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Ep 373: Filling The Talent Gap

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Talent markets continue to be challenging globally, and employers have to think differently to fill the talent gaps within their organisations. So what strategies are working, and what might the future look like?

My guest this week is Heather Moyer. Heather is the President, CEO and Founder of HNM Systems, which provides talent and consulting services to the Telecommunications, Utilities and IT sectors. Heather shares her experience and expertise of working in markets with severe skill shortages and discusses how employers are responding to the current situation.

In the interview, we discuss:

• Talent market challenges

• Focusing on retention and meeting the needs of employees

• Career development and mentoring

• Authentic employee engagement

• Predictive analytics for talent acquisition

• Identifying and persuading hard to find talent

• What could the future look like

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Transcript:

Eightfold.ai (0s):
Support for this podcast comes from eightfold.ai. Eightfold.ai delivers the talent intelligence platform, the most effective way for companies to retain top performers, upscale and rescale the workforce, recruit top talent efficiently, and reach diversity goals. Eightfold.ai is deep learning artificial intelligence platform empowers enterprises to turn talent management into a competitive advantage.

Matt Alder (47s):
Hi, everyone. This is Matt Alder. Welcome to Episode 373 of the Recruiting Future Podcast. Talent markets continue to be challenging globally, and employers have to think differently to fill the talent gaps within their organizations. So, what strategies are working, and what might the future look like? My guest this week is Heather Moyer. Heather is the President, CEO and Founder of HNM Systems, which provides talent and consulting services to the telecommunications, utilities, and IT sectors. Heather shares her experience and expertise of working in markets with severe skill shortages and discusses how employers are responding to the current challenges.

Matt Alder (1m 31s):
Hi, Heather, and welcome to the podcast.

Heather Moyer (1m 35s):
Hi Matt. How are you?

Matt Alder (1m 36s):
I’m very well. Thank you. And it’s an absolute pleasure to have you on the show. Could you just introduce yourself and tell us what you do?

Heather Moyer (1m 43s):
Absolutely. Grateful to be here. I’m Heather Moyer. I’m the President, CEO and Founder of HNM Systems. HNM Systems is a staffing and consulting firm, and we focus in a really unique niche in the information, communication technology, which is effectively Telecommunications, Utilities, and the IT sectors.

Matt Alder (2m 4s):
Fantastic stuff. And there’s lots of things I wanna ask you, but probably a really great place to start would be to find out a bit more about your story and how you came to do what you do.

Heather Moyer (2m 15s):
Well, that’s a fun story. Thank you for asking. So I have been in the staffing industry for roughly 18 years. I had a beautiful opportunity when I was a college student to work for a dot-com student loan consolidation company and that was in 2001. So working for a dotcom in 2001, you know, many companies were just kind of falling apart. And many dotcoms I should say were really just kind of falling apart in that time, but not us. We were seeing explosive growth and through a beautiful lens of entrepreneurship and opportunity, the founders and owners of that business really created a niche business and took me along for the ride.

Heather Moyer (3m 4s):
I think I was probably one of the first 10 employees that was there at the dotcom and I stayed there through college and became part of, you know, basically them being acquired by another company. And that was just a wonderful experience for me because I got to see behind the scenes, how you start a business and successfully run it and sell it. And I really always had the entrepreneurial itch, but that really affirmed it for me. I knew without a doubt that I wanted to be an entrepreneur and that I wanted to make significant impact in the world.

Heather Moyer (3m 45s):
And I was in a place where I saw it happen, and that was a gift to me. So from there, I was actually recruited by a peer to join a staffing company, which is a local staffing company here in the states in San Diego, California, that focused on automotive finance. So we worked for all the big automotive manufacturers doing complex project management and IT staffing services engagements with them and joined that company when they were roughly six consultants. I joined them as an intern, worked both jobs for a little while, wanted to see, you know, what was the best fit for me and my future career. And eventually, ended up becoming the president of that organization over about a six-and-a-half-year period, took the business to eight figures, and expanded that marketplace and our market share pretty significantly.

