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How Workplace Culture and Recruiting Top Talent Go Hand-in-Hand. An Interview with Gaby Patenaude from Export Development Canada

Workplace culture is an important aspect of any happy and productive working environment. There’s something to be said, though, about organizations that go above and beyond to showcase what the culture in their workplace actually looks like. Students, new grads, and early career professionals are digitally savvy and do their research to find the best fit for them. Even if your workplace culture is out-of-this-world-amazing, are you telling your story effectively? Are young candidates seeing it, hearing about it, watching it? If they aren’t, there’s a chance that you’re losing top candidates to other employers who are taking the extra steps to highlight the quality of their teams, culture and why they are the best place to work.

Export Development Canada (EDC) is one of those employers who strongly supports employee culture while also showing it in an authentic and engaging way. We had the chance to speak with Gaby Patenaude from EDC who shares how their organization lives and breathes culture, community, personal growth, professional development and so much more to ensure that candidates know that they are working for one of the best employers in the country. Read the full interview below.

Meet Gaby

Gaby is the Campus Recruitment Program Lead at EDC and has been with the company for three and a half years. Starting as a new grad, Gaby knows first hand what it’s like to make that school-to-work transition. She also understands how important it is for employers to step up and showcase what it’s like to work at a particular organization. Gaby manages the whole student-employee lifecycle – from campus events, partnerships with schools and interviewing candidates, to providing programming, onboarding and support once students are in the door and on the payroll.

Go, Grow and Succeed’ at EDC

EDC’s culture is unique with a variety of inclusive employee-led committees, community giving programs, professional development workshops, and a “state-of-the-art gym” to support their employees — both in work and in personal growth. “As someone who was really actively involved in my university community, I really value the giving nature of EDC,” Gaby comments.

“Community involvement is embedded in everything we do, whether…when EDC employees worldwide take a day to do volunteer work with over 40 organizations or to our stellar CSR practices embedded into the business transactions we make every day. I think that kind of purpose is really what younger generations seek in an employer. Somewhere where their values can come to life at work.”

Having initiatives like employee-led committees also allows employees to connect with so many more peers and leaders that they otherwise wouldn’t have access to. “It lets employees feel like they have a wide variety of what I like to call ‘work extracurriculars’ because there are so many ways for people to get involved at work outside of what is listed on their job description.”

“Through these committees and their events, I have met so many new people and flexed new muscles as I took on side projects totally unrelated to my role. That is so rewarding and definitely lends to an inclusive workplace culture. No matter where people are in the hierarchy, they can really make a difference.”

Shouting Out Your Culture To Top Talent

All of these amazing initiatives and activities that are ingrained in the culture at EDC would be lost on new candidates if their team wasn’t active both on-campus and online to spread the word. Gaby cautions employers not to completely limit themselves to one strategy or the other, but to really look for a balance. “It’s a balancing act of that digital side to reach broad audiences, but [also] creating a space for highly specialized, in-person interactions.” EDC has found that dedicating specific and targeted strategies to both digital and in-person experiences has been enormously beneficial in their overall recruitment and employer branding strategy.

“TalentEgg has been instrumental in us reaching broad audiences with country-wide digital campaigns with hot new tools like Instagram takeovers. The nice thing about digital content is that in most cases it is there to stay and you keep referring back to it if candidates want to do any self-led research. I think it’s important to have digital brand awareness about your employer.”

Striking that balance, Gaby found that the most success they’ve had is with smaller scale, highly specialized events.

“For instance, partnering with campus clubs and associations to host case competitions in topics where we want some fresh insight, or hosting career spotlight events where students come and experience what it’s like to work in a certain role or career.”

Tell Your Story Authentically 

While it’s vital to tell your employer story both in-person and online, Gaby stresses that it’s important to have authentic and transparent content.

“I think the more transparent the better! We’ve found the best success in our recruitment campaigns when we really connect with students. For example, during our Instagram takeover with TalentEgg, we let a student a day take over TalentEgg’s account and take us through a day in their life: from their walk to our downtown office, to their 1:1 with their leader, to their gym session at lunch, or lunch on our rooftop patio. This was a way better indication of their impact and life at EDC than any thoughtfully worded job poster.”

Gaby also stresses the importance of showing candidates that you truly care about them as a potential hire, that they aren’t just another number. EDC did this by hosting a TalentEgg Talks Live where students and grads asked Gaby live questions. She was able to give the audience across Canada a deep-dive 30-minute session about EDC instead of a quick 1-minute conversation at a career fair.

