TalentX - The Talent Experience Podcast

Ep. 15 - Kris Dunn

November 05, 2020 Fuel50 Season 1 Episode 15
TalentX - The Talent Experience Podcast
Ep. 15 - Kris Dunn
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TalentX - The Talent Experience Podcast
Ep. 15 - Kris Dunn
Nov 05, 2020 Season 1 Episode 15
Fuel50

Kris Dunn cares deeply about the art of HR and recruiting enough so that he created the popular industry blogs Fistful of Talent and The HR Capitalist. Along with host John Hollon, a contributor to FOT, they cover topics top of mind including retention, recruiting, remote work and reskilling. While reskilling can help organizations cope with the evolving needs of the workplace and help individuals better position themselves on the recruiting trail, as Kris shares it takes focus, discipline and can be difficult to actually find time for. In this episode Kris also opens up about getting his recruiting company through the momentous events of 2020 and explores the concept of hunkering down and how it has changed recruiting.

Kris Dunn is the Chief Human Resources Officer for Kinetix. He believes that the key to great business results is to get great people, then do cool stuff to maximize their motivation, performance and effectiveness once you have them in the door. Connect with him at https://krisdunn.com, on LinkedIn https://www.linkedin.com/in/krisdunn/ or on Twitter @kris_dunn.

For more insightful conversations, visit www.talentxpodcast.com. We hope you enjoy this episode of the TalentX podcast!

Show Notes Transcript

Kris Dunn cares deeply about the art of HR and recruiting enough so that he created the popular industry blogs Fistful of Talent and The HR Capitalist. Along with host John Hollon, a contributor to FOT, they cover topics top of mind including retention, recruiting, remote work and reskilling. While reskilling can help organizations cope with the evolving needs of the workplace and help individuals better position themselves on the recruiting trail, as Kris shares it takes focus, discipline and can be difficult to actually find time for. In this episode Kris also opens up about getting his recruiting company through the momentous events of 2020 and explores the concept of hunkering down and how it has changed recruiting.

Kris Dunn is the Chief Human Resources Officer for Kinetix. He believes that the key to great business results is to get great people, then do cool stuff to maximize their motivation, performance and effectiveness once you have them in the door. Connect with him at https://krisdunn.com, on LinkedIn https://www.linkedin.com/in/krisdunn/ or on Twitter @kris_dunn.

For more insightful conversations, visit www.talentxpodcast.com. We hope you enjoy this episode of the TalentX podcast!

John Hollon  00:26
Hello, I'm John Hollon and welcome to another episode of TalentX, the Talent Experience Podcast. Today's guest is Kris Dunn. Kris is a partner and chief HR Officer CHRO, for those in the trade at Kinetix, a national RPO recruiting firm headquartered in Atlanta, Georgia. He's also the founder of two talent industry leading blogs, two really good blogs, I might add, Fistful of Talent and the HR Capitalist. By the way, I also write for Fistful of Talent. And he has written over 100 feature columns at Workforce Management Magazine. I'm proud to say I brought Kris in at Workforce Management and got him started there. Prior to his investment at Kinetix, Kris served in HR leadership roles at DAXCO, Charter and Cingular. Kris is also the author of the Nine Faces of HR, which was released by SHRM publishing in June 2019. And is a really good book, if you're interested in HR, I suggest you buy one. Thanks for joining us, Kris. How are you doing?

Kris Dunn  01:34
I'm good, John. Good to be here. Good to throw it around with you today on the topics we have in front of us.

John Hollon  01:41
Wonderful, we have a lot to talk about. So let me get started.  

Kris Dunn  01:45
Sure. 

John Hollon  01:45
You're a longtime HR leader and a partner in a recruiting company. Things are going pretty well and then 2020 and the Coronavirus comes along. What have you had to do to change your game your style, and cope with all the unprecedented issues that came our way this year? And what have you had to do to help your company get through this?

