A CEO’s Open Letter to Talent

A CEO’s Open Letter to Talent

The war for talent is real, and upon us. Help wanted signs and job postings are seemingly everywhere. Many organizations struggle reaching growth plans because of an inability to attract and retain the right people. Henry G. Jackson, CEO and President of SHRM recently published an article titled The War for Talent is Now a Way of Life for HR. In the article, he says “Hard-to-find talent and hard-to-fill jobs are constants in the new world of work. So, to me, it is no longer a “war” to find and keep the best people; it’s a way of life.”

While much is written on how organizations can address this new talent reality, a great starting point is an understanding of what people look for in an employer. Talented people want to work for organizations with a purpose they can understand and be proud of, where their work contributes to the organization’s success and where their careers will grow. In a previous post, Attracting and Retaining Great People in 2017, I described several steps top employers are taking to attract and retain the best people, with special attention given to shared purpose and values, career development opportunities and cultural fit.

Since most talented people are not actively answering job postings, organizations are exploring new methods to attract talent. In the long run organizations will benefit by improving their reputation as an employer. How should organizations communicate their Employment Brand in a way that appeals to talented people? Perhaps with a message directly from the CEO, like this:


Dear Talented Individual:

We love our people. While most leaders say people are their most important asset, we believe it and show it.

You’ll feel the difference from the first time you visit our website. Our values, which guide our business decisions and relationships with our people, are stated clearly so we all know where we stand with each other.

Our goals are also published. We know where we’re headed and how we’ll get there – through our people. We share our goals so our people will be as excited about our future as we are. We’re also as excited about our people’s future as they are, even if their future is not with us. We help our people grow their careers while they help us reach our goals. We give them important work, provide great work space and technology, help them succeed, listen when they have a better idea and reward them every step of the way.

We also understand our people have lives outside work. We encourage our people to bring their whole selves to work, and spend guilt-free time away from work. We cheer their victories, share their sorrows and take joy in their happiness. We accept them as they are and support their dreams. We trust each other like family.

As with real families, we have our occasional differences. Most differences are easily resolved through open communications that are grounded in our shared values, goals and trust.

If ours sounds like a culture you can thrive and be happy in, please let us know. We would love to get to know you, and promise to treat you like family along the way. Even if we are not right for each other today, we are still interested in getting to know you. Tomorrow will be here before we know it.


Sincerely, Great Company CEO


If you were open to opportunities, would this letter appeal to you? Hopefully you would view this with enough interest to start a career conversation.


While a Talent Philosophy Statement like this can be a great employment branding tool, the culture, plans and programs supporting the philosophy must also be in place.

At Future State Talent, we help our clients create Talent Philosophy Statements, develop Employment Brands and embrace the new workplace reality. Please contact me to discuss the Future State of your Talent.

Randy Samsel

Future State Talent



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Does ‘Talent Acquisition’ Have a Dirty Little Secret?

Does ‘Talent Acquisition’ Have a Dirty Little Secret?

As a member of the HR Leadership Group of Northeast Ohio, I have enjoyed outstanding presentations from qualified, strategic HR leaders. This month’s meeting was no exception. Bob Danna, Managing Director of Deloitte Consulting discussed the Future of HR with an emphasis on digital transformation. Bob covered a wide range of trends stemming from research conducted by Bersin by Deloitte.


Though I read the Bersin by Deloitte 2017 Global Human Capital Trends report in advance, Bob made one comment that surprised me. Bob pointed out that, for the first time five generations are in the workforce. That’s not what surprised me. He also said many baby boomers would work another twenty to thirty years. That surprised me. While I recognize the economic, social and personal reasons boomers may keep working, the statement caught me off guard. Once it sank in, my thoughts went in another direction. How will boomers compete in the job market?


My question is not just about skills, abilities, attitudes or energy levels of boomers. It’s also about age bias.


Diversity and inclusion is a topic near and dear to HR and talent acquisition professionals and provides focus on the benefits and importance of having a diverse workforce. Pay equality for women and breaking-the-glass-ceiling are also at the forefront of discussions among the HR and talent acquisition community. Yet age bias seems to be an (unofficially) accepted practice. Not everywhere, nor for every employer, but common.


