44: Attract Talent with Chelle Johnson

Chelle Johnson is a seasoned career and talent leader, strategist and coach with over 20 years of experience with medium-sized to fortune 50 companies. She is also the founder and CEO of Best You Career Advantage, an online visionary career coaching service that supports clients through all stages of career search and development. We talk about attracting the best talents, the benefits of emotional onboarding, and creating a culture of inclusivity, diversity, and belonging.

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Attract Talent with Chelle Johnson

Our guest is Chelle Johnson, who is a seasoned talent attraction and acquisition specialist who owns her craft at fortune companies like Honeywell, Lockheed Martin, and Comcast. She lived and worked in Asia, Latin America, has an MBA. She also speaks Spanish, and she believes in diversity and inclusion and how this process can be leveraged by employers to attract talent. So welcome to the show, Chelle.

Thank you so much. Super excited to be here. Thanks for having me.

It’s great to have you here. So let’s start, you know, my first question is really your journey. So you’ve been with these fortune companies for many, many years, and then you broke out and you started your own entrepreneurial venture. How did this come about and how’s it going?

So I have been super blessed in my career to work for some of the best companies in the world. And in 2019, I just felt really burnt out and completely like my soul had been sucked into the corporate institution. And so I decided to make a change for me. So I started my company, Best You Career Advantage in the fourth quarter of 2019. And you know, who knew that in March of 2020 we would have this huge pandemic, but I was really lucky because unemployment was at the highest at 14.4%.

So I got to be of service to all of those people that were laid off and really scared in 2020. So I’ve only been in business for about a year and a half, and it’s actually going quite well. I love it. I’m able to do what I’m driven by and what I’m passionate about, which is helping high achievers in STEM, which is science, technology, engineering, and math, to really have an abundant life and abundant career.

That’s awesome. And don’t us, small businesses, small to medium size or privately owned businesses, don’t we need those people to recruit into our ranks so that we can accomplish what we want to accomplish with great talent. So how should business owners think about this whole idea of talent acquisition. It’s no longer hiring, it’s about acquiring the fuel for our organizations that can actually move it forward. What should be the right mindset for that?

So, small companies and entrepreneurs absolutely need to think about the talent that they bring on because the employees represent your brand, your entire product. And so, talent acquisition for small employers and small companies is really essential. And I’ve actually done several, I’ve recruited several directors and vice presidents for small companies throughout the United States in the past year, and really understanding where they want to take sales, for example, in building sales and lead generation and CRM systems, bringing in the right person, it will make or break your company.

The same can be true with bringing in a technology person or the right human resources person. So aligning the right talent to the business is what makes or breaks the product, the customer engagement, the revenue. And so as a solopreneur, I know what it’s like to be the CXO, if you will. But I also really understand that entrepreneurial journey, because I grew up with two entrepreneurs as parents. My father owned his own business. And so I’m lucky to have the knowledge and the expertise from the big global companies. But now I really take that down and help small businesses to implement processes that are standardized, repeatable and scalable so that they can hire the right people.

Talent acquisition for small businesses is not just about hiring; it's about acquiring the fuel for our organizations that can actually move it forward. Share on X

Okay, so that’s very interesting. So tell me a little bit about these processes. How does one go about implementing processes so that their talent acquisition program is systemized and then, you know, ad hoc?

So the first thing that you have to do is, for me, small businesses that really understand their culture and know the kind of person to bring on can leverage the right type of assessments and looking for the right people. So there’s lots of applicant tracking systems that are out there for small businesses. And for example, if one of your audience members are like you’re at 500,000, you want to get to 3 million, you need to be able to put in the right process for, is it the applicant tracking system, you have to have the right onboarding system, you have to have the right tools for interviewing, your payroll system needs to be set up, and anything from leveraging PEOs to leveraging smaller businesses or even fractional HR or fractional talent officers like me can really help small businesses do that.

So what’s a PEO? Help me out here, please, Chelle.

A PEO is a private employer organization, and they do benefits. They offer benefits through brokers. They offer very basic employee relations, consultation. They can help with basic human resources types of processes.

So it’s like employee leasing companies, they sometimes called?

Yes, exactly. It’s a outsourced leasing company and private companies or small businesses do leverage PEOs or HR fractional or chief talent fractional officers just like me.