Heather Moyer (4m 37s):
At that time, I was 26 years old. I was working like a dog, you know, four airplanes a week, all over the country, and didn’t have any equity in the business. And really just had this moment and thought to myself, is this the fit? Is this the future? Is this the life I’m looking for? And serendipitously, I was traveling to San Francisco International Airport, anybody who has ever traveled there knows that you got fogged in a third of the time. So I indeed did get fogged in and started a conversation with a really intelligent mechanical engineer from Stanford who started telling me all about wireless engineering and what at that time was called macro-outdoor wireless systems.

Heather Moyer (5m 28s):
He had actually deployed the first outdoor wireless system here for Sprint in 1998. And he really piqued my interest around this specific technology and this specific niche. So after about three hours of conversation, we ended up, it ended up that we were on the same airplane. And so he came back and found me on the airplane, gave me his business card and said, you know, “Hey, would you like to have lunch with my wife and I?” And I thought, well, maybe. Right, I had just been having this conversation with myself about wanting potentially to consider something different. So went to lunch with them and really spent the next 12 months learning everything I could about mobility and what is now called DAS, Distributed Antenna Systems, and small cells and connectivity, and decided to take the leap and start HNM Systems.

Heather Moyer (6m 20s):
So really young, obviously, it was a great opportunity for me to have some investors in the business and to really put some sweat equity and some elbow grease behind the business model and make things happen. And we did. HNM Systems just celebrated our 10th anniversary, and that has been a huge success for us.

Matt Alder (6m 42s):
Fantastic stuff. And congratulations on building the business. And you’ve also reminded me, I’d probably pay good money to be fogged in at San Francisco airport now. It’s always been frustrating in the past, but with all this time without any travel, it sounds like an amazing thing to do. So you’re in a very, very specific market and obviously, huge sessions going on in the industry at the moment about the effect of the pandemic on various different labor markets. What’s happening in your market at the moment?

Heather Moyer (7m 13s):
Thanks for asking. We’re experiencing similar, a similar post-pandemic labor deficit influx. So we have, I would say about 300 percent of our general order flow. Our orders have tripled in the last six months and historically year over year, we’re maintaining a very successful growth and run rate on those order of fill ratios. Recruiting is so interesting, Matt, because it changes all the time. You know, sometimes as staffing owners and executives, we don’t have enough work. And other times, we have too much work. And then there’s times where we have just the right amount of work with just the right amount of people, but the market is crazy.

Heather Moyer (7m 59s):
And so we have to manage attrition and really focus on retention. And we’re in this really unique period where, you know, we’re having to do all of these things simultaneously and continue to constantly reevaluate and shift the business with the marketplace. I have never been more consultative with my clients, helping them to really look at what their business need is over the next 12 to 18 months, and how we can help them meet that need both traditionally with staffing services and non-traditionally with coaching, mentorship, and development plans with a steadfast purpose, with communication and collaboration tools, with all the things that really businesses are having to do today to remain successful and competitive in this marketplace.

Matt Alder (8m 55s):
That’s really stuff. And I’m really keen to dig into that a bit deeper, but before we do, let’s just put a little bit of additional context around it in terms of what’s happening right now with companies returning to the office, with the future of flexible work. I mean, what are you seeing and how is that changing the situation?

Heather Moyer (9m 11s):
Yes, well, I don’t think I’m gonna be very popular when I answer this question, but I’m gonna answer it honestly for you. So employees right now are the boss, you know, because of the shortage that we are in as a business and as, you know, as corporations right now, we are having to really manage the needs of the employee and the desires in addition to the needs of the employee, the desires and wants of the employee and the needs of the business. And I think good businesses do that all the time anyway. But as it relates to returning to work, there are a lot of needs. You know, some spouses still have, you know, some spouses have other spouses who have no flexibility.

Heather Moyer (9m 53s):
They have kids home. They have limited child’s care. Maybe they’re recovering from not having worked for the last couple of years. I mean, there’s some real needs that have come out of the pandemic that we have never dealt with as a force before. In addition to that, employers are really looking at who needs to be in the business. Yes, as a cost and operating expense reduction. Yes, as a talent acquisition strategy. Yes, for a lot of different reasons they are looking at that. They’re also smart and recognizing what we just talked about, Matt, which is you absolutely have to be asking the right questions to the employees, listening to the needs of the employees and the wants of the employees, and meeting our current employee need.

