Narrator: Today’s talent market is tough. With candidates becoming seemingly more selective by the day, you must be thinking about how to better attract talent, and then how to keep them. Luckily, we know just the person you should talk to…Jalie Cohen.
Jâlie Cohen: By the time a person has decided to apply for your role, they’re applying to the brand. How you brand is yourself in the market. This is critical, uh, because you’re trying to, especially in today’s market, it’s, it’s honestly a talent market I have not seen in my 20 year career, where employees are not only being extremely selective, but they are deciding on what, from a value perspective, if you are aligned.
Narrator: Jalie is the Group SVP for HR Americas at the Adecco Group, the world’s leading talent advisory and solutions company. So she leads HR for the U.S., Canada and Latin America, which comprises about 9,000 employees across their brands and business units. And in times like these, she focuses on the reason for HR in the first place: the people. She’s going to share how the employee experience begins with brand perception, and how to use it to attract and retain candidates.
On Cruising Altitude, we talk about employee experience lessons from leaders at companies with over 30k employees. A lot like reaching Cruising Altitude at 30k feet, things look a little different when you’re managing 30,000 people. On this podcast, we bring you insights from the leaders who inhabit that rarefied air. Today’s episode features an interview with Jalie Cohen. But first, a word from our sponsor.
Jâlie Cohen: The absolute beauty of The Adecco Group is it truly is a mix. So we have everything from how you train and upskill your employees to placing them in both, uh, your temporary, so that flexible, uh, worker, as well as the permanent position, whether it be at the entry level or the executive position, all the way to career development. How do you look at assessment? How do you provide coaching? We have this fantastic, uh, coaching tool, and it’s a virtual one. It’s really, really coaching on demand called Ezra, where that particular group focuses on coaching. And then we have, uh, under our LHH brand, the ability to, ‘Hey, you know what? If you go through that whole cycle and you’re looking for a change, um, how do you help without placement?’ so I would say the, our employee persona, uh, really does vary, because we are a very unique, uh, organization that allows for that end to end HR process. Most are consulting, where they have a piece of it. They’ll just use staffing or they’ll just do outplacement or they’ll just do career development. Because we offer the whole gamut, it allows us for that flexibility. The one value, I would say, that is consistent regardless of where you sit in our business, is that everyone is so passionate about people and they are equally as passionate about adding value to people. So it’s not necessarily a persona, I think, in, in the typical way that I would define it. It is, how are we aligned? And what makes us unique is that we love people. We’re passionate about it. We put people first in everything that we do. And then the second piece would really be that commitment to adding value to people, whether it be on the client side or on the employee side.
Narrator: While the flight crew gets settled for take off, let’s take a moment to learn a bit more about The Adecco Group in The Flight Plan.
Jâlie Cohen: Within the group, I, we are truly a matrixed organization. So there are multiple businesses. So with the beauty of having a business, a global business, that offers the end to end HR solution is equally as wonderful as it is also prevents presents challenges. We are in several countries, multilingual, multiple markets. So I have the pleasure, of course, of leading the Americas, but the needs that I have may differ than my colleague and counterpart in the Nordics or in APac. So really making sure that from an employee experience that we stay aligned while having a pulse on the market. It is a challenge, and how to navigate through that. And that’s why the, the focus and making sure we have a consistent and meaningful experience for them is so important because we do adjust to the markets we in, we do have this beautiful portfolio of brands, but as wonderful again, it offers that level of complexity. So navigating that is, I think, a unique challenge for us.
Narrator: Jalie is only one of the people responsible for the overall employee experience at The Adecco Group. In fact, it’s not just her team that owns it either.
