Keep up with the latest hiring trends!
There is so much change in the talent market right now. From the tsunami of tech layoffs, to skills shortages and evolving employee needs, it’s never been more important for organizations to look at their talent strategies and ask the question – can we do things better? Is there a more sustainable approach to hiring that will actually lead to long-term business success?
Reorienting your thinking can be tough, but luckily we had some excellent guidance on the matter from our guest on last week’s episode of The Shortlist. Virginia Tirado, who is the Director of Talent Acquisition at Zalando, has a wealth of experience and insight in this field. Together with Johnny Campbell, they chatted about how organizations need to build more dynamic and holistic talent ecosystems to prepare for the future of work.
In this episode:
- Defining what sustainable talent strategies are
- Leaning in to internal talent
- Broadening workforce plans
- The impact of tech layoffs on talent strategy
1. What is sustainable talent?
Sustainability is something we hear about more in terms of the environment than anything else. It’s about changing the status-quo to protect the planet, ensuring that our long-term plans don’t continue a cycle of negative impact and instead allow us to flourish. So how can this relate to talent? According to Virginia, when we start to “think about people and human potential as precious resources, you realize that in many companies, what would you be doing without people?” They are the driving force behind everything, and in the same way environmental sustainability is about reducing waste, it’s the same for talent. So it’s time to reframe the traditional approach. Talent sustainability is about ensuring you’re not wasting the potential within your ranks. It’s about leaning in to up-skilling and mobility, improving engagement, and focusing on retention. It’s about creating long-term solutions that don’t only rely on external hiring.
2. Internal mobility as a precious resource
“One of the things we may be doing wrong in many places is that we always think new is better.” These sage words from Virgina completely sum up an age-old issue in the talent sphere – the unconscious preference to look for external candidates rather than taking the time to search internally. Virgina gave a very apt comparison to how her teenage daughter loves shopping for vintage pieces. It’s about giving a new lease of life something, and the same is true for talent. Providing opportunity or reskilling your people raises engagement, it raises loyalty, and retention. An organization’s investment in that talent becomes extended and you gain additional ROI as time goes on. But it’s important to show the data on this. Demonstrate the advantages and prove that there is a time and a place for both new and vintage talent!
3. Learnings from the great tech layoffs
In terms of the conversation about talent waste, the swathe of layoffs in the tech industry are a perfect example of companies not thinking long-term or holistically. Often these decisions are made quickly and therefore not much attention is given to future impact. Was there an opportunity to retrain some of these employees? Can cuts be made in other areas so we don’t lose these expertise? According to Virgina, history has told us that layoffs don’t always have the financial benefits that companies believe. First of all, eventually they have to rehire and retrain people. But there’s also a wider impact – “you have now demotivated employees, people are worried, their productivity goes down, they’re disengaged, they’re probably looking for another job and your customers will also suffer. It’s a domino effect.”
Our guest’s final piece of advice:
“I would encourage you to be much more of a sparring partner to your stakeholders and make them accountable for the hiring decisions they make.”
- [2.20] Introduction
- [4.55] What is sustainable talent?
- [9.23] The push and pull of internal/external talent
- [14.54] Internal mobility obstacles
- [17.31] Building a more holistic workforce plan
- [21.13] Creating sustainable talent at Zalando
- [25.17] Learning from the great tech layoffs
- [29.42] Are there any organizations that do layoffs well?
- [36.42] The trend towards talent advisors
You’re very welcome. It’s episode 136 of The Shortlist. I’m Johnny Campbell. I’m your host for today’s podcast and live broadcast. I’m the CEO and Co-Founder of a company called SocialTalent. And today we’re going to be discussing sustainability. In particular though, we’re going to be talking about sustainable talent and how you create sustainable talent strategies for long-term business success. You’ve no doubt heard of sustainability in the context of our environment. You’ve perhaps worked in an organization that’s focusing on sustainability in the context of the environment, on perhaps how you’re basically driving more sustainable usage of energy in your business, how you interact with your customers and the world and your products. But not a lot of people talk about talent when we talk about sustainability and how you actually build a dynamic and sustainable talent ecosystem that sets organizations up for current and future business success.
