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EP 56: Implementation of new technology. Challenges and common pitfalls w Julie Macaluso

Podcast Transcript

James Mackey  0:00  
Hey and welcome to Talent Acquisition Trends and Strategy. I'm your host, James Mackey. I'm really excited to speak with you all.

Today we got a great guest that's going to be sharing some really cool insights as she's rolling out her new interviewing platform for her company.


Before we jump into and introduce our guests, I wanted to ask if you have been getting value from this show. We really appreciate reviews on Apple and Spotify. We currently are number one and talent acquisition for both of those platforms. So we really appreciate your support on this and we're really looking forward to continuing to add value to the talent acquisition community guiding talent strategy and hopefully providing attainments along the way. So anyways, today we are joined by Julie Macaluso. 

Julie, welcome to the show. How are you doing?

Julie Macaluso  0:47  
Hey, good morning, I am doing well. How are you?

James Mackey  0:51  
Great. I'm very excited about today's conversation, and the topics we outlined for this conversation. I want everyone to understand what perspective you're coming from. So could you please take a minute and let us know about your role? A little about the structure of your talent acquisition department and the type of company that you work for currently.

Julie Macaluso  1:16  
Yeah, so I am the manager of talent acquisition and development. And so I manage a talent acquisition team of three and a half. And I also have two talent development employees as well. The Talent Acquisition team is structured. There I have three recruiters slash talent acquisition specialists. And then one part-time sorcerer she's dedicated strictly to sourcing for the organization she works on, either if it's a high turnover area or hard-to-fill positions. And a lot of times she gets into those senior leader searches for us as well. And then our recruiting team, our talent acquisition team is three individuals who focus on every role within the organization. So we recruit from entry-level technical roles, like I said, all the way up through senior leaders and executives. We sometimes use search firms. So we have an in-house recruiting team like I just mentioned, but we do definitely utilize outside search firms sometimes to help us out with our hard-to-fill searches, or sometimes our executive-level searches.

James Mackey  2:36  
Cool. And so community coffee is around 600 employees or how big is the organisation?

Julie Macaluso  2:42  
Great question. So we're actually around or close to 900 employees? Yeah, so we are based out of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, but we have stretched all the way from a sales location from Texas to Florida, and then up to some of those mid-western states. But we actually have national distribution with our grocery and our econ across the United States. So yeah, we have 900 people.

James Mackey  3:11  
All right. That's cool. Yeah, very cool. So yeah, as we had talked about how your team is rolling out a new interviewing platform, so end to end, optimizing the process. Before we go into the solution that you've built, if we could rewind back to six months ago, or a year ago, could you tell us a little bit about some of the challenges that you were encountering with the process and how you from inception started to think about optimizing your interview process from that point?

Julie Macaluso  3:47  
Yeah, sure. So I think that our talent acquisition department is no different from really any other organization out there that is consistently recruiting. And so over the years, and I don't want to just base it to six months a year ago, but that's whenever we started kind of really honing in on working with a vendor to build out this interview platform. But what I really pride myself on in our department is candidate experience and consistency with the candidates and making sure that our candidates are taken care of as well as what I refer to as our internal customers. So our hiring managers, and in this case, our interview teams, and what we needed to focus on was providing a solution that allowed that to exist together. And so the challenges that we consistently faced were really around the interview process and not so much in the pre-screening, but in the actual core interview and so, inconsistencies with maybe managers completing their interview or making sure that the right questions were answered making sure that you know, the consensus on the candidates were actually done. And then turned in. And so what we found was we, you know, research vendors. And what we found was a platform that allowed us from the pre-screening, so after the candidate is identified as a viable candidate from the pre-screening portion, which starts with the talent acquisition specialist, we found a platform that was able to kind of come in and start there. And so it provided a solution from recording either live well actually live interview or pre-recorded starting there, and then flowing through the actual interview process so that we could capture the essence of the actual interview. And then ultimately,, the contents of that interview to make sure that we got that back on the back end. That was obviously always a big part of it, for me was the compliance part of it and making sure we got that interview guide back on the backend, that consensus that grading as well.