Jâlie Cohen: I think this is a multi-pronged ownership. I think the employee owns their employee experience, our leadership teams own their employee experience. And I see HR as more of a steward for it. Um, everyone owns this experience and whether it be on the digital platform of how do I self serve? How do I leverage the tools? How do I self-educate? Um, that’s one piece, but I think the overall, uh, experience, uh, is based also on the culture. What is the culture of the organization? How does that culture support that employee experience, even outside of the digital tools that you provide? So if my answer would be everyone owns the employee experience. Oftentimes I find, or I’ll read periodicals that really focus on what we, as HR, can do or how leaders should behave. And I think that we miss the opportunity to say how employees are also equally responsible for ensuring that they have a great employee experience as well by leveraging the tools that they are provided, by having a self-developing focusing on how can I go out and self-serve myself, versus waiting for people to come to me to offer an experience. One of the analogies I like to use for that is if you start and you go to a trainer and a nutritionist and they give you the food plan and the workout plan. Yeah, there are things you have to do. You actually have to make the food. You actually have to do the workout. You have to leverage the tools you have to understand and listen to your body and your needs. Without actually taking the initiative in that action, nothing will happen. You have the trainer, you have the, the nutritionist, but you too, equally, have to put forth the effort to see any changes. Uh, so I say the same thing for the employee experience. They are equally responsible.
Narrator: Instilling in employees a sense of ownership over their own experience is important in empowering them to get the most out of their overall work experience. And now that we’ve gotten to know more about The Adecco Group, feel free to make yourself comfortable in your fully reclining ergonomic seat while Jalie shares how The Adecco Group offers a top notch employee experience in First Class.
Jâlie Cohen: One of the things I think that we do really well now, when I say really well, it’s also always evolving because people evolve. But for the present market we have today, we have a great centralized intranet. And this matters as you are in a global organization, especially a global matrix organization. You really have to have that one source of truth and information to ensure that your culture continues. It is hard to maintain culture when things are geographically dispersed, when it’s in multiple languages, when you have different markets, when the culture is very different. So I think for that piece, that centralized intranet is key. It allows, uh, us to focus on, ‘Hey, we do put people first and this is how,’ and you’re able to see that around the world. So you’re able to showcase how your employees around the world are living your culture of putting people first. You’re able to focus on again, we have this end-to-end, um, portfolio or brands that allow to show how we are adding value to people, whether it’s an up-skilling and re-skilling, whether it’s in job placement, whether it’s in the talent development. So really highlighting that. Um, and also speaking about how it works together, how we collectively, as a team internally, we refer to it as our collective spirit. How we really focus globally on driving that. So no matter where you sit in the organization, you are connected to the culture and it’s really through this digital, um, platform, but then also we, we work for a company and we’re in business. So to understand how we’re doing as an organization, who’s doing really well, what are the highlights? So really keeping that connection is very key. One area that I would say from the employee experience that has, I think it’s always been important. I hear people saying that it’s the resurgence, the pandemic has brought all of this. I think that the employee experience and the importance of human connection has always been important. I think the pandemic brought it to the top of the list. So the digital platforms allow for connections and interactions with people we would not think about connecting with before. So when you see that, okay my colleague in India, they are launching this great program that, ‘Hey, this is actually related to something that I’m working on, maybe in Brazil,’ let me reach out to them. So just really that I say a global connection has also improved. And I think we do that really well. Um, one of the other areas that I would say we have from a digital platform, is we’re in the process of launching our new recruiting experience. I am super pumped about this, because as an HR professional, and any HR practitioners who are listening can attest to this, the recruiting space evolves, it has complications. And at some point in your career, you have managed the TA, the talent acquisition team, and that function and have dealt with some of the complexities that they deal with. So we are launching this full-blown, revised, um, recruiting experience, and it’s focused on automation, speed, analytics and reporting, which are very hard to get from a global perspective. It is a really a people, process, and technology solution. So that for us is key, uh, and an area which will allow us to make sure that we have a consistent candidate experience. I know a lot of times we’re talking about the employee experience. But before they become employees, before they make the decision to pursue an opportunity with your organization, whatever organization that is, they’re a candidate. So this really makes sure that you are setting yourself apart using technology. Um, making sure you’re speaking to various parts of, of the population. So whether you are early in career and just looking at your first job, to, if you’re a tenured, um, person with a great track record who’s looking for a career change or looking for a job that allows your skills to transfer, leveraging state-of-the-art technology to really drive that is something I think I’m probably the most excited about. Another piece, so you have the candidate piece that’s before they choose. But your internal talent, they’re also candidates. So how do you improve that experience when you’re in this global matrix organization? You also equally have to make sure that you are supporting the internal mobility, but making it easy for them. Anyone who’s ever worked and tried to apply for an internal role and it was tedious, it was long, no one followed up with you, you didn’t hear any feedback back about why you were not selected for the role. You may or may not have received an interview. You don’t even know if internally someone received your application. So all of those things, um, will be addressed in our new tech solution, which we’re very excited about, to really make sure that from a candidate experience, whether you’re an external candidate or an internal candidate, that you feel like we’re putting you first and it’s, uh, it’s really a great experience for them.
