Caroline Tien-Spalding - Michael Collins - David Kirven
February 25, 2022

Recruit, Retain, Rejoice: Upping Employee Experience

Guest: Caroline Tien-Spalding - Michael Collins - David Kirven - CMOs, Aptology - CFA Institute - Reltio

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What’s a B2B brand without employees? In a word, nothing. They are the lifeblood of any company—the ones who execute brilliant strategy, the ones who take care of your customers, the ones who represent your brand to the world. That’s what makes a renewed focus on employee experience (EX for short) so important, especially when The Great Resignation is a very real challenge today.

In this episode, CMOs David Kirven of Reltio, Caroline Tien-Spalding of Aptology, and Michael Collins of CFA Institute share how their organizations are approaching employee retention, as well as how they are optimizing the recruiting process to bring on great employees faster. The show also covers the role brand plays in EX, what we can learn from people data, and the unique role C-Suite leaders play in recruiting and retention. Tune in!

What You’ll Learn in This Episode

  • Useful employee retention tips to apply to your B2B organization
  • How 3 CMOs are optimizing the recruiting process
  • The role brand plays in recruiting and retention

Renegade Marketers Unite, Episode 281 on YouTube

Resources Mentioned

Time-Stamped Highlights

  • [0:00] Cold Open: This is Renegade Marketers Live
  • [1:43] David Kirven on Retention: Branding, Recharge Days, Skip Levels
  • [8:52] Caroline Tien-Spalding on Retention: Empowerment, Career Pathing, Empathy
  • [15:58] Michael Collins’ on Retention: Perks, Global Fun Day, An Open Door
  • [22:18] On Building and Maintaining Employee Morale
  • [26:08] On CMO Huddles
  • [27:52] This recruiting firm in Utah provides tips for optimizing your recruiting process
  • [38:41] Tying Together Brand Marketing, Recruiting, and Retention
  • [42:37] CMO Words of Wisdom: Retention and Recruiting

Transcript Highlights: Drew Neisser in conversation with David Kirven, Caroline Tien-Spalding, and Michael Collins

[0:00] Cold Open: This is Renegade Marketers Live

Drew Neisser: Hello, Renegade Marketers! Welcome to Renegade Marketers Unite, the top-rated podcast for B2B CMOs and other marketing-obsessed individuals. If you’re a first-time listener, welcome! If you’ve been here before, welcome back! You’re about to listen to a recording of Renegade Marketers Live, our live show featuring the CMOs of CMO Huddles, a community that’s sharing, caring, and daring each other to greatness every day of the week.

In this one, I had the pleasure of speaking with David Kirven of Reltio, Caroline Tien-Spalding of Aptology, and Michael Collins of the CFA Institute, 3 savvy CMOs who share their tips for tackling one of the biggest challenges facing CMOs today: Keeping employees in the face of The Great Resignation.

Tune in to learn all about how these different brands are focusing on creating great employee experiences, with a ton of actionable retention tips and a discussion on how to optimize your recruiting efforts. Now let’s get to it. I hope you enjoy the episode.

[1:43] David Kirven on Retention: Branding, Recharge Days, Skip Levels

“It starts with this idea of the brand, and this idea of being a purpose-driven brand where people want to be a part of something bigger than themselves. You really have to foster that and let it flourish.” —David Kirven @Reltio Click To Tweet

Drew Neisser: I’m your host, Drew Neisser, live from my home studio in New York City. It’s the rare newscast that doesn’t make mention of the great resignation or the growing labor shortage.

For CMOs, this hits home in a number of ways: Raising departmental costs to either keep employees, recruit new ones, or outsource more. It’s slowing down deliverables and generally mucking up the works. The problem is so widespread that it was raised as a pressing topic at all four of our huddles in October.

As such, we invited three of our huddlers to share their thoughts on the extent of the challenge and how they’re addressing it at their organizations. With that, let’s bring on David Kirven, CMO of Reltio. Hello, David!

David Kirven: Hey, Drew, how are you? Thanks for having me on!

Drew Neisser: I’m so excited to have you on, this as your first whether it’s Renegade Thinkers, Renegade, Marketers.

David Kirven: I know.

Drew Neisser: It’s exciting that you’re here. I’m curious, give us an overview of the retention and recruitment issues you’re facing at Reltio whether it’s on a departmental level or an organizational level?

David Kirven: Yeah, I think like most companies, we’re seeing the competitive challenges for sure. Both the marketplace, and you’re really starting to see the market continuing to evolve. We’d like to think that we’re the company people are leaving their companies to go to. That’s not always the case, but we certainly strive for that.

I think there’s some unique challenges for marketing that I’ve seen, which is really finding those that have that deep digital expertise and skill sets at the same time having those critical strategic skills for those key roles. And finding and mapping those.

I think on the retention side, organizationally, we’re actually doing a little bit better than we thought against some of the benchmarks. I think we’re continually pressed, particularly when you start to think about some of the global challenges at the organizational basis.

But I think it’s still one of those things where, you know, if anything, this has taught us you can’t be lazy in regard to really focusing in on the well-being of employees, and really focusing in on ensuring that they are engaged and you’re engaging with them every day. And also, you’re setting up an environment where they can do the best work of their career.

