VP of Marketing, Client Advocacy, Paradox
Josh has led talent acquisitions teams for some of the world’s largest brands, including McDonald’s and Abercrombie and Fitch — designing people programs and experiences that helped those brands fundamentally transform hiring. As VP of marketing and advocacy at Paradox, Josh collaborates with global employers to champion their transformation efforts.
Chief People Officer, WilliamsMarston LLC
Host of the "Future of HR" podcast, forward-thinking global human resources executive with extensive experience implementing human capital initiatives that drive business results, improve organizational performance, and elevate company culture.
Transcript has/will be lightly edited for understanding.
JP Elliot (00:02):
This the future of HR podcast, episode 35.
Joshua Secrest (00:08):
How do we make hiring a competitive advantage for the organization? How do we alleviate the time spent from our managers on hiring tax that really weren't high value? So think of that as like we really wanted them interviewing and then we really wanted them to do an amazing job on that, that person's first day, that first week, and then providing that candidate experience, that was amazing. The way that our chief people officer had phrased it, I think is brilliant, was like, I only want you reporting metrics from the people who did not receive an offer from us.
JP Elliot (00:40):
Why should your candidate experience be high tech and high touch? Hi, I'm your host, JP Elliot, and this is the future of HR podcast, the only podcast whose mission is to inspire the next generation of HR leaders. On each episode, I interview successful HR executives and thought leaders who are re-imagining, rethinking, and leading our field into the future. During our candid conversations, you'll learn about their career journeys, their lessons learned along the way, and their insights on how take our field, and most importantly, your career to the next level. Before we get to this week's guest, we're lucky to have Mark Efron, President of the Talent Strategy Group and co-author of the One page Talent Management, dropping in to talk to us about the future of HR workshop, which will take place September 19th in Boston. I was lucky enough to attend last year's future of HR workshop and it was a terrific experience, but don't take my word for it. Let's hear from Mark. Hey Mark. Thanks for stopping in. Tell us more about the future of HR Workshop and what makes this event stand out from the crowd.
Mark Efron (01:47):
Thanks, JP. It's really fair to ask ge aren't there enough conferences out there? Yeah, there are a lot of conferences and I would suggest that with all due respect, I wouldn't attend most of the conferences out there because I have a bunch of people talking at me about stuff I really might not care about. We bowed the future of HR a couple of years ago thinking really smart HR people wanna get their hands dirty, wanna roll their sleeves up and really dig into issues and they want to do it led by other really smart HR people. And so, uh, when we kicked this off last year, all CHRO speakers from big important companies, all HR practitioners, no consultants, really digging into interesting issues,
JP Elliot (02:28):
What CHROs and what companies are gonna be there.
Mark Efron (02:32):
We have an incredible lineup. JP, we have the CHROs from Verizon, from the Hershey company, from AbbVie, from Cardinal Health, from Hyatt Hotels, CAO, Kevin Cox from GE Aerospace. They're all gonna be working hands on with 100 strictly limited to 100 HR practitioners.
JP Elliot (02:55):
That's incredible. When is the event taking place?
Mark Efron (02:58):
This is gonna be September 19th in Boston at the lovely Ritz Carlton Hotel.
JP Elliot (03:03):
And how do people find out about it?
Mark Efron (03:05):
They can go to future of HR two 20 three.com, learn more about it and register right on site.
JP Elliot (03:12):
Thanks to Mark for stopping by. I highly recommend attaining the future of HR Workshop in Boston. But remember, it's limited to only a hundred HR practitioners, so you have to move fast cuz September's right around the corner.
With that, my guest this week is Josh Seacrest, vice President marketing and client advocacy at Paradox, which is a game-changing conversational recruiting software used by Fortune Moha companies as well as small and mid-size businesses. Prior to joining Paradox, Josh was the head of global talent strategy McDonald's, where he led the development and implementation of global talent management and talent acquisition strategies. It was in this role that Josh and his team were instrumental in designing and implementing mhi, which revolutionized how McDonald's recruited and selected team members for their restaurants, including dramatically reducing the time it took to fill a role. Before joining McDonald's, Josh spent 13 years at Abercrombie and Fitch, where he held a variety of talent and HR leadership roles. During our conversation, Josh and I discussed why creativity and passion for analytics are the perfect combination of skills for a talent acquisition leader, how we helped to pioneer mc hire while McDonald's and dramatically improve the recruitment process. Why you should have different candidate experiences for different types of frontline rules, why best in class companies are automating everything before and after the interview, and why employment branding is so critical in the age of high-tech and low-touch recruiting.
Josh, how are you? Welcome to the future of HR podcast!
Joshua Secrest (04:52):
JP. Thanks for having me. I'm pumped to be here.
