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Companies are always on the lookout for talented people. In this interview series, we talk to seasoned HR professionals to pick their brains for ideas and insights on finding the right talent for our organizations.

Christina Schelling

Christina Schelling is the SVP, Chief Talent & Diversity Officer at Verizon, where she supports close to 120,000 employees globally.

Hi Christina! Welcome to the series, we’d love to get to know you a bit better. Can you tell us the "backstory" about what brought you to this specific career path?

My career journey began as a leadership analyst for the Central Intelligence Agency. I went to school for Psychology and never really planned to work in a corporate setting but I was offered a management consulting opportunity with IBM and the organizational and behavioral sides of the role intrigued me.

This was very much a bridge to the work that I continue to do today as the SVP, Chief Talent & Diversity Officer at Verizon.

It has been said that our mistakes can be our greatest teachers. Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you first started and what you learned from it?

When I started at the CIA, all I wanted to do was fit in and not feel different. This meant playing down my style and personality a bit. A female mentor saw me trying to blend in and helped me see that my differences were my biggest assets and I needed to celebrate and leverage them. She empowered me to see my uniqueness as my greatest strength and I’ve never forgotten that important lesson. 

Can you please give us your favorite "Life Lesson Quote" and how that was relevant to you in your life? 

“Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars and change the world.” - Harriet Tubman

This quote reminds me to always think big and even when I feel at my weakest, I am strong.

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

At Verizon, we know that our people are our greatest asset and we take pride in the fact that the average employee remains here for over a decade. 

We are always checking in with our V Team and, based on feedback we’ve received from them, we created Talent GPS—a new digital tool that empowers employees with more knowledge, insights and resources to have greater ownership over their careers. 

Talent GPS allows employees to see internal growth opportunities, what’s required for the role(s) and how to get there.

V Teamers can also sign up for training, classes, and certifications with Verizon’s help in order to gain competencies required for roles they are interested in. 

It’s a multi-phase, multi-year journey that creates a market-driven job architecture with consistent job families, titles, and career paths. 

We’re excited to continue evolving Talent GPS to meet our employees where they are and to help them see how much variety and opportunity are available for them at Verizon. 

We know people are interviewing us the same way we’re interviewing them. It’s important to give them the chance to hear from other V Teamers to truly understand our culture.

Hiring can be very time-consuming and challenging. Can you share with our readers a bit about your experience with identifying and hiring talent? What's been your most successful recruitment-related initiative so far?

Before joining Verizon, I spent the last 20 years working in people, culture and organizational roles with major companies. 

Now, as the SVP, Chief Talent & Diversity Officer, I am proud to oversee all aspects of Verizon’s talent practices including hiring, learning, career development, succession planning, diversity, equity and inclusion for close to 120,000 employees globally. 

That said, Verizon’s most successful recruitment-related initiative so far has been genuinely sharing Verizon’s story through further amplifying the voice of our employees.

We know people are interviewing us the same way we’re interviewing them. It’s important to give them the chance to hear from other V Teamers to truly understand our culture.

That’s why we leverage real employee imagery and stories to reflect the many different backgrounds, experiences, and perspectives that collectively make our team dynamic and diverse. 

Our V Teamer stories are shared on Verizon’s Up To Speed and Inside Verizon platforms, where people can read and watch unique stories featuring their colleagues and how Verizon culture has impacted their career experience.

This genuine representation of our company culture is a differentiator for us and is a compliment to all of the work we do to diligently practice a fair and equitable identification, hiring and recruitment process. 

When connecting with candidates, we leverage conversational and coaching elements to help us identify the best entry points for all employees.

Once talent is engaged, what's your advice for creating a great candidate experience and ensuring the right people go through the process?

The experience that a great candidate encounters is critical to their decision to join a company–and to stay–because it ultimately sheds light on the company culture.

At Verizon, we know how important company culture is and the major role it plays in recruiting and retaining great talent. Thus, we consider many factors into making it a great experience from the very beginning. 

When hiring, we ensure applicants have access to resources and tools, in addition to providing accommodations, per candidate request, as needed. 

We also recently launched our candidate experience surveys in efforts to provide a positive experience at every touchpoint along the candidate journey. We're leveraging this information to inform where we can elevate our communication, process and engagement to facilitate a positive candidate experience. 

We also know people often apply for a specific position, but part of creating a great experience is also helping candidates to envision broader career opportunities as well.

When connecting with candidates, we leverage conversational and coaching elements to help us identify the best entry points for all employees.

In addition, we introduce them to Verizon’s programs and benefits like Total Rewards, Talent GPS, VTeam Central, Inside Verizon and more to highlight the culture, support and resources across the organization. 

All of this strengthens our culture and heightens overall satisfaction and sense of belonging for each candidate.

Based on your experience, how can HR and culture professionals work with the broader organization to identify talent needs?

HR and culture are tied together in every way. At Verizon, we identify talent needs along with weaving diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) into every facet of the business, allowing diverse experiences and ideas to help us create the best customer experience.

We also leverage both quantitative and qualitative data as a starting point. This data is gathered through Verizon focus groups, employee surveys and other frequent touch points and serves as a starting point for identifying needs across several areas. 

From there, we work with internal and external partners to help guide the process for filling those gaps.

Once gaps are addressed, we look at the outcome and success measures so that we can continue to strengthen this process and the company as a whole.

The last thing we want our recruiters to do is to take orders, especially if they are unrealistic. Having the tools needed to educate our business units is critical for our success. 

Is there anything you see that recruiters, internal or otherwise, do regularly that makes you think, "No, stop doing that!"?

