TA WEEK: Leaf Group VP DEI Tara Turk-Haynes

Tara Turk-HaynesVP DEI

We are live on day two of Talent Acquisition Week! And today, for the third time on this podcast, we welcome the VP of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) and Talent Management at Leaf Group, Tara Turk-Haynes. Tara has made it her mission to embed DEI into Leaf Group’s talent management strategy, with the hopes that this trend spreads across the entire industry. She explains why this mission is important to her and how she’s gone about it in her current role, as well as why she’s more likely to recruit ‘career changers,’ why the industry should pay more attention to how they market to emerging talent, and why all companies should do their best to accommodate for the post-pandemic concerns of candidates. We then discuss Leaf Group’s new Director of Recruiting Operations, Rhona Barnett-Pierce, paying specific attention to how Tara recruited her on Twitter, why Rhona’s career trajectory ultimately landed her the job, and how her resume stood out from the rest because she highlighted the strengths that she would be using in the role she applied for.  We end with a chat about the current state of DEI and how companies need to do more to tailor their DEI targets according to their own needs, instead of setting them based on law and societal pressures. In 20 minutes, we gained a wealth of knowledge from the remarkable Tara Turk-Haynes, including the best career advice that she’s ever received!

Episode Transcript


[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.

[0:00:12.8] FEMALE: We actually want to understand the themes of someone’s life, we want to understand how they make decisions, where are they willing to take risks and what it looks like when they fail.

[0:00:22.7] RS: No holds barred, completely off the cuff interviews with directors of recruitment, VPs of global talent, CHROs, and everyone in between.

[0:00:31.1] FEMALE: Once I went through the classes and the trainings, I got the certifications through diversity and inclusion, I still felt like something was missing.

[0:00:39.7] 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.

[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.


[0:00:59.0] RS: Here we are on the floor of TA week for day two. Day two is kicking off and everyone is well rested, bright eyed and bushy tailed. No one is hung over. No one was urgently avoiding eye contact with other people in the lobby on the way in. It’s just a completely normal professional affair and state of the way you can take it. And I’m really thrilled. All kidding aside because on the podcast with me this morning is returning champion for the third time, the VP of diversity, equity, inclusion and Talent Acquisition over at Leaf group, the one and only Tara Turk Haynes. Tara, welcome back to you. How the heck are you?

[0:01:38.0] TTH: One of my favorite places to be with you? Great.

[0:01:42.0] RS: I’m blushing over here. Good thing, this is audio only.

[0:01:45.0] TTH: Blushing and I can confirm.

[0:01:48.0] RS: I’m so pleased to have you back because we’re not you and I recorded for the first time. That was one of the last in person episodes I did before the world went dark at your offices in Los Angeles, which was a delight.

[0:02:01.0] TTH: And you were the last person in that actual podcast.

[0:02:04.0] RS: It’s never, it’s never been used. It’s just dusty.

[0:02:07.0] TTH: Still says in use because we never switched the little sign off to.

[0:02:12.0] RS: We never wiped off the whiteboard. I’ve been thinking we’ve been time. It’s true. It’s tragic. It’s tragic has not been used. I think I need to visit you again.

[0:02:22.0] TTH: You should. For sure So open invitation.

[0:02:23.0] RS: I will take you up on that. So be careful. But man, it’s just good to see you. Good to be here with you. What’s going on? How’s the show been for you so far? Let’s start there.

[0:02:31.0] TTH: It’s been great. So my first one was virtual probably two years ago. I think I was the emcee for one of the days and I was on a panel and did the keynote. So in person. This is like a different vibe. I kind of like it like we’ve all been shut up in our houses and doing this by zoom. So it’s really good to see people.

[0:02:52.0] RS: Yeah, it’s it was like a little weird at first. It’s like, oh, it’s familiar, but alien at the same time.