JP Elliot (04:54):
We're pumped to have you here as well to talk talent acquisition. Just pick your brain on everything. High volume, frontline recruiting. You were at the forefront of that and that's why we wanted to have you on today. But more importantly, I wanted to start and hear more about your career. Tell us about how you found your passion and niche and talent acquisition.
Joshua Secrest (05:14):
Hey, thanks for having me. Uh, so excited about the high volume topic right now. I think it's top of mind for so many of our companies out there. So, um, yeah, my, my path was, uh, I loved t-shirts. Um, so kind of an interesting start. Uh, I, uh, um, with my brother, we started a little t-shirt company, um, back in high school and then got into making t-shirts in college and that led me to Abercrombie and Fish's merchandising program where I got to work on t-shirts. And there was really cool was learning the business on kind of all things, on making something really cool and making it for the right price point and getting it out to the right, the right stores, learn like business foundation there. And then got tapped to do what was supposed to be a one year leadership rotation in HR that ended up becoming about a 14 year rotation there.
So got to, uh, just really work with some like brilliant HR minds, uh, both on as peers, as people who are on my team leaders. Uh, my C H R O who was there, I was fortunate enough that he was, uh, willing to put me into some different different positions. So got to be an H R V P for a while. I've got to lead our philanthropy team, dabbled in culture. And then one of my last roles there was leading our global talent acquisition team. And so, you know, one of the pieces for Abercrombie that I really got to learn well was, you know, really creating curated custom experiences for our candidates to make them feel really special. And I focused a lot on the corporate side and got, were just really excited about kind of what was going on within HR in terms of recruiting, you know, top talent that could potentially change the game for you and your organization.
You know, for us that was amazing merchants or amazing designers that could, could be a differentiator for you and your product in, in, in stores. And then, uh, was able to join the McDonald's team lead global talent acquisition there and talent strategy. So really the, the kind of purview for that was for global talent acquisition. We were focused on, uh, the corporate side. So all of our corporate roles from university to, uh, you know, executive, uh, recruitment, uh, but then also got to support and work on the restaurant side of things. And so McDonald's a large organization, we're in over 120 countries, 37,000 restaurants out there. So being able to partner with a lot of the different markets and teams on what their challenges were in hiring and where we could potentially help and really listening to a lot of our owner operators, you know, it's an organization where, uh, most of the restaurants are owned by franchisees and being able to listen and support them in different ways. So yeah, I'm just really passionate, I think, on talent and how talent can drive business, can drive revenue in trying to make as, as much of a connection to kind of talent and and business drivers as possible.
JP Elliot (07:57):
It's an incredible story and I almost wanted to stop you and ask you about your t-shirt company <laugh> and go back and did you become a merchant really thinking, Hey, I can learn how to build my t-shirt company and go further and faster. Was that part of it or then you just kinda got sucked into HR and having that impact?
Joshua Secrest (08:15):
Yeah, I, I mean, yeah, I mean the, there's always that, um, hey, opportunity to learn from the best and I think I've always had the, uh, kind of craving to be entrepreneurial and I, I think I've been fortunate to maybe find myself in companies that have been able to like tap into that, um, or that's, that's felt fresh. Um, and is has kind of enabled some of the thinking, you know, man, Abercrombie, you know, I joined at a time where there was, I mean, the volume of t-shirts we were selling was, you know, it felt like you're kind of, you made it to the major leagues and um, you know, lots of creativity, lots of brainstorming. So it was a really neat thing to be able to learn from it. And honestly, what was fascinating with that is like a base then going into HR and TA was I never was able to kick the like p and l side of my brain.
Which I think is, is really healthy for all of us, um, you know, that have been able to sit in leadership positions now in HR is, you know, how comfortable are you sitting with the C F O or COO o and being able to talk the numbers and being able to tie what your initiative is and, and essentially how that's gonna be valuable amongst the multiple projects that, that you've gotta select from a, a total company level. So it was a really cool and good foundation that I feel like I keep always that mindset as I think about, you know, HR challenges.
JP Elliot (09:30):
What do you think helped differentiate you and make you so successful in those roles?
Joshua Secrest (09:36):
I think I was able to, um, there was a fortunate part of, had some wonderful mentorship. Jim Bierbauer was the CHRO of Abercrombie. And Fitch came from just, you know, a lot of amazing retail background, developed talent. Just an amazing developer of talent. Also sort of someone who had almost a CFO COO type brain in a CHRO role, which is really incredible to be able to, to learn from. So I think I had some great role models. Melanie Steinbach then at McDonald's who, I mean one of the most creative talent leaders that's out there. So that, that certainly helped. And then I think both of their styles were conducive for me where it was, you know, uh, gave gave me some, uh, some room to kind of move and create, um, while giving me great guidance along the way.
