Today’s guest is Danielle Clark, VP Talent at Fastly. Danielle has experience as both a consultant and working in-house within the tech industry, and has a pragmatic and people-focused approach to solving problems within a business.
[0:00:06.1] RS: Welcome to Talk Talent to Me. A podcast featuring the most elite talent leaders on the frontline’s modern recruitment.
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[0:00:53.0] RS: I’m your host, Rob Stevenson and you’re about to hear the best in the biz, Talk Talent to Me.
[0:01:00.0] RS: Joining me today on what I’m certain is going to become an instant classic episode of Talk Talent to Me is the VP of talent over at Fastly, Danielle Clark. Danielle, welcome to you, how are you today?
[0:01:09.5] DC: Thank you Rob, yeah, I’m doing great, thank you for having me on.
[0:01:12.6] RS: Yeah, happy to have you. Lots to go onto with you really. How’s the week been? Is it chaos, are you managing, is it never ending?
[0:01:19.2] DC: I’d say it’s organized chaos is where we are right now. I think anybody working in talent would probably say the same, it is a very hectic time but we’re doing a lot of cool stuff, which is good. So it’s just involving, a lot of thinking, a lot of brainstorming, a lot of adapting.
[0:01:34.3] RS: You mentioned you just had come from a meeting where you were discussing overhauling performance management? What does that mean?
[0:01:40.4] DC: Yeah, what does it mean? I think we’re at a point in time where a lot of companies where certainly we are looking like, how do we crank up more rigor around performance matter, how do we make sure that we are doing a better job to connect paid bonuses, et cetera with performance and we also want to keep motivating and retaining our employees.
So it’s really getting that balance right between enabling more discussions around career, having more regular feedback conversations through the year, at the moment for example, the focus is on goal setting and making sure that people have documented goals that at some level.
Then end of year, our big thing is, we’re just introducing a new bonus program and so, thinking through the best ways to connect that with evaluations and making this be very motivational for our people, not seeing as like punitive et cetera.
Lots of cool things to figure out and we’ve got a tiger team across the people team working on this between our finance group and talent and HR business partners so it’s a lot of good minds coming together.
[0:02:41.4] RS: Did you get the sense it was time to do this because of anything that came from the employees themselves or was it a leadership sort of sense that it was time?
[0:02:49.5] DC: I think a lot of both, honestly. We know obviously, you know, career progression is always a key topic for employees, I would say over the past two years for all companies has become even more important and more front of mind for people and so part of that career progression is, “Am I having conversations with my manager, right? Do they understand my aspirations?”
Do I have clear goals of what I’m supposed to be doing and do I feel like I’m being properly rewarded for the work I’m doing so definitely a lot of employee sentiment and rightly, you know, kind of request. The good news for fast dates, it’s not like we didn’t have anything already, we do.
Actually, we have a decent amount of process in place which I was really impressed with when I joined last year but I think it’ staking that now to the next level and from the leadership point of view, you know, we’re going through a pretty big transformation as a company and so they want to make sure, from the top down, we’ve also got good visibility into how people are doing, where people might be struggling, how do we unblock some of those things. It’s definitely a two-way process.
[0:03:47.1] RS: Is the long con here like retention, is that sort of like the ultimate goal? What would you say is the ideal outcome of having overhauled this?
[0:03:53.8] DC: I mean, look, high performance as a company is key if we’re not performing well at an employee level, we’re not performing well at a corporate level. That is the business rationale, definitely those second to that is retention of great talent. We know we are in this hugely competitive talent market.
We’ve had high attrition, as a lot of companies have over the past 18 months, that has slowed down but I think everything you’re reading and every news article is like, people are not ready to switch again, you know, there’s still a lot of people looking to move roles again.
So, we cannot get complacent and we have to keep really a laser focus on what do our people need to be successful, what do our people need to want to stay and choose firstly every day. So, there’s a lot of those things that are all going into these decisions.
