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    Max Armbruster
    Max Armbruster
    CEO Talkpush

     The Benefits of a Remote Workforce (Recruitment Hackers Panel)

    Episode 12 linkedinpost

    A special episode, featuring a panel discussion from the last Recruitment Hackers digital conference, moderated by the infamous Chad Sowash, from the “Chad and Cheese Podcast.” Check out this candid conversation between talent acquisition leaders, Ioana Mihalache, Jenn Terry-Tharp, from Genpact and formerly AT & T, respectively. 

    Watch the entire episode in the video below.


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    Don't feel like listening? You can read the entire transcript right here. 👇


    Welcome to the recruitment hackers podcast. A show about innovations, technology and leaders in the recruitment industry brought to you by Talkpush the leading recruitment automation platform. 


    Max: This week, we'd like to show you a special episode, featuring a panel discussion from our last recruitment hackers digital conference, which was moderated by the infamous Chad Sowash, from the “Chad and Cheese Podcast.” We had some wonderful speakers for this panel discussion, including talent acquisition leaders, Ioana Mihalache, Jen Terry-Tharp, from Genpact and former AT & T, respectively.  And we spoke about the benefits of a remote workforce and notably, how those benefits, will impact the world of talent acquisition. I was part of that discussion and we had a lot of fun, so I hope you enjoy it. 


    Chad: Hello. Hi everybody. My name is Chad. I am the smarter, more handsome half of the “Chad and Cheese Podcast.”


    It's really not saying a lot. If you want an insider's view of what's happening in HR, you can definitely listen to Max's podcast or you can listen to HR’s most dangerous podcast. That's at chadcheese.com. I've personally been in recruiting and technology, for over 20 years working and consulting with major fortune 500 companies, actually building a recruitment technology.


    And developing hiring programs. Let's just say I was with monster.com before it was actually called monster. And I've also worked remotely for over eight years now. So let's just, let's start off this way. And let's say, Jen, how long have you been working remote? 


    Jenn: So I did the math after my session cause I kind of made a general statement. So I'd been working remotely for at least 50% of the last 17 years. 


    Chad: 50% of the time over the last 17 years. Okay... I think you've got me beat... What about you Ioana? 


    Ioana: I've been remote, I think I've been partially remote and partially in office. I've always had teams spread across continents, countries, for a at least the past six years. I'll be conservative six years. 


    Chad: Right. And Max, correct me if I'm wrong. For the most part, your teams are,mainly remote, is that correct? 


    Max: Yup. Yeah, we've got 60 people working in Talkpush and well, of course everybody is remote now, but even before the pandemic, I would say, you know, maybe a third of the team would come in a third of the week. So. Yeah, a third, and 10% occupancy inside of the office. We offer everybody access to an office and it's like a hybrid environment, but they don't have to come. We do encourage them to come and socialize once in a while, but that's that. 


    Chad: What we've seen. Or at least what's been reported in surveys, etc, etc. Companies are experiencing high productivity. From their newly remote staff, from all these individuals who have not worked remote before, that are now working remote, and they're seeing productivity for a variety of reasons. We can talk about that later. Do you believe this type of productivity is actually sustainable for the workforce? Or are we pushing them too hard right out of the gate? Jen? 


    Jenn: You know, it's interesting productivity is relative, right? Sure. Because you don't have some of the prep things to do. Like the newness of this might generate kind of a temporary outlift, but I also think that once it gets normalized. People start to like, have to divide the lines between work and home a little bit more. I believe over time it starts to normalize a little bit. But I will tell you, I always felt like I credited my company, my commute. So whatever my commute was that I would normally have to make when I would sit in my office. And I credited my company, the commute.


    Chad:  For the most part though, that's not the case, right? I mean, pretty much the company sees the commute as a part of doing business. So, I mean. In the US, I know that we're seeing high productivity, I think for, for the most reason is because people want to stay on, they're afraid of COVID and they're afraid of being downsized. So they're seeing just crazy amounts of productivity. Are you seeing that throughout the rest of the rest of the world as well? 


    Ioana: We have, we have noticed that, and it's not only in recruitment. We have noticed that across the company. You know, Green SLA is across, lots of business results that have improved intensively. Which was surprising and unexpected. Is it sustainable? I'm not really sure, but yes, we have seen this trend across the US and outside of the US as well. 


    Chad: Okay. So, so Jen?


    Jenn: Let's just be real. We don't have anything else to do. Right? That's a part of it.