James Mackey  6:00  
Okay, cool. So this is an actual software platform, right? Yes,

Julie Macaluso  6:05  
it is. This is a software platform. We worked with a vendor, we did not build this in-house. This was and I'm sorry if I didn't mention that earlier. But we work directly with another vendor who came in and they had a platform and we have gone through the whole build-out implementation phase over the last six months. We started last June.

James Mackey  6:26  
Okay, cool. And so what were the other platforms that you consider other ones that come to mind? 

Julie Macaluso  6:42  
Unfortunately, I can't remember their names. But I was, I researched three separate interviews. And to be honest with you, this research didn't just happen right before we decided to implement, it took a couple of years to really kind of, I guess, get in the mindset that we needed to change the way that we did things. Make it less manual, and more streamlined through a process like this. So there were two other companies that I had spoken with. And I don't remember their names. But there were two other companies that I'd spoken with. And this seemed to fit the need of what we were trying to solve.

James Mackey  7:24  
Sure, sure. So it's a combination of having a better candidate experience. It also sounds like higher quality interviewing where you're making sure the right custom questions are being asked by hiring managers, as well as efficiency gains, right? So recruiters can focus more on the, I suppose, quality conversations with candidates and less on the admin work. So what were some of the biggest gains or improvements that you've seen since implementing this program?

Julie Macaluso  8:05  
So we are in the process of, of, we're not fully live yet with it. And so we are in the, I guess, pre-pilot phase, we are actually in the pilot phase, and we will roll this out to our, what we refer to as our home office. So you could say our corporate office, at the end of January. And so the positions that we've piloted this out with, what we've noticed is, I will say it's better candidate experience. And then it's also on the hiring manager's side. It's on the interview team side, it's just the feedback that we've gotten that is very easy to navigate. So it's very user-friendly. And it's easier for them to read the questions to great because it's, it's all like you, you read the question, you grade on that because we interview by competency and so you grade on that competency, competency, and then it's all gathered for you once you've finished up your interview. So there's really no time taken. So yeah, you mentioned admin responsibilities on the recruiter, but it takes away that admin responsibility on the interview team slash hiring manager as well. Because they always prior to this, they always had the responsibility of making sure that the consensus was done. That was done manually. And so it's really just kind of a one-stop shop. And they can consent once they've finished up the interview process, and so it does, but it does provide just I would say if I had to wrap this up in one word, efficiency.

James Mackey  9:45  
Okay, cool. So is this a full-blown applicant tracking system?

Julie Macaluso  9:50  
No, it's not. Our Applicant Tracking System is de force. Now because we are still in the implementation phase. The end goal is that vid cruder is going to integrate with day four. So it's really just a click of a button to start that screening process from de force to the vid cruder platform right now, what our team is having to do is just manually enter the candidate's information, because it's not a full integration just yet. But the end goal is for it to be that. So hopefully, that will be within a couple of months.

James Mackey  10:26  
Okay, cool. And so de force is an applicant tracking solution that also goes over into the people management side, right? It's full-blown HR?

Julie Macaluso  10:38  
Yeah, it's an HCM for sure, it's already in de force. And we use it for every aspect of our business when it comes to an HCM. And part of that, one of the modules is obviously the recruiting module, which handles and houses the ATS.

James Mackey  10:57  
Cool. So what's been your experience with de force for people tuning in? Sometimes when we reference technologies, its people are looking for the next best thing and for different solutions. So that's why I want to slow down specifically on Vic crudo. So thank you for the insight there. And Dayforce what's been your experience thus far?

