In Pursuit of Talent, ‘Everyone in Your Company Is Evangelizing for You’

BY Lauren Castro | November 25, 2022

The American Dream promises “a land in which life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement and not birth or wealth.”

In introducing a panel discussion at From Day One’s Austin conference, Sayar Lonial, associate dean of communications and public affairs at New York University’s Tandon School of Engineering, cited the phrase coined by NYU Tandon alum James Truslow Adams as inspiration for creating opportunity for workers who might otherwise be overlooked. The panel of five expert speakers discussed “Improving the Talent Pipeline, From End to End,” moderated by Austin Business Journal Managing Editor Will Anderson, identifying ways to expand their talent searches to be more inclusive and innovative.  

To start with, laying the foundation of an honest and transparent public image will make a company better able to attract and retain skilled talent, said Lynn Marie Finn, president and CEO of the talent-management platform Broadleaf. Indeed, an inclusive company culture has become increasingly important in the new, hybrid workplace, whether you’re a big company like Google or a fast-growing startup like the news organization Axios

Standing Out From the Corporate Crowd

Israel Gutierrez, VP of talent acquisition at Axios, said that for an emerging employer, showing up at job fairs and other events that are aimed to expand diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) is a great way to stand out and prove your company is taking that extra step. “We were the only ones who were at every single one of the five underrepresented conferences, which spoke heavily to our commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion, but also around how we want to get our name out there,” he said. “We’re only five years old, but growing rapidly, so it’s important to get our name out there in front of candidates at every single possible opportunity.”

From niche strategy to broad goals, Google Cloud’s executive recruiting practice leader Melissa Santarcangelo made the assertion that talent starts with instilling shared values in recruiters. “It just takes people who are willing to have these conversations internally to create consistency and how we’re having those conversations with candidates,” she said. Whether it be social responsibility or a cause important to the company, every level of employment should be on the same page. 

In a 2016 study cited by Broadleaf’s Finn, 64% of millennials polled said they would not take a position at a socially irresponsible company. “You need to make sure that you are encapsulating your culture as you”re putting that brand out there in all of the different areas: your website, job platforms, all kinds of recruiting tools, as your authentic self. And again, what’s in it for them?”

Sayar Lonial, an associate dean at New York University’s Tandon School of Engineering, introduced the session

Moderator Anderson noted, however, that most potential hires create an opinion of the company before anyone reaches out to them. Just as companies seek information about potential new hires through multiple avenues, interested candidates do the same with the company they’re applying to, Finn said. 

Jeremy Schiff, CEO of  the recruiting platform RecruitBot, shared his perspective on the backend of recruiting: reaching out to potential hires, choosing the right language, and following through with DEI efforts. “Everyone in your company is ultimately evangelizing for you,” Schiff said. “[Employers should make sure] that you’re having conversations across everyone and balancing, having a consistent message with one that’s authentic to the person.”

Broadening the Funnel

Schiff asserted that when trying to meet DEI efforts, a company cannot forget that this starts with confronting biases and steering clear from tokenism. In order to do this, any identifiable demographic traits would be cleared before the recruitment process began. “You can literally, with a toggle switch, get rid of names, which can really mitigate a lot of the bias. We also use machine learning that will automatically find people who are similar to what you’re looking for, but it’s all focused on the position,” he said. “I've literally spoken to people that are like, ‘Can you add photos? I know what a person who looks smart looks like.’ Those sorts of statements terrify me, so no, you can’t do that on our platform. We make that really difficult on purpose.”

For all these leaders and companies, a major part of their mission is to reach their diversity goals. Jeanine Steele, head of global talent acquisition for Advanced Micro Devices (AMD), said their team achieved better results in the past year after becoming more purposeful in their outreach. 

Added Broadleaf’s Finn: “If you don’t have a very strong DEI and B initiatives in your company–B being belonging–you’re not going to get the right talent pipeline, it just won’t happen. The way you develop that is you have to do it with your staff.”

Leading With Humanity

Google’s Santarcangelo stressed that in the recruitment process, honesty is a crucial factor in ridging the gap between recruiter and potential candidate, as well as an effective way of boosting employee retention, positive company culture, and most importantly, belonging. 