    Chad: We have lives to live! I mean, that's the problem in the US, we live to work instead of like the rest of the world. For the most part, not Japan. You know, they work to live. I mean, that's a cultural type of a thing, and we're taking it to the nth degree. And we really need to be able to separate it, right?


    Jenn: For sure. And, and I would just add that I probably was five years then before I realized that I had to designate an end time. Right. Otherwise I would just keep working and I'd look up and I'd be like, Oh, I need to eat and go to bed. Right. So I think that that's a real thing probably all over the world.


    Chad: Ioana?


    Ioana: Yeah. I wanted to share a very close experience. With you know, when you have to go to bed straight out after work. When you just stand out from your desk and go to bed. I've seen that taking a toll on many people actually, that are very close to me. WHo have been less organized with time management, who have been less used to working from home and getting disciplined and organized and becoming resilient. You know, how do you separate that when you're at home? So I think it's real and I think. That's the reason, I don't think it's sustainable in the long term. Unless we do something ourselves and we educate ourselves and we become self resilient with our discipline to separate. And, you know, COVID or no COVID, like Chad said, we still have a life, whatever that may mean now, we still have to take care of that piece.


    Chad: So, Max being the CEO, isn't that a leadership stance. I mean, shouldn't the leader say, look, I don't want to burn you guys out. I want you to work and I want you to be efficient, but I love what Ioana is saying. She's saying, Hey, look, I think we need to look in the mirror, but most people won't do that. Isn't that a leadership and management kind of a stance that we need to really focus on? As we know, remote working will probably be a much larger part of the workforce as we move forward.


    Max: Yeah. I mean, I've got a very sort of an always changing team because we're growing and our technology is changing and the composition of the team changes. And you know, some people certainly have complaints about the 24-seven, sort of messaging the pace at which we're in. 


    Chad: You are a global company!


    Max: At the same time. They're, you know, they're joining a tech startup. The global company thing is rough. Right. Cause I mean, right now for me it's 3:00 AM and I want us to be on this call. But it's okay. I just took a nap in the middle of the afternoon, so I'm okay. I'd say that generally. I try to encourage people to take it easy if they can, but I also, as a business owner, if people want to put in, you know, their heart and soul into their work and putting in long hours like, who am I to stop them? I mean, it works wonderful. I'm not going to slow this down.


    Chad: Yeah. It's just the whole thought process of burnout. Right. So, Jen, I want to flip over real quick, and I want to talk about, we didn't see COVID coming. Right? So all of you get a pass, all of you, talent acquisition managers and business leaders, you get a pass. This was a blip on the radar. Nobody saw it. One thing that's not going to be a blip on the radar though, is when we flip that switch to hiring and we need to scale properly, and that's going to be par amount for us overall as businesses to be able to service those different segments of our business, whether it's sales, marketing, product. Right? Overall. So I guess the biggest question is when you were at AT & T, what kind of changes were you pressing for, to help with scale? Because you guys deal with hiring under a crazy amount of numbers. Right? How did you scale? 


    Jenn: Yeah, it's really interesting. I sort of touched on it during my presentation and quite honestly, it's one of the reasons that when I left AT & T, I came to Joveo to work on programmatic advertising because the reality is the time of post and prey on things like Monster or CareerBuilder. Those really aren't sustainable, particularly when the volume of hiring candidates flows so much, right? Like going out and buying 200 job postings at the beginning of the year. Isn't something that we're probably looking at doing.


    This has taught us that, right? Like we shouldn't hedge our bets. So we should pay for what we need. And so I think a combination of that, and being able to scale quickly without having to have a really heavy investment on commoditized job postings. I think that that will be a thing, but then also the idea that all of these professions where the availability was so compressed, right? Like, think about how many, how hard it was. Find a data scientist in New York city. Right? Like all of those things that were real, when we came into this, when we came out, now we can globalize that now that I can look in somewhere else, it's so much easier.  Right?


    Chad:  I mean, but AT & T was incredibly progressive. If you came to that thinking, I mean, Ioana, will you guys stay in more of this kind of like a remote stance where you will seek talent globally, as opposed to just in those regions and segments? 


    Ioana:  Yes and no. I don't think we have a clarity of vision at this point. What we do know is that we do want to keep employees safe. So we're staying remote as of now. And for as long as we'll have to. I don't think we've made the final decision on whether or not we are simply borderless across the world. And live and work wherever they see fit. 


    Chad: What stops you from sort of thing? What stops you from doing that? Because obviously you're doing it now. And we had so many companies beforehand said, Oh no, we can't do this remote thing. They were forced into remote and, from what I'm hearing, what I'm thinking and what I'm seeing, is we're going to see a regression. And I don't know what the reason is behind the regression. What's the reason? 


