April 17, 2023

Customer Spotlight: Cynthia Burkhardt, Why Insights Are Critical to Effective Talent Attraction

Talent Intelligence.

Why do we need it? How important is it in helping HR leaders influence the C-Suite on an increasingly important topic called Talent?

These are the two questions we set out to shed light on when we sat down with industry thought leader and Truist client Cynthia Burkhardt, currently the Global Head of Talent Acquisition at Kimberly-Clark.

As the talent landscape continues to shift and grow in ferocity, companies are realizing now more than ever how critical it is to pay attention to what employees want in a career, workplace and leadership team. In order to evolve, many organizations are wisely collecting data, researching and figuring out what makes their coveted talent audiences happy in order to create better employee experiences and become more appealing as an employer. Kudos to those companies!

Surprisingly, others still are not.

What do organizational leaders leave on the table when they jump right into Talent strategies, Employee Experience solutions, best-guess EVPs or Recruitment Marketing campaigns without first gathering insights about the audience that their efforts are intended to impact?  

According to Cynthia, it boils down to effectiveness and ROI. Cynthia knows firsthand that most companies do not have “extra” money to put towards Human Resources (HR). Afterall, HR or People teams are still considered “overhead” in most organizations. (More on that fundamental flaw in a later post to come). Hence, figuring out where to spend one’s money allocation and how to best use available resources on a global scale is challenging, to put it lightly.

“I do not have marketing dollars on to spend on all global channels. As an example, I cannot deliver custom experiences or run marketing activations all over the world for every talent segment. I need information to help me determine how I can get more for my money and where I should allocate spend based on deep labor market insights.”

Cynthia answers this question knowing that credibly making the most impact with the money she’s given is crucial. Before diving into solutions for any problem that reaches her inbox, she pauses and asks the important root cause questions like,

“Where do people in our critical segments sit and what do they really want?”

Only by doing so can she ensure a strong return on any investment, and that the recruiting solutions deployed will actually solve the recruiting problems raised.

“In TA, business leaders come to us with solutions and ideas that, while well intended, would not deliver the impact that they seek. Research ensures that we are solving the problem at hand in a highly relevant and effective way-- the first time around.”

With proper data in hand, leaders and stakeholders will partner with us to influence the changes needed to set us up for success. It is, in essence, the entryway into a successful engagement. Burkhardt shares our experience:

“From a TA perspective, having an excellent talent intelligence capability and/or partner makes you stronger. Not only does it allow me to allocate my resources in a smarter way. It also helps to position TA as a strategic partner, creating a buy strategy that complements and even informs their business strategy; ultimately setting them up for success.”

But what about data on things Executives aren’t asking about but should be before passing on talent strategy proposals or People Transformation ideas? We had to ask.

Her answer? Simple. Competitor information.

Cynthia confidently points out exactly what Executives want to know– why are they losing candidates and who are they losing them to? This information always seems to get the attention of leaders who are focused on talent needs. It stimulates more strategic, less opinion-based actions.

In fact, this was the exact challenge she was faced with when she hired Truist to help in Q4 2021. The company was building a new Commercial center in Chicago and had already invested significant resources to staff the new facility with minimal results. Management was frustrated, the delivery team was disheartened and there were more questions than answers on this business critical project.

As a trusted partner, Truist combined primary and secondary research methods to give Kimberly-Clark leaders a clear view of where the target talent skills were, where they should focus their attraction resources on for biggest impact, what offerings they should include in their messaging across different phases of the candidate journey today and which offerings they should consider developing in the future for sustainable competitive advantage. With a focus on research-driven decisions, target-specific EVP’s, competitor battle cards and a holistic activation plan, Truist’s Talent Marketing strategy was paramount in shifting the project from red to green in less than six weeks.

We’ve been lucky enough to work with Cynthia for years at multiple orgs.  We greatly value her expertise in the Talent Acquisition space. Among other work, we’ve completed 4 similar insights projects for her and her team since then. When we asked her how she would summarize Truist’s support of Kimberly-Clark, she quickly said:

“You help us turn the unicorns into horses.”

So, we get it. It can be a challenge to get the Executive team on board with any new approach to talent strategies. But having access to quality Talent Insights / Research can make a dramatic impact on the ability to not only build effective talent solutions, but also get Executives more involved in the game when it comes to these essential topics. (Stay tuned for more info and offerings from Truist on the topic of Influencing and Involving Executives in Talent Solutions in the future).

Finally, we have to ask, what Talent Intelligence capabilities does your company have in place? Are you effectively solving your problems by getting to the truth first with kick-ass research and insights? Or are you on a hamster wheel debating unrealistic opinions with Hiring Managers and leaders? If the latter, we can help.

Your answer is our intel ;)

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