An Interview with Kage Spatz

Kage Spatz
Jul 25 · 11 min read

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 Nicole Dorskind.

Nicole Dorskind leads ThirtyThree’s North American operation, where she empowers Fortune 250 companies to effectively connect with talent through engaging and inspiring marketing and communication strategies. From global investment banks and professional service firms to technology and retail organizations, Nicole and ThirtyThree transform the way their clients engage with talent, aligning the people strategy to the larger organization’s strategy and delivering tangible value to the bottom line. To learn more about ThirtyThree, visit www.thirtythreeus.com.


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

For as long as I can remember, I’ve wanted to work in marketing. After graduating from college, I went down a more traditional career path and joined a big advertising firm in New York City. I had the opportunity to work with some amazing brands in the consumer space, which I found interesting and exciting. But, it wasn’t until I learned about employment communications that I discovered my true calling.

Our jobs affect everything about us. There’s a tremendous need for the work we do at ThirtyThree and I truly believe in our business. Our approach applies the principles of consumer marketing to connect people with the right organizations that align with their individual ambitions. When this happens, people can thrive in their personal and professional lives and businesses have the best people to deliver their strategy to create better outcomes for society. It’s a win-win.

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?

Nearly 10 years ago, I joined a global company called Work Group. A year into my tenure leading the US office, I was told by the management team that the business was going to be sold. Because the US division was a strategic part of the offering, I played a role in shopping around our business to potential buyers. It was really important to me that we joined an organization that aligned to our culture, valued the work that we did, and allowed us to grow to our potential. At the end of 2015, we were acquired by ThirtyThree (part of Capita PLC). This was the business I was most interested in, as they had similar offerings to ours and we could integrate easily. It was an exciting transition for our company.

Acquisitions can often go wrong but in this case, it has been a great success. Getting on board with the change was vital to that. We had to adapt to the new company, align with their goals, and adjust to working for an agency that is owned by a large corporation. I learned how to balance all of this while voicing my insight and perspective on the US market. As the leader, you dictate the story of your company. I believe my enthusiasm over the acquisition trickled down to the team and continues to make our office a successful part of the wider business.

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

We are working with clients across industries (financial services, professional services, technology, healthcare, retail, etc.) to define their employer brands and help them attract, engage, and retain the right people into their respective businesses. The corporate world is changing at a rapid pace and new generations — looking at you, Millennials and Gen Z — are taking over the workplace to create a complex dynamic. We are helping these businesses thrive by implementing new strategies that transform the ways they engage with talent.

I spend a lot of my time evolving our proposition to ensure its fit for the future of work. We want to offer strategic business initiatives, not just HR tactics. When the C-suite buys into our type of work, it means that they believe people are their most important asset. Our goal is getting the right people into the right jobs so that businesses can perform better, and those people can enjoy their lives a little bit more. You spend a third of your life at work. You better love it.

100% agree! So let’s talk about the right individual who will love the role you are looking to fill. Can you share 5 techniques that you use to identify talent that is the best fit for a position?

Build an effective employer brand: High-quality hires start long before we meet the candidate. It’s crucial to attract the right people to the right roles within your business and deter the wrong ones from applying. To do this efficiently, it’s important to invest in developing a robust employer brand and ensuring that it is communicated across every touchpoint in the employment lifecycle, beginning with the initial job posting. The more accurately the challenges and rewards of the role are conveyed, the easier it is for potential candidates to accurately self-select themselves in or out of the application process.

Ask the right questions: Candidates want to put their best foot forward. Many will try to put on a professional front. It’s important to me that I can connect with a person to understand who they really are and what makes them tick. Asking questions that get to the root of this and go beyond the stereotypical, “What’s your biggest weakness?” will allow hiring managers to get a sense of an applicant’s true character. Try thinking outside of the box and asking a question with no right or wrong answer. You’ll catch a glimpse of the interviewee in an unrehearsed moment, which will provide insight about his or her authentic personality and allow you to better assess if they are a cultural fit.

Challenge them to think like an employee: It’s critical to understand how potential hires will manage important choices if they join your business. By providing examples of real-life scenarios, I can better evaluate how well a person might perform in a particular role. This can be done in-person as part of the interview process or during the attraction phase through digital quizzes and gamified experiences that put decision-making into the hands of potential candidates.

Put their skills to the test: In some cases, candidates may interview well but may not be best suited to perform the task at hand. To determine whether or not this will be the case, nothing proves to be more effective than providing a brief in the final stages of the interview process. This allows potential hires to demonstrate the way they approach a problem and showcase their abilities. For creative roles, we ask candidates to design and present a solution to address a hypothetical client’s needs, based on actual situations we encounter in our work.

Allow them to ask questions: When individuals feel connected to and excited by the work they do, they’re generally more engaged. Studies show that highly engaged employees are better performing and more productive. To find out whether candidates are truly excited by our business and passionate about what we do, I give them the opportunity to ask questions. This allows me to learn whether they’ve thought about why they want to make a shift into our world (they’ll usually be coming from another background) and how they can make an impact here.

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

Start from within: Existing employees are an audience in their own right. The people who presently thrive within your culture are a great starting point to reach like-minded talent. A strong employee referral program will allow internal audiences to act as brand champions and become vehicles for distributing content with their personal networks.

