Lora Kantorovich of Phenom: 5 Ways To Attract & Retain Top Talent

HR Strategy Series with Kage Spatz, CEO at Spacetwin

Authority Magazine Editorial Staff
Authority Magazine
9 min readApr 29, 2024


Every single person has a unique set of talents, skill sets and goals. When we create opportunities for those talents, skills and goals to shine, as opposed to forcing individuals to conform to “right” ways of being, innovation and creation is limitless.

As part of our HR Strategy Series, Kage Spatz talks with top experts and executives in Human Resources. This series gives business leaders new ways to improve their hiring and retention strategies. These insights also benefit employees who want to advance their careers, learning what hiring managers are searching for and how they operate. Today we had the pleasure of talking with Lora Kantorovich.

Lora Kantorovich helps businesses build high-performance teams and products — at the intersection where product development, organizational development, and people development meet. Lora works at Phenom, a global HR tech company based in the greater Philadelphia area.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! First, please tell us what brought you to this specific career path?

Pushing past my own limitations despite my fears and insecurities is a big part of my DNA and the main throughline for every moment in my career.

My parents, refugees from the former Soviet Union, were born into an incredibly challenging world where resilience and determination were the main fabrics of their day-to-day life. That work ethic was taught to me from a young age and I started practicing it at the age of 11 when I got my first job.

The desire to push past limitations, create new solutions for old systems, and build new possibilities drove me for the larger part of my career. I was always moving into new roles and industries as a result of taking experience and skills learned from previous jobs to overcome limitations.

The most pivotal switch was when I moved into the product management space after spending years primarily working in marketing and business development. I was the last person anyone would expect to work in technology (I purchased my first ever TV for my home at the ripe age of 32) but the challenge of learning a new industry, that required me to learn new nomenclature, processes, and ways of working enticed me, and was the hardest professional challenge I had faced yet.

I fell in love with product development and the values it encompassed; specifically the idea that you can build tangible, new solutions to problems in order to push past existing limitations and frustrations people experienced, all while creating a mutually beneficial solution for those same people and the business you were supporting.

After a few years in the industry and a deep desire to continue growing, I started noticing synergies and patterns between how I was developing products and how I was developing myself personally and professionally. I became fascinated with how one could apply product development frameworks and best practices (think: design thinking, human-centered design, roadmap development, journey design, personalized and proactive UI) to professional development.

I started exploring more about the world of organizational psychology and human development which led me to where I am now, a place in my career where I can not only focus on pushing past limitations to survive but also focus on a career that brings me joy and fulfillment, something I don’t think my parents had the privilege to experience when they were my age.

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?

The most recent story I can think of was a few months ago. I was presenting a conversation around AI to a senior leadership team at a Fortune 50 company. I was sharing the importance of balancing the automation of tasks and actions using AI while maintaining what us humans really desire every day, which is connection with fellow humans.

I used a real-life example out of my own life, showing how someone I had been recently talking to on a dating app was using ChatGPT to have a conversation. The conversation quickly spun off into the leadership team aghast at the dating world today and asked me to pull up the app to confront the person about using ChatGPT for online dating, which quickly followed them asking me how to swipe through the app and show them how the app worked. That was a place I certainly did not expect that presentation to go (the person denied using ChatGPT, but it was pretty obvious)!

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

Phenom is constantly working on so many amazing projects. One of the reasons I love working here is how much Phenom invests in innovation, which is enabled by future-looking employees dedicated to product development and design.

One of the projects I’m most excited about at the moment are the solutions we’ve built to enable our clients to quickly create personalized career architectures and skill ontologies for their organizations. Historically, the ability to have something like this was a manual effort and could have taken our clients over two years to complete.

Now, we’re able to deploy something for them in a few months. Seeing how customers utilize this data to understand the role and skill gaps and trends in their organization, and then validate that against individual skills and aspirations in order to use their existing workforce to solve some of their most important business goals, has been nothing short of inspiring.

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 you use to identify talent that is best suited for the job you want to fill?

1. Reassess and redefine the importance of the role and why it needs to be filled. Get specific about the importance this role has to all of your business goals on a technical and cultural level.

Define the why of the goal, the what, and then only then, the how (e.g — the actual job responsibilities). Make sure you get specific about cultural requirements and interpersonal dynamics.

Use this open role as an opportunity to iterate on what you’ve already created, not just fill a position that is now empty. This takes more time upfront but will save you time and money in the long run.