Drew Neisser: I love that, the best work of their career. But as I’m thinking about retention specifically, I’m just thinking about remote work and the fact that you’re not seeing your employees every day. It’s harder to give the classic attaboys. It’s harder to have a water cooler conversation or, “Hey, let’s go grab lunch!” kind of thing.

So, I’m wondering, as you talk about you’ve done better than you thought at retention, what kinds of things are you doing that seemed to be working for you, or are you trying in retention?

David Kirven: Yeah, you’ve said this, and I’ve heard this on other shows as well. It starts with what binds you together, right? It starts with this idea of the brand, and this idea that when you’ve got a purpose-driven brand that people want to be a part of something bigger than themselves, and that binds them together. You really have to foster that. You really have to let it continue to kind of flourish a bit.

We’re going through that, right now, where we’re repositioning the brand, and we’ve been bringing employees on and engaging them all along the way the entire journey. That’s been super exciting to do because it allows them to feel a part of that transformation that we’re trying to make.

And I think the other is that for us, employees have been top of the mind as we’ve been doing that brand work, so that we really are creating that employer brand that they want to be a part of. And again, it goes back to, am I creating the environments that allow them to do that best work as possible? And I think too is, part of that is you still have to really work the challenges of us being a dispersed organization.

We focus on those recharge days every single week, thinking about ensuring for me that I’ve got a formalized skip level, that I’m engaging with all levels of the organization on a regular basis where it’s that continual kind of connection.

And then I think the other is rethinking your perks, the employee benefits and perks. We haven’t done this, but I heard this just yesterday, where a company basically offered—I think it was like $20 to $40 in Grubhub credit to get your snacks and food that you would have picked up at the office free and have it there. I just think there are some things where you have to be really creative when thinking about the different environments and the well-being aspects.

Drew Neisser: Well, there’s a lot to unpack there. Of course, I can’t but help show my book for a second. The reason I have to because you did a couple things. It’s funny, I don’t talk about this enough in the book, but one is this notion of welcoming we and that if you’re going to be an artful CMO, you have to engage employees.

But what I heard you say and is so interesting—just the aspect of asking employees to participate is part of the rebranding process. And I know I talk a lot about that in the book, but what you really brought to the fore there is that there’s just a value in the process. That alone is a thing that makes them feel a little bit more valued at the company. “Oh, you asked me for my opinion?”

David Kirven: Right. Yeah, well, I try to avoid any “Ta-das.” You know what I mean, we hate “Ta-das.” What we want is: You’ve been a part of it, you’ve been working with us and part of that journey. And, you know, you’ve got to manage that because not everyone thinks they’re an engineer, but almost everyone thinks they’re a marketer. You’ve got to balance that input, but I think welcoming it and engaging employees has been really another way to ensure they’re feeling a part of that mission or purpose.

Drew Neisser: Right. Everyone feels like they’re a marketer which they’re not. But on the other hand, we want everybody to feel like they’re a part of the brand, they’re part of the company. And there’s a little slight distinction there, but it is interesting that the solution here that we’re going to be talking a lot about and I think we’re going to just keep coming back to today is that brand matters in this conversation about retention and recruiting.

I just want to clarify a couple things that you’ve mentioned. You mentioned recharge days and skip levels. What are recharge days?

David Kirven: I think where, you know, for us, it started out with no-meeting Fridays. Allowing people to have that breathing room where they’re not on Zoom, they get to step back and be able to think about the business in broader and bigger ways without being in meetings and tactical execution every single day is a part of that.

Drew Neisser: Okay, so that’s recharge Fridays, and then skip level is just you having a conversation with someone or making someone available a rung below your direct reports.

David Kirven: Absolutely. I mean, you always want to be available, but I think making sure that that’s an intimate part of your calendar and how you spend your time… If you think about where you’re going to spend your time, making sure you’re allocated enough to ensure you’re having those everyday conversations that aren’t happening every day in the office, but you kind of need to make them happen on a proactive basis, I guess.

Drew Neisser: Okay. Well, that’s a great snapshot. We’re going to come back to you.

[8:52] Caroline Tien-Spalding on Retention: Empowerment, Career Pathing, Empathy

“If we're data driven, we need to understand that people data is going to be central. There's no company without people.” —Caroline Tien-Spalding @APTOLOGY1 Click To Tweet

Drew Neisser: Let’s bring on Caroline Tien-Spalding, CMO of Aptology, and star of episodes 214 and 246 of Renegade Marketers Unite. Hello, Caroline.

Caroline Tien-Spalding: Hello.

Drew Neisser: Ça va?

Caroline Tien-Spalding: Ça va bien.

Drew Neisser: Very good. Nice to have you back. Now, David described some of the issues that they’re facing and I’m just curious, what’s the story at Aptology?

Caroline Tien-Spalding: Yeah, I mean, we see it across our customer base. I think there’s actually a really interesting dichotomy almost whereas we’ve gone remote, we’ve gone digital. And I think if you’re in the C-level, you kind of like that because you’re getting a lot of analytics. You get to see what’s going on at a macro level, that might have been harder in-person only.

But ironically, the other side of it is that your frontline managers are really struggling. So, all the issues that were discussed in terms of connecting with your employees, really having visibility into what’s going on, not just quantitatively, but qualitatively, has gotten exponentially harder.

And I think the job of frontline manager across the organization has gotten that much harder. Especially if you yourself just got into a new job as a frontline manager, understanding the organization, understanding your team, and then trying to build rapport up and sideways… I think that’s where there’s going to be change because organizations will be blind if they don’t empower their frontline managers.

