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Building a Sustainable Hiring Strategy
Episode 25311th July 2024 • Engaging Leadership • CT Leong, Dr. Jim Kanichirayil
00:00:00 00:33:42

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Dr. Jim and Jennifer Akoma, VP of People and Stewardship at Android Industries, dive into transforming high churn rates by refining hiring and onboarding processes. Jennifer shares her experiences of navigating crises, implementing applicant tracking systems, and shifting from temporary staffing to a more strategic talent acquisition approach. Discover how integrating data-driven decisions and better forecasting led to longer employee retention and more effective teams. Essential for HR leaders grappling with high turnover in high-volume environments. Tune in for actionable insights on building high-performing teams during challenging times.

Key Takeaways:

  • Centralized Recruitment and Data Utilization: Implementing an applicant tracking system and focusing on HR analytics can help identify inefficiencies and reduce reliance on expensive external recruiters.
  • Strategic Use of Temp Agencies: Use temporary staffing agencies as a supplemental tool for specific scenarios like seasonal work or special projects, rather than a primary resource.
  • Enhanced Onboarding and Training: A strong onboarding process and proper training for first-level leaders can significantly improve employee retention, particularly within the critical first 30 days.
  • Collaborative Problem-Solving Approaches: Partnering with operations teams and being ready to pivot strategies as necessary are vital for addressing high churn rates efficiently.
  • Long-Term Thinking Over Short-Term Fixes: Consistently resorting to short-term solutions leads to long-term pain points; focusing on sustainable, long-term strategies is essential for stable growth.



Breaking the Cycle of High Employee Turnover


Scaling HR Operations Amid Crisis in the Automotive Industry


Optimizing Talent Acquisition by Reducing Reliance on Temp Agencies


Navigating Hiring Challenges in the Automotive Industry During COVID


Strategies to Improve Employee Retention in the First 30 Days


Transforming High Churn Environments Through Data-Driven Hiring and Onboarding

Connect with Dr. Jim:

Connect with CT:

Connect with Jennifer Akoma:

Music Credit: Shake it Up - - David Renda

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Engaging Leadership Outro

Engaging Leadership Intro



You can have the best vision. You can have the best values and strategy in place. But if you're hiring is creating a perpetual revolving door, your teams will always be in firefighting mode. So how do you fix it? The problem is that when you get into revolving door mode, it's hard to get out. In fact, as a churn keeps occurring, functional leaders will be star for talent and will be more apt for looking for short term fixes But what if the urgency for the short term fix is the root of the problem?

How do you break that cycle? Those are the questions that we'll be tackling today with our featured guest jennifer okoma Jennifer is a proven executive leader with an outstanding track record of building high performance teams and managing top talent She's got a strong focus on the successful implementation of high profile projects.

She's [:

[00:01:20] Jennifer Akoma: Thank you very much for having me. I'm excited to be here.


[00:01:48] Jennifer Akoma: Sure. Sure. It was a, it's a unique and interesting way. We we've gotten to this point Android is, has a very long history in the automotive in [00:02:00] industry. When I joined we. We had a very large contract and I joined as the Talent Acquisition, Talent Development Manager, the very first one.

We had to hire 1, 800 people in 18 months, which is quite a bit. That is a very fast time period. So we grew very quickly. And had to bring all those people on board. As we were doing that in the automotive industry and in the world, there were some things that happened back to back.

2019 you had the UAW strike, which hit the auto industry pretty hard. And then as we come came out of that, you have. COVID that hit and everybody knows what COVID did to staffing and trying to staff positions and get people to come back to work, especially those deemed as, essential workers people that.

ay or into a factory. It was [:

[00:03:27] Dr. Jim: It's interesting that you're describing all of these different pivots during your time at Android, but one of the things that I'm curious about is that when you look at the size of the organization, roughly a 4,000 person organization, your HR organization is pretty lean.

So when you're looking at crisis after crisis. And you're looking at a large organization that is distributed internationally. How did you make the decision on what to prioritize with an especially thin HR team?