So I think the, probably the, the two pieces, and I'm gonna borrow this from hiring and recruiting and merchandising from Abercrombie, which was, you know, we were really trying to find people who, you know, kind of were, felt strong both, uh, creatively and analytically, um, to join in those roles. You know, are you able to select the right t-shirt, um, and then create the right business plan and, and think about the numbers. I think that was a differentiator for me throughout my career was being able to, to do both. Be able to maybe think like a merchant or a marketer within a TA role, but then also be able to think with the numbers. And I was a economics major and in college and just always have loved the numbers and kind of the people analytics side of things. So it allowed for us to bring maybe big ideas to the table that were also well vetted. That combination ends up getting you a few more green flags versus red flags. Uh, as you, as you move through your career,
JP Elliot (11:20):
You kind of have the right almost perfect combination of skillset, you know, intelligence, curiosity really for someone who's doing employment branding and talent acquisition. Because more and more, I think especially the last five or so years, employment branding has been really big. Hmm. Become bigger and bigger around how we tell the story about why you'd wanna work there. People have choices, you know, as there's more jobs than people. So how do you tell that story? And you were really instrumental when you went to McDonald's there. You kinda had global talent acquisition strategy and global talent acquisition as well. Execution of that, which is a big, big job as you mentioned. And something that you rolled out there before joining Paradox called mc Hire, obviously Mick for it. Um, that probably didn't take a lot of effort to come up with that name, but it's a great name. If you can tell us a little bit about this, I know you can't give any trade secrets away, we're gonna ask you to do that, but we just, I know it's really interesting, it's been pivotal to you joining Paradox was helping McDonald's rethink how we do hourly hiring.
Joshua Secrest (12:24):
I appreciate technology, but I mean, I'm passionate about the people side of things for McDonald's. It's so big. You know, I, I think it was, it's really was fun and is still fun to be able to talk about because of its scale. But you know, it was, it was really in complicated, you know, as, as we think about restaurant hiring, when our team got there and assembled kind of under, under this leadership, we were having some challenges from how we were hiring. So maybe just a couple of the most simple things that I think McDonald's shares with a lot of different other employers, which is in frontline there's essentially a hundred percent overlap with the, our customers and our candidates are our candidates who are our customers, right? Most people who are applying our folks who are still coming into our restaurants and eating and purchasing.
And so you wanted it to be a really great experience and, and where we were in the past was, it was, it was fairly slow, um, maybe a little clunky. What we were also seeing was in, I've been able to see this kind of across QSRs and I think there are other like industries that are out there, which is the vicious cycle of understaffing, which is if we, if you saw a restaurant that was understaffed or if you maybe see a retailer that's understaffed, you know, what's the loss of productivity that could happen there and how does that potentially impact your business? And so, you know, in a Q S R, that's, if you're understaffed, you likely in those restaurants and actually see more turnover, you see more turnover at, you know, frontline. You see more turnover within your managers because essentially what people are spread more thin, they might not be taking on the shifts that they'd want.
They might be having to take on more, more roles there. So then what do you start to see within the stores, those restaurants? So you start to see maybe customer service start to go down, potentially the speed at which you're having transactions go down. And ultimately an impact in revenue is we were looking at some different challenges, challenges within McDonald's. You know, I think the big piece was how do we make hiring a competitive advantage for the organization? How do we alleviate the time spent from our managers on hiring tasks that really weren't high value? So think of that as like we really wanted them interviewing and then we really wanted them to do an amazing job on that. That person's first day, that first week, all the other stuff that was administrative we'd love off their plate. And then providing that candidate experience, that was amazing.
The way that our chief people officer had phrased it actually, I think is brilliant, was like, I only want you reporting metrics from the people who did not receive an offer from us. You know, what was their experience like? Cause it's really important that their experience is a good one. So mc hire ended up being really the world's first con, fully conversational hiring process. So what I mean by that and what that looks like is when a candidate's in a restaurant or on the website, they can engage 24/7, be able to go through a really quick apply process. So the apply process, all mobile, all chat based, no forms, no waiting, you'll fill out a few questions, auto almost automatically get screened and if you qualify would go on to get automatically scheduled. And people were starting to see interview times booked up within the next 24 hours, 48 hours, 72 hours.
And it allowed them to move through the process really fast and seamlessly. You know, we weren't quite as good as like maybe an Amazon one click shopping experience, but it really moved the needle in terms of removing friction and making an apply process super, super seamless. So it kind of, we, what we saw was like the power of automating in the right places and starting to bring in consumer grade experiences in this case through technology. But in other cases we were able to find it just through changes in workflow to deliver really great business results. You know, it was saving our managers four or five, six hours a week. And when you think about that, you're like, oh, that's a great stat. But what that translates to is time with our customers, time looking at sales and operations time training probably yields retention results, hiring faster, you know, going from a few weeks to maybe a few days.
