Joining me today is Amy Sheehan, the Director of Talent Acquisition at Hormel Foods, to discuss her career experience, current gaps and opportunities in the talent acquisition space, and how she is shaking up the traditional approach to recruitment. Amy shares her diverse project experiences, how her non-traditional background enriches her work, and how she challenges conventional recruitment practices. Amy discusses the evolving role of recruitment in today’s competitive job market and provides insights into the recruitment and onboarding processes at Hormel Foods. She also explains the value of effective communication, how to create purposeful experiences for new hires, and the role of AI in recruitment.
Rob Stevenson 0:05
Welcome to Talk talent to me, a podcast featuring the most elite talent leaders on the front lines of modern recruitment.
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Rob Stevenson 0:21
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Rob Stevenson 0:52
I’m your host, Rob Stevenson, and you’re about to hear the best in the biz. talk down to me. Here with me today on top talent me is the Director of Talent Acquisition over at Hormel Foods. Amy Sheehan. Amy, welcome to the show. How are you today?
Amy Sheehan 1:06
I’m great. Thanks, Rob. Nice to be here.
Rob Stevenson 1:10
Yeah, I’m so pleased to have you. You have an interesting background in the way that you came to Hormel Foods. We’ll get to that eventually. Or perhaps even right now. Why don’t we get to know you a little bit? Would you mind sharing a little bit about your background and how you wound up?
Amy Sheehan 1:22
Not a problem. I started my career actually in public relations way back when I’m not going to give you the year or the date. 90s You got it that date. And you know, did that for a few years, I worked for the Orlando Convention and Visitor’s Bureau in Orlando, Florida, relocated to Chicago for my husband’s job and ended up interviewing through a friend of a friend for an HR role in talent acquisition. At that time, I think it was called HR just or personnel even I don’t know, it was a long time ago. And so my primary responsibility was campus recruiting, doing a lot of those types of activities. I worked for a few companies in the Chicago area, the American Dental Association, as well as earn Justinian, and then actually moved on to stay at home with my kids. So it was a fun job. But I got the opportunity to work for Hormel Foods, we relocated to Austin, Minnesota yet again for my husband’s role, and ended up I was approached for an opportunity to help on a three month project in our talent acquisition team. And three months turned into three years. And then I came on full time in 2008. As a corporate recruiter, worked my way up within Hormel, Allah had a lot of different experiences working on acquisitions, as well as leading talent acquisition for the organization. And it’s been very rewarding.
Rob Stevenson 2:51
I love that what started as a three month contract became this like, fantastic, longer term job for you. What was it about the company where you’re like, you know what, I could join this full time, this could actually be a longer thing.
Amy Sheehan 3:03
Yeah, you know, it’s really interesting. It is the longest place I’ve worked. So I have been here since 2008, which is quite some time. I think it is because of the way that that Hormel treats their people, and we make really great decisions from the top down. And it was really fun to work for a company that made something. So we’re a food manufacturing company, actually global food manufacturer. And at the time I joined us, we were probably more in the protein meat manufacturing. And I’ve seen the evolution to a full on global food company. And so that has just been an exciting journey to be on as opposed to professional services or working in other areas. That process has been amazing just to be a part of that. It’s very complex. So you get exposure to a lot of different things. And even though my role is talent acquisition, I’ve had the opportunity to be involved in some really big projects for our corporation, like restructuring projects. I’ve also been involved in acquisitions, and then on acquisition teams, which is a really interesting way to learn about other companies and blend all those cultures together. So that’s been a really great experience for me.