So we were able to do that with a system and we did it quickly. So we got past that and then as you do You're working through one problem and you start to notice other things, right? And so you're solving one and then you're already have a list of many others. So you go on to the next challenge, right?

roll. And that was it. So for:

[00:05:04] Dr. Jim: That's interesting that you had to scale up with little to no infrastructure in place. I guess one of the things that I'm curious about in that sort of environment when you're in an infrastructure, poor environment and you're running a thin HR team, you still have to get all of that hiring done.

What's looking back at that scenario, what were some of the things that you put into place at that time that got the job done, but you might, looking back, think, oh, that was probably not the right way that we should have approached it?


It would take quite a long period of time to get people hired. But when you have a focused talent acquisition team that is able to spend the whole day on calls, getting people in the door, organizing job fairs scheduling interviews the. It goes much quicker, much smoother in it.

It's a, it's an art, right? So I think I would have tried to push going in that direction a little quicker.


And if I am. What were the things that you did during that transition phase to help [00:07:00] shift that perspective into something that is more modern in terms of how each are functions in our organization.


And the culture is good, but so much more to offer. And I think one of the things especially when you're looking at an HRS system is the data, right? There's so much information that you can provide to an organization with the people data. that you have when you have a global HRAS system put into place that I don't think our organization ever thought of.

we aren't getting any people [:

When you have the data versus, an emotional type of reaction. I think that was able to use that as my first building block of, okay, let's look at this and now we can problem solve from this data and really figure out what we can do instead of, just reaction after reaction.

That doesn't get you anywhere.


You inherited an organization and you really grew up as an HR professional in an organization that [00:09:00] That were, that was experiencing a lot of different pain points, but those pain points weren't being surfaced. So tell us about what you observed and how you leveraged what you observed to make the case for doing something different.


We need a salaried employee. Let's get a contractor or let's, get a recruiter on that. When I came in it was August timeframe. And because we had at headquarters as much hiring as we did in the plants, there was over 750, 000 spent on on recruiter fees that we were able to completely wipe out that for the next year.

That was a, complete savings [:

So they don't know your culture, they don't know your people. And so it was retraining the company You can interview, you can spend a little bit more time with these people and find the right fit and all positions, including direct labor. We can drug screen, we can test them, we can get them in the door.

much time training and with [:

[00:11:02] Dr. Jim: So I want to dig in a little bit on some of the things that you mentioned, and one of the things that stood out is that once you had the data in front of you, the organ, you found out that the organization was spending almost a million dollars a year and recruiter fees. And your comment was, temp agencies are fine as a backup solution.

What I'd like to hear from you is a little bit more insight into how you should Use temp agencies as a supplementary tool for your talent attraction strategy or talent talent acquisition strategy versus a primary tool.

So map that out for us a little bit.


Sometimes, in, in engineering too, we use engineers in that way. In the summer a lot of times we have we have unions in a lot of our plants, they have PTO and we have a lot of PTO happening and so we have higher absenteeism at the same time. So we might, carry some carry some temps at that time, just so we have coverage.

We don't necessarily have to hire because we know it's a combination of PTO and absenteeism and that, okay, they're going to fall off or at the end of, 60 days or at the end of the summer that temporary assignment is going to be over. A customer has, let's say, a, A time period where they tell us they're going to ramp up for a period of time, but it's only going to be this period of time.

those are what I call like a [:

[00:13:20] Dr. Jim: Yeah I like your emphasis on using it as a stop gap or as a supplementary or special projects approach. And really when I tie it into some of the things that happened over the last couple of years, especially in the big tech space where they overhired, They probably should have taken the approach of temporary staff, which would have temporary it staff, which would have probably saved their reputations a little bit more than than what they typically did.

ou're doing mass layoffs. So [:

So I want to I want to bring this forward a little bit. So this was the S. O. P. For a while. You just go through this constant binge cycle of bringing people in and then you're churning through them just as quickly because, as you mentioned, we're just going to hope for the best. So what was the story that you told leadership and it?

What did you do to have them shift perspective into a different way of doing things so that you weren't dealing with this constant pile of burning money, which is. Basically what you were doing.


And Arlington is an area where it is hard to find people. There's a lot of competition. We were challenged there. We were not paying. We were, that was the time where, you know that fast food restaurants were just, okay, we're going to pay 12. 15 because you're competing with all the subsets subsidies too and it was more profitable for people to stay home than going to work.