Got it. So, you mentioned a couple of things here, which really is interesting. So you talked about interview tools and onboarding as being really critical. So could you elaborate a little bit on this? What kind of interview tools are we talking about here and what’s the best practice onboarding look like?

Okay, so interview tools are essential because you have to ask the right questions to hire the right people. And I have taught over 600 hiring leaders globally on how to develop the right interview questions, to ask the right technical questions. There are lots of assessments out there that companies from call centers to restaurants to audiovisual companies can use in order to find the right people.

Interview tools are essential because you have to ask the right questions to hire the right people. Share on X

So the right interview tools really are about the hiring leaders and the group that’s bringing on to ask the right questions and to hear what they’re looking for so that they can bring on the right talent that is the right technical fit and culture fit. Now once they have hired someone, they have to onboard them, because onboarding is actually huge in retention of those employees. And onboarding includes everything from assuring that the new employee has a computer on their first day, understands the expectations and the goals of the position, has a buddy to align with to welcome them into the organization.

And as all of us know, we are now doing a lot of things hybrid or remote. So what does a small business remote onboarding look like? It’s not just on-the-job training and say, oh, welcome, here’s the t-shirt. Although the t-shirt is important because it’s part of the culture. But it’s really the belonging cues and the culture cues that are set, not just from the onboarding, but from the tone of the first contact of when the organization or the small business reaches out to the potential employee.

Wow, so can you give me an example of, or each of a belonging cue and a culture cue?

Yes, a belonging cue is, and I get this from the book Culture Code by Daniel Coyle. It really talks about what are the norms in your culture? And in Zappos, for example, or for the San Antonio Spurs, Popovich is the coach of the Spurs. And even they’re the most winning team in NBA. And when they win, they all win together. When they lose, they lose together. It’s like a family.

And then, and also the CEO of Zappos calls them collisions. He wants people to collide with each other that, So what are those cues? How are you, or how are your clients or the audience colliding with you? How are they interacting with you? How should the new employee interact with you? And what is that, what do those interactions look like from a culture perspective? So that’s what I mean.

So it’s basically what are the modes of communication and engagement inside the company and people have to understand on their first day what it looks like and how the culture works basically?

It’s more than just having a vision and values. The hope is that from a talent acquisition perspective that the small businesses have really assessed by asking questions like, tell me about which one of our values best aligns with your values. And help us understand how you have developed a vision for your business. So it’s aligning all of those things, but it’s really more of what’s acceptable from the communications and modes of communication, and then just acceptable within the nonverbal cues, if you will. So it’s really setting up the culture from the beginning so that retention is high.

Yes, there is another book, and I won’t remember the author, but the title is Moments. And what it talks about is that people don’t remember all the experience, but they remember the emotionally charged moments. And I think the author gives the example of going to Disney World or Disneyland and, you know, dragging the kids around and queuing up in these lines for hours and eating the, you know, the lousy hot dog. But as long as the kids meet Mickey Mouse and as long as they go on this, I don’t know, space cruise or whatever and they get the great experience there, then what’s gonna stay with the family is going to be the peak experiences rather than these average experiences or maybe slightly negative experiences. So the onboarding should be one of these peak emotional experiences so that it stays with the employee and it creates this imprint in their mind about the company, this positive imprint of the company.

If you said that perfectly, it’s that emotional connection of belonging and inclusion that everyone’s to have. It’s it’s those collisions that I was talking about, or those moments that are impactful, where people feel like their ideas are being heard. At Google, they have Friday stand up meetings where every single idea is listened to and heard, even if it’s minuscule. The engineering leaders go out and play field hockey with the employees. You know, it’s really those moments of alignment and emotional connection that keeps people retained and excited about what they’re doing. Because it has a purpose.

I get it. So that’s interesting. So switching gears from the employee perspective, I’m not sure that they are looking for, am I going to be engaged or am I going to be given this emotional hook? I don’t know if they are looking for that. What are they looking for? So what from an employee’s, potential employee’s perspective, what are the kind of employers that they want to work for?

Employees that are looking for positions are looking for the type of culture they’re going to go into. They’re going to look at the manager, how open are they? What are the opportunities for advancement? What is the financial backing of the companies? Is there opportunities for equity if it’s a startup? leading edge that they’re going to be able to really grow with the business. And so the culture, the feeling that they get and the technology and the financial backing, along with the values and the mission are what employee potential employees are looking for.