Our guest today is going to help us dig into this topic. I’m delighted to welcome a good friend, Virginia Tirado, who’s the director of talent acquisition at Zalando and prior to Zalando, Virginia was the head of commercial technology recruitment for EMEA at Amazon Web Services or AWS. And before that, the head of executive recruitment for EMEA at Amazon. And Virginia to me has been somebody who has epitomized what it means to operationalize things in talent. So a lot of people talk about ideas, but to me Virginia is somebody who actually gets stuff done and turn that into practice. So I’m really keen to dig into this topic with her. Virginia, it’s such a pleasure to have you here. You’re very welcome. Perhaps you could introduce yourself, explain where you’re joining us from and a little bit more background on you, your personality, your family, and why this is a subject you’re so passionate about.
Thank you Johnny. I’m super excited to be here. So as you said, I’m Virginia Tirado, I’m originally from Venezuela. I grew up in South America, but I’ve lived my adult life half in the US and now half in the UK. I’m actually speaking to you from my little London flat where I am very excited to actually be enjoying some interesting spring weather, but hopefully it’s only going to keep getting better. So I have been with Zalando for the past three years and I’ve had the opportunity to do some really cool things around talent at Zalando. And I think that the topic is quite relevant today as we look at the ambiguity that continues to happen in the market and all the changes, particularly in light of the layoffs in tech and so on. It’s like the questions we keep asking each other as talent executives is, can we be doing things a little bit better? What can we learn and how do we actually prepare for the workforce of the future? So it’s obviously a topic that’s very close to my heart and that I take also lots of time investing in looking at how to advise my stakeholders and our company to do things better in this space and love to share some of my lessons and maybe learn a few things from the audience as well.
So when we talk about sustainability, and by the way the audience who are listening live, those of you on LinkedIn, on YouTube, you’re very welcome. We welcome your comments and thoughts and questions for Virginia as we go through the broadcast. Any links we might share, we’ll put them in the show notes for those who listen to the podcast as well. So Virginia, when we think about sustainability, again, most of us think about the environment and we think about renewable resources and we think about, great examples, one that was mentioned to me last week that I love and I saw in a restaurant in Amsterdam was a toilet where the wash basin was on top of the toilet. So your water came out, you wash your hands and it fills the toilet. And I loved it because rather than the water being wasted, it went into the cistern that then was flushed that cleans the toilet. And I just love that kind of reusing of water, a resource that is becoming increasingly more precious. Or we talk about solar energy and different solar energy sources around sustainability, but we don’t often talk about people in the context of sustainability. So walk me through why you think that is, and at a high level, what is your view of what sustainable talent is or isn’t.
Yeah, it’s a really good question because I think that particularly over the last three years, the world has changed at such a pace that perhaps we do things that are part of our sustainable talent strategy, but we’re not aware of it. And I think that it’s really understanding the reason we protect our planet and we protect wonderful resources like water, they are precious to us. When you think about people and human potential as precious resources, you realize particularly in many of our companies, what would you be doing without people? When you think about people, profit and planet, without people, how do you drive or improve any of these aspects? So the conversation has changed because as you see more and more our own ESG agendas or strategy, environmental and social and governance agendas, we are worried about D&I.
We are worried about wellbeing and balance, about trust, transparency, empowerment, growth, organizational purpose, all of these different things are making us ask the right questions. And it is questions around how do you do this without bringing people on board? And I think the way I see sustainability, if you think about the actual ESG agenda, when you think about the employee engagement and the empowerment, when you bring these three things together, you start thinking about the workforce of the future and you see this juxtaposition of all of these or basically the junction of these topics coming together and it is changing really what people want and what we can give everyone in order to retain that engagement. So at the end, sustainability is about reducing waste. It’s about becoming much more conscious about the environment and that environment is not just the planet, it’s really everything from our supply chain, from our office space, from every angle that you think about it, there’s interrelation that really comes to life in the workplace.