An NPR.ORG article cites research conducted by a U.C. Irvine professor, David Neumark who sent 40,000 resumes for thousands of real jobs. The resumes were identical except for age. “The call-back rate — the rate by which employers contact us and say we’d like to interview you — drops from young applicants to middle-aged applicants and drops further from middle-aged applicants to older applicants,” Neumark says.


Another article, this one by Liz Ryan, CEO of Human Workplace, discusses The Ugly Truth About Age Discrimination. Liz describes a conversation with a person who experienced age discrimination, and why employers do themselves a disservice by avoiding more experienced workers. She also suggests steps boomers (and others) can take to minimize the impact of age bias.


In my executive search practice, I hear from seasoned professionals who say they experience age bias in their job search, but do not pursue claims for fear of being labeled a troublemaker. They just want to work. For many of these job seekers, frustration and a sense of hopelessness can set in, especially when they are rejected for multiple roles they feel qualified for.


While legitimate reasons exist for targeting and hiring early career candidates, many organizations may miss an opportunity to attract exceptional talent that is readily available. One McKinsey study showed that 40% of companies that plan to hire have had unfilled openings for 6 months or longer because they can’t find qualified applicants. In addition, many surveys of CEO’s point out the need for more and better leadership to reach strategic goals. So, while age bias may be a contentious topic, few would argue the need to attract more talent and leadership.


The challenge is how to attract the best talent while setting aside bias. One approach is to revamp talent acquisition practices, starting with the traditional job description (which frequently include desired years of experience). Lou Adler, author of The Essential Guide for Hiring suggests using a Performance Profile, which describes desired outcomes for a role instead of listing desired experiences for a candidate. For an example of a performance profile, click here.


Job seekers concerned about age bias should be proactive as well, starting by leveraging strengths in their job search-especially those that highlight leadership skills and experience. Instead of trying to fit every possible job opportunity, job seekers should embrace the differences that qualify them for the best roles. Also, when talking with decision makers, job seekers should try to focus on the needs of the hiring manager. Once those needs are understood, job seekers can describe how they are uniquely qualified to help.


While age bias may never disappear, rising demand for talent and leadership will create more opportunity for boomers to continue adding value, even for another twenty to thirty years. Improved processes by hiring managers and job seekers may also help.


To learn more about performance based hiring, please contact rsamsel@futurestatetalent.com


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Begin by Asking the “Right” Question – an Article by Karl Driggs

Begin by Asking the “Right” Question – an Article by Karl Driggs

Thanks to Karl Driggs for this blog post, published with his permission. Please contact Karl with questions about succession planning and leadership.

Begin by Asking the “Right” Question

By Karl Driggs SBGSolutions

A long standing leadership philosophy was summarized by John C. Maxwell in his book Good Leaders Ask Great Questions in 2014. To quote him directly, “Good leaders ask great questions that inspire others to dream more, think more, learn more, do more, and become more.” This belief supports a critical need within middle market companies today who continue to struggle in attracting, recruiting, retaining and developing talent.

There is one key question that leaders should ask themselves as they form their strategic foundation for the business. The question is simple, succinct, understandable and relatable and should serve as the foundational inquiry for supporting who gets hired and ultimately who leads and manages key areas of the company – “What one belief do all employees share that the leadership team can attribute to the company’s growth and success?”

The great news is that more and more middle market companies are spending the time to develop a strategic plan to guide the business direction. The challenge remains that most jump right into the middle of the process by setting goals like “10% revenue growth” or “net profit of 27%”. Of course, these financial goals are important and create easily measurable results, but what they lack is the inspiration that guides the attainment of such goals.

Begin with this thought – As a leader, what core belief do you share and instill in employees that creates the success of your business? The answer to this one question will create clarity and serve as a foundation for the behaviors of all employees. Simon Sinek, in his highly regarded Ted Talk How Great Leaders Inspire Action 1 noted that “people don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it”. The same argument can be made for why employees stay and thrive with a company….They already know what you do, what they want to know is why you do it and how they fit in.

Using a financial service firm as an example, a company may provide tax planning and savings services to middle income families. They approach the business through understanding their client’s needs and state that their superior service is the value: What this answers is the “how”, but not the “why”. What the client really wants to know is that you “believe that a person’s hard earned money should be protected through the minimization of tax impact balanced with a short term and long term income growth strategy for them to achieve their dreams”. This belief statement is much more inspiring, creates emotion and encourages action. It can also set a standard and vision for all employees of the firm.

