For today’s episode, we are thrilled to welcome Cyril George, who currently serves as the Global Talent Acquisition Lead at General Motors, and started his career doing talent acquisition at Ford Motor Company.
[00:00:05] RS: Welcome to Talk Talent to Me. A podcast featuring the most elite talent leaders on the frontlines of modern recruitment.
[00:00:11] FEMALE: We actually want to understand the themes of someone’s life. We want to understand how they make decisions. Where they’re willing to take risks. What it looks when they fail.
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[00:00:30] FEMALE: Once I went through the classes and the trainings and got the certifications through diversity inclusion, I still felt something was missing.
[00:00:38] MALE: Talent Acquisition, it’s a fantastic career. You are trusted by the organization. You get to work with the C-Suite and the security at the front desk and everybody in between and everybody knows you.
[00:00:51] RS: I’m your host, Rob Stevenson. You’re about to hear the best in the biz, Talk Talent to Me.
[00:00:59] RS: Joining me today on Talk Talent to Me is the Global Talent Acquisition lead over at General Motors, Cyril George. Cyril, welcome to the podcast. How are you today?
[00:01:07] CG: I’m doing fantastic, Rob. How are you?
[00:01:09] RS: I am great. Thank you for asking, just podcasting my heart out. I have been looking forward to this conversation. It’s a Friday at time of recording. We’re winding down our weeks. Are you winding down your week? Do you have much more today? I imagine in your position, a lot of your life is meetings, is that fair to say?
[00:01:26] CG: No, actually, one of the things I do is I really focus on clearing my calendar as much as possible. One of the things that I practice is to rigorously reject the amount of meetings that I have to attend in a day. There are moments people think I’m doing this, because I’m arrogant, but it’s truly not. We have this habit of over inviting people into meetings. I try my level best to look at the meeting, look at the agenda. If I don’t think I will add value to the meeting, I would just let the person know that I wouldn’t be attending. Today actually, after this, I just have one more discussion. I’m absolutely done.
[00:02:05] RS: Well, I’m honored that you didn’t vigorously reject this meeting and that this one stuck on the calendar. I respect that approach a lot. It’s a critical process of looking at a meeting and asking, “Okay, what can I and I alone contribute in this meeting?” If there’s not a clear answer, then maybe you don’t need to be there, that I think is hard for people who aren’t a senior, there’s a feeling like, “Oh, I have to go to this meeting, I have to be vocal, and I have to be heard.” But there’s also this quote that I think is absolutely true, which is that any meeting with more than two people is a performance. Ever since I heard that I’ve been paying attention to the comments people make. I don’t know. I feel like a lot of what conversation in meetings is people are posturing or just wanting to be seen and wanting it to be made known that they’re working. Is that fair?
[00:02:54] CG: Absolutely. I really like that quote. One of the interesting aspects of when you see a meeting invite is people also send you meeting invites, just to ensure that they don’t have to regret saying that this particular question, right? As a leader, sometimes you asked this question saying, “Why was I not invited? Or why was I not informed?” Things like that. As leaders, it is very critical for us not to ask that, because you’re just inviting a bizarre amount of people to send you more invites into meetings that you have not much. It’s probably a tweet that you need to know about that particular meeting.
[00:03:30] RS: Exactly, yeah. Share me on the note afterward, that’s all I need to know. In absence of all these meetings you’re not going to, what throws up your day? How do you stay busy?
[00:03:40] CG: Basically, what I do is I try and ensure that there is sufficient time in the day to be there for my team, and answer any questions that they have, and talk to them about what’s happening. The other aspect is to just focus on the entire week and plan it into different sessions where we can plan the strategy for what we need to do the next quarter. That’s pretty much what we do from a day to day standpoint.
[00:04:04] RS: Got it. Who are your direct reports that you were heads down strategizing with?
