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EP 4: Alan Rudolph, B2B Enterprise SaaS Executive

Podcast Transcript

James Mackey  0:00  

Hi, and welcome to episode four of Talent Acquisition trends and Strategy. And today we're joined by Alan Rudolph.


Alan, thanks for joining us today!


Alan Rudolph  0:20  

Thanks, James. Looking forward to it. We're talking about a topic that's near and dear to my heart. So just really look forward to the dialogue.


James Mackey  0:27  

Sure. Absolutely. Before we jump into it, we would love to hear a little bit about you and what you're working on right now.


Alan Rudolph  0:31  

Yeah, thanks, James. Again, I wandered off. I'm an Enterprise B2B SaaS executive, who has spent my entire career as I like to say, around enterprise applications, and really making an impact, really two things, customers and employees. 


Because at the end of the day, we all know enterprise SaaS companies are all about what value we deliver to our customers. And we can't do that without our employees. So it's just really important that we have programs in place that address again, customers and employees.


James Mackey  1:07  

Sure. So, one of the things that you wanted to talk about today, and something that's also very dear to me is talking about the employee experience. And as an Executive operator for B2B SaaS companies, I was hoping you could share some insight on maybe some of the biggest mistakes that you see companies make when it comes to employee experience, or I suppose like another way, we could discuss it as maybe some of the highest leverage opportunities to improve the employee experience. 


So we could start at a high level, and then maybe get a little bit more into the tactical approach to how companies can start to implement change.


Alan Rudolph  1:38  

Great, James. I mean, I will start with the mistake, right? And the mistake is not focusing. 

The mistake is not clearly creating a journey for our employees, right? It's fascinating, this world of customer success, that enterprise SaaS B2B companies are so focused on that customer journey. Well, the analogous part of that customer journey is the employee.


And so what I see is, from a mistake standpoint, not focusing on that. And when we talk about the employee journey, it starts with the first reach out that we as a company make to a potential employee, right? 


It's so important when you make that first impression, whether it's a LinkedIn post, whether it's a recruiter making a phone call, whether it's a colleague, trying to get somebody introduced to the company, it's so important that that first touch point, that we're telling a consistent story about who we are, what we do, how we do it, what that journey is going to look like.


James Mackey  2:51  

Sure, and I think one of the tale signs is employees when they joined the organization, they should be saying, you know, wow, everything that was sold to me in the interview process and the values and when we discuss these things and interview process, it's very well aligned with my experience here as an employee. But what's interesting is that that probably happens the majority of the time, at least in my experience. 


I think one of the things that we're seeing in talent acquisition right now, is we're seeing candidates place a much bigger emphasis on asking the questions. One, "How are this position and company going to integrate with my personal life? And two,  "What type of experiences am I going to have working here? 


They're looking beyond just saying, "Okay, what's my title going to be? How much money am I going to make? And starting to figure out, what's this going to do for my quality of life. And am I going to have fun? Am I going to enjoy myself? Do I feel like these people are aligned with my value system? And we're starting to see candidates play a much bigger emphasis on those topics? 


Are you seeing that as well? 


Alan Rudolph  4:01  

Yes, James. We all know that today, we're living in the world of great resignation. And rather than focus on the negative, let's focus on the positive, right?  Let's create a great opportunity. 


When you and I were preparing for this discussion, I referenced something called an employee value proposition, right? And, or an employee journey. And it's just so important that we spell out to employees again, coming back to the combined estimate of that first touch point, what life will look like with this company. 


And I think you said something that's really important, James as we talk to prospects, you know, potential candidates, and then they become employees, and then we manage their journey with us is "what does that journey look like? How am I going to enhance my career? How am I going to learn about new technologies? How Am I going to have fun? Right? 


We all know we're going through a challenge today in the workplace, as we go from, you know, the past few years under the COVID era of 100% remote work, to something that probably looks a little different than 100% remote work, but probably doesn't look like February of 20. And so again, it comes back to managing that journey with the employee, making sure that we as a company are consistent. I'm going to go back to one of the other questions you asked me about mistakes. 


The other comment gonna make here is as we talk about consistency, we need them to ensure that all hiring managers are having the same types of discussions with their employees, with their candidates, right, that there's a consistent approach to how we address the opportunity that employees have, as they join this company. And it's just so important that, again, we come back to that employee and customer interaction or the dialogue or the opportunity to manage both. And I think world-class companies have clearly defined the journey for both, right? 


We know what we want our customers to do, we want our customers to have a great value prop, and we want our customers to clearly get value out of the solution that we're providing. We want the same journey for our employees, we want to make sure the employees continue to grow, prosper, to get value out of that relationship with the employer.


James Mackey  6:43  

Yes. And so what are the highest leverage opportunities to do so? Is it focusing on professional progression? Transparent salary bands?  I mean, where do you start? 


