Talent Selection: John Acardo, Director of Human Resources at Kishwaukee College and Jennifer Farrelly, Human Resources Manager, Lorna Jane USA

Hosted by Chris Dyer, the CEO of PeopleG2 – Talent Talk Radio features engaging conversation with CEOs, thought leaders and HR executives.  Talent Talk connects professionals who care about talent-related issues like talent selection. 

Today’s guests are John Acardo, Director of Human Resources at Kishwaukee College; and Jennifer Farrelly, Human Resources Manager, Lorna Jane USA.  To hear the entire show, click here.

Our guests hail from decidedly different categories, but both their journeys showcase the pivotal difference a whole-hearted focus on precise talent selection can make to an organization.

JOHN ACARDO talent selection

Acardo is Director of Human Resources at Kishwaukee College, a community college near downtown Chicago, for the past year, having left behind the private sector for this role. 

The most notable difference thus far between the private and publics, Acardo believes, is the nuances in agreements and regulations in the education sector. The regulatory environment can dictate who can be hired and poses strict requirements for teachers as well.

According to Acardo, the entire culture at Kishwaukee is “driven by a common purpose and vision” shared by the 600 staff members and almost 11,000 students. This mission is “to better tomorrow by training our workforce.” Culturally, the college operates as a “mom & pop” organization.

Acardo leads the HR department to actively find great talent, leveraging tools such as LinkedIn Recruiter and software packages for his talent selection. His team plays a strategic role in helping the organization with their talent selection, an especially critical task in recruiting the top teaching talent. While HR has several roles, he believes the #1 priority is talent selection. “If you have talent selection right, everything else can be on autopilot.”

His points to Disney as a prime example, as they have done “a wonderful job of staffing their organizations with talented, bright, kind responsive people who care about their customers.” And that’s why he and his team and their talent selection process are laser-focused on “getting rock stars” in the door.

But Acardo believes HR’s responsibility extends much further than just talent selection. You need to then promote excellence in the staff on board, including ongoing formal training. 

While he believes it’s essential for great teachers to have “motive, love and desire,” he also asserts it is the College’s responsibility to develop these individuals, a critical factor in employee loyalty. That’s why at Kishwaukee, they have developed a Professional Development Academy to facilitate ongoing training and development. People entering the workforce today “will jump careers 10 to 12 times before they actually retire,” Acardo comments. As a result, Kishwaukee aims to give employees the best training possible in order to reach its goals, and to deliver quality service while meeting compliance requirements.

What are You Reading?

Acardo is reading “Great Work: How to Make a Difference People Love by David Sturt, a book which informs you how to apply rewards and recognition to your employee base. 

How Can People Connect with You? Via www.kishwaukeecollege.edu or via social media channels, including @johnacardo on Twitter.

JENNIFER FARRELLY Jennifer Farrelly 2

Farrelly is Human Resources Manager at Lorna Jane USA, having been in management and HR roles for 25 years.  She previously worked for Disneyland as well as a sub-prime lender that failed during the financial crisis.  Farrelly says the latter experience was a great learning tool for her as an HR executive.

Lorna Jane is an Australian company specializing in active wear with stores internationally. Farrelly says their people are the company’s main focus. For instance, they ensure their manufacturing employees in China are paid one of the highest wages in the country.

Farrelly shares that her team at the home office, as well as out in the field, learns everyday and takes every mistake as an opportunity to learn. She asserts that the HR department must be open to “knowing and understanding each and every aspect of the business” to be a success. While they obviously specialize in keeping up and understanding employment law and employee development, nowadays that’s not enough. “To truly be that partner to the business and help that business grow, we have to understand each and every job and each and every aspect of the business… how we make money, where we lose money, what are the risks. We need to understand that so we can use that along with our people-related skills to help the business be more successful.”

Culture is Crucial

Culture is crucial to company success, says Farrelly. And it starts with screening, talent selection and hiring. At Lorna Jane they look for the three pillars in potential candidates:

  • Moving – an interest in getting better physically, whether it’s taking a short walk or doing a rigorous cross-training,
  • Nourishing – an interest in nourishing themselves in healthy ways, such as seeking out knowledge, and
  • Believing – the belief in themselves and others that anything is possible.

When they find a candidate who possesses these qualities, “everything else is teachable.”

Relative to job titles, Farrelly recalls what she said to her current employer during her interview: “I don’t care if you call me the janitor as long as the work is meaningful and I can make a difference.”  In the end, she says, people get tied up in job titles, and that’s not going to matter – what matters is the work being done.

When it comes to leadership, Farrelly believes the key is in playing to people’s strengths. “When you’re looking at a company, you’re putting together a giant puzzle. Every piece is shaped differently, but all the pieces have to go together. You just have to find the right pieces.”

Another success factor Farrelly believes is of utmost importance is to “work with people in developing them in areas they’re strong in and interested in.”  She has found this makes sense because people improve tremendously in their strengths as opposed to what they do not enjoy doing.

IQ vs. EQ

There’s been too much focus on IQ and not on EQ, Farrelly asserts.  “We can teach people to sell and how to represent the company, but being open to change and being adaptable is not something we can train though they are invaluable qualities. We can’t train friendliness or enthusiasm – but we look for those soft skills and the personality fit,” she comments.  

What are You Reading?

Farrelly is reading “FYI: For Your Improvement, A Guide for Development and Coaching by Michael M. Lombardo and Robert W. Eichinger. Featuring various leadership competencies, it helps HR practitioners determine if someone is skilled, unskilled or over-skilled. She is also reading “Spy the Lie by Philip Houston, which talks about the psychology of lying, helpful from an interviewing perspective. Lastly, she recommends “Generations, Inc.” by Meagan Johnson and Larry Johnson about how generations can better collaborate.

How Can People Connect with You? Via http://www.lornajane.com. The company is hiring in various markets. For more information, people can email activecareers@lornajane.com.

Remember, do what you love….and show the world how talented you can be, today.

Date: October 8, 2014