[00:04:09] CG: I would look at my team as two different sets of team. One, is the delivery team. I have leaders who focus on different areas of the business. Then I have my lead for talent insights, attraction and sourcing. I have another lead, who takes care of candidate experience. Predominantly, I’m talking to these two individuals, because these two functions are the ones that looks beyond the immediate delivery. I’m also there for the delivery leads, if there is any particular issue that is there. Some leadership interventions that needs to happen and things like that, but pretty much it’s my insights lead and my candid experience lead.
[00:04:47] RS: Got it. I want to get into some of the exceptional growth that GM has had in the last couple of years and all the processes involved. But can we first learn a little about you Cyril? Would you mind walking me through your background and how you wound up at GM?
[00:05:01] CG: Absolutely. I started my career with Ford. I was doing talent acquisition in Ford. I was there for a couple of years and had an opportunity that came up in General Motors. Again, in General Motors, when I started, I started off in talent acquisition, and I really, really loved TA. I thought, I should continue there for a long period of time. There was a conversation that I had with my boss, and he said, “Hey, it would be good for you to move into a compensation COE, kind of a role. I moved in. I did compensation for a couple of years from there, got into HR field, did stints in India, Europe, and about five years back, I came in to US. Again, I was doing a field position where I was an HR lead for a particular function. End of 2020 is when I moved into TA and now at this point of time I’m leading TA for all of General Motors.
[00:05:58] RS: What are the big campaigns and goals you’re focusing on right now?
[00:06:03] CG: Just to give you a little bit of a background, what’s happened is, I’m sure you might have seen that there is a huge shift that is happening towards all electric future. GM vision that we had come out few years back was to have a future of zero crashes, zero emissions and zero congestion. What that means is our future vehicles are going to be completely electric. There’s a huge investment that is happening on autonomous vehicles as well. With that as the basis over the last two years, what has happened is we have gone on a huge increase in terms of our overall hiring. Just to give you from a numbers standpoint, on an average, we could have done in a year, close to 2500 to 3000 positions. That would have been the hiring that we would have done prior to 2021. In 2021, we did close to 10,000. This year, we are poised to do close to about 13,000 hires across the globe. One is obviously the scale has gone significantly high. Also the talent that we hire has also changed significantly. There’s a huge amount of focus given our vision on tech and software talent.
[00:07:14] RS: Are most of those hires then aimed at pushing that electric vehicle future forward and the autonomous future forward as well?
[00:07:21] CG: Absolutely, absolutely. Most of them are, I would say around 80% of the highest are focused on that. We do have other areas of the business that is growing as well. We have venturing into new spaces that we have not been, so for example, pride drop is a good example of a space that we did not have in the future. It’s a startup within GM that we are going to be focused on electrifying the fleet vehicles that is available. That’s another area that is driving our growth as well.
[00:07:50] RS: When you hear a number like 13,000 and you also hear the commitments to fleets of electric vehicles, fleets of autonomous vehicles, that translates you into, okay, who’s going to make all these hires? Who are going to bring all these names forward? As the business grows, so to recruitment grows. How have you scaled up recruitment to meet the demand of the business?
[00:08:12] CG: The first one was to figure out the numbers, right? I mean, the first time when you hear the numbers you’re like, “Are you seriously sure, this is the number of people that you want to hire?” After you have figured that out, most of our strategies, in fact, I should say all of our strategies are grounded in three very important pillars. I’m not going to say something very new, but this has been the core of what we started our journey of transformation in TA and the core pillars are, how do we ensure that we have the best recruiter experience? What is the best candidate experience that we can provide? How do we enable the hiring managers to have the best experience as well?
So keeping these three pillars in mind is how we started thinking about, okay, how do we scale this? The reason why we wanted to start thinking about this first, rather than just going and saying that, okay, let’s just scale the numbers was, to do this in a sustainable manner, and in a manner in which we do not break any of these pillars as we grow, because if you just look at this, from a quarterly numbers standpoint, we are growing 4x, 5x, depending upon which quarter that you’re looking at. How do we do this without ensuring that the team has burnt out or the candidates don’t get the feedback that they need, or the hiring managers are upset about all the hiring work that they need to do?