Setting up the culture from the beginning is crucial for high retention. It's about aligning values, assessing vision, and creating acceptable modes of communication. Share on X

Ok, so they really want to know that this company is going somewhere, they have a clear mission, which is aligned with my personal values, I guess, and that they’re going to take care of me and they’re going to, you know, give me opportunity for financial advancement and so on. That’s interesting. So if I’m a business owner, let’s say I run a $5 million, $10 million business, and I  struggle with recruiting. I mean, I have my core values are well-defined and I have a vision. I know where I’m going. I know what I want to achieve. Still, I do. So what are a couple of things that I can do to make my business more attractive so that the ratio of people choosing us and then sticking with us, it’s gonna go up?

The first thing I would say is know what you’re looking for in a potential employee. And really be able to be yourself and talk about what the company’s goals are, where the funding is coming from, what the long-term vision is. And focus on the fit of the potential employee. Because I think that hiring for attitude is one of the best things people can do. You can teach the technology. You can teach if the potential employee has that aptitude.

I have so many stories about finding and hiring for the right attitude and just seeing small businesses grow if they have the right, if they found the right people. But I also do think that for small businesses, that it’s difficult when there’s so much competition and the pay, you know, somebody might jump. If there’s a construction company or if there’s an audiovisual company or a home healthcare company, whatever, that feeling and that emotional connection that they get, that’s what they’ll stay with, even if they can go down the street and make a dollar more an hour.

I find that people, when they understand how they fit into the big picture, it makes a huge difference. They understand what their, how their role contributes to the results of the company and they, you know, they have a way of communicating their perspectives and be part of the problem solving, makes them much more engaged and makes them much more excited to be part of this story.

Exactly. And I think the pandemic has really changed things for people. That need to be connected is even greater because when we have that disconnection, we saw a huge increase in mental health issues and alcoholism going up and just people feeling lost. I think what I’m seeing as an entrepreneur that works as a career specialist and helps small businesses is people just, they want to feel that connection. So I think the more these small businesses listening to or in your audience can really focus on not just the technical part, but what is that emotional connection and those moments that they’re creating, they’re going to see a huge increase in revenue because their clients and their customers are going to feel that connection as well.

So, let’s say I’m an established business, maybe I’m not recruiting very fast because it’s whatever, it’s a technology business and I don’t need to think people. What do I do with my existing people? How do I increase that connection for my existing staff?

For the existing staff, listening to them, first of all, about what they want from an emotional connection standpoint. And really thinking about what does engagement look like within your current business. If there are areas of opportunity and improvements that can be made, the first thing is understanding what that is. The second thing is taking action on what you’re hearing about. Because if you’re listening but not taking action to make changes, then the employees will feel like their opinion does not matter. So listen to your employees.

Taking action on what you hear is equally important, implementing solutions that show employees their opinions matter. Share on X

And there’s so many small, low-hanging fruit type things that you can implement that will make a huge difference, you’d be shocked at some of the things like gift cards or hybrid models of work, remote work, opportunities for advancement, helping out with continuing education units, paying for those types of things, helping out with child care or travel allowance or bus passes or Uber assistance or assistance with a mobile phone, or a cell phone, assistance with the Zoom payments. So there’s a lot of ways to look at recognition, but the first thing that the business must do is really listen and then be proactive in implementing solutions.

So how do I, I mean, maybe it’s a stupid question, but how do I listen? Do I send out a survey? Do I sit down with my employees one-to-one to have a conversation? Do I call a meeting and ask for ideas? How do people practically do that, this listening?

It can be all three of those. It depends on the culture of the organization. If you are surveyed out, then building a communication plan, which states we want to retain our associates and you can do it via SurveyMonkey. There’s lots of apps out there. It depends on the culture. If there’s a very open culture that is going on, then town hall meetings might be a good idea. Or if there’s a lot of trust in the business, then one-on-ones would be good. But if there’s not that trust, then I think the companies might be spinning their wheels because employees are not going to be opening up. Hiring a coach or a third party to come in and assess, and it doesn’t have to be McKenzie, it doesn’t have to be Bain and Company or one of the big four. There are so many amazing fractional customer engagement folks that can really help to build that for the small business.