Kris Dunn  02:07
So do we have to do this question, John? Cause you're right, things are going really well. And then 2020 hit like, specifically, I guess what, second third week of March, we had had our best year ever for nine straight years at Kinetix. So just a really good growth, projection, great team, we've got the best team that we've ever had and then all that stuff hit us. It's kind of hard to know where to start on the answer this question so I'll keep it fairly brief and you can redirect me. I think what we've had to change is we've had to become, we're a mid size RPO firm doing work for some great clients, some of those clients went away, because in a recession, I guess, in an epidemic fueled recession the last thing you need is recruiting help. 

03:07
So we've had to become more scrappy. We've done more contingency work, more single position search work. A lot of the things that we took for granted in a normal economy went away. And I should add rightfully so, no criticism to our clients, I mean, our clients, were dealing with the same stuff that any company that's been impacted by COVID was dealing with in the States, and we're primarily domestic United States based firm. So I think we became more scrappy, I think, we've tried to watch our spend and try to treat people the right way. And the good news is we're starting to see a turnaround a little bit.

John Hollon  03:52
Have you found that your clients are doing a lot of the same things that you are?

Kris Dunn  03:57
Yeah, I think, it's one of those things where we did not really have a client, in our arsenal, who was really thriving at this time. You always hear you can get tricked in especially in the States, I don't know as much globally, but you can get tricked by reading the success stories of the tech firms, firms like Zoom, you can get tricked into thinking that things are okay. But what I would tell you is for all of our clients, it was a real struggle. The good news is for the vast majority of those clients, we're starting to see them recover, not to pre-COVID levels but we're starting to see the chart go up just a little bit related to a number of openings, which means they have some optimism, and hopefully, I think they see a path forward as do we.

John Hollon  04:50
Well, one of the things that I've heard you talk about a lot and we were chatting about this before the call is you talk about the concept of hunkering down. As I told you, it sort of reminds me of what the American hundred and first Airborne Division did at the Battle of the Bulge when the Nazi started the bombardment. They had to really hunker down until George Patton managed to get his tanks in there. But how do you define hunkering down? And when do you hunker down? How do you know when it's okay to put your head up and come out? You don't want to stay hunkered down for too long. But you also don't want to come out to too soon. So how do you navigate this?

Kris Dunn  05:33
So it's a good question. I think let's start with the definition for the uninitiated in the art of hunkering down. Let's talk about what that is. That's candidate behavior. So I'm not talking about hunkering down at Kinetix, or with any of our clients. So although certainly, we've hunkered down at Kinetix it's really a candidate behavior. And what we've seen and what I remember from the last recession in the United States, in the 08' 09' era is during that recession, even for a period, intermediate term thereafter, great candidates were less likely to jump for something that looked like a lateral to even a slightly a good move from them from a salary or an ability to earn level. 

06:21
What happens in recessions, I think is hunkering down happens, which means that candidates who during the expansion that we saw from 2011, through the first couple months of 2020, candidates who over the last four or five years were more than willing to make a move to their next job, for 5-10 percent increase, they really didn't discriminate a lot like with the moves they made. What happens in a recession is there's so much fear, doubt and uncertainty John, that a lot of those candidates who are gainfully employed, they understand they don't know what they don't know, related to the health of a company that they might jump to. So all of those candidates, if they're gainfully employed are hunkering down. Which means that a lot of the candidate pool that employers expect when they have openings in a recession is not there. It's harder to draw those candidates out John.

John Hollon  07:18
Do you hear much from the companies that you deal with, that they're focusing now more on retention, as opposed to hiring. That they're sort of looking more at their own staffs and saying, hey, maybe the best trick here is to keep a hold of our own people, and make them feel better. One: if people feel that they are wanted, even at a time when a lot of folks are losing jobs, they are more engaged I would think. So do you hear much of that?

Kris Dunn  07:51
I think it's always a reference point and a priority for people, retention and doing all the employee relations stuff that leads to good retention. I think that's always a topic. One of the things I think I'm proud of at Kinetix, I think a lot of employers would agree and have done the same thing on their own. You know, we saw, and we tried to do this on our own as a firm, we saw a lot of really good communication going on throughout the COVID period and we're not out of it yet. Right. So when you think about late March, April, May, June, I think one of the things that in addition to just retention happening because we're in this pandemic based recession, I think a lot of companies have actually done a better job from a communication perspective, in terms of what's going on. 