Heather Moyer (10m 36s):
And so we here specifically at HNM have a three-pronged approach to how we’re going to return to the office. And a lot of our customers have adopted that under our strategic guidance, but it is a moving target. And I’ll tell you what the new variant, things change every single day. And I think it’s just has been a gift for us that one of our core values is agility. We remain agile for our customers always, but, you know, our agility in being able to service our customers and to meet the needs of the business and our employees right now has been key to our success. And that’s what I’m seeing in the marketplace.

Matt Alder (11m 19s):
It’s obviously we’re in this unprecedented position, the work and where we do it is being disrupted, and that’s likely to continue for at least the foreseeable future. And at the same time, there’s huge challenges in talent markets in terms of getting new skills and people into businesses. You mentioned some of the sort of innovative solutions that some of your clients are adopting sort of protecting around career development and mentoring and communication. Can you tell us a little bit more about that? Maybe give us some examples that people could learn from?

Heather Moyer (11m 52s):
Absolutely. So here at HNM Systems, we have a really uniquely customized operating model where we get together with our customers and we really look at the needs of their staffing program. And we sit down and we create a strategic roadmap to make sure that they succeed, not only with the specific skill sets and, in the timeline, but really what the needs of the business. And I think that’s one of the things that really sets us apart. So what we’ve done with our customers is we’ve given them real live data from, you know, credible sources in the marketplaces that they’re looking to build these strategic programs and these talents, staffing acquisition areas. And we have shared the data with them in a meaningful way, which says, “Hey, we recognize you need 45 people by October 1st.”

Heather Moyer (12m 41s):
You know, they’re developed in these skill-set patterns and here based on the market data and the AI tools that we use and the candidates that we have access to, here’s how many of those we think we’re gonna be able to put, you know, bottoms and seas by that date. Now the gap, because sometimes there is one right now, and this labor deficit is going to be filled by things like partnerships, vocational schools, universities, professional organizations. We’re really gonna have to look at the talent that you have internally developing some co-op programs, creating development and mentorship programs. And this is not, you know, these decisions and these steps can’t be taken in a vacuum.

Heather Moyer (13m 23s):
You know, you have to bring your leadership teams along with you. You have to explain why we’re doing things differently and why that’s gonna have a positive impact, not just on the organization, but on to the employees that are already there. This is how your organization is going to positively impact their lives specifically in the business. So really that again is helping our customer to identify really strategic, a really strategic approach to career development programs internally. Obviously, that starts with talent acquisition, making sure that the leadership is aligned in their purpose and that we have really good communication channels throughout the organization, but also with us as an agency to get that done.

Matt Alder (14m 6s):
Absolutely. And I think that’s really interesting and it’s certainly something I’m seeing, seeing merit in kind of lots and lots of places. Just to, I suppose, ask a specific question about talent acquisition as part of this, so you talked about the sort of the market intelligence you have in terms of finding the talent that’s out there, but also, you know, how very difficult that is to do, what are you finding that’s working in terms of finding people and persuading them to move?

Heather Moyer (14m 36s):
Oh, you want me to give away our secret sauce?

Matt Alder (14m 39s):
Absolutely.

Heather Moyer (14m 41s):
Well, I’ll give you some tips. I would say number one, the number one most important thing, and you’ll see this with the data all over the boards in the Harvard Business Review, everywhere that you’re looking right now, the employees that are willing to make a move right now are changing and moving to companies that have a greater purpose. So the employees that are agreeing to leave is because they have found an organization that has aligned themselves with a greater purpose. And that is the number one indicator of A players, even though that’s not my favorite thing, but with A players, you know, moving to their next opportunity.

Heather Moyer (15m 21s):
That’s number one.

Matt Alder (15m 23s):
Cool. And number two?

Heather Moyer (15m 24s):
Gosh, number two.

Matt Alder (15m 27s):
Sorry, I’m putting you on the spot there.

