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EP 59: The evolving role of TA leadership. Aligning hiring targets to North Star Metrics w Michael Salamey

Podcast Transcript

James Mackey  0:00  
Hey, welcome to Talent Acquisition Trends and Strategy. I'm your host, James Mackey. We're excited to have you here today. Thank you so much for supporting this show. We are currently number one for talent acquisition, on Apple Podcasts and Spotify. So we really appreciate your continued support. And if you feel like you're getting value from the show, we also would appreciate some reviews on whatever platform you're listening to.


And today we have a really exciting episode. We're talking with Michael Salamey.  Michael, I just want to welcome you to the show. Thanks for joining us today.

Michael Salamey  0:51  
Thanks for having me. That's pretty awesome, number one. Hopefully, you stay number one after this interview as well.

James Mackey  0:59  
It's been a lot of fun right now the viewership is actually growing 30% month over month, which is pretty incredible.

Michael Salamey  1:06  
Yeah, I've listened to a few of the episodes and I mean, some of them, the one by Rahul, for example, what a masterclass on talent acquisition at scale. And I mean, I've also learned a lot from the episodes I've listened to. So I appreciate you guys being out here.

James Mackey  1:23  
Yeah, I would love to learn a little bit more about you, Michael, I want the audience to understand your perspective. So when you're giving your insights and what you're seeing out there, your perspective is going to vary depending on your income from enterprise or growth stage company or startup. So we want to know a little bit about you. Do you mind providing a 30 to 60-second overview of your role, the type of company a little bit about your background, we can always you know, folks can always look you up on LinkedIn to learn a lot more in-depth, but just a high-level intro would be cool.

Michael Salamey  1:58  
Sure. So yeah, I've been in HR for 20-something years and then in all sizes and shapes of companies, I've gone forwards and backward in every direction in my career. So I've consulted independently I've been in talent acquisition, I've been you know, through through through the wringer. And in all the companies currently, I worked for a company called ID plants out of Tampa, Florida, beautiful sunny Tampa, Florida. And it's probably the coolest company I've ever had the pleasure of working with or for and I've done both as a consultant and now as the Chief People Officer for the company. And what they do is provide data analytics and services for commercial real estate to help them centralize and visualize every nuance of data they have about their company about their commercial properties. So that they can collaborate internally within the organization and externally with suppliers and vendors to essentially maximize the profit and tenant experience for their properties. And we do that through human capital and pretty groundbreaking technology including 3d cameras, drones, and everything in between. So good to have a lot of fun playing with a lot of cool toys, and I get the best of both worlds tech and in people. 

James Mackey  3:27  
That's great. So one the first one of the first topics we have on here is how you look at the TA function from the perspective of a CPO, I would love to get your thoughts on how you go about building out the TA function and setting up your individual contributor recruiting team within that being that you're I believe it's around an 80 person company or how big a little over 100, right,?


Michael Salamey  3:35

a little over 100 Okay, great. So being a 100-person organization and the CPO role. How do you think about structuring your time acquisition team and your recruiting individual contributor recruiters?

Michael Salamey  4:11  
Yeah, it's fascinating because that's 100 employees, we actually have about half of that and contractors that we leverage as well. So we have a kind of dual workforce at play here at any given time. And we constantly think about how we structure our talent acquisition and recruitment in general. And we use a lot of different strategies to do it. One thing that we're concentrating on this year, for example, is looking at as far as talent acquisition goes, What's important to our team members who we're acquiring as far as career growth as we live in a world now where the average tenure at a job is roughly two years, a little bit under two years. And so we know that the majority of our One of our team members aren't going to retire here. So the question is, how can we number one bring the best talent in?


And then how can we make it a great experience for them as they transition out as well? And so this year, what we're doing is we're taking the org chart, and look at every single position on the org chart, and every other position on that chart, and laying down the actual KSA is the knowledge skills, abilities needed for every position, as well as the education requirements, and basically saying, like, if I come into this company at our entry-level, and I want to get to CEO, what is the path to get there? What skills and experiences do I need to gain? What education do I need, and to be able to lay that out across every function so and so as far as talent acquisition goes, that's, that's kind of like not a normal thing to bring them into that conversation. But we feel if they understand that, they're going to understand the context for the company and the context for bringing in great people and identifying them as well. So that's kind of where we start.

James Mackey  6:03  
Right. And that's in educating the recruiters on really getting them to be dialled in on exactly what is required of each, I suppose role that's hired for to progress professionally, enables them to have more depth to the conversations that they're having with candidates, and probably increases candidate engagement. Along the way, I don't think that a tonne of conversation, at least in-depth conversation is happening around the career track. Typically, in the interview process, maybe it's touched on, hey, you know, your SDR here, and after a year and a half, you could become an AE. I don't think a lot of tactical conversation is happening on these performance metrics, the KPIs, the objectives, the outcomes that you need to hit, to make that happen, maybe sometimes, but if it does happen at all, it's usually going to be down the funnel, with maybe a VP of the function lead. But it sounds like you're moving that conversation to essentially most of the top-of-funnel and screening calls to drive candidate engagement to ensure that top talent is proceeding down the funnel. So I think it's and I'm just processing, as you said, what you said. So I'm just gonna riff on this for one more second, go for it's like, basically, a lot of screening calls are run as this data collection set. And maybe that's not good enough, maybe it's, Hey, we need to collect data and insights for half the time, or maybe two-thirds of the time, but we need to reserve at least 10 minutes to not only sell the company and the leadership team but to provide more depth into career tracking and who you can become over the next two years. And the last point that I'll make, and I learned this from Steve Cadigan, the first Chief People Officer of LinkedIn, is one of the best lessons he taught me was, we have to normalize asking questions. What does life look like after working here? Right. Because it's like that, I always find the tenure conversation interesting. It's like people are obsessed with how we get people to stay here for five years. Why are we trying to fight that current? And how about we just build our organization in such a way to thrive with the reality of how things are actually progressing? And the workplace and the workforce? So?

