TalentRISE recently spoke with CHRO Roberta McQuade, formerly of Signode Industrial Group and ITW.

Many of our readers may know Roberta as she is one of the most well-connected senior Human Resources executives in the Chicagoland area. Her experience encompasses public, privately-held, private equity and foreign-owned businesses in manufacturing, food/consumer, aerospace, and oil/chemical industries. In the interview that follows, Roberta shares her perspectives on the challenges organizations – regardless of industry – face today in hiring qualified talent.

TalentRISE: What is the single most pressing talent acquisition issue facing companies today?

McQuade: Finding skilled,highly capable, strongly motivated talent is still a challenge across all functional areas. The baby boomers have stayed in their jobs a long time and hung in there during the recession thereby effectively blocking 30 year olds from moving forward. So, a significant skills gap exists within the pool of younger candidates who are potential replacements. This gap presents a struggle in every organization.

There are a couple of ways to deal with the gap.  First, we can ask executives to take gradual retirements. Conceptually, in this solution, executives reduce their work week from five days to, for example, three days a week. They may no longer remain in the same city as their previous job.  A replacement candidate is identified.  If done effectively, the wisdom is maintained while the experience level grows. This only really works when the executive is committed to the process.

A second way to deal with this gap is to convince the executive to bring in a younger and/or less experienced person and essentially treat that individual as a student. It takes some convincing and works when the executive is motivated to leave a strong legacy.   HR often is part of the process to help executives work to move on gracefully.  Retirement is not easy for the vast majority of people.  All of this takes time and trust. I’m not a big fan of formal mentorship programs because you really can’t mechanize trust.

TalentRISE: Like many of our readers, you have led HR in organizations that recruit for a range of very diverse positions, from accounting to manufacturing to engineers. What are the challenges involved in recruiting for such a range of skills?

McQuade: I find that recruiters who truly understand the requirements of a certain type of job are able to screen for those skills well. Recruiters can be an asset to an organization if they screen well and use their filters effectively.  In this way, when the candidates do get to the second round, candidates can be  screened for attitude, demeanor, ability to fit in the organization and so on.

It is difficult to find people who love to win today, as opposed to people who just want “to be”. The distinction is one that I think is very important.  Organizations today are so focused on cost, especially in the light of the Affordable Care Act taxes and other pressures, that every employee in any sort of leadership role must be an impact player. You can’t hire people who don’t have passion – passion for life, passion for what they do for a living, etc.  Employers need people who can win and will work hard to do so.

TalentRISE: When and how did you decide to hire TalentRISE? How has it worked out for you?

McQuade: I met Jim [O’Malley] through networking at one point in time. I liked how quickly he picked up, understood what I needed, and his previous experience as an HR professional with significant time hiring and recruiting people. For me, he focused on the search of senior level HR and operational job fills in places where we have had a difficult time finding candidates. The searches Jim completed were tough to fill because of the skill sets we required and also the locations. In fact, in some of the searches, other recruiters had failed, but Jim and his team produced results. This led me to recommend him to several operating leaders.

Working with TalentRISE has been a very positive experience; it’s really been great. The methodology used in finding quality candidates is very effective, and we’ve seen good results. I would strongly endorse Jim and his model. I am very picky about who I work with, but Jim and his team produced quality candidates in a timely fashion.

TalentRISE: In your experience, what does HR need to do differently now, post-recession?

McQuade: As far as talent acquisition, there is no doubt that quality talent is more difficult to hire. HR must really understand what type person they are trying to recruit and the requirements of that role for the next few years.  We are hiring people to accomplish not just to “fill”.  HR people have a better than average knowledge of culture but, often not a strong enough understanding of business needs. Good HR people grasp both. I’ve always made it a point to ask my teams to present about the businesses that they support.  My focus has been to help them understand what the operating people watch – operating income, markets, key customers, trends, etc. They will hire better solutions with that knowledge.  They will also become the “business partners” that so many in HR aspire to achieve.

J. James O’Malley

About the Author

Jim has spent 25 years on both ends of the table, developing HR and talent solutions to align leadership, talent, and business needs.

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