You know, think of the delta between that, that delta of a few days in a few weeks. Those are days where a restaurant would've potentially been under productive, could have put been leaving money, you know, on the table because we weren't being able to serve fast. And so just really was, was kind of eye-opening in terms of the, um, impact that, um, maybe impact in a few different ways, impact, uh, a TA team can now have, especially in the high volume space. And maybe caught lightning in a bottle a little bit in terms of where technology had evolved at the kind of time and place. Our team was starting to think about this, where to use some really next gen conversational AI to help automate some of this process, I think just allowed for us to see like, wow, it, it doesn't only remove these points of friction and help us move fast, but back to the candidate experience, what we were super proud of was every candidate, millions of candidates could have their own personalized experience. And so if they had a question that needed to be answered 24 7, you know, we were able to an or provide the information they needed. So just a lot of power and the rapid transformation that technology has seen probably within just even the last five years in the HR space.
JP Elliot (17:51):
Yeah, it's a game changer experience, not only for the candidates, but obviously, you know, it had helped McDonald's and you know, now your paradox, you know, where you are currently, you know, that is, you know, one of the premier in my opinion, premier solutions in that space. But what's amazing about it is just like you talked about, I mean, it really does impact the business by really making that experience so much more frictionless and seamless and it really gets to the parts that people want, which is the interview actually meeting face-to-face, making that call. And you're supporting small businesses to large businesses obviously that do this. Yeah, and I think it's great because honestly, this is the hard part about finding somebody who's working frontline. It takes a long time to find those people. And that kind of leads me to my next point. Let's talk a little bit more about why it's so hard to recruit and hire high volume or frontline rules, why that's so challenging, especially when you look at what's happening in the labor market. And I know you've got a really good point of view on that. So what are you seeing, Josh from that perspective?
Joshua Secrest (18:56):
Yeah, I mean it's as competitive, it's as ever been and we're really seeing kind of historical marks on it. And so maybe, I mean, a few key numbers, we always think about the unemployment rate. And so that's the, the first number that usually is spoken about kind of within the, the C-suite and, and within talent teams we're at still pretty historically low unemployment rate. We're at 3.5% off of the latest bureau of Labor statistics. So what does that actually like mean when we kind of like break it down into frontline and I, I think two of the numbers I always compare is like, how many open roles are there relative then to unemployed workforce? And so those two numbers right now, I mean open roles, you're, you're sitting just around 10 million, it's a little below that 9.9 and then unemployed workers, you're at about 6 million.
So there is a gap between the amount of essentially demand and supply in that we saw that happen really for the first time in 20 years, like just before Covid happened. Then obviously it dipped away and then afterwards we really haven't been able, we haven't seen an economy come back where the demand is meeting the su the supply. So we have a demand surplus that's far exceeding the labor to be able to fill it. And so that's, that's driving some really interesting things, right? It's driving what a lot of us are talking about in terms of wage and salary growth and increase. If you look at like retail, restaurant and hospitality, I mean some pretty big numbers in terms of percentage increases. Retail just last year grew by like 5.5%. Restaurant and hospitality was over 6.5% in terms of in terms of wages and then just continuing to see massive, massive growth there.
So this overall labor market in terms of, man, why is it hard out there for frontline? And it's like, well, there's a lot of competition and really not, not yet enough people to be able to fill those positions. And then the second piece is because technology's really improved, candidates are, are had more and more ways and avenues to be able to apply. It's making applications easier, which is great, that's a win for, for everybody. But when you look at the data on it, indeed in the, this comes directly from Indeed's website, Indeed's recommending that candidates are applying to 15 or more jobs per week. So even for
JP Elliot (21:11):
Us, it's good for business for Indeed though, isn't it? Let's be honest. And we all love indeed and there's no harm foul, but that means they make more money if I have more clicks. But your point, 15 jobs a week,
Joshua Secrest (21:22):
15 jobs a week, that's a lot. So what do we do? You know, as you've, you've gotten to see these, these high volume roles in a lot of different leadership positions. Sometimes our teams see the one application come in and you say, oh, this person's really interested in Dick's Sporting Goods in in McDonald's. And yeah, really you're almost receiving one 15th of a, of a person's resume, right? Because you're, you're competing almost instantaneously against 1414 others. And so I know you and I will talk a lot about conversion and reducing friction, but we're also need to talk about acting fast at every stage of this frontline process. And I've always liked that from a mentality shift of like, okay, I'm competing against four <laugh>, I'm competing as soon as an application comes in, I'm competing against 14 other probably wonderful employers to be able to convince this person to come and come and work here.