So I’m an ex recruiter, that’s my background, I worked in recruiting and recruiting is for the most part everywhere in the world about hiring external talent to come work for an organization. I did this, the people I worked with did this. I trained people how to do this. And if you think about an organization, an organization typically has a need. They’re growing the sales team, they’re growing the engineering team, they want to develop new products and they say, well, let’s get new people to do this. And they go to market and they find talent typically from some other organization that they spend money to bring into their own organization. And in the same breath, they have a whole lot of people exiting their organization. And the number one reason that people say that they move on from jobs around the world is lack of career opportunities.
So you have this dilemma, which I’ve always found fascinating, whereby we are constantly trying to bring in all these external resources whilst we are churning through talent who already work for us, who have had loyalty to us, who have certainly at some period enjoyed working for us, no doubt, have delivered for us, many of them. And they’re leaving because they don’t have anywhere else to go. And it seems that this is wasteful there. One of the most basic wastes in there because to try and bring somebody new in, onboard them, acclimate them to our culture and environment, get them to settle in, deliver, you typically don’t get delivery of anything worthwhile within six to 12 months in most professional roles. So there’s a lot of effort put in to try and bring something in. Yet there seems to be a lot less effort put into trying to keep something that already works extremely well. So how do you connect those two challenges? The challenge to get people to do things that they’re not doing today and then the challenge of people leaving us because they have no opportunity.
So I think there are some great companies out there that already are leading the way in how you think about this. We’ve been talking about the gig economy and we’ve been talking about internal mobility and we’ve been talking about having skill sets and how the world that’s outside once you bring it in, what do employees want today? But I think that as humans sometimes even the way we think about things, I’m in the fashion world with Zalando and I was with Amazon before and the innovation side of things, one thing that we may be doing wrong in many places is that we always think that new is better. And as a recruiter, when you intake a role in many companies, you don’t even take the time to look at, do we have people internally that could be doing this?
And you’re thinking, okay, I just need to go outside, I’ll publish this role and get a bunch of applications and if some internals come in because we just don’t stop and really look at it holistically. When you look at some of the, I’ve got teenage kids and I’ve just come back from Paris and it’s quite interesting. My 17-year-old daughter did a lot of shopping, but all of her shopping was around vintage and going to all these amazing shops and it’s a new way of looking at things. When you think about shopping, it’s not necessarily what you thought you would do is going to a secondhand place. And if you think about that same concept and bring into giving life or a new opportunity to an old piece of clothes, think about how exciting it is to the sense of accomplishment when you’ve done this.
But think about actually transferring that into what we as recruiters can do for talent, for our wonderful talent that, like you said, knows the company, is probably being courted by externals for other offers and sometimes doesn’t feel internally the recognition because they may not be aware that there might be a role that is open, that there’s something else that they can be doing. And their development opportunities are only taken into account twice a year when they have a performance evaluation or conversation with their lead and not beyond that. So I think that those that are doing it well that are really thinking already ahead and moving talent as really looking at the internal talent with that precious resource lens, there’s many great companies out there that are doing it, Unilever for example, or if you think about SAP has an amazing strategy around people’s sustainability.
It is about understanding how much you as a company have already invested in that talent and the return on investment you have by up-skilling or re-skilling some of that talent, there’s a lot of data Johnny out there to show that when you actually give somebody the opportunity, and I’ll get into a little bit later into what we’ve done around women in tech and the agenda around up skilling women talent at Zalando to give them an opportunity to do work in the tech field, you raise engagement, you raise loyalty, you raise also the retention period of those folks within. So your investment is actually extended in time as well by getting that additional return and not having that churn. Now I think that one thing that we can do about this is really, again, because we are data driven in many and that is super important, is to really show this value, show what you’ve invested, how many years somebody has had into the company, what does that mean, how does that translate.