Where do you think most organizations should start when it comes to the employee journey? I mean, once the hire is kicked across, and the employee starts with the organization.


Alan Rudolph  7:07  

I put it in the broad category of employee development, right? So that's everything from the onboarding process, right? Making sure that employees understand who we are, what we do, how we do it, and what the value prop is that we talk to our customers about. So it starts with onboarding, then it starts with career pathing. Right? What does that journey look like? What happens in year one, year five, and year 10? What does the journey look like? overall development for the employee? Right, which again, gets into that career pathing, but also training. 


And then I'm going to put in a broad category that we talked about fun, but more broadly, what's the social impact that we can make with our employees in the marketplace? What do we want to stand for? What do we want to give back? How do we want to create opportunities for employees to go above and beyond just the day-to-day grind of the job and make an impact on society? And I use that word impact? Very, very specifically, right? 


Because every single employee, as part of our company, has an opportunity to make an impact. And again, now we get back to that whole package that we're talking about in terms of why will employees be why can we retain employees now. Why will employees stay with us? It's that whole, it's taking all the components we just talked about and making sure that we're delivering that to our broader employee base, wherever they may be across the globe.


James Mackey  8:48  

Sure. Now, tenure is something that's affecting a lot of companies right now, people are leaving faster than ever before. So I've been having a lot of conversations about this lately.


And companies are tackling this in different ways. It seems that a lot of companies are focused on finding ways of thinking about it in terms of how we keep employees around longer. And then there's also I would say, some companies out there that are now focusing on how do we, you know, given that this is the trend, and that people seem to be switching jobs faster than ever before? How can we accelerate onboarding and ramp time in order to get value from our employees even faster, so they can begin contributing? Making an impact. 


So I think it also comes down to really getting clear on the core requirements and core objectives of each role. And helping employees you know, actually start to add value sooner and have a great onboarding experience. Not only does that impact employee experience, but it's also very good for a company as well. So there's definitely a really strong alignment by focusing on the onboarding experience.


Alan Rudolph  9:53  

Absolutely. I think at the end of the day, it comes back to, just picking up those two words employee experience. And we want our employees to have that broad experience. We want them to add value and we want consistency. I'm going to keep coming back to mistakes. What mistakes do we make? Different hiring managers present the experience differently. That's a problem. Right? 


One of the things I've done in my past as an example is making sure we have a clear roadmap and making sure there's a clear journey as to who and how and what gets executed through that journey. 


The other point I'd make there in terms of the hiring process, James is hiring managers who know what they're looking for. When they write a job description, a position description, or a job spec, they know what they're looking for. In today's marketplace, it's really critical where I've had the greatest success, when you find a great candidate, hire that candidate. Don't go look for four more candidates to compare to justify, oh, Candidate A is the best, but I have to look for B, C, and D. That is not a sign of a good hiring manager, because hiring managers know what they wrote in the job spec, they know exactly what they need to be successful as they build that job. And when they find it, when they find that person, go for it now, pull the trigger. 


Because we know in today's marketplace, speed, execution, and focus are so critical for our companies to be successful.


James Mackey  11:41  

And also does have a big impact on the candidate's experience as well. Exactly somebody who you have a great candidate, and you get into the final round, but then you wait another two weeks, three weeks before making an offer, just so you can see what else is out there, you're probably going to miss out, right?


Alan Rudolph  11:57  

And how does that make the candidate feel, Oh, we love you! But we just want to make sure we really love you. So we're going to try to find a couple more candidates just to prove the fact that we really love you. Then again, if I'm a Hiring Manager, I know what I need. And that's where I think hiring managers have an opportunity to be that much more successful by executing on what I just talked about,


James Mackey  12:23  

Right. And it comes down to just having those clear roles and requirements, and really knowing what you're looking for. And again,  one of the other things, the shifts that we are seeing too, and I'm curious to see if you've seen this as well, is we're starting to see companies more and more accept the fact that they're probably not going to find candidates that meet 95% of the criteria they're looking for. 


They're starting to get more comfortable with the idea of okay, you know, how can I find candidates that might be, you know, a 70-80 % fit? And then how through our onboarding and training and enablement? Can we get them ramped up on that additional 20-30 %?


Alan Rudolph  12:59  

You know, James, I think it comes back to what are the requirements for the job. Make sure that the job spec is written in terms of what the real requirements are. Don't ask for the world, right?


We know that there are really core criteria that we're looking for, as we write that job spec, as we evaluate candidates focusing on three to five, right? What are the most important characteristics I'm looking for? And sure, then there are some nice things to have. But again, they're nice to have. 


So if I find a candidate that meets, let's call it 10, that'd be great. But at the end of the day, there are probably three to five really core characteristics of that new hire, that I need to ensure that person is capable of, that I can test that person on it, that person meets all the requirements of the job, and then go.