And how do you move there? So maybe some good kind of overlay on why that's so challenging. And I think Covid has really maybe brought the attention of the C-suite even more to labor supply and demand because when demand is outpacing supply, it means that we're paying more and we're needing to try and pull the few levers that we have to be able to secure that, that talent into our organizations. And when we don't, we're also seeing the impact of productivity loss when our distribution center, our ho you know, our hotel, our restaurant, um, you know, isn't, isn't staffed at its optimal level.
JP Elliot (22:51):
I think that really came out, especially in the pandemic. It's been good to see that. I feel like there's been a little bit of a renaissance of, of shift of mindset that frontline workers really matter. We need to treat them right and we need to have a good experience for them to deliver for the customer experience. Right. And I wonder though, you know, Josh, from your perspective, someone might say to you, I think high volume rules, they're probably not as important as knowledge workers. It's easier to get a frontline person to come work for you than it is to go get a software engineer. What do you say to people who have that perspective?
Joshua Secrest (23:24):
Yeah, I I think it's a, it's a really cool topic. I mean it's a, it's um,
JP Elliot (23:28):
It's a stereotype a little bit, let's be honest. It's a stereotype, right? It's possible to find stereotype software engineers, but I can find someone to work at my local McDonald's.
Joshua Secrest (23:36):
Yeah. And hey, there are potentially less software engineers, right? We're dealing with a, it keeps going back to this supply and demand issue where you have specific skillset that's required and when you're fighting for talent that there's a low supply and high demand, it's gonna be hard to recruit for the reality right now in, in high volume labor is there, back to this, there is high demand and there's not enough supply that's gonna be there. How you think about high volume is just as important as how you think about your corporate team. I think that was a big eye-opening moment for me within the McDonald's culture. You know, the care and attention that team was thinking about that staff I think was really important. And I think you could see it really through the impact in a specific restaurant. I mean, you talk a lot about on this, this podcast the importance of culture and the importance of being, you know, customer facing.
And one of the best ways for, for us to deliver amazing customer experiences is by being fully staffed and being able to provide attention and serve amazing food really well. And so that was, it was a great kind of equalizer I think was being able to sit in a position where I got to see and own corporate hiring and the importance and nuance of a university system being really strong to an executive program, being really strong to a corporate TA system, being strong just as much as it was, having incredible managers and mentors in restaurants and you know, excited, motivated crew in restaurants. And so that was, it was neat to be able to see the full ecosystem and how everybody, um, was super important. And I'm getting to see that now within this role at Paradox where we get to, to partner with some of these, these clients out there. We just released a Josh Buron case study with General Motors and really being able to see how they're kind of thinking about things differently and transforming the way that they're working has been really neat because it really syncs up well with how they're kind of shifting and transforming even their like business model.
JP Elliot (25:42):
Well the important point there, and we were being a little bit controversial for on purpose around software engineer versus fast food worker or frontline worker, the are different skill sets. It's hard to compare apples to oranges there, but the important piece that I think that people should take away from this that I'm taking away is we're making sure that in employee experience, that the hiring experience is consistent and you're treating all applicants the same in a lot of ways that they're getting a, a really a high value, high quality experience because a lot of these are consumer brands where are gonna go back and be a consumer either way. Yeah, it's really important to do that. And technology's kind of enabling that. You also talked about, you know, from a talent acquisition perspective, I think a lot of people sort of lump or stereotype and think about high volume frontline rules the same way that you've recommended really having a segmentation approach to thinking about frontline roles. Can you tell us more about the segmentation approach and how you think about it?
Joshua Secrest (26:37):
Yeah, so, so I think this is really neat because one of the big questions that I receive a lot is where should I automate? Like I'm hearing a lot of things on tech, it seems like tech is finally at the place where it's now consumer grade. So based on my industry, uh, based on my team, where should I automate The answer is a little bit nuanced, but I think, you know, instead of it saying, uh, saying like, Hey, every single industry is different, what we've started to be able to see is there are some automation, there're like some workflows in terms of recruitment that seem to be similar and shared across some different industries. And so maybe I'll go through some of those profiles and how we're seeing, we're seeing the automation work out here. One of the profiles, for example, would be this almost high volume support.
So think of a distribution center or a manufacturing facility, a warehouse where they almost can't get enough people like in the doors they're hiring constantly. There isn't a customer service component in training for these individuals can happen pretty quickly. You can get someone ramped up and potentially supporting your distribution center, you know, pick, pack and ship pretty quickly. And so we're starting to see the trend within this high volume support area going towards is almost an instant hiring or hiring within a day model. So they're automating the applications, screenings, they're bypassing in some instances an interview, potentially putting in a recorded interview or an assessment, then proceeding directly into a background check and getting someone like a contingent offer. So that's on one end, one of the fastest profiles. And so do you have any positions in your organization that is a high volume support position?
