32 min 32 sec

Bill Brown on how it all starts with Candidate Experience

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Bill Brown on how it all starts with Candidate Experience

Bill Brown is an HR and Talent Acquisition expert who cannot stress enough how important it is to get employee experience right from the very first interaction.

In this episode, he talks to Tydy's Kiran Menon and Debkanya Dhar about the candidate experience, how HR can change its reputation as a cost center, and why data is HR's best friend.

#employeeexperience #futureofwork #hr #hrtech #peopleops #employeedata #talentacquisition #candidateexperience
Bill Brown has over two decades of experience enhancing Organizational Effectiveness and leading Change Management efforts across diverse industries.

As Principal and Chief People Officer of Think People.Culture, he specializes in bridging the gap between ad hoc HR services and building fully scaled-up teams for startups and established companies.

His book, "π˜Ώπ™€π™£'𝙩 π™Žπ™ͺπ™˜π™  𝙖𝙩 π™π™šπ™˜π™§π™ͺπ™žπ™©π™žπ™£π™œ: π™Žπ™©π™§π™–π™©π™šπ™œπ™žπ™šπ™¨ π˜Όπ™£π™™ π™π™šπ™˜π™π™£π™žπ™¦π™ͺπ™šπ™¨ 𝙁𝙀𝙧 π˜Ύπ™§π™šπ™–π™©π™žπ™£π™œ 𝘼 π˜½π™šπ™©π™©π™šπ™§ π˜Ύπ™–π™£π™™π™žπ™™π™–π™©π™š 𝙀𝙭π™₯π™šπ™§π™žπ™šπ™£π™˜π™š," is a must-read for leaders looking to revolutionize their hiring process.

You can find him on LinkedIn: Β www.linkedin.com/in/tpcbill

Or check out his HR consulting firm: www.thinkpeopleculture.com

For more such content on data-driven and personalized Employee Experience, visit https://www.tydy.co

Kiran: 0:42

Super excited with this episode. We have Bill joining us. And my co host, Debkanya Dhar, who's my head of marketing and who's going to be my anchor over here to get Bill started. Bill, what would be good is if you could just give us a quick introduction about yourself, and then, you know, we can start talking about EX and, where it's going.

‍Bill: 1:07

Sure, thanks so much. Really appreciate you guys having me. Thank you so much for reaching out. I'm Bill Brown. I'm the principal of Think People Culture. We're an HR consulting firm, and we help organizations think more strategically about their people and culture. I've been in HR for about 30 years. I really enjoy being able to help employers figure out how they can make employees delighted to come to work. And I particularly focus on employee experience, candidate experience and

Debkanya: 1:36

one thing you did not mention in your introduction was that you've written a book, and we can see it. Can you tell us a little bit about that?

Bill: 1:44

Sure well it's right behind me. It's called'Don't Suck at Recruiting Strategies and Techniques for Improving the Employee Experience'. It's literally that. It's a no nonsense guide for people who hire on how to make the candidate experience better. 1 of the things that my staff and I've seen over the last few years is a decline and in how candidates are treated and one of the things that we consistently heard from candidates was that we did it right. And it was really exciting to hear that. You know, for speaking with some of my cohorts and peers about how we were hearing this consistently, a few friends told me that I should write a book and tell people how we do it at Think People Culture and see if it could you know, impact a few other people. So it's been out for a few months, it's gotten some really great reviews on Amazon. com, Don't Suck at Recruiting, and I'm happy that it has, and I've had some really random people message me telling me how excited they were about reading the book and how it's actually helped them move the needle. So happy that it's made an impact and it was a labor of love. So thanks so much for asking about it.

Kiran: 2:51

It's awesome. So why do you think companies suck at recruiting?

