the skills required to do the job.

When it comes to techniques used by Pitney Bowes to identify the right talent, I can share a few:

1) Using AI for areas where we have a high-volume recruitment challenge, AI has helped us to scale efficiently without having to temporarily deploy additional recruiters. A couple of years ago we began using a chatbot that has helped us reduce time to fill by 20 days, allowing our teams to spend their time with other important TA activities.

2) Being omnichannel and using technology that allows recruiters to manage candidate communications via text, phone, social media or email. Maintaining a consistent stream of communication that is widely accepted in the market, removes the barrier of gaps in communication and allows for reporting capability to best understand communication patterns with candidates at all levels.

3) Creating content-based on marketing analytics — that addresses topics we know our talent community looks to read, helps to attract the talent we want.

4) Building a sourcing team. This initiative launched to address tailored talent needs for pipeline development. It allows us to break down the recruitment lifecycle to free up recruiter time to deepen relationships with qualified candidates and their stakeholders. We have had a number of successful hires to date and are continuing to consider how we build this out as strategy permits.

5) Building strategic, deep relationships with colleges and universities. This initiative focuses on geographies where we do business to drive opportunities for internships, externships, co-ops and eventually full time hires. The focus is on developing relationships with faculty and administration to influence curriculum as well as develop our brand on campus.

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

Referrals still remain a key way to find great talent. When you have awesome talent internally, they typically attract other great talent. In addition, doing more in the way of direct marketing campaigns as well as building collateral with topics that the talent community looks to read. Another great way is cultivating talent and building relationships before a role even becomes available.

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

I wish it was as simple as just three. Three I have found important are 1) stretch assignments, 2) great career plans that provide a roadmap on how to help an individual grow and 3) continuous inclusiveness. These all help keep employees on their toes as well as learning and getting better at what they do.

Everyone wants to feel like they are adding value, so including employees in important decisions and initiatives is key. Helping them feel confident in their skills and keeping them current is essential.

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

Absolutely, however, trends are a proof point and provide a rear-view mirror perspective. It is important to compliment trends with aspiration and forethought. Having said that, understanding the market from a talent perspective, what’s out there, where there is a shortage, surplus, etc. helps you to understand how talent plays a key role in how fast you can execute on your strategy. In addition, it helps you to understand what is important to the workforce so you can keep your employer value proposition fresh.

Understanding the market and understanding the workforce capabilities of the future is a key part of HR’s role and the impact they have on the business. For example, in a world where technology is so prevalent, having a mobile-first solution is a key communication vehicle.

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

Wellness Perks. Pitney Bowes has a history of providing and encouraging a healthy work environment and is widely regarded as an innovator in employee health. To help our workforce stay proactive with their health, free programs are available throughout the year focused on:

· Preventive care and cancer screenings

· Nutrition and weight management

· Fitness

· Stress management and behavioral health

· Smoking cessation

· Back pain prevention

· Flu vaccinations

Providing a healthy work environment has been central to our culture at Pitney Bowes for nearly 100 years. In maintaining our commitment, we offer a wide range of programs to more than 14,000 employees worldwide.

Love that you provide additional free benefits! 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 believe education is so important and many of our youth are deprived of a great education, especially in our lower-income, diverse populations. I live for the day when we truly provide a path for our communities who are not as fortunate and money is not the reason they do not further their education.

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

“People will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” — Maya Angelou

Coming from humble beginnings and experiencing for myself how minorities, women and those with lower socioeconomic status are sometimes treated, gave me an appreciation for the human soul. No matter how successful someone may be or not, we all desire to be included and provided the opportunity to be the best this life can bring.

That really is a wonderful quote. 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?

In May, I had the pleasure to meet (very briefly) Oprah Winfrey who was the keynote at the ATD Ice conference. There were very strict rules about “chit chat” as I took my photo with her. I would have loved to speak to her and tell her how much I admire her work and commitment to help others.

Personally, I was touched by the work she did with teenage moms in the projects early on in her career. I am a product of that very situation. She was every bit of fantastic.

Thank you so much for sharing these fantastic insights with us!

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