Share engaging content: To build awareness of your employment offering, communicate what it’s like to work for your organization, and attract talent into your business, you’ll need to tell your story in a way that is both authentic and relatable. Where you tell this story will depend on where your target audience is consuming information, and you’ll need to consider what type of messaging and format will be most appealing to them.

Generate buzz: Creating memorable and engaging experiences at hiring events will make a strong first impression with prospective candidates. It’s important to consider that recruiters are the living manifestation of your employer brand: every interaction counts. Select representatives thoughtfully and arm them with resources and collateral to create meaningful interactions.

Nicole Dorskind

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

Hire strategically: People will stay with you and succeed within your culture if their personal values and beliefs align with your company’s purpose. That’s why it’s critical to attract the right people in the first place if you want to cultivate an engaged workforce. People can be reskilled, but these values are often ingrained in who they are.

Be transparent: People at work want to understand what’s happening within the organization and why. While the purpose of strategic vision is often understood within the senior levels of the management team, it can feel irrelevant or disconnected for much of the wider workforce. When employees understand where the company is headed and how they fit into that journey, they’ll be more motivated to make an impact. It’s important that this story is told through clear and consistent communications. This begins at the top.

Foster development: According to a recent LinkedIn survey, the number one reason people change jobs is for career advancement. Invest in your workforce by providing opportunities for learning and development. Studies show that highly engaged employees who feel supported at work are better performing and more productive. The long-term benefits (a happier workforce and, in turn, happier customers and shareholders) will outweigh the short term costs.

So many valuable strategies! 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?

Human resources is one of the most important aspects of a company. Attracting and retaining the right people is essential for businesses to survive in a rapidly changing world. It’s important for HR to keep up with the latest trends, both within the space itself and in a broader sense, so your organization does not fall behind your competitors. But, do this thoughtfully and make sure you consider the wants and needs of the people you’d most like to employ. What matters most to them?

In the past, it might have been unheard of to offer employees a gym reimbursement or provide in-office happy hours. Companies today are raising the bar higher and higher. What can yours do differently? Additionally, technology is an impactful way to communicate your employment offering. We work with businesses using everything from apps to VR to tell their unique story. It’s critical that the end result addresses the project objectives in a differentiated and meaningful way to deliver effective results.

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

There are many ways to reward hard work and make people feel appreciated without breaking the bank. Celebrate wins (no matter how small), offer promotions when deserved, and don’t forget to have some fun along the way. Within our organization we’ve developed a social committee, which is responsible for planning office-wide outings and events, covering everything from “wine to wellness.” This allows us to bond as a team, give back to local charities, and expand our horizons. We also bring in speakers from various backgrounds to come present to our agency as part of our ThirtyThree Thought Series — including a curator of street art, an award-winning barista, and an opera singer.

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?

There are already inspiring movements aimed at reshaping gender equality. It has been earth-shattering in Hollywood and has started new conversations — really, a global debate. Corporations are responding to this as well by instituting diversity and inclusion efforts in the workplace. However, in my experience, some of these efforts don’t trickle down into their business culture. This stems from the fact that many don’t appreciate what women face in the workplace, including inappropriate behavior (which happens more often than you may think), the pay gap, and being taken less seriously simply because of your gender. These are real things that women face every day that are often overlooked, misunderstood, or ignored. We need to bring more awareness to the ongoing issues that still exist. It’s not just important for the stars. It affects most, if not all women.

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

I’m going to have to go with a cliché here, but sometimes these exist for a reason. I stand by the quote, “Don’t judge a book by its cover.” It is applicable to everyday life and business, and I have tried to live by it since I learned the lesson when I was in high school. My summer job was as a salesperson at a high-end clothing store. One day, a woman came into the shop who looked a bit eccentric and unlike most of our usual clientele. All the other salespeople ignored her as she didn’t seem worth the attention. I chose to approach her and see if I could be helpful. It was a good decision for me because she ultimately ended up spending a fortune in the store that day. She became my best customer, returning to the store and requesting to work only with me, much to the dismay of my co-workers. I was the top salesperson for the company’s 15 east coast stores that summer.

That story and its lesson can be applied to both people and businesses. As humans we tend to have preconceived notions about who people are and pass judgment. It’s important to treat people with respect and not make assumptions. In my business experience, some of my most innovative work has come out of unexpected places.

I’m a huge fan of that one! 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?

I’d love to have lunch with Sheryl Sandberg. Being a powerful woman in the tech space is inspiring in itself, but her work to help people of every gender achieve their ambitions without bias through the Lean In initiative is admirable. It’s a mission that’s so important and one that’s close to my heart as a female business leader.

Thank you so much for sharing these fantastic insights with us today!


About the Author: Kage Spatz went from inner-city Teacher to Forbes-featured Strategist & 3x Entrepreneur — most notably Spacetwin & Milburn Shaw. Kage’s latest project is adding value to HR benefits at zero cost to employees and their companies. 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

Written by

Forbes ft. Strategist @KageSpatz, Spacetwin CEO, Co-founder at MilburnShaw.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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