Once we refined this and we said that this needs to be a North Star. We started saying that, okay, how can the technology help us to get all of these things done? Another very important question is, I mean, I read this in one of the books if I’m not mistaken, this is a book written by Ray Dalio, it’s called the Principles. There’s a very interesting statement there, which says, “The who is more important than the what.” That’s something that we really as a leadership team came together and we said that we really need to define, who are some of the people that we need to have in our team to bring this amazing talent that we’re looking to bring.
So 50% of my leadership team were hired in the last two years. We made it a point to ensure that we hire people from very diverse backgrounds. For example, Kyle, who leads my talent attraction function, used to work in Beamery, which is a CRM platform. We have Eileen, who used to work in a very different sector from us. She used to work in Mondelis. Molly, who used to work in Amazon. So we had to get a lot of people from different sectors. We had a core group of leadership that was available within the HR TA Function, who helped us to steady the ship as new leaders are coming in. Defining who is going to be part of the transformation? What is going to be the key focus areas? What is the technology that is going to drive it? Was the key, three important decisions that we need to take.
[00:11:10] RS: It sounds like you’ve assembled some great diversity of experience there. It strikes me that there’s a general, de-emphasis being placed on previous domain experience, would you say that’s the case?
[00:11:23] CG: I would to talk about it like this way, right? From this perspective that there is a lot of emphasis that generally was placed on the core knowledge and the fact that, “Hey, you’ve been here for a long period of time, and you know this and things like that. It is difficult to say that is not important, but at the same time having that particular core knowledge, it’s also important to get the external in perspective. At this point of time, my next selection is going to be very difficult, because that will tilt to the balance of my team. My team right now is 50/50. 50% of folks were giving me the external perspective and 50% of the folks who can tell me how this will work in GM.
That balance is what is more important. I think the reason why there could be a perception that, hey, there is a de-emphasis on the traditional knowledge is because of the fact that people started to realize that there’s so much change that is happening. You really need the outside in perspective so the outside in this getting little more coverage than what it should, but I think the core is in the balance of ensuring that you have a good balance of these two.
[00:12:28] RS: Yeah, yeah, that makes sense. Also, it’s problematic from a diversity standpoint to hire only from domain experience, because if you admit that, oh, we’re not where we want to be with diversity, or our industry is traditionally male dominated, or what have you – okay, well, if you’re only hiring from the pool of people who have been working in the industry, then guess what? They’re all going to look the same.
[00:12:47] CG: Exactly.
[00:12:48] RS: Yeah, it seems like, it’s more of a nice to have these days previous domain experience as opposed to like, we’ll only source from this pool. I’m glad to hear that’s the case over at General Motors. One of the other pillars, you said there was the technology investment. I’m interested in how you decided on the tools you did, because I’m sure in addition to meeting invites that you decline, your inbox is full of messages from sales development reps, and business development reps, who are telling you about the latest and greatest product, and they want to give you a demo. But there’s a more strategic approach to investing in technology, right? What was your process for figuring out the specific needs and the technologies that would alleviate them?
[00:13:29] CG: Yeah. Before I get into that, I really want to say one of the things that I do spend time on a weekly basis is if there is somebody who’s out there who wants to pitch your technology, right? I spend at least an hour a week to understand that and ensure that I hear them out. Maybe it will might not be fitting into our tech stack right now, but I’m really curious about what’s happening. As you might know, there’s huge amount of innovation that is happening in this space. This is really cool and anyone listening to this, please drop me a note and I would love to hear what is the innovation that is happening in the industry.
[00:14:04] RS: Can I pause you right there really quickly, Cyril, because that’s such a refreshing point of view. I even teed you up in a negative way to be like, “Oh, you’re inundated with all these emails from people. Isn’t that so annoying?” Then you’re very graciously, you’re like, “No, it’s important to be curious. It’s important to know the technologies that are out there and an hour a week is not that much.” If it means you’re staying on top of industry and seeing what sort of innovation is out there, it’s really important. I didn’t want to breeze by that because I was being very sardonic. You kind of turned it around. I mean, good for you for having that curiosity.