Michael Salamey  8:42  
Yeah, exactly. I couldn't have said it better. 

James Mackey  8:49  
For sure. I think that it's similar philosophy, though. It's like you're, you're being clear on who you can become. And you also expect your head that people aren't gonna stay here for five years, I interviewed somebody in season one. And they were like, I was like, what does success look like for you when it comes to quality of hire? And she was like, if they stay here longer than five years, I'm like, more power to you. Like if you can do that, but I was like, is that really happening? I mean, I, I respect that. It's not that I'm like, saying, Don't strive for it, but also I just don't think it's realistic or achievable.

Michael Salamey  9:21  
Yeah, agreed. And, you know, it's funny, because we kind of also take the tack of it's probably semantic debate of whether we're talking about recruiting or talent acquisition per se. But for us, we try to distinguish between them, because I think there's a need for both and I think in the industry, we kind of use the terms interchangeably and kind of casually which is fine. But within the company, when we think of recruit versus acquire, we look at the roots of those words and you know, recruiting is a military term that means enlist or enroll, and the distinction there is that requires marketing, right? Like, be all you can be, you know, we're gonna pay for your education if you come in the company, etc, etc. Whereas acquired means to obtain that which is distinct to me because it requires intention, you have to go out and know what you're looking for, to bring it in. And so, you know, we try to be very conscious of that. And, and we, you know, we're trying to fill seats we recruit, we're trying to fill a position that we hope will be here for the long term or that's going to contribute in a larger way, then we acquire and use talent acquisition in that regard.

James Mackey  10:42  
Well, yeah, I think so it's more so that the talent acquisition function is, at least when done correctly, ideally, funneling up to a Chief People Officer role. I think that this is a good segue into our second bucket of the conversation, discussing potential discrepancies between what the HR team is prioritizing versus what the executive team is prioritizing. And when you have a CPO at a leadership table, you have probably a stronger alignment. And for what you're saying, town acquisition is a more strategic function as opposed to butts in the seat really guiding. What are the North Star metrics of our company that you know, whether it be revenue growth or profitability, or defining clear unit economics or clear defining clear, scalable revenue channels, or whatever the Northstar metrics are to then align that with Taan acquisition and the types of profiles that you need to pull in both for leaders and individual contributors to leaders to hit those key objectives and metrics, and then the individual contributors that can hit essentially the KPIs to make that happen. I'm curious to get your thoughts on this. If you feel like many times there's a disconnect between HR and executive teams, what can be done to reconcile that disconnect if you know, if you think there is one, right?

Michael Salamey  12:20  
Yeah, I mean, I think there definitely is one, you know, just speaking in the general sense. Sage people did a research recently where they spoke to 500, senior HR leaders and other executives within these mid-sized organizations globally. And, they found that there were certain areas where the other C suite leaders were not aligned with the HR leadership, which was really interesting, because of course, you know, as everybody says, people are our most important asset. So if HR is not aligned with what the company is after, that's, that's kind of a problem. So, for example, what was fascinating to me was HR had talent management as the number one concern. And diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging as the second most important conversation to be having over the next couple of years. But when you looked at the other executives, they definitely agreed that talent management was up there. But for D, I was pleased with number five for them. And number one for the other executives was financial growth tied with talent management, financial growth for the HR teams was number nine. So, you know, I find that really fascinating. And if you look at the percentage of the respondents as well, 13% of the HR leaders said that financial growth was important at number nine, and 21% of executives said it was important at number one. And so you know, when I talk to whether you're in talent acquisition or just HR, generally, when I talk to people who are asking for career advice, or you know, how to move up in HR, and so forth, one of the things I tell them is, you must go out of your way to understand the financials of the company, you have to know how the company makes money before he can roll out all the engagement programmes, you know, it's all about the strategy of what can we do versus what we want to do because of course, we want to do it all. But what we can do that aligns with the company's mission, vision, values, goals, and purpose or you know, sometimes conflict. So we have to really be in alignment with that. And I think understanding how the company makes money is a great start for any HR person that's trying to get their move their way up to CPO or CHRO.

James Mackey  14:50  
Right, and it looks like this study you so even at the CPO level, financial growth metrics came in at number nine or was this primarily for HR teams, whereas VP or only director level HR folks were involved?