[0:02:57.0] TTH: 1,000%. And like for it to be dedicated to just talent, because usually all these kind of conferences are folded in with multiple things. And so it’s great to just talk talent for a bit.

[0:03:07.0] RS: Yeah, that the crew, how has the content been? When have you been going to sessions?

[0:03:12.0] TTH: I have, it’s been really great. There’s one really great session on diversity sourcing with Jacob Rivas, who’s great. He’s gonna show later. Yeah, he’s only been doing this two years. I was like, You need to write a book. I told him that last night. I’m like, You need to write a book. But yeah, my panel on attracting emerging talent with Greg Fischer as our moderator was last night. What I really love I think so far and what I’ve been my mission and probably like, my own personal goal is to talk about how we embed diversity, equity inclusion into our practices, and not making them sort of this separate thing that we talk about alongside talent because it really should be embedded.

And so when our panel last night, we were talking about emerging talent, I really wanted to highlight the fact that I think emerging talent also means people who are in second careers and not just like those who are graduating from college, like all of the data shows, college attendance is dropping, and people are not necessarily thinking that’s the only way to get into the workforce. So how can we talk to those people who are not on university campuses, but coding academies, like, you know, it’s been, it’s really interesting to just sort of consider how we can broaden what we think about in terms of emerging talent.

[0:04:29.0] RS: I love this notion of focusing on career changers. These are people who have built up some professional chops, right? Who have some of this experience, but maybe not one to one and now they’re reinventing and rescaling how you find and engage with those folks. Do you just reach out to anyone who’s talking about Saturn returns?

[0:04:46.0] TTH: Well, it’s so funny because I do a lot of talking and mentoring with like coding academies or people who are teaching new skill sets to those who’ve had different careers. I know a lot of people who’ve done that. My current Director of Recruiting Operations, Rhona Barnett-Pierce, had a whole other career before she got into talent acquisition, she was a software engineer and then a PM and then got into talent. So, I mean, for us to like negate this whole group of people who have learned so much in a different area, it doesn’t make sense, especially with the workforce and the labor force data that we’re getting, like, we’re gonna have to consider people who have so much value to add, you know, that’s not just from a university campus.

[0:05:28.0] RS: Right, right. What direction did the panel last night take? Is this kind of where you went with it? It is, yeah.

[0:05:33.0] TTH: Because we were talking about, like, really developing authentic relationships with people. My take on, you know, if we’re gonna call it work recruiting from diverse pools of candidates is really, do you have an authentic relationship with those communities when you’re not hiring? Right? Because like, nobody wants to feel like, oh, my gosh, I need a diverse hire. Let me just reach out to the HBCUs and see who’s there. If you haven’t been there, then they’re going to be obviously distrustful, like why are you here, you’re here with everyone else.

So if you’re not building an authentic relationship, if you’re not mentoring, if you’re not doing mock interviews, if you’re not on panels, if you’re not participating in any of their community events, to develop really a pure relationship, then you’re not gonna have the outcome that you think you want. And so emerging talent is no different. And I think the most important thing we can tell people is, what is my day gonna look like if I joined this company, right? Like on day one, what am I going to be working with? Who am I going to be working with? That’s why I think social media is so valuable, because we have a lot of those like, Tiktok videos and people doing like, their day as a product manager like that helps people visualize themselves there and who they will be working with, are they welcome in that environment? There are so many things that we have to just focus on marketing as companies to be able to allow people to see these things.

[0:06:53.0] RS: These partnerships you’re speaking about with emerging talent. Yeah, that is marketing to this. This is like relationship marketing. This is 1,000% contribute to contribute and give give to a community so that when it’s time to take they’d like you said that they they trust you otherwise, you’re like, Oh, we see a million of these people every day coming in the last second, like, Oh, I’m not going to hit my diversity goals. Better do this right at the last minute.