James Mackey  13:57  

Sure. And I also think that that philosophy toward hiring enables companies to hire, truly hire top talent, like the best people out there. Because if you think about it, a lot of A players, particularly people that are up and coming in their career, don't necessarily want the job that they've done 100% of before. 


Anyone who wants to push themselves, wants to do something new, right? They want to build on their experience, but they want to be able to test themselves and push beyond their comfort zone, right? At least the people that are going to truly build and scale organizations and scale outcomes. 


Alan Rudolph  14:33  

It comes back to learning games, right? Again, broad technology companies, I sit in the world of enterprise software, we want employees that want to continue learning, that want to figure out what the disruptive technology is tomorrow, that want to figure out how do I make this solution better tomorrow? We don't want an employee that just does a, does b, we want that outside-of-the-box thinking?


James Mackey  15:05  

Yes, exactly. And I think that's where maybe in some organizations, there's a discrepancy. Because I think some executive leaders, they're looking for talent that has 100% done the job before. But then the best people out there, that or maybe even, even if they're just passively looking for roles, they're looking to take their career to the next level and do something new. 


And so particularly in this market, when everybody's stretched them for top talent, and it's a difficult market to hire, I think we're seeing that you know, there needs to be a better alignment between employers and employees in terms of creating exciting opportunities. And so that's where we're starting to see at least at the companies that are hiring more successfully, they're starting to say, Okay, we're gonna get this candidate that maybe has done 70% of this job, before the core requirements, the things that really take years to develop. 


Sure, we want them to have that core skill set, we're going to provide them with the training and enablement to learn the additional 20 to 30% of the role. That creates a better candidate experience, they're probably going to stay with us longer, because they have more room to grow within the organization, and two they're still kind of in a place where they're punching up, they're taking on more, they're proving to themselves in the organization that they can, in fact, stepping up into that role. 


And at least from what I've seen working with a lot of growth-stage tech companies, that usually is kind of the formula for a strong hire, right? Somebody who has a strong foundation, but it's still kind of pushing up and trying to take on more and generate results that are beyond what they have in the past.


Alan Rudolph  16:38  

And I would argue that what you just said, James, goes throughout the career, right? For top performers, right? 


Because we never stop learning. We know we're living in a world where technology is changing so fast around us. The business requirements. I mean, just again, go back to March of 20. And, the way the world changed because of COVID. And we all had to adapt and adjust our environments. 


So think about as a solution provider to customers, we're constantly adapting, we want employees that adapt, we want employees there to challenge what we do and how we do it. So I would apply everything you just said, I don't care if it's up, a rookie or you know, somebody fresh out of college or a 30-year veteran, right? I think it's really important to create that diverse employee base so that the learning process continues throughout people's careers.


James Mackey  17:37  

So I have one question for you. I don't know if you've heard this a lot out there in the market right now. But there are a lot of hiring managers, and employers that are currently saying something to the effect of, right now it's a candidate-driven market, but candidate-driven markets never last. 


So we're not going to invest in all of these changes right now. We're not going to invest in candidate experience or employee experience, because it's only a matter of time before the market shifts back. How do you respond to people that have that kind of philosophy and mindset? What are your thoughts on that?


Alan Rudolph  18:10  

I move on. I mean, because I just disagree.


James Mackey  18:13  

Right, right. 


Alan Rudolph  18:14  

I mean, regardless of the type of market it is. I've been in companies where we're hiring, I've been in companies we're reducing, at the end of the day, it doesn't matter because talent is our asset, right? The people are our assets. 


And we want to ensure that we have all the programs that we've been talking about through this journey together, James. We want to have all those programs in place, regardless of the type of market we're in.


James Mackey  18:40  

Sure. And one of the things that I always say is top talent always has the most options. The best people are always going to have, no matter what the current working conditions are, the best people are always going to have options in the market. 


Well, anyways, Alan, this has been a tonne of fun. We're coming up on time here. We've probably kept talking for the next hour or so. It's been great. But I just want to say thank you for coming on today. 

Alan Rudolph  19:06  

James, thank you. This is obviously a topic that I have a lot of passion and commitment about. Again, as an Executive leader within Enterprise SaaS companies, it's just so critical that we hire great talent. That we nurture the talent, that we challenge the talent, and just build great teams of people and coach them along on their journey.


James Mackey  19:32  

I agree. And Alan just so our listeners know, how can they find you if they want to engage with you on maybe LinkedIn or elsewhere?


Alan Rudolph  19:40  

You know, I'm on LinkedIn under alaindrudolph. You can find my email, And, just reach out. Love to continue talking about these topics.


James Mackey  19:52  

Alright, sounds good. Well, thank you, Alan. And for everybody tuning in. Thanks so much, and we'll see you next time.


Alan Rudolph  19:57  

Sounds good. Thanks, James

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