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EP49: Josh Scofield, Talent Acquisition Manager at MBX Systems

Podcast Transcript

James Mackey  0:00  

Hello, and welcome to Talent Acquisition Trends & Strategy! Today we are joined by Josh Scofield. Josh, welcome to the show!


Josh Scofield  0:07  

Hey, thanks so much for having me. Excited about the conversation!


James Mackey  0:10  

Yeah, me too. I'm really excited about today. Before we jump into it, could you please share a little bit about your background with everybody?


Josh Scofield  0:17  

Yeah, for sure. So my journey to talent acquisition and HR has been an interesting one. I went to the University of Kansas, graduated there with a broadcast management degree from the journalism school, and for the first 4 or 5 years of my life spent on air, mostly sports broadcasting. A lot of small high schools and small college stuff in the middle of nowhere, Kansas. 


Moved to the Chicagoland area circa 2005ish and had the realization that breaking into that market in the Chicagoland area was a little difficult. So made a professional transition into talent acquisition. Started out in general labor, manufacturing, and that space and got into more professional technical recruitment, engineering specific, and pretty much been in that for the vast majority of my career. Then a couple of years ago, I was fortunate enough to transition internally with an incredibly awesome company here in the Libertyville area by the name of MBX Systems. So that's kind of how I got here. 


James Mackey  1:31  

Very cool, nice. And for MBX systems, just to get a pulse on your point of impact and perspective, where you're coming from, can you just tell us a little bit about the high-level solution, size of the company, size of talent team, how many reqs you're working with on an annual basis, that type of stuff?


Josh Scofield  1:49  

Yeah, MDX is a fairly rapidly growing technology firm here in Libertyville. Ultimately, what we do is design, engineer, and manufacture technical solutions, hardware connected devices. We're getting into new verticals, which has been part of the reason for, I would term substantial growth over the last couple of years. We've gotten probably somewhere in the mid-100 to probably by end of this year hitting that 200 mark, as far as full-time internal folks. 


Really cool company, working with stuff that's not even out in the market yet as far as the solutions that we create for clients all over the world. As far as the size of the team, I'm kind of the guy, I hit everything. I have somebody that helps me, our HR coordinator, she has been a phenomenal assistant to me. She handles some of them, I've kind of trained her up on some of the contingent stuff in our warehouse and production but as far as the rest of the stuff, it's kind of a team of one as it were. 


For the number of reqs, I don't have the specific numbers in front of me for the year but I mean, we've brought in north of 50 individuals for the year. Some of that has been backfilled but on average I think we've been working on somewhere in the teens week over week, as far as open reqs. It's been a really interesting 2022. 2023 is looking to be another interesting year for probably different reasons. But we can probably touch on that later if need be. 


James Mackey  3:45  

Yeah, for sure. One of the organizations you said you're passionate about is Autism Speaks and so I thought we could start on this topic. And again, really focus on how companies and organizations can help people with autism into the workforce and just talk about that process. Where does it start? 


Does it start at company size, does really start with these organizations that focus on helping people with autism do so? And if we could just kind of walk high level and down into what the process looks like, and how people in talent acquisition can help inform companies and get involved to help.


Josh Scofield  4:26  

Yeah, so this is one of the things that since I started here at MBX I've been pretty passionate about. And it's largely full transparency because I have a chip in the game here, my son is going to be turning 12 next summer, just turned 11, just transitioned to middle school, he's autistic, he's on the spectrum. High achieving, we just had parent-teacher conferences last week, and his math teacher in his classrooms said that it would be an injustice if he was not in my classroom. So he's doing great. And the educational system, at least for us, we're incredibly fortunate, and a great school, great situation. And so the educational system, I think, is in a much better spot overall, as far as being able to help individuals on the spectrum to achieve their potential. 


The gap that I see is when we're making that transition from the educational system to the professional world. So one of the things that I have started doing, and there's a lot more work to do, but one of the things I've started doing is connecting with resources from Autism Speaks and some of the groups that are connected with them to figure out where are the pipelines. How do you create pipelines of individuals who may be on the spectrum and are looking to either transition into the workforce, or are maybe in the workforce and are looking for an opportunity, and so on and so forth? I think, as far as the due diligence that I've done so far, I think the first really key important part is providing that education and understanding. 


Because while groups like Autism Speaks have done a great job of raising awareness of what autism is, and trying to raise funds to do all the great research that they do, I think that there's still a lot of awareness internally within organizations that we as talent acquisition people, and ultimately HR teams can be really impactful with. I think that's kind of where it starts, providing those learning opportunities for internal stakeholders too, because the reality is a lot probably don't understand what it is, maybe have heard of it that if there's not an understanding, then there's maybe some aversion to that personality type skill set, so on and so forth. I think education is the first real key piece. 