[0:07:16.0] TTH: No, totally like, this is not we’re not operating in our parents or our grandparents higher market where you should be grateful to have a job, right? Even though Labor Statistics go up and down and go sideways. And we’re telling all these different data stories. At the end of the day, something has shifted with the pandemic, people are really taking stock and what matters to them. And so it is on the company to be able to express exactly what that looks like from their point of view and not go. We should just trust us. I don’t know you, you know what I mean? Like there are all these are all these other companies who are willing to do that work, and I think they’re successful.

[0:07:52.0] RS: Speaking of social media hiring, I got to meet your Director of Talent yesterday. Isn’t her title, Director of Recruiting Operations? Yes. And this is a newish hire for you. So can you first I would love to hear the story of how you found her. And then I want to also get into how you, you know, trained, or what did you put off on her all of that?

[0:08:13.0] TTH: So funny story. So we met on Twitter. And there’s a large group of talent and HR professionals on Twitter who engage and we’ve never met in real life, like we’ve never, we don’t know each other. If they walk past one another, I posted that I was looking for this role. And she reached out to me and was like, you know, I’m actually quite interested. And I was like, really, okay, slid into my she slid into my DMs. And she was phenomenal. Like, she has got wealth, like I said, a wealth of experience that really contributes and adds value. I think what’s really helpful is that she understands talent acquisition, as well as recruiting operations, like those are different things, right? Like, we’re a lean team. And we do wear a lot of hats. And I feel like she’s been able to step in and be able to really kind of help with our process improvements and make our a lot more efficient.

Focusing a little bit on data, which is my love, which I never thought I’d say this 10 years ago, but I love data. And so like that’s helpful, but also that candidate experience and she knows the very basics of talent acquisition as well. So a lot of what she’s responsible for is making us a stronger team by being really smart on our project management, our tools, everything that we use. Is it really, at the end of the day, making us a better team to hire for Leaf Group. And that has been phenomenal because the best I think teams kind of collaborate on that you don’t have one person deciding what that looks like. So we all kind of come together and we’re able to talk about him.

[0:09:54.0] RS: Was the timing just really fortuitous? Or did she slide into the old DMS and you’re like, you know what, let’s create a role for you.

[0:10:00.0] TTH: know, I had the role open I posted on and I was like, Hey, I’m looking for this role if anyone is kind of interested because the HR and television Twitter communities have so many different experiences and differences like industry. So you never know who you’re talking to, I have a friend who works at Visa, I have a friend who works in California, psychic networks, like you just never know who you’re talking to, and what they can bring to the table. And she was somebody who had done coaching for candidates for a long time. So I didn’t even know that she had this additional skill set until we chatted about it.

[0:10:32.0] RS: Man that came up yesterday, I remember who I was speaking with. But this point about people basically doing a bad job of displaying their skills to the marketplace, whether it’s like it’s not prominently featured on their resume or their LinkedIn, but you have to mine into people’s backgrounds a little bit to understand an area that would be relevant. And it’s interesting that it seems pretty common that people are not great at servicing it themselves.

[0:10:53.0] TTH: I think that’s in general, she is somebody I’ve never even looked at her LinkedIn before we just chatted on Twitter. But you know, looking at her resume, she absolutely had the qualifications when she actually applied for the role after we chatted a bit. But I do agree with that. I think a lot of people and thankfully are talking about that very thing, where don’t blanket apply to roles, you really gotta cater your resume to show how effective you will be in that position. I spoke a little bit about this last night, because we were talking about how to even look at a resume, I think every recruiting person looks at it differently. I don’t look at names, I go down to your first job, and then work my way up to your most recent job. And then I’ll look at all of the other details. But I want to know, Can you do that job? And what was your progression? Like? How did you get it? What’s your story? Right? Like, how did you get there? And then everything else kind of can factor into it.

[0:11:43.0] RS: When you say everything else do you mean hard skills?