Integrity is fundamental to who we are and how we operate. All recruiters go through Recruiting At Verizon training, which is a week long training to cover compliance, sourcing strategies, license access, executive presentations and a lot more.

Our goal is to equip the recruiters with everything they need to be successful consultants in their role. 

Where we continue to challenge our team is to not be “order takers” and to show up as talent consultants, showing our subject matter expertise. 

We provide a variety of licenses for talent intelligence so the recruiters can access all sorts of data to make sure we are showing up with relevant information. 

The last thing we want our recruiters to do is to take orders, especially if they are unrealistic. Having the tools needed to educate our business units is critical for our success.

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

  1. Ensure diversity is truly embedded throughout systems, processes and operations. Diversity is not a separate stream of thought, but a true part of who we are, which means it begins with our VTeam. The richness in background, experience, thought and all of the elements of diversity throughout our employee base is so powerful and provides the unique perspectives to serve our customers better. 
  2. Tell your story authentically. Our brand amplifies our V Teamer’s voices to authentically share what makes Verizon a great place to work. Those stories are shared on Up To Speed, our employee news program available both internally and externally, and through our various Inside Verizon channels. To meet our employees where they are, Inside Verizon content is available on our website, Instagram, LinkedIn and Twitter
  3. Take a holistic approach to employee wellbeing. At Verizon it’s not just about compensation and benefits. It’s about holistic personal and professional wellness and personalizing benefits to meet VTeamers where they are. Our benefits program, Total Rewards, includes a $2.5B investment in healthcare benefits and services to more than 485k employees, eligible retirees, and their dependents. Through Total Rewards, employees have access to a customizable, comprehensive suite of benefits that support their financial, emotional and physical wellbeing. Examples include Gympass, pet insurance and tuition assistance.

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

  1. Invest in internal professional development opportunities. The average employee remains at Verizon 11 years and we believe this is because we empower our employees to own their own career path. Empowering V Teamers to own their career using VTeam Central and Talent GPS along with ensuring leaders are equipped to support that journey to unleash employees’ full potential. 
  1. Establish a credo that everyone can look to. Our credo is the foundation of all that we do and it includes integrity, respect, performance excellence, accountability and social responsibility. We rally around our credo and it is the inspiration for our workplace culture. Our credo helps ensure that we’re fostering a culture where people can work, stay and grow. 
  2. Ensure that diversity is part of leadership. Being a good leader means being an inclusive leader. To further reinforce this, Verizon announced ‘Foster Inclusion’ as a new leadership principle, which will also be a part of performance reviews. Furthermore, we deeply infuse diversity into all ways of working to foster an inclusive V Team culture, create competitive advantage and drive business results. At Verizon, we offer leadership programs for key diverse populations that incorporate cultural nuances. We leverage diverse employees to help steer the development of talent programs and offerings–they’re also often included in focus groups.

Can you share five techniques that you use to identify the talent that would be best suited for the job you want to fill?

  1. ​​Recruitment Marketing: We have a dedicated team that curates Verizon's employer brand identity, built on authentic employee voices and stories. They elevate these employee voices by leveraging creative marketing, targeted media tactics, and insights to reach, attract, and influence diverse talent with the skills Verizon needs for today and tomorrow.
  2. Proactive Sourcing Tied to Skills: We have a dedicated Global Talent Sourcing team that serves as the subject matter experts for our candidate relationship management platform (Beamery), recruiting tools (LinkedIn/Indeed/HireEz), and talent market intelligence (Talent Neuron). The team uses their deep understanding of the job/talent market, competitor landscape, and industry trends to strategically identify, engage, and qualify top talent based on the skills captured in the business's talent plan. Our Sourcing Signal strategy, in which we strategically engage competitor talent based on certain market signals' that indicate waning company sentiment or possible layoffs of highly demanded skill sets, is one example.
  3. Hiring as a team sport: Collaboration between HR and hiring managers to identify needs versus wants. As managers, we often initially start off looking for “unicorns.” It's the responsibility of both HR and the hiring manager to focus on the core skills and look for aptitude towards some of the nice to haves. This includes re-evaluating how our job descriptions look and how we connect with our applicants.

    For example, there was a time when our hiring managers in certain groups almost exclusively opened senior level roles for external searches. Our recruiters have worked with our HR partners and business leaders to discuss internal growth within their teams so that we are creating a bench of talent for the future and hiring talent with more varied experience levels that will learn and grow with Verizon. It’s not only important for internal development, but it also broadens our talent pool for those hard to fill skills.
  1. Behavioral Based Interview: The first step is to identify candidate qualifications as they align to the needs of the business. We must assess talent on not only their ability to do the job, but also how their skills and values complement and add to the VTeam culture. We are able to do this by focusing on behavioral based interviews that focus on a candidate's experience and capabilities.
  2. Emerging Talent Programs: Partnerships with recruiting programs for DEI and military as well with external organizations that challenge us to think beyond conventional thought and opens us to being more inclusive to non-traditional talent. One example is transitioning military members often share many of the same values we encourage and have had extensive training on many of the core skills. We must work with them to translate their skills and experience to how we do things in the private sector.

Is there a person in the world whom you would love to have a private lunch with, and why?

Mellody Hobson—she is a powerhouse business executive who has worked across industries, broken through boundaries and achieved amazing success. I love that she is authentic and real and always gives back.

Thanks Christina, some great insights in there! How can our readers continue to follow your work online? 

We encourage readers to follow us on social media and check out our career opportunities. 

More insights from the series:

By Finn Bartram

Finn is an editor at People Managing People. He's passionate about growing organizations where people are empowered to continuously improve and genuinely enjoy coming to work. If not at his desk, you can find him playing sports or enjoying the great outdoors.