Corner Office Q&A: Claire Barnes

Claire Barnes became global head of HR at Monster in 2020, right when everything we knew about the world of work began to change. Faced with a completely remote global workforce, work from home challenges, the Great Resignation and strategizing return-to-work amid ever-changing coronavirus variants hasn’t been easy. We sat down to talk with Claire about her HR journey,  her path to the c-suite, and how she feels companies should support women in the workforce in a post-pandemic world.

How did you get your start in HR?

I think it’s fair to say I fell into HR, at least a little bit. I studied English literature because it was something I was passionate about, but when I finished, I didn’t quite know what I wanted to do, which I’m sure other college graduates experience too, so I went into contingency work.

I temped in different workplaces and ended up working in an HR department. I found that it was something that really made me feel good about what I was doing on a day-to-day basis. I think it was really the connection with people and connecting people to the business goal. Just having that ability to make somebody feel good about coming to work and being able to get the best from someone really triggered something in me and made me believe that that was something I wanted to invest more in, so I began a master’s in human resource management and I got my first job in HR. Luckily, since then, I have had the benefit of having some wonderful managers who have probably seen my potential before I’ve necessarily seen it myself.

Who helped take you to the next steps, and how did they support you?

The first person who stands out would be John, who was my first HR director when I started my career in HR. I worked for a company called Pro Metric, and I joined as an HR assistant.  We’d just won a huge contract in the UK, so it was like working in a startup environment and I was very much thrown in at the deep end. I was learning as I was working but what I found working for John was that I always felt supported. I always knew he had my back and he would ask me to do things that wouldn’t necessarily have had the confidence to do but which he could see I had the ability to do so. He definitely pushed me out of my comfort zone. Within six months of being there, I was running large-scale, recruitment for a big customer service organization. And I was pretty young, but he totally believed I could do it and I did and I progressed well from there.

The other person who stands out is a woman named Sarah, who was my manager when I was at Thompson Reuters. She was my manager at pivotal time because I had my daughter then. She was somebody who strongly pushed for women’s rights. She always pushed to have a seat at the table. In fact, I would say she was probably the closest to our CEO out of the leadership team for quite a long period of time. But she also pushed for others, including me.

When I came back from maternity leave, I was able to work four days a week, and I was a VP in HR. None of our team had done that before. There’s a question about whether or not you can balance that, but for me it was so important to have that time with my daughter when she was young and she fully supported me and I think that opened the door for others to do the same.

If you take a side compensation, the most common reason why people stay or leave a job is because of their manager and the experience they have working with their manager. I feel it every day in my own career.

As of February of this year, 1.1 million U.S. women had still not returned to the workforce, What do you think companies need to do to help bring women back and then support them once they’re there?

We have to learn from what’s changed in the last two years. First and foremost, I think it has to become a priority for the business. As an HR leader at Monster, it’s a priority for us as an organization. It’s not just an HR goal. Obviously, our HR goals are important, but it’s a business priority because we know the value that diversity brings in an organization. We know the impact that has on results and profitability.

But it’s also because we want people to come into the into the office or virtual office and feel as though they can be themselves. When I think about what employers can do to bring back or to encourage women into the workforce, I think there are a few different things they should be looking at. First of all, women still remain the primary caregiver in many different situations, whether it’s childcare, eldercare, spousal care, they’re still the primary caregiver.

So when you think about that as an organization, I do think it’s really important to consider what level of flexibility can you offer to your workforce and not just what’s on paper, but what actually do you demonstrate as a business. If you offer work from home, make that a norm versus something which women feel they have to ask for. Really think about your policies and how they show up in the business. If you can’t do flexibility from a work-from-home perspective, think about shift patterns, compressed hours, working weeks, part-time working, what other options are available.

Also, if possible, review your benefits to see what benefits are available to help support women. One of the things that we offer at Monster is backup care. We know that women are the primary caregiver and that means if their child is sick or if their parent is sick and they are no longer able to rely on the care of someone who is either a teacher or carer, then that will directly come back to the woman. So, what can you do?

Last but by no means least is role modeling. It is so important to be able to see yourself in an organization, so think about how your organization is structured. Do you have enough women in leadership? Do you have enough female role models? Is that reflected in your promotional materials? Is it reflected on your website or your job descriptions? You know, sometimes we have an unconscious bias in our job descriptions based on the words we use. You need to really think about all of those different factors and really making a conscious effort to make the environment as inclusive as possible.

Labor force participation rates for women of color are even lower than for white women. What can employers do to close that gap?

We’re working through this at Monster. We don’t have all the answers, but for me, the most important place to start is by asking women of color in your organization. So to begin with, if you have a business or employee resource group, talk to that group. Ask what do you think we could do better? And what do you think is preventing women of color from applying for roles at this company?

I think the other thing to do is really to consider your hiring sources. So if you are finding that you’re getting the same profile of candidates each time, are you using diverse enough hiring sources? Could you be connecting with colleges or  through a different means? So really think about pushing your hiring sources and setting goals for your organization. You need to be pushing your teams to be bringing more diversity to the table, and I know it’s tough because we are in this incredibly talent-scarce market, but it’s really important to today’s candidates that you have an inclusive and diverse workforce. We see that in the research that we’re doing at Monster.

What advice would you give to a woman who’s hoping to advance in her career right now?

My first piece of advice would be to take a step back and think about your career like a job. Plan it. What are you good at? Ask other people, what do you think I’m good at? What are my strengths? What are the areas I could develop?  Then think about what you’re passionate about. Once you have done that, engage your manager and openly talk to them. Say, I want to move on, I want to progress. I want to do something different. This is what I think I’m good at. This is what we’ve talked about. What do you think?

We talk a lot about women supporting women, but we need allies, right? Allies of men and women.  Many men have been influential in my life and continue to be, and so I think it’s also about building that network of allies and mentors around you who can really help develop your confidence.

One of the things which I think a lot of women suffer from and I know that I’ve suffered from in my own life is impostor syndrome. We know that women are less likely to apply for a job unless they satisfy 100% of the criteria on the job description. Men are much more likely just to dive right in and say “I can do that.”

You need people around you who are going to give you that push and that confidence, so that when you’re not sure, you have that support network. Don’t try and look at job titles or think “I must be this by the time I’m 30 or 40 or 50” or whatever. Think about it as what you’re good at, what you enjoy, and how to create a plan around that. Work directly with your manager and build a support network around you because you often don’t see what other people see in terms of what your strengths are.

Explore how you can support women in the workforce

If you’re in a position to hire more women or support your current female employees, learn more tips and strategies to support women in the workforce.

Corner Office Q&A: Kevin Phillips

Kevin Phillips is Chairman, CEO and President at defense contracting firm ManTech International, Monster’s 2021 winner for Best Employers for Veterans.

Here, he talks with Monster about ManTech’s veteran hiring strategy, why veterans are such an important part of the workforce, and the hiring and recruiting challenges that are facing companies in a post-COVID-19 world.

Monster just awarded ManTech as the #1 Employer for Veterans. Can you talk about ManTech’s track record as a company that hires veterans?

As a company, we’ve always supported the Department of Defense. In the 1960’s, we started as a Navy contractor, in the 1990s, we supported the military during the first Gulf War and we’ve continued to support the military, intelligence community and other agencies after 9/11.

That history has given us a good view and focus on veterans as a trusted partner. As you may know, government missions change from time to time. Today it’s very much focused on technology and bringing digital capabilities to the federal government and to the Department of Defense, so we spend a lot of time on that.

How do you nurture and grow your veteran talent?

Veterans understand the mission sets the government needs, they have a lot of experience and passion for what that mission is, and today about 45% of our workforce are veterans. That’s not by chance. That’s something that’s very purposeful and intentional. It’s a commitment we make as a company.