Because we do wanna provide everyone in our organizations a warm, personalized, thoughtful candidate experience. The workflow and what gets automated can be different though, right? Based on these different profiles. So now let's juxtapose, yeah, that type of profile to maybe something that's more customer facing, but like an entry level service position. So restaurant or retail or at a grocery store. Okay, so the trend that we're starting to see there is you really do wanna meet that person in person at some juncture, right before they get started with you. The overarching trend is either a video interview or some sort of in-person interview, but what we're starting to see is companies are automating any kind of to the, what you heard about McDonald's, automating just about everything up until that point of interview and then everything afterwards. So you're seeing almost 90 or 95% automation there, like everything before and almost after the interview.
All right? So it's kind of interesting to start to see these profiles emerge one of the hardest profiles. So if we have anybody who's listening from maybe the trucking industry or healthcare, which is one of the, yeah, one of the biggest challenges right now within, within recruitment would be saying neither of those quite apply to us. We have certificates, we have licenses that we need to make sure that these people have before we can move them through the process. And that's absolutely right. It's for those physicians, we're starting to see it's closer to like an 80% automation. How do you move them through the process without friction, move 'em really fast up until the point of interview and they're doing some sort of usually like certification, license error. So those three profiles I think are really interesting in terms of how you start to design your workflow. And then maybe the last one is a frontline manager. They're still in your restaurants, they're still in your retail stores, but you might only automate 70% of that process. Um, 70, 80% because you're probably gonna have them interview with a few different people. Some of them might be coming internally and this is where you see a lot of assessments come into play. And those four profiles are all very different than how you're gonna structure your corporate role.
JP Elliot (30:30):
Yeah, really insightful. And I was thinking about when you said like the 70%, so it's automated, the 30% is more human touch. Yeah. Whether it's a recruiter or the hiring manager, some kind of face-to-face interaction and that's, that's how you're defining that 30%.
Joshua Secrest (30:44):
That's right. Right.
JP Elliot (30:45):
Okay. Yeah, love your perspective on this, Josh, as you're talking about this, and back to my earlier comment around employment branding, the more things get automated, the more that people are applying to seven to 15 jobs on Indeed or LinkedIn. Right? Because it is so easy, the more that employment brand becomes so important, because we used to hope that the hiring manager, the recruiter, you know, whoever was the employment ambassador and was having those conversations, and now I'm probably likely never going to talk to a recruiter if I'm going for a frontline role.
Joshua Secrest (31:24):
JP Elliot (31:25):
Yeah. Right. And I may not have talked to 'em until really far down the process. So what advice do you have for organizations that are thinking about going down this path and how do they think about attracting the talent?
Joshua Secrest (31:37):
Yeah, I think that's a really great place to almost like bifurcate too is you have scenarios within your organization or within certain industries where there is no recruiter, right? It's the manager of a location is tasked with recruiting. And so for all of us, we would say, wow, there are so many places that manager needs to be at any given time and actually where when they're understaffed, they have to be even in more places, right? Because they're plugging even more holes. And so part of this is, hey, you wanna automate because you're gonna be able to return that manager a lot more time and you're gonna be able to deliver this really differentiated customer experience and make that make that smooth. So in that type of environment, how we think about that process is a little bit tweaked, right? We wanna make, we wanna mirror the Amazon buying pro processes as much as we can get someone to complete their application quickly and swiftly get them screened and scheduled.
And then my recommendation is that's where some of your employment brand then starts to come in prior to the interview. Can you give them tips and tricks on a successful interview? Maybe a couple, couple films or videos on what it's like to work there at a, at a day in the life. You also see still 30, uh, 30 to 40% of candidates coming through career sites in these front lines. And so how are you making your career site super dynamic? So what I mean by that is, most of us in our history of building career sites, you put a bunch of stuff on, you try to organize it in the best way. Uh, technology now is getting to a place where it's, it's TikTok, it's Instagramed. And so, you know, we just launched a product called Experience Assistant. It basically, it just won the HR product, product of the year award.