Narrator: Another way The Adecco Group is thinking about the employee experience goes back even further than the candidate experience to the general public, and how the brand is perceived.
Jâlie Cohen: By the time a person has decided to apply for your role, they’re applying to the brand. How you brand is yourself in the market. This is critical, uh, because you’re trying to, especially in today’s market, it’s, it’s honestly a talent market I have not seen in my 20 year career, where employees are not only being extremely selective, but they are deciding on what, from a value perspective, if you are aligned. So how you brand yourself in the market is, is critical, but also considering the generational differences, what we have today. How do you look from, if I am a new mom, is this a great opportunity for me? If I’m a recent grad, if I am a recent grad of color, do you have what I feel like is a diverse workforce where I can come in and I’m not on the outskirts, that I’m included? Um, if I am tenured, if I have 20 years of experience and I’m looking for a career change, or do you only hire early in career? Do you advertise? How do you brand yourself in the market? That’s so critical. If anyone were to ever ask, I think it’s equally as important as how you onboard. Because how people speak about you encourages people to apply with you. How often do people refer other people to you? So all of this is, is key, because by the time they apply, they’ve already decided that you are worth the application. So now it’s your opportunity to explain to them why they have a successful, why they can have a successful career with you.
Narrator: So recruiting talent has changed a lot in the past 20 years. But there are certain things that employees always want.
Jâlie Cohen: There is one consistent, uh, moment that I would say I see across, with, uh, the past two decades, is that regardless of the moment you’re in, whether you’re a hybrid you are fully remote, you are in office, people really look for organizations where they can add value. They want to add value. They want to be somewhere where one, they, they feel like they will be valued as an employee. That’s key, but equally that they can add value to the organization. And I think that is that’s critical for organizations as they try to attract people. And then I would say also for the onboarding piece, the you only get one chance to make a first impression. So once you go through this great candidate experience that you all are working on, uh, you have the opportunity to say, okay, I have joined this great organization committed to making sure that I’m able to add value. And then I have seen organizations that stop there and then people have a horrible onboarding experience. They don’t meet their managers. They don’t have clear goals. They don’t understand the role. Um, people are not prepared to receive them. And so all of that positivity, all of that excitement about ‘I’ve joined this great company. That’s committed to these set of values,’ It goes away, because we miss the opportunity to live what we told them we believe. So for me, I think the onboarding piece is super critical. And also, uh, should be one where now this is a personal preference for me. It’s hard to do with volume hires. So for anyone out there where you’re doing mass hiring, this is difficult, but it’s not impossible. The importance of when someone joins an organization to not forget the importance of human connectedness. To have that personal touch, it can be a small item. I mean something as simple as a branded coffee mug and a note from you to let them know that you’re expecting them. I remember in a prior role, I would do exit interviews and people would say my manager or whoever hired me, I didn’t see them for the first few weeks. It was as if, when I showed up, they didn’t even weren’t expecting me. They didn’t know I was coming. I kind of sat there for a little while. So making sure that you take the time to personalize that onboarding experience, that first impression, is also from my opinion very, very key.
Narrator: The Adecco Group also makes sure hiring managers are trained on how to onboard as a critical part of the employee experience. So employees start their journey on a positive note.