And sometimes just putting some numbers will also help your leaders understand that new is not always better, although there’s opportunity for new talent and we do need to have a percentage of that coming in. But I think it is about having those conversations, about showing that they’re not mutually exclusive, that there is place for new talent, but there’s also an opportunity for us to think about talent going forward in a way where you can renew yourself. I’ve been very lucky. We’ve only talked about my experience at Amazon and at Zalando, but I worked for many years for a company like Oracle, which I felt that the sustainability of talent was something that I’ve lived in my career much earlier because I was given the opportunity to take on brand new careers within the company and I had a wonderful 16-year journey where I ended up moving from law into business operations and then business operations into recruitment. And that’s how I ended up where I am today and I would forever be grateful and always think about those opportunities even after moving on. So I think that it’s about that.
So what are some of those obstacles? If the benefits are obvious, we’ve mentioned them many times in this show before, what are the big obstacles? Why don’t enough companies do what Unilever or SAP are doing?
I think when you think about business transformation, there are three areas to think about. You always think about technology, you think about the process and you think about people and many companies are really good at investing in the technology, maybe rethinking about the process and looking at people, but doing it in a way that you have a flywheel that truly supports your process requires that you do some planning on a long term. And what happens today and especially over the last three years is that every couple of months we end up having something new hitting us and then we move on. We have a strategy but we move on from the strategy to tend to the most recent whatever crisis is. And I think that if we’re going to be successful at changing the way we go around talent, we really do need to think about workforce planning for the future very differently.
And it takes time. When you think about Unilever for example, or SAP, these are companies that have people strategies that actually feed their workforce plan and they have either long term investments on early careers, they have long-term investments on up skilling programs. It is about really looking at this not as a quick fix. And I would love to talk a little bit more about some of the things that I’ve seen today on what’s happening with layoffs and tech. But I think eventually it is about that. It is about understanding clearly where you want to be as an employer, what it’s going to take to take you there and then work backwards but truly stick to it and not drop it as soon as a crisis comes up.
So that workforce planning piece is interesting because I know most organizations definitely develop a hiring plan, they often talk about a workforce plan, but for most of the TA leaders certainly that I’ve spoken with, there’s a hiring plan. It’s very focused on external, it gives them a headcount number and they go off and work on that for the year and to whatever degree of accuracy, but it’s not really ever connected to L&D and other parts of the business to really look at what I think you’re pushing at, which is a more holistic workforce plan. So define to me what a more holistic workforce plan looks like, who gets involved in building that and what are some of the outputs of that plan.
So by no means can I really say that we’ve got it done to a science and we’re experts or perfect at it, I think it’s still a process that it’s evolving. And like I said, we do also have other constraints. Every company today is facing a number of other factors that perhaps force you to take a pause and rethink. But when you look at workforce planning, I think it’s important that you work very closely with not just your business stakeholders, but I think as supporting organizations, one thing that has been super important for us is to come together in all our central functions, whether it’s talent acquisitions and your business partners on the colleagues from HR as well with your finance colleagues, really thinking about, okay, if this is where we need to go and these are some of the things that we consider strategic, whether it is we want to hit a certain diversity goal, we want to have this amount of people in leadership, underrepresented minorities, et cetera.
We also want to make sure that we understand what percentage of our revenue we’re going to be spending on payroll, et cetera. So let’s think about that and start working backwards and say, okay, within three years this is where we want to be. And how do we do that? First of all, if we just are given a number as a TA function from our finance folks and we are not working together to understand how we get there, what are the things that we’re going to do? How do we make sure as TA, we also help with some of this agenda, be happy to take on targets around our internal mobility and ensure that we actually work on those targets and so on. You need to break it down. You need to also understand what role you want to play and how you partner, how do you make others accountable?
