Think your pandemic policies and practices were a lot to deal with? Try cat-herding a 30,000-person company. That's just what Commscope faced and Head of Global TA Julia Levy is on the show to talk about just how they did it, and shares a lot of the questions still unanswered. It's a candid discussion on a challenge a lot of companies are facing, but are too afraid to talk about.
Julia puts it all on the table and it's a discussion anyone in the world of HR and TA should not miss.
PODCAST TRANSCRIPTION sponsored by:
Were there managers that said during COVID no, I need to see these people for coffee?
Yes. There were.
Hide your kids! Lock the doors! You're listening to HR’s most dangerous podcast. Chad Sowash and Joel Cheeseman are here to punch the recruiting industry, right where it hurts! Complete with breaking news, brash opinion and loads of snark, buckle up boys and girls, it's time for the Chad and Cheese podcast.
Oh yeah. What's up boys and girls. It's your favorite podcast? This is your co-host Joel Cheeseman joined as always by Chad Sowash and today we are happy to welcome Julian Levy "don't call her Lee-vy". She's head of Global TA at Commscope. Julia welcome to the podcast.
Thank you. Glad to be back.
What's going on. We haven't seen you. What? It's been a year and a half plus it was on the stage at transform in Boston. What have you been up to you've changed jobs since then!
Julia (1m 5s):
Yes. I left Fiserve and in October of 2019, I joined, Commscope. Got to travel the world a little bit before the world shut down, but I've been helping transform the TA function at CommScope. And I'm sure most of your listeners have no idea who Commscope is.
Joel (1m 28s):
They're probably saying she's mispronouncing comScore. So yeah. Tell him what Commscope does it, it sounds pretty important.
Julia (1m 37s):
We're one of those brands that everybody uses, but you just have never heard about, I have an affinity for that when I was at Fiserv people thought I still had little blue pills.
Chad (1m 50s):
And I got your shot by the way. That's awesome.
Julia (1m 53s):
Right? So Commscope is communications technology. So we have the technology that enables game-changing discoveries like 5g or just the internet of things. Gigabyte speeds. So we are just that brand. If you use wifi in a hotel, if you go to Dallas Cowboys stadium were powering the technology there.
Joel (2m 19s):
There you go name dropping.
Julia (2m 22s):
But a lot of the big sporting events, school systems, hotels, we power towns, hospital systems like through COVID. We donated products to help have that in-building wireless connectivity to help support some of the COVID patients. We did some pop-up wifi centers and donated products to school systems so that children had access to technology. So I think it's a pretty cool gig. It's about half of our employees are manufacturing some of the cables that get planted in line or above ground, and then half of it are the engineers and, you know, the rest of the team that make the magic happen.
Chad (3m 8s):
Don't the Cowborys play in AT&T stadium, are they a competitor?
Julia (3m 14s):
Oh, AT&T uses some of our products. So all the big wireless companies do. And when I was interviewing and I looked at the portfolio of customers across all of our different applications and business units, it's, you know, pretty much every name brand that you can think of, we power their data centers. It's pretty cool.
Chad (3m 38s):
So I got great five G now that I've got the Commscope shot, the Pfizer shot. So it's awesome. Yeah, I appreciate that.
Joel (3m 48s):
And how many employees?
Julia (3m 49s):
About 30,000 employees globally.
Joel (3m 51s):
Oh a startup. Little small company.
Chad (3m 54s):
Holy crap! Why the switch first and foremost? Secondly, and what are your big priorities nowadays? This whole, I don't know, return to work thing happening. What are you guys working on?
Julia (4m 7s):
Oh gosh, we just rolled out a new EVP. So we've been putting that out throughout our employer brand, clearly the shift to a more remote work environment through COVID and then coming out of COVID, returned to office where it's safe and flexible work arrangements has been a priority. And then of course we're focusing on budget and media as well. So there's a lot of things. Internal mobility is on the top of mind.
