Combining People-Centricity and Technology for Superior Employee Engagement
Mark Smith stepped into the talent acquisition arena with a human resources and marketing degree. Smith has now operated as a talent leader for over two decades and has collaborated with industry leaders from organizations such as Randstad, Caterpillar, SC Johnson, and The Kraft Heinz Company.
His career kicked off at a recruitment organization at an administrative level. From there, Smith climbed the steps of success and moved to Randstad, where he grew from a recruitment coordinator to an account director. His subsequent career venture was with Caterpillar as The Head of UK Talent Acquisition, where he also acted as the Senior Manager of EMEA Talent Acquisition (EMEA TA). Smith then moved to Amazon as the Head of EMEA Talent Acquisition, which was instrumental for him in understanding the nuances of leadership and culture. From there, Smith’s career path brought him to the U.S. as the Senior Director for Global Talent Acquisition at SC Johnson, where he got the opportunity to grow as a leader and become more thoughtful about the architecture of the talent For his most recent role, Smith joined The Kraft Heinz Company as the Executive Director, Talent Acquisition and Talent Integration, where he oversees all talent acquisition and is accountable for onboarding talented individuals within the organization.
What are your biggest concerns in the employee engagement arena today?
Through all my years of experience, I can safely say that we are at an important junction today. In every conversation I have had with my peers from different industry verticals, I have realized that there are three critical elements that concern employees and organizations—culture, outstanding leadership, and meaningful work. To effectively address these challenges, leaders must act with empathy, honesty, humanity and authenticity in order to be credible problem solvers.
Historically, talent management has been based on formulaic engagement surveys conducted semi-annually or annually. Even though companies have succession planning processes and discussions, they are often locked and closeended. However, inclusion and free dialog have become necessary in today’s highly complex, agile, innovative, and disruptive business world. There is a growing emphasis on the truth that exists within employee relationships and connections with organizations. The psychological contract is something I wrote essays on 25 years ago and remains so important today. Trust is king. It is important for employees now more than ever to feel purposeful and meaningful while having a consistent, supportive and good leader for their team. Conversations and consistency matter.
The tenure of employees is also shifting. In the past, employees used to stay in a job for close to a decade or more. However, that has considerably reduced to 4.2 years at present from what I have seen and read.
Apart from these aspects, when it comes to employee engagement, leaders must have empathy, care, and compassion and go beyond the formal processes to have honest, transparent performance conversations and dialog with their teams. They need to care about each individual and the teams as a whole to foster a better workplace. This can then translate to a sense of satisfaction from the purpose of their work.
How has the employee engagement landscape evolved over the years?
The last 24 months have had a massive impact on workflow globally, but especially on frontline workers. Owing to the pandemic and technological advancements, there is a proliferation of new opportunities for people to work with more flexibility. This sense of freedom of work with greater flexibility has made employees realize that their satisfaction and engagement go beyond just pay or leadership to what truly matters—flexibility, growth, and wellness.
When it comes to employee engagement, leaders must have empathy, care, and compassion and go beyond formal processes to have honest, transparent performance conversations and dialog with their teams
As such, organizations must work with employees and help them grow in the workplace and as individuals in their personal lives. These companies need to think more creatively and accept that today’s workforce doesn’t wish to be bound to nine-to-five, six-to-six, or continental shifts. Organizations must also consider the services they provide, especially to the frontline workers, and consider their employee value proposition (EVP) in the market. The primary aspect now is to attract and retain talent for any company but the power of purpose, leadership, trust and growth is so important for the winners to win.
Is there an initiative that you have worked toward as a leader that you’re most proud of?
After stepping into the Executive Director of the Talent Acquisition and Talent Integration role at The Kraft Heinz Company, I wanted to ensure that my team operations were aligned with different client requirements. I got to make sure that the team’s formation was poised to be supportive of the company business and agile to the candidate.
I also emphasize how we hire for an executive position, which is very different from hiring for other vacancies. For that, it was not only important for me to set up an executive recruitment team, but to make sure we focused on our employment brand. So we have invested heavily on the EVP side within the organization.
In the coming months, we will soon be going to market with a design based on what we heard from our employees about how they feel about working at The Kraft Heinz Company. This will help us have authentic information from our teams, and we can be more data-led in our decision-making process, especially with the prominence of remote work. While a number of our departments are working remotely, we have established strong relationships with leading companies and leverage many topnotch products, such as the Gartner Talentneuron, to provide global talent, location, and competitive intelligence to our employees. We have also set up a team of talent intelligence partners that is not just focused on sourcing talent but on driving research and insight to create value, edge, and distinction for Kraft Heinz.
Under my leadership team, the engagement, attitude, work ethic, and creativity of the entire group has been energized because we, as a team, have been open, transparent, and operating as true servant leaders.
Would you like to share a piece of advice for your peers?
Operating with a code of compassion, integrity, kindness, and leading with that is vital to an ideal workplace and for fostering employee engagement. Of course, it is necessary to have technical skills, but leaders also need to work with a focus on their teams and a commitment to building meaningful relationships with them.
Being in a relationship business, I see the need for humanity, empathy, and technology and processes to bring about personalization in employee engagement. While depersonalization is good for certain processes, when it comes to leading teams and engaging people, my biggest advice is for leaders to emphasize the importance of the individual in the team. Leaders must be clear on standards, be kind, generous, and thoughtful. They need to go beyond being just managers to being leaders and friends who care for their team. If more people operate with more proactive positivity, the world would be a better place.