So when we work together on a strategic plan for our workforce and even our blueprint for our recruiting strategy, we also make sure that I have validated this and work very closely with my business partner, whether it is looking at my attrition or looking at my promotion velocity, whether it is looking at my D&I targets, whether it’s looking at what are the things that are going to be important for me this year and how we’re going to get there. And I think that if you do have that plan where you truly are thinking about it strategically and holistically, you can make some really good progress. Now if you just execute and deliver a number that’s been given to you, then this is where you get into trouble because you are not having the conversations and you may end up in a place where you’ll have to make some difficult decisions at the end of the year.
On previous episode I shared with our listeners an initiative of that Amazon have had running for a few years around upskilling internal talent to be software engineers. And one of the stats I thought was really uplifting I read recently was that something like 62% of the folks who’ve gone through that program came from their hourly workforce. So actually, they were taking two thirds of the software engineers, they were literally creating from scratch, came from a population that you wouldn’t necessarily think are software engineers and on average their salary went up double in this transformation. And I bring that up because you mentioned earlier on some of the initiatives you’ve run in Zalando, for example with women in tech. Tell us a little bit more about those initiatives and how you’ve created sustainable talent within Zalando already.
I think it’s a great way of bringing this to life, this topic to life to see how you can make this happen. So when you think for example about D&I and you think about underrepresented minorities or just gender, if you just look, let’s start with women in tech, which is an easy one to measure and it’s probably as important as other underrepresented groups. At Zalando, we don’t have an issue when it comes to women. We’ve shared this out. When it comes to diversity, our workforce is pretty split and it’s similarly to Amazon. When you think about this, I was also part of very early days at Amazon of looking at how we worked with increasing diversity in our tech world. But when you actually de-average the information so that population as you go into the tech space, you realize there’s less representation in the tech jobs and more specifically into certain job families within tech.
So you probably won’t have an issue with product design, but when it comes to software engineering or applied science, we are underrepresented. And what a great way of thinking about where can you get talent that is already invested, understands the culture and actually wants to see Zalando succeed? Were within the same ranks of Zalando, there were many Zalandos that already had aspirations to eventually learn to code or were teaching themselves coding. And we opened up a program where we actually initially just looked at it for Zalando women and invited a cohort of women to apply to this program where we put them through a six month bootcamp but wanted to make sure that at the end they would have a job. So what we did is before they go into the program, we already had hiring managers that agreed that if they were successful in the bootcamp, we’ll give them a job at the end.
And I’m super happy to say that we’ve just had our first cohort of 20 women graduate from this and actually are actively already working in this space. And it wouldn’t have been possible without our leadership because I think that this is also super important for some of these things to be effective or become reality, you need change in leadership, the way that leaders think about some of these programs. You need change in the culture, the way the hiring managers think about how they are going to support women that are coming from a different background and actually didn’t go to university for four years to study computer science but went through this for six months and give them the same opportunity. And then that employee engagement, you need employees that could believe in this program and want to be part of it. And by doing that, Johnny, you see that it is possible, you actually have shifted, you don’t have an issue with the population, but you are shifting the population, the talent to where you need it most.
And you also now have trained these women to be even more productive at Zalando because they’re engaged, they’re excited. If we hadn’t done this for them, they would’ve probably continued on their path but eventually gone elsewhere. And I think that is the bit that is exciting about thinking about what other ways we can think about bringing the sustainability of talent agenda. When you look at some of the data out there, in the World Economic Forum, you see all these data about how many millions of jobs we’re going to have globally in less than seven years, that basically we won’t have anyone to fill them. And it is about understanding what those skills are. So imagine in this great layoff that we currently have today, if companies can think about better ways of doing this, it’s like what can we do with this talent? Some of the talent that’s getting laid off, can we retrain them?