Chad (4m 40s):
Everybody's talking about that, but nobody is doing it well, it's almost like diversity recruiting, right? It's like, oh my God, I did diversity recruiting is so important. Internal mobility is so important. What are you doing? Well, we really don't have a great program. So what are you guys doing?
Julia (4m 58s):
So we really don't have a great program.
Chad (5m 4s):
I love it. I love it. Ok.
Julia (5m 5s):
No jokes aside where we are in the early stages, I'm going to be helping lead the charge on what we do and how we do it. And we're in the process of trying to figure out what is our meta analysis. So really trying to understand and listen to our employees to hear what they want and to also talk and listen to the leaders to understand that what they want. And then how do you balance that and come up with what would be a win-win for everyone? It's I think a combination of project work, there's always opportunity to help develop teams and give people the ability to learn new skills or stretch their skills on projects, short term.
Julia (5m 49s):
And then you have that internal job posting and how do you break some of the silos that naturally happen within an organization?
Chad (5m 57s):
Julia (5m 57s):
How do you highlight them and then provide the feedback? An employee might say, I want to get into project management and I'm an HR person. How do I do that? Or how, what skills do I need? And then how do we tie it into our learning? We just launched a new learning platform called Thrive. How do we integrate whatever internal mobility programs we have with the content that's on Thrive so that people can get a certification or take classes in different topics to help get them there and then work on projects that might be available across the organization.
Joel (6m 33s):
So I'm going to open up a can of worms with these 30,000 employees that you mentioned. That sounds like a work from home nightmare. That sounds like a vaccination requirement nightmare. That sounds like a coming back to work nightmare. So talk about that pandemic, which you guys did, what you're doing now, thoughts on other companies and how they're approaching it, what's going on from that perspective.
Julia (6m 59s):
It's a great question and it's definitely a big can of worms. Half of our employees are in our supply chain business and manufacturing business. They need to be in work every day, like in order for us to get our products to our customers. And so our supply chain team and our environmental health and safety teams have gone through some, you know, I'll say heroic efforts because I can't even imagine what they've gone through to keep our employees safe as a first priority and keep the lights on and the business operating as the second priority. And because we're a global company, I think we had some benefits of trying to get ahead of the virus as it was traveling across the globe in the sense that we have duplicated lines, right?
Julia (7m 48s):
So when China was really getting hit at first, some of those lines shut down, but we were able to increase operations in other regions. And so they've been playing what I think feels like a shell game of having people in the facilities working. From the salaried kind of non floor employee, then you have the you know, we're working from home and making sure that our infrastructure set up properly for that. An example, our intern program, we pivoted very quickly at the beginning of last year, as things were getting shut down and still had a really great intern program virtually.
Julia (8m 30s):
And we were able to keep that and keep the programming. So I think people have, have shifted pretty well from that perspective. And we were able to make sure we have the systems up that our servers weren't crashing when you had more people working from home, trying to get in. I mean, that would be horrible if we're keeping the world connected and our servers went down. I didn't notice any issues.
Chad (8m 53s):
How many positions prior to COVID, we're pretty much all in office, they have to be done from here and then now they are moving to more of a remote maybe hybrid versus onsite?
Julia (9m 8s):
It was probably 70/30 between people that either were remote completely or worked in an unofficial air quote "hybrid" mode. It's significantly more than that and probably closer to 50/50, just because we have that manufacturing population and we just instituted and rolled out a new flex at work program. And so that's really exciting that it's more of a formalized program because we know that the work that we do and the value we deliver is really independent of where it's performed. And we know that virtual collaboration can work.
Julia (9m 49s):
It's powerful, but there really is something about being together in person having that more purposeful proximity to speak, and that it helps spark ideas and have more meaningful interactions when you actually have the ability to sit with someone across the table from them. So we're trying to figure out how to best flex, to enable people to be in office safely, where it makes sense and be remote when it makes sense as well.