Rob Stevenson 4:24
Yeah, the scope of your role seems pretty big, which I guess is to be expected, given that you work for a global food company, there’s so many different types of roles. There’s like a whole logistics piece of the business, I’m sure. But then even just beyond hiring, getting to work on onboarding stuff, getting to work on acquisitions. So was this something that was like, oh, you know, we need desperately someone to do this AMI, like, just in time learning you figure this out and work on it, or have you been kind of pursuing these things that are maybe outside the bounds of traditional talent acquisition? Yeah,
Amy Sheehan 4:51
you know, I think when you work for a smaller company, which I’ve had the opportunity to do you kind of become a jack of all trades. So I did generalist work I did. talent acquisition work. But when you work in a bigger company, you have your centers of excellence. And you know, that’s what I lead today. But if you have a wide range of experiences, you learn about comp and benefits, if you’re, you know, have been exposed to an acquisition or, you know, certain labor rules, if they’re a union information, there’s just a wide range of things you can be exposed to, and how to really understand the business side and get close to the business, as opposed to being a support function. So I would say, for me, it was more around really getting exposed and raising my hand to say, Hey, I’m a big fan of individual development plans. So I feel like if you want to have a career at smack going to be just very single faceted, you have to be able to put yourself out there. It does require extra work. Sure, at longer days. But I’m able to make decisions, I think, as it relates to my center of excellence today, based on those experiences, to say, Okay, how would this decision affect this group of people, or really connect those dots?
Rob Stevenson 6:14
Yeah, and this is so I think important to speak about because the things that do not fall under the traditional talent, professionals purview tend to affect their ability to do their job well, right, for example, like an onboarding thing, or learning and development o r retention, these sorts of things. And so the really, I think, strategic ones, they try and work on these things, even if they’re not incentivized, even if it’s not their job description, because it’s like, well, this is important to the organization and I don’t want to be back backfilling these roles. I already feel
Amy Sheehan 7:01
Yeah, that’s incredibly costly.
Rob Stevenson 7:01
Yeah. Yeah, of course it does. And so that I think the tier that you have sort of taken that approach is exciting to me. And it feels like it necessitates maybe a little bit more of like a redefinition of the role a little bit like maybe talent acquisition is not the whole story. Literally, it’s not the whole story.
Amy Sheehan 7:04
It’s not, I used to just say, Oh, we just bring them in. But it is so not you have to prepare your new employees to be able to be productive from day one. I think one of the great things we’ve done here at Hormel is create an inspired hires onboarding programs. So once our recruiting team closes the deal, if you will, gets that except it goes to our onboarding team at our solution center. And they are amazing, with following up to make sure that all the paperwork is completed, all our were in compliance, that sort of HR II type stuff, but then creating an experience for them. From day one, we send them a package with some of our products to get them excited about the company that they said yes to, and continue that experience from the talent acquisition phase, and keep them engaged throughout that process. And they really do a great job with creating a two day experience to understand their benefits, get hooked up on their computers, understand or charts, and then really understand our business and how do we function? What are the different pillars of our business? How do we make money as a company and whatever their role is in the organization, how they can contribute to that. So it’s really important for people to understand all the things a company stands for. And I think as I get to know, every certain type of candidate from a new college grad to an office hourly employee to a CFO, they have very similar questions. They want to feel connected to a company, they want to feel like they belong, they want to feel like they’re making an impact. It doesn’t matter the company. So it’s really important that you articulate your message. And let them understand that from the beginning. Because I do truly believe that if an employee makes a decision based on their experience within their first 30 days, they’re going to leave, and it’s just too costly of an investment to let that happen.
Rob Stevenson 9:12
I’m glad that you said you explain to new hires how the company makes money, it seems like such an obvious thing to share. But the onboarding experiences I’ve had have typically been like, All right, here’s some paperwork. Here’s like some of the benefits you need to sign up for. Here’s our resources hub. Here’s a link to it. Good luck. Have fun. Yeah, maybe like a values deck. Sometimes you get like walk through the values and a little bit of the history of the company. But just like some of the actual numbers around like, profit and loss, like that stuff would be really interesting. And you can share that in the interview, obviously. But I’m curious what are some of those other like specific business details you share with new hires?