Can we upskill them so that we don’t lose all of this valuable talent? But because we are acting without a long term strategy many times and we’re rethinking how we need to prepare for some of these things, a lot of these decisions are taken quite quick. And sometimes people find out that, you see the examples of Google and others where people just found out when they showed up at their office and they had no email. If instead, you spend some time thinking about bringing TA for example to the table to have the conversation and bringing your talent managers and your business partners and looking at this in a holistic way, can you think about doing something completely different? I was very curious. I read this article that came out at the beginning of March in Time Magazine about how basically big tech has this layoff all wrong.
And I was curious to see that there are studies in research where it’s been shown that three years later when many of these companies do these layoffs, they end up not having the financial benefits that they thought they would have because eventually they have to rehire people, they have to retrain people. But not only that, when you’ve gone through a layoff, you have now demotivated employees, people that are worried, their productivity goes down, they’re disengaged, they’re probably looking for another job and your customers will also suffer because you’ve got, it’s a domino effect. And even though there’s data, and we know about this and we’ve been going through this for years and especially in tech where companies like Google always said, “We’re going to be a different type of business. We’re going to show corporate that we’re different.” And they still end up doing this. I think there’s some lessons there for us to think about how do we actually want to approach this in the future because it’s just insane. We keep going through these waves and there is an opportunity for us to do things differently, but how do we make it happen? And I think that that’s the kind of conversation I would love to engage with others to see how are they tackling it.
I agree that there’s a real challenge there and the data is consistent over multiple periods of recession going back decades that organizations that held onto the bulk of their staff sacrificed short-term profit to hold onto their people came out of the recessions booming and that growth more than made up for their short term temporary losses. Whereas organizations who cut particularly as a cut deep to try and protect profits in the short term always, always fell behind because the other companies that had held onto the talent, to your point, they would come out of the blocks racing because they have all this pent-up talent waiting to take advantage of a growing market. And so despite the research, despite this becoming something that’s taught in business schools, you still see this, I think shareholder pressure to cut costs, to cut staff and to your point, that leads to the businesses impeded in terms of how it can grow coming out of a down period.
But also reputationally, it can be extremely challenging, especially in the open media world we live in today where it’s not just the people you laid off who won’t come back to work with you, it’s everyone they know and who hears about that layoff, that makes it all the more difficult from a brand perspective and employer brand perspective for those organizations. So when you think about the current random layoffs in tech that we’ve seen over the last near year, tell me about any examples you’ve come across where organizations are doing it well. What’s a good way to exit something that, it’s a difficult time organizations who over hired are trying to retrench short of just not letting people go, is there a better way of doing it and if so, what does that look like?
Yeah, it’s a good question. I don’t know, I can tell you probably I’ll age myself a bit, but in 2008 when we were going through the massive financial crushes of 2008, one of the things that at the time I was actually the head of business operations for our consulting business. We had to downsize at Oracle quite a lot. And one of the things that TA did at the time, which was amazing, was to actually connect with our partner network to figure out a way where we could actually get people moving in to our partners so that when business picked up we would have these connections, but this talent wouldn’t just be out there going on their own to try to find a job. But then we would give the partners an incentive. If you actually take these folks, we will give you a preferential opportunity to partner with us when we had to do to implement a technology.
We’ll give you better rates, we will do different things. To think about how back then, and we’re talking 2008, this is more than 10 years ago, they were ways of looking at solutions because you plan thinking about people first. And I think that putting that in the agenda is a good way of doing it. I think when I see today how companies are doing it, obviously every company is different, every country is different, you have other conversations happening. I wonder at times if the best way to do this is to actually be better at challenging the stakeholders and others thinking about what exactly do we need to hire versus just taking orders, understanding better our talent. Today, I don’t know, I have a lot of friends still in technology and you would be surprised how people, even the folks that have stayed at Google or have stayed or at Amazon or AWS, the impact that this is having for them is we won’t see it yet in what that means in terms of productivity and so on.