    Ioana:  I am thrilled you're asking this. Because I myself don't understand it. But the behavior that I've seen is with our operations, our senior managers, our leadership, they seem to be kind of putting obstacles to themselves in going for it and being brave about it. And I think what it is that it takes a lot more personal effort to make something work in a remote virtual environment. It does for me, right? It takes a lot more time. It takes a lot more calls. It takes a lot more personal energy that I have to put into making everything work remote. So I think it's coming from a place of maybe I don't want to put in so much effort and coming back to the office, which is something, you know, we were entitled to in the past. Coming to office, having a place to be and not having things be so difficult.


    We do a lot of work with voice processes as we call them, like customer service support, support for collections, you name it. So managing such a team in a remote environment has proven to be quite challenging. And of course we've developed all sorts of tools and mechanisms to do it, but it does take a toll on your time and on your energy.


    So I think a lot of it comes from the fact that maybe someone is not really open to putting so much in. They simply want to have a place. Where nine to five is what they have to do. And then. Life happens after that. That 's my opinion. 


    Chad: It feels like we all need to go back to the cave at this point, really. Max question around scalability and how many companies are actually coming to you today to talk about, because they're in a situation they've never been in before, where they've been pressed to go remote and they need tech to be able to enable that. They can't do that just with Skype. They can't do that just with Zoom. They need platforms to be able to help them do that. I mean, what was the difference between the phone ringing before and emails versus after COVID?


    Max: Well, to be honest, nobody calls anymore. It's all on messaging. You know, I don't want to paint a too optimistic picture of where the market is at, because a lot of people got furloughed, sacked, budgets have got cuts and people are looking after, covering their assets, to use the Chad and Cheese parlance. The phone isn't ringing crazy, but what's happening is with our existing customers, the volumes are going up considerably. And of course, nobody is doing it in person; it's an offline kind of event. Career fairs are dead. Everything is moving to virtual.


    Volumes are going up. There are more job seekers and maybe there's less recruiters to handle them. So eventually these are macro trends that do work in favor of technology. And will favor a few employers more than others. And the ones that are most inspiring are the ones who have jumped the gun and say, okay, this is it. This is how we're going to operate from now on. And we're going to change the way we hire. 


    And I understand how difficult that transition is. I understand what Ioana was talking about when she was saying people just want to go back to the office and be able to clock in and clock out and measure attendance as a way of managing, because it's so much easier. But in your first question you were saying, you were asking me about the work life balance. I spent so much time motivating the team. Do I have to tell them about work life balance too? I'd rather just continue to just motivate, motivate, motivate, cause it's a full cycle. 


    Chad: Oh, I'm sure. I'm sure. And drink as many red bulls as you can. Jen, in the last 5 years, what does this industry look like? How has it changed? Have we regressed back into the hole we were in before? We're an industry that does not adopt technology as quickly as sales and marketing. Will we advance faster? Will this actually give us the kick in the ass that we need? Or we will just go ahead and get sucked right back in the hole? 

    Jenn: It depends. Right? Is your location a suck you back in the hole location? Is your company that kind of place, right? In the chat, JB says our employee surveys are showing us that employees want to stay at home full or a blended model. I think that sentiment remains the same. The heavy lift here is for HR particular, in talent acquisition and how we structure things. It's really about our hierarchy, right?


    Who in your chaine is willing to be brave? Or are we stuck in sort of our social norms? Because the reality is, if we're looking at this from a strategic, how do we attract talent? Globalizing is arguably better. If we're looking at it from what motivates our employees. I mean, we can see from JB’s response and just anecdotal information everywhere, employees would prefer to at least work a blended schedule, most of them.


    So, I mean, the reality is it depends on what drives you. Are you losing money? Well, I would argue that you could probably get rid of some brick and mortar locations.  If you're a big diversified company. It probably could save you money in the end. So, when it comes to all of that, I think that the real question is.  How brave is your leadership team? How willing are you to go out on that limb and teach and learn and foster a culture that can live outside four walls? 


    Chad: Your thoughts Ioana? 


    Ioana: I agree completely. You probably saw from my head silently agreeing. I have nothing more to say. I'm in complete agreement. With regards to recruitment I have a vision for the future. Whether we're going back or not doesn't really matter, but as it relates to technology the future of recruiting without the recruiters working the way they do their job today. I want technology to be able to do recruitment for us in a way that I think partly does it today. But if we are able to remove that recruiter job title, I'm not saying, you know, people shouldn't have jobs, but what, what will the new recruiter do in an age of technology? And that can be between four walls or outside of them. Hanging out by the pool.


