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Utah Business

Catch up with talent acquisition experts as we discuss the current state of hiring in Utah during our July 2021 roundtable.

A conversation about the current state of talent acquisition in Utah

This month, we partnered with Kim Wittman, VP of talent acquisition at Vivint to host a roundtable event featuring Utah’s talent acquisition leaders speaking on company culture mid-pandemic, hybrid work models, and acquiring talent in a post-pandemic world. Moderated by Elisa Garn, executive director of Utah SHRM and VP of digital brand at GBS Benefits, Inc., here are a few highlights from the discussion.

What have you done to maintain and improve culture during the pandemic?

Kim Wittman | VP, Talent Acquisition & HR Partner, Corporate & Technology | Vivint

We had a lot of urgency around intentional culture building and making sure that the teams had what they needed, not just from an equipment perspective, but also that they had the right setup to do their work within the teams that they were part of. As time went on, this became more and more challenging because people started to be comfortable in what they’re doing. So we implemented things like weather surveys that went out once a week just to get a pulse on what the organization was feeling.

Sheena Blauvelt, SHRM-SCP | Director of Human Resources | USANA Health Sciences

We all had to transition to working remotely, which a lot of our managers were completely against previously, and then they had no choice but to make it work. Some of them have just decided we’ll continue to stay remote, but it was important to us that we maintain those lines of communication. We also moved all of our learning and development online very quickly. In addition to that, we offered some networking opportunities because we recognize that one of the things missing when you work from home is that quick interaction where you see people in the hall, or you just stop by someone’s office. So we offered some opportunities for virtual networking.

Chad Littlefield | VP of HR & People Solutions | Industrial Supply Company

We had to become much more flexible because we didn’t have that many people who could work from home―we were [considered essential]. We found that we had to rethink almost all of our policies regarding attendance and distancing. And a lot of those things that we had to rethink were things that I had been hoping to push forward for a long time but now had the advantage of the pandemic to help implement.

Mat Parrish | Talent Acquisition Manager | 1-800 Contacts

After about two months of being home, [our leadership team] hired three different psychologists to be on standby for any of our associates and their family members for any [mental health concern] free of charge. In fact, we still have them on a retainer right now.

What are you doing to stand out from a talent acquisition standpoint considering the current shortage?

Chad Littlefield | VP of HR & People Solutions | Industrial Supply Company

I can tell you that we’re failing. I don’t know what we’re going to do, honestly. But what’s really made a difference for us is [retaining] what we have, making sure that we’re valuing people and recognizing contribution. But beyond that, the only success that we’ve really had in recruiting or attracting talent has been through our own people.

Mat Parrish | Talent Acquisition Manager | 1-800 Contacts

Two, three months ago we were looking at that same problem. Normally we see somewhere between 100-800 people apply at a time and we’ve dropped to double digits. And everybody’s painfully aware that with the federal government helping out with unemployment people are making $16, $25 an hour by just sitting down, doing five minutes of work to apply to four jobs, and then coasting the rest of the week. Well, now we’re also competing against Taco Bell and McDonald’s, so we’ve raised the base wage for our frontline associates from $13 to $15 an hour. 

The other thing that I’m working on with our managers internally is that, for the longest time, people have been focused on skills. Skills can be taught. What we need to find are behaviors. As we have conversations with people, we find out that actually, their aptitudes are really high, their behaviors are the right ones. They know how to talk, they can be empathetic, they can problem-solve―we can teach the skills. 

Sheena Blauvelt, SHRM-SCP | Director of Human Resources | USANA Health Sciences

We are starting to rebrand all of our marketing materials for careers. We’re going to update everything to market our jobs, just like you would market a product to get people excited to want to come work at USANA. [We are also] ensuring that our reputation across the board is a good one. About 20 percent of our new employees come from employee referral and we believe that’s just because we treat our employees so well that they want to refer their friends and family members.

We’re also looking at increasing our employee referral bonus program to entice people and to refer more people. We’ve also increased wages for our frontline team members and we’re also working on really making sure that we talk about the benefits that we offer at USANA. And then we hunt for them.

Chanin Christensen | SVP, HR Manager | Merrick Bank

I think recruitment seemed very administrative for a long time. 10 years ago it seemed like an administrative position, but now it’s really important that you have somebody with the skillset who knows how to go after the passive candidate, who knows how to talk to applicants and get them excited about the job. I mean, it’s probably one of the most important jobs in our company right now, in my opinion.

Tawny Lott Rodriguez | HR Director | Squire & Company

One thing that we implemented this last year is Wonderlic. This tests people on their stress levels on how well they would fit within the actual position because it’s specific for each job description. We found it actually to be reliable and valid to be able to use this test and just be OK with not the typical candidate that we’ve been used to in the past. Because we can teach them other soft skills, we can teach them how to do the job. 

Brandon C. Batt | Director of People Operations | Savory

Referrals are easy, but as an industry, we’ve got to stop projecting the whole, “nobody wants to work” thing. The news has got to stop running stories about it every single day that nobody wants to work in restaurants, and they don’t pay enough. We’ve got to change the mindset. There are plenty of people out there who want to work.

And with the referrals, you’ve got to make it fun. If it’s just an email that goes out that, “Hey, we’re doing a referral program. You make $200 over nine months.” That doesn’t work. You’ve got to get creative with it. So we pay out referrals immediately, it’s on their first paycheck. We make it fun in one of our brands that, if you refer somebody, you get swag. 

Does your company plan on adopting a hybrid or a different model than you had previous to the pandemic as far as remote work and on-site work? 

