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The RM Podcast: Shifting Market and Employee Needs and Tools, Oh My!

Symphony Talent
January 25 ․ 39 min read

In the second episode of The RM Podcast season 2, Debbie Tuel chats with Julia Levy, Head of Global Talent Acquisition, CommScope. 

The pandemic has changed nearly everything we do in our lives – from how we interact socially to where we work and how we get our jobs done. In this podcast episode, Debbie and Julia discuss the importance of understanding market shifts and keeping pace with candidate, employee and technology needs as those shifts arise. 

Changes in the marketplace impact your employer value proposition, employee engagement and surveys, recruitment marketing activities and tactics, internal mobility processes, learning systems, and your TA/RM tech stacks. 

Tune in to discover Julia’s tips on building a business case for the right tech and processes when you have a low budget, disparate tools, unpredictable talent landscape, and need to bring it all back to stakeholders for buy-in.

Are you ready?

Shifting Market and Employee Needs and Tools, Oh My!  

Debbie Tuel:
Hi, everyone. Welcome to The RM Podcast. I'm your host, Debbie Tuel, and I hope that you are ready for an all-new lineup of experts who are itching to step out of the parameters of traditional recruitment and talent acquisition speak and get real on what it means to recruit on a worker economy in, quite frankly, an upside-down world. Let's dig in together.

Debbie Tuel:
I get to chat with Julia Levy, head of global talent acquisition at CommScope, about the shifting market, employee needs, and all the tools, oh my. There is no doubt that over the past two years, the pandemic has changed nearly everything that we do in our lives, from how we interact socially to where we work and how we get our jobs done. In fact, when Julia and I first met about five years ago, ish, we don't need to keep track of dates. It was at a conference in Austin. She was at Fiserv at the time, a customer of ours at SmashFly. Back then, you could meet at the bar over drinks and really network on what's working, what's not, what should we be shifting, what should we be thinking about what new tools are we seeing, and now we do that all over Zoom. In fact, Julia's joining us from her cabin, her home away from home. That's the way that we work now.

Debbie Tuel:
In today's episode, we get to talk about the importance of understanding those market shifts and keeping pace with candidate, employee, and technology needs as those shifts arise. I am so glad that Julia joined us to share with us her learnings and all the tips on building a business case for the right tech and process when you have low budget, disparate tools, a crazy changing talent landscape, and need to bring it all back to this stakeholders for buy-in.

Debbie Tuel:
Julia, welcome.

Julia Levy:
Thank you. Hi, everyone.

Debbie Tuel:
CommScope, many of our listeners may not be familiar with who CommScope is and what you guys provide to the market. I love well-known, or I should say large, brands that are not well known. Share with us, what is CommScope?

Julia Levy:
I have a habit for working at companies where everyone uses the product, but no one really knows who the company is. CommScope is a technology company that focuses on communications technology. Our roots are in manufacturing, producing wired connections, cable connections, and things of that sort. Then over the years, through acquisition and organic growth, we've really moved into more of a tech company. We have everything from manufacturing cables to providing wireless connectivity to cities, to event arenas, and beyond. Some pretty cool stuff that we do, if you use a cell phone and you're connected to the internet or you're traveling and connecting to wifi, chances are you're using our products and services.

Debbie Tuel:
Well, and that has to be a really fun and evolving place to work, especially for the last two years, where connectivity has become so key in areas where connectivity maybe wasn't before.

Julia Levy:
Mm-hmm (affirmative). That's something that we really try and focus on, is working with rural and smaller communities, helping them with connectivity, school systems, healthcare systems throughout COVID, who had struggled to have connectivity for their doctors or teachers or students. We provide the connectivity to keep people online.

Debbie Tuel:
That also means that you're probably recruiting for a variety of different roles in many of those roles that couldn't go remote in the middle of the pandemic.

Julia Levy:
Yes, that's so true. About half of our employee base are in manufacturing facilities and had to be there to produce the products to help people stay connected. We've got the manufacturing community that was working throughout and then the struggle of when there were increases in COVID in one country, being able to, from a supply chain perspective, ramp up a little more production in another country. It's been a lot of stress and strain on people in the organization to make sure that we're able to produce what we can.

Debbie Tuel:
Absolutely. Well, I, for one, who have watched my children go from working in school to working remote, my husband and I, from working in the office to working remotely, can definitely appreciate the work that you guys do in keeping us connected.