Joel (10m 19s):
So we've been, you've been talking about a lot of companies who have employees that don't like that so much, they liked working from home. Are you guys getting any pushback from employees? And if so, how are you responding?
Julia (10m 30s):
A little bit because it is a change. I guess, a change from the last, the last bit. But I do think that it will put people at disadvantage if they live near a site and don't have don't come into the office at all. When you think of the conversations that happen at the water cooler and the ability to network and make connections with people to get someone who's your advocate that might help you with your career advancement. I think things like that are important to build the relationships that we're all on zoom fatigue right now, and that, you know, remote working might not always afford, but as a company, as an HR organization, we have to make sure that we're focused on continuing to build whatever the culture morphs into, but that connection with individuals in that more remote workforce.
Chad (11m 26s):
Are you having discussions around this, a great resignation about the prospect of losing great talent because of maybe prospectively having people come back onsite and not giving them the opportunity to work remote?
Julia (11m 42s):
Well, I think we are giving people the opportunity to work remote, but we're trying to make it more flexible so that they can be in office when it makes sense. But we are having conversations around the great resignation. We are starting to see some higher attrition and are having conversations with HR, our HR colleagues, and our business leaders to figure out because the retention isn't necessarily a TA responsibility, but then we get saddled with the leaky bucket, right?
Chad (12m 17s):
Yes. You guys have to have some type of, you have to be a part of the conversation, right. Or no?
Julia (12m 22s):
Yes, for sure. We're probably a little late to the game and really raising it. I don't know if I think some of our leaders are seeing it because I'm starting to get some emails, especially from one of our business units around, Hey, here's another one that just came up and here's another one. So I'm seeing probably once a week from one of the business units, one of their VPs, including me on some of those messaging. So we definitely have some work to do in how we communicate the flex at work. And we do have remote. We've got three, we've got those that really need to be in the building. Those that can be flexible 1, 2, 3 days a week.
Julia (13m 3s):
And then those that are fully remote. I think that is a benefit because when you look at a lot of other companies, I think of Wall Street right now where they're, you know, demanding everybody be in the office five days a week. That's not the right decision. And they're going to pay for that. I think that the flexibility that we're offering will benefit us. We need to get in front of it and communicate it. So someone hears, oh, I've gotta be in the office. I don't want to be in there. We can talk through some of those benefits of why it makes sense and why it's a good thing to go in, depending on the job. It isn't one size fits all.
Joel (13m 40s):
Specifically what the policy is. For example, I think Apple has decided, you know, three days a week, people are going to be in on Monday and a certain day. Like have you guys had, do you guys have an official policy? Is it like per manager? Do you have a specific policy that you can talk about?
Julia (13m 56s):
Yeah. So what we've put out there as this, the I'll say I'm air quoting "standard" would be, I think a weekly schedule of some three, two to three designated in office days, and then two to three designated remote working days. But there is this openness to each of the business and function leaders that they'll engage with their employees and determine what's most, what's the most suitable option for their employees. So while we're putting out some basic guidelines, it is not that you have to be in this specific box. For example, when I started, I'm not, I'm an in-office employee, but I was only going into a physical office maybe one day a week.
Julia (14m 40s):
And not more than that. And that's not going to change based on my role.
Joel (14m 45s):
So if your CTO says, it's okay if our engineers or software developers are remote. Is that something that the company would accept?
Chad (14m 53s):
Yes. Okay. So those managers, and this is another big conversation because many of these managers are old world, I've got to see your butt in a seat, eight to five, what's being done to, to be able to educate the managers and also, you know, respectively weed, some of those old timey managers out, because this is a new world. And with the autonomy that most companies are going to start allowing, what do you do to ensure that your managers inside your organization don't become that iron fist?