Jâlie Cohen: And I think on, on that piece, there is also an opportunity because as, as HR practitioners, we are, if not the designer of many onboarding experiences, we’re really an active participant, is to not forget that some things are not necessarily natural for our hiring managers and not everyone speaks what I call the HR speak. So, instead of saying how you do certain things with using all of the vernacular, we use in HR, making sure that the hiring managers understand what, what does a good employee experience look like? Don’t just say you need to create this great employee experience. Give them examples, provide them the tools, because this is natural if you’re in this field, but it’s not necessarily natural or it’s not intuitive for others. So I think taking the time to really say what could a positive experience look like? Just like the example, ‘Hey, send a mug and a personal note, addressing them by their name and welcoming them. Make sure that when they’re there, they’re on the first day, someone’s there to welcome them or at least have that touch point so they know, you know, that they’re here and what their onboarding agenda will look like.’ So that’s where that personal touch, but also making sure that people understand with examples, what that could look like.
Narrator: Of course, Jalie knows these are things The Adecco Group does well because they have ways to measure their success.
Jâlie Cohen: A lot of people will say, how do you know if the employee experience is going well. And they automatically turn to retention. I think retention is, is one tool and one data point. But I think you can look a little deeper into the organization. How many people are referring your company? So if you have hires and you have a referral program, how many people are speaking positively about your organization to the people that they know? Are they referring them? Are they saying, ‘Hey, you should join this company because it’s a great place.’ So that for me is another great data point. And then innovation. How many ideas are coming up? How often are people suggesting things, ways to improve, because they’re committed to the organization and they too want you to succeed. So you can always look at retention numbers. I do. I don’t want people to walk away thinking I don’t look at retention. I absolutely review both voluntary and involuntary retention data all the time, but I look at by far much broader issues. How are people speaking about the organization? Are they referring people to join? Are they suggesting ways to improve? How innovative are the ideas? Do they have skin in the game where they want us to succeed as well, and therefore bringing up and bubbling up ways to improve? So I think those are just a few examples of, from an employee experience point of view, that you can look at outside of the traditional ways.
Narrator: Jalie is also part of an impactful group called Chief that supports her as an industry leader.
Jâlie Cohen: Chief is really a private networking opportunity for women in the C-suite. I personally joined because I was looking for a chance to connect with women who were similarly situated, but in different industries around the country, to really speak to them about some of the things we experience as women leaders. It is, I think well-documented that we face different challenges. And it allows us an opportunity to meet, uh, some of the things that Chief does is we have, for example, a core group and our core group, we meet, we’ll pick out topics. We discuss, we share not only best practices, ideas, experiences, and, as they say, the further you go up, the lonelier it gets. So it allows an opportunity for us to connect as women leaders in, in literally a variety of industries from small businesses, nonprofits, uh, large multinationals, Fortune 50, to really stop and share best practices. So I would say that’s one of the main goals of Chief. It also allows opportunities that I think have been previously not as well advertised for women, for instance, how to get board appointments. Really moving the forward to try to diversify, um, whether it be you’re looking for racial diversity, gender diversity, looking as a lesbian woman, what are options for me in the C-suite. Really having any discussion possible that women leaders face. So that’s really a summary of Chief. Uh, it is through application. You go through an application process, you interview for it. And then from there, you are selected and you’re brought on to whatever location you are associated with. So they have a New York, Miami, I think they just started one in Dallas. Uh, so I think that there are opportunities for women across the board.
I joined, um, as a founding member of our Miami chapter. Chief was already in existence and has a huge presence in both Chicago and New York. And I actually saw it on LinkedIn. I was seeing articles and different posts and women talking about Chief. They were hosting a number of events and podcast, and I attended one, and I said, ‘These are the discussions I don’t have access to. These are the discussions I would love to be a part of, not only to listen and learn, but to see what is it as a, as a woman leader I can do to also bring people along with me.’ So that’s really a main focus, is not only the collaboration, the networking, but also the mentorship. And I think for me, it was, it was a no brainer. There was nothing else on the market like it. There are other, I think, local or regional types of organizations for women, but not one that has such an open network where it’s truly diverse, not only in ethnic, racial and ethnic diversity, but also industry diversity. Um, whether you’re a finance leader, a CEO, an HR practitioner, an attorney, a board member, a physician, um, I, there are a number of entrepreneurs and inventors on here, women in tech, women in healthcare. So it’s just, I have not been a part of anything else that was so broad that allows for a true diversity of thought and experience in a safe space, where you can really speak about what is it to be a female leader in the C-suite today. And for those that are interested in moving up, or for those that are already in those top positions who are interested in mentorship, really taking the time to share.
