Strategic Partners: Emphasizing the Importance of Talent

Hosted by Chris Dyer, the CEO of PeopleG2 – TalentTalk Radio features engaging conversation with CEOs, thought leaders and HR executives. TalentTalk connects professionals who care about talent-related issues and having the cultural mindset to embrace the needed diversity of the workplace.

Today’s guests are Marvin Hamilton, Chief People Officer for Translation, LLC and Sarah Brennan, Founder and Principal Advisor for Accelir. To hear the entire show, click here.

On the show today, two extremely passionate HR experts talk about a company’s biggest strategic asset – its people!

Marvin Hamiltonstrategic

Marvin Hamilton started off his career as a recruiter with a small company in Washington D.C. Being able to help people advance in their careers and indirectly helping their families was something that made Hamilton instantly fall in love with the profession. Currently, he works with Translations LLC, an advertising agency, as the Chief People Officer. 

He believes HR professionals need to be strategic business partners and trusted advisors to not only the CEOs but all other functions of the company including operations, finance and everything in between. According to Hamilton, there are three things that HR people need to establish in order to be true business partners. Firstly, trust is the most important factor. HR people need to have their audiences’ best interest at heart and understand their perspective. After trust comes credibility. Hamilton explains that the stakeholders should look at the HR team as subject matter experts and reach out to them whenever needed. Lastly, in order to be a business partner, HR executives should have integrity. They should operate with core values that align with the organization’s business practices and culture.

Strategic HR Leader

Hamilton says that it is often very difficult for HR leaders to juggle between executional and administrative tasks which are often associated with quick fixes and real strategic initiatives. “HR leaders have to think not just about what they’re planning on accomplishing on a daily task basis but also where they’d like the organization to be in the next two to three years,” he explains. “They need to align their plans with the short-term and long-term goals of the company’s stakeholders. If you’re not thinking about that then you’re not adding value to the organization.”

Getting a Seat at the Table

Traditionally, HR has always been recognized as an administrative and task-based partner rather than being a more strategic partner. Companies often fail to see the value of HR beyond the admin tasks. Hamilton has witnessed this throughout his career and admits that he had to fight his way through to get a seat at the table. He had to show how critical the function is to the success of the business and why he is a strategic partner to the business. While it has historically been a challenge for HR executives, slowly and steadily companies are recognizing the true value of HR, as a strategic partner.

Talent Acquisition

Hamilton believes that many companies don’t really know their own culture. They often end up recruiting the wrong talent because they don’t really know what kind of people will fit into the company. Thus, knowing one’s company culture helps a lot in recruiting the right kind of candidates. Another factor to consider while recruiting is the company’s brand. Hamilton says that recruiters should find out whether the brand is relevant to the audience they’re targeting. If it’s not, then they won’t be successful attracting the right talent. Recruiters should also live their company’s core values and mission statement. They should question whether their values are real and if they will resonate with the candidates. Lastly, it is important to make sure the recruiters are the right kind of ambassadors for the company. These are some of the top things to be considered while attracting talent.

Talent Retention

Retention in certain industries such as advertising is a big HR challenge. Millennials, in particular, have a reputation of changing jobs frequently. With this generation, Hamilton says there are a few things that need to be understood. Millennials want an opportunity to learn formally and informally, and they want to have meaningful work. They want a clear, concise understanding of their role with the opportunity of mobility. “Once you get an understanding of what exactly your employees are looking for, sometimes you’ll realize that these are things can be easily corrected if enough thought is given to them,” sums up Hamilton.

Combining Passion with Work

At Translation LLC, Hamilton says that they have something called the Minor program. “The philosophy is that everyone has a passion in life that is more or less connected to a cultural root. So when we hire talent we often ask ‘what is your minor?’ For instance, if there’s someone coming in to interview for a copywriter position, he may be a sports fanatic or a skateboard enthusiast. That’s his minor. The idea is that if we were to hire him as a copywriter and we were to put him on a sports account, his passion for sports or skateboard could really inform his work in a way that we wouldn’t get otherwise. Thus, it is all about giving people an opportunity to bring in their passion and apply it to their work and creating amazing results for our clients,” explains Hamilton.

What Are You Reading?

Marvin Hamilton is currently reading “Good Leaders Ask Great Questions: Your Foundation for Successful Leadership” by John Maxwell. The book delves into the process of becoming a successful leader by examining how questions can be used to advantage.

How Can People Connect With You?

Connect with Marvin via LinkedIn.