[00:14:35] CG: My personal experience has been that people who are into there is this perception that okay, if they’re going to really sell you this and things that, right? But as long as you’re being genuine with people and say why you are doing this, right? So the problem happens if you mislead people saying that, “Hey, you know what, I’m looking to buy something in the next two to three months.” If you are then you say that, otherwise you just be genuine with them and say that, “Hey, I’m actually curious about this technology. I mean, I want to understand this.” There’s so many people who would just offer the product, because I think many creators are more about showing their product than closing a sale with you. It’s been a very fascinating journey to just understand what is happening in this particular space.
[00:15:17] RS: Yeah. That’s maybe a great way to frame it too, is another cause for being reluctant to indulge SDRs is you don’t want the million email follow ups and all that. That generally comes with taking a meeting, but if you set that expectation early and you’re like, “Look, I don’t know, if I’m going to invest in this, it may not be right for me, I’ll tell you if it is or isn’t. If it’s not, then no hard feelings, but then I’m mostly just curious and understanding your technology.” Then unless the person is like a human ad, and they’re not, they have no empathy at all, they’re going to understand, “Okay, this person is being gracious with their time, I can walk them through this.” That feels a better way to structure that conversation generally.
[00:15:53] CG: Absolutely. Going back to your question on the tech stack, and how we decided this is, it’s interesting sometimes you also get a lot of webinars. I actually attended a webinar and I had, I might mess this name up, I’m sorry, but he was the head of TA for Zoom. He had given a presentation on what he was doing in zoom. I’m sorry I’m not getting his name, but I was so impressed by his entire vision. Most of what I did was pretty much steal what his ideas were, and just tried to figure out as to what we could make out of that particular idea. I mean, I had no clue on what a CRM was. I mean, I knew what a CRM was from a sales standpoint, but I didn’t know that was something that was a very important aspect of recruitment. I think it is going to be a big differentiator in the future, so just being humbled to understand from him that hey, CRM is a platform that is available.
Then in another webinar, I saw another platform called HiredScore, which was another very interesting tool that was there. Understanding a few of these from different folks and then I had spoken to several industry friends as to what some of their companies were doing. They’ve given me a lot of suggestions. There was a huge amount of ideation that happened with these webinars with these discussions and things like that. Then together as a team, we came together and say that okay, well, now with all these ideas that is there, let’s just marry all the ideas that is there and some of the problems that we have. We had to ground ourselves in the ATS that we have, that is Workday and say that helped us, right.
So for example, anything that doesn’t have integration with Workday, we will not be able to go ahead, but so that helped us to sort out some of the ideas that was there. Then we looked at the entire process and say that, “Okay, if we have to look at our major concerns, where are some of these concerns coming in? Then we started placing each of these ideas into the concern, saying that, “Okay, this could take care of 20% of the issue, this could take care of another 15%, and things like that.” We looked at the entire pipeline, these ideas, and then we said that, “Okay, this is going to be the ideal investment that we should be making from a tech stack.” That was phase one.
Phase two, we had to think about, now one thing is obviously, okay, does it work with your ATS really well? But also, what is the synergy between these tech stacks as well? So for example, we have partnered with Paradox for our Chatbot. How can Paradox and HideScore work together? What are some of the synergies that is there? How can Paradox, HiredScore and Beamery work? What are some of the synergies there? That was phase two, in terms of thinking about what are the different vendors that could be? There were many vendors that were available. We were not thinking from a vendor standpoint, we were thinking more from the solutions. Then we just went in, and I had to pitch this entire idea to my leadership team. When I was pitching it, it started off looking more like a hallucination rather than a vision, because I was just asking for all of this stuff, right? I didn’t go and say that I need this one thing. I was asking for all these investments that was there.
