How To Identify And Retain Fantastic Talent with Jennifer Locklear Of ConnectWise

Kage Spatz
Aug 16, 2019 · 8 min read
Jennifer “Jen” Locklear

You can’t control people’s decisions or behaviors. You can only control how you manage the outcome.

As a part of my HR Strategy Series, I’m talking to top experts in the field to teach prospects what hiring managers are actually looking for, while also supporting business leaders in their hiring and retention strategies. Today I had the pleasure of talking with Jennifer “Jen” Locklear, who works with almost 1,000 employees at the time of this interview.

Jen is Chief Talent Officer for ConnectWise. Prior to joining to ConnectWise in 2016, Jen held leadership positions at WilsonHCG as chief people and culture officer, and at Healthesystems as vice president of human relations. Jen earned her Senior Professional in Human Resources (SPHR) and Senior Certified Professional (SCP) certifications as well as a bachelor’s degree from the University of Florida. She has served on the board of directors for Tampa Connection, and was recognized by HR Shield and the Tampa Tribune as one of the top Tampa Bay human resources professionals. In her spare time, Jen spends time with her husband Jon and their three children in Tampa, Florida. She also has participated in mission trips to Uganda and the Dominican Republic.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

It certainly was not a straightforward path!

My first job was at a large mutual fund company, where I ended up in a project management role in the sales department. It was a huge company, GREAT experience, but I wasn’t sure if I wanted to stay in that career path. I had a wonderful manager at the time, and I told him I was ready to make a move. He put me in contact with someone who had just joined a tech start-up, and they hired me as a catch-all. I was the fourth full-time person hired (the other three were very technical), so when anything outside of their world needed to be done, I was the one who took it on. After a couple of years there the company had grown exponentially, and when I came back from maternity leave, I was the new HR person! It was not the path I thought I would take, but about 30 minutes into the role I knew it was the path I wouldn’t want to leave.

After more than a decade there, I left to get global experience and was hired as the CHRO at the next company. I really missed the tech industry (and it did not take me long to figure that out), so I made the move to ConnectWise and my current role as Chief Talent Officer.

Can you share the most interesting or funny story that happened to you since you started this career? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

That’s the great thing about people — there is a good story every.single.day. Our founder made a promise to our sales team that if they hit a certain quota, he’d swim across the (really gross) retention pond behind our building. As an avid swimmer, and a man not willing to back down on a bet, he did exactly what he said he’d do. But he added the small upgrade of towing someone behind him in a dingy. Security was outraged (as one can imagine), and the company had to buy the security guard a new pair of shoes (to replace the ones that got ruined while yelling at all of us).

Lesson: you can’t control people’s decisions or behaviors. You can only control how you manage the outcome. Also, our founder did it again. In a different pond.

Are you working on any exciting new projects at your company? How is this helping people?

We’ve just implemented a new engagement tool — TinyPulse. We’re still learning how to use the tool to its full potential, but already we’ve seen a great advantage to being able to measure the engagement level and mood of our colleagues. We’re getting real-time feedback and suggestions on ways we can help our people, and the best part is, we can respond to their anonymous posts!

The company just went through a big change with the recent acquisition, so being able to make decisions based on data versus a feeling has been a huge win for everyone.

Ok fantastic. Let’s now jump to the main focus of our series. Hiring can be very time consuming and difficult. Can you share 5 techniques that you use to identify the talent that would be best suited for the job you want to fill? Please share an example for each idea.

Like most companies, we have so many diverse roles that it is difficult to narrow it down to just a few points. We subscribe to the belief that a good cultural fit is one of the keys to a successful career. Because of this, we hire based on our core values, and the tenets laid out in The Ideal Team Player by Patrick Lencioni.

1. Is the candidate someone who has the desire and fire to drive their team, and our company, forward? We want people who are hungry for the success and well-being of our colleagues, and our partners.

2. Is this person someone who will put his/her needs behind the needs of the greater good? Egos have ruined a lot of great careers — we want to hire people who leave theirs at home and are willing to play as a team.

3. Is this person capable of working well with others? This is the balance for the first two. We want our candidates to be people-smart. Driven enough to make big moves, but able to read and respond to people appropriately.