[0:04:38.2] RS: Sure, yeah. I wanted to jump in there just because you had come directly from that meeting. I realized that probably, the last thing you wanted to do was do an immediate post mortem on the meeting you just sat in for an hour so yeah, but was very curious to hear about it so thanks for sharing and I guess we should probably learn a little bit more about you and Fastly, before we get too much further her.
Would you mind sharing a little bit about the company and then the Danielle Clark of it all?
[0:05:02.3] DC: The Danielle Clark of it all. Yes, I will. So, Fastly is a CDN, it’s a content delivering network primarily and we also have edge compute products as well so getting into security and really trying to make sure that we’re creating really fast Internet but also very secure Internet as well so as a company, we’ve been around for 11 years.
We’ve been public for the past two and a half and so, we are at that point of growth which is really interesting where we’ve had great success and then we’ve also had a couple of stumbles where we’ve really learned from how do we make sure we’ve got the right infrastructure in place, how do we make sure we’re really scaling as we move forward so lots of great progress ahead of us and we’ve got some really fantastic talent in the company which is obviously one of the reasons I joined in the first place and happy to kind of keep optimizing that.
We’re about a thousand people in terms of employees, the bulk of that is in the US, we have about 200 outside of the US and we’re looking to grow, obviously, globally as well so that will be a big pressure on my team which includes recruiting and talent development and also talent management so my role is to oversee those three areas and it’s a first time, they’ve actually had a head of talent.
I mean, prior to my arrival, they had a recruitment team and then also learning and development team but really, my mandate is how do we stitch those things together and also add in more on the talent management side as well so that means, processes around performance management which we just spoke about.
But also things like succession planning in talent mobility and making sure that we’re just really being more strategic and thoughtful about how we move our talent around and give them opportunities, not just how we hire them and how we develop them in role.
Really exciting opportunity, happy to be there. I’ve been there about seven months now and yeah, it’s definitely hasn’t been dull and the great thing with a company this size is just the impact you can have pretty quickly. So, that’s been really enjoyable.
[0:06:59.5] RS: So, the scaling and hyper-growth tends to happen far before and IPO, surely, right? Usually around like the 40% mark. Now it’s like time to really step on the gas. Does that happen again once the company goes public?
[0:07:12.7] DC: Definitely, yeah. I mean, I think there’s the heightened level of scrutiny, process, all the financial controls that have to be in place that just force that to happen but then I think there’s a secondary piece which is the scale and the cultural shift that you go through on that journey where you really want to keep the best bits of what made the company special to begin with and why it was founded and the personalities of the founders and the leaders and knowing that you have to bring in many, many more people to run this company and grow this company.
You also have to be prepared to embrace a lot of different backgrounds and different kind of business principles and operational rigor that maybe we hadn’t had to do when you’re a private company. So, I found it to be incredibly interesting. I mean, I was a consultant in my previous life so I’ve worked with both private and public companies but before I joined Fastly, immediately before I was at Adobe, which is obviously a very large, public company that’s been around for over 40 years.
I’ve had different experiences in those cultures and I would say, what makes it so interesting on this kind of shift into a public company and growing public company but I would as kind of baby public, right? Compared to some of the other people that we are on the market with. It’s really just that combination of keeping that small company feel and also putting in what we would call some more grownup processes and some more grownup principles, right, of how we do business.
Making sure that we’re being efficient, we’re building things now, not just for a thousand person company, we’re building them for 5,000 person company and that’s the lens particularly on the people side of the business and the talent side of the business that we’re looking at things.
[0:08:50.7] RS: So, you’ve been a consultant in a previous life, were you consulting on the talent side of things?
[0:08:54.8] DC: I was. My whole career has been all talent all the time, which I love. I’m very passionate about talent. I started my career in recruitment in London and was working for a pretty small recruitment agency so have seen the highs and lows of agency side. I actually loved it, it was a great time to be in that business, it taught me a lot about being commercial and account management and you know, making sure you’re really continuing to push a pipeline of talent through and then I moved into consulting for a company that was called Hay Group that actually got acquired by Korn Ferry in 2015 so I joined them in the London office.