Julia (15m 31s):
It will be a challenge for us because we have manufacturing roots and, you know, in those facilities, people need to be there and we've manufacturing roots, but then we've acquired more high tech business. So our, our culture is a little bit of a jumble of them. I think it's going to be a lot, communicate, communicate again, communicate again. It's going to, it's all around communication, basic change management principles, having those dialogues, having my team escalate when you've got a manager that's really digging in and making sure that we have the right escalation points, not just to me, but then I can go to that managers manager. And I think that our more senior leaders have bought in on this.
Julia (16m 13s):
So not just having it come from HR, but also from the business, the importance to have the flexibility and not just in when people are coming in to work, but even in our recruiting processes of, I need to shake someone's hand and look them in the eye in order to hire them. That's very antiquated.
Chad (16m 32s):
Yes. And do you have any stories of those? I mean, you don't have to name names, but I mean, were there managers that said during COVID no, I need to see these people for coffee.
Julia (16m 43s):
Yes. Yes. There were! There were ones that said, I need to fly this person in to X location. And we said, no and what we talked to some of them into, although probably a little bit grudgingly was to do some virtual tours of some of our facilities. Although we did have candidates asking the question, you did have some applicants that said, I really want to meet someone or see someone. So you did see it on both sides and then we just tried to come up with some creative solutions.
Nexxt (17m 20s):
We'll get back to the interview in a minute. But first we have a question for Andy Katz, COO of Nexxt. Andy, if a company wants to actually come to Nexxt and utilize your database and target texting candidates, I mean, how does that actually work? Right? So we have the software to provided two different ways. If an employer has their own database of opted in text messages, whether it's through their ATS, we can text on their behalf or we have over eight and a half million users that have opted into our text messaging at this point. So we can use our own database. We could dissect it by obviously by geography, by function, any which way some in sometimes we'll even parse the resumes of the opted in people to target certifications.
Nexxt (18m 4s):
So we really can dive really deep if they want to hone in on, you know, just give me the best hundred candidates that I want to text message with and have a conversation back and forth with versus going and saying, I need 30,000 retail people across the country, and that's more a yes/no text messaging back and apply. For more information, go to hiring.nexxt.com. Remember that's Nexxt with the double X, not the triple X hiring.nexxt.com
Joel (18m 41s):
Are you seeing a lot of candidates talk about remote work? Are you guys adding it to job descriptions, more aggressively? Talk about that.
Julia (18m 50s):
Yes. We're in the process of doing all of that or more official flex at work program launched two weeks ago. So we are working on the content that can be added to job descriptions. And within our career site, we do already have a remote category on the career site. We have some systems updates to do so right now the employee categories are just either you're fully remote or you're in office and there's not that flex. And so that's getting added into the system now, so that we'll be able to better identify and manage what's going on. But for sure, this is especially when you go up against some of the companies that are saying, no, you have to be in five days a week, being able to talk about our flexibility and share those stories will be very powerful and an attraction to those that want it.
Joel (19m 45s):
How are you approaching salaries? If I'm an engineer, can I earn the same amount of at Commscope that I would in Toledo, that I would in a New York City?
Julia (19m 56s):
It's an evolution, but we still do have some salary bands that are, we hire a lot in Silicon Valley and that's a very separate salary band, but we are trying to make sure that it's as equitable as possible. And that it really shouldn't matter. We should be paying for the work and the job and not necessarily by the location.
Chad (20m 20s):
Joel (20m 21s):
I like that.
Julia (20m 23s):
But I'll tell you, I lived in, I've lived in Atlanta, I've lived in New York City. I was not, when I first moved to New York city, the salaries were not that much more. And maybe that's an HR thing that HR professionals just aren't compensated to the same amount of our value.
Chad (20m 40s):
Yeah, it's a brand new world, right? I mean, these are conversations that we really weren't having before that we are now. We're forcing the discussion. Another discussion I would like to force is around AI, efficiencies and being able to get rid of a lot of this minutia that maybe your staff or you had to deal with. During this timeframe, we noticed companies implementing more tech, more new age, evolved tech versus their old, clunky applicant tracking systems. What did you guys do, or what have you done, or what are you looking to do to utilize AI and prospectively, leverage it more?