Julie Macaluso  11:19  
Well, phileo was our ATS prior to Dayforce. But prior to Dayforce,  we did not have a complete HCM where everything was, I guess, all users housed on one platform. We used SAP which we still use for some things, Kronos, like payroll, like all of that stuff was just on different platforms. And so the leaders at the time wanted to make sure that you know, just kind of like how I'm doing right now, with vid cruder that everything needed to be streamlined in order to make your process efficient in order to have less manual work, and then different, you know, dealing with different platforms. The organization made the decision to have one HCM. And so we switched from an ATS to layout to a topic to layout to de force. And it's, it's been, you know, you go through that implementation gear and you learn a lot. And I think there's, if I'm being pretty frank, there are some aspects of delay to that, you know, de force doesn't have there are more aspects of de force that delay or didn't have. And so I think with any platform, you're probably going to want to see different things in different areas. But I think for the most part, parte de force has brought from an ATS perspective, it has brought a lot of efficiencies within our, the way that we kind of move candidates through the actual process. You know, without getting into I guess, the full of how de force actually worked, it provided more of a flow and efficiency of a flow from a candidate start to finish. I'll say that, well,

James Mackey  13:13  
That's really important. So I can see why that would be like a big shift, and something to prioritise. And getting back to what we were discussing with candidate experience and rolling out the new interviewing platform. I know you're, it sounds like you're currently nearing the end of getting this thing implemented and up and running with the team. What have been the biggest challenges doing that? And I'm curious to hear how you've approached some of those challenges and overcome them. Because I, you know, rolling out a new system at a 900-person company, particularly with a distributed team, it sounds like, can be quite challenging. So what have you seen? And what's that experience been like?

Julie Macaluso  14:00  
Well, it's been challenging, but also very rewarding, because, of course, with any challenge, there's a learning opportunity there. And so I think, what's going into the whole implementation for vivid cruder was, I didn't really know what to expect, to be honest with you. And I had done implementations with the implementation team with our implementation team with de force, but I'd never actually led it myself. And so going into this we had weekly meetings with vid cruder, and they were very good with navigating what the responsibility of community coffee was, and obviously, what the responsibility of it cruder was, the challenge was really not because I'm a learner. I'm a visual learner. And so in order for me to understand how things work, I need to actually do it. And so the big challenge, at least what I can say for me, is that I wasn't able to actually kind of figure out how to do it until everything was really done. And you actually get into the platform and you start testing and you, you do the specific responsibilities within the recruiter for yourself. And I know, I think a lot of people learn that way. But that was the biggest challenge. And with the team, I had picked one lead from my team to kind of go in from the beginning. And so we brought in the rest of the team kind of on the back end, and required them to go through the vid cruder training, there's a lot of modules in there for that big vid critter gives us resources for you to kind of learn along the way. And so I think it was just kind of one not being able to, you can see you can visualize, they can do it for you. Because obviously with any implementation, you're, you're because this was via Zoom, because the company is in Canada. And so you're seeing that, seeing it on their screen, but you're not actually doing it until everything's kind of said and done. And so that was the biggest challenge. But I will say, on the back end, and as we approach this training, we're putting together training for the interview team. And we're ready to pilot it out here at our home office. It's so great to see my team get in there, get excited about it, and create test candidates, but then we recently just did a pilot with one of our positions here at the home office, and it went very smoothly with some hiccups. But the hiccups were great because we were able to learn which was the ultimate goal for piloting it out with this one specific position because we can take those learnings and put it back into teaching the actual learning module that will be created for the recruiter.

James Mackey  16:49  
I agree with that. I mean, in the early days of starting my company, I always felt one of the biggest challenges was rolling out a new system and trying to anticipate what it would actually be like to work in the system. Because and also, I find that really challenging when actually selecting the vendor to move forward with, because they will share with you the feature set essentially, of what's possible. But it's very hard to truly have your entire workflow, I suppose to really understand all the nuanced small pieces of your entire workflow, and make sure that the product actually has the right customization functionality to build what you need. And I think that in and of itself is a really important skill set for leaders to develop.