As leaders, we should leverage our belief statements to hire, develop and retain employees. When interviewing, we should educate our candidates to our beliefs and ensure that they are clear that we expect them to share this belief. As we hold performance reviews, we should measure the existing employee’s actions in alignment with our beliefs. In addition, when we create development plans for key roles, we should make sure that those employees can explain and instill our belief’s in others.

2018 is right around the corner and strategic planning sessions will be held in the next few months. As you approach your plan, consider revisiting your beliefs as a leader of the company. Make sure that you take advantage of the time spent in creating your plans by inspiring your staff to see the value of these beliefs and how they can use them to drive their actions. Remember one “right” question can set the trajectory for your growth and success.

1 https://www.ted.com/talks/simon_sinek_how_great_leaders_inspire_action

About Karl Driggs and SBGSolutions Karl has been working in succession planning for the past 18 years. As a partner in a small marketing consulting firm he prepared the business for the sale to a public company. He has spent his recent years working with mid market companies implementing high growth strategies and founder / key person succession plans. His hands on approach mixed with his true desire to see others succeed is a passion.

SBGSolutions was founded by Karl to bring his unique offering to the Northeast Ohio market. The goal of SBGSolutions is to “Inspire others to be the solution” through an engagement so that the solutions developed are sustainable over time. Visit SBGSolutions at www.sbgsolutions.net and follow Karl on Twitter @sbgsolutions



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Vox Mobile – A #WorkplaceParadiseNEO Company

Vox Mobile – A #WorkplaceParadiseNEO Company

If you are viewing this article on a tablet or smartphone, you may have Vox Mobile to thank.

The world is rapidly converting to digital technology, and most people access the digital world through mobile devices. That’s where Vox Mobile enters–accelerating the path to mobility innovation. Founded in 2006, Vox Mobile’s vision is to provide complete enterprise mobility management as a Service.

Vox Mobile serves a variety of clients, in many industries through its Enterprise Mobility Management service. From strategy planning, device procurement and provisioning, software support, BYOD (bring your own device) policies, server administration, help desk and everything between, the solutions ensure mobile application success and a superior user experience.

The result? Here are a few examples of recent successes:

In addition, Vox Mobile has been recognized as an Inc 1000 fastest growing company, a Weatherhead 100 winner and one of the Northcoast 99 greatest workplaces.

For current and prospective employees that is good news. Headquartered in Independence Ohio, Vox Mobile has a state-of-the-art facility. Its HQ is in the same office building as ours.  As existing building tenants, we enjoy the upgrades made to the facilities when Vox Mobile moved in as the anchor tenant. To thank us for our ‘tolerance of the dust and noise’ during construction, Vox Mobile treated tenants to an afternoon of food, drink and entertainment. Welcome, neighbor!

Beyond the facilities, Vox Mobile has a dynamic culture that encourages hard work, inventive thinking, creative ideas, challenging the status-quo and lots of fun! In fact, Vox Mobile was recently named a Smart Culture award honoree. Jason Sulecki, Client Experience Manager says “I think Vox has a great corporate culture; they provide opportunities for advancement in addition to taking great care of their employees by planning fun and interactive events for all to enjoy.”

Vox Mobile also invests in its people.  A quick perusal of its career site provides insight into life at Vox Mobile, featuring professional development opportunities, impactful work and recognition for accomplishments. This focus on its people combined with rapid growth creates opportunity for advancement. In 2016 alone, 25% of employees received a promotion!

Vox Mobile is led by Kris Snyder, CEO and Ernst & Young’s Technology Entrepreneur of the Year winner. Kris and his leadership team foster a climate of open communication, collaboration and creativity to ensure success on behalf of their clients.

Besides founding and leading Vox Mobile, Kris helped found GEMA, a global joint venture headquartered in Switzerland which acts as a delivery network for mobile managed services in 87 countries. And in 2013, he helped launch Mobile Thought Leaders (MTL), which today has more than 3,000 members in 10 countries, and a dedicated purpose of cultivating opportunities for its members to collaborate and share emerging best practices and technology advancements in mobility.