Debbie Tuel:
You mentioned at the onset that you like working for those brands that maybe aren't well known. When I first met you, you were over at Fiserv, also a brand where we all use the technology, but may not be familiar with it. How did you make that move from Fiserv over to CommScope?

Julia Levy:
Yeah, it was really funny, when I'd say Fiserv and people thought I sold the little blue pills, but no, I would say like financial, Fiserv, services from the FinTech. I was really happy at Fiserv. We had a big acquisition with First Data at the time, so there was a lot going on, but just had an opportunity, a recruiter called me from a retained search and had the opportunity to move over to CommScope to lead the full function, where at Fiserv, I was really managing all the TA operations. It was a great opportunity to be at a global company, and, go figure, CommScope was going through an acquisition with ARRIS and Ruckus, two of our of products. I went from one acquisition to another, really managing and leading the harmonization of the talent and acquisition processes between the companies.

Debbie Tuel:
Julie, I think that's something that you've done really well in your career, is go into organizations that are going through transformations, that are going through acquisitions, that are going through large projects, and help create some visibility into what's that path forward. I know that's what you've been working on a lot in the last couple of years, so share with our audience here, what has that transformation journey been like for you you guys, as you evaluate what you currently have and how to optimize it?

Julia Levy:
When I first got to CommScope, as I said, we had just acquired this other company. We had two different systems and there had already been the decision that we were going to stick with the CommScope legacy ATS, which was, and is, SuccessFactors. ARRIS was on Taleo, and so the engine was already running on getting everyone off of Taleo and into SuccessFactors, but there's a bunch of harmonizations beyond that, that we've been looking at, besides just the processes, the branding of the two companies and what does the new, I don't want to say new CommScope, but what does CommScope look like, the CommScope of the future look like?

Julia Levy:
We've done some surveys, we launched a new employer value proposition. A lot of 2020 was really trying to understand, through the harmonization processes, what this current state is and get recruiters on it, and then dealing with COVID, right?

Debbie Tuel:
Yes.

Julia Levy:
Again in 2020, we did some surveys around our employer value proposition, so talking to candidates and employees around what's important to them. Obviously, that's changed a lot through COVID. I think if I looked and talked to candidates a couple years ago, their wants and needs and desires are very different than what they are today. It was also a very different marketplace, the employers had more choice or were in the drivers' a little more, whereas now it's very much a candidate-centric marketplace.

Julia Levy:
Being able to listen to candidates, listen to your employees, we rolled out an EVP, we're now in the process of updating our candidate, hiring manager, and applicant surveys, and we are doing some TA process optimization. We're really trying to look at each of the journeys between a candidate and applicant, a recruiter, and a hiring manager, to understand in our process where's the unnecessary junk that we have, how have we cluttered it, are there any breakdowns in the process. We're using a lot of data from the system, we're revamping our recruiter scorecards.

Julia Levy:
As we've been doing this process optimization work and we're looking at data, we're understanding and listening to people. We're trying to pull that all together to really understand what's happening and then how do we make changes. There are going to be some low-hanging fruits and then there are going to be some things that are more dramatic that we're going to have to really dig in on and partner with HRIS or external vendors or whatever it may be. I think there's some immediate, low-hanging fruit that we can address and then some longer-term projects that we'll have to put in place.

Julia Levy:
Listen, we're doing this right now, we're going to get to a place where we've implemented things, and then we're going to wait and see how they're going and measure them, and then we'll probably do this same kind of thing over and over. It's that continuous process improvement that I always like to focus on.

Debbie Tuel:
Yes. Yeah, continuous process improvement, iteration, making sure that you don't just put something out there and leave it out there. You touched on like 10 different things that I want to dig into here, because there's just so much goodness in what you just said.

Debbie Tuel:
One of the first things you said is that when you started this project at the beginning of 2020, what people said then is different than what they're saying now, what was important to them is different than what's important to them now. We're seeing this across the market, across industries, and we're watching organizations struggle with understanding how to shift to that. I would love to hear, what are some of those big aha moments that you're seeing and hearing as you're listening from your employees that are shifting what their priorities are, and how do you shift to that?