Sarah Brennan strategic

Sarah Brennan has been in the HR tech and talent strategy industry since 2000 working with various vendors and companies in the field. A few years ago she started her own boutique talent advisory firm called Accelir. The company focuses on improving the way talent and technology are working together within a business and works with vendors to build products that the industry really needs. In addition, she recently relaunched the HR Tech blog.

Company Growth

Brennan has some words of advice for companies looking to grow. She believes that companies should have a genuine interest in growth instead of just talking about it and saying they want to grow. They have to be open to actively making changes. One of the areas they should focus on is talent. Companies are beginning to realize that their profitability is highly dependent on their current employees and the future employees that they are going to hire. Thus, companies that are really looking to grow are shifting their focus to people in a big way. Having the right people do the right job at the right time is key to business success, according to Brennan. Also, the sales cycle, customer support, and quality of product or service are very important for a company’s success. If any one of these three areas is lagging then it’s difficult to achieve growth. One of the easiest ways to figure out how a company is doing in these areas is by getting information on customer satisfaction. This can be done with the help of focus groups and/or surveys with current customers, past customers and potential customers. According to Brennan, this gives interesting insights on why people are choosing or not choosing the company’s products, which can be very helpful for a company’s growth.

Intersection of Talent and Growth

One of the biggest mistakes that companies make, according to Brennan, is that they just hire people in a way that is really disconnected from the overall strategy of the company. This problem is very common among big companies where hiring is very disorganized and is generally done in siloes. Even in companies with 500 to 5000 employees, recruiters are often unable to talk about the business goals outside of what the employee value proposition is. They don’t understand the core need of each of the departments they are working with. Brennan’s company helps recruiters see the connection between recruitment and company growth. She believes recruiters and hiring managers need to work closely together to establish what the team really needs and what kind of growth the potential candidate needs to have in the next 18 to 24 months because candidates, most of whom are now millennials, continue to look for new opportunities due to their constant need for growth. Also, companies are very poor at recognizing the people they already have in place. They don’t fully understand the strengths and skills of their employees and what they really want to do and the kind of growth they see for themselves. “So many people leave jobs and companies because they don’t have opportunities for promotion,” Brennan says. Thus, focusing on existing talent and being strategic about future talent is very crucial to a company’s growth.

HR Tech blog

Brennan recently relaunched the HR Tech blog. She started blogging on HR and talent around 2002. Most of the bloggers at that time were men in their forties or fifties. They had doctorates or were researchers. Brennan was just out of college at time and had just started a career in recruiting. “I just felt like I had a different outlook and I started talking about it and luckily people started listening,” she says. She started the HR Tech blog because she realized there is a lot of research and content on the topic out there. However, most of it is paid. Thus, there is no easy access to papers and industry reports. This led to the idea of having a resource that provides industry reports, white papers and research material to everybody for free. A few companies in the industry backed up this initiative and agreed to fund it. She also co-founded the Women of HR blog about six years ago. It was started by a group of women in HR who didn’t want to have their own blog but had something to share. These women are HR practitioners who volunteer to contribute a post once or twice a month.

Ever-Evolving HR Tech

Brennan believes that HR has evolved a lot and it’s no longer about filling out forms while people are onboarding. HR functions such as hiring, performance management and other programs affect real people’s lives. “The use of technology within human resources and beyond basic HR hasn’t been in place for very long. But with the use of good technology, we can conduct quick poll surveys among several other things. It’s easy to know what’s going on within the company at any second. It is all about engagement and making sure your employees are happy. We’re looking at metrics and analytics that we would have never looked at before. Having an engaged workforce has a direct relation with the profitability of a company,” she explains.

HR Trends for 2016

Brennan strongly believes that companies spend massive amount of money on employee engagement but aren’t really doing it well. This is partially because they aren’t hiring the right people. Approximately $720 million is spent on employee engagement every year but we see that only 13% of the global workforce is engaged. This has led to a lot of HR tech startups and products that have come up in the last year that are focusing on engagement versus recruiting. They are trying to bring the next level of talent management. Another trend she sees becoming popular is quick poll surveys compared to lengthy year-end employee surveys. These polls have just two or three questions that can be answered quickly right from a smartphone. Real-time feedback analytics will also be huge in the coming year, according to Brennan. “For a long time there has been technology that hasn’t been of much use because it wasn’t giving us the analytics and metrics. I am huge believer in why are you doing something if you can’t prove that you need to do it. Thus, analytics and feedback are going to be big for employee engagement this year,” she elaborates.

What Are You Reading?

Sarah Brennan highly recommends LeadershipandDesignby Tom Peters. These books are a part of the author’s Essentials series and are great quick reads for anyone looking for inspiration on leadership and innovation.

How Can People Connect With You?

Connect with Sarah via her blog www.hrtechblog.com.