[0:11:46.0] TTH: Well, you know, I don’t read the summary. A lot of people put a summary at the top of the resume, I never look at that. Scroll, scroll, scroll down, look at the name, I don’t look at location, I just look at your first role all the way up to where you are. And then I’ll look at your skill section, I don’t really look at the school that you went to, because I think that has a lot of bias to it. So all of the pieces of bias data that you would usually, you know, some people look at first I look at last.

[0:12:15.0] RS: You got it? Why is that? Just all of the experience telling you what signals are important?

[0:12:19.0] TTH: Yeah, because I think a school is not going to tell me whether or not you’re really qualified for this job. I know people have a lot of pride in the schools that they went to, but we don’t have uniform education. So I don’t really know. Like, you might think your schools are really great at whatever they’ve taught you. And that’s fine. I don’t know that for sure. I think what’s really helpful is to understand the places that you worked, what you did in those places, and then what your trajectory was up until your most recent job.

[0:12:46.0] RS: Got it. Run it is her name, we keep referring to her without actually calling her out. And so shout out to Rhona, Rhona, what you mentioned a little bit with the coaching piece, but what was it about her story that you were like, Okay, this is the woman for the job.

[0:12:59.0] TTH: I mean, one of the things that when I talk about career trajectory, I was like So wait a minute, you were a software engineer. So you understand recruiting for software engineers, right, which is a very different and skilled asset for recruiters to have. Not everybody can do that. Then you went into project management, which I mean, kudos to anyone who does that, I think it’s amazing. And I would like to have it in my next life as my natural skill set. And then project management for software engineering, and then was a director of operations of a company. So like, there’s all these really critical skill sets that she has picked up along the way that I think allow her to be successful in this role. Right? And those are the stories that you’re looking for. Because you’re like, Oh, you can do this, you can do that. And that’s what people want, you know, what can you pull out of your toolbox to show people that you will be successful at doing the thing that they want to hire you for?

[0:13:57.0] RS: Yeah, yeah. I’m realizing I don’t think I’ve spoken to anyone much about this, like the VP Director relationship. Yes. So what exciting new territory for the podcast. But I’m just curious what was important for you, maybe when you were scoping the role, or even once it became clear what the higher specialty was, what were the things you wanted to be her responsibility.

[0:14:18.0] TTH: So for my own success, I need to not be so close to actual hands-on recruiting and operations, like if I’m going to be successful in the role that I have. My growth is dependent on me being able to build my strategic skill sets, be able to allow to delegate and trust the people who work for me on my team to do the role that they have, right? If I’ve built this foundation, all they’re going to do is be able to come in and prove it, tweak it and I can have total trust that that’s what’s happening. And while I’m able to grow myself, and so that’s a new thing for me is being able to say I have this role. I’m focusing on my own growth to give have you back to the organization to give them the kind of DEI and talent acquisition strategy that they deserve that I can’t do if I don’t have someone that I can delegate that recruiting operations piece to?

[0:15:11.0] RS : So you’ve been able to free up a lot of your time, take out some of the nitty gritty of that. When you think about all the work that Ron has taken, you get to breathe a deep sigh of relief. Yeah, off my plate. Now I can focus on the VP thing. So you mentioned embedding DNI was a major focus. Could you share, like, what are the things you’re now able to focus on?

[0:15:32.0] TTH : Yeah, because we’ve had a really kind of this past year, lots of conversations with our senior level executives about what makes a DNI program successful. I think a lot of companies are finding that they haven’t been successful. And I think part of that is because it’s not embedded into the business strategy. And it’s really challenging to learn how to do that. It’s just not gonna happen overnight. But you really need to know the business strategy, right? In order to say, okay, so how can DNI support that business strategy, right? I’ve been able to conduct a few DEI vision statement workshops with some of our brands, so they can really kind of solidify what their strategy is and how DNI can support that.