So we mentor the veterans, we have career enablement initiatives, we have company-paid certification and degree programs, and we try to retrain and retool veterans once they join the company if they have an interest in it. We also work with online degree providers like Purdue University Global to establish tuition-free degrees in competencies that we think the government is going to need long-term. It’ll also provide greater mobility, better pay in the life of the veterans.

This last Veteran’s Day, we established a ManTech Vets Training Program. We’re training a certain number of veterans for six months on technical training that’s focused on a capability called Service Now as well as some cloud skills. Once they’re done, they have those Service Now certifications and we can put them directly on support for different government customers.

ManTech has retained 80% of veterans hired in the last year. Do you credit the programs you’ve put in place as being the things that have kept veterans there long-term? 

We have definitely spent a lot of time over the last four to five years focusing on those investments to train employees, provide mobility within the company, and give them career options.

Many of our employees are veterans themselves, so they help coach and guide new veterans. Veterans fit very well because they know that we’re here, we understand how they think, we understand where they’ve been. And I do think it provides a very good value proposition, but also an environment for these veterans to come in and expand their careers.

What specific attributes or skills would you say veterans have that are a benefit to ManTech?

They tend to be objective-driven because that’s how they’ve been trained — we call it “mission-focused.” And that’s how our government customers think: What do I have to achieve? What’s the overall timeline? What’s the objective? And they fit into that because timelines and outputs really do matter, and that’s a natural thing for them.

They’re already naturally disciplined to know what to do and what to focus on. Especially in the veteran community or the Department of Defense, if they have an urgent requirement, it’s a very compelling thing. It can be a matter of life and death sometimes. So our employees have to understand the importance of that. Veterans bring that to us and allow us to be a trusted partner to the federal government.

What hiring and recruiting challenges have you experienced over the last two years, and what do you predict is coming down the pipeline? 

There are two unique things we have to deal with in our sector compared to other sectors of the economy:  The first is whether an individual can receive a security clearance. The second is that everyone in the industry is dealing with the COVID mandates from the federal government.

I’d say the security clearance process is something we’ve been focused on for the last few years. And for the last six months, making sure that we bring our workforce toward getting fully vaccinated is what we’ve been focused on.

I wouldn’t say these items have created a greater challenge in recruiting, but they’re additive areas we’ve focused on in order to get people in. So that means our recruiting effort has to be more focused and attuned to who we can find and how we can attract that talent.

Beyond that, the workforce has learned to be mobile, learned to be remote, and all of us have been able to adapt to that in a fairly flexible way. That can be good in that it provides people with mobility, but at some point, we might lose the human touch, so we’re trying to make sure it all works together.

Are there some opportunities at ManTech that can’t be done remotely?

I think everyone, not only the employees, but also the decision-makers, learned they can do their jobs at home — maybe not in total, but in part. That changes a lot. So for some of our support staff and customers, I think that will become more of a norm. There will be a hybrid system that’s permanent for a lot of the workforce.

That said, for some of our customers, they can’t work remotely, because they have to be in a secure facility to work. So it very much depends on the type of work and whether you can do it at home or not because of the type and classification of work.

Can you talk a little more about your vaccine challenges?

We’ve been very focused on educating people, providing them with a view on why vaccines are important, and recognizing that some people have deep emotional reasons why they wouldn’t want to be vaccinated, and a lot of those are religious or health-related.

We have a concierge service that provides the closest areas for employees to get a shot. We track it fairly rapidly, because we want our customers to understand as well as our employees what risks might exist if a subset of employees passionately feel it’s not appropriate for whatever reason.

If you look across our industry, the percentage of the workforce to date that have been vaccinated ranges anywhere from 75% to the low 90%. And all of us are trying to work toward this goal of 100% because that’s the mandate. But there will be a percentage of the workforce that may have to decide whether they want to work in another industry that doesn’t require it.

 What kind of challenges or opportunities do you see when it comes to the evolving workforce, especially finding people with the right skills?

The areas we’re focused on from an investment standpoint are to retool, educate and improve our workforce around cyber analytics and AI, digital engineering or systems engineering in a digital world; enterprise and mission IT systems, and what we call “tactical edge computing.” I think that’s fairly unique to defense contracts.

We’re also focused on how we help the military operate in the technology-driven environment of the future, whether that’s 5G, whether that’s remote computing or other things. How do they aggregate into a format and a communications forum that they have to operate in the future?

Those are the areas we invest in because we think they’re important to the customers and their future requirements.

You mentioned a partnership with Purdue University. Do you rely on partnerships like that, or have you taken a lot of your upskilling in-house?

It’s both. We have Skillsoft that we use to help provide career journeys within our workforce. We have a CTO that develops R & D that people can apply to support. We have an annual tech share event that shows what we’ve been doing to invest in and where we’re headed, and our own ManTech University is award-winning.

We just recently announced a Master of Data Science degree through Purdue University, exclusively for ManTech employees. Many of these higher education folks are able to work with us to create a tailored degree program that meets the customer’s specific needs.

We’ll get a group in the class that are committed to this type of degree. We’ll bring them in and educate them on the cohort, and when they come out, they don’t have to be retrained against the customers’ needs because we’ve already gotten approval and certification and accreditation that the degree program meets our customer’s needs. We focus on that with a number of universities, but Purdue was an early partner, and we’re very proud to have worked with them.

To learn more about veteran recruitment best practices, read Monster’s Veteran Hiring Guide, and see the complete list of 2021 Best Employers for Veterans. 

 

 

Corner Office Q&A: Joanie Bily

Joanie Bily is the president of RemX, which provides professional clerical staffing and jobs, as well as being chief workforce analyst at Employbridge, RemX’s parent company. With decades of experience in various roles in the employment and staffing industry, she understands the challenges facing the jobs market and what might be necessary to close the skills gap.

Here, she talks with Monster about building a corporate career as a single mom, the importance of pivoting when the economy dives, and why companies need to focus on bringing women back to the workforce.

Tell me about your career trajectory. How did you get to your current position?

I believe everything happens for a reason in life, but I never thought that I would end up in staffing or recruiting. I’d never heard of it, and it’s such a great profession and great industry to be in. But the truth is, I completely fell into the industry.

I have a bachelor’s degree in human services, and I actually thought I was going to pursue a job in social work. Long story short, I answered an ad in the paper — so it dates way back! — that said “employment counselor.” It turned out to be a recruiter position, an entry-level staffing job in the employment industry. My first job out of college was with this little company, and I really started helping other people find jobs, placing people on a temporary and permanent basis. I fell into it, but I love the fact that the work we do really matters and makes a difference in people’s lives. We’re connecting people with jobs, and we’re connecting employers with great talent. I think that’s what’s kept me in it for so long — I really feel like the work we do matters. I still love the industry and I’ve worked my way up over the last 25 years to now being a president of a business.

What has helped you the most so far in your career?

I definitely have been a driven and ambitious individual, just in general. I’m someone who is thinking about what’s next, or what’s the next thing I want to achieve. I’ve always liked the concept of the bucket list and dreaming big. And I talk to people about that all the time — goal setting and reaching for your dreams and achieving success. So I think this industry has been a good match for me because it has been a career path where I could see the ability to climb that corporate ladder. I always knew that I wanted to be a manager — so what’s the next step? How am I going to get there? It’s an industry that if you work hard and put in the time and effort, if you’re good at building relationships with both employees and customers, it really can pay off for you.

It’s also been such a great industry as a female to be in. There are so many women in the industry who have been mentors for me and have helped guide me along the way. It’s also helped me see that you can have a family and have a big career and balance it. Yes, it’s a juggle, but you can do it. It’s a nice industry to be able to move up in as a female leader.

What hurdles have you encountered along the way?

Sometimes it’s been the economy. I’ve been through some real downturns where unemployment starts to climb and employers are laying off and not hiring. But there are always skills in demand, and always industries that are doing well even in the down cycle. COVID-19 was our most recent challenge, and here I was running a business where all of a sudden our employers were shutting down operations, letting people go, and no one was working in an office. You have to assess market conditions and determine that even though opportunities and doors may be shutting over there, where can we find a window that’s open somewhere else?