08:43
I think there's been a feeling of more transparency than maybe you had under normal times. And I think that along with the fact that we are in a recession, so there's fewer places to go, you add in the hunkering down thing that I just described and then you add in the fact that I think a lot of companies have done a really good job communicating during a really difficult time. I think it creates a kind of an aura, if you will, of retention where people are less likely to leave. I think you add hunkering down to just good communication, I think retention is probably better coming out of whether you think we're out of it or not, whenever we're out of it, even if it's improving a little bit. I think retention is better as a result. 

09:31
But also to your point and you and I talked offline about this. I think there's some Gallup studies out there, you wrote about this at Fistful of Talent recently. There's some Gallup studies out there that show that employee engagement is in an all time high during that Covid period. You can make the argument that good engagement scores equals greater retention. And without rambling on, I think you've got to wrap up all of those factors to say that we are in a better place from a retention perspective than certainly we were pre-Covid as morbid as that sounds.

John Hollon  10:10
Well, to follow up on that, we hear a lot of talk about the need for people to become more agile, more flexible and to work to reskill themselves and cope with the evolving needs of the workplace. What do you make of that? Is that what you are seeing?

Kris Dunn  10:27
Oh, it's a loaded question. You read a lot of articles about reskilling. I think, if you're an employee, if you're a candidate, if you're an individual, I think reskilling is easier than it looks. I think it requires a fair amount of focus to do it on your own. And maybe to go to some type of online environment where you can get better at something, or adds knowledge, skills and ability to your arsenal to position yourself better on the recruiting trail. I think that takes an incredible amount of discipline John. 

11:07
I always joke as an HR leader that one of the cheapest things you can do is to really offer up tuition aid as a benefit, because it looks great on the PDF of the benefits you offer but it's incredibly hard to use. When you think about candidates with families, obligations, take care of parents, I mean, just a variety of things there. Reskilling is easy to say, it's hard to do on the individual level. And what I would tell you at a company level about reskilling is we do have a client or two that's actively talking about reskilling primarily in a healthcare world, because you've got some adjacent type of skills, that with the right amount of training, you might be able to move them a half click over to take care of a need that you once had. So we see that in some very specific sectors. But once you get outside of those very specific sectors, I don't see a lot of talk about reskilling because I think people are still, I think corporations are still in survival mode as well. 

11:38
And then last thing then I'll throw it back to you is I think if you think about reskilling on an individual level, especially if you have somebody who is currently out of work, the thing they're most focused on is providing for their family and being on the recruiting trail and doing what candidates do, which is typically applying to 100 jobs a day, and not hearing much back. And that's kind of the sad state of online applications to companies. I think our recruiters at Kinetix do a pretty good job of treating candidates with respect, but it's really hard on people. So I like the topic of reskilling but I think it's hard on both ends for corporations trying to survive, and for candidates trying to survive and those who are incredibly busy in a really strange time.

John Hollon  13:10
Do you see any long term takeaways from the lockdown and pandemic? Are there any positives we can sort of hold on to that will help us to move us, ourselves and our workforces ahead in our organizations?

Kris Dunn  13:27
Yeah, I mean, I think there are some positives. I think you've got to split up the workforce and the candidate pool a couple different ways. But one big positive is, I think the pandemic and COVID has really pushed the envelope probably pushed us ahead, at least five if not 10 years related to how companies view remote work, and how they view a work life kind of blend, and a lifestyle for the employees they have.  Certainly that's true from a white collar perspective, I can't speak as much to the blue collar perspective that is very specific and requires someone to be at a certain location at a certain time. 

14:13
But John, when you talk about white collar work, I think the fact that so many companies had to send employees home, I think it ramped up companies, it probably jumped them forward five years in terms of trying to figure out remote work. It jumped them forward figuring out how to use digital tools in that regard. And I think the big winners coming out of whenever we clear COVID and I'm optimistic obviously that we will and I think we've already figured this out to a large degree, I think we'll continue to figure it out. I think the big winners here are going to be the companies that maintain a lot of the flexibility that they granted their employee basis. 