    Chad: How much of that job is actually just admin and minutiae that tech can take care of. And back to Jen's point, I mean, REI just built a corporate headquarters, a new corporate headquarters, and they're selling it. They understand where the future is going. And they also understand that the footprint of that HQ is a lot of money that they can get rid of. And hopefully they can go back to their shareholders and say, guess what? We're hopefully going to turn a profit out of this COVID thing. I'm going to try our damn business. So as a tech guy, Max, I know you want to press obviously your people and your customers.


    This is going to be more on talent acquisition. What would you say to talent acquisition today with regard to being able to do exactly what you Ioana was talking about? Taking away those admin and the minutia tasks that really are just a pain in the ass every day. They're there. They're not helping them. What can  tech do to help that happen and evolve them into people who can actually do more human things? 


    Max: Yeah. I think that going through a job ad on Craigslist or Monster, that was boring. I actually, I was looking for a job back in 2000, during the dot com crash. And I spent a couple of months on Monster looking for jobs and it was pretty tedious and boring.


    I mean, I ended up having like three interviews and I took the first job that I was given, basically, which is, I think pretty much what everybody goes through. If you look at some of the stuff I presented today, you see that there's room for a human touch and for recruiters to have fun and to, use the digital medium, to create meaningful connections even if it's through a simple thing, you know, a 32 second video on a job ad.  That's where that's where recruitment should be going. Is hiring people who have fun creating digital experiences and people who've been trained on Tik Tok and all of those great tools to create communities, and that they can apply those skills into the recruitment space.


    Thankfully, I think we've got a big talent pool of people to choose from, if we're looking for Tik Tok creators. And that's going to be the next generation. All the boring stuff of course should be automated. It is the job of, maybe our generation, the people on this call. Not to put anybody in a… Chad, and my job of course, to create some automation workflow so we can take care of the boring stuff. I am constantly being pulled by practitioners, sort of saying. Can we get rid of this? And now I have to figure out how we can read documents and use this OCR in order to eliminate some of the document collection that happens on onboarding, which is still a huge part of recruitment, and something that, you know, I'm excited to work on in the future. So eventually we'll get rid of all the boring stuff. 

    Chad: So I want to, I want to pivot to something that Pia ust posted and that's candidate experience there.


    So there's so much proposed candidate flow. It's there, but it's kind of wonky right now with COVID, especially in some roles where they don't want to apply because it's a safety risk. Right. But overall, does candidate experience matter? Does employer branding matter?


    Yes. Okay. I'm going to say yes, but still what's going on. What happened? We're going to see a bunch of employers start kicking employer brand to the curb and candidate experience to the curb. What does that mean for the industry? Do you think that'll happen, Jen? Do you think they'll kick it to the curb and if they do, what does that mean for the industry?


    Jenn: You know, we're sort of like the stepchildren of every HR world and every business, right? Like when hiring stops, money stops and employment branding is a function of hiring in the minds of most leaders. So, I think the funding's gonna stop, right? Like we're going to stop getting money to do those things, but that doesn't mean that we can stop doing them.


    In my very first slide, I think I said, I'm being along the lines of like, be true to yourself or something. Along those lines. This is an expectation. So whether or not you have more candidates or less candidates or you're paying for them, or they're coming to you organically, the reality is you still want to align your company's culture and values against their needs before they ever get to the application process.


    So it probably shouldn't stop. Ioana  do you have a perspective on that? 

    Ioana: I think, not only should it not stop, I think it should be enhanced. And I think in my presentation, I have touched upon that a lot, all the things that I talked about that we did to enhance our recruitment were actually targeted towards our brand.


    As in trust with candidates in a fully virtual environment with so many scams going on so many things that you can't really recognize. Having a very strong employer brand is absolutely critical. In my view, no one should cut that corner when they have costs. 


    Chad: Yes. And I believe in doubling down on one of the things that I've kind of somewhat argued about is talent acquisition should be a part of marketing.


    There's no question because you are hitting, especially AT&T every person they touched was a prospective customer. And if they are pissing off candidates, guess who else? They were pissing off customers, people who actually spend money. 


    Jenn: I was just going to say, we actually did a study with the talent board that hosts the candy awards on what the impact to revenue could be from improved candidate experience and what the deficit would be by not having a good one.


    And it's amazing. I mean, let's think about the black hole particularly right now. If you have an entry level job, you have a lot of people applying and you don't have as many recruiters to get through that. Like it is just a literal black hole.