But people are basically not willing to go beyond because they feel like they see their friends, they see their colleagues being treated in a certain way and wondering am I next? And it hasn’t stopped. So maybe you learn through the process, but I think that the better way to do this, is to not be in that position to start with. But obviously if you do have to make the changes, just do it in a way where you have exhausted all the options before going to the quickest bit. There’s other ways of doing, when you talk about Amazon in reskilling lots of people, that wasn’t an easy journey. It was a journey that took years to convince people to do it, but now there’s enough evidence, they share their numbers openly about what they’ve learned and how that’s worked and the amazing impact they’ve had on people’s lives, when you talk about how they improve their communities and so on.
Why aren’t we listening? Why aren’t we looking at some of this stuff and figuring out how we can do things better? I think in the Amazon case it’s a little bit different when you think about the layoffs they’ve had. Amazon is such a big employer, it’s probably a drop in the ocean when you think about, but for other companies, even 5 or 10% of the workforce is quite significant. So I haven’t seen anyone that I’m impressed with in terms of today with the layoffs. It doesn’t mean that they’re not happening. I have seen companies and I said like SAP, which I think that they are really thinking about this on the up skilling, they are investing or Amazon, they’re investing highly on up skilling. I have the example of Zalando where this investment came because we had people at very high levels that were willing to put their money where their mouth was. And I think that that’s a really great way of thinking about it, is making sure that we don’t only talk the talk but actually walk the walk.
And you mentioned the examples you reminded me of Intel, who I believe according to a friend of mine who’s a senior SVP in there, they approached their redundancies by pushing back on their leaders to decide how to make the cuts they wanted savings, which is ultimately what the business wanted. And then each department decided how they find those savings. Some did lay off, some asked for pay reductions from their teams, some asked some of the team members to take a month off unpaid during the year, others canceled headcount. But they took a much more human and more flexible approach and said, we won’t just have a sweeping 10% cut of all our workforce. We need to make 10% savings in our payroll for sure. But there’s many ways to achieve that. And with consultation with our colleagues, we can come up with perhaps more imaginative ways or more collaborative ways.
So I do agree there’s a better way of doing it and the knee-jerk whilst may be liked by the markets to come quickly back with a massive cut of your workforce, unlike other resources that we talk about being sustainable, this resource has a memory, this resource holds a grudge. I think that’s probably the difference when we talk about precious resources and being sustainable, this is a little bit different, this type of resource. I want to just pivot for a second and get your thoughts on what we’re seeing as a increasing move for teams like talent acquisition talent development, D&I, the L&D, increasingly coming together as more of a talent team and even talent acquisition advisors in some companies becoming more talent advisors that you see, organizationally and structurally trying to break down those silos and have a more rounded approach to talent that’s much more sustainable. Is that a trend you have seen? Do you see it continuing or do you think it’s not a thing that will continue? Is it good or bad? What are your thoughts on those kind of trends?
Again, each company seems to do things a little bit different, but it is a trend and I think it is a trend in the right direction. I think that we were talking about workforce planning, one of the most efficient ways is to really look at this approach, this holistically. And when you think about us as TA leaders, whether we partner very closely with our talent managers or folks that are focusing on performance of growth or whatever they’re called within your organization and with business partners, if you can identify the cohort that’s ready for a promotion or people that are super high potential. Many companies don’t like to differentiate talent, but at the end there are people that you know are giving perhaps more than everyone, and those folks are the ones that are usually being courted by others to leave. If you know who these folks are, then you can start thinking about how you retain them and where if you have roles within your organization, who would be the best talent to go for those roles?
How do you approach your succession planning? How do you approach your up-skilling or re-skilling? What are the talents that you’re going to need in the future? And who are the best people that already show these traits to start carrying them with you in that journey? But if you as TA are just sitting with a number of recs that you need to fill and don’t know anything else about the internal talent, you probably sometimes may even know more about the external market than you do internally, then that’s not going to succeed. So I think we need to be less protective of our own little kingdoms if you want. And actually open up and think about it more as a nation where we all come together in this space and really work towards the common goal of retaining and engaging a talent in the most sustainable way.