Julia (21m 20s):
I'm a big proponent of automating where it makes sense and, you know, thinking a lot about the, not just the candidate experience, but recruiter experience and I can be to blame in past lives where we did all these little ad-ons and it wasn't cohesive. And I know some of it has to do with what ATS we might have and what its capabilities for integrations are. And I'm always trying to be mindful putting my old recruiter hat on for us, you know, dusting it off, putting that mindset of as a recruiter, how many systems am I expecting them to log into and how, and so that's always a challenge depending on what ATS you have, or, I mean, I'm always inheriting systems that are already set up.
Julia (22m 5s):
So how do I unwind, maybe some not so smart or efficient decisions that past leaders have made. And so we did bring in two tools, not because of COVID, but they were ones already on my mind. And the first one being Tech CEO, and the second one being SeekOut and I've used Hiring Solved in the past as well. And we haven't integrated SeekOut yet, but that is on the plate for later this year or into early next year, just depending on other and business needs. It's been helpful in a lot of ways, but again, it is this dependency on recruiter capabilities and how you get recruiters comfortable.
Julia (22m 54s):
And if I think about SeekOut, for example, it's people are so comfortable with LinkedIn and LinkedIn recruiter, and they're struggling against using a tool like SeekOut to me. I'm like, how do you not see the value in this and look at what it can do. And it doesn't cost $10,000 a seat, but there's this comfort level and maybe a little bit of laziness in, you know, I'm going to continue to do what I've always done, and it's worked for me until it doesn't.
Chad (23m 21s):
Joel (23m 22s):
What are some other HR tech tools that you can't live without? You mentioned some of the new ones, what are some that you use every day and love?
Julia (23m 30s):
I mean, those are the two that I love and especially TechCEO recruiters have really drawn to them. What I want to use, that we haven't had the ability to purchase yet and some of that's due to budget, is like one of the AI chat and AI features.
Chad (23m 50s):
Julia (23m 51s):
Yep. And, helping people apply because our application process isn't as smooth as I want it to be. But to have some of that conversational AI to get at the application questions and integrate in, so that it's a much faster, more seamless. And to be able to answer some of the questions of content that we already have on our career site, that's there, but candidates aren't searching for. Some of our process questions, benefits, questions, Q and A tech support, all of those things that will take away some of the minutia from the recruiters, but then also give candidates a better experience.
Chad (24m 30s):
On SeekOut, when you talk about integration of SeekOut later this year, are you talking about integration so that it actually searches against your applicant tracking system database?
Julia (24m 42s):
Chad (24m 42s):
Julia (24m 43s):
Candidate rediscovery is so critical because
Chad (24m 47s):
Julia (24m 50s):
Well, I know. It's so critical because why, and listen, I'm a recruitment marketing and employer branding nut, right? Like I love all of that and I want, but I want to be smart about the money that we're spending. And if we're spending all this money doing programmatic advertising and LinkedIn and all of that, and we have this database of a million people, why aren't the recruiters going there first? And the ATSes never make it easy for you to rediscover past candidates. It's not their forte. And so that is exactly where I want to get with SeekOut so that we can get at all of that talent that's in there. And maybe the recruiter never got to because they had already found the right candidate and had a good pool by the time that person applied.
Julia (25m 37s):
Although we should have unposted the job, right? To not have people in the candidate black pool, but how do we stay engaged with candidates and how do we rediscover who's already in our ATS before we send a job out to LinkedIn or, you know, programmatic?
Joel (25m 54s):
Are you currently suffering from ghosting. And if so, how are you combating it?
Julia (25m 59s):
We are, and we still ghost people, unfortunately. So, you know,
Chad (26m 5s):
She's telling the truth today. She's telling the truth. I love this.
Joel (26m 8s):
We love it.