Amy Sheehan 9:49
Yeah, we try and bring in people from different areas of our workforce to talk about marketing or if it’s supply chain or any big initiative they have going on in our organization so that they can stay up to speed and understand the reach really, of all the different facets of our company. So it could change based on the priorities. But certainly that’s a big part of it. We also do talk about what are our values? What do we stand for? How do we treat each other? That’s all very standard stuff. But we take a lot of time to ensure that they understand that.
Rob Stevenson 10:27
Yeah, seems really important. So this is part of your I think you mentioned it to me when we first spoke the inspired hires onboarding program. So I’m just curious to hear more about it. Because like I said, I feel like onboarding programs typically leave something to be desired. So what are some of the other ways you kind of try and create meaningful experiences for new hires to let them know that like, this is an exciting special place to work? Right?
Amy Sheehan 10:50
Sure. Yeah, I think, as I mentioned, we have found that the workforce is very savvy, and they need access to more resources than typically have been given in the past. So we do a really great job of explaining all our wonderful benefits that we offer. And we have very rich benefit plans. But in addition to retirement benefits, we actually created a session that really walks through the resources that are available as it relates to mental health. It used to be you got to number two, the EAP, which is the Employee Assistance Program. And for me, I always thought that was for somebody who was addicted to drugs or had really serious financial problems, but they can help you with coping. And there’s a lot of pressure placed on people today with all the different responsibilities that they have, wherever they’re at, in this stage of their life, if they’re just graduating from college and trying to navigate a new city and leaving their friends and family or if they’re an experienced hire, and they’re trying to establish an in network, or maybe you have aging parents, and you’re trying to navigate that process while starting a new job. You know, just It runs the gamut of all the things that are important to people. So we really take the time to showcase the programs that we have, as it relates to a holistic care for employees. I mean, things like pet insurance, were never important to people 10 years ago, it’s really important that people, their pets or their families, so I think it’s just trying to articulate all the ways and all the things that make us different than just a straight transactional cop and benefit package.
Rob Stevenson 12:40
Yeah, of course. And one of the things that makes the commission different is, again, like the scope of roles. And so this messaging that you would be delivering in an onboarding program is going out to people with vastly different backgrounds, vastly different skill sets, and it creates that reality probably creates challenges, let’s say opportunity for you, in that your careers page has roles ranging from like, forklift operator all the way up to Chief Financial Officer. So here’s the recruitment marketing nightmare. Yes, scenario, I want to pay for a nightmare, let’s say my reality. Let’s say a forklift driver, a CFO and a podcasts are all walk into a bar, walk into a career stage. They walk into a careers page, and you want them both to find the role for which they’re qualified as fast as possible. How do you manage that?
Amy Sheehan 13:32
Well, there’s this thing everybody’s been hearing about AI, right. And I think I can’t tell you I’ve been on constant webinars and things. I feel like it just popped up three months ago, well, maybe now six, but it’s happening so fast. And how do we use it for good and not evil, and we are actually looking at a few different options as it relates to how to narrow that gap. So it’s all about candidate experience, right? applicant tracking systems all do the same thing. You post a job you apply to a job, you manage the requisition, the offer process and the candidate accepts. It’s all very simple. And all of them do the same thing. It’s just the experience. Once a candidate gets there, you need to look at drop off, how quickly can they get to the right job. The workforce is very finicky. And when you think about on your cell phone, you walk by a store and you think oh, I wish I had those shoes, all of a sudden that comes up on your feed and it’s kind of creepy and weird. But we need to be able to do the same type of thing. for job seekers, a lot of them are passive. Even the active ones, they will get out on the job site if they don’t find exactly what they’re looking for. Or job titles are different. So they’re just gonna fall off. So looking at how you can utilize AI on top of your applicant tracking system, so you need something that can be error with it. There are a lot of vendors out there that offer this type of service that can do skills matching and can offer you opportunities. So the Chatbot can actually schedule interviews, do all these things for candidates, while your recruiters are asleep. When they come in their schedules full, they have a full slate of candidates. That’s my perfect world. And it’s people that are really interested in the role, just because since COVID, we’ve seen a major decrease in applicants to our wrecks. You know, on average, I think it went down about 30%, maybe even 40%, we’re starting to see it come up a little bit. But we have to do a lot of extra things to try and attract talent into our requisitions. So we are evaluating some artificial intelligence, and that would offer skill matching and resume matching.