4. Hire a diverse team: different backgrounds, different strengths, different skill sets. Most of us fall into the trap of hiring in our own likeness — which is great, if the person making the hire is perfect.

5. Can we grow and develop this candidate? We know that our company is built on the shoulders of amazing colleagues. We want to invest in, and grow, this talent and need to be prepared to do so.

With so much noise and competition out there, what are the top 3 ways to attract and engage the best talent in an industry when they haven’t already reached out to you?

  1. Offer a great career path
  2. Invest in their professional and personal development
  3. Help them create their legacy

What are the 3 most effective strategies used to retain employees?

Actually, the best ways to retain employees mirrors the top 3 ways to attract and engage talent: 1) Offer a great career path, 2) Invest in their professional and personal development and 3) Help them create their legacy.

It’s just a matter of following through on those things.

In your experience, is it important for HR to keep up with the latest trends? Can you give some examples of what this looks like?

Sometimes! I immediately flashback to terrible trends (the “Friends” haircut, for example) and I’m grateful that it was fleeting. We’ve seen trends come and go around performance reviews, work from home, dress codes. I think you have to weigh trends on how they support your company culture. Have you ever walked into a really corporate environment and seen the sad, unused foosball table sitting there? I think companies should have a solid understanding of who they are and implement the trends accordingly.

Can you give an example of a creative way to increase the value provided to employees without breaking the bank?

My experience has taught me that people want to make an impact. Some of the investments that I’ve seen work well take very little money but provide a ton of life/professional experience. For example:

  • Allowing employees time to volunteer (either individually, or as a group).
  • Sponsoring employees and encouraging them to get into leadership programs offered through their local chamber of commerce benefits not only the employee, but your local community.
  • Involve employees in projects where they’ll learn about something they might not have had exposure to. One that comes to mind is getting to start up an office location in a different country. I got to learn about different cultures, employment laws, and government…which would serve me well throughout my career.

The cost is minimal, and the experience is invaluable.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?

Setting up a donor-advised fund. I find it interesting — most people want to donate money to different causes, but they are rarely deliberate about it when it comes to setting money aside. People rarely have money sitting around to help others (read: I never did).

My family put one in place years ago and didn’t really pay attention to it because money was coming directly from our bank account each month. It wasn’t until we wanted to support a local non-profit that we realized we had saved enough to really make a difference to this organization. I think donating money/time is one of those concepts everyone wants to do, but very little time gets put into making it happen. Taking the guesswork out of monetary gifts by creating a fund allows people to make an impact — $25 at a time!

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“Just say sorry.” — my husband, Jon Locklear.

If anyone can speak to one’s weaknesses, it is a spouse. I could have quoted someone much more influential or famous, but in the end, his wise advice pertains to me more than anyone else’s. It’s amazing how quickly a genuine “I’m sorry” can disarm people, and my immediate defensive response rarely worked in my favor.

Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world whom you would love to have a private lunch with, and why?

Simon Sinek. How is he always able to look at seemingly ordinary topics in such an interesting way? I love his perspective.

Great choice. Thank you so much for these fantastic insights!

About the Author: Kage Spatz went from inner-city Teacher to Forbes-featured Strategist & 3x Entrepreneur — most notably Spacetwin & Milburn Shaw. Kage is an advocate for win-win-win strategies. His latest project connects employees (and their families) to additional HR benefits at zero cost to them or their company. Connect with Kage on Linkedin to strengthen your network anytime.

Authority Magazine

Leadership Lessons from Authorities in Business, Film, Sports and Tech. Authority Mag is devoted primarily to sharing interesting feature interviews of people who are authorities in their industry. We use interviews to draw out stories that are both empowering and actionable.

Kage Spatz

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Forbes ft. CEO & Strategist for Good @KageSpatz. Giving you more leverage, authority, and attention that actually matters to your goals at KageSpatz.com

Authority Magazine

Leadership Lessons from Authorities in Business, Film, Sports and Tech. Authority Mag is devoted primarily to sharing interesting feature interviews of people who are authorities in their industry. We use interviews to draw out stories that are both empowering and actionable.

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