Julia (26m 10s):
We still do. I will say that the candidate black hole is, is not as the, the time in the black hole is as much shorter here at CommScope than it's been at other companies that I've been at. So I'm proud of that, but we can always do better. And some recruiters are better than others at managing their rec loads. And some of that's on me as the leader to make sure that they have the proper rec load or support if they're feeling overwhelmed. And so I'll take that one. But I think some of it is the, how we communicate with people and with SeekOut, they have some messaging which has similar, I call it CRM light because we don't have a SmashFly or a Symphony Talent now, or an Avature.
Julia (26m 56s):
We're trying to use Intern on Success Factors CRM but we're not there yet. But SeekOut has this candidate messaging so you can set up those drip campaigns. So when the recruiter can send the message and then if they don't hear back from the person, four days later, it's sending the second message that has something different. And then however many days later, it's the next message. The messaging also we're running through Textio and it's, and some of it's the personalization that you need to put in there. If you're just sending out the, Hey, Joel, tell me, I have this job, would you be interested or who do you know?w You're going to hit delete and never look at it.
Julia (27m 36s):
But if I'm messaging you to say how impressed I am about your background and that I want to learn about your career aspirations and do it more in a networking aspect and getting to know you and sending you valuable content that might be of interest to you of, you know, Hey Joel, I just heard about X, Y, Z company merging with this other one, or, Hey, I just, I just heard this Chad and Cheese podcast I think you should listen to it.
Joel (28m 1s):
You mentioned employment branding, and I couldn't let you go without sort of digging into this. Employment. Branding used to be sort of straight forward, right? You looked at a Glassdoor, you looked at Indeed and other sites and it seems to me like the game of monitoring and employment branding is really getting fractured thanks to social media. We talk about TikTok on the show, getting into jobs. And apparently it's driven by a lot of, I guess, commentary and resume posting and people trying to jobs. And certainly on these social media sites, usually via video people are spouting off about their employer, which is really challenging to sort of get your hands around. How are you guys looking at sort of employment branding going beyond Glassdoor and how are you tackling that?
Julia (28m 46s):
So that's a great question. We started with listening and serving our employees, our candidates to understand our real EVP. So we did a more formal refresh of our EVP. And then when we think about employer branding, listen, like we're not, we can't be everywhere. And we're looking at Glassdoor reviews and responding and Indeed, and then there's, you know, there's 10 other sites that have those responses and we can't boil the ocean. And so we're trying to understand where our employees and candidates and prospects are on the web.
Julia (29m 26s):
And then we're going to just pick one or two and be really good at that and continue to listen. But I, my team, I have one person on my team who's our recruitment marketing and branding specialist. And then it's a passion of mine so she gets probably more of my time than some other areas do, because I'm so passionate about it. But we're just starting small and we can't compete with the Wendy's or McDonald's or Google's or Facebook's and some of these companies that have teams of 15 or 20 more budgets of, I was, I was telling Chad about an old colleague of mine that I caught up with.
Julia (30m 9s):
And he's at a company where their budget is like $6.5 million and they do 3000, 3000 hires.
Chad (30m 18s):
Somebody has budget envy. I can feel it.
Julia (30m 21s):
Yes I do. And like a team of 20 sourcers plus all the recruiters and the recruiter bench load is like 10 to 12 recs. And part of me thinks, gosh their process is so inefficient. I want to fix it. And then part of me has this envy of gosh, if they're providing this white glove experience, that's, you know, rolling out the red carpet. Oh my gosh, how amazing and could I, why do I want to work for that company? And so I don't have that budget. My budget is significantly less and I'm trying to rub pennies together, you know, to create a nickel. So I've got to pick and choose. I can't afford Altru. So we have a tool Videyard and we're creating, we're trying to do some of it home grown and then using an external vendor to help supplement some of that.
Chad (31m 12s):
That's amazing. Well, and knowing that not everybody has that kind of budget.