15:03
And I think the other thing that happens, and you may want to talk about this separately, is especially in the white collar world now John, a lot of companies were locked into location when they recruited. This whole remote work thing blows that model up, not entirely, because a lot of companies are going to want to get back together at least want to get back together from time to time, or periodically, or if they were five days in the office, they'll go to two or three, even Wall Street, firms are talking about that. 

15:34
But I think your recruiting radius, if you will, as a company, if you're willing to consider remote workers, and you've figured some of this out, that recruiting radius has increased exponentially. Now, you're not just talking about a metro area, you're really talking about the nation wherever you live, and potentially the world. And that sounds dramatic. It sounds like I'm trying to do a movie trailer on you. But I think the big winners are the ones who can maintain this stuff, and meet people where they're at.

John Hollon  16:06
So it sounds like you think that the sort of the genies out of the bottle on remote work that we're not going to go back to how it was prior to the pandemic, that this sort of thing a lot of organizations had to do just to get by is probably going to stick?

Kris Dunn  16:25
Yeah, I think that's true. And you know, you've heard me say this probably John, to the point of our listeners, I first met John when he was the executive editor at Workforce Magazine he brought me on as a columnist. So you've probably heard me say this, we've had so many conversations John, I'm an HR generalist by trade. So what I would tell you is the truth always lies somewhere in the middle, right. So if you think about, it's not going to be 100% remote, but it's not going back to the way that it was. And I think the best of both worlds is to have some sense of place where people can get together. Once we clear this, this COVID thing, to still have some sense of place where companies will be able to leverage physical places and advantage, if they can provide it periodically, over companies that went from physical place to 100% remote. 

17:20
But the truth is always somewhere in the middle, you will have some companies that will try and go back to the way that they did it. A lot of those companies will be driven by cultive personality founders that wanted a certain way and they'll seek to drive it that way. And over time, the best talent at those companies will say, you know what this kind of sucks going back to four or five days in the office, I got used to it the other way. And by the way, my kids are now in physical school, I don't have to serve as a tutor to them, I want to go back the other way. And then a recruiter, hopefully one from Kinetix, is going to call those people and find a great opportunity for them. So I think the genies out of the bottle. 

18:05
And the other thing I would tell you John, is it's really an employee by employee type of vibe. So if Shannon Russo, my partner and I were working at a company, she may for whatever's happened in her life, want to go into an office three days a week, I may want to go in one or maybe a couple times a month, and the best companies are going to have incredibly flexible philosophies at meeting us where/what our needs are, in order to recruit us away from whatever company is now providing that.

John Hollon  18:36
Well, if there's a good takeaway from this whole lockdown, that may be the one. So we will see how that goes. These podcasts always go really quickly. And we're getting near the end here. So last question. Here at the TalentX Podcast, we wholeheartedly believe that everyone should have a job that they love, one that they're passionate about. So Kris, what do you love about what you do?

Kris Dunn  19:02
Well, it's a loaded question, John. So of course, I love many things of what I do at Kinetix. I think probably the thing I enjoy most as just like an individual, is I get the chance based on my role at Kinetix to create a lot of things, not only for the company, but for our clients. So I'm a creator. I'm a low rules type of individual. So I'm low rules high challenge. So I love to create. And I'm really fortunate to be surrounded by some really great people who are creative in their own right but can also once I get it to a certain level, take any type of product or service that we offer for our clients and execute on it in the field so I can keep doing what I really enjoy, which is continue to create. And since I'm one of two owners at Kinetix I've had a big opportunity to do that. But if I were working for you John full time, to really motivate me, you would have to get me through the stuff that was a little bit of a slog and you'd have to focus on the unbelievable opportunities I have to create once all that stuff is kind of handled.

John Hollon  20:20
Well, that's great, Kris, and thank you so much for taking the time to be with us today. It's been a great conversation. You've been very generous with your time. We really appreciate you taking the time to be here. So for the TalentX Podcast, this is John Hollon. Thanks for listening.