The speakers after their session, from left: Gutierrez, Santarcangelo, Steele, Schiff, Finn, and Anderson (Photo by From Day One)

“It was honesty and human forwardness,” Santarcangelo said. When hiring at Google slowed during its recent hiring “reprioritization,” leaders were encouraged to be transparent in order to bring a more humanistic approach to the process. Maintaining an open dialogue with candidates can help with keeping a good reputation as an employer, and eventually, reaching out to the candidate when space allows it. “But it’s really, truly just being human and respecting people’s intelligence.” 

A company is only as good as its staff, and according to Santarcangelo, spending large amounts of money isn’t the only way to entice and retain good working relationships within the company.  “You don't need a lot of training, you don’t need extra budget. You need a little bit of extra time and people who care to do it,” she said. “There’s nothing more authentic than to have somebody who’s doing that job, say why they’re there, or why they believe in what they’re doing.”

The speakers stressed how important it is for HR leaders to study the data from their DEI initiatives in order to identify deficiencies, while also celebrating the successes. “Having that data about the entire pipeline will help those DEI initiatives across the board,” Gutierrez said. 

Lauren Castro is a freelance writer and photographer with work in Texas Monthly, Flaunt magazine, Alcalde, and other publications.


Creating an Inclusive Dialogue With Workers About New Technology

AI in the workplace is no longer emergent, it has emerged. It's in our computers organizing our tasks, talking to staff and clients, writing content and generating images, and hiring the next generation of workers. At a recent From Day One event, Carrie Teegardin of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution spoke with a panel of experts on why we should be having more conversations about AI in the workplace.Marshall Bergmann, vice president of advisory services at i4CP, has done a lot of research on AI, looking at who's using it and what successful use of AI looks like. “We surveyed over 1,500 leaders across organizations and 50 different companies across 50 different countries. Just one thing I will point out is that if you’re not trying to get involved in Generative AI right now, you are already behind."Bergmann says that organizations that are using Generative AI, and experimenting with it, are ahead of the curve. He identified three types of organizations that exist on a "maturity model" with AI. The first are the AI laggards, or organizations whose leaders don’t discuss usage of AI or have any guidance on it. The next are AI inquirers. “These folks have leaders actually researching, but are largely in a wait and see mode. The messaging to employees is mostly ‘don’t use Gen AI unless we say you can use it,’” Fordyce said.Lastly, are the AI innovators who are “already seeing advantages in productivity, efficiency, error reduction.”"They have leaders who are effectively communicating their support for AI use. Leaders need to step up and discuss how Gen AI is going to be used.”The panelists discussed the topic "Creating an Inclusive Dialogue With Workers About New Technology" (photo by Dustin Chambers for From Day One)Sherlonda Martin, the global head of DEI at Takeda, touched on the power of AI to eliminate monotonous tasks human workers typically do, or used to do. “Imagine a tube coming through that we need to make sure has no particles or floating objects in it. Typically, those have been inspected by people, right? So imagine sitting in a dark room watching a vial go by for eight hours out of your day. That just won’t work,” Martin said.Teegardin brought up the recent instability in the journalism market, citing that over 500 journalists lost their jobs in January alone. “In my industry, people are always afraid we’re gonna be losing our jobs. How are you all dealing with that and addressing that fear?”“Our research shows that organizations that are communicating more about Gen AI to their employees and listening more about their fears, and their concerns, are performing better than the organizations that don't.” Bergmann said.“It’s really critical for the CEO, the top of the top ELT (executive leadership team), to come forward and talk about how AI technology is able to embed into the strategy of an organization,” said Tanie Eio, the human resources business partner and vice president at UPS.Eio says that talking about apprehensions is important for leadership and the workers under them. More important is upskilling for when AI takes over in some areas workers will be able to transition to new or altered roles with the new technology.“We started with this program called the Digital fluency training that starts from the top. And then we also allow employees to come forward say, ‘Hey, I'm interested in trying to introduce certain technology or system or platform with this company.’” The end result is they form a group that works on ideas to adapt technology to improve processes then pitch it to senior leadership, which leadership will adopt and experiment with.Martin says they’ve already introduced upskilling into the workplace and have given employees the space to pursue that effort.“At Takeda, we’re starting to give people time to upskill. We’re now giving people three hours a month to be able to upskill on a topic that’s important to [them]. It doesn’t have to be a topic related to work. But if you are now signaling that you want to now go in a different direction and upskill from a technology perspective, you now get that time," Martin said.Mark Fordyce, regional sales director for Workvivo, sees upskilling as an all company, all roles effort for organizations. “I think AI is going to affect every department, meaning it’s going to help make finance people more productive, legal people more productive, and so on. So I think the upskilling is relevant for anyone and everyone within your company no matter what they do for a living.”“Every part of your organization will be transformed in the next five years. So you might as well get started now and have some fun with it,” Bergmann said of the ongoing AI revolution.Matthew Koehler is a freelance journalist and licensed real estate agent based in Washington, DC. His work has appeared in Greater Greater Washington, The Washington Post, The Southwester, and Walking Cinema, among others.