You're facing all of these challenges to try to. Get people to come in. We had to go the double duty there. We had to use the temporary staffing companies, but then we had hired an intern essentially just to focus on direct labor in Arlington, just call and get people in and do job fairs.

one. The people that she was [:

And. Then the difference did equate to quite a savings because we weren't paying that markup fee on the ones that that she was bringing in. And in fact, if if she was an intern and we did end up hiring her full time, but you equate that salary to the savings of, the markup of a temp, Temporary staffing company.

s is why we want to start to [:

[00:17:01] Dr. Jim: that's really good perspective. I think one of the things that I'm curious about when you're making that pivot, you're probably dealing with a lot of the operation or shop floor people that are screaming at you about, we don't have anybody to put on the line. How did you navigate that conversation and put out that fire? Because you're not going to be able to convert from a temp driven hiring strategy to a direct hire driven hiring strategy overnight. And that's before we start looking at the changes that you need to make from an onboarding perspective.

So walk us through how you got the shop floor leaders from going off the rails because they don't have any people. Yeah.


Which, if you think about that, doing that in 2020, 2021, it would have been impossible. We would have had our entire, salary team running the line. There would have been no way we would have been able to do that. We, we called in our staffing agency partners and we were able to get enough people in the door to start to do that on the back end.

We were then doing the job fairs and getting the direct labor in and they were asking for it because, they've seen the differences now. As then we, we got the people in that we needed to stand it, stand up the second shift. But then as the attrition happened, we were oriented, we had orientations of our direct tire and then we were backfilling them with the direct tires.

lot those in and we're still [:

The team was able to do it and the operations team and the HR team work together because we've over the last three or four years, we've worked together to say, we are going to get you your people. We were not saying we're not going to use the temporary staffing companies.

We will. But we're going to do it this way as well. And they're now seeing the data in another plant where we're going to do we're starting a third shift in September. We're starting the direct hiring now in june or yeah in june We started job fairs and we're bringing them on Second shift and we're training them.

of materials handler partner [:

Every other week we're doing a job fair, you were, we're training on other shifts. And so the plan is this is our first one to see, can we do this mostly with direct tires?


Versus what you just described where you have lead time. I would think a lot of these [00:21:00] problems could be solved with better forecasting that's coming from the functional leaders that are saying, Hey, this is what we need. And then that way that allows for better planning and better hiring.


Hindsight is 2020 for them. I think they, they're seeing the challenges on their side and our side and probably would do it differently, but again, hindsight's 20, 20 in our Arlington situation, nobody could have predicted what happened in, in the midst of COVID, right? We were prepped.

ch. That but it all crumbled [:

So it was boom, which is fast, but. That's, it's the way it goes when they offer you a contract and we're like, yep, we're ready to go. We'll take it. And what are you going to do? Turn it down. So they just did not, at that point have the staffing infrastructure to, to be able to withstand that.

Could we do it now? Yeah, probably.


So how did that level of churn influence what you're doing through the talent attraction phase and also the onboarding phase? What were the things that you focused on to get better outcomes from a retention perspective?


Once they get past that 30 day, it, halves or more. And once you get them past the 90 day it drops [00:24:00] significantly. So we really want to focus on that 30 day that 30 day turnover. I was like, okay, you have to listen to your team. I I have a very data driven team.

Very opposite of sometimes what you think of HR people. They love to dig into the data. the details of the data and that's what they did. We are, doing things like putting out surveys to our direct labor, even going to the floor to say, okay, you've been here this many months, and asking them some very pointed questions so that we can, figure out what was it that, that they were interested in.

ere, you never see him again.[:

You're not going to get anything from the people that leave. You really have to go back to the people that stayed and try to figure out what kept them here. So we're approaching it many different ways.


[00:25:23] Jennifer Akoma: Sure. We have a very clean environment. There are a lot of our a lot of plants are, very clean. They can be dirty, it can be very, hard work. There are some stations that are a little bit more difficult than others, but our, ours tends to be very ergo friendly.

d to OSHA standards RIR year [:

So people that have worked in plant over plant, they see, Those things as a positive and they know a good environment when they see one. And they appreciate that. So we try to focus on those things, areas that we can get better. We. We do, we got probably off the way we used to train and do orientation with people we, when we were trying to just get them in the door faster and get the lines filled.

team leaders and production [:

That's a very hard place to be when you're shoulder to somebody, your friends, you've been working next to them for years, and then you're in a leadership position, right? It If you, if we don't give them the tools and the training to do that that's when, people on the line notice favoritism, they're buddies with this person and they get more breaks, they get the easier line, and then you start to get those battles, on the floor, on the line, and the complaints start coming.