Primarily, the client groups there were a lot in finance, telecoms, pharmaceuticals and then I transferred over to the San Francisco office in 2011. Very different market and yeah, I mean, great and I’ve been moving all over to places in the US that I didn’t even know existed so I definitely got to travel a lot and what were the huge variety of companies. Everything from consumer goods to public sector organizations to family-owned businesses.
It’s really been – you know, I’m very grateful for my time in consulting. I think it’s given me a lot of perspective in different types of organizations and you know, the reality is that a lot of time in consulting, you’re brought in because things are not working, right? There’s a problem, there’s something that needs to be solved.
I’m also very appreciative when I’m in a culture that I know is working well or is doing pretty well but has even more opportunity to be successful because I’ve seen companies and cultures where the opposite has been the case and we’re trying to really kind of go in and retroactively fix a bunch of stuff. Yeah, I loved being a consultant but then I got to the point after by eight years where I wanted to try my hand in house and that’s what took me to Adobe.
[0:10:34.6] RS: Tell me about all the nowheresville USA places you visited? I want to know about the talent challenges they’re facing.
[0:10:41.5] DC: I don’t want to potentially insult any listeners or where they were but –
[0:10:44.4] RS: That’s okay, put them on blast. They know, what are the talent problems they’re facing and the rural bible belt, that’s what I want to know?
[0:10:52.0] DC: Yeah, well, I mean, it’s a good question and even in public sector as well and I think sometimes, particularly tech, right? It can be quite snooty about they’re very different and they’ve got problems that no one else can ever understand, et cetera. I just don’t believe, not that I don’t believe that to be true, I know that not to be true because of the companies and the groups that I’ve worked with.
A lot of the times, companies, you know, I’ve dealt with local government in West Virginia, I’ve dealt with huge big pharma which has incredibly well resourced. I’ve dealt with dysfunctional family-owned businesses where you know, the family members are falling out but they’re all still on the board together and in all of them, there’s a lot of common threads, right?
[0:11:30.4] RS: Magnificent.
[0:11:31.4] DC: Yeah, but there’s a lot of common threads, right? People want to have good leaders, they want to have clear expectations of what they need to do, they want to know what kind of talent they need to be hiring and how they need to develop that talent. I would say, outside of those key areas, there’s obviously variances, nuance, there’s different economic realities but there’s so much more commonality than I think people would realize.
[0:11:55.7] RS: What made you want to get out of consulting and go in-house?
[0:11:59.9] DC: Well, I think you get to a point in consulting where you have to pick a path, right? Where you’re either going to go down the partner track and really heavily weigh in on the sales side of things. That was one thing that, “Did I really want to do that?” I mean, I was lucky with my role at Hay Group, I had a real combination of sales and delivery which was great and I was also running a team. The other thing was just the kind of like, I want to see what it’s like on the in-house side.
You know, my whole career in recruiting had been agency side, consulting had obviously been in that environment too. I wanted to see, could I apply my skills in an in-house environment and we’re thinking at the time Rob, was like, “Well, you know, worst case scenario, if this doesn’t work out and in-house isn’t for me, I’m sure I could go back to consulting” because I do think consulting is one of those roles you can kind of go in and out of during your career and a lot of people return to consulting or even start consulting towards the end of their career, right? When they have a lot of experience from different businesses.
So, that was the kind of thing. Also, I was on a plane every week as well and I was maybe wondering what it would be like to be at home a bit more.
[0:12:59.4] RS: Yeah, that makes sense. Consulting feels like an important bridge I think, between career moves where you’re not exactly sure what your next move is going to be but you can take a few months and consult one or two days a week, it’s a good way to – it’s a good side hustle. I did it too and it was great but I don’t know, I got this feedback from other people that was like, “Oh, you don’t want to be the career consultant or lifetime consultant” I was like, “I never understood why not” you know?