During COVID-19, my business pivoted. We decided to focus on companies that needed to hire biometric screeners and essential workers, companies that needed to stay operating. We placed hundreds and hundreds of people in jobs during COVID. And we also partnered with our customers for alternative solutions. Companies had to have people work virtually who had never had a virtual workforce before. You have to have crisis management skills. Market conditions change all the time, and you need to be flexible and nimble to be able to adapt.

Another challenge, I would say, is being a female. Even though I talk about how this industry is great for females, there have been many times where I’ve shown up at a meeting and I’m the only female in the room, or maybe one of two at a table. Luckily, I was fortunate enough to be raised in a family of all girls, where my parents instilled a lot of confidence in us, to feel like I deserve a seat at the table or in the room as much as anyone else. I’m thankful for the way I was raised, and I really credit my parents for that.

The last challenge is that as a working mom, I’ve also been a single mom. I want people to know that you can have a great career and also be a hands-on mom. It does take balance, and it takes prioritizing and really being organized, but this industry has definitely allowed me to have the career and also be a mom who was involved in my kids’ school and extra activities.

With the expertise you’ve gained, what do you see as the difference between White Collar and Blue Collar hiring?

What’s interesting about what’s happening today is that both sides are extremely competitive. I’ve never seen an employment market as competitive in the war for talent on both the Blue Collar and White Collar side.

I think what’s happening with Blue Collar is that the jobs are changing. There are many Blue Collar jobs that are now requiring much higher-level skills. They’re working with robotics and artificial intelligence. Some of the manufacturing plants and logistics centers are some of the highest tech environments out there. If you walk onto the floor of some of the top auto makers in the country, they’re so much more technically advanced than even a few years ago. So the jobs in Blue Collar today are looking for skilled talent that have the technology skills, the digital skills, and also the cognitive skills to be successful. We’re also seeing pay rates moving up. We’ve seen big movement in pay rates for warehouse workers and manufacturing workers.

I think we’ve been talking about that for White Collar workers for some time now — the need for more people to go into STEM roles and the professional level IT jobs, finance, accounting, data analytics and data scientist roles. Those skills are only going to continue to be in high demand.

With the candidate market so tight, what do you think about the skills gap and what firms can do to win talent?

I think employers are going to need to be creative in the ways that they offer training and education. There need to be more apprenticeship programs in place. I think the skills gap is going to be here to stay — any of the reports you read talk about how we just don’t have the talent trained with the right skills needed for today and certainly for the future. I think employers are going to have to offer on-the-job training. I would think we would see more apprenticeship programs come back in the skilled fields as well as in the trades.

What do you see happening in terms of hiring trends?

This is definitely one of the most challenging labor markets we’ve ever seen. We are at an all-time high of job openings in the United States from the last jobs report that was released. And we are at all-time lows in labor participation. So it truly is a supply and demand problem. The demand is there in all industries and all skills sets from entry-level jobs all the way up through the higher-level skilled positions. There are job openings across the country, and unemployment continues to tick down every single month. We just don’t have enough people participating in the labor market.

When you look at women in particular, that’s an area we need to crack the code in. Labor participation for women over 20 is at 57%. When you compare that to men, labor participation is at 69%. So it’s still low for both females and males, but particularly with females, we need to find a way to encourage women to come back. Employers really need to think about what they can do to attract female workers. Maybe that’s offering more flexible work schedules, more virtual work opportunities, or going back to job sharing. Maybe it’s offering different training programs or learning opportunities or apprenticeships for women who might not have had the chance or opportunity. But there’s a real opportunity for us to focus on targeting females to come back into the workforce.

What surprised you about the latest jobs report, and what do you expect to see in the future?

I think the last jobs report showed us that the leisure and hospitality industry did not add any additional jobs for the month of August. I was shocked by that. That’s the industry that was hit the hardest during the pandemic, lost millions of jobs. I would question that data, I think we’ll watch for the September jobs report to see if they revise those numbers. I think we will continue to see jobs come back in leisure and hospitality. I would also expect to see continued growth in the healthcare sector and professional and business services area as well as manufacturing and construction really has not seen robust job growth, but the demand is there. Any city you visit across the country, you can see residential building and commercial building. There’s so much expansion, and it’s hard to find workers. I wonder why we’re not seeing more jobs growth, because those jobs can also pay a bit more. I would expect we’re going to see some improved job growth in those areas for the rest of the year and certainly into the first quarter of 2022.

On another topic, why are people still not participating in the labor market? I think there are a few reasons for that. We still have health and safety concerns regarding Covid. There have been some challenges with schools not being 100% open and children still having to be virtual. And then I think we did have extra unemployment benefits that just ended on September 6th. I can tell you at my business, we have seen an increase in our online applications ever since those unemployment benefits have stopped. Hopefully, with school going back, with the focus on vaccinations, and with people realizing they’re not going to get those additional unemployment benefits, we’ll see labor participation tick back up.

Learn more about fall hiring trends

This fall, there are many factors at play that could swing the staffing and recruitment outlook in one direction or the other. For a deep dive into Monster’s data and analytics, plus our latest candidate poll data, read our Fall Hiring Report.

 

Corner Office Q&A: Raman Malhotra

Raman Malhotra is Vice President of Talent Acquisition at Leidos, a defense, aviation, information technology and biomedical research company. Although she’s been in recruiting for two decades, it was never her intention to be in the industry. But since she made the jump, she’s worked her way successfully up to her current management role.

Here, she talks with Monster about moving into leadership, the importance of thinking long term, and how to build a successful veteran recruiting strategy.

You’ve been in recruiting almost from the start. Talk to me about your career trajectory. 

I didn’t plan to be in recruiting at all. I have a degree in information systems, so I started out being a programmer. I did that for about six months and quickly realized that this was not it — I was not the person who’s going to sit in front of the computer and write code. I’ve always been fascinated by the HR field. To me, HR was always about helping people, whether it’s a generalist role, and honestly, I didn’t know a recruiter existed. When I was in college, the HR field wasn’t sought out, in a sense, because I often heard from my friends and the people I knew that an HR degree doesn’t pay you enough. So here I am, an immigrant, I need to go to school and make money, and the IT field was very hot back in the 90s. Most of my friends were in the computer science area, so I ended up doing that, and when I got my full-time job, I was like, ‘This is not it.’

But I wanted to still use my degree, I didn’t want to just throw it away. I found out I could be a technical recruiter, and that way I could speak the language and I could recruit, so I worked in an agency environment for six months, and then I got my first corporate job. I saw a job ad that said, ‘Technical experience required,’ and not necessarily recruiting experience, and I said, ‘You know what, I’m going to take my chances,’ and I got the job.

How did you take the leap into leadership?

I had good mentors and good sponsors, but I always wanted to be a leader. When I moved to Washington, D.C.,  I was working for HP, and I’d shown interest in management. My supervisor came to me and said, ‘You have high potential, and we have a manager role open. However, it’s in public sector.’ I had no idea what that meant. All I knew was that public sector means you support the government, and I had zero experience in that, but I wanted to get into management, into leadership. So that’s where I started my role as a leader, and ever since then, I’ve been in a leadership role. I never knew I was going to end up in recruiting, but here I am.

What would you say has helped you the most in your career?

I would say, the moment when I decided that I wanted to grow in my career. I have two children, and back when they were younger, I had an option to work remotely, and so I did that. Both my husband and I are very career-oriented people, so between the two of us, we’ve decided that one of us will cool off or hold off in our career, so that was me. But once our children were at the right age, I said, ‘Now I want to focus on my career.’ And that’s when I started thinking, ‘What can I do to get that management role?’ Whether it’s stretch assignments, looking for opportunities that are going to give me exposure to the leadership team, even leading the projects, I always sought to raise my hand, knowing that it’s not my regular job. I’ve got to do something above and beyond. I firmly believe that in order for you to continue to grow in your career, you’ve got to do the role first, and then be promoted into that role. I was always looking for that opportunity, and I made sure that my leaders knew that I was looking for career growth. I was always looking for opportunities that were going to help me, that were going to stretch my knowledge and give me the visibility I wanted to have.

