How To Identify And Retain Fantastic Talent with Stephen Lochhead of Expedia Group
People respect your humanity rather than your job title.
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 Stephen Lochhead.
Stephen has dedicated his entire career to HR expertise disciplines and been lucky enough to work for some of the world’s leading organizations. This has spanned Talent Acquisition, Talent Management, Organizational Development, Diversity & Inclusion, Employee Engagement, Learning, and Leadership Development across organizations including Arthur Andersen, Walmart, AstraZeneca, Unilever, Standard Chartered, and now Expedia Group. His spike is bringing the outside in trying to challenge the conventional ways in which the broader talent agenda can have an impact on organizations. At Expedia Group, he reports to the Chief People Officer and is a member of the Expedia Group’s People Leadership Team.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! First, please tell us what brought you to this specific career path?
I did a degree in Theology at the University of Durham and during my time off in the summers, I undertook volunteer work in El Salvador, Romania, and Bangladesh. These were life-changing experiences and at that point, I recognized that I wanted the people's agenda to be at the center of my career. HR was a natural choice.
Can you share the most interesting or funny story that happened to you since you started this career and what lesson you learned from that?
I’ve never ceased to be amazed by some of the covering letters I’ve read in my day some of which were in the realm of the weird and the wonderful. One in particular stays with me. A Financial Controller had applied for a role and painted a very visual picture of all the material wealth that they had accrued at that point in their life. The covering letter transpired to be their life story and read a bit like Alan Partridge. The letter included referencing a Porsche 911 parked proudly on their drive. To this day I’m struggling to understand what they were attempting to convey. First impressions count and we all have a choice around what that is, who we are and what we are all about. I raise a smile when I think about how the Porsche 911 must have felt.
Wild! Are you working on any exciting new projects at your company? How is this helping people?
We are in the process of transforming our Talent Acquisition function so that we can be more agile with both candidates and clients and more market aligned to functional pipelines that are key to driving our growth ambition. It is a constant companion in my thoughts at the moment. We are a tech company focused on travel with enviable consumer brands. Our ability to hire for all of those needs now and, in the future, requires a different approach.
That’s wonderful. Now let’s jump into 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?
- Meet great external talent when you can — If you wait until your point of need how do you have a relative market view? I’d like to do this more often, I do it twice a month.
- Discover great internal talent regularly — Most organizations don’t have an effective enterprise-wide view of their internal talent. This is due to the conventional silos of organization structure and you can do something about this. Think about all of the internal opportunities to connect with new people outside your own team.
- Get beyond the delivery expectation of filling jobs — Waiting for a job to fill and then going to market means only one thing — A lot of the available market has already gone. An integrated talent agenda and knowing the growth capabilities of your organization help to prioritize how best to get ahead of the curve.
- Challenge internal mobility being all about moving from one job to another. The world of work has changed. Agile organizations expect to connect people with a wide variety of internal market experience as opposed to relying on talent development happening at the time of job movement.
- Connect in with the broader HR ecosystem — How do you expect to answer the perennial employee question ‘What’s in it for me’ if you haven’t connected the dots on what’s possible when Talent Acquisition, Talent Management, and Learning combine together to crack age-old problems in a different way.
With so much noise and competition out there, what are your top 3 ways to attract and engage the best talent in an industry when they haven’t already reached out to you?
- The concept of Pascal’s Wager springs to mind. . . (An insight from my Theology degree relevant to my day job). It’s all about the mindset of opportunity and opportunity cost. Talent Acquisition functions can be powerful purveyors of career conversations that could pay great dividends in the short-medium term. What’s not to love about our ability to offer an effective career concierge into your company? A future talent prospect can achieve a lot in those 20 minutes. Difficult to benefit from any of that if they’ve declined the conversation.
- Always put yourself in the shoes of your talent prospect — If you don’t know what’s going to be very important for them based on the function of what they do — don’t reach out to them in the first place. Research and insight are the best way of underpinning a successful connect.
- Tell your own story. It’s great that you might be able to portray what your company does, what the opportunity might be...Anyone can do that. The only unique element a talent prospect experience is you. Don’t underestimate the value of your own personal insights and views in being able to stand out from the crowd.
What are the 3 most effective strategies you use to retain employees?
- Enable employees to call anything out at any time and empower them to be part of the solution.
- Care about the quality of people you ask to manage people. People Leaders define the day to day experience of what it feels like to work in your company. They influence employee experience the most.
- If you are involved in organization development or design, let your employees loose on the build. Once they’ve helped to build it, they’ll probably be more productive and more likely to own it.
In your experience, is it important for HR to keep up with the latest trends?
If HR doesn’t keep up with the latest trends then it’s time for renewal. In my opinion, the Talent Marketplace movement represents the future of HR let alone talent acquisition or talent management. We’ve carefully selected vendors to partner within this area so we have the right platforms and technology to support our ambitions. For example, the team at Gloat does a great job of providing a platform to connect supply and demand together, which is the key to unlocking productivity, discretionary effort, and employee retention. This movement predicates that traditional line management is a thing of the past and the role of a people leader is amongst other things to accelerate skills and experience exchange across the enterprise. Moreover, we use the Beamery Talent Operations Systems (TOS) platform to centralize candidate data, applications and talent operations, which greatly eases the burden on our HR team to provide a seamless experience for prospective employees.
What are some creative ways to increase the value provided to employees without breaking the bank?
Invite them to participate in the signature activity for your company. If interviewing isn’t seen as one of those then chances are it’s time for you to completely revise your current approach to interviewing and who gets to play. In so many organizations, recruitment is seen as a utility as opposed to a chance to grow the capability and culture of your organization.
If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?
I’ve always loved nature and landscapes but until I heard from my 8-year-old sons on what they think is important for the health of the planet, I would not have tuned in naturally to green or sustainability issues. I can’t think of a more existential threat that we all face at the moment and at times it feels like we are sleepwalking to the end.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote” and how that was relevant to you in your life?
People respect your humanity rather than your job title. I’ve tried and failed so many times particularly in the 1st part of my career to impress with all of the things that people find singularly unimpressive. I think you only get this when you mature a little and are more comfortable in your own skin. Anyone can be a leader without title and I’m heavily influenced by the thinking and practice of Dr. Sukhwant Bal.
We are very blessed to have 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?
From the world of comedy and culture — Dom Jolly. Trigger Happy was and still is breakthrough stuff. He also listened to Fields of the Nephilim at one point.
From the world of music and culture — Thurston Moore, the king of experimental guitar and improvisation — now living in London.
Thank you so much for these fantastic insights!