I can see your example of yeah, I didn’t like flying all over the country every week and that can wear you out but I feel like it’s just an important piece of the talent tool-belt to have right? Or really, any profession. The ability to use your experience in creative ways and just go into a company in a short-term basis and kind of whip them into shape. I think we should all try and do that a little bit in our career.
[0:13:41.6] DC: I 100% agree and I’ve said this to a lot of people, particularly more junior people, you know, interns than I’ve had, you know, what’s the career path and I would say, to a lot of people, you know, consulting gives you so much exposure to so many things so quickly. There’s no way I would have got the experience I had if I’d worked those eight years in-house, it’s just impossible.
I really do advocate it as an opportunity for people to look at whether as you said, at the beginning of their career or kind of at a different part of your career, because of the variety it gives you. I also was given the advice, be careful about being a career consultant and “That seven-to-eight-year mark, Danielle, you know, that’s a dangerous point because you might not be able to get out of consulting” and there is some truth to that.
I will say, now, hiring on the in-house side, if you look at somebody whose only ever consulted, one of the questions that comes up is like, can they actually look at the end-to-end process in-house because the benefit and the disadvantage of consulting is that, you’re often brought in for one piece of the process, right?
A one particular project and so, you don’t always get to see kind of what came before that and also the implementation of what happens at the end. Sometimes that’s good, sometimes you’re glad to be done with the project but often, it means that you don’t have that opportunity to see the whole thing through and I will say even at Adobe, we had a couple of people that joined our team as former consultants and you know, they didn’t make the transition very well.
They had and no disrespect to them, they were incredibly smart, they had great experience but they really struggled to adapt into that in-house environment and that I think is those were something that is a reality to. I mean for me, I was able to apply a lot of my consulting skills in-house and actually even yesterday, I did a session with my talent team on strategic thinking and how do we become more consultative, right? As talent partners and that I drew on a lot of my experience and frameworks and models that I’ve been taught when I was at Hay Group.
So, the last one is keep going, for sure and I think there’s a lot of value in that and I mean, a lot of talent organizations and HR organizations are trying to become more strategic, right? You read anything out there by Gardener or Deloitte, et cetera, they’re all saying that same thing so we do need to take that seriously but how do you become a real consultant and partner and not just be following processes and taking orders.
[0:15:56.6] RS: Can I ask you a valid question?
[0:15:57.4] DC: Of course.
[0:15:58.3] RS: How do you become a real consultant and partner and not just be taking orders?
[0:16:03.4] DC: Well, that might be a longer conversation Rob but I’d say some key things, one is, I think we get very focused on having to have the right answer as supposed to helping to generate that answer, right? So asking the questions as a consultant is more important often than having to answer, right?
You’re coming in to a situation that you often don’t know much about, you’re trying to get a lot of information out of people very quickly and I think when you’re in-house, there’s a lot of assumption that you should know it all and everyone’s got their own swim lane to stay in and I would encourage people to challenge that.
I think you need to be looking at, “What do I not know, what questions do I need to ask, what trends am I seeing and picking up?” and the biggest thing and we actually talked a lot about this yesterday in my team session is all about synthesis. How do you synthesize all that information down into a proposal, a recommendation, a new process, sometimes even just a request, right? To a different stakeholder and that is so valuable.
A, you’re showing up, representing the talent organization at a different level but frankly, selfishly, as an individual, if you’re not being strategic, if you’re not thinking about being a partner, that is going to hold you back in your career in talent. You’re going to end up being or remaining I would say, at a very tactical level and not maybe progressing to more of those senior roles in my humble opinion.
[0:17:20.6] RS: Yeah, no, that makes all the sense in the world to me but if you are you know, individual contributor for example, you may just have a slate of roles and you may just have a slate of roles to fill and even assume that you were instrumental in developing wheat those roles were, right? That’s still going to take up all your time, right? You might be on this treadmill just filling roles.
Do you just have to work harder, is that the answer? How do you take eek out time to make sure that you are not just on that treadmill or role filling?