Drew Neisser: Interesting. Okay. So, if they’re not empowered, they’re gonna leave faster and so we have a retention problem.

Caroline Tien-Spalding: The entire frontline below them is going to leave. So, your workers are definitely at risk if you don’t empower your frontline managers and managers themselves.

And then we see that in sales organizations. Specifically in marketing, for us marketers, what’s interesting is we’re starting to see more and more marketers get sales or frontline revenue positions folded under them, like the SDRs, the BDRs of the world.

How do you empower frontline managers to your frontline? To your customers? We’re getting closer and closer to customers, so the stakes are rising for us in terms of our ability to make those people effective, happy, and retain them because they will know the most about your customer base.

I think we need to be very creative about that, about how we look at fit—I think there was an Aberdeen report that showed that people who are a great fit in the job increased revenue for their company 95%. Some ridiculous number that’s unbelievable, right? People are really thinking about fit. They’re like, “How do I empower my managers? How do I empower more diverse candidates to come in, diverse backgrounds?”

I mean, I think a lot of barriers have been lifted now, so from a geo perspective, from a background perspective, we have the tools to get people into great fits into their job where they’re happier.

I think that was one thing that stuck out for me in the October huddles: Everybody knows salary is not the number one reason people stay. It’s needed; we need to eat; we need to pay rent. But it’s not the number one reason people stay.

I think a lot of leaders are wondering, “Okay, well, that’s great. I mean, one less conversation to have with the CFO, I guess, but what else is at my disposal? What are my levers?” One of them is thinking creatively about career pathing, being very proactive, and showing people their path and how diverse it could be.

It’s also not linear necessarily. An SDR may not want to be an AE. You do see SDRs moving into demand gen positions in marketing, specifically in marketing. So, I think there’s a change in how we’re going to approach career pathing and discuss it inside the company to be able to move the needle on retention.

Drew Neisser: Okay, so that was one thing, and we’re kind of focusing this part on retention. We’ll get to recruiting because that’s a whole other ball of wax, but on retention—so we’ve got career pathing. Obviously hire better, so you get the right people in there. But what else are you trying that’s actually working or kind of working on the retention front if it’s not throwing more money at people?

Caroline Tien-Spalding: I think it’s really having that discussion on career pathing. So, having a very honest conversation on where do you want to go? It doesn’t have to be your 10-year career plan necessarily, but I think it’s a very in-depth discussion because I think when you’re in leadership, you don’t always remember how confusing it was at different levels. What does it take to get to the next level if that’s what I want? Or if that’s not what I want and I want to move laterally, what would it take?

I think it’s giving people those opportunities to let you know what their questions are on where they want to go, and then you can help guide them and make them a path. In our case, it’s, “Oh well, here’s what a comprehensive marketing background looks like if you want to advance, so here are the current holes. How do we get you working on these holes right now?”

So, let’s say you do email marketing, and you want to become a manager. Well, you will need to pick up more vertical knowledge. Email alone is not going to be enough. So how do we get you working on SEO? How do we get you working on webinars? Really making them see the difference between the target state and where they are now, whether that’s within their function or outside of the function as well.

And I think smaller companies will probably have an advantage that way because there’s a lot more lateral possibilities, there are so many holes. But I think larger companies try as well.

I remember at Intel, there were formal programs to plug in to a completely different role for eight weeks helping fill a gap either for someone taking a sabbatical or otherwise, and really being able to step into a new role so that you can start building those blocks to move laterally if that’s what you want to do.

Drew Neisser: Yeah, and as I’m hearing you talk, I am thinking this feels very personal and this doesn’t feel like something a big company’s going to be able to do.

Caroline Tien-Spalding: I think some of them try! I think some of them try.

Drew Neisser: Okay, but it also speaks to—and I know we’ve had a chance to talk over it, that you are a highly empathetic person who thinks about the people that work for you. And I wonder, not everybody is you, so this paying attention to your employees and really thinking about their careers as the ultimate glue is certainly one thing that you can do. I wonder is that a company-wide thing?

Caroline Tien-Spalding: Is it a superpower?

Drew Neisser: Yeah, I think it’s a superpower for you, so no one else has a chance.

Caroline Tien-Spalding: What’s my kryptonite? No. I think that companies are trying to figure out the resignation piece and I think personalized employee experiences are where it’s going. I don’t think you have a choice. You don’t have to be “Caroline empathetic,” certainly. But I think that if—

Drew Neisser: It would help!

Caroline Tien-Spalding: It would help. But if you ignore it entirely, I think employees will make the choice, right? And you may not like the outcome.

I think if we’re data driven, we need to understand that people data is going to be central. I mean, there’s no company without people. Maybe one day the bots will run it and then maybe I’ll be out having a cocktail somewhere on an island—that’d be great.

But until then, our people are our company, they’re what build the products, it’s what services our customers, it’s our face, it’s our voice. And I love that chapter in your book about the role of employees in branding and in marketing because people are essential.

I do think you don’t have to be “Caroline empathetic,” but I think you do have to have an idea of how people data is going to help the company. And if you choose for it to be a blind spot, I think you’re gonna have to live with the consequences. You’re not gonna like that so much, though…

Drew Neisser: No, I think you’re right.