What hurdles have you encountered along the way?

I think my obstacle, growing up in the same family in recruiting, was ‘How do you transition from being a recruiter to a manager, and managing the team you are a part of?’ Now, all of a sudden, your peers are your direct reports. So that was a huge obstacle for me, because now I have to look at these individuals differently. They’re still my friends, but I had to remove myself from that casual relationship in the sense that ‘Hey, there’s got to be that distance between us.’ It was a very different transition at the beginning, because I had to earn their trust, to make sure they know that I’m capable as a leader to lead them, but also that they could continue to trust me as a manager, as a friend. It rubbed some people the wrong way, and other people understood and helped me and got me to the right level.

The second obstacle in my career was, ‘How do you look at the big picture?’ To me, my focus was always narrow: We’ve got a job to do, we’ve got requisitions to fill, we’ve got to generate revenue. My focus was today, the present. As a leader, you should be looking at what the focus will be in the next two to five years. I would go to my manager and say, ‘I don’t understand why we’re not moving forward with this initiative or that initiative,’ and they would say, ‘How is this going to benefit us in the long run?’ I went through a lot of reading leadership books, articles, talking to the people that I know, my mentors, saying ‘How do you do it?’ Having to expand your thoughts about the bigger picture, that was definitely a hurdle for a few years — understanding why some of my leaders were thinking in the long run versus the short run.

Leidos has a strong veteran workforce. Can you talk about best practices you’ve learned in terms of veteran recruiting and hiring?

Leidos has been doing this for a while. You start out small, and you grow it organically. It’s a long process, so you need to be consistent and you need to be with that community. We have a dedicated program at Leidos called Operation MVP, and we have a dedicated program manager whose sole job is to create and maintain relationships with our veterans, whether it’s through associations, through the military transition assistance programs, the National Guard or reserve units. It’s a critical aspect of our business — we support the government, we support missions. So right now at Leidos, over 20% of our population is veterans.

It’s not that hard for us to attract veterans, because the veterans have supported the mission their entire life, and by coming to Leidos, they’re continuing to support that mission. That’s our focus — to continue to support the mission, to continue to do what they were doing. It just makes it easier for us. We’ve hired over 13,000 veterans since 2013. We also have the military spouse program which is equally important.

What qualities or assets do veterans add to a company? 

To me, veteran hiring is no different than when we talk about inclusion and diversity. When we talk about the diverse workforce, and we talk about inclusion, the veteran community is just one of them. If you’ve never done it, I would say, figure out where you want to focus. Maybe you want to start with one region or one local area and start working from there. The goal is to have that structure in place that outlines the process as to what you want to do. Once you perfect that, it’s a lot easier to grow.

I know that when we hire military folks or veterans, the transition can be challenging. But once you have the process in place, you just start out slow, and from there, it’s the referrals. In recruiting, there’s nothing better than getting referrals, because you know those are trusted partners. Instead of just targeting to be big, start with a pilot program and see if that works. And more important, is veteran hiring aligned with your corporate strategy? If not, you may want to rethink what that strategy looks like for your company.

Any advice for companies hoping to boost their veteran hiring game?

Once you know you’re bringing in talent, the biggest and next challenge becomes, ‘How do you retain them?’ Creating some sort of community that gives them that sense of belonging is going to be important. We do that all the time. We have nine employee resource groups (ERGs). Our ERGs are a wonderful way, especially with us being a mid-size to big company, of making sure our employees still feel that they belong. We have one called the Military Alliance Group, or MAG. It’s a way of having these employees create a community and connection across the organization. You’re bringing in the talent, and you’re able to retain it, which is going to help you, because if employees are happy they’re going to want their friends and family to work here. They’re going to feel like they belong.

Want to learn more about hiring Veterans? Monster’s Veteran Hiring Guide has advice from companies who’ve done it before. Download Monster’s Veteran Hiring Guide.

Corner Office Q&A: Monster’s Bob Melk

Bob Melk has been Monster’s chief commercial officer for four years, joining the executive leadership team after serving as president at tech jobs site Dice, and a long career in media, sales and business leadership. Here, he talks about his path to Monster, bringing diversity and inclusivity to the workplace and why it’s important to have hard conversations.

What attracted you to Monster?

I love the opportunity to work on the transformation of a business. I find those challenging, exhausting, and also fun and exciting. Monster was just starting a new transformation, and I was impressed with the brand — it was a brand I was familiar with, having grown up on the East Coast. I was also excited about the opportunity that Randstad represented as the new owner of Monster, because of the synergistic opportunities in combining the strength of each company. Separately, Randstad and Monster represent market leading brands which offer unique value in the human capital management industry but when combined, the strength of these businesses has the potential to transform an industry.

What things along the way helped you succeed in your career?

First and foremost, it’s always the people around you. I know that my success was largely due to the teams I have been a part of. That includes peers, direct reports and of course, the leaders that I’ve worked with. I’ve worked with some truly inspiring leaders and also some less effective ones and I have been inspired and learned from all of them. There is a lot to be learned from people who do things really well but also many lessons learned from mistakes, including our own.

In being a leader, you need to be comfortable with the idea of failure and of owning that failure. Every day we should ask ourselves, ‘What am I doing to support my team? What are the challenges my team is working to overcome? Are we still on the right course, or should we pivot and own that failure?’ I have strived to challenge myself in that way every day, both in support of my team and the business

What obstacles have you faced on your path?

An obstacle we all face, at least to some degree, is ourselves. I know that sounds like a self-help book, but it’s true. My biggest obstacle was confidence in myself for many years. I think being a gay man adds a layer of complexity to that, because for quite a few years of my career I wasn’t out. I knew it would be limiting or even dangerous to advancing in my career. I worked with people who weren’t shy about voicing their disdain or disgust for LGBTQIA+ people in front of me because they didn’t realize that I was a member of the community. That does a lot to undermine your confidence, because you feel like you’re a fraud until you are ready to speak up, to defend yourself and your community. Even after many years as an out professional, I’ve experienced more subtle prejudices that could be coming from a respected colleague or a customer, and while I am now more confident in how to handle them, they are still obstacles. It took me years of working hard to be a confident and effective in addressing these issues before I believed that I have something to offer.

In hindsight, I know I was adding value. But the obstacle of having confidence in my value was challenging. We all face obstacles of confidence, and this has been mine.

June is Pride Month. Can you share some thoughts on the importance of building a diverse and inclusive workforce and workplace culture?

Regardless of whether you are a member or an ally to the community, leaders struggle with this issue, especially right now with the heightened awareness we have on the lack of equity in our society. This is true for women, LGBTQIA+, people of color, people with disabilities, and any under-represented group.

People’s identities aren’t always obvious. I used myself earlier as an example, and there are plenty of others. We don’t want to make assumptions so being mindful to encourage inclusion in small ways every day is a way to celebrate Pride in our individuality.

It was not long ago that we all were expected to live and work within established norms in a working environment. There was an expectation that to fit in, you needed to prescribe to a certain look, to a certain manner and for many this is still the experience This is so ingrained that it isn’t enough to say, ‘I want to embrace diversity and I want to have an inclusive workplace and I want people to bring their whole self to work.’ Those are good statements, it’s a good place to start. But it’s not going to move the needle because of the nature of ingrained behavior and expectations of what it means to fit in at the workplace.

On a daily basis, we need to drive change by, inspiring our leaders, our employees, our peers to be willing to put their whole selves out there. Though it may be uncomfortable, if we approach it with sensitivity and kindness, I truly believe it will open people up, and strengthen the team.