Matthew Koehler | February 22, 2024

Fostering Workplace Well-Being Amid Today’s Stressors

With 81 at-home baseball games a season, Atlanta Braves’ executive vice president DeRetta Rhodes knew her employees would need to catch a break during their shifts.Introducing the wellness room: a room that mirrors a living room, equipped with a sofa, TV, and refrigerator for anybody who simply needs time to rest. “It’s about creating space for individuals who need to be able to take care of themselves,” Rhodes said. “In the wellness room, people have the opportunity to go and take a relaxing break if they need to.”In a recent survey, 77% of employers saw an increase in mental health concerns, with 16% anticipating an increase in the future, indicating that health and wellness will continue to be a pressing issue for employers and employees in 2024.Rhodes’ approach is one of many other health and wellness strategies employers are taking to meet their employee’s needs. At From Day One’s Atlanta conference, leaders joined moderator Kelly Yamanouchi, business reporter at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution to discuss their health and wellness focal points for the new year.Changing Traditional Financial ProcessesWhether it’s due to the rising cost of living, inflation or the flexibility of remote work, more workers are working two jobs than ever before. Eight million Americans reported working more than two jobs this past January alone. For workers who take on a second job to make ends meet, timely pay matters, says Jon Lowe, chief people officer of financial services company DailyPay.“Today, the number of people who have more than one job is quite high and that creates a very high degree of stress. If you were a bartender around Christmas, you probably made a killing. But come January, when you’re working your part-time job and bartending on the side, there’s this degree of very high variance that we start to see,” Lowe said.With more than 60% of Americans living paycheck to paycheck, employers need to rethink the two-week pay cycle, Lowe said.“When we look at this idea of earning wage access, we need to be disrupting this idea that two weeks is the right cadence to be paid,” Lowe said. “Today, we’re able to offer access to tools that technology allows us to do, where it recognizes the evolution of what work looks like and allows that degree of flexibility to be able to go and tap into resources that otherwise would not be available.”Building Wellness into the CultureFor Kimberly Rath, vice president of home builder company PulteGroup, wellness programs play a key role in building a healthy foundation for a company.The full panel of speakers from left to right: Steven Lester of Mayo Clinic, Josh Crafford of Synchrony, DeRetta Rhodes of the Atlanta Braves, Kimberly Rath of PulteGroup, moderator Kelly Yamanouchi of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, and Jon Lowe of DailyPay (photo by Dustin Chambers for From Day One)“At PulteGroup, we build homes. If you think about how wellness comes to life for you, a lot of what you do or how you take care of your well-being is done in your home,” Rath said. “At work, it’s similar. Wellness is the health of an organization and how people show up for work. If we’re strategizing how we take care of our employees and build great places where people work, we're going to get so much more from our employees.”From higher retention to increased productivity, employers can yield the benefits of happier and healthier employees. At healthcare clinic Mayo Clinic, professor of medicine and cardiologist, Steven Lester, M.D., discusses how supporting employees both in and off work can strengthen the overall performance of businesses.“As an organization, we are optimizing our business performance by incorporating well-being into the design of work,” Lester said. “We have programs supporting the financial, physical and mental well-being of our employees at work and we are also thinking about how we identify and allow people to have purpose, meaning and belonging at work.”Leading With EmpathyAn overwhelming 90% of U.S. employees believe empathetic leadership leads to higher job satisfaction, underlining the strong value employees place on leaders who lead with purpose and care.One part of empathetic leadership is active listening which helps in engaging with employees, Lester said. “We want to be actively listening to the needs of individuals and give them that safe, comfortable opportunity to engage and be heard, and know that the organization is here to support them and their well-being,” Lester said.With the emphasis on supporting employees, leaders will need to shift their priorities, Josh Crafford, vice president of technology learning and development, of financial services company Synchrony, said.“We're teaching leaders to be coaches and mentors and not care as much about the numbers,” Crafford said. “The numbers will come but the happier, safer and the more secure and connected your workers feel, the more productive they will be.”Wanly Chen is a writer and poet based in New York City.