Rob Stevenson 15:53
So ideally, this skill matching and connecting the candidate, the role would have been far before they get to the career page,
Amy Sheehan 16:00
correct? Yeah, they have a conversation. As a matter of fact, a lot of some of the experiences candidates would have, they don’t even realize they’re not speaking to a real person. So you can create it any way you want. Ask questions to the candidate to get them to the right type of roles. And it’s really important when you think of manufacturing operations to and shift availability and what some of the requirements would be for some of our roles.
Rob Stevenson 16:26
So does this just mean a much more sophisticated recruitment marketing team because like when you explain the way that retargeting and remarketing works with consumer products, it’s like location based its location to other people who have the interest. It’s like, ads, you interact with accounts you interact with on social media, etc. There’s a million different inputs for this that make you feel like you’re having your mind read. The truth is a lot scarier than it is like when people are like, Are they listening to my microphone? The truth is, it’s scarier that they’re not. It’s scarier, that they’re able to figure this out without your actual speech. However, that’s the level of sophistication recruitment marketing ought to be aspiring to
Amy Sheehan 17:04
you have to Yeah, we have to you have to create that experience, right from the get go. Otherwise, you’ll be in the dust, for sure.
Rob Stevenson 17:12
And is this from like, Okay, we need the inbound, we need the pipeline, right?
Amy Sheehan 17:17
I think it’s both I think it’s keeping candidates engaged in the process. Because you can use this process even for, like, how many times do you schedule an interview? And it’s like, there are no show Oh, well, they forgot it. Well, you can ping them through this and let them know, hey, you know, half hour till we can’t wait to meet you. And so they feel special during that whole process, even though it’s not you doing the work, my team doesn’t have that kind of time. But to be able to create that experience just sets the tone.
Rob Stevenson 17:48
Yeah, that makes sense. Like these little details, like, it’s not AI to send a email reminder, 30 minutes before, but it is effective, right? Like it’s just as automation, and you just need to pursue the tool and like, don’t be scared of this kind of thing. Right? This is. But again, now we’re going back to what I said earlier, which was like recruitment marketing exists outside the realm of traditional talent acquisition. It’s like, this is the kind of thing that you’re like career marketers and like paid search people and ads, people demand gen people, this is their skill set. It’s just needs to be pointed at recruiting. So sadly, I don’t know, do you need to fight to hire that kind of like, recruit like marketer for your team? Or Should this be something that recruiters add to their tool belt,
Amy Sheehan 18:28
it could be either way you could hire internally, or you could engage an agency, there’s lots of agencies that do this type of work and are very skilled in this type of work. So you know, there are two ways to approach it. We currently use an agency and it works well, for some of the stuff that we do. I just want to be clear, though. Everybody read an article caught my eye the other day, it’s and will recruiters be obsolete with AI? No, they will not. But it will allow us to spend time creating experiences that matter that get us top talent. Because when you think of the time that spent trying to navigate and find the right candidate, and do that, if you’re able to, you know, just kind of succinctly use some of those matching artificial intelligence, you’re you’ve already saved a lot of time out of your day, and then take that time and create meaningful experiences for the candidate.
Rob Stevenson 19:27
You know, who will be obsolete people who write blog posts about whether job functions you don’t understand are absolutely yeah, that’s true. Good point. Like they might already be that could have been a chat. GPT headline for sure.
Amy Sheehan 19:39
Rob Stevenson 19:40
You know, me You mentioned a moment ago about some of there’s a million vendors that offer some of this recruitment marketing stuff, you can pair it with your ATS. And I do like it when vendors come up a little bit because I feel like there’s not a great framework for assessing a tool. I think a lot of people fall into the trap of like, well, it seems to do enough of the things I want it to let’s give it a try and You know, hope for the best. So has that been your experience? How are you kind of assessing vendors and ATS is on these sorts of tools.