And what it does is essentially allows for you to have a conversation on a career site, and it's serving up answers and serving up content that's relevant for you. So there's no searching, it's actually delivering content relevant to the candidate. So now that's a very different experience, right, than what we need to provide with our corporate teams. A recruiter led environment, whether you're hiring an assistant or you're rec hiring an exec, kinda same principles on this, you know, how do you have a great branded experience, which is, you know, you still need certain parts to be super fast and super easy in 24 7. You know, scheduling an interview is always painful. How do you make that really seamless, automate some of the key components, but that, you know, within that corporate recruiter led environment, we're seeing automation be about 50 or 60%. And then the rest is you're dedicating these amazing recruiters who are amazing talent professionals, talent selectors, talent advisors, awesome advocates for your brand to, to take on more of that, that branding. So obviously some of it's being sent, some of it's on your career site, but you're really, my take is you're, you're having your recruiters actually now do some of the true recruiting and pitching and if you have the right recruiters, they're the most powerful advocates and voices for your employer brand.
JP Elliot (34:40):
We've gotten really far in this conversation without actually mentioning chat and G P T for, but how do you see ai, how is that involved? How do you see experts shifting recruiting from not only maybe you know, the organization employer side, but from the candidate experience? And are you guys trying to dabble in that and see, see how that can actually improve and optimize the experience?
Joshua Secrest (35:03):
Yeah, it's an awesome question. It's one of my favorite topics right now, and I think we've been one of the leaders in conversational AI for the last four or five years, six years. And so got an early start on it and it was amazing to be able to see chat G P T really when it launched at that 3.5 model. Really the differentiator between that and other versions was having this conversational delivery mechanism. You know, it's, I think it made everybody's eyes open to how easy that is to interact with. Oh, I just, I asked the question as I would normally ask a question, like there's no, there's no ping ponging or right or wrong answers. I'm able to have a discussion and ultimately get served up really accurate responses of like what I'm looking for. And it's been fascinating to hear some of the dialogue on like, how does that impact Google over time?
You know, is this, is this even like the new way search starts to happen for us? We've our CEO o and and kind of leadership, you know, we've, we've really been obsessed with this idea of the conversational interface being one of the easiest interfaces to interact with. And I think that's particularly true within a, a corporation or organization. We've certainly started within kind of the recruiting space and why there is, because there was so much, so much clunkiness, it was just a technology space that hadn't been innovated as much. We all pour a lot of money into it and there have to be greater like efficiencies. Um, we are also putting a lot of investment in, and it wasn't always the greatest candidate experience despite I think to a TA leader us all expressing how important we wanted the candidate experience to be. It's just we, you know, at scale it was really hard to be able to, to deliver that.
So on the power of, of conversational AI and, and, and all that, uh, you, some of the things that were, were impactful and why it like stuck for me as I was presented it, you know, four or five years ago was like some of the parts that it removed versus what it also like brought. So one of the things that I loved was one, how intuitive it was. Uh, everybody knows how to use their phone, everybody knows how to chat. And so if I didn't have to teach all restaurant managers or all store managers or all hotel managers, a new piece of tech, that was a huge win, particularly if you have maybe a higher turnover environment. So intuitive technology finally is here finally in hr and it really means that it's powerful on the backend, it's super smart on the backend, but it's actually just super easy, easy to use.
And so that's kind of like a, a really nice nice place where it's come to, it takes out the need to use forms to learn or download an app or a new system and then it removes waiting, which was really a time killer for us. Maybe just a quick tangent, I, but you know, from aggregated data at Paradox, we're seeing 35% of applicants come through like after hours. So less of a big deal on the corporate side where you have a recruiter comes in and follows up with maybe that candidate on the frontline side back to the, you're competing against 14 other folks being able to respond right away.
JP Elliot (38:21):
Well, 35 cent, that's a big number though. If you were talking about 3.5 of our customers out of 10 want service at nighttime, but we're not servicing them. I think a business would figure out how to service them at nighttime and make sure they can capture those customers. And that's what the technology allows. You know, when you're, as you're talking Josh, what I, when I think about G P T four and that, what it can do, especially with that conversational recruitment and kind of what paradox and Olivia does is I feel like the questions will get better. I'd ask more questions, I would dive deeper into the culture, kind of with the new product you guys have brought out because it can feel a little clunky when you get like the really simple responses, but the responses are more robust and maybe even can ask me questions, right? In a way that feels like real dialogue. I think you'll get even more engagement and maybe a differentiator will be how good the bot is in some ways to keep that candidate and keep him sticky. Like that may be your new brand ambassador is actually how you actually roll out chat G P T four, and that's the future of frontline recruiting.