[15:58] Michael Collins on Retention: Perks, Global Fun Day, An Open Door

“You have to use a number of tactics, not just one. All of these things that we're all talking about go beyond compensation.” —@CollinsMichael @CFAInstitute Click To Tweet

Drew Neisser: We’re going to bring in Michael Collins now. We’ll be back with Caroline in a few minutes. So, Michael Collins, CMO of CFA Institute and star of episode 236 of Renegade Marketers Unite. Hello, Michael!

Michael Collins: Hey, Drew, good to see you again. Both of us in New York today, so that’s great.

Drew Neisser: Well, now you have heard what David said, what Caroline said, and the challenges they’re facing and how they’re doing it. What’s similar or different for what you’re facing at CFA?

Michael Collins: I mean, it’s exactly the same thing. We actually see—I mean, it hasn’t accelerated to a fever pitch yet, but we do see people making changes, and what we want to do is make sure they’re making those changes to grow in their career inside of the organization versus leaving us, right? We invest so much in talent. I think both David and Caroline had excellent points.

Just to pick up on what Caroline was talking about, career pathing, and making it personal, right? That you really, even if you don’t have all the empathy genes that Caroline has, that you take the time to really start to build a relationship with each of your colleagues versus thinking of them as just players on a board.

Drew Neisser: What kinds of things have you been doing or trying, specifically in marketing and perhaps company-wide, on a retention level? I’m assuming that you’re feeling the pressure of The Great Resignation has touched your organization the way it’s touched other companies and you’re finding that retention is a higher priority than it might have been three years ago.

Michael Collins: Absolutely. I mean, that classic overused term, but the war for talent is definitely on. Organization-wide, we’ve done a number of things that we started during the pandemic besides great pay, great bonuses, great benefits, etc., great working conditions.

One, like David was mentioning about recharge days, so we had six bonus days that people could take within periods of time. It wasn’t like, save all six up and take them in November, right? We would have a six-week window where people could take a day in addition to their vacation. So that’s kind of like a play on David’s theme of the recharge days.

We also, just yesterday—we started this a couple of years ago—celebrated Global Fun Day. That’s around the world—we operate in every region in the world—where the teams can pick what they want to do for their fun day. It could be 90 minutes to recharge and do something on your own, it could be a team activity, it could be any number of things.

We use Yammer as our internal social media, so people post photos of themselves doing stuff with themselves or their families or things to recharge. And we just gave everyone, because we’re not in offices, a $200, grossed up so they don’t have to cover any tax, payment.

The only rule on that is that they use it for themselves or a friend or a family, right? Something that’s fun. So, we’ve tried to do a number of things like that, in addition to solving it with money.

But I have to say, working with the teams—working with individual team members on—as Caroline was saying, on what are their career goals, even if it’s over the next 12 months. We do [inaudible], right? So, people can apply for roles, you know, six, eight-week, ten-week, twelve-week roles in other parts of the organization so they get a chance with no risk to go try another team.

Drew Neisser: Try before you buy? Oh, cool!

Michael Collins: Right! So maybe in marketing, you want to go work in exam administration, or maybe you’re in the global customer care center, and you want to try an analyst or have a role in finance. We post those roles internally as an opportunity to augment a team—because work shifts around, right? Not every team is 100% busy all the time.

And again, I think we have to use, as Caroline and David were saying, you have to use a number of tactics, not just one. But you know, all of these things that we’re all talking about go beyond compensation.

The other thing we do is we really work hard across our leadership team and then each of our leaders on those skip level meetings. I do rounds of virtual coffees where I mix those up between levels and groups inside of marketing and customer experience.

There’s usually six to eight people per meeting for an hour as David was talking about. And you’ve got to get them scheduled. I try to make it through the entire team 2 to 3 times a year at all levels. It’s not easy. As David was saying, you have to make it a priority on your calendar. But it really pays dividends because you’re not getting a chance to see people when you’re traveling to your various offices.

Drew Neisser: And I wonder—so as I’m thinking about the time, how many people do you have on your team?

Michael Collins: All in probably about 130.

Drew Neisser: Right, 130 people, and you want to see them in batches of sixes two to three times a year. That’s a lot of meetings and so…

Michael Collins: That’s 20 hours over four months. So, if you did it three times a year within a four-month window—I usually do them in concentrated windows, but that’s roughly 20 hours every four months.

Drew Neisser: And it’s a priority. I talk about clearing the way the clutter, but clearing away the clutter… So if you put that on your calendar, and you say, “I’m going to do all those meetings,” I’m not doing something else. How are you able to find the time to do that which you know is a priority instead of something else? What comes off?

Michael Collins: Well, I don’t know that anything comes off. I think I’m lucky that I have a great direct report team, right? I think it probably depends on the size of the organization. I do think skip levels and all these things work even in large organizations, like when I was at JP Morgan or at Rockefeller or at other spots where you have thousands of people.

I mean, you wouldn’t be seeing all thousand people on your team, but you would be counting on your direct reports team to layer that down and expand that out. I would say, mainly, it’s just allowing your leaders to lead and is something I write and speak about. I think it’s difficult for some leaders to let their leaders lead, but it really frees you up if you do.

Drew Neisser: Yeah. Some CEOs I hope would be listening because there are some CEOs out there who don’t let their leaders lead.