Michael Salamey  15:06  
Yeah, so the exact question was what should the top priorities be for HR leaders through 2024? And so they asked HR leaders including CHROs and CPOs, and they asked other executives, so the C suite, like

James Mackey  15:23  
I think that would have been more valuable if they segmented out CPOE from other HR leaders, like in situations where HR reports to a CFO or COO, because I feel like there's going to be a bigger disconnect there versus somebody that's a CPO, that is actually on those executive meetings that on the board meetings,

Michael Salamey  15:43  
To be fair to Sage people, they may have done that, you know, in HR, ironically, because we're the ones that come up with all the position titles, but there's so much title, you know, winding through each other. So, a CPO at one company may be a VP of HR at another, maybe just an HR VP at another. So I think they probably did the best they could but I don't know how in-depth they went there.

James Mackey  16:12  
I do think just from my own experience and working within over over 150 companies at this point in time at secure vision that having that CPO layer is critical for alignment. HR and talent acquisition leaders, as you said, need to understand Northstar metrics. And there are a few ways that you can learn those, look up the top metrics that venture capital firms look for, for example, look up the top metrics that Chief Revenue officers and chief marketing officers are looking at everything from net revenue retention, gross revenue retention, revenue growth, and understanding unit economics. These types of things are what you know, even like customer lifetime value or customer payback periods and customer acquisition costs. While these aren't directly correlated to what you're going to be doing on a day-to-day basis, they're going to help you get into the mind of the CEO. And understand the core outcomes that need to be delivered. Not only is this what is required for you to be an effective CPO, but it's also required for you to probably get to that level or at least maximize your likelihood. Because if the CEO and the executive team know that you understand the core business objectives, right, the OKRs of the organization, they're going to be more likely to put you in that executive role. And then basically, that understanding of the financial aspect will help you drive strategy and how you approach the HR function and what you prioritize. And I am, well, I don't even know if I do, I am a CEO. So I do agree that financial management and people management are at the top of the pyramid, it's really hard to say which one is more important because both are freaky critical. I think that everything else does fall underneath that. And the reason is that if the company isn't in a healthy financial position, then everything's at risk. And you can't do anything else. You can't make dei a priority. If financial health isn't a priority, the parallel is our health. We can't make our kids a priority or career priority. We can't do anything else effectively. If we are in a position where we don't take care of ourselves when we are the best version of ourselves from a health perspective, we have the most to offer others. And I think that the parallel into business is, I think, a direct correlation.

Michael Salamey  19:01  
Yeah, see, it's the airplane analogy of putting the mask on on your own self before you put on your kids.

James Mackey  19:08  
Yeah, exactly. So I think that there is a healthy alignment there. And again, you need a CPL in order to do that. And I think you start looking at a CPO when several functions are reporting up through HR and talent acquisition, so when you have signed acquisition managers and you start to have a layered organization, and you have HR and talent acquisition, and you want that by you know, you want that, I suppose alignment with the other key executives, that's when you really need if you're like a 30 person company. You probably need a senior HR person, maybe an internal recruiter, like a Talent Acquisition Manager that's still hands-on. But as you start to get into scale, I think it's you know, 50 to 75 employees, you need to start thinking about onboarding a Cpl.

Michael Salamey  20:05  
Yeah. And there's you know, there are different ways to go about that as well the conversation becomes more relevant as to whether you want in-house HR versus a PEO model or some sort of fractional model. And, you know, where you know, where, where you want to go as a company, I think really comes into play there. And again, going back to, you know, just understanding the financial skills and analytical skills that are required to help the company reach its vision through its people, is really where that comes into play. So I couldn't agree more. In fact, in that same study, they'd also talked about the top three skills needed for HR and when they asked the HR leaders what they believe the top three skills needed for HR the next couple of years would be, they said leadership and management, teamwork and coaching and training. But when they asked the executives, they agreed, number one was leadership and management. But number two was financial skills. And number three was analytical skills. So again, just some general misalignment, but to your point, a solid CPO or CHR o should be walking in the door with some skill. So definitely an advantage to going that route.

James Mackey  21:24  
Oh, yeah, I couldn't agree more there. And I think that there's just probably even now still a bit of a lack of that. I think a lot of CEOs do have a solid grasp of talent management. They understand the trends, the cultural trends, and the expectations that employees have, that candidates have. And I think they're generally pretty good at keeping a pulse on the feedback that the town acquisition teams getting an HR generalist are getting. But I don't necessarily, I think you're right, like, I'm really happy you brought up this topic when it comes to potential lack of alignment.

Michael Salamey  22:09  
Yeah, it's interesting.

James Mackey  22:11  
Yeah, for sure. Speaking of candidate and employee preferences, we're still seeing, I suppose a bit of the evolution from remote to hybrid. I don't think a whole lot of organizations are going back full time in office besides potentially more conservative industries, old school industries, like financial rights, companies, but I'm curious to get your thoughts on that. What are you seeing out there? And what's your take on what companies should be doing when it comes to remote versus hybrid versus full-time in-office?