Bill: 2:56

Very simple. To me we have. We live in a world that is full of information and it's easily accessible. And sometimes there's a disconnect between the human piece in what tools we have and resources we have to make things simpler. You know, certainly there's been the advent of AI and ChatGPT and all the things that we've been talking about for probably the last six months. What I'm seeing is that people fail to put the human piece to all of recruiting. So are you sharing with the candidate what this what the Interview cycle is like, how long it is, how many people are going to be interviewing? Are you following up with them after they have a conversation with you and telling them what next steps are? Are you actually keeping your word? Are you ghosting them? Is there a clear process on, you know, who's in the room and why they're interviewing them and why it makes sense. And then is there a rubric to decide, okay, how are you ranking these people? It's not just something that's subjective. We actually have data that's supporting while we're making these decisions and we're being fair and equitable to every single person. And then once we make the offer, we're doing it in a way that you know, it excites the person and makes them want to be here. Also, even if we go back you know, are you giving the people the opportunity to see themselves in the role and get excited about it from the very, very beginning? So it's all about ensuring that you nurture that person from the very beginning of the process, all the way to when they're hired and they're on board and they'll continue that process through their employee life cycle.

Debkanya: 4:31

And you know, you're talking about the candidate experience itself, right? And you know, how there's so much work that needs to go into it. But I'm wondering a lot of people are talking about employee experience by itself and talking about, you know, they focus a lot on onboarding by itself, but the candidate experience begins way before that. Are enough companies paying enough attention to that fact?

Bill: 4:55

I think there's a bigger focus on it today than there may have been a few years ago. For sure. We have whole departments of employee experience and in practice and sometimes in theory people are walking the talk. So yeah, I think the simple answer is yes. If you want to get that deeper, maybe not as much as we would like it to be.

Kiran: 5:21

In your 20 years of experience or you know, from what you've seen, how has that changed? You said today they're doing it compared to maybe a couple of years ago. What has changed? Is it the data? Is it the technology?

Bill: 5:35

The awareness that employees really make the difference for us, they're the one differentiating factor that we have from our competitors. With that understanding, I think that a lot of employers are under, there are, they are seeking to ensure that the people that exist currently in their company are happy there. And what does that mean, Bill? It means that they're listening more, they're actually taking action upon the things that they hear, and they're constantly trying to readjust themselves to ensure that this is the place that people are delighted to come to work.

Kiran: 6:10

Right. And do you see that in specific industries, you know, is it more in the services industry where they think people are, you know, their asset, not a, it's not a product, right? People are the key kind of product in a services industry. Is that the case? Or are you seeing it across the board?

Bill: 6:29

You know, I think, you know, because we have the war for talent, that it's happening a lot more. You see it in tech, you see it. Yeah, in health care. You can also you do see it in manufacturing and construction and transportation as well. But I think as a whole, we're certainly trying to do the right thing as organizations see that have seen the shift between employer and employee over the last 3 to 4 years.

Debkanya: 6:56

You mentioned, you know, there's obviously the advent of AI, everyone's talking about AI, everyone's talking about ChatGPT, everyone's talking about how it's going to change things. And then, you know, there's this whole kind of slump that maybe it's not going to change so much, there's a lot happening and I'm sure you've seen enough. You know, changes in terms of the kind of technology that's being used, maybe from when you started to where you are today, you've seen how data, you know how much more data, for example, people have access to today, right, to make that experience better. What do you feel about that?

Bill: 7:32

Technology is advanced so much since when I started, I hate to say it, but so many decades ago. I remember collecting data, inputting it into Excel documents and trying to make sure that I could understand how many people are called a day. And what is the next step in the process? And now with applicant tracking systems and all the other tools that we have from a an HR tech stack. It makes it so simple and it's delightful in so many ways. And also sometimes it's frustrating, but I believe the question was like, is there value in tech today? I think it absolutely is. It makes us be more efficient and someone like me who's sort of old school, I can sort of, weave in and out between, you know, how we did it back in the day. When it really comes down to it and using the tools that we have to implement and sort of enhance what I already know.

Kiran: 8:24

Do you think there are too many tools in the world today?

Bill: 8:28

I mean as a whole yes.

Kiran: 8:32

Does that complicate the HR role even more I mean I when you started you said you were You know just putting data together from an excel sheet perspective but today you may have to log into 17 different systems to get the data you need about one individual. So do you think we're already beyond too much or, you know, are we at the right place? Where do you think we are?