Michael Collins: I want to chime in. One thing just to pick up on that comment. So our CEO, she’s fantastic, and she actually does this as well. She does skip levels not just with my direct reports, but with also some other key roles that may be embedded in the teams.

She leads by example, and I think you’re absolutely right. I mean, what’s that old saying? Tone at the top. She definitely walks the walk and we try to do that as well. But it is a commitment and hey, we don’t always get it right.

Drew Neisser: Right.

Michael Collins: Oh, man, you know, we keep track, like some people can’t come because they’ve got a meeting or they’re sick or they’ve took a day off and you’re supposed to have a coffee chat of nine and you end up with five and you’re like okay, those four get added to another one. I think the other thing is letting people know that your door is virtually always open.

We have, for my team, global town halls. Our leadership team participates, rotates through other leaders’ town halls. And I end every one of my town halls with my mobile phone number. It’s online, it’s on Outlook, but I always try to make the point anybody can reach me at any time. There’s no excuse for someone to feel alone or to feel like they don’t have a direct channel to.

[22:18] On Building and Maintaining Employee Morale

“The fastest way to make your high performers upset is when you don't address underperformance elsewhere in the organization.” —David Kirven @Reltio Click To Tweet

Drew Neisser: Why don’t we bring it in the whole group on this, because I’m curious if your CEOs, like Michael was describing, have embraced this challenge that we’re facing, which is, retention is everybody’s priority.

Because, look, a few years back, you might have said, “Look, we can find other talent. There’s good people out there, but we can always get more.” How important that is that your boss or the whole C-Suite embrace that retention is a top organizational priority.

David Kirven: I would say Chris definitely does this. I think in two aspects. Obviously, the personal way of being able to spend time with small groups or individuals. But the other is just, you know, folks want to have transparency about what’s going on, right? How are we thinking? What’s next? Where are we thinking about the strategy?

Chris Hylen, our CEO, just does a fantastic job of being transparent. He’s got every single week—or it’s every other week, Coffee with Chris. It’s just that transparency of letting everyone know,  “Here’s what we’re thinking, Here’s what’s next. Here’s how we’re talking about it. I don’t have this answered yet, but this is the type of thing we’re gonna focus in on.”

And then bringing in others, outside speakers or different leaders in to give them exposure from across the organization. Those are all things that just help instill that sense of we’re all part of this purpose and I know what’s going on.

Drew Neisser: It’s so interesting, as I’m hearing you all. And I’m thinking, if you had a CEO who wasn’t doing some of these things, this would be a gift that you might be able to give them in terms of how they communicate with their organization because communication is clearly part of this. You don’t want to do the mushroom treatment. David, you’re bringing that home pretty clearly.

I’m wondering now in this notion of retention—and this is sort of a bizarre question, but you don’t always want to retain every employee. I’m wondering and it just occurred to me that there may be some people that you’re hanging on to just because it’s so darn hard to replace them.

I’m curious if there’s, “I’m gonna make everybody I have work, because finding a new person…” Is there any of that going on? And I know that’s a hard one to say because hopefully your employees are listening to this and they don’t want to be that one. But let’s talk in a general basis, somehow.

Michael Collins: I’ll jump in. We don’t do that. We really try to ensure that we have people in the right role for them. That’s where some of this experimentation comes in. But if you get to a point where you figure out—and usually, you both figure it out at the same time. Usually.

Once in a while, your colleague on your team may be very surprised, but typically they’re not because we practice this thing called fierce feedback. We’re very direct. We assume best intent, that people are doing their best, and we try to find spots for them. But if not, then we make a change regardless of if it’s going to be tricky because that’s where our agencies come in to play, using freelancers or contingent workers come into play.

There’s always a solve even if it costs you a little more money in the short term, but I mean, it costs a lot more than that, not just from a financial point of view, but for morale, and for the rest of the team, right?

If they see someone skating by and not participating or not working up to their potential, it starts to drag everybody down. That to me is a bigger cost, psychologically, then someone having to do the hard work of transitioning someone out of the organization.

David Kirven: Well, I was just gonna say, the fastest way to make your high performers upset is when you don’t address underperformance elsewhere in the organization. I think for you to be able to have and create a high performing team, that performance management doesn’t go away. You gotta actively really go after it no matter what the outside market looks like.

[26:08] On CMO Huddles

“Even if you miss an actual live session, just the capture you guys do, the notes, the tidbits, the takeaways, just super valuable.” —David Kirven @Reltio Click To Tweet

Drew Neisser: Well, speaking of high-performance team, this is a perfect point for me to plug CMO Huddles for a second. Launched in 2020, CMO Huddles is an invitation-only subscription service that brings together an elite group of CMOs to share, care, and dare each other to greatness.

One CMO described huddles as timely conversations with smart peers and trusted environment, while another called it a cross between an expert workshop and a therapy session.

If you’re a B2B CMO that can share, care, and dare with the best of them, visit cmohuddles.com or send me an email to see if you qualify for a guest pass. And since we have David Caroline, and Michael here, does this match at all with your experience of CMO Huddles?

Caroline Tien-Spalding: Absolutely.

Caroline Tien-Spalding: I was gonna comment on the therapy. I mean, yeah, definitely. No, I mean, from the CFO discussions that we had, really good perspective on CFOs at different stages, all the way to an empathetic ear on organizational issues or, to piggyback on what both other panelists said, the cultural contamination that happens when you have performance issues that you have to address either in your organization or directly in your team or across teams.