Michael Salamey  22:45  
Yeah, boy, that is the conversation right now. It's, it's really, it's really interesting. I think it's a fascinating conversation. And it's certainly an important one. And I think there are a few distinctions to make. Number one, Disney just announced that they're bringing everybody back to Office. So that is an interesting phenomenon, in a way because it provides other companies now you've got Disney, Microsoft, Amazon, Tesla. And a lot of these other companies are pulling people back to Google. And I think that that gives more companies a little bit more cover fire to pull people back in. Now, what we find is the data tells us study after study after study shows that remote workers tend to be more productive. Generally, however, traditional leadership, meaning senior leaders at most companies are just more comfortable having people in office and that is the debate that's going on. And so, unfortunately, or fortunately, depending on your view, you know, the senior leadership team, the traditionalists are kind of, you know, swinging back, especially as we get into an economic crisis, looming, they want to be in their comfort zone. So LinkedIn and Axios just put out a report, noting that 50% of all applications on LinkedIn right now are for remote jobs, but only 15. One 5% of the job postings are for flexible work. I think that the company or the conversation is really interesting because we seem to be coming up with this idea of remote work, flexible work, wherever you want to call it. It's kind of a new phenomenon. But you have to remember like back in the early 1900s, there were no cell phones. There were no fax machines. There were no papers, no pagers, and there was no way to get a hold of people. If you had a salesperson. They were 100% remote. It's not like this is a new phenomenon. This is circling back to a phenomenon that existed for most workers already almost 100 years ago. So

James Mackey  24:59  
I hear you And you're right, we are seeing a bigger push. Now I feel like this topic was huge six months ago, and everybody was talking about what the future looks like. And I think everybody got a little burnt out from talking about it. And now we are seeing a lot of companies start to push on this, in my opinion, you know, we're the companies that are doing this primarily are companies that have leverage. They're providing an opportunity, whether it's from a brand recognition, perspective, compensation, benefits, maybe all of those they are offering, top tier, and as a result, they're able to have the leverage to pull people back. So for instance, it looks like, you know, obviously, most people have heard of Apple, right, calling people back to Office, we have a city group, a financial organization, that's asking people to come back to the office on a hybrid work schedule. At a minimum, Disney as you said, we have Goldman Sachs and other financial institutions to two out of four so far, but I'm saying Google, the right has that brand recognition is offered in top tier compensation benefits, JP Morgan, and other financial organizations. Right. Then another recent one, Starbucks corporate staff, Twitter, Elon Musk, not surprisingly, has asked people to come back or give their resignation. And Uber, at least half of them, require a hybrid schedule for at least 50% of employees to come back to the office. So it seems like all these companies are pushing. And I would say that all of these are household names, and probably pay very well, at least most of them, they have the leverage over employees to start to pull them back in. And I think that's, that's why versus maybe companies our size, right, we're probably going to be a little bit more flexible.

Michael Salamey  26:56  
And now if we want to, quote-unquote, win the war for talent, which is never-ending, we have to be more flexible and be willing to offer flexibility. And at this point, like it's, it's proven, it can work, there are plenty of very successful remote companies. So you know, there's no more a question of whether it's feasible. It's not just a question of whether it's practical, or whether it's a strategy for your particular company. 

James Mackey  27:25  
So what do you think about, like, the argument for creativity? Collaboration,

Michael Salamey  27:30  
That's kind of Disney's argument, right, is that more people together in a room equals more creativity. But there may be some truth to that, you know, the psychology shows that, yeah, there's, there is some truth to collaboration in real-time, is different than collaboration over the web. And, you know, we all talked about zoom fatigue, and how the brain has to process stuff over the web differently. In fact, area on Zoom, here I am, being more conscious of where my hands are, and what I'm doing with the making sure I'm in the camera view, and I'm not, you know, super close to the camera, or, you know, that so far away that you can't see me. And, you know, while trying to have a conversation, you know, I've got all these social cues that I'm trying to pay attention to. And it's very taxing. And so zoom fatigue, we know is real. But what does that look like for creativity and collaboration? I think the jury is probably still out, there are more people. Let's take authors, for example, who are more creative on an individual basis, right? Even when you take authors of novels versus authors in a writing room, there's an argument on both sides. So in a TV writing room, they love the collaboration because they can riff on each other's ideas. And often, you get some pretty, pretty bad TV shows right? At the writing. And the same is true. On the individual side, you probably have a million books that didn't make it for every Harry Potter that comes through. Right. So. So I think it's an interesting debate. I don't think it's solved yet. But I think that there's an argument on both sides. And it looks like all the data is kind of pointing to hybrids as probably the best way to go. But you know,

James Mackey  29:15  
I think so. So what do you like? So some of these companies, though, have these situations in which they have 50% of staff that's in a local market, because prior to COVID, they were in office, and then they're hiring new employees. Or maybe they are sorry, and then during COVID is what so before COVID, they have people and markets that during COVID They started to hire and other markets as well because the market was on fire last year before all this stuff started right whatever's happening in the world. So now they have people that are out of market people that are in the market from an equity, fairness perspective. How do you balance the fact that you want people to come back into a hybrid? Do you have other folks that live out of state? What are companies supposed to do in that situation?