Bill: 8:56

I think sometimes nostalgia plays a factor in a lot of things for all of us. We think we were so great way back when we did things and we knew every single employee here and, you know, I can just go into the filing cabinet. And, you know, dust something off and find out what I needed about somebody or ask Mary or Bob, whatever. You know, we're parts of that time. Great. Sure. But it was also we were younger and it was easier for me to retain things and, you know, add my processes. And now today I really can just log into whatever shared tech stack, you know, hopefully all of them talk to each other because they're using the same, you know, back end. I think it's great. But sometimes I also think we, from a personal perspective, we focus too much and don't sort of think critically about, you know, how we can make something better. It's not always about the tool. It's the human touch.

Debkanya: 9:51

What you were saying about the candidate experience and you know, I'm so glad that you're saying the companies are taking it more seriously and they are paying attention. But do you feel like often companies or employers, they drop the ball once, you know, they've moved on from once the candidate is in, once onboarding is done. Since you consult with a lot of companies what's your take on the way they look at employee experience as a whole? Is it's really new? Do you think it's growing?

Bill: 10:16

I think it's easy when anyone in your work world or in your personal world is already there. You forget about, why you were excited about them in the very first place. And so when an employee comes on board, there tends to be a lack of mentorship in helping them build connections. And really not tapping into perhaps an untapped potential that this person has because they're already here. They're doing the job that we hired them for. So let's just let them exist instead of thinking about the future for this employee. Is it in this department? Is it in this company? Maybe is it somewhere else? What are we doing to maximize who they are and enhance who they are? While they're here. Yeah. Yeah.

Debkanya: 11:03

That's exactly it. Like you roll out the red carpet and then you're in, like you said, you're there. And then you take the carpet back and you're going to roll it out for other people and forget about the guys are already in. Right. But then I think there's a lot more that the conversation that we're having today is because there's so much more focus on it, but do you still feel like, companies are able to get enough resources and budgets to be able to take care of the entire employee experience. Is that what's holding people back? Maybe?

Bill: 11:32

There's a bigger question there. I think many times when people think of human resources or, or people operations. It seems even still today that we're just a cost center. We're actually not valuable. We're just the people who make people do more work. And what are they really doing there? And we have all this power when in fact, that's actually completely false. Many times when you're, it's in the annual budget and you have to go into the room and talk about, what you want for the year, what you need for the year, what's going to help improve EX, what's going to help improve the culture. They look at you and say, why? And so I find at least in many instances, when I was working for a company, I had to fight and explain why this is valuable. So do you have the support of leadership? Not only, your other C suite peers, but also and especially important is, you know, the board and your CEO or chairman, right? They have to be 100 percent up behind you and understand that you do need this money to help drive engagement, enablement, performance, culture employee,happiness, eNPS, all the things that we care about in HR. And if you have that you're better than most, but, and I think that there's actually traction towards that happening. But it's incremental, and we have to continually have that conversation, and unfortunately for some, they need to see, you know, a failure in some, in one of those areas, and then finally get how we in HR are valued. We have no power. As much as people want to believe that HR made me do this, or HR did this, it's really not us. It is the CEO every single time he makes this decision. Just like there's an accountant, just like there's a salesperson, just like there's a marketing person who's responsible for their function of the job. We only do what we are told to do, but we just ensure that it's done the right way. If we do our job well, we have influence and we can say, hey, based on best practices here's my advice on how we can actually make this a softer blow. But that doesn't happen all the time with every single person who's in this space. For me, I personally care a lot about EX, and I want to ensure that if we have to have something that's negative in the organization, that we do it in the best way that we can, so people feel seen and heard and valued in spite of the bad that's happening.

Kiran: 13:58

We've we've spent so much time talking about EX and ROI. So we've talked about this multiple times about how EX can be a revenue enabler. And therefore, is that the right way to talk about ROI? Right. So in your opinion, Bill, one of the things, if you just talk about the talent acquisition side of things, and you talk about onboarding the time to productivity. Right. How long does it take for someone to get on boarded, productive and start contributing to the business? Now that's a pretty fundamental business metric. If you tell a consulting company, Hey, I'm going to get everyone through the door and get them productive on day 10 versus day 45, that's 35 days of ROI for the CFO and the CEO, right? Which they suddenly wake up and say, oh, wow, I'm gonna, I'm gonna go for that project if you can make that happen. Do you think that's the right way to approach it? Or what's your take on that?