Heather Moyer (15m 27s):
No, I love it. So we talked about number one, you know, which is obviously making sure that you have a really clearly crafted purpose that you’re communicating with the market. We here at HNM Systems are using a lot of integrated technology tools. You know, I’ve challenged my team to look at us as a technology company that does staffing and really leveraging predictive analytics and where we’ve found candidates successfully to apply them to our customer’s needs. You know, we use all of the general boards, but we do a really unique thing here where we really look at what the success ratios are of the specific sources that we use and of the redeployment rates for our current contract employees are.

Heather Moyer (16m 14s):
And we really make sure that we have a good fit within the customer need and the employee match. And again, we use that predictive data to make sure that we have continued success. So I would say that that’s number two. Number three is making sure that you are staying connected to the employee as they start their new assignments. So whether that’s a long-term consulting engagement, whether that is a turnkey project, staff augmentation or direct-hire, there is a real need for high touch with the employee right now. And I don’t mean, you know, just send them a swag bag with a bunch of stuff that says HNM Systems. I mean, they have meaningful conversations, understand what it is that is important to the employee, create a system that is authentic and really connect with the employee to ensure that they’re going to be successful in the new assignment.

Heather Moyer (17m 5s):
Let them know that they’re thought of, cared about and that you’re invested in their success. That is incredibly important. So we have a customized coaching model that we use here at HNM Systems, where we make sure that we have specific touchpoints and triggers and celebrations and appropriate coaching conversations that are sensitively assertive when necessary to make sure that our employees that are placed succeed.

Matt Alder (17m 37s):
As a final question, I always sort of asked people about their predictions about the future, but again, as we’ve really seen in the last 12 months and even more so now, making predictions about what’s gonna happen in talent acquisition is it’s probably not helpful at the moment because I think we’re all a bit sort of day to day in terms of what happens next. But what I will ask you is what would you hope is gonna happen over the next 18 months to two years? How would you like to see talent acquisition develop?

Heather Moyer (18m 8s):
That’s a great question and I love it, and I love the way you positioned it. Where do we hope that things will be? I think we really are all very powerful in our ability to create the outcome that we want. And I think the collective thought and energy in this can be really impactful. For the next 18 months to two years, I really hope that organizations will use this as an opportunity to redefine who they are as companies and align themselves with talent that are good long-term fits. So for our customer base, like I said, we’re doing a lot of coaching with our customers around making sure that their individual divisions, groups, departments are aligned in their own purpose.

Heather Moyer (18m 54s):
In addition to obviously the overall organization’s core values. So from the customer and the collective standpoint, I’m looking forward to that over the next 12 to 24 months. From the candidate and talent acquisition and strategy standpoint, I hope that we continue to walk and grow together in this new path. I think there is an opportunity to really continue to leverage talent abroad. You know, we recently started bringing on talent in other countries, which has been such a gift and a blessing to our customers and also to those employees.

Heather Moyer (19m 40s):
And I think it’s created a unique connectedness and opportunity advantage. So I really hope that, you know, from a talent acquisition standpoint, we can continue to think outside the box and recruit and engage talent from other areas. I hope that we will continue to invest in the evolution of technology as tools to help us succeed in our industry. In my opinion, our industry has been a little bit behind the times related to technology and as we see these new AI tools and integrated platforms and new opportunities to use predictive analytics and machine learning, I think there’s a great opportunity for our industry to really succeed in that way.

Heather Moyer (20m 26s):
And, you know, for the workers, it’s my hope that folks can continue to live a balanced life and, you know, live in their authentic self, show up for their families and employees, and yet continue to understand the value of working with and for a good business, contributing and being flexible. So in my perfect world, customers are aligned in a unique, steadfast purpose. We are using tools and technology to create best-fit talent matches, and employees are living true to their authentic and core values for an organization that’s a fit and is showing up every day.

Matt Alder (21m 14s):
Heather, thank you very much for talking to me. Thank you so much for having me. My thanks to Heather Moyer. You can subscribe to this podcast in Apple podcasts, on Spotify or via your podcasting app of choice. Please also follow the show on Instagram. You can find us by searching for Recruiting Future. You can search all the past episodes at RecruitingFuture.com. On that site, you can also subscribe to the mailing list to get the inside track about everything that’s coming up on the show. Thanks very much for listening. I’ll be back next time and I hope you’ll join me.

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