Julie Macaluso  17:45  
Yeah, that's a great point. I will say this, going back to the question you asked me earlier about if we researched any other companies before we selected to move forward with the recruiter, obviously, we had that conversation. And that was one of the things and that is a very, I think it's a very scary aspect of trying to select the vendors that sometimes, you know, you will see what's presented on their screen. But once you start digging into the details, it doesn't necessarily fit what you need inside your process. And I will say that, early on, obviously, we were able to determine that other vendors didn't necessarily have to offer what vid cruder had to offer. And I will say everything, they've customized everything that we've needed so far in terms of making sure that this platform actually fits the needs of this organization. So I think that's a great point. And also some things for leaders to definitely consider when selecting a vendor to make sure that it's going to fit the needs of your organization, then do your research and do your due diligence. Because that's a scary thing to get on the back end and not have it actually fit your needs. Once you've signed that contract,

James Mackey  19:03  
I'll be vulnerable and say that I've made that mistake a couple of times. Not anymore, but I learned the hard way. And so my advice for leaders tuning in and ambitious recruiters tuning in is two things. One, you need to have very robust process documentation. I mean, at least I mean dozens of pages. The way that you want to think about building out process docs, is if you had to hand your process documentation off to another person and provide zero context. Do you have everything outlined very clearly, step by step, and the writing process Docs is a skill set in and of itself as well. We had at SecureVision literally every single part of our business outlined in process documentation. Our VP of Operations that's actually a core part of her role is optimizing an appt Keep of our process documentation. And in addition to that being a good best practice for implementing new products and evaluating those products properly, it's also incredibly important to ensure that companies don't skip a beat when onboarding new employees or when somebody leaves the organization. So it helps companies be less reliant on a single expert that understands the process. So from a learning and development perspective, which I also know is part of your role. Having process documentation really helps with the onboarding ramp, helping employees turn into value creators faster, as well as making sure that the company isn't too reliant on one leader that, let's say leaves, you have a two-week or four-week notice period. And there's this huge gap when it comes to knowledge transfer. So that's number one. Number two is to seek out mentors. So understanding that selecting and optimising technology is a core part of any leadership role, company-wide doesn't matter if you're in sales, product, talent acquisition, people, team, or whatever. So if you haven't done it before, it can be an incredibly expensive and time-consuming mistake to mess this up. So don't do what I did. Don't learn the hard way, seek out a talent acquisition leader that has done this a couple of times, well, make sure you learn from them. So you can avoid the holes essentially, that you can fall into. I think you find a mentor that can teach you this stuff, so you can learn from them as opposed to learning the hard way. Right.

Julie Macaluso  21:39  
I agree with that. 100%. I agree with everything that you said on processed documentation, we are in the process of as a recruiting team to make sure that we have all of our processes documented, and then we're also beefing up some of our current documentation. So that's something that we're looking at. And I think, as an organization, we, in most aspects of this organization, I think that we do that very well, in terms of process documentation. I think there's always room for improvement. But you're right, if somebody leaves the organization, and there's one person that knows how to do it, if you have that process documentation, then it's all good. I will say this, too, about selecting vendors and you're doing your research. And sometimes it's just really just trusting your gut. I mean, I know that I talked to a cup, and I don't mean to take away from the mentoring aspect of it. But if you're going through and you're talking to a vendor, and they're saying, if whatever they present on their platform or their dashboard when they're doing a demo, and it's not what you need, it's not you don't see the value that it's going to bring, bring back to the organization. And then you ask your questions, make sure you ask your questions, have a list of everything that you need to use that vendor, and if they say they can do it, make sure that they can do it.