Bill: 15:05

Yeah, I think the best way as a HR leader, practitioner, what you need that supports the organization is data. Data is always your friend, right? And so when you tell someone, Hey, poor employee experience increases turnover by one and a half to two times the salary of the person. That's something that's of value to a person. We, we always wanna talk about what the business outcomes are and, you know, how improved employee experience increases retention, performance, customer satisfaction. All those things are impacted when you have good EX. And when you follow that up. A new hire, you follow that new hire up with really good and strong onboarding. It's even better. In the data that says if a person has a poor onboarding experience, they're X times more likely to leave and X times more days. You just, you really just bombard them with data that you can support. And when they see this, hopefully they hear this and they can say, okay. We should invest, you know, X amount of dollars into this and see what happens. What's the worst that could happen? Hopefully, if you do your job well and you have the support from, the C suite and it's a consistent message, one message, one voice about what this means, you're going to have all those things improve. Over time, and always in your role, we should be reassessing like what worked, what didn't work, how can we improve, what's the feedback from the employees, the current employees, the people who've been here for 60 days, people who were, you know, just starting, always constantly improve this, and then share those numbers with the C suite and the senior leader. And if she thinks that you're doing well and sees that you're doing well, and you can back that up with, you know, empirical data, She's going to say, okay, let's invest more. I see what you're doing, Bill. This makes sense. And I can, I hear the satisfaction of our employees. I see that we have a lower attrition rate. I see that absenteeism is down. All these things matter. And so that's, the benefit of having a great source of data to help you support that.

Debkanya: 17:15

You know, one of the things we keep saying here at Tydy is that, EX is not just an HR problem. And that's exactly what you've touched upon as well, because it's so important to get buy in from leadership, as well as ensure that you are able to collaborate with all the other different players. Because at the end of the day, there are so many people involved in the experience. Is that a struggle for HR and EX leaders, the EX professionals to actually getting different departments and teams to actually work together in tandem.

Bill: 17:45

I believe so, and there's such a, sort of, it's a critical mass for a lot of people that, and I hate saying this out loud, that we're not the team players in HR. We're just out to whatever it might be, but it might have to do with, you know, competing priorities or a lack of budgets or really proving what our value is in HR and change management, change resistance. Those are all the things that I see when I walk into organizations and talking to clients. And so how do you break those things down? How do you share with them the value of you in the collective view and, how we can help the employee experience in the organization. So you connect the employee experience to business outcomes. Like I said earlier, retention and productivity and profitability. And then you use data from exit surveys to then help improve your engagement scores and identify whatever the issues might be happening and then, you know, continually help fix and improve these things, which then ultimately help drive business outcomes. And when you tell people this is more of, more of a basketball team than a golf game then they hopefully understand that we need to have really targeted solutions and collectively work together to, to socialize the success collectively in the organization. And then if you're really good at this, you can share, competitor data and their insights based on what they've done, and honestly, we're a very competitive world, so if, ABC company is doing something and they're a competitor well, we can do the same thing, and we can do it better than them. Yeah, as long as you can do these things, do it well, frame it well and, you know, incorporate storytelling into this I found that helps me as an HR leader be more successful.

Kiran: 19:41

When you go into, client environments today what are some of the top issues that you're talking about or, or hearing from companies?

Bill: 19:53

Some of the top things that I'm hearing right now. I guess big things would be How do we keep our current people happy? Some organizations are trying to figure out how to get people to come back into the office more regularly, which I think is a very bad idea. How do we communicate better and more effectively with our teams? Those are maybe the biggest three things that I see.

