S4 E84 | eXpert Tease: Linda Brenner reveals why she believes not all roles are critical and not all people are vital for your success


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Chris Hoyt, CXR 0:18
Hi, I’m Chris Hoyt, President of CareerXroads, and your fitness instructor for the next 10 minutes as we chat with one of my favorite personalities in the talent industry, Linda Brenner, the co-founder and managing partner of Talent Growth Advisors. Now, this is a rapid fire segment aimed at giving you just a nugget or two of someone else’s experience. And the lessons that they’ve sort of learned along the way now we pick the focus of these topics in advance, and through our 2021 priority survey that anyone can participate in. Already hundreds of Tella leaders have chimed in on the topics of diversity, ethics, change, management, internal mobility, and more. So if you haven’t already, drop your thoughts in as well by finding the 2021 priority survey within the research and report section of CXR.works but do quickly. We’re actually going to close that out this month and publish the results. So if you’re here with us live in the studio audience, you can drop a question for today’s guests in the chat section. And if we’ve got time, we’ll try to answer it for you. If you run out of time, you can always add it to our open and public exchange found@cxr.works/talenttalks now, feel like I’ve already burned through the first five minutes of our chat. Let’s get right to it. Linda, how are you?

Linda Brenner, Talent Growth Advisors 1:25
I’m great. Thanks for having me. I’m super excited for our rapid fire session.

Chris Hoyt, CXR 1:30
You ready to fire away?

Linda Brenner, Talent Growth Advisors 1:32
I am. Yes.

Chris Hoyt, CXR 1:33
Look for those who are not lucky enough yet to know you, Linda, let’s get a little background like who is Linda Brenner? What do you do?

Linda Brenner, Talent Growth Advisors 1:41
So I lead Talent Growth Advisors. We’re a management consulting firm that blends finance and talent expertise to help our clients improve the speed and quality of hiring. So I’ve been doing this business for 17 years before that I worked for Gap and Pepsi and Home Depot in different operations, talent acquisition, talent management roles.

Chris Hoyt, CXR 2:04
You’ve been doing this a while

Linda Brenner, Talent Growth Advisors 2:06
I have been doing this a while I am what you’d call grizzled, cynical, bitter, maybe angry.

Chris Hoyt, CXR 2:12
Maybe a little, a little, just a little peppering of anger,

Linda Brenner, Talent Growth Advisors 2:14
Maybe a little of both.

Chris Hoyt, CXR 2:18
So what that tells me is, you’ve learned a few things along the way. Yes. So we chatted a little while about how you don’t need every single role. Right to to necessarily be vital. Like, is there? Is there? Is there something in there? Like what would you say that not all roles are critical? What exactly do you mean?

Linda Brenner, Talent Growth Advisors 2:37
Well, I would say that the old paradigm of running HR, where we throw everything we’ve got at all the senior roles, we send the jobs to search and spend, spend $200,000, we give them mentors and MBAs and all that. And then we spread our resources more thinly as we get to middle management, and then the bottom, we just whatever’s left, we just spread it like peanut butter and call it a day that I would argue never worked. Although I certainly thought I was doing a good job back in the day using that kind of framework. But what we help our clients do is connect the roles that are essential to building business value, which in almost every industry is intellectual capital. So if you’re Merck, its research and development. If your Home Depot, it might be merchants, if you’re Raytheon, it’s your missile engineers. If you can’t get hiring and retaining those jobs, right, and kill it, it becomes moot how well you’re doing for all the other jobs.

Chris Hoyt, CXR 3:38
So this is a little bit more complex than just getting back to the basics of trading.

Linda Brenner, Talent Growth Advisors 3:43
Correct, yeah, I would say so.

Chris Hoyt, CXR 3:46
Okay, so get give us an example. Like, give us you know, one big takeaway from from a shift in an organization sort of headspace around that, like, how do you get a company to realize that you can’t push all the peanut butter to the top?

Linda Brenner, Talent Growth Advisors 4:00
Yeah. Well, it’s it requires looking at the business and connecting the talent strategies, the business plan, what are the talent implications of our growth plan? And what jobs are most essential to us growing the business? And in turn, what is the scarcity of that talent? If you’re Amazon Web Services, and you got to hire 16,000 developers, there’s not 16,000 developers to hire. So how you’re going to go out, you’ve got to find them. You’ve got to poach them, you’ve got to build relationships with them. You have to build pipelines over years to get that kind of talent in a consistent way. That’s different than if you’re Delta hiring flight attendants, or your Chick-fil-a looking for operators to apply for franchise positions. There’s a lot of talent that wants to do that. And there’s a lot of talent that’s qualified to do that, arguably, not so much a software developer or a missile engineer at Raytheon.

Chris Hoyt, CXR 4:57
So is there is there some sort of methodology or framework to determine which one of my jobs are flight attendants and which ones are missile tech’s?

Linda Brenner, Talent Growth Advisors 5:07
We look at business the relationship between the role and its ability to grow business value for the company so every job is important or wouldn’t exist it wouldn’t be budgeted so and every person is beautiful and precious you know what I mean.