James Mackey  23:04  
Sure. And I think too, it's like, you can't just solely rely on other people's experiences, right? Because every business to some extent is different, there could be companies out there that are similar. And if you do find a mentor, you have to make sure that they come from a similar environment, if you are working for a startup, and your mentor is from Salesforce or Oracle, you're probably going to have a much different process you have, you're gonna have different resources available to you different technology, it's not going to add up. So you have to be aware of that. And then online reviews. I'm not like they're helpful. But it's not enough to leverage online reviews, say, Oh, they have like a four-point whatever star out of five, you have to dig into the functionality and say, Okay, where are those reviews coming from? What does the customer base look like? And then the other thing I think is like, also super important is that you need to make a distinction of product functionality from the quality of the salesperson there. So some salespeople, some folks are just going to be more persuasive. And what you want to look for is there's a difference between persuasion and providing a good prospect or customer experience. And so you want folks that everything is very, it is well organized, and they're able to answer your questions and that you feel like, okay, if this is the experience that I'm getting on this side of the equation, we feel like that's going to be comparable with the customer success team. And I think one of the things that I would ask the salesperson is, what does onboarding look like? What does implementation support look like? How much of that are we expected to do? And do I get an assigned rep? Is it a shared team? Do I only get to chat and really dive into how quickly they're going to respond and how much hands-on support they're going to give out? I think it is something we have to look at, like just beyond features, right?

Julie Macaluso  25:04  
Yes, for sure. And, I mean, I can only speak to my current experience working directly with a vendor. And I feel like I've kind of been a little spoiled. I'll be honest with you, because the attention that we have gotten from the recruiter on implementing this platform has been very consistent turnaround time with any questions that we've had during the implementation process has been, you know, very fast. And so I'm hoping that in the future, when we do implement more platforms, or whatever it may be working with vendors that I'll have the same experience, but it is I mean, yeah, you definitely have to hold them to task for

James Mackey  25:50  
sure. Right. And I think it's like, because sometimes, one time I was implementing this is much earlier on, I was implementing an applicant tracking system. And it had great functionality, apparently, but it was actually incredibly hard to implement. And the vendor wasn't very clear on the implementation cost that would be on my company. And so I think that that's something that we have to take ownership of is really, yeah, it's like, that's just bringing it up. Because, okay, maybe it's this great CRM or ATS that's going to cost x per license. But ultimately, to make it functional, it's going to require a certain timeframe of implementation that's longer than expected. And it will require consultants billing at x, you know, 120 to 250 an hour to get you the functionality you need. And then they're gonna build some things that you don't need, and they're gonna build other things that maybe they didn't build the right way. And so it's understanding that the full picture is really important to get it done the right way.

Julie Macaluso  27:03  
Yeah, I agree. And I think that goes back to your point of having a mentor so that you know, the right questions to ask, you know, the leading questions, so if this is what I want, am I going to get it in this package? Kind of example you just said? Yeah, and I definitely support your point of having a mentor, especially going into something like this.

James Mackey  27:27  
I want it to be a little bit more focused on yourself. And your role currently, I would just love to learn like, what's the biggest lesson learned? Like, what is the biggest kind of lightbulb moment and impactful experience, in terms of your own career development that you'd like to share with us, just so you know, maybe other folks are experiencing something similar, or you can help them kind of move faster in terms of their development? What do you think?

Julie Macaluso  27:56  
So you put me on the spot here, but I did not. And that's fine. And that's fine. But I'll give you a true answer in terms of this not necessarily related to recruitment, or even related to the learning and development aspect of my position. I think that whether you're a leader, or if you are a person who comes into an organization with a lot of experience, or if you have a lot of experience, whatever your situation is. And this is not a unique answer, but I think it's definitely just, for me, it's knowing and understanding and accepting that, you don't have all the answers to if you build a team that has experience or even whether it is experienced in the role or experience in life, let's just say, you can always learn from somebody else. And I think sometimes leaders get cautious about learning from the people that they have on their team. But it ultimately is what makes your team and if you are not afraid to learn from one at one another, regardless of what your role is, it's going to be better for the organization. It's going to bring more value to what you do, whether it's in recruiting or you know, whether it's in sales, if we open up ourselves to make sure that we are consistently and constantly learning from other people, other team members, obviously other avenues research, whatever it may be, but making sure that you keep yourself open to continuously learning and whatever avenue that it may be.