It’s been a great resource, and because it’s so small, it’s the kind of conversations you can only really have in that environment on the questions where you’re not sure and things that can’t always be discussed in a larger group. Very valuable.

Drew Neisser: There we go.

David Kirven: Well, I was just gonna say even if you miss an actual live session, just the capture you guys do, the notes, the tidbits, the takeaways, just super valuable. Even if you’re not able to participate in it, boy, you get a lot of value out of that from that. So that’s awesome.

Michael Collins: Yeah, absolutely. I’ll second that motion.

[27:52] Tips for Optimizing Your Recruiting Process

“You can't just generalize; you need tools to be able to do it. But once you do that, the field becomes a lot greener.” —Caroline Tien-Spalding @APTOLOGY1 Click To Tweet

Drew Neisser: So we’ve talked a little bit about retention. We’ve talked a lot about it actually and you guys had a number of things that we talked about. Recharging days, skip levels, thinking about benefits in terms of little things that you can do like Grubhub things. We talked about career pathing, talked about having a CEO be front and center and honest with things like coffee chat. All great things for retention.

We haven’t talked about recruiting at all. One of the old sayings in our world is: Hire slowly, fire quickly, right? That’s the old adage. But I know—and we’ve talked about this a lot in huddles that right now, if you hire slowly, you don’t get the candidate.

Let’s talk about how you’ve tried to deal with the speed dating in the hiring department and how you’ve looked at it—or maybe you haven’t. Let’s start with Michael. In terms of your open spots, have you found that you had to make offers faster than you did before?

Michael Collins: Absolutely. I actually have to say, you know, my team was the fastest to close working with talent acquisition because we’ve always looked at headcount as a gift and a privilege, so people just went after it, right?

You can work a lot of latency into the process, so I think we were already pretty quick at it. But our talent acquisition team has made a significant number of changes in terms of the recruiting process from how quickly they’re identifying candidates, where they’re sourcing them so you have the right flow, looking at diversity in the slates, and then finally having no more than four interviews.

I know when I joined the organization, I must have met with 50 people. I mean, some of those were people that were on the team, but I was probably interviewed by 15. And a lot of times it’s because people want to make sure they’re making the right decision and it’s great to be inclusive and bring a lot of people in. But really, it just slows down the process too much.

To your point, Drew, and certainly David and Caroline, I’m sure you experienced this, you just lose people. I mean, it’s hard enough, when you find the right fit, the right person, the right skill set, and they want to be there. They want to join your team and you can work it out on the compensation part, but boy, speed is really key.

Drew Neisser: Caroline I know we’ve talked about this. How do we do this fast and good?

Caroline Tien-Spalding: This is where we eat our own dog food, right? Aptology starts by defining what great looks like in the role and we do that behaviorally. And so, for example, one of my hires in marketing was able to go for a completely different, non-traditional background because it’s about what does it take to be great in the role?

Then you can learn the tools because, at least in MarTech, the landscape is changing so quickly that I think on the frontlines you are going to end up training them anyway. Even with a big tools like Salesforce, everybody’s got their own custom snowflake implementation. You don’t truly get plug and play. It’s possible in some areas of specialization, but not all.

The way we went about it was to go for a completely unusual background and use our behavioral tool to understand if that person would be a fit, be very transparent with them and say, “Hey, here are your strengths. Like, I know, you’re going to be great, and this is how I objectively know you’re going to be great. And this is how we’re going to use your strengths.” Then deliver on that.

Once you have that data and you’re able to talk about that objectively, it’s really easy. We replaced an entire interview with that. It takes 15 minutes for them. And then we really use the meat of the next interview to talk about how they’re going to be successful.

They have a very precise idea of how they’re going to be successful in your role as opposed to, “Yeah, I think you can do it. Come over here and we’ll figure it out.”

Drew Neisser: Right. So, you’ve taken a lot of the guesswork out of this in the sense that you’re not hiring for experience, necessarily. You’re hiring for certain skill sets of some kind that you can measure. And is this via testing?

Caroline Tien-Spalding: It’s just a survey. It’s a 15-minute survey that you can take on any device. They can just do it on their mobile phone. You don’t have to schedule it, you don’t have time zone issues, and then you get the results. We share… actually, there’s a workstyle portrait that comes that tells them about their communication style in general, how they make decisions.

Instead of asking, “What are your strengths and your weaknesses?” (which we all hate as a question because it’s context dependent and nobody really knows) we’re going to tell them, “This is where you stand” and then we can say, “For these roles, these are going to be your strengths. And for these roles, this is something we’re going to have to work on, right? But we’ll help you because we know about it, you know about it, everybody knows about it. And here are the other things that really don’t matter but are good to know.”

I think it also takes out a lot of the bias out of the process because otherwise, what happens is that you’ll have people interviewing and say, “Hey, oh, you played volleyball, Caroline, you’re a great team player.” Like, “Well, have you seen me on the court? Are you sure about that? I’m pretty aggressive. Okay. Well, I mean, yeah, I guess it’s somewhat of a team.”

You have these assumptions that just project desired behaviors instead of being able to mentor them. We take that out and that has freed us up for really interesting backgrounds, like you can have microbiologists that are great marketers, you can have people who have done retail or worked in a restaurant and make amazing SDRs.