Kiran: 20:24

Wait, when you talk about communicate to teams and do it better, what would that usually mean? Is that like internal comms or is that more than just that? It's internal. It's external. It's, you know, it's trying to understand how do you maximize the communication with people who because honestly, most of my clients are remote or hybrid in some way. And so the ones that are 100 percent remote, it's always a challenge. Someone like myself who talks about the future of work and since I'm really good at helping and assisting clients, even I struggle sometimes with, how do I give them an answer when they say, Hey Bill, how do I increase engagement within my organization when we're 100 percent remote. What are some things that you can do? What are some things that you've done? And those are the kind of things that I hear a lot, and again, I struggle. I give what I think are good examples of what I do with my 100 percent remote team. But every organization is culturally different. So what works for the 10 of us at TPC doesn't necessarily work for you guys. Right? So it's constantly and I'm grateful for this that I can use technology to see what other organizations are doing to ask my cohorts and what they're doing. So it's that kind of communication. And it's also when it comes to change management, quite honestly, like I have a few clients that I'm working with right now, where change management is very, I can't say very enough times, hard. And and so it's about how you communicate effectively. It's not what you say, it's how you say it, and it's how many times that you say it. And so I always share with my clients that instead of being an effective communication plan prior to pushing the button on anything and cadence on everything as well. You know, if you're going to roll out a new comp plan, you need to think about how it's going to affect, my operations team, how it's going to affect my accounting team, how it's going to affect every other team, right? And so who do I need to speak to first, right? And then how do I need to speak to them? What do I need to address? What concerns do I need to make them feel better about? What things are going to happen now that would have not happened if we remained the same, right? It's always about an effective communication plan and it's how you say it, right? And it's, that, that matters the most. And if you have these things, then communication works more effectively. And I'm no miracle worker or any guru at all, but I have done this, hundreds and thousands of times and I've learned from really great mentors and from, all the stuff that I've read and actually implemented in real time. That's, I think that answers your question. Yeah, no, that does. And in fact, change management is perhaps extremely important, even when you think about technology, because the moment you deploy a piece of software or an app or anything, I think a lot changes, right? Workflows change, processes change. People have to change the way they've been doing work for the last two years, five years, 10 years, whatever it may be. And so we keep seeing change management being a huge challenge when you think about technology as well. It's not just about a process, but it's when you bring in a system, it fundamentally changes your organization. So there, I think communication plays a huge role in setting everyone up for success rather than, staying quiet, implementing a piece of software and then hoping things are going to change miraculously.

Debkanya: 23:59

Speaking of, you know, there's so much new technology out there today, especially for HR. I think ever since 2020 happened, I think there's been a lot more that we're seeing. What are you personally most excited about? Which piece of technology are really looking forward to using or are already using?

Bill: 24:19

I do love, and not a lot, it might be controversial, but I love AI where you can, if you have a, someone who's scaling rapidly, right? And you need to hire a lot of roles really quickly. And it's you have a set amount of questions that you can ask someone that sort of screens in the right people. If you have the right tools you can do a video interview with them. Takes them, a short amount of time. They can do it in their space at their time. It's, you know, you tell them, give a two minute answer, give a 90 second answer, hear the questions, they send it in, and you can really quickly go through and see, okay, this guy or girl looks like they could be a good fit for us. And so that's when you then have your recruiter call them and go through the next step. I like it a lot. It's a little bit controversial, but that's one of my things I really enjoy. I'm also pretty excited about like virtual reality. AI, machine learning is super fun. I recruit lots of data scientists and Ops people. And so having conversations with them about you know, the advancement and the work that goes into it. I can go on and on, but I think those are the things that I'm probably most excited about. What about you guys?

Kiran: 25:35

Maybe Oculus, all of us put on Oculus and then learn or go through a manufacturing unit and it's easier to learn the process. Maybe, I don't know.

Bill: 25:46

Yeah, just the concept of it just seems really, really amazing that, if you've ever done VR, it's, sometimes feel like you're really there. And that's the whole intent, obviously. Right. So I love the potential, something that we could do there. Maybe it could help with training. Maybe it could help with feeling like you're, with other people if you're remote. There's, maybe that, that those, there's a potential, but my brain's not big enough to actually create that, that, that space for that.

Debkanya: 26:12

You said you recruit a lot of HR folks, right? People,

Bill: 26:16

I have a team, a huge team for myself, but I recruit a lot of people in the tech space. So you know, engineers, data engineers, data scientists, so that's a lot of people that I recruit.

Debkanya: 26:29

You know, we're talking about like HR professionals who are starting out today, what would you say to them? Is there any specific advice? Because suddenly you're expected to do a lot more than people management, right? There's a, there's so much more to it. And, someone we spoke to said that, HR professional should not be expected to just come in and take on EX because it's a different animal altogether. So similarly what are the kind of skills that you're looking at in HR or looking to hire someone in HR?

