Talent to Total HR

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People Spotlight:  Mariah Lang, Head of People & Talent, Ro

Understanding what makes your people happy is quite possibly the “golden key” to keeping your people happy.  So the question to ask is how do you gain the trust of your team so they feel comfortable to share the good and the bad of their job?

Often times employees don’t want to be vulnerable with human resources as they view “HR” as working for the company and not being on their side.  However, building a relationship with your talent from early on when they are a candidate for a role with the company will ensure they have confidence in your ability to support them.  Who better to get insights on this strategy than a woman who built her career tackling talent to a total HR role.

Meet Mariah Lang, Head of People & Talent at Ro (Roman and Zero). Ro is a team of doctors, pharmacists and engineers working together to reinvent the way the healthcare system works.

Mariah went to school for accounting and law and wound up in a management internship working for a big corporation where she learned the ins and outs of working with a large team and giving guidance to employees.

She really enjoyed the side of the business that had an emphasis on people and their careers, unlocking potential, moving managers to different roles  where they could do things you didn’t think they could do.  From there she connected with a friend who suggested she use her relationship skills to go the executive recruiting route.  In her first role she was flying around the country meeting people for coffee, learning what makes them tick and what were their goals.

Early on Mariah felt there was a missing piece in her role – it was all “nice to meet you and good luck” and never talking with candidates again.  She felt she needed to turn he role into a co-working relationship which led her to moving in-house with one of her clients, Quartet Health.  It was in that role she felt that once a candidate became an employee they would come to her with employment issues and for true career advice.  In fact at times employees would come to her when they had an offer to leave the company and she would provide advice with no judgment as to whether or not it was a sound career move.  Being a sounding board and that continued relationship is what drew her to the “total HR” role.

When she decided to join the team at Ro she spoke with them about what they were building to better understand the problems that needed to be tackled so that she could define how they would treat their people from the company’s inception.

Too many times companies look back and “three years from now” and think how are we going to change the way we treat our people.  I knew we needed to build the foundation and set the people strategy early on to make it a place that people love to work for years to come.

So, how do you brand your organization and recruit and retain talent in today’s competitive market?

Be human first.  That’s the biggest part.  Recruiting tends to lack empathy and its one of the roles where empathy is everything.  We are asking people to make a life change – change their relationships on a daily basis.  Having empathy for that type of change – and listening and hearing concerns.  These are people you want to work alongside so you need to set it up so they feel comfortable with – a relationship.  Being a high touch recruiter – meeting every candidate for at least 15 minutes every time they come in the office, lets them know you care. One of my favorite things to ask candidates, as you know the recruiting process is driven internally, so I flip it and ask the candidate “if you could define the process from here – who else would you meet?”  I’ve hired executives who say they want to speak with the admin team.   It gives candidates the feeling that you’re invested in them, not just that they need to fit into your process.

You also need to invest in getting your brand out there.  People look at Ro – Roman – see subway ads.  See such a cool product but it doesn’t say “we’re hiring” – there needs to be a distinction between the two.  Not just branding for consumers and what you’re selling but branding on “come get on board with what we’re doing”. 

Mariah shared that branding for recruitment needs to include – mix of things…. who you are, what you’re doing, and that you practice what you preach.  You should show your current team; this is who we are – one thing that works the best – for recruitment events – don’t take two recruiters – take one recruiter and someone from the product or engineering team – this shows what are the most exciting things about the company for employees, not just based on what recruiters are saying – plus its also great for retention.

As an experienced recruiter Mariah shared some strategies and tips for first time managers to create successful hires.  Number one on the list was to have them shadow more experienced  employees through a few interviews.  She shared that when she first joined the Executive Recruiting company she wasn’t allowed to go flying around the country to meet execs for coffee until she had gone for at least 10 meetings with her boss.  Second on her list was to give some direction.  Share some insights on successful interview tips and what the experience will be like.  Not everyone will take the advice but if you put it out there they will have the knowledge.  Finally, she shared that the talent team should be a resource for the candidates and the managers throughout the process.  The worst thing that can be done is to throw the new manager in the pool and expect them to swim without giving them a lesson.

Now that Mariah has taken the leap to a total HR role her responsibilities extend beyond the recruitment process.  The investment that companies make in recruiting talent is significant so equally as important is retaining that talent.  Hiring is the first step in the process, quickly followed by onboarding and them short and long-term development at growth.

The time between hiring and employee and onboarding can go really great or really bad.  Once a candidate becomes a new hire it is important to set expectations about what the onboarding process will look like.  Mariah loves to send gifts with a hand-written note to personalize that process.  And of course, she always makes herself available.  There’s a fine line to walk during onboarding; too little information and an employees first encounter with the company will be “feeling lost”, however, too much information and employees first encounter will be overwhelmed.  Providing some general guidelines and company expectations along with introductions to the different departments, highlighting key contacts, will ensure new hires know who to go to for what.  Its also critical for retention as it shows new hires that the entire company is excited for them to be a part of the team and let’s them see how they can fit in.

Mariah shared when she made the leap to total HR she wasn’t expecting the willingness of other professionals to share their resources and support because recruiters keep thing too close to the chest and just don’t share.  Her experience with HR has been just the opposite.  People are supportive and vulnerable and its been inspiring to help her succeed.

I asked Mariah if she had any last words and she shared the following:
I constantly remind people I believe we are all basically good. I believe every person is doing what THEY think is right.  It may not be right to you but it may be right from their perspective.  They may also just be trying to figure things out.  “You don’t understand an antagonist until you understand why they’re a protagonist in their own story”.

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