All right, so these are some good ideas. So Chelle, let me switch topics here a little bit. I want to kind of get your ideas. You’ve worked several years for big fortune companies, and you’re also part of a peer group of executives. You’ve also been building your business the last couple of years. What are some of the, I call the management blueprints, business building frameworks that you have come across that you have used with success in your own business or what you’ve seen in the companies that you work for being used?

Yes, Steve, that’s a great question. When I decided to start my business, I actually didn’t have a framework. I decided to put my stake in the ground and I hired a marketing firm to kind of build my logo and who is my ideal client and I went from there. I had to really figure out what is my product and I joined some mastermind groups for women and those peer groups have been so helpful. I’m doing several collaborations with the people in my mastermind groups. We do workshops together.

I live in Denver, so we’re applying for Denver Startup Week together and doing presentations. I have a group called Colorado Career Connectors. I’ve invited my peers to speak at my events. And so not just for that, though, there are frameworks like Storyboard by Donald Miller, Storybrand, thank you, by Donald Miller. I actually am doing a trade with a certified Story Brand to really kind of hone that in for me now. So if I sound a little bit sporadic it’s because it has been, but I’m very lucky that I have the intestinal fortitude to kind of make it through and I have implemented QuickBooks for my finances.

I have leveraged social media experts and website experts to build that for me. And now I’m implementing StoryBrand by Donald Miller. But am I an expert on any of it? Not really. I did outsource my resume writing for my clients so that I could really focus on being a coach at the highest level possible and also executive recruitment.

That’s awesome. I mean, we have to really, all we have is our time, right? So we have to be very judicious about it and figure out how to best spend it. So going back to the StoryBrand, can you give us just a little bit of a taster of what it looks like to implement the StoryBrand?

So we just started with StoryBrand. We have identified my ideal customer and really honed in on what an avatar of my ideal customer looks like, what they feel like, where they spend their time, where they are, and from there I started putting some content and changing my website to being much more of a story. We’re still in the building phases of it actually, but we did a wireframe of what my new website will look like, and now we are building a lead generator based on the brand and the images and the avatar of my ideal clients.

So as a lead generator, I can get people to subscribe and build that. So that’s where we currently are. But it really is understanding the hero’s journey of my clients, what they’ve gone through, what their pain points are, or their growth points, because I work with people who want to be advanced in their careers as well. What are their pain points and how am I the hero that solves those pain points? So that’s what I have learned. And now we’re starting to do the tactical pieces of implementation.

Awesome. Okay, so that’s, yes, so Donald Miller’s StoryBrand is a really good framework. I recommend it to our listeners as well to check it out. It’s pretty straightforward. And it actually gives you a very good guidance of how you think about your market and how you’re going to address the market, as Shelly said, the pain in the market and how you can be the solution for them. Very good, very good. So what about, I mean, last year was too much this year, not just because of COVID-19, but also Black Lives Matter and this whole idea of diversity and inclusion and diversity equity that have gotten a lot of attention. Where are you on this and how do you see a business owner, particularly what I’m interested in, how does a business owner respond to this and how do we use this to actually get better talent for our business? So, you know, what is your thought on that?

That’s a great question, Steve, and I really appreciate it. There’s so many ways to answer that, and it’s a very broad and it’s a very emotionally charged question for a lot of people because of what happened in Minneapolis, because of the systemic and continuous brutality. So your first part of the question was, what is my stance on it? I am a diversity inclusion belonging ally. I have led diversity for Honeywell and been on the Inclusion Council at other large businesses.

So the way that I, as a white woman, am coming into this is being open to have the conversation of where there may be microaggressions or unconscious bias and educating myself on there’s so many articles and there’s so many, you know, the business, the Chambers of Commerce, the Women’s Chambers of Commerce, they’re all doing diversity conferences, and so really the first piece is just educating yourself and being open to having an uncomfortable conversation around it.

It’s really those cultures that are not open and there’s still the bruh culture or the old boy network where I can tell you, because I work a lot with women, that women right now are down to the employed rate of 1988 because women really are the frontline workers, the caregivers, the hospitality workers. And the impact in 2020 is 800 billion with a B, dollars. So, you know, the case for women in the workplace, BIPOC, and really that inclusivity is, I mean, there’s so many studies that show that there’s more productivity, higher revenue, higher client engagement when you have a diverse workforce.