Julia Levy:
Flexible work is one of them. When we started looking at this, we had in our systems pretty much you were either in office or you were remote, there was no designation in the system for flexible. People had been doing it, I have a flexible schedule. Our headquarters is in Hickory, North Carolina and I'm based in Atlanta. I was interviewing and started in October of 2019, so right before the pandemic, or as it was starting. When I started, I didn't travel anywhere. I did all of my interviews online, on video, and I accepted the offer having never met my manager in person, never shaking his hand. Although, do we do that? Would I fist bump?

Debbie Tuel:
What do you do now? Elbows? I don't know. Are we back to hugs now that we're vaccinated?

Julia Levy:
Yeah, I miss hugs. I miss hugs a lot. But I already thrive in a virtual environment. But ARRIS was headquartered outside of Atlanta in one of the suburbs, and so I was remote, where maybe once every other week, I have an office in that location, but primarily, having a global team, I need the flexibility. I've got calls at 7:00 AM, I've got calls at 9:00 PM, and making sure that I have that flexibility, that I can take a two-hour lunch if my day's like that, or like this morning, I did a workout early morning instead of getting on a call because I didn't have any calls and then I started my day a little later. Having that flexibility for me is critical, I know it is for other people.

Julia Levy:
Now, we talked about this a couple minutes ago. We're a manufacturing company at our core. We have thousands of people that have to go into the office, that's just going to be, that's the nature of that work, but for a lot of our office workers, being able to provide that flexibility. It is still very valuable and important to be able to go into an office and meet with colleagues or customers and people, and I miss that, I do miss that a lot. I'm definitely a very high E, strong E extrovert, but we have to provide that balance, because especially with COVID people want that safety and security. When the virus is so contagious and levels are up to here right now with this current iteration of it, the ability for as many people as possible working remotely and providing safe, not safe alternatives-

Debbie Tuel:
But yeah, giving them a feeling of safety, a feeling of comfort, that they are not put in the way of something that's going to impact their ability to send their kids to school or their ability to ... Just everything's interconnected now, right?

Julia Levy:
Yeah.

Debbie Tuel:
It's not just like work at home, it's like I am now impacting everybody that's in my sphere.

Julia Levy:
Yeah. We formalized our program a little more, so there is this remote category now and people who are in it sign an agreement with their manager. Now, for some groups, maybe someone will go into the office, when we return to office in certain locations, two or three days a week, maybe somebody is one day a week, maybe someone is four days a week. That's something that we're encouraging people to discuss and agree upon with their managers based on the nature of their work and where their teams and customers are. We're trying to really encourage a lot of that flexibility.

Julia Levy:
Listen, because we have manufacturing roots, there are some hiring managers that we have to bring along on this journey of what the marketplace is now, what people want.

Debbie Tuel:
Yeah, absolutely. That some people may not want to come meet you for the interview and you we've got to come along in that process and that journey. What do you do with those that aren't willing to come along with that process and journey? That's a whole nother discussion, yeah.

Julia Levy:
I was like, "I don't think I'm going to talk about this."

Debbie Tuel:
Yeah, yeah. Julia, as you're making this shift and you're listening, and I love that you guys are operationalizing it and formalizing it and recognizing that this is new work moving forward, this isn't like let's fix a temporary bandaid. We're two years in, we don't know how long this is going to last. This is the new normal. Guess what? You're still productive. Your teams are still productive, so let's give that flexibility, but with that comes a different challenge, which is employee engagement, and especially for new hires, as you guys are recruiting new people that are coming on that have never met their teams and per before. I know this is outside of employment branding and recruitment marketing, but I think those go hand in hand with retention and employee satisfaction. What are you guys seeing and doing to address that employee engagement in this flex remote workforce?

Julia Levy:
A couple things. I don't own our onboarding process, but I talk a lot to the person that does, the team that does. We will collaborate a lot to offer suggestions and ideas on things that we can do to try and help improve that. One of the big projects that we have for 2022 is to really dig in around internal mobility and talent marketplace and what that looks like.

Julia Levy:
We did hear, when we've done our EVP, our employee value proposition surveys, career growth development is really important to people, and so we are trying to research what ... There's a lot in the marketplace around here and a lot of newcomers, so really to understand the marketplace around internal mobility, how can you connect, if someone's interested in an opportunity, how do you connect it to your learning system so that if they're not qualified for it, you can say, "Hey, here's these classes that you could take in our global learning solution," to offer people opportunities to grow. If someone has a project that they're managing and they need a certain skillset that's not on their team, how do you borrow those skills from someone else within the organization for a shorter period of time? How do you make one part of the organization aware of someone's skills in the other part of the organization?

