HR & CHRO Evolution: Jason Hanold Q&A Part 2

In part one of my interview with Jason Hanold, CEO and co-Managing Partner at Hanold Associates, we discussed his journey to the CEO chair, how the HR field/role has evolved over the past decade, and what CEOs seek in their HR professionals today. In this post, we discuss what makes an opportunity desirable for CHROs and other HR executives, how they should spend their first 100 days on the job, and the relative importance of regional differences.



Jason Hanold

What are you seeing that HR candidates are looking for today? You’ve got to call people and say, “Yeah, I know you’ve got a job, but I’ve got a better opportunity for you.” What makes it a better opportunity these days?


“What’s most important for people today is purpose and mission and impact. When I first got into executive search, there was a pivot point. I remember helping Laszlo Bock build Google’s first ever HR organization. At that point in time what was compelling to the best of the best talent was a “wealth creation opportunity.”


Most people now want to bundle a solid living with something that’s meaningful to them. It’s a way to blend vocation with avocation. We see that with companies such as Patagonia and REI that have an altruistic purpose in ethos, in the way they conduct business. So when you can combine a competitive pay, a phenomenal culture for them to work in, and an organization that is mission-driven, that’s a trifecta that equals a compelling, great opportunity in the marketplace.”


How do you advise HR clients to prepare for the first 100 days of a new job? Should they spend the first six months observing and gathering data, or should they immediately make some changes?


“That’s a great question, and it’s always culturally specific. Some roles are set up with a built-in transition period. The incumbent may be retiring or going to do something else and are going to be there to provide air cover for the first few months. That provides a better opportunity in a normally paced organization for the HR person to come in, learn, and understand before weighing in.


Then there are organizations that describe themselves as flying the 747 while they’re constructing it, and they need results. They have a strong action orientation. They want outcomes and will embrace failure and mistakes. In a culture like that, a candidate who expects a months-long advisory or questioning period may not survive.


When Hanold Associates is launching a search, we leverage a tool called Predictive Index at the front end. This gives us a sense of 1) Are the stakeholders who are going to be interviewing a candidate aligned? and 2) Does the candidate fit the micro culture of that leadership team? That helps us pick up things around formality and informality, but more importantly pace. How much information do they need before they make decisions?


That particular measurement also applies to how companies ought to structure their onboarding. We frame referencing differently to help with this. Historically, referencing is about whether a company should hire a person or run the other way. I use referencing as an opportunity to provide our clients with guidance from people who’ve worked with these folks to give them a sense of how to generate a successful onboarding process. It’s about what the candidate needs and how they’ll learn best at a new organization to have impact fast. That should set the tempo for how one approaches onboarding into a new role once we complete a search, if that makes sense.”


It does. I have a question about regional differences. For example, the Austin Chamber of Commerce* recently conducted a nationwide search to replace its President, who is retiring after about 20 years in the role. Austin has changed a lot in that time. I’m concerned that if they hire the “best” outside candidate, this person will be set up for failure. On day one, he or she won’t know many people and not understand the unique Austin culture. Instead, because of the importance of relationships and everything else, I think this organization should be looking inside Austin. How important are regional differences in terms of fit for people in organizations?


“Well, they’re very important, and sometimes important for different reasons. For instance, we’ve had some organizations where there’s a sameness and they’re attempting to be more diverse. They might have ethnic diversity, but I’ve had situations where maybe all employees have been from New York and the CEO says, ‘You know what? We’re a wholly domestic organization. We have more revenue coming from California than we do from the East coast, and I want a diverse lens from geography.’ So in that particular case, it’s a good thing.


To your question, I’ve never had a search yet where regional implications were not at the center of determining what a great fit equals. I often ask clients, who create descriptions of their ‘ideal candidate,’ if they are needlessly narrowing the talent aperture before they start the search. In the case of what you just described in Austin, the first thing I would have challenged the stakeholders on, whoever the hiring managers are, is to ask what’s easier to learn: Is it easier to learn the nuances around key stakeholders, culture, and resources in the Austin market or the nuances of a chamber of commerce?


I’m aligned with your intuition on this, because you may bring in someone else who’s run a chamber of commerce, but the learning curve on the things that matter most might be a much steeper climb. A local person who knows Austin well and has relationships that sometimes take decades to establish can learn the ins and outs of running a chamber.


We tend to look at it objectively once the client tells us, ‘Here’s what we want.’ Because one thing I’m not and have never been is an order taker. We work best with clients that are thirsty for counsel, because I’ll give it.”


*The Austin Chamber of Commerce hired Austinite Laura Huffman earlier this month.


What makes Hanold Associates special, other than what you’ve already said?


“We just feel incredibly blessed to have the firm we do. We have 15 wonderful people who make up our firm, and we’re serving some of the most interesting clients on the planet. I’m also very proud that we happen to have the most diverse retained search firm in the country, and over 74% of our successful candidates happen to be diverse candidates for those particular leadership teams. As a result, we’re doing a lot of these searches for chief diversity inclusion officers.


I feel like I have the best job on the planet. As a recruiter, if you’re thoughtful about it, you get to play a role every day in bettering someone else’s situation in life. I’ve hired people at Hanold who share that value. That’s what we set our mind to doing every day, but we probably put more people into roles that have nothing to do with our retained search or a fee that we are receiving. We just love connecting good people to a great opportunity.”



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