Sheena Blauvelt, SHRM-SCP | Director of Human Resources | USANA Health Sciences

At USANA we definitely are. We want people in the office for celebration, collaboration, really the five C’s. However, we’re kind of looking at it from a position and department perspective. Starting mid-June we’re asking most of our teams to start coming into the office at least part-time unless their new normal is working in the office full-time. 

There are some rules that we just need in the office for that collaboration, where our executive team is expected to be in the office at least half of the time so they can have their doors open for employees who want to come in and connect. They can be a support system. So we’re offering a much more versatile, flexible system for our employees, and it majorly depends on the role.

Jana Johnson | Director of Talent Acquisition | Lucid

Lucid is going to go to more of a hybrid model. We’re not having our employees come back to the office until September. So we’ll be at 25 percent capacity and have some of those employees sign up for days that they can come back into the office and work as needed. But once we all return back to the office, we’re just going to do two days in the office a week. And I think it’s because we do realize that there are some great benefits to working from home and there are some great benefits to being in the office as well.

Tawny Lott Rodriguez | HR Director | Squire & Company

We sent out surveys for employees three or four times during this process to ask how the remote work was going. We had a huge percentage say they’d love to do a hybrid, and so that is where we’re headed in the near future. One thing that we’ve done is we have hired during Covid and we have more people than we have spots and seats. And so we have what we call hoteling, where people can find a spot and basically register for that spot that day. 

One thing that we’re trying to figure out as well is the professional growth and opportunities of networking. I think we probably have more women who want to stay remote, so our biggest challenge is just thinking about how we can give those professional opportunities for career growth. For those people who are working remotely, we need to try to keep them connected and try to keep everybody on that same path and not lose those opportunities to network and to grow their careers, even though they’re not in the office.

Spencer Vance | HR Business Partner | dōTERRA

The companies that aren’t communicating very well, I think are going to struggle with the employees that are working remotely or partially working remotely, but they’re just not as visible. And I think that that is going to potentially cause problems with recognition, opportunities, and promotion. 

You’ve got the potential for disparate impact there, especially where we’ve identified that there are certain demographics that are more likely to work from home. So something that I think is important for companies to have in the back of their minds is, how are we going to communicate? How are we going to be inclusive? Otherwise, we might see some problems with that in the future.

Kim Wittman | VP, Talent Acquisition & HR Partner, Corporate & Technology | Vivint

We did a survey and asked [our employees] if they would prefer to come back on-site or stay remote. And we had like 70 percent of our people say that they would rather take a dollar pay cut and stay remote than come back into the office. So we were like, wow, that’s a pretty big indication of where this is going.

How did you respond to the Covid crisis? How did you respond to Black Lives Matter? How did you respond to the earthquake? How did you respond to crisis?

Brandon C. Batt | Director of People Operations | Savory

It’s actually the other way around for us. We’re asking that question more than they’re asking us. We’ve been in the process of filling some brand president roles here for our brands as they get bigger and as we scale and grow them. One of the big questions is how did you react? How did you pivot during Covid? And we’ve found that, at least in the restaurant industry, there were a lot of people who just threw their hands in the air and kind of gave up and rolled over, unfortunately.

Sean McKeehan | VP, Talent Acquisition | Pattern

[At the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints,] we implemented a software called Textio. It rated all 4,000 job descriptions that we had in our database and it gave you a score of one to 100 of how diverse and how inclusive your job descriptions were. I think when we started, we had a score of 38. We had been able to increase that dramatically, our average score [is now] in the 90s. 

What it does is analyze all of the words that are used in the job description and then it gives you synonyms of other words or other phrases that you can use that are attractive to everyone, as opposed to just certain individuals. We know through study that men believe that they only need to qualify for 60 percent of a job to apply whereas women feel that they need to be 100 percent qualified before they apply. And so we changed around some of those job descriptions and the wording in there, and it really has helped us to be able to recruit more diversity.

What are some of the metrics that you all are using that are driving great business impact? 

Chad Littlefield | VP of HR & People Solutions | Industrial Supply Company

One of the measures that I’m really looking forward to seeing over the next six months is our attrition rate. I think that a lot of employees have stuck it out with us through the tough time of the year. But the scary part is those employees who are valuable are going to be recruited by all of you away from me and that’s what is going to show me the success of what we’ve done in the last few months with regard to retention and valuing and recognizing contribution. I think those things are going to be measured by that just in the next six months. 

Jana Johnson | Director of Talent Acquisition | Lucid

We’re hiring like crazy. We don’t want to burn out the people who are going to backfill all the other people leaving. So I’m really thinking about that and thinking about how we can spread the workload and make sure that we’re not burning out our people on our teams, too. Aside from all the other metrics that we track (acceptance rates, quality, speed, and all of that good stuff) we need to keep the people who are going to be backfilling and filling all of these new positions we’re adding.

Sean McKeehan | VP, Talent Acquisition | Pattern

We’re measuring the quality of the hire. We’re sending a survey to all of our managers that we have hired over the last year. We send it out at 90 days, six months, and one year, and ask the managers if the candidate that they hired is meeting their expectations based on the requirements that they said in the beginning when they were hiring that individual. 

Then we also ask them if they had enough candidates when they were hiring or why or why not.  I’m curious to see post-pandemic versus pre-pandemic and if our hiring practices are better now because of the fact that we have done video interviews and so forth, as opposed to in-person interviews. [It will be interesting to see if] we’re just receiving better quality, or if we’re taking more time and being more invested in the actual time spent with the candidates.

Lindsay Bicknell is the project coordinator for Utah Business magazine. A native of Cincinnati, Ohio, she graduated from Miami University of Oxford with a degree in communications. She has a background in television, print, and web media, as well as public relations and event planning. As a transplant to Salt Lake City, she can't get enough of the mountains and loves snowboarding.