We’ve held a few events internally for our teams as well, really focusing on the underrepresented groups at work at leaf group, like what can they share with their fellow co workers that we may not know about, right, and even how we tie it into the businesses that we have so and then data like I’ve really been able to lean into helping data tell our story. We’ve really done a lot of dashboards on demographics, for hires, demographics, more engagement surveys, like collecting a lot of that data over the year to kind of see where we really are and how we can decide where we need to go, what we should focus on.

[0:16:56.0] RS : Is that data on your existing workforce or on the labor market you’re hiring in?

[0:17:02.0] TTH: It’s our existing workforce. It’s also the markets that we’re hiring in, we just needed to capture a snapshot of what leaf group Where’s leaf group at, right? Because I think a lot of companies don’t take stock of where they are before they start determining their goals or where they want to be, we’re going to be 6%, more Asian American managers. Will how are you going to determine that if you’re not really sure? One, what is your current demographic look like? To what industry? Are you in that you think you’re going to achieve these goals? And three, are you factoring in geography? Like there’s all these different pieces you have to kind of consider, but the whole story is really collecting the data before you make a decision about that.

[0:17:43.0] RS: Also, if you don’t know where you stand, why 6%? Like, is that just a gut feeling?

[0:17:48.0] TTH: It’s so random. People, I do wonder when companies come out with these numbers, I’m like, where did you get that number? Because I’m so hesitant to ever say that. I mean, my goal is always to make sure our company reflects the world that we live in, the customers that we have and the customers we want to have, right? So like, how do we balance this stuff out? Where can we see what patterns the data shows us?

[0:18:18.0] RS: Also, setting a number like that a target like 6%, for example. What happens when you hit 6%? Right? Do you stop like, nowhere to the..

[0:18:18.0] TTH: Diversity achieved? Yeah, I mean, like, because we’ve, we’ve, we’ve solved all the racism problems. And this was interesting, because like, we are unique in that we’re 70% female. So we don’t have this gender challenge. I think a lot of other companies, do we have other challenges. But tracking that data, quarter over quarter allows us to see like, what’s the story there? Who’s getting promoted? Why do we have these attrition numbers with these specific groups, like just taking a lot of pieces of data and coming together? That has been a lot of my focus is really just getting to know our data in the most comprehensive way in order to be able to tell a good story.

[0:18:18.0] RS: Now, I wish we could keep going. And there’s so many more things I want to speak to you about. But we have sessions to get to and podcasts to be recorded etc.

[0:18:18.0] TTH: and seeing today for the DEI track. So yeah, I gotta go. Right, right.

[0:18:18.0] RS: Exactly. Before I let you go, though, I’m asking everyone this question, and I’m so curious to hear what you have to say. What is the best career advice you ever received?

[0:19:18.0] RS: Oh, that’s good. The best career advice I think I’ve ever received is to really focus on who you’ll be working with and how you feel in that place rather than the name of the company. The sound is not said to be and a lot of people can’t do this. But if you focus on salary first, you’ll always kind of get a little disappointed because you’ll be chasing something that keeps changing right and can disappoint you but if you are happy at where you are, if you like the people that you work with, if you feel like you’re learning, then you’re gonna grow in so many other areas and so I’ve always like followed people or company values over a lot of the other sort of high marketing brand may and things like that that people get excited about.

[0:20:02.0] RS: That’s fantastic advice at the end of 20 minutes. Oh, fantastic advice, Tara, you’re a delight as always, thank you so much for joining me.

[0:20:09.0] TTH: You are the best! Thank you.


[0:20:15.0] RS: Talk Talent to Me is brought to you by Hired. Hired empowers connections by matching the world’s most innovative companies with ambitious tech and sales candidates. With Hired, candidates and the companies have visibility into salary offers, competing opportunities and job details. Hired’s unique offering includes customized assessments and salary bias alerts to help remove unconscious bias when hiring. By combining technology and human touch, our goal is to provide transparency in the recruiting process and empower each of our partners to employ their potential and keep their talent pipeline full.

To learn more about how we can help you find your next great hire, head to hired.com/tt2m.