Once a person tackles that and you start to get buy-in, that's the next piece that I have found to be somewhat challenging so far. Unfortunately, 2022 has been an incredibly busy year for us, a great year for us, and I haven't had quite as much time as I would like to put into this, but yeah, that's kind of where I see the gap after you get the buy-in, then what? These groups do a great job when the kids are in the educational system, but after, and I think in part it kind of goes to one of the other topics - staffing, shortages, the talent market out there, I don't know if they have the resources, right on this side of the coin. 


The first key step in my viewpoint is getting that education out there to your teams to get the buy-in on - Hey, this is a significant talent pool that is dramatically underutilized. I think the last statistics that I saw 80 to 90% of individuals on the spectrum are either unemployed or under-employed. That's a significant pool of talent out there that's either under or not utilized at all. So I think getting that training out there and getting that awareness, to then be able to come up with strategies internally, to be able to weave them into your environment, your culture, I think is the first key step. 


James Mackey  9:09  

For sure and from there it sounds like the biggest gap is just in terms of how to help individuals enter the workforce, are there so for instance, with Autism Speaks, is that part of what they do? Are they actually doing kind of outreach to companies explaining - Hey, we have a talent pool here that is particularly good at XYZ, do you have room within your organization or do you see this being something that you'd be interested in? You know, are they doing that outreach specifically, or are you aware of other organizations that might be doing that?


Josh Scofield  9:42  

Yeah, so all of the outreach that has occurred has been more on my side reaching out to them. And I don't think that that's because there's no effort on their side. I think it's more a situation of resources. I think in the field that I get their resources in this particular area are pretty stretched. The folks that I have come into contact with and we've kind of worked through - Okay, we have this training available, we can roll this out to your teams and provide the training. I mean, that's great, right? 


I think it's more because I've done all the outreach, trying to figure out, okay, what is available? What can we incorporate? How can we make some of these initial steps work? It's mostly been things that I've kind of taken myself. So yeah, they may be doing some outreach here and there to companies. We're in the grand scheme of things, a smaller company when you start looking at bigger players like Apple or Microsoft, and so on and so forth. So maybe there is more outreach to larger organizations but most of what I have done has been reaching out to them, specifically to at least start to get some of these building blocks in place.


James Mackey  11:10  

Yeah, for sure. There's one organization, you should check out Pathways For Autism. And actually one of my friends, Alex Buckles is the founder/CEO of the organization. He actually has another SaaS company that he's currently scaling. But I think he has a similar story to yours and his focus is really on the workforce element, just like you mentioned. So I think, what the ultimate goal of the company and I don't know the specifics, but basically, it's connecting companies with folks that do have autism and specifically matching them up for jobs and managing, I think, a lot of that process. 


From what I understand, people on the spectrum would actually be employed by Pathways For Autism, and then plugged into a lot of different projects that employers. And I could be wrong, but I think something like the management and oversight, actually happens from Pathways For Autism, it happens within that group. And then essentially, they hear the project requirements from the company, and then they're implementing the solution with the people employed by them. 


Because I think he mentioned a very similar issue, you have individuals that are very high achieving that have a really great skill set that they can bring to the table and add significant value. But organizations maybe just aren't educated on how to help these individuals thrive. That's why you need more solutions on the market because there is a huge labor force, essentially, that can be very valuable to companies, that most companies are missing out on right now. From what I can tell from what you shared with me, what Alex shared with me as well. 


Josh Scofield  12:55  

Yeah, that statistic just continues to reverberate in my brain, as a dad and as a Talent Acquisition Manager on both sides. Obviously, I want my son to be able to live a healthy, happy, and fulfilling life. But on the other hand, I can see this gap, it'd be something that would help bridge some of our talent shortage gaps. So, I think it's a win-win. It's just how we get from where we are today to make that more of a functional, feasible thing down the road.


James Mackey 13:37

For sure, thank you for sharing your thoughts on that. While we still have time in the podcast, I want to just talk through something. Despite even current market conditions which are I think easing up a little bit when it comes to hiring, there still is definitely what's perceived as a skill gap. And in some cases, a late labor drought in which companies are not able to really find the talent that's going to move them forward. What do you think's going on there? 