Narrator: And The Adecco Group as a whole partners with an organization called OneTen.
Jâlie Cohen: OneTen, I read about. I was reading an article, I think it was either in the New York Times or the Wall Street Journal. And it was, there was an organization that was committed to placing non degreed, black talent to work. So they have a commitment to taking 1 million black talent and putting them to work, uh, in family sustaining wages in the next 10 years. And keep in mind on the timing when OneTen was created, this is a right after the murder of George Floyd. This is when there was such an emphasis on how do you change the narrative to really break down a systemic racism, whether it be in financial institutions, the workforce, and it really, really speaks to the heart of that. There are a number of, whether it be a corporation, educational institutions, civic organizations, that are really aligned to this. Another benefit of OneTen that I think is, is what is amazing, it is not just the placement, but the upskilling, uh, this particular black talent and the fact that it’s focused on non degreed. So it’s a skills first, uh, organization, which says we are looking to place you in family sustaining wage jobs. And we’re going to give you the skills you need to do that. And that for me, was such a mission driven, uh, point of view, and is completely aligned to the mission and the vision we have for our organization. So the organization I work for, The Adecco Group is really focused on the future at work. It’s it’s whole vision is making the future work for everyone. And in the U.S., It’s a global organization, but in the U.S., this non to greed black talent is really an untapped market. And so the partnership I think was priceless. So me personally, as a black female executive, it spoke to me personally, but then also professionally. It’s 100% aligned with where we want to go as an organization. Uh, another piece for OneTen, and I’ll go back to the part that they have on upskilling, is we also have, because The Adecco Group, we are an end to end, uh, HR solutions organization. We actually have internally, uh, our business general assembly, our brand that focuses on up-skilling and re-skilling. So we have the ability to take and put people through this program for up-skilling and re-skilling, and then use our, whether it be our Adecco or Modus businesses to help place them in those families sustaining jobs. So again, the connection to purpose was there. It was just a great alignment for us. And I mean, who doesn’t want to be a part of an organization that really is focused on changing the narrative by offering a solution with family sustaining wages. So that is I think a little bit about OneTen, a dynamic organization that we’re extremely proud to be a part of.
Narrator: With all of the positive work The Adecco Group is doing, there have still been learning opportunities and initiatives that have not gone quite as planned, especially over the past two years. It’s time to talk about the bumpier parts of employee experience in Turbulence.
Jâlie Cohen: The biggest employee experience I believe I personally have learned over the last 24 months is no one knows it all. There are articles, especially in unchartered territories to take the time, to read multiple publications with different views. Um, but to ask employees, ‘What matters to you at this moment in time?’ I would say it evolves tremendously if I look at the pandemic, from the start of the pandemic and March of 2020, uh, even going into March of 2021, the needs change, what people were talking about, what they needed, uh, for support. So I would say take the time to have a constant pulse on your business and your employee population. If you ask them, they will, for certain tell you what’s on their mind. And then the second piece is take the time to self-educate and read. Not just listening to what people are saying from, ‘Oh, this is the way it, HR has run for this amount of time. For the last 10 years. These are the only things employees are looking at,’ but read several publications to formulate different points of view. I have found that not one fits all. There may be time I will read Harvard Business Review. Other times it’ll be, uh, the Wharton, uh, publication or MIT Sloan review. And sometimes I will I listened to something on NPR. There’s so many different channels to read. I love BBC to see, ‘Hey, you know, what’s happening on the global arena?’ Because oftentimes that trickles into my market. So really taking the time to have a broad view, uh, through reading and then to ask employees.
Narrator: And as an experienced EX leader, Jalie carries with her lessons from her work prior to The Adecco Group.