Joshua Secrest (39:25):
We've already seen some of that impact on like the conversational components right now. You can remind a candidate, kind of nudge them and reduce ghosting for an interview. One of the interesting ones is allowing candidates, especially in this space where like life happens to reschedule in a way that doesn't involve like any sort of shame. So this is just, hey, I need to reschedule within a conversation is really reducing drop off rates. So you know that this power within HR of how easy something that's conversational, let alone when we start to see maybe generative AI start to even fuel that from like the backend. I mean really, really powerful. Maybe one of the data points for, you know, anybody that's owned a TA had a TA team report in or is in TA right now. One of the, uh, one of our favorite metrics to always to report on right, is candidate conversion. So maybe who's who started your application to who actually gets all the way through the process. You know, the, the running data of like what's good is usually somewhere between three and 7% like industry wide. So someone has started your application and then high
JP Elliot (40:36):
Volume, high volume rules,
Joshua Secrest (40:38):
Right? Um, in high, yeah, high volume roles. So, you know, 3% I would've been like super pleased in in previous lives of, uh, you know, eight to 10% just because there's so many different barriers. What we've started to see within conversational is from app finish, apply through screen, through scheduling, through offer, and onboarding 73% total conversion. So you're now starting to get to a place, I love that you brought up chat G B T 3.5 to chat G P T four, which got incrementally better what within a period of a few months we're starting to see. And that's why I got so excited about a few years ago, and it's fun to be able to see these numbers now, is you're kind of getting light years ahead. I mean, it's truly this like next gen shift. Um, maybe like on that, right? Like I think we all have our tech stories of, you know, going out on a big R F P procuring something that we felt like was a, was better than the thing that we had currently spending a lot of time rolling it out and ends up being, you know, 5% better, incrementally a little bit better.
What's pretty exciting about generative ai, conversational ai, some of the wonderful HR vendors within the space right now is it's like we are uniquely at a time where things like leapfrogged to 10 x a hundred x better and the early movers on this are having an advantage, right? Because they're converting so much more and they're spending less and they're spending less time. So, um, you know, as, as we kind of tie it back to almost the beginning, like, oh, what an interesting moment in time to be able to play with new technologies, feel comfortable with technologies, kind of be out there shopping because there's a real problem to solve, particularly on the frontline right now. And it just so happens to kind of intersect with this like wild advancement over the last three, four years on the tech side.
JP Elliot (42:42):
Josh, last question for you. What is one word or phrase that you believe will define the future of HR over the next five to 10 years?
Joshua Secrest (42:50):
Smart. So you, I think smart is gonna really define the technology that we're bringing in. I think that's both on the back end of how technology is built and serves up really usable, amazing information to our people in a seamless, fast, easy way. I think a part of that's this like conversational layer so it doesn't feel like it's a lot of different tools and resources that you have to log into and do. It just makes life easier for you and your people and then smart because I think the people who are working within HR and our industry are gonna get to use their brains a whole lot more. And, you know, some of the repetitive or administrative tasks, frankly the things that we probably don't love doing, but we understand the importance of them get taken off our plate and that means the ones who end up really succeeding are the ones who are thinking about being curious, testing, asking the right questions, thinking about new innovations, thinking about new ways to differentiate their cultures, to really stand out in the market and build teams that win.
So I think it's a really exciting time, especially if you're one of the listeners that are starting your career because I think you're getting to work with a lot of super smart ta, HR professionals who've gotten to get really savvy in data, in technology, in, in testing different theories versus, you know, a static structure way of, of working. And pretty neat what you're gonna then be able to do in your career because I think you're gonna be enabled by that much more tech, that much more data and can really take it kind of to the next, next phase and next level.
JP Elliot (44:35):
Josh, the future of HR is smart. I think what you've done is you've challenged us. Anyone listening today I think is thinking about how can I transform, optimize, and really improve my front line or high volume hiring experience with technology. Thank you so much for being on the podcast, great conversation.
Joshua Secrest (44:55):
Thank you so much fun.
JP Elliot (44:59):
Thanks so much for listening to this episode of Future of HR podcast. Thanks again to Josh for his tremendous insights and perspectives on how to create a high tech and high-touch recruiting process for high volume rules. As always, you can go to future of hr.com to view all of our past episodes and learn more about our mission to inspire the next generation of HR leaders. And if you enjoy this episode of Future of hr, be sure to subscribe and share the podcast with at least one other person. This really helps us grow the podcast and helps our mission to inspire the next generation of HR leaders. We will be back next week with Miriam Ort, executive Vice President and C H R O at C N S Wholesale Grocers, which is an industry leader and supply chain solutions and wholesale grocery supply in the United States. Prior to joining cns, Miriam held leadership roles at Avis and spent nearly a decade at PepsiCo Miriam's, also the co-author of One Page Talent Management, which is considered the Bible of talent management. In our conversation, Miriam and I discuss how leaders can have the most impact on business, her perspective on building a strong HR team and how she assesses talent. Miriam's a true powerhouse and you won't wanna miss this conversation. Thanks again for listening to the future of HR and being part of our community.