We're spending more time. providing that training before we're putting people in like a team leader or production supervisor type of role.


I'm sure there are other people leaders that are out there in high volume environments that are probably facing the same thing where they're in a high churn environment. So when you think about that, what are the key lessons that you learned? That would be useful for those folks that are facing the same thing that will help them get over the hump and transform their culture from one that's high churn to something that's a little bit more stable.


No, do it this way. It's, trying to align and say, Hey, let's do this together. It will it'll make it a better, it'll make it a better story in the end. Sometimes [00:29:00] it's impossible, but if there was a way to do that, find a partner somewhere that speaks that language . Don't be afraid to pivot. Sometimes you go down a path and it's not, it's not working. Then, pivot and try something else because just don't get stuck on something because you said it. It might not work in all areas of the country or for all jobs.

Sometimes you have to, pivot into something else and you don't want to get stuck in something just because that's what you thought at first. And then it ends up not working.


[00:29:36] Jennifer Akoma: Sure. I am available on LinkedIn. They can definitely reach out to me via an in mail. And I can share my My Android email address.


In any organization, if you are looking at stop gap measures to fix whatever the problem that is at the surface you're It's going to solve that surface level problem and it's probably going to lead to about six other longer deep seated problems that you need to deal with. So when you're looking at an environment that is challenged with a lot of turnover, what I gathered from this conversation is that you need to have deliberate focus on two different areas.

One is your talent attractions process and specifically the talent profile that you're hiring for and especially your alignment at the late stage hiring phase. So you need to find out Is this person going to be here to fill a gap, or is this person going to be somebody that we're looking at to be here for the long term?

you're going to have another [:

So when you're looking at driving retention outcomes, one of the most critical Stages of the employee life cycle is your onboarding process. Most people who are in your organization Will make a decision to stay or leave based on the strength or weakness of your onboarding program . So if you haven't structured your onboarding program in a way that is designed to put your people in positions to succeed, you're going to have problems. It's got to be more than just let's throw him in and see what happens. That is where you get a 50 percent churn rate within your organization. So if the goal for your organization is to Much more profitable from a talent retention and development perspective.

You've got to get away from short term thinking and you need to be much more disciplined in your hiring and onboarding process because that's, what's going to pay off in longterm retention outcomes. So Jennifer, I appreciate you hanging out and sharing with us your experience. For those of you who have been listening to this conversation, we appreciate you listening to.

If you liked what you heard, [:



