Walking the Walk of ‘Conscious Capitalism’ and Other Thoughts From Austin

Screen Shot 2015-03-15 at 3.54.49 PMIf you’ve never visited the Whole Foods World Headquarters in Austin, Texas, drop by sometime. The location is a blend of shopping and office space and serves as a remarkable example of what a grocer can and should be. Oh, and if you’ve never read the company’s Declaration of Interdependence, read that too. It’s powerful. It’s more than a mission statement. It’s a call to arms for health, quality, and good intentions.

This company is doing more than selling us great food. It’s teaching us how to walk the walk of “conscious capitalism,” which is why its headquarters was an ideal meeting place for like-minded individuals to gather and discus topics ranging from employee engagement and employer branding to corporate culture and conscious leadership.

On Friday I had the privilege of joining Craig Fisher and his merry band of thought leaders for an event called TalentNet, powered by Dice. Whole Foods leaders Andres Traslavina, global talent recruiter, and Natalie Kerrigan, ?director of customer data and digital engagement, kicked things off and brought attendees up to speed on what an enlightened work environment looks like. Natalie discussed Whole Foods’ six stakeholders (environment, suppliers, community, customers, team-members, and shareholders) and gave a wink and a nod to the talent acquisition professionals in the room by stating: “I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for recruiters.”

She also shared a touching story about the early days of Whole Foods, explaining that shortly after the company opened its first store a flood devastated the Austin area, it didn’t look like the small company would survive the carnage, with  losses approaching nearly half a million dollars. As cleanup was underway employees began to notice more and more hands helping out in the store and workers began asking each other who these additional helpers were. The answer was heartwarming. They were customers. They were people volunteering their time for a brand they believed in. And these customers let Whole Foods know: “We need you here. You have to survive.”

Companies that have this kind of connection and impact with the people they sell to are few and far between and making an impact seemed to be an underlying theme of the entire event.

Early in the day Gerry Crispin addressed the assembly and described himself as the oldest student in the room. It’s incredible to hear someone with his level of knowledge and expertise remind us that we all have things we can learn and areas where we can improve. He talked about the progress made with the CandE Awards. I was impressed to learn that recently about 150 companies out of the 200 companies that participated got their candidates to take a mirror-survey, resulting in 95,000 completed candidate surveys. It’ll be interesting to hear more as the data is distilled. A notable take-away from Crispin was the influence of perceived fairness on candidate experience. Candidates who are interviewing for a position yet end up not receiving an offer are much more likely to walk away from the experience with positive feelings if they feel like they got an honest chance at bat. If they get to step up to the plate and end up striking out, it’s okay as long as the process was fair.

One way to deliver this fairness is to always have interviewers ask candidates if there are any questions they may have forgot to ask. Recruiters should be guided to ask things like “Is there anything else we should know about you that you would like us to consider?” Inquiries like this empower candidates and make a tremendous impact at a subjective and emotional level.

Later in the day Nicole Lindenbaum, marketing manager at Jibe, joined Matt Charney and Lars Schmidt on stage to discuss data driven recruiters. Marketers of the world have always had a tight relationship with analytics, but the world is now seeing the importance of data drift into the realms of talent acquisition. It was mentioned that 25 percent of companies don’t track source of hire and that alarmingly 40 percent of companies don’t measure cost per hire.

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Charney professed that one of the most effective ways for recruiters to justify their existence within an organization is to be able to illustrate where they are saving a company money and how much is actually being saved. Linking hiring to revenue and business goals is critical, he says. He also cautioned the audience to not fall down rabbit holes of metrics, inviting the group to consider the impacts of Taylorism, he said, “You might as well say the world is flat if you’re going to say that measuring everything is going to improve it.”

The discussion was interesting, without a doubt, and I think my favorite piece of dialogue was when Kyle Lagunas said, “The data-driven recruiter is even more rare than the purple squirrel talent.”

One of the highlights of the day was getting to sit down and catch up with Ambrosia Vertesi, global VP of talent at Hootsuite. She and a couple of her recruiters were in town for TalentNet and some of the SXSW activities. I’m a fan of the team and I think it’s doing some of the coolest stuff around in terms of talent attraction and employee engagement. It has  some outstanding projects on the horizon and Ambrosia definitely has her work cut out for her. I have no doubt she’ll be successful. It will be interesting to check-in with her in a few months and see how everything is coming along.

Be sure to mark your calendar for ERE’s upcoming events: SourceCon in Seattle, the ERE Recruiting Conference in San Diego, and the High Performance Workforce Summit in Atlanta. Our team is partnering with some of the best organizations the HR and talent space has ever seen, including NASA, Pandora, Amazon, and Lockheed Martin.

Joshua Jones is director, talent solutions with ERE Media. He supports conferences and publications focused on human resources, talent acquisition, and talent management. Prior to joining ERE Media, he dedicated nearly seven years as a recruiter and sourcer to tackling hiring challenges for companies and organizations nationwide.

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