Michael Salamey  30:08  
Yeah, I don't know that there are any written answers to those types of questions. Yeah. I mean, as far as equity goes, this is a huge question, because you're seeing the pay transparency laws, you know, coming across states like California and New York, and you know, even some cities, like Chicago are invoking their own pay transparency rules, and so forth. So I think that it's a real conundrum for some companies, particularly companies that aren't, you know, what you call conscious capitalist companies, where, you know, the C suite can make, you know, 100, and plus times more than the average employee salary. So pay transparency is a great example of where that's coming into play. And then, you know, from a talent acquisition standpoint, how do you hire that way? It definitely costs more to live in Chicago than it does to live in, you know, I don't know Michigan, right? It's, so do you pay the same rate across all states and let alone if you're international, then you know, you've got even more questions for pay equity there. So I think those are all very important and interesting conversations to have. I don't know if there's any real solid answers on that yet. But we're all trying to figure our way through this. And I think that a lot of us forget that we're still trying to figure our way through this. And everybody wants these, you know, these straightforward answers. And we're very clear with our team members that, you know, hey, we're trying stuff for you, the company is owned and run by humans. So we're going to make mistakes. But we're gonna keep trying to get better. And that's mainly our philosophy. So yeah, we experiment with all of those.

James Mackey  31:57  
So you bring up a really good point, it's not just about an office versus remote flexibility, equity, but pay equity. And when you hire people in different markets, should that impact compensation? I don't think that there's one answer that is necessarily 100%. Right? Because I could see the idea of equity or fairness, I could see somebody making an argument for different pay rates, as well as for the same pay rate. And either way, you're going to piss off some people. So it's because they're not going to have that executive perspective, and you can't necessarily expect them to write like, I think employee surveys and having conversations with individual contributors is important. You implement the feedback that you can, but there's just some feedback that you know, okay, I get it. But this isn't going to work for us at scale. And so we can't implement it. And then it just becomes communication feedback, explaining why, while it's a great idea, potentially, or that you at least understand it, it's not actually going to be obtainable. About pay equity. I typically just recommend paying everybody the same within the United States. Let's just because they do, yeah, because like, there's several reasons. From an executive perspective, it's easier. You have very clear salary bands that are based on experience. People get to it, particularly if it's remote, you get to choose where you live. And I know that's, I don't know, maybe some people don't agree with that. However, right? If you're in New York, and you want to live in a low-cost area, you could move and I understand people may not necessarily always have that option. But I still think it's a little bit cleaner and easier to scale. And I think between the two options, it's the better one.

Michael Salamey  33:58  
Yeah, absolutely. I don't know if that is recommended for every company. But that is a fact that we take as well. And, you know, we find that just from a management perspective, it's a lot easier to manage that way. And you know, we don't necessarily choose where somebody lives, but they did choose to accept the position if they accepted it. So that's another

James Mackey  34:18  
Great point.  I mean, this is a two-way partnership, and you accepted the role at that price point. And there are plenty of companies that are going to base it off the market. We end up basing it though, primarily off the highest markets when we can because typically, at least for our customers that are in the tech industry, the biggest candidate pools are going to still be in those markets, even though it's dispersing quite rapidly. You know,

Michael Salamey  34:50  
When we do our compensation analyses, we're looking at national averages mostly and then we also try to compare them with companies. have similar sizes, which isn't always easy, because there are some definite outliers, you know, we cannot afford the salary that Microsoft can offer with total rewards. Yes. So, yeah, very judicious and, and where we choose to land. So I can say that we always get it right. But we always try.

James Mackey  35:19  
You can't always get it right, you just can't. And that's what's also tricky about working with people is that it's not. Well, every function is difficult, or being an Executive leader, every single function is hard. The trick with what we do is you're dealing with people. And it's messy, and you try to put an organization structure process around it. But many times we are faced with decisions where there's not exactly a clear path forward. You have to pick, it's compromising, and it's deciding, okay, based on the situation and the date I have, what do I feel is going to create less friction, there's typically always going to be friction, and a people function, to some extent, but what's going to create less friction, so that we can focus on the executive objectives that we need to write?

Michael Salamey  36:16  
Yeah, exactly. Particularly at the entry level, or even up to mid-level manager. You know, there's a, I guess, a delineation line between how employees see the company versus how, you know, executives, who are also employees see the company. And a lot of that is, as much as companies value transparency, we're definitely among them, we try to be as transparent as possible. But there's always a struggle where, you know, how transparent you want to be, I can't teach somebody, you know, I can't, I can't provide them with an MBA and 20 minutes of conversation, to teach the financials of the business.


But what I can do is try to break it down into a, okay, look, I know you want better benefits, or want more time off, or more pay, or whatever it is that you think we should do. And when a company, when an employee looks at the company's profits, they see a company made, you know, $300 million this year, and I Where's my cut is kind of what they think. And I always try to break it down, say, look, there's like three buckets, okay, and you got money in each of these three buckets. And one of them is, you know, pay and benefits and one of them is overhead. And one of them is equipment and supplies, right? 


