Jess ElmquistMay 11, 2023
Topics: Customer Stories

In HR, We Didn’t Come This Far to Only Come This Far

I had a fabulous professor at Columbia University. Amazing guy, just a real intellectual giant in the world of organizational psychology. His long-held philosophy was “participation leads to commitment.”

I thought about that as I looked out from the main stage at IAMPHENOM and saw a sea of engaged people leaders. Let’s face it — most HR conferences come and go leaving attendees wanting. But every so often a conference comes along where people actively participate in and author the process.

That was IAMPHENOM, and it was a beautiful thing to witness.

I talked to anyone and everyone. Because as talent practitioners, that’s what we do. We share ideas and best practices. We know that what we did before — like those big aggregators where we’d post our job openings and pray — just doesn’t work for us any more.

We are always looking to constantly improve.

So I thought I would jot down actual success stories from early adopters that will inspire and even cajole the biggest fence-sitters to finally do something about their people problems.

After all, we didn’t come this far only to come this far.

Candidate Experiences that Kick Butt

Most organizations have different pressures but the same goal: to land amazing talent. HR executives from the tech, health care, and banking industries gave the inside scoop on how their talent acquisition and management headaches were solved after adopting the Phenom platform.

Let’s start with this number — 950,000. That’s how many visitors came to Hewlett Packard Enterprise’s career site in just the first three months of this year. Let me put that figure in perspective; that’s double the traffic compared to the industry standard.

“Phenom was a game-changer,” said Lavonne Monroe, Vice President of Global Talent Acquisition and Onboarding at HPE. It wasn’t blind luck; it was the result of a thoughtful strategy that came together like this.

Kicking butt is a good thing. I mean, if you’re not in it to dominate, why bother? Twenty-six percent of those 950,000 casual job seekers are actual hires that came via chatbot. Think about that. Those are interactions HPE probably would have missed.

The strategy was slightly different but no less urgent at Bon Secours Mercy Health, one of the largest operators of Catholic hospitals. They were looking for a solution that enabled a frictionless talent experience for candidates and employees.

“We are really dedicated to solutions that can scale,” said Eric Van Duren, Chief Talent Acquisition Officer. “How can we make candidates and employees feel one of one versus one of many?”

The biggest “wow” moment for Regions Bank, one of the largest providers of consumer and commercial banking and other services, was the career site.

“We’ve completely rebranded and reconstructed” it, said Ryan King, Regions’ Executive Vice President, Head of Talent Acquisition. “We have the ability to communicate with leads and candidates. We never could have done that before.”

Regions has a rock solid employee value proposition and a strong brand reputation. What was missing, though, was a vehicle to extend that brand into the world of talent. The company worked hard to remedy that, and was just recognized by the American Bankers Association for having one of the top four employer brands in the financial services industry.

Amazing. The skeptics out there can deny reality all they want. Technology is rewriting the rules of engagement, leaving the naysayers with nothing but a list of a 1,000 vacancies on a boring career site. Good luck with that.

Switching gears, so often organizations think about how to get people in the door that they forget about the leaky talent bucket on the other side. I explored this issue further with a panel of healthcare leaders who put heart and soul into plugging holes in their pails.

Not a Career Ladder, But a Spider Web

Traditionally, we see things linearly. Employee development and mobility is no exception. The mindset has long been “this job leads to this job leads to this job.” It's all vertical planning.

Mandy Day, Vice President of Talent Acquisition at The Cigna Group, is a huge proponent of internal talent mobility, but her team was facing an interesting issue:

Maybe you’ve discovered the same thing in your organization. You’ve got a blind spot on your peoples’ skills, and that’s why your talent is headed for the door.

Take a cue from Cigna. They just didn’t slap on a single-point solution, they created an actual ecosystem for people to find their next jobs, grow within the company, and build a network of mentorships.

“People are staying at Cigna, not only because they're developing and finding new jobs, they're creating a network of people that will help them feel more of a community,” said Day.

That’s a lot coming from a Fortune 12 company with 70,000 global employees in an industry notorious for churn.