[0:17:44.6] DC: Yeah, great question Rob and I have also been in that situation where I felt I was on a hamster wheel I am just cycling through and really the best advice I have there is that you got to take a time out and just be like, “Let’s just reframe what I even do” right? If I am recruiter would you say, like say I am a mid-level recruiter in a big team, you can feel like you’re a cog in a big machine and I think stepping back and thinking about what is the purpose of my role, right?
What am I actually meant to be doing? What I am doing is not just filling jobs but bringing talent into the company to help it be successful, right? Or to help it grow or to move into different markets or like you have to have a good why and if you don’t have that and it hasn’t been communicated to you, that’s your first question, right? That is the conversation you need to have with your manager or even your head of talent, your head of HR, what is the value that recruiting provides to this business?
I think you’ve got to be very, very clear on what that is and I would say right now is like the chaos and the glory days of talent. You know, it is so insane, my hats go off to every recruiter that’s out there. I know you are working so incredibly hard. I know every talent developers in there is working so incredibly hard to try and retain the people that we’re bringing in. It is tough and it’s so important.
Like finally in the pandemic a lot of companies woke up to the fact that, “Oh, our people really are our biggest asset. We are not just saying this on a flyer in our company website, it really is true” and it was obviously a horrific situation for us all to go through but you know, the silver lining of that is that it got focused on retaining and developing people and hiring people in a different way and we have been waiting for that for a long time.
So I would say take stock of what the purpose is, really think about how that fits into the bigger business and the value that you are adding to that and I think everybody has a chance to be more strategic in their day to day jobs that even the emails you send don’t just send a stream of consciousness, send like, “Here’s the problem I’ve seen, here’s what I recommend, here is the potential action steps” right?
The person receiving that email is going to be like, “Wow, they’ve really thought this through, this person has got like a real solution.” If you’re just going to people and your hiring managers and your leaders with a bunch of problems and challenges that they have to then sort out, that doesn’t make you appear very strategic, right? That makes you appear like you are just transferring information about all the stuff that’s wrong and dumping it on somebody else.
[0:20:06.0] RS: Yeah, exactly right. I used to hear this a good amount in one company I worked for. If you don’t have a solution, you don’t have a problem, which may seem like if all you are saying is this is broken and I am just going to hand it to you then we are not taking it seriously probably. That’s extreme because that thing still exists whatever thing you noticed but the point is like yeah, you have an opportunity to be strategic.
To be like, “Hey, here’s what’s wrong and I am working on fixing it this way, what do you think?” When you kind of ask those not leading questions but clarifying questions about what is the role of talent’s organization? What is the role of talent department in organization? I am imagining leadership kind of like leaning back in their chair and looking of in the distance and being like, “Well…” you know?
Maybe considering it for the first time frankly, how much do you have to drive that conversation sort of like that’s like managing up. There’s influence there but I feel like it is not enough just to pose the question. I feel like you kind of have to hold someone’s hand a little bit. Is that fair to say?
[0:21:00.5] DC: Yeah and that is a good observation and I would say the answer is different in 2019 than it is today, right? I think in 2019, you would have gotten a very transactional response of, “Well, you know we just need to bring people into the business.” I think today if you ask the leaders, “Hey, we should do a much heightened awareness of just the kind of talent marketplace, the competition that’s in there, the great resignation.”
Like it has become literally front page news and so that automatically has elevated the position of it. So I think that would be a greater awareness today but you’re right. I mean, I think you’ve also got to be – it is a leading question because you have a perspective on it all. Everyone listening to this should have a perspective on the role of talent in their organization, which is not just putting bodies into seats or in front of screens but really bringing in new ideas.
Different perspectives like people who can scale, people who can drive the operations maybe in a different way and really connect to those bigger business objectives. That is something that I have really done a lot in my career and I think is being helpful to my success is connecting the people stuff with the business stuff because I think often particularly in tech, particularly in engineering-driven organizations, there is a tendency to kind of put all the business stuff over on one side, right?