“Recruitment is all about allowing the candidate to really be able to picture themselves in a role and envisioning their happiness and success in that role. TalentEgg has been great in shining light on the new and upcoming strategies for things like social media recruitment marketing, mobile marketing, and others. This has also been proven in bringing students into our office and introducing them to employees. It allows them to put a face to a job and see what someone’s career path was to get to where they are.”

Advice for Fellow Employers and Final Thoughts

“It’s important as an employer to show that you are developing people and not just employees. It’s a two-way street – employees will invest more in their jobs if they know their employer is investing in them. The reality is that if you as a company aren’t staying up on trends, or putting in a caring approach to employees, those employees will go to the next employer down the street that is doing a better job. So I think employers really have an obligation to take their employees seriously and give them the best caring culture to support their best work.”

That’s one of the reasons why Gaby started her career with EDC. She emphasizes why it’s so important for young people to know that their employer will be there for them in the best of times to push them forward, but also on those not so great days.

It’s important to not only rely on being present online and on-campus, but also to tell your employer brand story, bringing it to life and helping future candidates see what their future could be like at your organization.

Are You Recruiting Proactively vs Reactively?

Are you recruiting efforts proactive or reactive? As I asked that question to many recruiter friends, most would say that they are definitely proactive. After all, they spend countless hours at events to get candidates to apply. Then they comb through resumes to filter for the candidates that best fit their needs. For some conversations, I can see the point when they realize that they are only screening the resumes they receive. They “react” to whatever resumes are submitted to the posting. Then they ask themselves whether or not the right candidates are applying. They see how they can become more “proactive”.

Another way to put this would be to imagine that your job is to find the best apple in the orchard. You want a sweet, tasty, juicy apple. However, you can only make guesses based on what you see on the outside. You want an apple that is big, but not too big. Red, but not too red.
You have two choices:
Going into the vast orchard and finding potentially perfect candidate apples.
The other is to go into a basket of apples that were randomly put there by other people.
Which option would you choose?

When I was the lead of the undergrad campus recruiting program for one of the big four consulting companies, we were often at the mercy of the quality of the candidates that applied. We hoped that our info sessions and branding got some good candidates to submit their applications. However, it wasn’t until we decided to go more proactive with our efforts that we saw more fruits of our labour…

Reactive recruiters often choose the basket option. Posting a job on their corporate website and job boards. Then hoping the right candidates will apply. To “be proactive” and increase their chances of having better “apples” in their basket, they run info sessions, go to career fairs and networking events to encourage the right candidates to head into the basket. While these activities may seem proactive as they are out in the market, they are really at the mercy of whoever decides to show up. They pick the best apple in the basket. Which might not be the best apples in the orchard.

For me, the challenge of reactive recruiting was magnified when recruiting for a not-for-profit. The not-for-profit has a much less known brand and fewer resources to react to the candidates, let alone be proactive. We weren’t able to attract as many of the right apples into the basket as we wanted.

Proactive recruiters will often choose the option to go into the orchard. They look at their contact list and past connections to see who might be qualified. They leverage platforms like LinkedIn to actively search for qualified candidates. They leverage their networks to crowdsource candidates. they’ve already built, to cast the net wide in search of the perfect candidates. They go into the orchard and fill their baskets.

Keep in mind that the orchard is huge. It would take much too long to search each tree in each part of the orchard on your own. Or it would be too costly to hire other “apple searchers” to search around the orchard where you haven’t looked before.

However, keep in mind that past searches can be an investment. You might find that certain parts of the orchard have better trees. Those trees tend to yield better types of apples. Also keep in mind that you could also create some magical magnetic properties of your basket to allow apples to be attracted to your basket. You’ll just need to take care that the apples you’re attracting are the right ones.

To be proactive, we still did info sessions, BUT we also started implementing referral programs to crowdsource the apple search. As the saying goes “birds of a feather, flock together”. So if we hired them, they’ll likely have friends and acquaintances with similarly attractive characteristics. We looked to have our coops become our brand ambassadors to help spread the word on their great experiences. Great experiences seem to attract “tastier apples” (yes, the analogy gets a bit weird here, but you know what I mean).

We looked to reverse-engineer where our best candidates came from or correlating attributes so that we could hunt in that part of the orchard and look at those trees.

We judged and sponsored case competitions, hackathons and other events where we could see candidates in action. After all, the best-looking apples (according to their outward resume), aren’t necessarily the sweetest or juiciest.

We look to find more innovative proactive search and attraction methods.

So as you think of all of the work you’re spending to screen your apples, take a moment to think whether you’re spending the time to make sure the right apples end up in the basket in the first place!