Julia Levy:
For 2022, our project is really to research, and it's something that I'm heading up, is research and understanding what's out there, what should internal mobility look like for CommScope and then develop a recommendation that we can bring to our executive leadership to get their buy-in and potentially budget to implement something, hopefully in 2023, but with the way the world is today, it could be 2024, but that is something that we are really focusing on this year, exploring and making a recommendation for a future implementation.

Debbie Tuel:
I love that you're involved in that process. We're hearing a lot about internal mobility and a lot of people are in looking into what technology is out there, what process is out there. We're not seeing a lot of doing though, because everybody's like, "Where do I start? Who owns this?" As we're talking to employers, I'm seeing a shift and a click happen, where people are realizing that we need to take the same time and attention and focus that we're spending on building those external EVPs into doing that internally. What is our value proposition to retain talent? How do we recruit talent? How do we make them visible to our TA team that's looking to fill these growth roles for the organization? How do we bring those hiring managers along for the journey in developing their people and really advocating for them to take that next step in their career, even if that means outside of their little umbrella of employee base? Is that something that you guys are taking into consideration as you're doing all of this research?

Julia Levy:
Yep, all of it.

Debbie Tuel:
Awesome, I love it. When we think about recruitment marketing, employment brand, what does that mean for you when it comes to retention and engagement?

Julia Levy:
We're a little challenged around the CRM piece from a budgetary perspective. I'm a former Symphony Talent/SmashFly customer for many, many years. Coming to CommScope, there's no CRM, we don't have a formal CRM system. Now, SuccessFactors has some capabilities, but we've been bogged down with a lot of other stuff that we have not been able to focus on it. It pains me that we haven't been able to get there yet, but just you can't boil the ocean and there's only so much stuff you can do.

Julia Levy:
We are using some recruitment marketing techniques, but it's not as formalized. One of the projects that my recruitment marketing manager is doing with our specialist is really investigating. SuccessFactors does have some CRM capabilities, I know it's not what I'm used to, but we're exploring that first to say, "Okay, what do they have?" We may need to start in baby steps because money, unfortunately, doesn't grow off of trees and I don't have a lot of budget to just solve this problem. We're home growing something, potentially, but if we identify that SuccessFactors can't get us at least partially to where we need to go, then we're going to have to really sit down and say, "Okay, we have this limited budget. If this is important and we want to do it, what do we have to take out or spend less on in order to get there?"

Debbie Tuel:
Absolutely. You just mentioned, and I think we've talked about it before, but probably most of our listeners don't know, you and I have, again, I don't even know how long ago, it's probably been about six years ago, five years ago, when we first met at a conference in Austin. At the time you were with Fiserv, I was doing sales with SmashFly. I was there with Chris Brablc, love him.

Julia Levy:
I do too.

Debbie Tuel:
Need to get him back into the TA space somehow, one day.

Julia Levy:
I remember coming over, because I had more fun at that event, hanging out with all of our partners and vendors and looking at the new technology, like that was the first time I had encountered Paradox and I think I also met Maureen Hannigan.

Debbie Tuel:
Yes, yes, yes, at Spark.

Julia Levy:
Spark. I don't know if All True was there as well, but there was a lot of innovative tech in our space, which I had not seen in several years. It was a really exciting conference for that.

Debbie Tuel:
Yeah, and then fast forward a couple of years when we had our first Transform and then a couple of Transforms later. I've gotten to listen to you and watch this evolve and grow. You've gotten to do that research, you've gotten to meet with all of these vendors, you've gotten to apply some of those. What is the best tool, resource, technology that you're keeping your eye for 2022?

Julia Levy:
I'm really focusing a lot around conversational AI, and then I'd say maybe recruitment automation. Sorry, if you hear a little groaning in the background, it's not me. My dog, Ellis, came downstairs and she's my boss.

Debbie Tuel:
Ellis is like, "Mommy, I'm ready for a walk."

Julia Levy:
Well, she's like, "Why are you working?"

Debbie Tuel:
Aww. You guys are listening, you can't see, but Ellis is really cute and looking out the window right now and growling at whoever is out there, whatever is out there, probably a squirrel.