As a gay man, I could offend a member of the LGBTQIA+ community, perhaps someone who is trans by using the incorrect pronoun. Of course, that could happen. Should I therefore be afraid to interact with this person in a supportive way? Absolutely not. If I make a mistake, I should own it and apologize for it.

We shouldn’t be afraid to have these tough conversations.

What is your advice for other leaders on how to create inclusive workplaces, particularly for LGBTQIA+ workers, in today’s ever-changing landscape?

It starts by ensuring that when a diverse candidate is seeking information on your brand, they are seeing evidence that supports a diverse and inclusive culture. It isn’t enough to add the word ‘diversity’ in a job ad. Culture matters. Increasingly, candidates want to work in an environment where the company’s culture is aligned with their way of thinking. They’re going to do research, and if they’re not able to find evidence that your company embraces diversity and inclusivity, they’re likely be less inclined to apply.

In the hiring process, we need to remember that many people from diverse backgrounds have not been offered the same opportunities as others. As a result, they may not have the same credentials on their resume as another candidate. It doesn’t mean they aren’t as capable of doing the job. We have to rethink how we’re qualifying a candidate to even bring them in for the interview process.

Many companies are rethinking whether a college degree should be a requirement for skilled jobs. Do they need to have certain skills? Yes. Does it require a degree? Not necessarily. It starts with rethinking what is required. What are the barriers we will put in front of candidates which may intimidate them to apply for a job? What are you going to do in the interview process to demonstrate your company’s focus on diversity and inclusion? The truth is, there are very few companies that are as diverse as they should be. We should acknowledge that, and also let candidates know that we are working to foster a culture of inclusivity and diversity and that it matters. We should share this with every candidate. If we are going to foster that environment, it’s important that everyone knows that this is a part of our culture and everyone’s job.

You adopted a daughter. How has that experience shaped your views?

Having a kid just transforms your life in every way. Your priorities change. The way you think about life changes. All you care about is their well-being and that they’re thriving. Before I even started the adoption process, I knew that there are too many children that desperately need a good home and parents who will love them. It doesn’t matter where they came from — these children deserve a chance. When I got into the adoption process with my partner at the time, we were blown away by how many children are out there. While their stories are tragic, these kids are wonderful and deserve a chance at happiness. For us, it was super easy to make the call that we wanted to adopt.

I don’t consider myself a spiritual person when I read my daughter’s profile, I knew she was my daughter. I cannot explain why. But I knew she was, before even meeting her. Of course, now she is my Karma. She exhausts me and thrills me every day. She’s amazing. She’s an incredibly social, smart, caring person who blows me away. I can’t say enough good things about the experience. I hope just one person who reads this story and might be considering alternative options to welcoming a child into their life will give adoption another look. They won’t regret it.

Corner Office Q&A: Wells Fargo’s Sean Passmore

 

Sean Passmore leads the Military Talent Strategic Sourcing team and oversees enterprise military and veteran initiatives at Wells Fargo. As a retired service member, he understands the challenges of transitioning from the military to a second career, and he also appreciates the value of recruiting veterans to contribute to a company’s success.

Here, he talks with Monster about making the jump from military to civilian work, the importance of a veteran recruiting strategy, and why it’s crucial to have veterans on your team.

How did you make a successful transition from the military to a civilian career?

For me, it was really about three things: Starting early, doing a gap analysis, and then closing that gap. When I worked at the White House Communications Agency, which was my last assignment, I knew I’d be retiring in four years, so I really got to work early on this thing I called a gap analysis.

It was about researching the jobs and the companies that I felt like I wanted to work for. What do those people look like who are working in those roles at those companies? I compared myself to those people working in those positions and identified the gap — what do they have that I don’t? Then I really tried to use that time as efficiently as possible while still serving in the military.

To do that, that meant earning a master’s degree. I chose a university with a reputable business school, but also that had a program that was flexible enough for me to continue serving in the military at the White House, which was a very demanding role. I also earned a professional certification: my PMP (Project Management Professional). I continued to network and do informational interviews. Those are the things that led to me eventually landing in a great career with a good company.

What would you say has helped you the most so far in your career?

I think it’s been mostly about just trying to do the absolute best job I could do while serving in the role I was in — not really focusing on ‘How do I get the next promotion,’ not trying to network with people who I thought could help me climb the ladder — just doing the best I could do at what the company asked me to do at the time.

Another thing, I’ve always really tried to add value to other people’s work, which is the best type of networking — focusing on being a good partner, trying to give more in value than I take, and then network through my job performance. I’ve always felt it’s important to treat people well no matter what the role is, and no matter where they fall.

Third, I think it’s always about trying to do what’s best for the larger team over the longer term. Sometimes this has meant not doing what might be best for myself or my team over the short term, but really understanding and supporting the organizations’ greatest business priorities.

What hurdles have you encountered along the way?

A hurdle is an obstacle you can see in front of you. For me, I think the obstacles that I’ve found most challenging were the ones I didn’t see. I’m talking about my blind spot, and all transitioning veterans have these.

I was very often frustrated by what I perceived to be hesitant decision-making by corporate leaders. The military is a culture of action. Leaders are decisive, and the environment really demands that. After leaving the military, solutions to problems seemed so evident to me, and I was very irritated that nobody would just make a decision.

What I wasn’t aware of was that there are so many variables that were being weighed in the decision-making process. It seemed to me to be a very simple decision in one business unit, but it can cause a ripple effect on many more leaders in different business units. I had no awareness and appreciation of the second and third-order effects. But it’s a very common blind spot. The sooner you realize it’s a blind spot, the better off you are.

Another one is really just becoming comfortable with the idea of self-promotion. Generally speaking, military leaders are very quick to pass any and all credit for a job well done to their subordinates and equally as quick to accept blame for anything that wasn’t successful. I learned it’s really important to be able to influence and advocate for yourself, for your ideas, your programs and your own achievements. This places me miles outside my comfort zone, even now, seven years after leaving military service.

Why is it important to develop a veteran hiring recruitment strategy?

We know that veterans bring collaboration, leadership, problem solving, resilience, agility. The list goes on and on for why you want to bring veterans into the workforce. I key in on this idea of developing a strategy.

Veteran recruiting isn’t as easy as it sounds. You don’t just wake up in the morning and decide you want to hire veterans. It’s just like any other business program or initiative — you need to think strategically, develop an operating model. You need to incorporate communications and marketing strategies to create a military-friendly employer brand, and optimize paid media strategy to attract passive military candidates.

Also, it’s critical to engage in and maintain healthy relationships with veteran-serving military bases. This all helps extend your reach into the veteran job community.

What best practices have you learned in terms of veteran recruiting and hiring?

Number one, unquestionably you have to have buy-in from the most senior levels of leadership. Without executive sponsorship, you’re going to feel like you’re pushing a giant rock up a very steep hill and you’re unlikely to be successful.

Two, if you want to hire more veterans, I would encourage people to start in their talent acquisition workforce. Hire veterans and military spouses as recruiters and talent sourcers and it will spread from there.

Three, veterans are notorious disqualifiers. They often can’t or don’t see themselves in our job descriptions or minimum requirements. Companies can increase the number of vet applicants by including veteran-friendly language in job postings and by allowing military service equivalencies in the job requirements: “Three years project manager experience or successful completion of military service.”

I also think it’s a good idea when companies include veterans on the interview panel. That veteran may recognize relevant experience that others don’t, and may be able to ask probing questions that can help the veteran candidate better demonstrate the value of that experience to the other interview panelists.

Have you noticed any measurable impacts from having veterans in the workforce?

We know that veterans bring the ability to learn new things quickly and adapt to new environments. Those things are not measurable, but these traits have become abundantly clear to us.