So you have to keep the lights on, you have to provide new tech, and you have to keep people happy and able to put food on their table. So if you want to put more money in one of these buckets, which bucket Do you want to take it out of? Do you want worse equipment? Because you know, we provide you with an iPad, we can just get you a tablet from Walmart if you want their version? Or do you want less time off? Like where do you want these buckets? How do you want these buckets to work? Then also tried to explain that, you know, we also have to protect against future calamity as well. So sure the company made 300 million in gross revenue, but net revenue was considerably less. And, you know, when you look at the coming economic downturn, which is, you know, almost certain how many, how many people? Do you want to let go at that point, because we gave everybody a raise this year? You know, where do you want to draw the line?

James Mackey  38:27  
Yeah, and that's something that I, quite honestly, don't even go into as much detail. Because I think a lot of folks are just not going to understand, right? Or they don't want to understand. I mean, I own an embedded recruiting company, and internal recruiters, agency recruiters, they're many times the first to go when a downturn happens. And so we're the first to go. We're the first to come back. So we're a great market indicator. As you know, like every other company in my industry, I had to let some folks go. And it was hard. And we explain the financial situation like, look, we need to run the business in a sustainable way. There's no way around this, this just has to happen. It's not a choice. This is the reality.


But you know, folks don't get that there's always like, well, a lot of them do. Let me correct that. Most of them do a couple of them. They're gonna go the path of say financial mismanagement, this sudden the other, right, they want all the benefits and the flexibility and the salary. And they don't understand like on the other side of that there's a P&L that's attached to that. And I do think that that is a common misconception of what we're seeing on the market. Because all of the biggest best management teams are going through layoffs. It's like, okay, well, you're saying financial mismanagement and explaining how the best leadership teams in the world are everybody just shitty at leadership? Yeah, you know, I mean, cuz that's kind of like, okay, Mmm, that's not how the economy works, right? But people aren't gonna get it. 


And so what I tried to focus on is more so like, okay, what are the OKRs and the Northstar metrics that are on an annual basis that needs to be achieved by the leadership team? And then how do we cascade that down to an individual contributor level, so that they understand the activity, activities that need to happen to reach their quotas, or outcomes that they need to produce? And they also need to be aware of what the Northstar metrics are. And that's where I focus a lot of my attention. And I am happy to explain in an all-hands meeting what is going on with the economy. And then from there, I have to let people form their own opinion. And that's basically what I share with other executives, like, on a one-on-one basis, I'm probably not gonna get too far into it. But on all hands, we can say, this is what's happening with the economy. This is how it's impacting our business. 


This is how it's impacting the Northstar metrics we're trying to hit. This is what we can do in terms of cascading down on an individual contributor level, to try to maintain the business where it is. And then we try to be transparent with, okay, what does job security look like? Or whatever else is happening in the economy, right? Like, how, what we think is going to happen over the next three to six months in our business, and we try to predict as well as anybody else can. But it's also hard and leadership to it's like, we don't have a crystal ball. And things are changing so rapidly in the economy, that it's like, nobody knows exactly where the bottom is, what recovery is going to look like. We can all and you know, but then we also it sounds like an echo chamber, because then, like within different industries, those communities, people end up saying, like all the same stuff, because they've heard it from a tonne of other leaders, right. So it's like, is that an individual thought? Are we just kind of all repeating the same shit, right?

Michael Salamey  42:03  
Yeah, absolutely. You're right. They've heard it so many times already from so many other sources. It does sound like an echo chamber. And I think of that a lot. It's kind of like the Glassdoor reviews, right? Like, yeah, employees will always blame management to some degree for whatever. And sometimes there's veracity to it, but sometimes there isn't. And always think about it, like, you know, think about the last time you went to, you know, Target or Walmart or where wherever you do your daily grocery shopping, you probably walked in and you probably found what you came for probably got out and went to your car went home, put the groceries away. But what you didn't do was then jump on Glassdoor and write a you know, this blowing review of like, wow, I went to Target today. And I found stuff at a reasonable price. And the checkout was, you know, really good. And I had no problems. I got my change. Right? It was fantastic. Right? The first time something goes wrong at Target, you're telling everybody and their mother about the attitude of that cashier. I think it's a lot of the same kind of phenomenon. Yeah, we tend to gravitate to the bad while really limiting the good things that we see. And I think as employees and even as executives, we kind of just focus on all the negative aspects and lower the value of all the good stuff. 

James Mackey  43:32  
Right, this is like a whole other conversation, but to me, it all comes down to accountability and count and accountability is the number one trait of a player's eye and you know, the people that are the highest performing folks on my team take 100% accountability for outcomes. Now the reality is that outcomes are not 100% in their control, but their psychology and mindset towards producing quality outcomes is extreme levels of accountability, self-awareness, investing in their development, collaboration, and teamwork like that is their psychology toward life. And then you have folks that don't take as much ownership and maybe they're more accurate, I don't know. But like, the reality is that you see the difference in terms of psychology, the outcomes that are produced as a result.