If you’re a recruiter, push your hiring manager to ask these sorts of reflective questions. Use this information as a sounding board for every recommendation below.

2. Let AI and automation be a tool. There are so many amazing tools in the HR space to help hire more effectively, specifically when it comes to saving a recruiter and hiring manager time.

At Phenom, for example, an AI fit score is used to determine how qualified a candidate, whether internal or external, is for a particular job. This is based on intent, skill, and competency matching and helps save a ton of time when searching for the right candidate.

3. Don’t let AI and automation become your toolbox. Lean into your human capabilities, intuitions, and spidey senses when interviewing. Practice curiosity, openness, self-awareness, and criticality.

For example, in larger interviews where the individual has to engage with more than one person. Observe how that person interacts with existing employees; whether they actively engage in conversations, demonstrate respect and exhibit enthusiasm.

I think Adam Grant, an organizational psychologist, summed this up perfectly when he said,

“Effective hiring and screening…is not about bringing in the givers. It’s about weeding out the takers, and if you can do that well, you’ll be left with the givers and matchers.”

4. Take your existing workforce into account to save time and money. Traditionally, organizations tend to look externally before looking internally, but leveraging existing resources can save up to 20% on hiring costs and almost 9 months worth of productivity, according to Harvard Business Review.

Ensure you have the ability to understand your existing workforce deeply — their skills, experience, and most importantly, their career goals — to determine if you can hire someone internally before looking externally.

5. Leverage the hiring process as an upskilling opportunity for your team. Use the hiring process as an opportunity to upskill your team, specifically, folks who are interested in moving into people management spaces.

Once you’ve identified a few key candidates you want to bring in, let those trusted individuals take a stab at interviewing and providing you with their feedback.

What are the 3 most effective strategies you use to retain employees?

Employers need to make sure they have the right tools and data available to understand their employees (read: their intentions, goals, strengths, motivators, preferences, and skills) and then have an easy way to connect the right people to the right internal business opportunities in an agile way.

From there, as long as there are augmented systems (automation coupled with human touch points at critical times) in place to repeat this process, you’ll be able to make sure your employees’ intentions are being matched to business needs, and vice-versa.

In your experience, is it important for HR to keep up with the latest trends? If so, please share an example of what this might look like.

The biggest risk I see when meeting with HR teams isn’t that they’re not up-to-date on the latest trend, but that they don’t understand how the trend can support their strategic vision and goals.

It’s not helpful to feel the AI FOMO and begin sporadically interviewing vendors to bring AI into your organization. You need to understand why and how you can leverage this tool and then, most importantly, understand how to ensure bringing this tool into your organization won’t inadvertently cause negative impact to your goals.

For example, it’s disheartening to see so many organizations getting rid of the DE&I teams and putting those dollars into hiring AI experts. Those DE&I teams are exactly the teams you want to be assessing the AI models you bring into your organization to ensure that you are not only creating efficiencies within your organization but also ensuring you’re not creating more biases and harm simultaneously.

I love this quote by Ruha Benjamin, author and professor at Princeton University, who says,

“Technology is not neutral. We’re inside of what we make, and it’s inside of us. We’re living in a world of connections — and it matters which ones get made and unmade.”

We need to make sure that as we keep up with trends, we are very explicit about the ones we make and unmake.

What are some creative ways to increase the value provided to employees without breaking the bank?

I’m not going to rattle off the generic list we’ve all heard time and time again — flexibility, compensation, promotions, etc. Instead, the most inexpensive and effective thing we can do to provide value is to be human.

That means as employers: listening earnestly, being empathetic, thinking strategically, and acting accordingly. This enables us to provide personalized support to each employee, which is ultimately what drives intrinsic value.

If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?

Every single person has a unique set of talents, skill sets, and goals. When we create opportunities for those talents, skills, and goals to shine, as opposed to forcing individuals to conform to the “right” ways of being, innovation and creation are limitless.

What is your favorite “Life Lesson Quote” and how has it been relevant in your life?

Right now my favorite life lesson quote is from Friedrich Nietzsche. He said,

“There is more wisdom in your body than in your deepest philosophy.”

I love data and have historically relied on quantitative or external data to guide my decision-making process. I’m now practicing tapping into my body as my biggest data source. I’ve found my intuition is always right when I’ve learned to listen to it.

Thank you for sharing your insights with us today!

Host: Kage Spatz generates New Cash Flow for businesses that deliver 5-star, high-margin solutions — only pay for growth after new profits hit your account.