Innovation Junkies Podcast

The War For Talent

The Jeffs discuss finding the right talent & growing the existing talent in your company. Topics include: how to plan your search for new talent, the two key pillars of sustained strategic growth, & the value of interns.

Jeff Standridge: This is Jeff Standridge and this is the Innovation Junkies Podcast. If you want to drastically improve your business or improving growth strategy, generate sustained results for your organization, you’ve come to the right place. Over the next half hour, we’re going to be sharing specific strategies, tactics, and tips that you can use to grow your business. No matter the size, no matter the industry, no matter the geography.
We’ll be talking about everything, sales and marketing to organizational, operational leadership effectiveness, the innovation, digital transformation, everything in between. Routinely, we’ll bring in a top mover and shaker, someone who’s done something unbelievable with his or her business. We’ll dig deep, we’ll uncover specific strategies, tactics, and tools that they’ve used to help you achieve your business goals. Welcome to the Innovation junkies Podcast.

Hey guys, if you’re looking to put your business on the fast track to achieving sustained strategic growth, this episode is sponsored by the team at Innovation Junkie. To learn more about our strategic growth diagnostic, go to Now, let’s get on with the show.

Jeff Standridge: Hey guys, Welcome to the Innovation Junkies Podcast. I’m Jeff Standridge.

Jeff Amerine: And this is Jeff Amerine, glad to be back.

Jeff Standridge: Today, we’re going to be talking about the war for talent. I just came from a breakfast meeting with a state economic development leader and we were talking about the various companies that he’s been working with, all of whom were saying, “I’ve got 30 positions open, I’ve got 45 positions open, I’ve got to get talent in here to help me grow.” Let’s talk about that today, Jeff.

Jeff Amerine: Yeah, absolutely. The talent is the number one asset of any business. And if you’re trying to grow and be innovative, you’ve got to constantly have a refresh of really great minds that also have a bias towards execution if you want to be successful.

Jeff Standridge: So there’s a couple of things we need to be thinking about before we start talking about where we’re going to get talent. And one of those is being a place, being an employer of choice, so to speak for talent. And that comes down to culture and leadership.

Jeff Amerine: Yeah, I think it was Peter Drucker that said culture eats strategy for breakfast. And I think built into that sort of short comment is the fact that he realized that nothing good happens without having high quality people on the team. And so for sure, getting that talent in and keeping it and building on the talent you have is crucially important.

Jeff Standridge: Yeah. The only thing worse than having people who quit and leave an organization is having people who quit and stay, right?

Jeff Amerine: Exactly. In the military, we used to call that retired on active duty.

Jeff Standridge: Retired on active… Road warriors, retired on active duty. We talk about with the solution stack of Innovation Junkie, we talk about the fact that everything we do revolves around sustained strategic growth. And what we found in our practice is that two key pillars of that is the effectiveness of the leaders in organization and the effectiveness of the organizations that they lead. And that has a lot to do with culture. So making sure your leadership is right, making sure your organization is right, that the effectiveness of those things are there, and that you’ve got a culture where you are an employer of choice.
Then it’s to begin looking at where can you source talent? From where can you source talent? Where can you find people who you can target to bring into your organizations? And one of the things I know that we’ve had some experience with and we’ve helped others have experienced with and you as much as I have known more is using university interns, both at the graduate and undergraduate levels.

Jeff Amerine: Yeah, it’s a huge advantage. If you’re looking to… You clearly want seasoned people that have been around that have had some time on earth, but if you want to constantly refresh and have people that are going to think differently, using really bright interns that come through the various universities can be a great way to build talent that will be very eager, very cost-effective, that we’ll have new skills that maybe you don’t have in the company. We’ve kept people from undergrad intern all the way through to being executive director of divisions over a period of years. And I can name names of some of the great opportunities that have come from some of these people that started as interns and ended up becoming leaders in the organization. The advantage of that is you get to put the DNA imprint of the organization of your organization on those people. You train them up or educate them on your way, and then they’re going to be some of your best evangelists. They’re also going to evolve the culture in ways that can be very productive and even more innovative.

Jeff Standridge: Another benefit of that is getting engaged in the programs that are going to supply your greatest potential for talent. So whether that’s a marketing curriculum or it’s accounting or finance curriculum, or what have you, being able to take interns from there, understand where the gaps are and then provide feedback back to those program directors to improve the curriculum so that they’re producing graduates who fit the needs of your particular organization. I see that every day. And then you create this pipeline for talent coming from the universities.