Boots to Banking is our high-volume veteran hiring program. Since 2018, we’ve hired more than 550 veterans through our Boots to Banking program. We conducted a study recently comparing the work quality of a class of Boots to Banking customer service reps against their civilian service peers. What we found is that the veterans outperformed their civilian peers in five out of six KPIs (key performance indicators). That really just points to their ability to learn new things and adapt to new environments.

And not as quantitative, but no less important, are the character traits veterans bring to our organization. At Wells Fargo, we expect six things from our employees: Embrace candor, learn and grow, be great at execution, champion diversity, equity and inclusion, do what is right, and build high-performing teams. I would argue that there really is nowhere better to find these traits than in the men and women who’ve served our country.

Want to improve your veteran hiring initiatives?

As Sean mentioned, successful veteran hiring programs are made overnight. He shared a number of excellent, actionable strategies and tactics to get started. If you’d like to read about how other companies developed their veteran recruitment programs, download our free veteran hiring guide.

Corner Office Q&A: Joyce Russell

Joyce Russell started her career at Adecco in 1987 as a branch manager, and over the next 30 years, held a number of leadership positions, including president of Adecco USA from 2004 to 2018. In 2019, she was appointed to her current role as president of the Adecco Group US Foundation.

At its core, staffing is about people. And while Joyce Russell certainly knows how to grow a business, her superpower is finding the best people, fertilizing them, and watching them grow. As the daughter of a tomato farmer, she knows a thing or two about how to reap a fruitful harvest.

In fact, her delightful book, Put a Cherry on Top: Generosity in Life & Leadership, starts with her childhood in Florida, where her roots in “fertilizing” began. The rest is all about helping people and going the extra mile, whether it’s showing a client you’re the only one for the job, or the importance of rewarding a rock star team member for excellent performance.

But with Joyce, the cherry on top is the extra effort and attention to detail that make everything just a little bit better.  A cherry on top expresses love and appreciation for others. Joyce has been known as “the quintessential people person in the people industry,” and she shows recognition by listening and then supporting the people and causes she cares about.

Monster had a conversation with Russell over Zoom recently, to ask about the secrets of her success, and the work she’s doing with the Adecco Group US Foundation.

What qualities do you think helped you rise from branch manager to president of a global organization like Adecco?

I never planned to be the president of a $2.3 billion business when I joined Adecco. I just had a plan to do the very best at the job I was in, and then to put a cherry on top. And, to perform better than anybody would have expected.

How did you first get your start at Adecco?

I had just moved to Charlotte, North Carolina and joined a small staffing company called Adia. In 1996, Adia merged with Ecco and became Adecco. At that time, there were two regional banks in Charlotte. One called NCNB which is now Bank of America, and the other was First Union, now Wells Fargo.

I feel like I joined the right company at just the right time, and I was able to capitalize on the growth of the Charlotte market. My philosophy was, in order to own the market, I had to own the best places to work, and the banks were among the best places to work in Charlotte.

What’s your magic formula for growing great teams?

It starts with taking your time to hire the best people and making sure they are a good fit for the position and the culture of the company.  Second, make the investments of time and resources to train and develop new colleagues, and work side by side every day role-modeling the behavior you expect.  Third, reward and recognize performance.  And then of course, have a ton of fun along the way!

Were there any mentors who had a big impact on you as you grew at Adecco?

I got really lucky. A retired Army brigadier general named Ray Roe came to run our company. The COO job came up, and I didn’t think I’d get it because all of the other candidates were men.  I interviewed for the job, and to my surprise, he picked me to be the Chief Operating Officer.  It was one of the pivotal times in my career.

Ray had an amazing way of teaching some of the lessons he learned from his years in the military. He explained that our regional vice presidents are like battalion commanders in the Army. He said “You will not win the war alone, Joyce. Your battalion commanders, your regional vice presidents in the field decide whether you take the hill or not. They have the direct relationships with the people in the field. So, your goal is to make sure they’re the right leaders and that they can influence their teams to take the hill for you.”

How did you differentiate yourself and Adecco as you kept growing the business?

I firmly believe what I talk about in chapter four of the book: service never goes out of style. If you are always focused on the customer’s success versus your own, then your business will grow.

We were focused on making the best possible matches for the client, and in helping clients solve their most pressing problems.  I believe in over-delivering in terms of quality and service, and always going above and beyond what is expected.

So, how do you go above and beyond?

I think the main thing, and that’s where the title of my book “Put a Cherry on Top” comes from, is to create a service mentality. In our industry, there are three things: the quality of the product, the service that’s delivered, and the value that you see in those two components.

Here’s an example from the field: We have a customer in Memphis, and the work is always on the third shift. Most of the associates are mothers doing data entry in the middle of the night. We know those moms have put their kids to bed and have left their home and family to go to work. We decided to surprise our associates at 3:00 am with donuts from Krispy Kreme. Most services aren’t doing that. They aren’t going out in the middle of the night to make sure their workers know how much they are appreciated.

That’s just one example, but we’re constantly thinking about how the employees or associates might be impacted by making a little extra effort and putting the cherry on top. Right now, we’re doing that with the foundation and putting the cherry on top with reskilling.

What inspired you to shift gears and lead the foundation?

I’d been leading the Adecco Staffing business for 14 years. The company has foundations in Switzerland, France, Italy and Spain.  They were very interested in establishing a foundation in the United States, and they asked me to lead that effort. In January 2019, we launched the Adecco Group US Foundation, and I am very proud of the work we are doing.

What did you decide were the three things you wanted to focus on?

We created three pillars, and you won’t believe what we picked. Remember, this was two and a half years ago. The first one is upskilling and reskilling. The second one is women’s leadership, and workplace equality and inclusion. And the third is giving back in our local communities – charitable giving.

In terms of reskilling and upskilling, we want to provide an opportunity for workers to learn new skills and to be ready for the future of work.

We looked at where businesses are going and what skills would be lacking, and we created a free academy called Aspire. Courses include medical billing and coding, administrative careers, call center, welding, and supervisor training, all for free! We’ve identified over 20 technical skills that are going to be needed to be relevant in the workforce.

Are you also creating courses for other skills?

Yes. We are now thinking about the soft skills, or what I prefer to call human skills: communication, problem solving, conflict resolution, growth mindset, and stress management. We want to expand the academy for the human skills. I believe that’s going to take people faster to their next career than even the technical skills.

Many companies are trying to find ways to help women and other caregivers rebound after COVID-19. This sounds like one way to achieve that.

In the last year, nearly three million women have dropped out of the workforce to take care of their children, help with homeschooling, or to take care of aging parents. As someone who’s been caring for aging parents this last year, I understand that it’s not easy. I feel like we’re really going to have to give women more when they return to the workplace to get them caught up from what they missed in the last 18 months.

My brain is already spinning about how we can accelerate that, or how we can offer opportunities that aren’t in the typical timeframe. For example, if someone says, “I can only work after 9:00pm because I need to get my children to bed and then work”, how can we put courses online with instructors at night so they can do this work to accommodate them? I’m trying to be innovative and creative around that.

Do you think the world will embrace remote work in a bigger way after COVID-19? 

I think it’s going to be a hybrid model. I don’t think it will be 100% remote. If you think about banking, I do some of my banking online, but sometimes I need to go into a branch. So, I think there’s going to be a hybrid model of how that looks, depending on the business. Some businesses can be completely digital, and some might be a higher-touch model.

When it comes to empowering women at work, you’ve said that you prefer the sponsorship model over mentorship. Can you explain what that means?

I like both, and they’re both important. But there is a huge difference between sponsorship and mentorship. Mentorship is more about spending time with someone and giving them career guidance and advice. Sponsorship is when you “put your name on someone” and your credibility behind them. You are essentially vouching for that person with your reputation.

Your book, “Put a Cherry on Top: Generosity in Life & Leadership” came out last year and it’s got so many great stories about yourself personally, but also about the secrets of your success. Why did you write the book now?