Like, “Here’s all the things, here’s the products, here’s the sales force, here is all of that makes the money” and they kind of see the people separate to that, which in my mind is crazy but really trying to make the case a lot and I have done a lot of this with in presentations and the mapping out the employee life cycle and how it connects to business objectives but really reiterating whenever you have that chance like the people drive the business.
If everybody quits tonight there is no company. That is the financial reality and that is obvious to a lot of people working in talent and in HR but it is not always obvious to business leaders and you need to keep reminding them of that especially right now. I mean, some of the decisions that they might be making about talent, one of my questions always to them is, “What will be the business implication of this decision?”
It could be good, it could be bad, it could be neutral but you’ve got to ask that question so they’re like, “Oh, I thought we were just talking about a pay rise, right? I thought we were just talking about how much we should go over the salary range” like no, no, no, let’s really be clear about what difference this is going to make to the business and frankly, if it is not going to make that big a difference or it’s going to make a negative impact, then we shouldn’t do it.
[0:23:21.0] RS: There is internal PR that has to happen, I think for every department candidly but talent pros need to do it or get better at it. It was second nature to marketers because that’s what we do is try and brag about ourselves but that probably doesn’t sit well with someone who is a fantastic producer, right? Someone who knows that they’re good at their job, knows they are effective, probably doesn’t want to take the time to educate other people on why the role is so important, you know?
I understand that, right? I feel like it’s a little bit like I am just going to slow down for the sake of helping someone else understand what I do, I could just be doing what I do. But making that point and making it again and again is the only way you get talent and not be viewed as a call center and particularly I like how you were kind of explaining, you will point out employee life cycle and this keeps coming up on episodes about doing like the hiring manager conversation tour.
Where you are just like trying to figure out what are the goals you have for your team and so guess what? Now you know what everyone is trying to accomplish and then you can paint a picture of how the hires you made help them accomplish that down the line and I feel like you have to be doing that probably quarterly, maybe more often.
[0:24:24.9] DC: Absolutely. So I mean and apart from anything else Rob, it keeps it interesting for you, right? It gives you variety in your job but we had one of our senior recruiters yesterday gave a great example about how she is – so she supports the sales organization and she is taking the time to go through some of that onboarding pieces and really follow like what does it look like for a new person to go into that organization.
The reason she’s doing that is that she can really experience that, understand it and be able to sell that to candidates and be like, “This is what you are going to get, this is how it feels, this is the education that you are going to get” and she’s obviously also learning things along the way herself but the fact she’s even taking the initiative to do that like I remember that. I remember that from yesterday, I remember that going forward but she bothered to do that.
That that is something that sets her apart. It sets her apart from other people who might just be going through the motions and one thing you mentioned earlier that I just want to kind of underscore too is anybody who thinks just doing their job well is enough to kind of get promoted and move forward and is suddenly like the CEO is going to come down and be like, “Oh my goodness Rob congratulations, here is your corner office” you are kidding yourself.
That is the harsh reality like just doing a job is what you are paid to do and if you only want to do that and that’s completely fine too, right? If the job is like, “This is just a paycheck to me” that’s completely fine too. I am not saying everybody needs to be focused on promotions, et cetera but if you are focused on those things know that yeah, just doing the motions and hoping that people will notice is probably not a good strategy, right?
You need to be – you don’t have to be boasting, you don’t need to be like arrogant but you do need to be clear on not just what you are doing but what impact does that make, right? “I filled 20 jobs last quarter and here is what the difference it made to the sales organization” right? Those are the kind of things that you should be mentioning and going back to our earlier point about performance management, if you’ve got those quarterly at least hopefully quarterly conversations happening with your manager, they’re the nuggets to drop in there not just your stats, right?
Your stats you can share on a spreadsheet like I am assuming a lot of you will be doing that already but it is also the extra color and insights that you add to that. It is the “so what?” that you add to that that people will remember.