Michael Salamey  44:24  
Yeah, absolutely. And it's funny that accountability is definitely up there is probably one of the number one personality traits I was reading in this study recently about the number one predictor of overall job success today, and it was just really great. It was a study done by the National Association of Colleges and Employers. And it's funny, I'm not gonna bury the lead for a second here. But you know, when I went around and asked people, so did other leaders in our organization, the managers of you know, teams, and surprisingly what do you think is the number one predictor of job success here? I'll get all kinds of answers. You know, a lot of times it'd be emotional intelligence or IQ or attendance, just showing up on time, integrity, etcetera, etcetera. And it turns out that 73.4% of employers in this research study cited that the number one predictor of job success was written communication skills. They ranked it, number nine or number three next to leadership, and teamwork is the third most important job, predictor of success. So I thought that was just fascinating. And I thought about it, and it made sense because you know, we live in a world of Slack and Microsoft Teams and email, and the better you are at being able to articulate a message through email, text, you know, what have you with good vocabulary with good grammar with brevity, the more successful you're likely to be, I just found that fascinating.

James Mackey  46:05  
I feel like it is very important. If you can communicate a message clearly. Let's go into teaching. First-time hiring managers how to hire. One of the things that I've I put out on LinkedIn is, it doesn't matter how good your recruiters are if your hiring managers are not committed to hiring top talent or learning how to hire top talent because we cannot control as recruiters, and talent acquisition leaders if the function heads of other departments are going to follow through on the process and best practices that we outlined. So how do you go about training? First-time hiring managers to effectively engage with top talent? And I suppose the second part of that question would be, how do you get by it?

Michael Salamey  47:18  
It is probably the more difficult part for sure. It's interesting, though, like, you kind of hit the nail on the head, it doesn't matter how good the recruitment or TA team is if the hiring manager doesn't know what they're looking for and what they want. And I wrote about this on LinkedIn A while ago, but when I was consulting a couple of years ago, I was helping this company build out its TA process. And I was watching these two interviews, and they had two people who are very similar experience-wise. And in one of these interviews, one of the people is just very gregarious, and just kind of a charmer, and did really well. The other one was, it was kind of almost a stereotype of an ecologist, very dry, no personality at all, like a doorknob trying to get answers out of this person. And in the, in the first interview, the hiring manager who was interviewing even pointed out, he said something to the effect of, you know, you're intelligent, and, and have a good sense of humor. Those are two great qualities. Hey, what's going on in the interview, I noticed this down and data passing on this person, they picked the other person because they had a degree, the irony was the degree was not in a field that had anything to do with, you know, what they were looking for. And so I was debriefing with the executive team over this. And I said, let me ask you guys a question. You know, I said, you know, we had two applicants, here are two candidates that had very similar experiences, almost identical work histories, and one of them had a degree. Well, that was unrelated to what we're looking for one of them didn't. But the hiring manager noted that the one was highly intelligent and had a good sense of humor. I said, so let me ask you. What does that mean to you? When I say somebody who's highly intelligent, you know, they kind of went around roundtable. And it turns out, well, you know, they can process and assimilate information, and that's okay. So what does a good sense of humor mean? You know, they said, Well, you know, they could take that information, and they can turn it around, you know, you gotta be quick-witted. So they have to turn their process information quickly, turn it around and come up with a clever solution. Right? And I was like, yeah, that's, that's very good. So let me ask you this. Let me just see a show of hands on the executive team, who doesn't want smart and funny people on their team? There was silence, right? So I just think that was an interesting thing. You said if you don't know what you're looking for, in a team member via the personality or skills, how can you expect you know the recruiting or hiring team you know, know what they're looking for? Let me ask you this. 


How many hiring managers before the interview, actually read the job posting the job description, and looked at the resume? Because that's what happened before every interview. Again, crickets. Yeah. Yeah, it's just a really interesting thing. Because I think that sometimes as hiring managers, we want to put the burden on the recruiting and talent acquisition team and forget that we actually have a role to play in the whole thing.

James Mackey  50:30  
Yeah, really. I think that such a one-on-one aspect is helping hiring managers work past unconscious biases. And others they don't even know like, well, even like with the degree thing, I mean, I think that there's we've grown up in a world a certain way that is not necessarily serving us today. And it's being adaptable and having folks that are forward thinking, self-aware, and aware of what produces outcomes versus things that do not. Right. And I think that the degree aspect is critical to that I think the other party in terms of getting buy-in for following processes and best practices. The only way that I've seen this work is CPOs, convincing other leaders to implement performance, hiring performance metrics for every function, leading company-wide, and needs to be a core part of the objective of what they need to accomplish in their role. They need to be accountable for their own hiring plan. It's not just talent acquisition that's accountable for the hiring plan. Yeah, it's impossible to achieve a hiring plan if you don't have buy-in from the folks that are hiring the people on their team.

Michael Salamey  51:51  
Yeah, 100%, we still have our position description philosophy from a gentleman named Mark Horstman, who ran a thing called Career Tools for years, but all of our position descriptions and with what is the simplest, easiest way to tell if this person is doing a good job, you have three to five things and we use those as the key attributes for the job. And then, in Daniel Kahneman's book Thinking Fast and Slow, a fantastic book, by the way, he tells a story about how he helped bridge the gap of recruiting for the I think it was the Israeli army. And, he also talked about having three to, I think he said, six key attributes for the job. And then he said, to create questions that test those attributes. And I would add to that, that you also have to when you create those questions, you have to know what the right answer looks like for those questions. And you have to know if you're asking what you think you're asking.