Julia Levy:
If it was a squirrel, you'd hear her barking more. I just grabbed her and she's on my lap. When this gets posted, if it makes the edits, I will post a picture of Ellis so everyone can see how cute she is.

Debbie Tuel:
She is very cute. So conversational AI, top priority.

Julia Levy:
Conversational AI and then automation.

Debbie Tuel:
Automation.

Julia Levy:
I think if we look at our recruiter experience and candidates, what can we do to help automate the processes and remove some of the administrative burden. Then the conversational AI could automate some things.

Debbie Tuel:
Absolutely.

Julia Levy:
Some of the tools when a candidate is, applicants, looking at your career site, they can text to apply or chat to apply. That can automate a lot. It's things like that, for sure.

Debbie Tuel:
Yeah, so really getting to where the candidates are and their mediums that they're using and making sure that you automate it for effectiveness for your recruiting teams.

Debbie Tuel:
You mentioned Paradox, so you're keeping an eye on them. We've got lots of good friends over there. Shout out to JZ and Elyse, and others that have grown out of the SmashFly roots. Julia, we are coming up on the end of our time here, but I always love to end with a rapid fire and we've got some good questions for you. What would be one book, one podcast, that you would recommend from this past year for our listeners?

Julia Levy:
I have been really reading more books for fun than workbooks. Ready Player Two is one that I read. I really loved Ready Player One, several years ago. If you like a little bit of sci-fi and '80s references, I definitely recommend Ready Player One or Ready Player Two.

Debbie Tuel:
Fantastic, and yes, we all need a break from work sometimes. I am right there with you, more of my reading has Def been personal reading this past year.

Debbie Tuel:
Who is the one person that you think that our listeners should follow if they want to learn more or educate themselves on the recruitment marketing employment brand space?

Julia Levy:
It's probably two people, well, three maybe, [Elin 00:25:44] Bailey, Tracy Parsons and Alex Brown.
Debbie Tuel:
All right. Tracy, we've already had on the podcast, elin is coming up next quarter, and Alex is amazing for not just professional, but also just to follow his luxurious travel lifestyle right now.

Debbie Tuel:
I'm very jealous.

Julia Levy:
For those that don't know Alex, he worked with me at Fiserv on all of our employment branding and recruitment marketing, and he's now at Bookings, living a fabulous life in Amsterdam.

Debbie Tuel:
Awesome, so it's not just a good follow for travel, but also for a good perspective on the differences in recruiting in the States versus internationally.

Debbie Tuel:
We had a question from our last guest. We had Gerry Crispin on two weeks ago, and his question for you, Julia, is hindsight 2020, what would you have done differently in 2020 had you known?

Julia Levy:
That's a great question, Gerry, and I love Gerry. I think, in 2020, honestly, I don't know that there would be much that I do differently because I think we handled the COVID response really well. Could we have communicated a little more to candidates? Potentially, but I think that we were able to really pivot quickly to address moving to the immediate remote world. I think that one of the things that CommScope has done really well, especially for employees, is around how the messaging that we sent out, we really focused on wellbeing and wellness and checking in with people to see how they're doing. That's something I'm really proud of and I wouldn't change, but maybe do more of that.

Debbie Tuel:
Absolutely.

Julia Levy:
Tough one.

Debbie Tuel:
It is a tough one, and so you now get to pay that forward. What would be the one question you'll ask to our next guest?

Julia Levy:
Thinking about 2022, if you are having events or going to events, what are things that you're considering live versus in person that's different now than maybe pre-pandemic?

Debbie Tuel:
That's a great question. I know that event software has definitely blown up in the last two years, so maybe we'll tag some of that in there too and what they're using if they are doing virtual.

Debbie Tuel:
Julia, it has been fabulous, as always, to connect with you. For those of our listeners who may not be following you, where can they find you?

Julia Levy:
I don't tweet very much or very consistently, but @recruitingjulia. You can also find me on LinkedIn, Julia Levy at CommScope, or you can email me julia.levy@commscope.com. But I will say, if you're a vendor, please don't just send me a, "Do you have any needs," kind of email because I really want to stay away from that because I need a car wash, that's about it.

Debbie Tuel:
All right. Connect with Julia if you want to do some networking, if you want to talk shop, no vendors allowed. Amazing. Well, Julia, thank you so much. For our listeners, listen, subscribe, follow us, rate us, all that good stuff. Until next time.