    Max: Yeah. I wasn't sure my mic was on. If you look at the options for a candidate before, it was, you know, let's say you have three different options. You're going to evaluate commuting time, how beautiful the office is, if you get food or not, the benefits. You know, that kind of stuff.


    Now. It's like, well, you know, all the jobs are the same, I'm in my living room in front of my computer. So how would you differentiate between these jobs? Well, the main factor is going to be the quality of the people that you interact with daily. Your teammates, who you're going to work with. Defining a real culture where you're gonna work with people that you can recognize, recognize their value and what you have in common with them.


    That's how you're going to win the war for that. And,what an exciting time to be doing recruitment where you can actually, work with that. Like everybody's working on an equal footing. Everybody can buy a zoom license and everybody can get a lot of traffic. 


    I mean, you know, of course you can get even more traffic if you buy it, but it's not that expensive compared to a few years ago. So it's all about the story now. I think it's the greatest opportunity.


    Chad: I'd like to comment on what Miguel said. Miguel says, when you're recruiting, you're not buying, you're selling.


    And that's exactly what marketing does. Marketing's not buying anything they're selling stuff. And you have to be in that mindset that this isn't just a candidate coming to, hopefully, work for you, right? This is a customer that's coming to you. And they're not just looking to buy a, you know, a mobile phone phone, or a service or a cup of bourbon.


    They're looking to actually pour their heart and their time into your brand. So I say that if something's worth more, it's actually worth more if they're coming through the career channel, than coming through the buying channel. 


    What do you think is the most important piece right now, as we get a chance to step back as talent acquisition, to an extent, as we move forward, what is the most important piece that we need to develop as we move forward to hopefully reach our goals much faster and scale faster? 


    Jenn: I'm going to have to give you two answers because it's like the two sides of me have to answer. So the employment branding, marketing, creative part of me, right? That part of me wants you to have very appropriately aligned expectations in a positive way, because to Miguel's point, we are always selling, right?


    Like, so I don't want to tell you how horrible it is to work here, but if we expect you to be on time every day, I don't want to give you the impression in my creative juices that we’re just really easy going because we're probably not. So I think aligned employment brand message, whatever that is.


    But secondarily and might be a little unpopular in my TA circles. I kinda got some boos on Facebook for this comment a few days ago. And that is, I think we need to recruit less people, right? Like there's so many people out there looking and our organizations have likely retracted and probably aren't as large.


    And so in order to make the best use of your time, you should work to try to touch fewer people at a higher quality as opposed to making the funnel larger. Right? Like the funnel has already made itself big. You've got to get really tight. And instead of talking to 20 people talk to 10 and that decreases your cost from top to bottom.


    So those would be my two takeaways. 


    Chad: So I'm going to throw Ioana a curve ball. Are you ready? 


    Ioana: By all means.


    Chad: Jen just brought something up that is incredibly important to me. How much money have you spent over the last three years in acquiring talent into your database? You don't have to tell me out loud. Just think about it, right. Think of that money. 


    Now where's the first place you go to try to find qualified candidates, is it your database? Where you spent all that money? hundreds of thousands/ millions?


    Ioana: No. 


    Chad: So I'm going to reframe my question that I asked Jen, as we move forward, do you believe we should actually start to get better ROI off of all that money we've been spending?


    And how do we do that?


    Ioana: Through technology. This actually goes back to what I was saying earlier about envisioning recruiter-less future in recruiting. And I want to relate back to Jen's example of the funnel. Whenever we have huge projects going on or we have to deliver like thousands of people in like three weeks, leaders come to me and they were like, we need a bigger funnel.


    No people, we don't need a bigger funnel. The funnel is okay, as it is, we just need to become smarter at using it and become smarter about where we spend our time and become smarter about who we select so that we don't have to keep going and going every time, attrition happens.


    What I said about technology, I think that's what's going to help us bridge that gap between the two funnel concepts. The second piece I would want to add is simplifying the processes. I don't know if anyone else is dealing with this, but when you're part of a big corporate world, you tend to put so many controls and so many hierarchies.


    And so many people have to get involved to get one small thing, and that applies for recruiting as well. Whether it is pretty onboarding or background checks that are, you know, unimaginable for people who we want to hire for call center, contact center or collections work have to go through loops and hoops to just get a decent job.


    Please let's fight that, let's become more practical about it. Let's decrease the funnel, become smarter, become practical. And I think that's a winning proposition. 

    Chad: Amen Ioana. We're going to wrap it up there. Thank you so much. Ioana, Jen, you can tell max needs to get to bed. 


    I appreciate everybody who's been watching. Thanks so much.

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