Kris is quick to acknowledge how important his team and employees are to Vox Mobile. “We are only successful due to the commitment and delivery that our employees provide.  Our investment into our employees’ future is built through training and that is evident from our growth and promotion opportunities from within the company. “

Being in Northeast Ohio is also important to the history and future of Vox Mobile. Cleveland’s own Lebron James said, “In Northeast Ohio, nothing is given.  Everything is earned. You work for what you have.”   While paraphrased, the sentiment for Vox Mobile is very similar. “Success…It’s not one win, it’s not one event, it’s not a single destination.  Just like Cleveland, no one expects Vox Mobile to win, especially when our competitors are giants like IBM, Vodafone, Tangoe, etc.  How can we possibly compete with technology companies when we don’t live in Austin, Boston or Silicon Valley?  The answer is quite simple, really.  It’s the sheer grit in our Midwestern spirit that sustains our hunger for success.  And it’s our collective desire to overcome the odds and provide a solution and service above all others, thereby bringing our clients vision of mobility to life.”

Let that be a rally cry for all of us who work and live in Greater Cleveland! Thank you, Kris and Vox Mobile for leading us into the digital future, and for providing a Workplace Paradise in NEO!



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Attracting and Retaining Great People in 2017

Attracting and Retaining Great People in 2017

By Randy Samsel, Future State Talent

Many organizations are increasingly challenged with attracting and retaining great people. Economic growth, retiring baby boomers, digital disruption and other factors create greater demand for talent.

A Hunt Scanlon article, titled Employees will be Easy to Lose and Hard to Hire in 2017 says “working professionals have become all too aware that the current candidate-driven job market puts them in a ‘power position’ where they can be more selective when making career decisions. They now have a wealth of resources at their disposal to determine whether their current employer is offering them benefits or opportunities that are competitive with current market trends. For them, that knowledge is translating into control.”

The shift in power requires a strategic response by employers. Not all employers are responding strategically though.

A recent Gallup study, The State of the American Workplace describes the extraordinary disruption taking place in American organizations and the need for stronger leadership.

Changes that are affecting organizations are coming fast and furious, they are historic and monumental. Yet, only 22% of employees believe their leaders have a clear direction for the organization. Only 15% feel inspired by their leadership and only 13% feel leadership communicates effectively.

The rulebook is being rewritten. Leaders must decide what role they want to play in their organization — now in the midst of change and in the future. They can be passive bystanders or active participants in creating and guiding an exceptional workplace.   

What is the best strategic approach? Leaders need to enhance their human capital strategies by transforming the workplace culture. Jim Clifton, Gallup’s Chairman and CEO offers these recommendations:

  1. Call an executive committee meeting and commit to transforming your workplace from old command-and-control to one of high development and ongoing coaching conversations. Gallup can hold your hand through this. We will teach you everything we have learned as fast as we can.
  2. Dive in — don’t put your toe in. You can afford a lot of mistakes and even failures because the system you currently use doesn’t work anyway.
  3. Switch from a culture of “employee satisfaction” — which only measures things like how much workers like their perks and benefits — to a “coaching culture.”
  4. Change from a culture of “paycheck” to a culture of “purpose.”

Glassdooor’s recent Culture Codes of Best Places to Work provides examples of actions companies have taken to create winning workplace cultures. Common ingredients include defining and highlighting values and missions; identifying great people who fit the culture; establishing rules of conduct that support the values and mission while encouraging great performance; providing perks, benefits and career development opportunities to retain great people; and creating great workplaces/spaces that encourage collaboration and productivity.

The Gallup report says the one thing leaders cannot do is nothing. They cannot wait for trends to pass them by, and they cannot wait for millennials to get older and start behaving like baby boomers.

Does Culture Change through Strategic Talent Management Make Sense for You? Yes, if You:

  • Are Interested in Adding Significant Savings to Your Bottom Line – Every Year
  • Are Passionate about Improving and Growing Your Business
  • Are Strategically Focused (Have a Strategic Plan, Values and Mission)
  • Are Willing to Invest Time and Resources to Improve
  • Believe that Your People are Your Most Valuable Assets

We offer consulting services to help our clients with Strategic Talent Management. See our slideshare presentation to see how we can help you.


Randy Samsel




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