For ChenMed, a Miami-based primary care provider focused on serving seniors, the biggest challenge wasn’t retention, but rather scaling from 1,500 to 6,000 employees in just three years to meet its hypergrowth goals with just five recruiters. As a result, talent mobility became a critical component to their strategy.

"We didn't even have a database. I didn’t have a CRM. We had nothing,” said Glen Goodman, Chief Talent Officer.

Now, with a unified solution that cohesively addresses talent attraction and retention, they’ve not only built a huge talent community of quality candidates but can empower internal development and mobility for their employees.

“It’s not a ladder, it’s a lattice. It’s a web. You can go in any direction you want,” explained Goodman.

That’s also how Michelle Kligman, Chief Experience Officer and Senior Vice President of HR at Jackson Health, the largest Medicare provider in Florida, sees it.

“We look at it very much like a web,” she said. In fact, instead of placing employees, they call it casting. “If you can connect to our mission and you have the expertise, we're going to hire you and we're going to make sure that we cast you in the right facility in the right place.”

Unlike many healthcare providers, Jackson Health didn’t pause its growth strategy during the pandemic. Instead, they partnered with Phenom to address the industry-wide supply and demand challenges and created a multipronged strategy to hire, develop, and retain their workers. Their success is nothing short of incredible.

With the help of their new career site, talent CRM, and internal talent marketplace, they fully staffed two new hospitals without expensive contingency or agency help during the pandemic. I’ll repeat that…during the pandemic.

Not only that, but the company also met its 50% target for internal growth and promotion while giving their employees a clear line of sight of their future at Jackson Health. It doesn’t get much better than that.

Here, Kligman explains how Jackson's recruiters benefit too.

Skills: Out of the Static and Into the Dynamic

No discussion of mobility would be complete without a look at skills.

It’s a bread and butter topic for a reason: they are the metadata of people. It's the information about us as individuals that helps an employer, hiring manager, or recruiter understand where someone is going to be a good fit.

If you have a skills taxonomy for your company, you can bring people together in different jobs who are doing the same work. A pattern then emerges and you begin to see long-term trends developing.

So what’s the most exciting thing taking place in the world of skills? For our guest speakers, analysts Betsy Summers of Forrester and Zachary Chertok of IDC, it’s the fact that the technology is finally here to manage skills.

“What's different today is that we're coming out of the static and into the dynamic,” Chertok said. “We’re in an age where that can start to get personalized for employees — where they're going to move, how they're going to move, or what their options are going to be.”

That’s an interesting point, because even just a year ago, there was a battle of wills between skills-based versus roles-based organizations. The reality is it's not black and white. The answer is in the gray space in between.

So build a skills taxonomy and translate that into a digital ontology, because that'll help identify how skills are going to aggregate into the roles that you're going to advocate for, Chertok advised. If an organization isn’t quite ready to go all-in on skills, the ontology is still fundamentally useful toward identifying roles.

Looking over the horizon, how will companies use skills intelligence in a new and different way?

By recognizing that there are many ways to approach, say, being a data scientist, said Summers at the event. “You can be a generalist, you can be a specialist,” she said.

Organizations may also take the approach of employees acquiring new skills over time.

“We’re just scratching the surface, and that’s what’s so exciting about this skills technology and the strategies that go along with it,” Summers said. “To me, the value is exponential.”

Indeed it is.

And that’s what makes me excited is all the tech benefits that are yet to come. I mean, if we’re automating hundreds of time-consuming tasks, personalizing communications, and gathering disparate skills into one nice, neat repository now, just think of what we’ll be able to do in a few years.

That vast, untapped potential, my friends, will have to wait for IAMPHENOM 2024!

Can’t wait that long? Eager to learn more now about the amazing things the future has in store for talent? Connect with me over LinkedIn and let’s talk.

Jess Elmquist

Jess Elmquist is the Chief Human Resources Officer and Chief Evangelist at Phenom. In a previous career as the Chief Learning Officer at Life Time, the healthy way of life company, Jess hired more than 200,000 people and spoke to hundreds of his executive peers about talent trends.

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