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73. Building High Performance Sales Teams By Focusing on Empathetic Ownership and Accountability
72. Leveraging Psychology and Data to Drive Better Talent Attraction Outcomes
71. How Employee Engagement, Process Definition, and Change Management are Critical to the Success of Technology Transformations
70. How People Focused Leadership Helps Build High Performance Teams
67. Performance Improvement Plans Wreck Your Organizational Culture and Employee Engagement
66. How Setting Clear Expectations is Critical to Building High Performance Teams
69. DEIB is a Nice to Have? Good Luck Attracting and Retaining Talent if You Believe That
68. How Can HR Benefit By Using Agile Principles?
65. Is Embedding Self-Compassionate Leadership Principles the Key to Building High Performance Teams?
60. How to Leverage Emotional Intelligence so Your Managers Become More Effective
63. How People Analytics Drives Employee Engagement at All Stages of the Employee Life Cycle
64. Building High Performance Organizations by Leveraging the Power of Managing Up
61. Leveraging AI to Supercharge Your People Analytics and Employee Engagement Efforts
62. Why Are Your Employees Disengaged and What Can You Do About It?
59. How Deep Listening is the Essential Fuel Needed for Building High Performance Teams
58. How to Prevent Bias in Your Performance Evaluation Process and Keep Your Employees Engaged
55. Key Steps for Creating Best of Breed Individual Development Plans
56. How to Create a 360 Feedback Culture With Limited Resources
57. How AI Tools Can Boost Productivity for Mid-Sized Organizations
54. How Leveraging People Analytics Can Help Solve Your Employee Turnover Problem
50. How Creating an Inclusive Culture Breeds an Engaged Workforce
52. Leveraging Technology to Simplify Your Performance Management Efforts
49. Creating a Culture that Listens and Acts on Employee Feedback
53. Avoiding These Common Mistakes When Giving and Receiving Feedback is Critical for Employee Engagement
51. How Rewards and Recognition Can Supercharge Your Ability to Build a High Performing Team
44. The Importance of Mission, Vision, Values Alignment to Employee Engagement and Retention
45. Using Data and Analytics to Identify and Develop High-Potential Candidates
46. Building an Effective Performance Management Process When You're Part of a Busy HR Team
48. How Work Life Balance and a Well Being Focus Fixes Poor Employee Engagement and High Turnover
47. Building a High Performance Organization: Key Factors for Employee Engagement, Retention, and Success
41. How Employee Turnover Crushes Small and Mid-Sized Organizations
40. Building a Learning Culture to Stretch Training Dollars While Keeping Employees Engaged
39. Making "Doing More with Less" a Reality for Small and Mid-Sized Organizations
42. Building a Non-Toxic Culture of Continuous Improvement
43. Building a Culture of Effective Communication in Small to Midsize Organizations
18. Why Constructive Feedback From Managers Is Critical for Employee Engagement
16. How Communicating with Cultural Competence Impacts Your Employee Engagement
32. How AI Powered Dashboards Can Level Up Your Performance Management Efforts
8. Building a Whole Person Culture and the Impact on Employee Engagement
17. Why Building a Coaching and Mentoring Culture is Critical for Employee Engagement
4. How Can Busy HR Teams Get a Fix on Employee Engagement?
12. How Do You Get the Most Bang for Your Employee Survey Bucks?
35. How Building an Open-Door Culture Leads to More Dedicated Teams
7. How Can Busy HR Teams Empower Managers to be More Effective?
10. What are the Best Practices Managers Need to Follow for Effective 1:1s?
20. Employee Retention Essentials: Creating a Culture Where Employees are Valued
1. Launch! Empowering Busy Human Resources Teams for Success
9. How Can Busy HR Teams Leverage AI to Create Bandwidth
30. Building an Engaged Culture by Leveraging Constructive Debate
5. Why Are Busy HR Teams at Massive Risk When They Ignore Employee Engagement?
6. Human Resources PB&J: Workforce Planning and Employee Engagement
25. Understanding Why Employee Retention is So Challenging for Mid-Sized Organizations
3. Why Do Busy Human Resources Teams Struggle with Bandwidth?
2. How Many of These Employee Engagement Symptoms are You Seeing?
31. How AI Can Help Busy HR Teams Supercharge Their Collaboration
26. Why Is Bias Something You Should be Extremely Worried About When it Comes to Your Talent?
36. Creating an Empowered Leadership Culture that Acts on Employee Feedback
19. Essential Tips for Effective Performance Reviews
33. How AI Enhanced Employee Benefits Will Revolutionize Customization for Busy HR Teams
37. Small to Mid-Sized Organizations Can't Afford to Ignore Employee Turnover
11. Hybrid and Remote Work Equals Better Employee Retention
27. Creating Community Can Be a Gamechanger for Keeping Employees Engaged
15. How Do You Make the Most of Your Meetings? Best Practices Ahead!
28. Building Employee Engagement through Mentoring Programs
14. What Are the Best Practices for Building Strong Hybrid or Remote Teams?
13. Stop Wasting Your Time With Team Building Events
29. How Building Active Listening Skills as a Manager Levels Up Your Employee Engagement
22. How Managers Can Help Level Up Your Talent Engagement Strategy
24. Why Making Room For Team-Building Events Might Make Sense for Your Organization
38. How Technology is Critical to Creating a Strong Communication Culture in Remote/Hybrid Teams
34. How Building a Feedback Culture Keeps Your Employees Engaged
23. Having Employee Retention Issues? How Your Employees Are Feeling Might Offer Some Clues to Why
21. How is Poor Employee Engagement Killing Your Ability to Recruit Talent?