For over 30 years, I had all these little vignettes and stories that I had filed away, but I never had time running the business to write a book. Sarah Davis and I worked together for most of my career, and we had often talked about writing a book, but we had never actually gotten around to it.  In 2019, we were finally able to put some of the stories to paper, and the book was published in March 2020, right before the world shut down with the COVID-19 pandemic.

You shared some of your industry secrets in this book. Why did you decide to share so much?

I wanted to tell the story in an honest and authentic way, and part of that is sharing what actually happened. I didn’t change the narrative. Rather, it is my hope that others can learn from my experiences, and I wanted to share everything.

There’s a sense from reading your book that staffing is about more than just building a billion-dollar businesses to you. You talk a lot about purpose.

Every time we made a match, we were helping the customer be more successful. It wasn’t just about increasing revenue. It’s about how you can you help your customer achieve their goals AND connect someone to a great job.  I was always excited about the impact we made by connecting great talent to great companies.

Do you feel a renewed sense of purpose now, being part of the industry that’s rebuilding the world’s workforce?

I do. I think we’ll make a big mark after COVID-19. Getting America back to work, getting the world back to work. Our industry is always first to come back. People bring contingent or flexible labor back first because they’re not sure what the market will bear. We’re going to be on the front line of helping America rebound. And that feels good.

I love my job. I hope that shines through.  At this point in my life, I am enjoying my role as Chairman of the American Staffing Association. And most of all, I am passionate about the work we are doing and the difference we are making in the foundation – it’s the cherry on top of my career!

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Corner Office Q&A: Rebecca Henderson

Rebecca Henderson, CEO of Randstad’s global business and executive board member, has over 20 years’ experience as a leader in talent solutions. As a single working mother early in her career, Henderson knows first-hand the balance women have to strike to achieve personal and professional goals.

She’s demonstrated her commitment to supporting women through her executive leadership, but also by creating innovative mentorship and coaching programs like Randstad’s WIRED (Women in Randstad Empowering Development), which empowers women to develop leadership skills and give back to their communities. We spoke with her about the mentors who pushed her to take risks, the challenges facing women in the workplace after COVID-19, and trends for employment and staffing in 2021.

What would you say has helped you the most so far in your career?

The thing that’s helped me the most is taking chances along the way and trying a few new opportunities. I’ve worked in a couple of different industries. Each change made me a stronger leader and a stronger operator, forcing me to learn something new about customers or new about a product, new about the software industry for a while. So really getting out of my comfort zone, from an industry point of view, has certainly helped.

I was a single mom for a long time. I had both of my daughters in my early twenties. There’s nothing like the support of your family to help get you through as you’re working on your career. Especially since it’s Women’s History Month, I want to give a big shout-out to my mom who I lost about two years ago, but who always provided me great support. I would encourage everybody out there to develop a strong support system to help you network both in your personal life and your professional life, because those things clearly get overlapped quite a bit as you’re working on your career.

You’re known for creating opportunities through mentorship. Can you share an experience when someone helped mentor you?

I’ve always been able to find a great mentor, someone who gave me the courage to apply for a job that I didn’t think I was quite ready for or didn’t honestly think I could do, but who really pushed me. I remember a time specifically earlier in my career. There was a re-org coming and there was a bigger job coming up. It was actually my boss’s job. I didn’t have a college degree. I still don’t. It said “MBA preferred” on the job description. My mentor said to me, “Why aren’t you applying for that job?” I said, “The job description says, MBA preferred. I don’t even have a college degree. How can I…?”  He said, “Why are you paying attention to that?”

His name was Stas Wolk and I still admire Stas to this day. He said, “That should be your job. You need to apply for the job.” I never would have applied for it. My confidence was probably getting in the way. It was a great job, the biggest job I’d ever had in my career at that time, and honestly, if he didn’t have that talk with me that day, I think my whole career would have been different today.

What are you most proud of in your ability to support women’s career growth?

There are probably two things: WIRED and Hire Hope. If you’re not familiar with Hire Hope, it’s a completely funded Randstad program where we take 12 women every quarter that have been victims of sex trafficking. We work with third parties who help get these women off the streets, and after they’ve gone through a six-week orientation, we give them a job for 12 weeks. We teach them how to screen resumes and screen individuals and process candidates. We take them out and get a new suit. They learn interview skills and so on. We have one woman now, I’m so proud to say she makes $85,000 a year working for VMWare.

The other one is Wired, which actually started as a much smaller program just in Randstad Sourceright called WorkFierce. It was started because I noticed that a lot of our young managers and directors were afraid to make decisions. They were having a crisis of confidence around making a decision or making the wrong decision.

We used to give out bracelets that said “fearless.” If I saw you making courageous decisions, you’d get one of these bracelets. I wanted them to have the confidence to make a decision, and that it was okay to fail. As women, we don’t like to do that.

We should take far more credit for trying something, failing at it, learning from it and applying it next time. You’re so much stronger as an individual, as a colleague, as a leader, when you can do that.

So WorkFierce has turned into WIRED. It has six or 700 members now, focused on things like mentorship, in an effort to build confidence, whether you use that skill at work or to go out and buy a car.

What are the most important things companies should do to support women at work?

Finding affordable childcare is still something we have to fix. It’s everywhere. Not just in this country, but globally. Women leave the workforce all the time because of childcare issues. There’s no easy answer, but I think employers are starting to work on it. Google, in the wake of COVID, is providing childcare credits to their employees. I know Cisco is doing the same.

With my colleague and board member Karen Fichuk, in the US, we have tried a few things. We gave thousand-dollar grants to people to help subsidize their childcare. There were so many women that needed to reduce their workload, but we did not want them leaving the company or leaving the workforce. We lowered the benefit threshold to 20 hours a week so you could work part-time and still get full benefits. We also found that women who were having babies and maybe thinking of not coming back decided to come back because of the availability to get benefits only working 20 hours a week.

Whether it’s increased flexibility in your hours or providing subsidies or grants or whatever you can for childcare, offering sabbaticals if workers have to leave for a period of time and protect their jobs, I think these things will continue and I think that will be the side benefit of COVID-19, if there is one.

We’re coming up to the one-year anniversary of COVID-19 disrupting the workplace. What pandemic-related changes have been the most impactful to the staffing industry?

Certainly, the whole work-from-home shift. For Randstad, we have 4,000 branches around the world and overnight everybody was working from home. So, we’re saying, “Why do we need branches again?” In the staffing industry, for years, you were measured by how many branches you had.

The fact that everybody can work from home and get their job done might be the one thing that actually gives us back work-life balance and less time on the road. Clearly, everyone’s been managing through a crisis over the last year, so people are working a lot of hours. But I think as we come out of the crisis, we could keep a work-from-home structure in most companies.

I was on the Google CEO forum recently and there were 25 or so CEOs of big companies and they all said the same thing: They are going to a hybrid environment because people still like to go to the office. You can go to the office when you want to go to the office, or you can work from home when you want to work from home. I really hope everybody takes advantage of that. Take the extra hour in the morning, don’t get on your laptop, but go for a walk or exercise, do meal prep or take your kids to school, whatever it is you want to do. I think getting the work-life balance is a lesson learned, and we have to work to get that back, and I think we’re going to be able to do that.

For the staffing industry in particular, do you think it’s possible that it could ever be all-digital, with all remote staffing professionals, given the inherent human element of talent acquisition?

Well, we’ve been doing it. There are 185,000 temporary workers out on assignment on any given day, many of them getting their assignments without ever meeting anyone or going into a branch. We’ve proved what is possible. But if you had asked us a year ago, we would have said, “No way.”

For the staffing industry in general, this will force a renewed focus on the candidate experience. Before, you would check the box saying that you’ve met, you’ve made that eye contact, you’ve had a nice interaction, you liked each other and smiled, and you thought, “Oh, okay. That was nice.”