James Mackey  52:55  
So that's a great point. So there's like three tiers of competency. You have organizations that don't craft custom questions that are just shooting from the hit. You have organizations that do craft custom questions, but I think even the ones that do craft custom questions are not necessarily said thinking about, Well, okay, what is a good answer? Looking for it, I think with some questions it is probably relatively straightforward. But with others, maybe not so much. I think you're right, like going through the exercise of thinking, Hey, what is good actually look like here? What are we looking for in these answers? And maybe that isn't happening all the time? You hope it is, but I guess you're right, that's not necessary. We can't assume that hiring managers actually are doing that all the time.

Michael Salamey  53:38  
Well, even when you start with just the deal breakers, right, the pre-screen, I think a powerful pre-screen can do a lot of the heavy lifting for a solid ta team. And I sometimes see a hiring manager say you need a bachelor's in this position. I say, okay, hold on a second. Let me just make sure I'm understanding because you know, the ATS is a binary question. So are you telling me that somebody with 12 years of experience in x is out, even if they don't have a bachelor's, but somebody with two years of experience, but has a bachelor's is in? Oh, no. 12 years? I'd consider like, Okay, so that's not a deal breaker. That's nice to have. Let's go on to the next one. Yeah, it just helps them kind of understand what they're actually looking for. And also, I find that a lot of and this is not just a hiring manager, even some of our talent acquisition people, and I understand why it happens, because it's very monotonous, but they don't always ask the same question the same way of every applicant, and I constantly coach that you have to do that. And a great example of that is sometimes you'll ask a question about, are you great at Excel? And Excel has been around for almost 40 years? Everyone thinks they're great at Excel. Like that's not a question first of all, but you may ask that question of one person and they say, Yeah, I use Excel every day at work and you write down on your notes, you know, knows Excel. And you ask the next candidate, Hey, are you great at Excel? Like, you know, you know, pivot tables and things like that? And you say, oh, yeah, I use pivot tables and data slicers every day. I've got the fundamentals of Excel certification. And I've been doing it for the last five years, I live in Excel. Okay, great, they break down great. Edexcel knows pivot tables and data slicers. A week later, when they're going back and looking at their notes. What happens a lot of times is they see one that knows Excel, one that says great, add Excel that data, pivot tables, data slicers, and has fundamentals of Excel certification. The first person may have had an advanced certification in Excel and may understand pivot tables, data slicers, some statements and you know, V lookups, and about 20 other things, but you didn't ask them that question. You just asked if they're great. 

James Mackey  55:59  
Right. That's a very good point. And honestly, it's not something that I have thought of, I know that it's important to ask the same questions. But you're right, you have to ask the same questions in the same way. Because some questions might be a little bit more leading or specific, that can lead to a more detailed answer. And of course, you're not gonna remember off the top of your head later. And so you're right. I mean, assuming the hiring manager actually puts the feedback or the answers in the system, right? They're not going to be able to remember, they're going to go off notes.  if they're interviewing a lot of candidates and society moves forward in the interview process.

Michael Salamey  56:36  
Yeah, exactly. Right. Yeah. For a first-time hiring manager, I always say, listening is just a simple heuristic when you're interviewing, like, if I can't teach you anything else, or I don't have time to write now, I just want you to always be having these two questions in the back of your mind. Number one, would I like to go have dinner with this person, or you know, or I like to have a beer with this person? or what have you? Because if the answer is yes, then they're probably keying in on the personality, right? Like, they're probably a team fit. If you want to learn more about this person, you find them engaging and interesting. They're probably a good fit for the team. And the second question I tell them just think about in the back of your head is, can I see myself working for them one day? And if you can, you're probably keying in on a skill set. Even if you didn't catch it in the interview questions, you probably got some hunch about it, like this person is sharp. They know what they're saying, they know what they're doing. So then, if I can't teach you anything else, just focus on those two and give me some good notes.

James Mackey  57:39  
I love it. I love it. Well, hey, Michael, this has been a blast. I appreciate your contribution to the show. It's because of folks like you that we're able to offer so much value to the community. And being the number one spot to be the value-added show on the market right now. So thank you for coming on today, joining us, and giving us a masterclass on your philosophy toward town acquisition and people functions. We appreciate you.

Michael Salamey  58:03  
Such a pleasure, congratulations on being number one. And hopefully, that remains the case for a long time to come.

James Mackey  58:10  
Yeah, for sure. Well, it's because of folks like us. So I want to make sure that if people want to engage with you, they can find you online, assuming you want to be found. Or you don't bite if people reach out Where Where can people? How can people engage with you?

Michael Salamey  58:24  
Sure. I'm Michael Salamay. Everywhere you can just look me up, LinkedIn is probably the place where I engage the most. I don't do a lot on social media. Generally, I usually head down trying to figure out strategic ways to help our company dominate the market. But yeah, you can always find me on LinkedIn or just Google my name, and turn up everywhere.

James Mackey  58:44  
I love it. I love it. Well, Michael, thank you for everybody tuning in. Thank you for joining us, and we will talk to you soon. Take care. Thanks. 

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