But not all of them do. That’s the thing, you can’t just generalize; you need tools to be able to do it. But once you do that, the field becomes a lot greener because it’s not like these opportunities, these original career paths are available to them at all times. If you have that, you have a distinctive advantage on the battlefield for sure.

Drew Neisser: Yeah, I think there’s so many aspects of this that I love. One is—we have a huddle for transition team, and they’d go through an interview, and the same person would ask the same question, different people would ask the same question. You had repetitive questions and they were not objective questions.

The other part is, there’s nothing in it for the person who’s interviewing and what you’ve defined is actually of value. So suddenly, the interviewing process becomes a self-awareness opportunity, which I think is so fascinating.

We also talked about in huddles, for SDRs, I think it was just yesterday, we talked about how, “Well, let’s hire people who are in the service business because they’re good at service.” It’s interesting that you noted that not everybody’s there.

So, David, as you’re listening to this and thinking, we’ve been talking about how do you speed up the process and at the same time ensure that you’re getting good quality people? What kinds of things you trying?

David Kirven: I think speed is super important. There are two elements, I think. One is that, for us, we’re sprinting pretty fast as a company, so getting that right talent is important. What we’ve done is a little bit of a talent strategy that isn’t really focusing on having people make lateral moves.

We’re really focused in on people making step up moves, and then pairing them with what we now have is a pretty experienced leadership team and pairing those as mentors to those people so that they’re set up for success. What you see is less lateral moves for people and more of a step up move, which obviously helps when you start to think about recruiting.

I think the other thing as far as speed is just, you know, Michael talked a little bit about it, is the interview process as well and just really reducing that to critical few. And then the other we’re not doing here, but this was when I was at Intuit.

We had a great program, it was an “Assessment of Awesome,” which was really helping condense that. So again, to your point, people aren’t asking the same questions, and they actually created a panel. It wasn’t a panel like what we think about, “Oh, you’ve got three people and they’re all grilling with questions.”

It actually turns it around and has the candidate really start to tell about their journey, how they think about their approach to problem solving as an example. Then it was probably seated with two behavioral type questions that really forced them to be able to tell actually how they addressed a problem identifying the behaviors they’ve used in the past. Then they presented, I think it was called “The Presentation of Craftsmanship,” which was a descriptor of the way they approached it.

So, if you were a digital SEO expert, you might come to that with a presentation on the craftsmanship you bring around SEO and how you think about things, what you’ve learned, and what you expect to learn. There were some really great learnings coming out of the way Intuit approached it because once you got hired—we made a big investment, you wanted that to stick and help that person naturally grow to the next level.

Drew Neisser: Yeah, I mean, as I’m hearing that there are a couple of things I’m thinking about. One is Intel is a really well-known brand and has a reputation of being a good company to work at—or at some point. it did. I’m sorry Intel or Intuit?

David Kirven: No, Intuit.

Drew Neisser: Intuit. Okay, same thing. Two well-known brands. It’s a little bit easier to hold the bar high and I also wonder, as you were talking about that, if this is all about speed and I have to do a presentation of craftsmanship for example—which you used to be able to do, right? You’d say, “Hey, do me a favor.”

And this, by the way is happening with CMOs too, is because there are so many opportunities for CMOs out there where some used to say to them, “Hey, give us your thoughts on 30-60-90 and come back and present a half an hour plan.” Is that luxury still…

David Kirven: Yeah, no. One, it’s not every role, right? And second is, this isn’t like, “Oh, I got to create a big, huge presentation and so forth.”

Drew Neisser: Okay,

David Kirven: A lot of it’s just turning and sharing because you learn a lot from a journey line, someone’s journey line. You learned a lot from how they start to think about approaching problems. And then for them to be able to share their perspective on how their thinking is and the way they would address particular opportunities.

But I think if you do that in a way that’s combined with my first point around not lateral moves—I’m saying no, but our focus and strategy is really getting people to move to that next role and pair them with a mentor, you’re challenging them, right?

You’re putting them into that challenge opportunity where they’re in that position to grow. You want to be able to understand their thinking, those critical thinking skill sets that they have and how they bring it. So you’re more focused in on really getting that right candidate, but you’re doing in a pretty expedited way.

Drew Neisser: Now, I love that notion of up-leveling folks. Well, of course, this is the moment where in the show we might ask what—well, I ask—”What would Ben Franklin say?” I’m thinking about this in the context of Franklin, who started out as a printers assistant and was always very proud of probably just being a printer and being a laborer.

What he would say in this context of recruiting and retention is, “He that has a trade, has an office of profit and honor.” I really think he was just talking about how he always felt proud that he had this printer, that it was like real work that he was doing. And somehow, I think there’s a connection here in this about profit and honor.

[38:41] Tying Together Brand Marketing, Recruiting, and Retention

“People are looking to join something bigger than themselves; they're looking to make a difference.” —@CollinsMichael @CFAInstitute Click To Tweet

Drew Neisser: Alright, enough about Ben, back to it, we have a few more minutes and I want to try to connect the dots here. We’re thinking about retention, which what we talked about a lot was culture and to some extent brand, and we’re talking about recruiting and how we need to get new people in both to replace and to grow.

I’m wondering what your thoughts are on the role of marketing in all of this in the role of brand. And how that makes you think about where you spend your money and how you spend your money and what kinds of things you do as a brand marketer. Can we tie these things together to that? I’ll start with Michael.