Slowly after we were able to talk about the vision and what is going to happen and things like that. That hallucination started transforming slowly into a vision. That was the final phase of us doing it. Then it was just going ahead and implementing this entire vision. We are still – I would say in the last phases of the implementation, it takes time for all of this to get implemented and the bowls to be perfectly fitting each other. I would say we definitely crossed the halfway mark. We are closer to the last phase of all of these implementations of the last, about a year now.
[00:19:54] RS: How important is that interplay piece? Are tools’ ability to speak nicely to each other, is it necessary that they have the explicit integration? Or can you automate the stuff with Zapier? How important is it to create an ecosystem that plays nicely with itself as opposed to having a bunch of sideload tools?
[00:20:13] CG: Perfect. This is where our focus on why are we doing all of this comes into play. As I said, it’s very important for recruiter, candidate and the hiring manager, not to feel that we are throwing a bunch of systems at them. It’s important for them to say that, “Hey, for me, this needs to be insanely simple, it needs to be something that I go into one system, and I figured out.” The backend, whatever you do, that’s your problem, but I need to have this very, very simple. That’s only possible when you’re talking to different vendors, you can see that it is going to be completely seamless for the candidate, or for the hiring manager.
The recruiters, I would say are a little more curious about this, because this is your forte. You would want to go and break little bit of the processes and find new systems and things like that. So going back to our overall pillars where we wanted to look at, so that’s how we looked at. There are certain questions that you could automatically ask vendors. Again, the other thing about going with vendors is also to be very, very transparent and honest with them and say that this is exactly what I’m trying to do. If you can’t do it, please tell me.
[00:21:24] RS: Yeah.
[00:21:24] CG: Because we are not looking at a fling right now, we’re looking at a marriage. We need to have this for a long period of time. Let’s ensure that we have our cards completely transparent and open on the table. That’s how we worked on this one.
[00:21:39] RS: Yeah. That makes sense. I like how you brought up the fact that it needs to be seamless for the end user you’re buying it for, because I’ve been on the receiving end of software’s purchased by a company. They’re like, the first thing I’m hearing about it is like you’ve been invited to use blank. I’m like, “What is this tool that I – now like it’s a new software, I absolutely have to use. I have my existing process and my existing structure, and I’m organizing my own way. Now you’re telling me how to do it over here?” How much time am I going to have to spend personally, just reorganizing my whole process so that I can play in this new tool that you just bought a VP of whatever, right?
Typically what happens in those cases is it just becomes shelfware, right? These people don’t make that change, because they already have their process. So I think, yeah, having that alignment with teams and being able to explain to them why you’re doing it, as supposed to just like, “Yeah, this is a flame, this is a sexy new technology that’s going to solve a problem that we might have.” If it’s not tied to a long term plan, then why would anyone change?
[00:22:35] CG: Exactly, exactly. I forget who said this, there’s a statement that I read about when people post stuff and people want to write a blog and things like that, one of the first statement, or the rules that you need to realize is that nobody cares. For example, one of the things is, a candidate or a hiring manager, they don’t care about all of this backend stuff that you’re thinking, right? What they are looking for is this is one of the 200 things that I need to do today. I want to ensure that this is absolutely seamless. This is something very simple for me to go through. Having that in mind is exceptionally important.
[00:23:14] RS: Yeah. Makes all the sense in the world. This is really helpful I think for folks who are tasked with investing in tools. I think it’s important to be really strategic about what are the bottlenecks in your business that technology can alleviate. Also, like you said, being so prescriptive of going to a vendor, and not just being like, “All right, show me what you got.” Then in the background thinking if it’ll work, straight up saying, “This is what I’m trying to accomplish? Are you the tool for the job?” A good salesperson will say yes, right? No matter what, but yes, what do you ask? How do you push to, like you said, there’s a handful of questions, you can ask vendors, how do you keep folks honest and make sure that you’re barking up the right tree?