Amy Sheehan 20:05
I’ve been in the space a long time. And I remember I think I’ve implemented seven applicant tracking systems in my tenure at various companies. And I have yet to find the one that’s perfect. Maybe I’ll create it, I don’t know. But I think part of it is really doing your homework, going through a full RFP process, making sure you talk to current clients, I always make that a priority. Because I think if they’re not able to provide a valid reference, I would not even engage. And I’m not saying I need 10 give you a couple, you know, and typically, most good vendors will give you that option, so that you can understand how it saved them time how they’ve, you know, really looked at the program, we just did the same thing with a vendor, I can talk about it, I think it’s handshake, they do a lot of campus recruiting. And they have a lot of add on products, and they were able to provide us with it’s expensive, but you know, just great to get a sense of how people in our own space use this program. And one gave a really great kind of footprint on it. She said, here’s the deal. If I had to cut my budget, this would be the last thing I would cut. It has changed the way we can reach. We’ve reduced our travel budget, we’re able to go to more schools. So really being smart about asking the right questions and prepared during that time, so that you can understand what it can and can’t do to solve problems for your business.
Rob Stevenson 21:43
Pretty ringing endorsement. That would be on my Testimonials page if I were to that company. But yeah, it’s interesting to try to get connected to a current customer is important. Do you think it’s important to backchannel that? Because like, they’re gonna refer you to someone who’s happy? Like, is it important to try and get someone who’s like not been curated for the test?
Amy Sheehan 21:59
Yeah, I think it’s good to do as much research as you can find anything, you know, reviews on the product, unsolicited reviews, and see if you can identify opportunities. I’m involved in a lot of share groups, too. So you can post questions and say, Hey, I’m looking at this tool. Anybody got any thoughts? That’s another great way to do it, too. I think it’s good to stay connected with your peers in the same space, because we can all learn from each other.
Rob Stevenson 22:28
So will you said that no, ATS is perfect. How do you know when it’s good enough?
Amy Sheehan 22:33
That’s a tough question. I think when you’re able to use the data, and analyze it, and identify like when it’s difficult to get data out of a system, like simple things like time to fill cost per hire, how to figure out how many apps it takes to get to a higher if you can’t figure out some of those main things, you’re in trouble. I mean, every one of them will process your application, get them to a hired stage. That’s table stakes. But you got to think about what data do you want to be able to evaluate? What do your candidate pools look like? Are the you know, social events that you’re running? Are they garnering results and tie that back?
Rob Stevenson 23:17
Yeah, that makes sense. Amy, we are swiftly approaching optimal podcast length here before I let you go. Yeah, time flies when you’re having fun, right? Time flies when you’re talking about the desperate gaps in recruitment marketing, we all need to be. Before I let you go, though, I was hoping I could put it on you to kind of delicately thread the needle, you’re at the end of the app, what advice would you give to folks out there in podcast land who are forging their careers, who perhaps want to wind up in a position like yours, leadership role at a huge, awesome global company?
Amy Sheehan 23:47
What I would say is do not only look at the path you’re on, reach out for other opportunities in other areas so that you can understand talent acquisition touches a lot of parts of the business. So it’s important for you to understand all the comp and benefits your company offers. It’s important for you to understand the challenges of the business, it’s important for you to understand how we develop people once they get in the door. So don’t be afraid to take a departure from talent acquisition to build your resume to learn many other areas of the business. It’ll make you a better leader and a better partner with your leaders at your organization. That’s my advice.
Rob Stevenson 24:31
That’s great advice. And Amy, this has been an episode full of great advice in fact, so at this point, I would say thank you so much for joining me. It’s been a real pleasure chatting with you.
Amy Sheehan 24:39
Yeah, great meeting you. Thanks so much, Rob.
Rob Stevenson 24:43
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