So it’s an absolute business imperative, and it’s not just a trend. It’s not just a process. It’s really an integration of how do we assure that people are paid equitably? And how do you, as a white male, for example, be open and be a diversity ally? There’s companies out there that can help with that. There’s articles, there’s books. There’s so really just educating yourself on it. And, for example, this is Pride Month. And how can you support your LGBTQIA plus employees and assure that they feel open because if they feel welcomed, whether they’re transgender, queer, binary, non-binary, whatever, the productivity and the revenue of your business is going to go up tenfold.

So it’s not just a nice to have trend, it’s actually a business imperative and companies who align themselves in that way will do so much better and make so much more money. There’s even Chamber of Commerce for LGBTQIA, or you can reach out to the HRC, the Human Rights Campaign.

Diversity is not just a trend but a business imperative. Share on X

I think it’s a fascinating thing. And so, you know, when I moved here nine years ago, and I formed my first, I formed a couple of peer groups at Vistage International, and the first peer group I formed, it was all white males. And not because, I mean, I didn’t have any conscious desire to do it. It’s just so happened.

Right, of course.

And one of the members was actually the largest, the person who ran a large insurance company, like a billion dollars company here in Richmond. And he asked me, Steve, why don’t we have more women here? Why don’t, I had one woman in the group. Why don’t we have more women? Why don’t we have people of color? What about their diversity? How can we make it more diverse? And I thought, wow, it was a totally new concept to me, you know, that they said even exist.

And I never thought about it. Why, you know, why diversity is a good thing. Where I come from, you know, there’s a lot of prejudice against people of color, because I come from a very homogeneous European country, where almost everybody’s white, and people don’t have the consciousness, they don’t have the awareness that it’s a positive thing. It’s because it’s perhaps strange, people are afraid of it.

So that was a big eye-opening thing for me, and obviously I see that those of my clients that are diverse, they just feel so much more dynamic. The culture seems to be more progressive, more positive. They have access. I had a good friend of mine when I was still in Hungary who ran a private equity group and he moved his headquarters to London. And I asked him, Craig, why did you do that? I mean, it costs you so much more money to be in London. He says, well, that’s the only way we can recruit enough diverse talent to our company.

Because that’s the only place in Europe where you have a good diverse population of talented people who are flocking, the financial industry, they all flock to London. This is where you want to be because you want to get access to that diversity, not just of race, but, you know, different languages, different parts of Europe. So you are plugged in everywhere. So anyway, so I think it’s a very exciting thing.

I think that I want to honor what you’re saying because diversity as a topic, just that word is very US-based because we are the most international and quote, diverse. But diversity to me is about inclusion and it’s about belonging, those moments that you talked about earlier. And I have lived in Spain. I have lived in Japan. And so, when I led inclusion for Honeywell Aerospace, it was really focused on age, thought, financial, or economic diversity.

So many different types of diversity and even though you’re from Hungary, there are multiple generations of thinking and different intellectual diversity, disability diversity. So it’s not just the color of your skin or your sexual orientation. Those are very U.S. type, and I get that. diversity in dialect or that type of thing, really just working with humans and meeting them where they are so that they feel included and that they belong so that your business is more dynamic. That’s really the topic. And it’s a very big topic.

And we could talk for hours about it. But that’s what I mean. But I loved what you’re saying about your first mastermind with all white men. That’s very typical and totally fine. But one of them asked, hey, what about women or what about, you know, so I think it’s something that we all need to think about. And that’s the first thing is to listen and educate yourself on how you can be more of an ally.

That’s awesome. Well, that’s a great, I think, to kind of finish on. So Shelly, thank you for all the ideas and experiences you brought into this conversation. I really enjoyed it. So if our listeners would like to learn more, where can they find you? How can they reach out to you? How can you help them?

They can reach out to me at my website, which is bestyoucareeradvantage.com. I’m also on LinkedIn under Chelle, and it’s spelled weird. It’s C-H-E-L-L-E. And I’m also on Facebook at Best You Career Advantage on Facebook.

Ok, wonderful. So definitely please check out Chelle Johnson. Thank you very much for joining me today on the Management Blueprint Podcast. And to our listeners, if you enjoyed this conversation, please subscribe and review us on Apple Podcast. We need some reviews so that more people can hear the stories that Chelle and other entrepreneurs bring to us. And stay tuned for next week. There’s going to be another exciting episode. Thank you so much. Have a great day.


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