[0:26:31.5] RS: Yes, tell a story, right? People need to connect to a story and that would probably look like go to the hiring manager for whom you know you’ve made an awesome hire and you brought this person in and they are crushing it and they ship whatever product or they accomplish these goals and get that hiring manager to give you like a blurb, be like, “Can I get two lines on what a great hire so and so has been?”
Then you put that in your little deck and that’s like, “Oh because we hired Danielle, now we did X, Y and Z that we couldn’t do before. What an awesome hire she was, you’re welcome” quite frankly.
[0:27:02.7] DC: Yeah, exactly that’s it and it is that you’re welcome. It gets more recognition around the impact of doing that and you know, the great thing with a lot of way that recruitment is organized in a way you are supporting specific organizations is you can see that evolution of a time and we had one of the people who is supporting our finance team regularly gets like publicly celebrated that at the all hands because he’s done such a good job helping to rebuild an entire organization, right?
It was so badly hit by attrition, whole leadership, lots of other things that have happened and so he’s really been able to go in there, partner with the CFO and rebuild that team. I mean, what a huge value ad that is too Fastly, right? Having a great finance team is essential. So that’s been huge.
[0:27:43.5] RS: Yeah, you have to do that. You like squeaky wheel gets the grease a little bit. Also that point about how just like keeping your head down and doing your job and hoping that people notice. Again, if you are really pleased with your current role and don’t want to do anything else, then that’s a great strategy for keeping your current role but again, it’s like look, you were given this job and there is a job offer.
Their responsibility is outlined in the job offer, right? So if you are just fulfilling those, there is no need to change the deal, right? The deal being how much you get paid or what responsibilities you have or what you are working on. So there is a little bit of a, you know, the cart has to come before the horse a little bit. You have to do the responsibilities of the job that you want before you get the job you want unfortunately but yeah, you have to push that rock uphill. Now I am just mixing metaphors but I think that’s really important.
[0:28:27.7] DC: Well, I would even challenge that Rob like do you have to push the rock uphill? I don’t think it is about doing that necessarily in my opinion. I think it is about being really clear about what is expected of me, what does good look like and again even this week, I had a conversation with one of my direct reports and resetting expectations and she’d never really been given clear expectations for her job, right?
So how can I or my boss then be expecting that this person knows exactly what to do? When you are talking about senior roles, it’s not like, “Oh you need to follow this process on the computer” we are talking about like big strategic impact, making ambiguous decisions. That is the kind things that we are looking for somebody to do and just like going through that and taking a little bit of time to document that and go through has been eye opening, right?
In terms of like, “Oh this has given so much clarity” and not that this person was underperforming, they weren’t but this is about taking that performance to the next level and so making sure that you’ve got that and that is every leader’s job as well and I could get on my leadership soapbox for another hour of this podcast but –
[0:29:28.4] RS: Do it, get on the box.
[0:29:29.6] DC: But that is the people manager’s job, you know? It is to make sure that your team know what is it expected of them to be successful. We are not trying to trick people up, we’re not trying to catch them out. We want people to be successful because if they are successful, I am successful, we’re successful as a company. It is important to spend some time on that and I do think – I mean, this is another I guess call out especially to women because I do think I’ve seen that trend.
I have done a lot of female development in my career and there is an even bigger trend there of kind of like, “Well, I just keep my head down and hope that I get noticed” right? That this would be appreciated and at the same time, feeling extremely frustrated that they may feel they are underpaid or they may feel they haven’t been recognized or they weren’t approached for promotion but you have to be a little bit more vocal or just kind of clear on the impact.
It doesn’t mean you need to be extroverted, it doesn’t mean that you need to take up all the air in the room but it does mean that you need to advocate for yourself and know that that’s part of it.
[0:30:25.6] RS: Yeah, that’s tremendous advice. It is really important because also the thing is if you’re doing a really good job like there is that weird paradox of like people won’t know, right? Because they are not aware of the deficiency because you’re doing a good job and it is just humming along and talent pipelines are being filled and the hires are being made at a good pace and they don’t see you toiling.