Bill: 26:59

Yeah, just certainly be able to turn on a keyboard and a computer and send an email. Those are the basics. Data literacy is really important. You know, looking at metrics you know, HR metrics are important. Be able to break it down, communicate it effectively, and not just say here's a spreadsheet. Find the data yourself. You know, being able to understand the business as well as HR. A lot of people who are in HR are just really good at HR, but they don't understand the business, so they can't sit at the table with a person who runs a line of business. And talk about and be a thought partner with them on their business. So solid business acumen is important and being able to be an effective storyteller and having design thinking. Those are really important compliance has always been a big thing, and DEI-understanding of the impact of, you know, your job posting and the way that you write it and, you know, understanding that culture add trumps culture fit every single time and coaching and development. These are all areas that are important for a person who is currently in HR and are looking to come to HR to be really well versed in.

Kiran: 28:18

Bill it's been fantastic. Just a quick kind of summary from you. What are we going to see in 2024? And 2025?

Bill: 28:28

It's funny you ask this question because I was actually contemplating the last couple days to try to get ahead of the pack and give what my, what I think my, what's the word I'm looking for? Projections are. And I wish I would have done this so I could have a really good answer for you. But some of the things that I think are going to happen is just obviously the continuation of of all things AI. That's going to be a big thing. I think more of a focus, and there's going to be a push and pull between, back to office versus virtual versus hybrid. That's going to continue to be a thing. I think the next few years. Gratefully, maybe the employees will win. And so will the employers I might leave it there. But, you know, I can certainly come back to you with, you know, all my things and I'll write something about it in the next couple of weeks. And you'll be like, I know I remember Bill told me about that. But those things I think are probably there.

Debkanya: 29:19

You know, hoping that employees win out because employers will win automatically as well. But, you know, I think it's going to and I know Kiran believes this as well. It's hybrid all the way. What's your take? Is it going to stay like that?

Bill: 29:32

I think the data supports it. And it's if you can make your employees delighted to work for your organization. This is an easy one for you. What is the hang up? What is the problem? Frankly, what I've seen and it could be controversial. I honestly don't care. The people who want people to come back to work are managers. Are people who own real estate where their buildings are empty. People who are honestly my age or older who don't think that someone can be effective in their role if they're not being micromanaged. People who feel that they're not able to effectively do their job because they don't have someone to hover over. These are all things that I've seen. There could be other things as well, but I think it's going to be hybrid all the way. There's a clear reason why someone has to come into the office and it's not fake. Like culture. And I could probably talk about that for hours. My next book is going to be about this. But you have to give employees a reason to want to come into the office. And a paycheck is not that reason. What is the value of them being in the same space with other people? And actually are they in the same space with other people? Or are they doing exactly in the office what they could do exactly at home? I'm in my office. I'm one of 10 people. I'm having video meetings with the other people. At their homes. Why am I doing this? And for us, we have off sites every few months with people that work with me and that works. And I pay the expense and it works you know, from a capital perspective, like it's actually less expensive. I can talk about this forever. As you can see, I'm being really riled up about it, but I think hybrid all the way, in my opinion, and I think it's actually great for the employees. It's an easy win. And when you see people who are forcing people back into the office, and then they're having the attrition happen at the rate that they're having it happen, they realize Oh my God, fake. I'm sorry. I was psych. It was a joke. Everybody back to remote. You know, that's that's my thought. That's my thought.

Kiran: 31:41

Thank you so much for spending time with us and talking about EX and where you think it's going to be going. As always, thank you to Debbie, my co host for being a part of it.

Debkanya: 31:51

I enjoyed this conversation a lot. Yeah, all the best with your book, by the way, before we go away

Bill: 31:57

Oh, thanks so much. It's it's a joy. I'm super, super happy that I wrote it. I'm glad that it's getting great reviews. And so thanks for having me on and letting me talk about something that I really enjoy and I hope that it added value for you and for your listeners.

Kiran: 32:10

Absolutely. Thank you so much, Bill. And for anyone who's not read Don't Suck at Recruiting, please go get that book and we'll see you the next time.

Bill: 32:19

Thanks so much. Cheers to you guys. Bye bye