I know a friend told me about her team recently where they have had progressed to this more of this model a year ago where they were trying to open up the talent acquisition advisor role to be much more talent advisor. And they’ve begun up skilling some of the team on L&D, on skilling, on performance management and so on so forth. And when the company pulled back its hiring rather than having to let go of the recruiting team, which happens and happens in many tech companies, they just redeploy those folks to be more about skilling, supporting, retaining, and if they need to rehire again, they can quickly pivot those individuals back to have more of a focus. I guess the danger is when you just do one thing, if the company doesn’t need that one thing this year, then you’re in trouble. Whereas if you can be multidisciplinary across this broader spectrum of talent, it’s more sustainable for you as a career as well going into this rather than recruitment, which goes up and down in so many spikes. Talent, we all have talent, they all need to be developed, they all need to perform. There’s always a need to work with talent. There may not be always a need every year or every month to do talent acquisition.
That is true. And I think one thing that I’ve done throughout in these different crisis we have over the last three years is, and I think one thing that we sometimes forget to do is when you think about recruiters, for example, the amount of fungible talent we have with all the skills that we have that are so adaptable, at the end of the day a recruiter is in sales whether you like it or not. We are really good at selling, but we’re also good at process and we’re also good at getting things done. There’s so many things that we could be doing. So sometimes other parts of the business cannot be hiring. Are you willing to reassign your folks across? And maybe that is a way of saving talent because like you said, you’re also letting them learn about other skills.
You make them better recruiters when they really understand if they’ve spent time with some stakeholders, what it actually takes to be in a sales role, calling partners or doing whatever it is. So I think that we shouldn’t really underestimate how important it is for us to have a broader view of what we can do for our organization. And it’s not always just filling in a rec. And yeah, I know we talked a little bit about when we think about why this is a topic that I’m passionate about. And I think at the end of the day as a TA leader, there’s a lot of stuff we do that we don’t get credit for. But if you take a step back and you look at how you can influence, there’s a never better time, I think, than now to really show how TA can add value even in this moment of crisis. What can we be doing to shape the people agenda across people organization.
I love that, there’s a lot more that we can offer. Virginia, you’ve given us some great things to think about, some great insights and stories as well, and I really appreciate your taking the time. I’m going to ask you one last thing before you depart from today’s show. And that’s to perhaps leave our guests with your piece of advice, your piece of advice from your own experience or that’s been passed on to you from other people’s experience that they can take away and add to our Shortlist today.
We tend to forget really quickly before we know this little crisis that we’re in the midst of, we’ll move on and we’ll probably start hiring again and get crazy. We go through these cycles. I think we shouldn’t be afraid to challenge. We shouldn’t be afraid to ask the questions. Do you really need that hire? Don’t worry about your job as a recruiter, just ask, why do we need that hire and where should we go? And new is not always better. So I think that I would encourage you to be much more of a sparring partner to your stakeholders and make them accountable for the hiring decisions they make. Think about it from a different angle. Think about it, remember this moment where you’ve had to let go people from your team or you’ve seen colleagues have to leave, remember, and make sure that you get others to remember.
I think we can do so much better if we actually learn from history and history keeps repeating itself, but sometimes we don’t necessarily feel like it’s our place to challenge. And I think that as a TA leader, I would encourage you to really have those conversations. I think your stakeholders would appreciate it later on and they would also see you as that trusted advisor. You’ve built that relationship. Feel free to challenge. I think we all owe it to ourselves and to our teams and to our business leaders. And we should be doing a bit more of that.
I loved your analogy earlier of your daughter and the vintage clothing. I think in the vintage clothing world, they call it previously loved clothes. We could use more previously loved talent, I think we’d have a much more sustainable talent ecosystem. Virginia, thank you so much for joining us today. It’s been a pleasure.
Thank you for having me.