They don’t see the smoke coming off your keyboard as you are getting out a million emails or whatever it is, so especially in a remote first world, you know? It’s silly but those hours in the office people notice that and in their mind that formulates an opinion of who you are, right? I have fought this fight for a lot of my time in my early career where like my boss would be like, “Rob, you can’t come in at 9:30. I know you’re here until seven-eight PM but no one sees you here at seven-eight PM because everyone leaves at five” right?
So you have to be here early because otherwise it looks like you don’t work and he was very clear. He’s like, “Look, it’s pure optics, I know you are doing your job, I know you are hitting your goals but it’s just how it looks to the business. It is just internal PR” and you would just really need to shoot kick a little bit, right? You have to present yourself in that way and in a remote world where no one seeing you clock hours, right?
Your activity level is a green dot next to your name on Slack like that can’t be enough, no one is going to notice.
[0:31:37.4] DC: Absolutely. You have to care about the results and honestly not even that – I mean, I honestly don’t care as much about the hours going into it if you are getting the results and I think that I don’t want people sending a million emails honestly. They can find ways to make this more efficient and to work smarter is a bit of a cliché but it’s true but you will care about what the results are.
The other thing to be conscious of too is if you are so good at your job and you have made yourself such a kind of single point of failure, you are also going to be difficult to move in the business and I am saying that as a negative thing, not a good thing because then it’s like, “Oh my god, I can’t move Rob out of this role because he is the only person that knows this particular process” or whatever.
He is so good at it and he hasn’t done anything else and he hasn’t let anybody else kind of collaborate with him like I can’t move him to a more senior role or transfer him somewhere else because what is going to happen to that process? You’ve also got to think about that too that yes, be really good at your job and make sure that you are demonstrating that you want to do different things. You can do other things.
You are willing to kind of take on maybe a different kind of project than you have done before. I mean, there is so much right now in the talent space of like re-engineering processes and simplifying things and trying to be more competitive outside. There is not a shortage of things to go after but if you are just being like, “I am just as brilliant technical recruiter in this one particular specialism” it is going to be hard for you to move out of there if that’s what you want.
[0:32:57.3] RS: That is such a paradox. It’s like you want to work so hard to be so good that you are irreplaceable but that now means that you put a ceiling on yourself, you know? So what is the answer? Is it like get to that point of mastery but then build in documentation like train other people? How do you do both?
[0:33:10.9] DC: Yeah, I mean I think a lot of it is hopefully you’ve got good processes in your team already. If you don’t take the initiative to kind of say, “Hey, I figured out a way that we could do this differently” write it down if key. You have to put it on your Internet, whatever the platform is and make sure that you are there and maybe you are the one that starts mentoring and training new people coming on to the team, right?
So if I am your leader I am looking at that and saying, “Wow, Rob’s got management potential” right? Because they are able to actually oversee this individuals and they’re able to kind of do a good job onboarding people. So it doesn’t need to be a huge thing but it can be a smaller thing that actually is like, “Okay, yeah. I actually made those people be successful.” There is definitely ways to build it in.
I think a lot of people are like, “Oh my god, I am so underwater already, how could I possibly take on more stuff?” Think about that as like not just doing more things but actually adding value in a completely different way, right? Actually that if you are onboarding these people you make a case to bring in a more junior recruiter for example on your team and say, “Listen, I’ll mentor them” and then think of all the things that you can start to delegate to them.
That means that you won’t be underwater, you might be super busy for like a month while you are getting that person up to speed but after that it should make things a lot easier for you.
[0:34:19.4] RS: That feels like tremendous advice to end the episode on. Danielle, this has been such a delight. The time has really flown by, you are so full of experience and information so at this point, I would just say thank you for being here and for being yourself. I’d love chatting with you.
[0:34:31.1] DC: Thank you so much Rob. I’d love the opportunity.
[END OF INTERVIEW]
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