James Mackey  29:45  
I love that. I think it's so important to consistently have new conversations on different topics with different people to have different experiences because those are the things that are going to consistently enhance your perspective, and influence how you operate, and even beyond in a professional sense, like asking, talking with folks about talent acquisition like we are today, what I found really interesting in my own life is that things that seem that are seemingly unrelated or unrelated, I should just say, Actually sometimes have the biggest impact on helping me perform professionally. So for instance, you know, I used to train Muay Thai, and, and compete and more Thai. And that's had a huge influence, and how I lead my team and my work ethic, and how I approach scaling my company. I lived overseas for three years which taught me a lot about working with folks that from, you know, from different cultures and understanding different perspectives, and different vantage points, becoming a dad, you know, that's another big one of Angel invested in a couple of films, all of those seemingly unrelated experiences have made me much better at my job. So I think in addition to finding industry mentors, which is incredibly important, investing in your hobbies, and what you're passionate about, will also help you generate better results, because there are things that are kind of hidden, in terms of lessons learned that you can apply. So I think that that's also have you experienced something like that?

Julie Macaluso  31:23  
Like I've never said, Okay, well, at least not consciously said, This aspect of this experience has definitely impacted the way that I do things here now. I think probably to a certain extent, whether it's, whatever your focus is outside of work, but I don't know.

James Mackey  31:46  
I think you bring up a really good point, though. I think sometimes it's not conscious. Yeah. So that's really interesting, too. But it's like our life experiences. And the way that our perspective is shaped is going to influence how we approach our job, crafting solutions and challenges and things like that.

Julie Macaluso  32:04  
I mean, I guess Yeah, I mean, I think the way for me to the way that my life experiences, I guess, maybe an example, the way that I you know, kind of treat people here, obviously, I want to, I want to make sure that I get to know people here, I want to make sure that my words are kind, I want to make sure that, you know, if because I tend to be direct, you know, I'm a direct talker. And so sometimes I want to make sure that, you know, because if I talk to you directly, I don't want you to get offended. And so I make sure that people are not, you know, so and that that comes from outside and the way that the reason that I say that, that comes from external experiences. And so, yeah, consciously subconsciously, we bring things that we have experienced outside of work and to work. And I think it is impactful whether we know it or not.

James Mackey  32:57  
Right, absolutely. I totally agree with that. Well, hey, Julie, this has been a lot of fun. I have no doubt that this is going to inform talent strategy. And what's really cool about is I think, one of one of the cool points we really spoke to is the implementation of new technology, common pitfalls, challenges, I don't think it's a topic that's discussed enough and being really clear on the challenges you're experiencing, understanding the features, the functionalities, and then what implementation is going to look like I think we provide a lot of good context there that will hopefully guide talent strategy for leaders that are going through this or even if they're not now, hopefully, they can hear this and avoid some of the mistakes that I know I've made that I probably not the only one to make. So you know, I think it's really cool. Thanks for helping us out here and joining us today.

Julie Macaluso  33:51  
Thanks for having me. And ultimately, I think I learned a couple of things as well. I enjoyed the conversation. So thank you for having me on.

James Mackey  33:57  
Yeah, for sure. This was a good time. And actually Julie one other thing if people want to engage with you connect with you online. Is there a way that they can do that?

Julie Macaluso  34:05  
Yeah, I mean, I have my LinkedIn profile. You can find me under Julie Macaluso.

James Mackey  34:13  
Nice. Well, this is a lot of fun. And again, if you're tuning in and you're getting value from the show, we'd really appreciate online reviews. And we're looking forward to connecting and for you to tune in next time. Take care!

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