 

About the Author

Luki Danukarjanto is Toronto’s youth career coach with a goal to make Toronto the mentorship capital of the world. Published author of “SIWIKE Stuff I Wish I Knew Earlier, educator, youth startup advisor, dad. Career catalyst, “personal trainer for careers” and DJ for personal/professional development with goals to elevate education, weave mentorship into the fabric of society and positively impact a billion people. Former Senior Manager Tech Consulting with Deloitte and undergrad campus recruiting lead. Connect with Luki on LinkedIn​.

How Are You Helping to Build the Workplace Critical Skills Pipeline?

When describing what differentiates top talent amongst students and new graduate candidates, we often find ourselves referencing their ‘soft’ or workplace critical skills.  Things like creativity, teamwork, critical thinking, problem solving, and leadership.

As employers, we seemingly all want these skills to be a part of the candidate profile for our new graduate programs, summer internships, or open positions on campus.  And, if the expectation is that students come prepared with these skills when they arrive in the workplace, I wonder how can we as career educators and campus recruiters help students to identify, acquire, and nurture them before they land their first job?

For me, the approach is two-fold:

I think it starts with helping students to become fluent in the art of articulation, reflection, and offering up evidence.

Let’s work an example – communication skills. We know that having a student simply state they are a good communicator is not enough.  Rather, it’s how they demonstrate they are a good communicator through examples or description that sets them apart.

Fellow campus recruiters, I am offering up a challenge to you here.  Let’s commit to trying to better articulate our needs. Continuing with the ‘good communication skills’ example, what if we said something like this in our postings:

‘Persuasive business writing, active listening, comfort delivering critical or difficult messages, and strong presentation skills are essential for successful communication in our organization’.

The more specific or articulate we are, the more a student has got to work with and reflect on.  They can start to assess whether they have demonstrated these skills and attributes in their studies or work to date, come up with evidence to support it, and if a gap exists, have a clearer goal to work towards.  If  Year 1 students knew what you were truly looking for in terms of workplace critical skills when they embarked on their program, think about where they might be by the time they graduate.  Perhaps ‘top talent’ would be more plentiful?

While these notions are by no means new, it stands to reason that by providing students with ample opportunity to reflect on and to talk about their skills in meaningful ways (whether it is a part of their experiential learning, course work, co-op, or even workshops) the more comfortable and confident they will become in talking about their workplace critical skills as potential candidates.

The second piece is all about providing additional opportunities to develop and nurture workplace critical skills while in school.  Case competitions, challenges, portfolios or workplace critical skills passports, skills badging, and experiential learning are all great ways to achieve this.  Think about how you can get more involved in these types of initiatives.  While yes, the time investment does need to be there to make it most effective, you will be doing wonders for your credibility, brand, and building up of the pipeline of the skills you’re ultimately wanting students to have in their toolkit.

Challenge yourself.  In your next round of engaging students – how will you help them to get really good at articulating, reflecting, and evidencing their workplace critical skills?  What opportunities will you provide to develop and nurture them?  Happy skill building!

 


Trevor Buttrum is an award-winning career education and campus recruitment leader with 15+ years of experience in the space.  He is currently the manager of a national program focused on building the talent pipeline for the next generation of the property and casualty insurance workforce.

 

Your Complete Guide to Canadian Campus Recruitment

The eighth annual TalentEgg National Campus Recruitment Excellence Awards and Conference took place on Wednesday, June 19th, 2019 and we are happy to say that it was an egg-cellent day of learning and collaborating on best practices in student, new graduate and early career recruitment. The TalentEgg Awards and Conference marks a moment when employers, nonprofits, campus recruitment professionals, and career educators come together for a day to discuss different approaches to support youth employment and professional development. We would like to sincerely thank everyone who joined us for the event, and we can't wait to see you next year!

All Awards and Conference attendees got to take home our 2019 Guide to Canadian Campus Recruitment. This valuable resource gives employers and HR professionals crucial insights into recruiting Gen-Y and Gen-Z job candidates, including best practices, tips on how to use social media effectively, and what matters most to students, new graduates and early career professionals when it comes to starting their careers.

If you missed out on the conference, you can still access TalentEgg's key findings from our Gen-Y and Gen-Z research and recruitment insights gained from our work with the Student Judges of the TalentEgg Awards! We’re offering a free digital download of the 2019 Guide to Canadian Campus Recruitment right here!

Here’s a sneak peek of what you’ll find in the 2019 Guide:

  • Candidates' recruitment pet peeves
  • Why your employer brand needs CSR
  • Unique experiences to develop your future talent pipeline
  • Connecting with early-career professionals
  • Why and how to connect online with potential candidates
  • How your recruitment efforts can be everywhere, all at once
  • The importance of continuous learning and incorporating it into your onboarding
  • …and more!

Get your free copy of this essential resource!


2019 Guide to Canadian Campus Recruitment

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