Jeff Amerine: Yeah, exactly right. And some of these occasionally there’ll be internships that are partially subsidized by the university organizations. The Venture Intern Program that they have at the University of Arkansas, Office of Entrepreneurship and Innovation, there’s partial subsidy for that. The Northwest Arkansas Council and in this particular area has done similar things as well to make sure that key people get placed from really from all the state universities. But yeah, there’s a lot to be said from building those strong relationships with the subject matter experts that are in the universities and the various functions, helping influence the curriculum, making sure they’re pipelining the right people and then giving some of those best and brightest opportunities to work in your organization in a meaningful way.
Interns historically have been saddled with this idea of, well, they’re not going to know how to do much, so have them make coffee or make copies, that’s changed. In the last five to 10 years, the interns, if you do it the right way can be integral parts of your organization from day one and can get engaged in really meaningful projects right off the bat.

Jeff Standridge: Yeah. And occasionally you find interns who… Clearly, we pay our interns, but we have also had interns who’ve come to us and said, “Hey, look, I’ve worked out with my professor, an unpaid internship for credit and so I’m not looking for pay, I’m looking for you to be my intern supervisor.” And there’s a contract that usually exists a learning contract that gets developed and you as the leader of that intern have some responsibilities, reporting responsibilities back to the university and how that intern performs. And we’ve even had a person come to us because she’s interested in the venture space and say, “Look, I just want to spend the summer with you. I’m not asking for compensation.” Now, we’ll do something to reward her for the work she does. But my point is there are unpaid internships, there are paid internships, they’re internships where the remuneration is academic credit. And so it’s about as flexible as you can get in terms of working with university interns, particularly at the upper levels, senior, junior, senior levels, and even the graduate levels.

Jeff Amerine: Yeah, I couldn’t agree more and being where we are, and really this is true for both of the geographic areas where we’re located. You can get some incredible people that reside where you are going to school and other places. We had a young man who’s interested in becoming a venture capitalist, very strong financial skills that’s in the London School of Economics. And he was in this part of the country because of the employment opportunities for his folks, comes back here every summer. He was looking for interesting things to do, and we were able to pull him into an internship and he had just an incredible impact on a variety of different strategic things that we were working on.
So I think you can be pretty selective and you can also find some really interesting people and your obligation is to engage them in a meaningful way. And I would say your obligation is also to make sure that you build a culture that’s going to be appealing to some of that best and brightest talent. You’re really it’s almost like a fly before you buy type of opportunity in that you’re able to try them out in internship, and they may well be great candidates for full-time employment.

Jeff Standridge: Particularly appropriate in technical organizations where you’re bringing in developers, software testers, database administrators, what have you. I know in one of my former roles, I hired an intern his sophomore year in college, he happened to be an excellent coder as a sophomore, brought him in. He worked his way through college as a paid part-time employee and also quote unquote as an intern as well, and ended up being one of the significant contributors to our team, transitioned directly after graduation into full-time employment and spent years with us as a top performer. So technical roles where there’s specific responsibilities work out beautifully.

Jeff Amerine: I agree. We had an intern come in and had a very strong financial and technical background. And through her efforts, she ended up automating a lot of our processes. Things that those of us who had been around for a while would not have looked at, things like using Zapier and Calendly in different pieces like that to make sure that our reporting and our processes were streamlined and improved. So they can be impact players right off the bat. The key is you find the best people, you challenge them and you let them go. You don’t assume they don’t know how to do anything just because they happen to be young and are not as old as some of the rest of us for sure.

Jeff Standridge: Thanks, Jeff, appreciate you bringing that up. Today, we’re talking about winning the war for talent and how building the culture where you’re known as an employer of choice is one way you do that. Another way you can do that is by sourcing talent from university, upper level university undergraduates, graduate students through internship programs and a variety of ways. This is the Innovation Junkies Podcast. We appreciate you for being with us and we’ll see you on the next episode.

Jeff Amerine: Hey listeners, this is Jeff Amerine. We want to thank you for tuning in. We sincerely appreciate your time. If you’re enjoying the Innovation Junkies Podcast, please do us a huge favor. Click the subscribe button right now and leave us a review. It would mean the world to both of us. And don’t forget to share us on social media.

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