Michael Collins: Oh, I think so. Drew, you and I chatted about CX and EX are inextricably linked these days, right? I always say on our team, “Customer experience is a team sport.”

We have a customer experience team, but it’s a small but mighty team that works to embed focus on the customer, being market and customer led, into the fabric of our culture so that we have that as part of how we think about not only service, but how we think about defining new products, new offerings, or where we should target those by segment or by region. I think it’s definitely linked.

I think all three of us have talked about it today—you as well Drew—people are looking to join something bigger than themselves; they’re looking to make a difference. I think just about any organization can figure out a way to frame their proposition to their current and future colleagues in a way that people can feel they’re part of something.

But again, it’s a team sport. So just like CX, I think this whole notion of recruiting, getting the right people, and then getting them to stay in the organization even if they’re not in marketing is something that everyone has to work on together.

Drew Neisser: Caroline, on this connection between brand and recruiting and retention?

Caroline Tien-Spalding: One of the things we strive to do as marketers is align, right? Alignment of products and offering to the people who need them. I think if we think of employees the same way aligning their intentions and their needs to what the company needs, you’re going to get to greatness pretty quickly, right?

Alignment makes so many things easier. Getting to that understanding of what great looks like for both parties and aligning them, I think that’s a natural extension of what we do as marketers that’s going to be a strength for a lot of companies right now.

Drew Neisser: David, as I’m thinking about this. I know we’re talking somewhat about brand as it relates to purpose. But not every organization necessarily needs a save the world purpose, right? I mean, we can have a purpose as a group.

Talk a little bit about this connection. I don’t want folks to leave this conversation, “Oh, it’s all about having a company culture that we’re about to save the world” because not every company does. Talk about that.

David Kirven: If you make it so high lofty, it’ll never connect. I mean part of this is also, as most companies do, thoughtful focus on the values that define the way they want to operate their vision for the culture and what it brings.

But I think, in addition, it doesn’t just work with a few values on a board on a wall. This is really how it happens almost in every meeting and one of things we do at Reltio beyond the values is really consistently talk about how leaders lead.

What are the frameworks? What are the articulations in regard to the way leaders are expected to lead, how that shows up in every day aspects? And in fact, I’m amazed at this, but the discipline has maintained itself—almost every meeting, starts with a review of both values and how leaders lead as a starting point…

Drew Neisser: Wow.

David Kirven: …before we start, and what will make this a good meeting. That kind of discipline, I’m amazed that we’ve kept it going, but what I’ve found is employees really engaged with that, because it’s just that constant reminder. As my old boss used to say, “Repetition never heard a prayer.” That continual reinforcement is important.

Drew Neisser: Repetition never heard a prayer.

[42:37] CMO Words of Wisdom: Retention and Recruiting

“Think about people as your most important asset and think of what it is that you can do to align their intentions with the business needs.” —Caroline Tien-Spalding @APTOLOGY1 Click To Tweet

Drew Neisser: All right, we’re getting very close to the end, but final words of wisdom on this topic… You can talk retention or recruiting. Caroline, you get first shot.

Caroline Tien-Spalding: I would say people data, man. Just really think about people as your most important asset and think of what it is that you can do to align their intentions with the business needs.

Drew Neisser: Intentions with the business needs. Okay, I like it! Michael—

Michael Collins: As I just mentioned before: CX and EX, keep them together. I think really helps you win.

Drew Neisser: Customer experience and employee experience?

Michael Collins: That’s right.

Drew Neisser: Okay.

Michael Collins: So you know, really strong partnership with your CHRO in the C-Suite.

Drew Neisser: I just want to mention this. CHROs are having a really hard time. I mean, this is the worst time in the history of—you think you’re having a hard time?

Not only are they having recruiting challenges and retention challenges, they’ve been the one who have to deal with COVID and all the COVID protocols in the office, out of the office, the health issues and all of that. Do something nice for your CHRO.

When we hang up, just think of something and let’s do something nice for all those CHROs on there. Alright, and did I get a final word from David?

David Kirven: One I’m gonna call Connie my HR leader right away. But I think being really intentional about your talent strategy and really being thoughtful about the intent of it and what you’re really solving for. Then I think the other is, and we brought this up earlier, engage on a personal level. Those things matter across the board.

Drew Neisser: Yeah, I think that’s such a key takeaway for this show. We start with empathy. Right away, we’re talking about people, and we’re going to figure out all the things that we can do to help our current employees feel really good about not only their job, but their careers.

We talked about so many different ways you can help your employees feel good about their careers. And if you start there and they feel good about it, then probably recruiting is going to be that much easier.

That doesn’t help some CMOs I know that have 50 open spots, so on that start, we’ll have to have a whole other show on mass recruiting on an epic scale, which we’ll get to at another time.

I want to thank David, Caroline, Michael, you guys are great sports. Thank you so much. Thank you, audience for staying with us.

Show Credits

Renegade Marketers Unite is written and directed by Drew Neisser. Audio production is by Sam Beck. The show notes are written by Melissa Caffrey. The music is by the amazing Burns Twins and the intro voiceover is Linda Cornelius. To find the transcripts of all episodes, suggest future guests, or learn more about quite possibly the best B2B marketing agency in New York City, visit renegade.com. And until next time, keep those Renegade Thinking Caps on and strong.

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