I think, for instance, it's a couple of things. I think, for sure, there are cases in which it's hard to find qualified talent. I think also, there are a lot of broken processes within companies that make it difficult for them to recruit. So I'm curious to kind of get your thoughts on the topic and what thoughts on what companies can be doing to consistently ensure that they can fill open roles. Particularly in positions where for instance, like engineering or top salespeople roles that companies need to scale and hire for a large quantity. What can they really be doing to ensure that they're better positioned than their competitors out there?


Josh Scofield  14:44

Yep. So it's been an interesting last couple of years. I've been through the 2008-2009 situation but this is obviously much different than that. What I've seen lately, I agree it's been opening up a little bit when you started looking at your 0 to 4, 0 to 5 year skill set. I think those had been opening a bit. Even with more of your mid and some senior-level type backgrounds, I feel like there have been more conversations over the last probably 3 to six 6  than prior maybe. I think the market is opening up a little bit. 


But one of the things that's interesting to me, I've sat in on a couple of these conversations, the most recent one I sat in on was given by Ron Hetrick. He's a labor economist, I think he worked for a couple of different presidential committees, and he was with the BLS for quite some time. And what he really focused on is a couple fold, one - not only the near-term shortage but more the long-term shortage, and the thing that he gave out was like the baby boomers huge generation are retiring out. So inherently right now, there's a pretty big gap with labor needed and labor available. 


The other thing he looked at was birth rates, so what does that mean? For today, not much but 10 years down the road, 15 years down the road, could be significant, birth rates are going down. So if there's a shortage of human beings in the market, right now, theoretically, by his numbers, there's going to be less in the future. From what I've seen, from the data that I've been looking at, I don't think that this is going to be any less impactful as we move forward.  So ways to solve that problem. He mentioned that people are looking at automation and robotics to solve some of these things. 


Well, I don't know if that's really a solution either. Because in order to automate a process, you have to have people automate the process or the robotics, and you have to ask people to design the robotics. So not only in the near term, but in the future -how do we start looking at ways to kind of bridge these gaps? For us one of the things and when you look at engineering skills or senior level technical skills, I think one important thing is to be able to look at somebody and look at the experience they have and their potential. Being able to train up, upskill, rescale, I think that's incredibly important. Because I think when you start looking at - okay, you have to have an engineer. 


Well, there's a pool of engineers out there, well - I have to have this engineer do XY and Z, right? Well, I have to have this person also know this technology, so you keep shrinking your pool. But if you're able to maybe train up on some of these things in short order that opens that back up and gives you more potential to look at. I think upskilling, rescaling are important internally as well as candidates may be looking at externally bringing people in that have potential and you feel they can provide value, and you can maybe provide some training and ability for them to ramp up in X amount of time? 


James Mackey  18:27  

Yeah. Hey, by the way, I just wanted to slow down on that. So historically, I have had a lot of trouble hiring for potential. It's just really difficult. And I haven't seen a ton of success with personality tests and these different soft skill types of tests. I know a couple of companies that have been successful with it. I think they have really, really great onboarding and training programs. And I think also, it really does need to be for a position that you're hiring for at scale. 


That way, if some individuals don't work out, you're not totally reliant on that pool. So sure enough, you can find some type of metric like - Okay, we're gonna hire for potential, but we can't hire for track record. To some extent you need to, I don't know, is it that we do, we have to just accept that maybe a lower percentage of folks are going to work out if we're hiring for potential. What do you think about that? I mean, that's just stuff that goes through my head.


Josh Scofield  19:22  

Yeah. I think that that is a potential eventuality. Because I don't know about your experience, but my experience is that hiring is a very inexact science anyway, right? Even if you find somebody that checks every box, you find somebody that on the front-end, that cultural alignment is spot on. You still can't guarantee 30 days out, 60 days out, or 90 days out. There's too much grey area there. So I think sure, with hiring on potential, you're going to have to be prepared for that potential not coming to fruition. I don't know if it's a whole lot different than anything else, right?


James Mackey  20:11  

Yeah. Fair enough. I think maybe the difference then is maybe not even, I would love to see data on success rate, I really wish I'd had that data, that'd be such an amazing stat to look at. Somehow I don't really like to measure the quality of hire, because it's difficult to quantify, but some kind of success within the role of individuals that are coming from years and years of experience from that background versus people where you're really focused on onboarding and training, that are kind of pushing up? 


I think it obviously depends on the role, I kind of go back and forth - Okay, I see level, I can see a lot more training, hiring potential. Then for some more strategic high-level roles, maybe you really just need somebody who's been there, done that so there are different aspects like that. But then again, one of the most successful GMs, CRO that I know, literally started off as a salesperson and worked her way up, as the GM of North America for a publicly traded SaaS company. But then how do you call that shot? It's incrementally over a period of years, and I guess you just keep slowly moving somebody up. But I feel it's really hard to predict whether or not somebody's going to be able to continue to take that next step. 