[00:23:50] CG: Yeah. So with any vendor discussion, there is a lot of processes that your organization will have. So for example, in certain organizations, the vendors, as an HR person, you can’t even speak to the vendor, right? I mean, because you would want to have the purchasing folks speak to them, some organizations, the IT folks that speak to them and things like that. Sometimes what the HR folks could do is say that, “Hey, I’ve given you my SOW, right? This is my SOW.” Go and find whoever can do in this particular SOW and whoever you bring back, that’s great. I will work with them.
[00:24:28] RS: Sorry, what is SOW?
[00:24:30] CG: It’s a statement of work.
[00:24:31] RS: Okay. It’s just like, this is –
[00:24:32] CG: You basically write a statement of work and that’s what the purchasing teams generally send it across to different vendors.
[00:24:38] RS: Okay, got it.
[00:24:39] CG: Yeah. Sometimes what tends to happen is when the vendor comes in, makes their pitch and things like that, right? You might not even be involved in that that much, because you’re like, “Okay, that’s fine. Whatever it is, I just need this technology. That’s what it is.” I personally think that those are some of the most important meetings where you need to be involved. You need to understand what the technology can do and you need to show your full commitment in terms of how important that piece of technology is going to be towards your future goals.
Another thing that I really would encourage folks in the HR field to do is like any other field does be curious and go and attend some of the technology forums and conferences that come in. You get to interact with many founders at that point of time, and you get to see the vision. You can translate that in terms of your purchasing teams and say that, “Hey, I was in this particular technology.” Speak to this particular person directly. Many times what ends up happening is in big organizations, there’s layers and layers of folks and you get stuck in a very, very minutiae of detail.
At that time, it helps for you to just directly speak to the founder and say that, “Hey, see, this is our vision, right? I don’t want us to get stuck on this small issue. Let’s move forward and look at the vision and things like that.” I’m not trying to say that you just have to go up the ranks to get stuff done. What I’m trying to say is that it’s important for people to understand your vision. It’s important for you to understand the vendors vision and their roadmap as well, so that you can have much more of productive discussion and the right tech, if you can get some of these basics, right.
[00:26:20] RS: Yeah. Makes all the sense in the world. Cyril, we are creeping up on optimal podcast LinkedIn. Before I let you go, I want to ask you to just go off a little bit, what is one thing in this space, whether your role, or just hiring writ large, that you’re begging to be asked so you can talk about?
[00:26:40] CG: Yeah. The one thing that I don’t want to sound it as a rant, but anyone who’s listening, so for example, you do not go to the person who’s working on nuclear fission and say that, “Hey, I have some suggestions that I want to give you as to how you have to build the next Nuclear Plant, or how you have to build this battery and things that.” Because you know that, that’s a very specialized area, and the professionals are handling it, let me take a look at how the professionals are doing this. When it comes to Talent Acquisition, you can only imagine the amount of opinions that comes from every single person as to what you should be doing, without having any data on why you form an opinion, right?
I mean, for example, there is huge set of people who come and say, “Hey, let me give you my opinion, as to how you can hire all these people.” It’s not about not being curious about ideas, but Talent Acquisition, HR, these are all professions. There’s a reason why you need to think about this from a strategic standpoint. There’s so many technology that has come in that you need to review from a technical standpoint. This is not an area that should be driven by opinions. It should be something that needs to be driven by data. The one thing that I have for people is, “I’m so glad that all of you have opinions about what Talent Acquisition Professionals should be doing, but leave it to the Talent Acquisition Professional because they are fantastic.” In fact, there’s so many statements out there that says that there is more recruiters who are needed than software professionals at this point of time, which is just a logical thing to happen because you need these folks to hire all these people that you want to hire, right?
Stop giving them opinions, give them love, give them your understanding, and give them your planning and just allow them to do the magic. That’s the one thing that I would like to request folks who can really contribute by not contributing, so.
[00:28:44] RS: I can feel the recruiters in podcast land snapping along their appreciation there. Cyril, this has been great. Thank you for sharing your expertise and experience with me today. I really learned a lot from you. Thank you for doing this and for being gracious with your time and your knowledge. That’s been a great episode.
[00:29:00] CG: This was fun. Thank you so much for having me.
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