Chris Hoyt, CXR 5:24
You are fine, and you are wonderful and you

Linda Brenner, Talent Growth Advisors 5:29
And but there are certain roles that drive business value and there’s certain roles that support the driving a business value if you’re Apple and you’re in innovation you are responsible for growing business value in the work that you do you have that opportunity by definition of your job if you’re a payroll coordinator you’re important that’s a role it’s budgeted but you’re supporting the work so we don’t have limited unlimited resources so we’ve got to deploy our talent talent acquisition talent management hr resources judiciously and strategically and it’s got to be connected to the business or it’s all gonna go away it’s all gonna get outsourced

Chris Hoyt, CXR 6:11
Have you not to throw any clients under the bus but have you seen any examples where the pendulum just swung too far back in the other direction when trying to adjust for that?

Linda Brenner, Talent Growth Advisors 6:23
I think that I that does not come to mind but we get our best work when companies have done that pendulum I mean this is bad to say because it’s terrible for them but it’s like we decentralize now we centralize yeah now we’re doubling down on ai oops that didn’t work we got a new atm we hired a new guy now it’s worse it’s because there is no strategy there are no defined processes and there are no measures of success so I would say that thing we find over and over again and it’s really becoming unsustainable for a lot of companies is the manager is the customer of the recruiting team or hr and those managers first of all range from super onpoint dialed in to what is required to win top talent in the marketplace to can I say deranged unhinged you know here responsible totally so we have to change the paradigm recruiters and managers should work together to win the customer which is the top talent in the marketplace it cannot be I have to just do whatever based on your whims your preferences your habits your history because then I’ve got 400 hiring managers and 400 different processes that’s untenable and it’s now you want diversity you want scarce talent you’re competing against a giant competition for talent you will never win if we’re trying to appease every hiring manager I’m like I said am I done I’m all sweaty I’m like golly.

Chris Hoyt, CXR 8:00
So we’ve seen we’ve seen this sort of shift being pushed for years this realization that when you when you lay it out like that sounds like a no brainer but we’ve seen organizations trying to make that move and working and doing it incorrectly and sort of breaking it as they go or like you said this cycle right this cycle of back and forth and back and forth has the pandemic changed any of that effort or is it is it just more of the same or has there suddenly been a we’re gonna take all our old tv budget that we don’t have any more now we’re gonna throw some money at shifting how we look at the you know the talent within the organization any shifts there any that you’ve seen?

Linda Brenner, Talent Growth Advisors 8:40
I mean I think what’s harder what’s happening right this minute for all of us is that hiring leaders in some cases at senior leaders want to double down and say we’re going back to the office we’re gonna pretend this never happened I need eyeballs on people and if you’re what we call box one you are a business critical role so you’re a research scientist at Merck and you have skills that are in scarce supply in the marketplace and you’re demanding things like pay or bonus or work from home flexibility whatever you’re in the driver’s seat so senior leaders can say whatever they want about you know they want to go back but it’s that ship has sailed and it’s going to be very tough you’re going to lose talent if you insist on hiring within the Chicago area versus really thinking flexibly about what kind of talent of course it is you know if you’re research science you got to be in a lab but if you’re a merchant if your other jobs certainly developers cybersecurity data analyticsI mean those people can be in Chattanooga or Austin.

Chris Hoyt, CXR 9:53
It’s a it’s a tough thing we’re seeing even today where the leaders are having a really hard time wrapping their head around how Silicon Valley doesn’t there’s necessarily all the best talent right so so are you seeing anybody really embrace that successfully is that because of the pandemic is that what’s going on with like well shit they could work anywhere.

Linda Brenner, Talent Growth Advisors 10:14
Well we know what like salesforce companies have already come out and said we’re not open it we’re always going to work from home and of course it’s always going to be the cutting edge industries the technology firms because the competition for talent is so fierce they have no choice but what’s going to happen and cpg and retail and hospitality and manufacturing it’s it just takes a long time to really change those kinds of hr policies and practices

Chris Hoyt, CXR 10:42
I agree I have a feeling we’ll be around for that.

Linda Brenner, Talent Growth Advisors 10:45
Yes I think we will.

Chris Hoyt, CXR 10:47
All the back and forth. Allright Linda thank you so much you are a delight it is always fun to catch up.

Linda Brenner, Talent Growth Advisors 10:51
Oh my gosh thanks.

Chris Hoyt, CXR 10:54
Next week I hope you’ll join me as I sit down with Founder and CEO of Smart Recruiters Jerome Ternynck now if you haven’t been paying attention to what the smart recruiters team has been up to over the last year this is your chance to catch up now Jerome is going to talk about how leaning into purpose became a rallying cry for him and the entire team last year and the difference it has made both inside and outside of the company so please join us invite your mom maybe your brother-in-law I promise there will be something for everyone squished into those 10 minutes and until then I’ll be looking for you online at CXR.works/talenttalks. Thanks.

Announcer 11:27
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