We’ll work differently to ensure that the candidate experience is positive because there won’t always be that face-to-face contact. This will be good for the industry because our NPS score in general, is low and it needs to get better, which is going to force us as an industry to make it better, finally.

What are your thoughts on the employment outlook for 2021 – and how the staffing industry will rebound?

From Randstad’s point of view, our logistics business is up 15%. Tech is growing. IT businesses are growing, and there are jobs for engineers and IT workers. Again, more people are working from home and there’s the digital transformation that comes along with that and that’s actually creating more jobs and that’s a good thing.

We’re not back to full employment yet but I suspect by the time we get to the fourth quarter, that is possible. In our RPO business, we are seeing customers open requisitions again at rates that are pre-COVID levels. That’s exciting. Opening a req isn’t necessarily finding the candidate and filling the req, but I think with time there will be new jobs created—ones that we haven’t really thought about before—in the areas of supporting the virus, health screeners, folks who are creating safer environments at the office, and things like that.

Finally, if you were able to sit down with a woman today, maybe somebody like yourself who was a single mom and had childcare responsibilities and was also balancing a career, what advice would you give her?

I have a good answer for this, but It’s hard to do, and that is to get over your guilt. I think the hardest thing we have as moms is the guilt of dropping our kids off at childcare or with another caregiver, even if it’s a loved one or just leaving them with our significant other who might be home, watching them. We have guilt missing plays, missing the first day of school, all of those things.

Today, my daughters are 36 and 34 years old. My younger daughter, Kelly, I missed her first day of school. For years, I had so much guilt because I thought how terrible of a mom could I be for missing her first day of school. She doesn’t remember that. She just remembers that there were a lot of people there. She thought I was there.

The guilt will hold you back, and there’s no reason for it. Your kids are going to be fine. I’ve learned that and I think others have learned that too, either single moms or working moms, that their kids are fine. In fact, there are lots of studies that show the children of working mothers do just as well, if not better than those whose mothers don’t work outside of the home. So, it’s okay. Let it go.

To learn more about what companies can do to rebuild gender equity after COVID-19, download our free e-book.

Corner office Q&A: Verizon president Eric Cevis

Eric Cevis, president of Verizon Business Solutions, has been with the company for more than three decades, holding eight different positions since he joined the company in 1986. He started right after college after passing a competency test, and rose through the ranks from an entry-level sales support role, up to sales director, and ultimately, president of a business unit. Here, he talks with Monster about his journey, diversity in the workplace, and why it’s important to bring your A-game at work.

What elements were in place to help you succeed in your career?

It’s never an easy journey, but there were times when there were things standing me up. For example, I got put in an executive leadership development program. That was powerful because that was an opportunity for industry exposure and to get to be known. It was a partnership with Wharton Business School. It was a great opportunity.

There were employee resource groups (ERGs). That gave us an opportunity to take on leadership roles outside your day-to-day job, so you could get comfortable with running larger teams and going after results that didn’t impact your day-to-day business.

Our HR team also put me in several talent management opportunities, like the Yale CEO Summit. I got to go and do the two-week program there. I would say continuous learning helped.

What barriers did you encounter along the way?

In terms of challenges, you were always competing for who’s going to get that next promotional opportunity. I saw others around me who had lower results than I did, and they got promoted before I did. I kept my head down and kept delivering on results. We had what we call Annual Performance Agreements that we sign that say, ‘Here are the things we’re going to do.’ I was constantly hitting 200% of objectives. When you’re a repeat winner year over year, it got easier for people to take a chance on me for the next leadership role and next promotion opportunity.

I would tell folks on my team, ‘We all have our opportunity to get our slice of the PIE – Performance, Image, Exposure.’ We spend a lot of time on the ‘P’ and I was blowing those results out, but I didn’t promote as quickly as I thought I should have until I started caring for the ‘I’ and the ‘E,’ getting in front of larger audiences. I didn’t just stay in the sales lane, I got to be known in legal, in financial, in network operations. Then when your name would come up, it wasn’t just a singular group of folks who knew who I was.

What’s better/easier for diverse candidates today, and what’s harder?

I believe it to be a little easier in today’s environment because of the heightened awareness around equality and trying to care for the gender imbalance and address how females aren’t paid at the same level as males. I’m not aware of a company, particularly in the Fortune 500 space, where they’re not measurably looking at this issue. I’m in a group of 30 carriers across the globe, and we’re looking at diversity and inclusion best practices. So to me, that’s the easier part, the fact that there’s greater awareness and a tension being put upon it, particularly based on recent events.

The harder piece…there was a stat the other day: If there are 10 qualifications needed for a job, a woman will have eight of those qualifications and she will not apply, but a man will have five of those qualifications and he will apply for the job. That’s the harder part. And I still believe there’s this feeling that a woman or person of color has to work two or three times as hard for the same level of acknowledgment and the same level of pay. Do we come in with biases? We have this term called ‘unconscious bias’ and that is a big training program a lot of companies are doing.

We’re having what we call ‘courageous conversations.’ The CEO is now opening a dialog and letting people know it’s safe to have these conversations and you will not be put out of employment because you expressed a thought or opinion you have. But to me, it’s a strong balancing act to be of color, to be a woman. I still feel we’ve got work to do.

Have you noticed any measurable impacts from having a more diverse workforce?

I joined a Global Leaders’ Forum, where I sit with 30 other carriers across the globe. We published our first whitepaper on gender and balance this past year in 2020. We really thought it was good for people to understand that you do see a measurable difference. Not only is it the right thing to do, it makes business sense. Say you have a woman leading your marketing efforts to move a product or services that you have. A female will come to that conversation a little differently than a male would come to that conversation. Or a person of color, because they all have different experiences. There was a data point that said that by increasing women in the workforce, you actually see a GDP increase because you have a more diverse workforce. If anything, you’re going to increase your sales results.

How can recruiters and HR professionals find diverse talent?

Individuals at my level are now ambassadors to various colleges in the HBCU [Historically Black Colleges and Universities] community, and a part of that work is that we go out and talk to the school, we show them leadership in motion that looks like the student body in every functional area. Then we go forward with a number of internships that we’re looking to fill with a diverse slate of candidates—women and people of color. We go with job vacancies.

We have a program we call WOW—Women of the World—looking at your top talent and investing in them with training, development, and exposure opportunities. And we have a lot of mentoring programs. Not only is the issue recruiting talent, but how do you retain talent so it’s not a revolving door?

We’re also getting a lot more flexibility—to make sure people have more flexible schedules, they have the time they need to go vote, to pick children up. This is why Verizon has come up as a top employer of the year, because we allow those types of flexibilities.

Those are the things companies can do. I talk about the Global Leaders’ Forum. That’s one of the things we hold ourselves accountable to. We’re building a library where other companies take a look at the work that’s done and look at what they think are best practices and figure out how to duplicate that on their own.

What can a person of color do early in their career to set themselves up for longevity and a potential path to leadership?

I was raised to believe hard work always pays off—just do the work, go the extra mile, stay the extra hours. I cannot suggest that those things did not help me, but I would say other things like expanding your network, seeking out mentors and coaches, sometimes even in your own family, there are people who are in jobs that you’d like to have, but you’ve never had a conversation with them. Friends you went to high school or college with—reach out to them so you can better position yourself.

The other thing I would tell people is be a continuous learner. Be a reader. It’s okay to look up a book, if there are key topics in your world or your industry, to find out more about them. Be inquisitive.

In every job, it’s very clear what the roads to recognition are. They tell you, ‘Do these things, you get bonuses.’ I really had a focused goal on how do I get those public displays of recognition that the company is offering, what does it take to get those things? I always tell people, don’t wear it on your sleeve, but in the back of your mind, know that you have to show up this way and have this level of performance. How do you consciously look at ways to make yourself more visible? Show up, ask a question. Be part of the conversation.

For more ideas on how to improve D&I hiring practices at your company, download our free Inclusive Hiring Guide.