Wanly Chen | February 13, 2024

Does Your Corporate Culture Promote Overwork? How to Tell–And How to Fix It

When Malissa Clark was in graduate school, she went into labor with her first child right before spring break. Instead of going to the hospital right away, she waited until her contractions were less than six minutes apart so she could finish a midterm. “I spent a couple more hours at the coffee shop, occasionally doubled over,” she said during a fireside chat at From Day One’s conference in Atlanta.Clark told moderator Nicole Smith of the Harvard Business Review that “I didn’t feel like I could stop. I didn’t feel like I could ask for support. I just felt like I had to push through.” At the time Clark realized she had a problem. However, she said she didn’t really address it until she began writing her book, Never Not Working: Why the Always-On Culture is Bad for Business – and How to Fix It and doing research on workaholism. Today, many people are feeling burned out in their careers and are trying to find a healthier work-life balance. However, workplace culture far too often gets in the way, says Clark. “Companies just aren’t listening to employees,” she said. Despite people learning during the pandemic that they could do their jobs from home and be productive, organizations are still pessimistic about remote work and insisting workers return to the office.“One of the biggest misconceptions about burnout is that the employee is just not managing stress well enough and needs to learn more coping skills and mindfulness, and then they can handle this,” Clark said. “That’s just not accurate. It’s the organizational and societal factors that are the stressors building on top of each other, and cumulative stress has a toll on our bodies.”When individual employees are overworked, it lowers not only their performance but that of others, says Clark. “You’re not as good of a teammate or boss, and so that hinders the morale of the group,” she said. Breaking the “Always On” MentalityA key contributor to the current culture of overwork is the belief that employees should be available 24/7, says Clark. Sometimes this attitude comes from the top of the organization, but lower-level employees can perpetuate it.“I think during Covid, we learned some bad habits,” she said. For example, parents who had to supervise their children during the day tended to contact their colleagues in the evenings about work, which put pressure on those colleagues to respond.Clark says some companies are encouraging those who have different work hours than other team members to go ahead and write the emails, but to use the schedule send feature so they aren’t received outside of working hours.Incentives for Using Vacation TimeAnother way employers can promote a healthy work-life balance is by encouraging workers to take paid time off. However, offering unlimited vacation days doesn’t work, says Clark, noting companies that have tried this found employees were taking even less PTO than before.Author Malissa Clark signed copies of her book Never Not Working for From Day One audience members (photo by Dustin Chambers for From Day One)Some companies are finding innovative solutions to encourage workers to use their PTO. Medtronic found a way to encourage employees to use their allotted days. In their ‘Earn Time to Win Time’ program, the more workers use their vacation time, the more opportunities they have to enter drawings to win even more days off.“It’s like a positive reinforcement for actually taking vacations,” Clark said. “I thought that was pretty ingenious.”The Four-Day Week MovementSeveral years ago, some companies began experimenting with four-day work weeks, in which employees worked 32 hours a week but were paid the same as they would have been for a 40-hour week. Revenue at those companies grew, while 70% of workers reported less burnout, according to data and employee surveys.“Almost every single employee said they wanted to continue with this,” Clark said. “One of the most astounding things is that 15% said they would not go back to a five-day week for any amount of money. It was life-changing for them.”A 32-hour work week doesn’t have to mean working eight hours a day, four days a week, says Clark. It can be five days a week from 8:30 am to 3:00 pm, which is popular with parents.“We don’t need to be working 40 hours a week,” Clark said. “We have technology, we have AI, we have all these tools that help us to be more productive. We equate hours worked with productivity, and we need to stop doing that.”Mary Pieper is a freelancer reporter based in Mason City, Iowa.

Mary Pieper | February 12, 2024