Very, very difficult so it's hard to put together like a definite strategy of like - Alright, we're gonna promote from within, or I think it's maybe just being open to it. But you have to have a very critical process in place to ensure that you're only moving up people that are ready to level up and can handle that next level. I think somebody very senior at the top needs to know how to do that very well and needs to understand what success is going to look like in that next role. And hey, if we have somebody moving into the role for the first time, how much have they invested in self-learning? 


Then also, do we have the right advisors and people in place to ensure that they can bridge the gap? If there are certain types of reporting, they're gonna need to do or whatever skill set they're going to need? How much are they able to develop in their current role? Then how do we eliminate blind spots by providing other resources for them that's where it gets really difficult. I think it takes a lot of time, then again, it takes a lot of time if you hire the wrong person externally, and they screw up and they're there for 6 to 9 months, then you have to let them go. 


Either way, you have to invest a ton of time. So maybe if it's a known resource you trust, and maybe it makes sense to focus on how we eliminate blind spots versus hiring the unknown quantity that might have the experience as you said, they might check all the boxes, but they might fall flat on their face, regardless, you know what I mean? 


Josh Scofield  20:12  

Yeah, completely. I think having, and you mentioned this too, having the resources available. I think that's incredibly important, being able to know who your high-potential individuals are. Communication is incredibly important, across the range between managers, and HR leadership, all these things play, I think, a really important part in the whole thing. It's all important pieces of the puzzle, right?


James Mackey  23:29  

Yeah. And I also think it's a little bit easier to identify high-potential individuals once they've already worked for you. Versus external. I can look at somebody who's producing really well in an individual contributor role, and say - Okay, look, I think they'd be ready for a team leader, management role. I've also fallen into the trap of promoting an individual contributor to a manager, and they were good at the IC work, but then they are not wired correctly for a management role. So there are so many ways to make mistakes. 


It's frustrating, but still, I think identifying high potential is a little bit easier with somebody that's been with the company a year or two, versus hiring externally for potential. That's the toughest, for our clients too. What my company does, we've worked with 150 startups, and growth-stage companies to help them hire engineers, salespeople, and all that kind of stuff. And we do it through embedded recruiting models, and subscriptions. 


And the ROI, I'd rather get a search for a very specific VP level role than them just saying - Hey, I want you to hire somebody for the potential that doesn't have like a specific skill set. I'm - Oh, my God, because it's just as a recruiter, I'm just - Okay, I don't you know, I can't necessarily control onboarding, right? I can't necessarily control this and you already have the hiring manager that we're recruiting for, sure. As talent acquisition, how can I do my part to ensure that we're getting the best person to the seat and that they're going to have the resources available to them? 

And so what I ended up doing is trying to push back, I can say - Okay, walk me through the onboarding process. Walk me through enablement, what kind of resources do you have available? And trying to push back on that a little bit to ensure, okay, do we have the right things in place to ensure that somebody can come in without all of this experience and actually thrive? Those are the things you have to look at.


Josh Scofield  25:18  

Yeah, for sure. And with that, onboarding, training, and all those things play a pretty critical role, I think in long-term success. So yeah, it's very much an inexact science. It's more an art than a science, but yes, completely agree.


James Mackey  25:42  

Okay. Great. Yeah, I totally agree. Look, man, we're coming up on time here. I have an introduction I want to make to you, right after this call, again, to Alex. My buddy Alex, started Pathways For Autism. I think it could make sense to get you his LinkedIn profile. 


Josh Scofield  25:58  

That would be awesome. 


James Mackey  25:59

Yeah. And for everybody. Tuning in Pathways For Autism, make sure to check it out. And then the organization you're involved with is Autism Speaks, right? 


Josh Scofield  26:09

Yes. That is correct. 


James Mackey  26:10  

Okay, cool. Well, hey, before we jump off today, if people want to engage with you online, where can they find you?


Josh Scofield  26:17  

Yeah, so I'm on LinkedIn, at Josh Scofield and you can always reach me, here at the office


James Mackey  26:30  

Awesome. Thank you for joining us today. It's been a lot of fun chatting with you. 


Josh Scofield  26:35  

Thanks for the time, James!


James Mackey  26:36  

For sure. And for everybody else tuning in - thank you for joining us and we'll see you next time. Take care!

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