Jâlie Cohen: In a previous company, uh, we tried to implement a, and this was a global project, a top-down approach to say that it was a sales function within the organization. The importance of going to meet people face to face, taking the time to go and meet people face to face. Whether it, when you’re going to a client visit, go to the client’s site, show up at their office. And there was such a backlash because this was very early in my career before I really understood, uh, the global marketplace. And we ran into issues from, this is dangerous in this area, um, I’m not able to go to, uh, this particular location. It’s not safe for our employees to travel there. We meet to a centralized location. And we had launched and I say created in a bubble, this central, um, process on how do you go and meet people face to face the script? And it never dawned on anyone because we were all coming from these Western nations where we were able to kind of drive and show up and do this. And they said, this first of all, culturally is rude in some cases, and in others, it became a tremendous safety issue. And then you also didn’t factor in that some people did not have the means to do this travel, to go and physically see someone, because they were office-based and they didn’t have a car. And none of these factors, or they didn’t have public transportation to get there without it being a five or six hour journey. So I would say we were trying to make sure that we had this great experience to get our employees out, to meet the customers, develop them, develop their scale, their sales skills, and it backfired horribly. And the backlash and especially in our developing markets, uh, was not very positive.
Narrator: And no matter how good your intentions are, there are sometimes unintended and unforeseen consequences.
Jâlie Cohen: I think the unintended consequences are that people you create instead of creating a climate where you have an inclusive environment, you and your, you feel like you’re developing people. And you’re really fostering this place of inclusion where around the globe, you’re developing these sales skills. You really created a culture of exclusion. And you excluded people who were in locations that may not be what you know it to be in your Western country or from a socioeconomic perspective, they do not have cars or the access to public transportation is not so easy where they can visit this many clients in a day to develop and practice their sales skills. So I think the unintended consequence was we excluded. And these were all in growth markets. You excluded the markets. You were actually trying to create this robust sales development program for, and you excluded them.
Narrator: The good news is that with every bump, hiccup or unintended consequence comes wisdom. And you can harness that lesson to be a better leader for the future.
Jâlie Cohen: I think the most important characteristics to have when you are leading through any time of difficulty or change is with empathy. Taking the time to understand where people are in their life at that moment is key, because you often have to change and adapt your style. I’m not saying that you change your vision. I’m not saying that you change your strategy or what your intended outcome is. I’m saying the style and the manner in which you lead and you execute that strategy could evolve if you really have that empathetic lens. This goes back to why the importance of empathy is so important in a difficult time, and actually taking the time to speak to people what’s going on with you. How are you doing? Because they people do have so many things going on and when people lash out, they often take it personal and they don’t stop to say, well, maybe there’s something going on with them. And it has absolutely nothing to do with me. And I think if we take more time as leaders to really practice empathy and listening, that would change.
Narrator: Jalie has shared so much with us today, but she has one last parting thought for other EX leaders.
Jâlie Cohen: The best advice I have for someone who’s in my role for the first time, and I would say it’s for any level in HR, whether you are entry level or at the top of your career, is always maintain a sense of humor. To be in this role and to be in HR, you are dealing with people. It’s, it’s heavily people focused, whether it’s on the development, the bringing them in, the offboarding, is to maintain a sense of humor. Uh, the second piece would be to always learn. Be a life learner. People evolve. And if you stay with, I’ve done this before, or this is my impression or you project whatever your experience is on everyone, you will not be successful in this role. You have to take the time to listen and learn each and every time. So even if you stay in the same company and you progress through that, people evolve, their needs evolve. What they’re looking for from you, um, as not only an HR partner, but also from a company culture also evolves. Look at the pandemic, look at what people wanted and their needs pre COVID and then post. Uh, so I would say that would be my advice, maintain a sense of humor. It will get you a long way because you will deal with some very tough situations, uh, throughout your career. And also be a lifelong learner.
Narrator: Even though people become candidates because they’re attracted to your brand, they stick around because of the people-centric culture. So consider branding to be part of your prospective employee experience. And shepherd each employee’s growth within the company. Then they will not only feel valued, but they will also feel that they are adding value to your company by following their purpose.
Thank you for listening to this episode of Cruising Altitude. This episode is brought to you by Firstup, the company that is redefining the digital employee experience to put people first and lift companies up by connecting every worker, everywhere with the information that helps them do their best work. Firstup has helped over 40% of the Fortune 100 companies like Amazon, AB InBev, Ford and Pfizer stay agile and keep transforming. Learn more at firstup.io