On today’s episode of the RecruitingDaily Podcast, William Tincup speaks to Laura from AlertMedia about the state of employee safety
Some Conversation Highlights:
Listening time: 30 minutes
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Announcer: 00:00 This is RecruitingDaily’s Recruiting Live Podcast, where we look at the strategies behind the world’s best talent acquisition teams. We talk recruiting, sourcing, and talent acquisition. Each week, we take one overcomplicated topic and break it down so that your three-year-old can understand it. Makes sense? Are you ready to take your game to the next level? You’re at the right spot. You’re now entering the mind of a hustler. Here’s your host, William Tincup.
William Tincup: 00:34 Ladies and gentlemen, this is William Tincup and you’re listening to the RecruitingDaily Podcast. Today we have Laura on from AlertMedia, and our topic today is state of employee safety. So I can’t wait to talk to Laura about it. Laura, would you do us a favor and introduce both yourself and AlertMedia?
Laura Woolford: 00:52 Oh, absolutely. Thank you, William. It’s an honor to be here.
00:56 Hello, everyone. I’m Laura Woolford. I am the chief people officer for AlertMedia. And for those of you that don’t know AlertMedia, we are the premier provider of emergency communications software. What we do is help organizations all over the world keep their people safe. They’re safe, informed, connected, and just really make sure that we’re responsible for that duty of care for folks.
William Tincup: 01:23 I love it. So when we think safety, I think most people, at least historically, would think of hourly.
Laura Woolford: 01:30 Right.
William Tincup: 01:30 They think of hourly workers, forklift operators, people that works in mines, et cetera. And I know that’s broader than that. So why don’t we talk a little bit about where we should apply safety?
Laura Woolford: 01:44 Oh my gosh, yes. Gosh, I’ve been in HR 25 years and I know exactly what you’re talking about, William. So many people think about OSHA and safety requirements and manufacturing environments, but safety is so much bigger. I feel like the pandemic really opened up a lot of people’s eyes to employee safety and how critical it is. So whether it’s making sure that your facility is safe when you have people traveling all over the world, maybe to parts of the world that frankly might have unrest, or even environmental safety when you think about the weather and the climate. All of those things, they impact our people. We have hurricanes coming. We have tornadoes. We have extreme heat right now this summer. Those things impact our folks wherever they’re working from.
02:40 And I think during the pandemic, we have so many more folks working from wherever that we have to think beyond our four walls of our office locations or our manufacturing facilities. And I think the other piece that probably became very clear over the past couple years is just the overall not only physical wellbeing, but mental wellbeing. That a lot of folks are looking for that support, that guidance they’re looking to us as employers, to ensure that we’re keeping them safe and informed and connected. So it’s more than just an hourly worker and the forklift operator. It’s, do folks feel like their employers actually care about them and that they’re doing everything they can to keep them-
William Tincup: 03:30 I was going to ask you about the relationship between safety and mental wellbeing or mental wellness, but you already got there, which is wonderful. How do we communicate that to both the executive team? So all directions, right? So how do we connect that too, for the executive team as well as candidates and employees?
Laura Woolford: 03:49 Yeah, I think it’s huge. We’re fortunate in that I love our product. It was part of the reason that I joined this organization. I think there’s a lot of different ways to communicate with our folks and connect with them and help them connect the dots. One, you think about the different tools that you have in place. So whether it’s a product like ours, which can quickly let folks know if there’s a certain crisis situation, whether be it active shooter, heaven forbid, be it some type of power outage within a facility, those types of things, just to take care of their physical wellbeing. But on the mental side, I think it starts with letting folks know that we care.
04:36 First and foremost, every employee wants to know that they matter and that their employers actually care about them. So helping the C-level leaders know how important it is to reach out and check up on their folks. To have a check in, whether it’s a personal reach out through email or whatever communication vehicles you’re using. Some might use Slack or messenger or text or software like ours, which can do a quick pulse check of employees. You can send out a quick survey, just checking in, “Hey, how are you doing today? How are you feeling?” And folks can respond back right away. It starts with just that personal touch and that reach out.
05:18 And then from an employee perspective, it’s making sure they know that their leaders are going to reach out and they’re going to ask, and we want to hear the honest answer. And if they’re struggling, what are those resources we’re going to provide them with? Whether it’s an EAP resource or just time to come talk to a manager, or an HR professional, or anyone within the organization. I think sometimes it doesn’t have to be so complicated. It can be as simple as that personal conversation or reach out or note, and then the response back.
William Tincup: 05:56 I love that you’ve mentioned care probably six times so far, and we’ve probably mentioned at least six more times, which is great.
Laura Woolford: 06:03 [inaudible 00:06:03] good about it.
William Tincup: 06:04 Well, and it’s where we start. It’s the Alpha and the Omega. You have to start with that. Safety is not just risk management, albeit we would probably have some actuaries would probably argue with us about that. But it’s the idea that it’s tied to your values into caring about the human being more than just a number. So how does one know safe they are as an employer? So in your position, I would say audit, but that’s probably not the right way to think of it. But how do you know where you’re at on the spectrum of safety?
Laura Woolford: 06:43 That’s a great question, William. I think one aspect of knowing how safe you are is reaching out and pulsing your employees and getting that employee sentiment. And look, a lot of companies do different things. There’s an element of whether you have annual surveys or poll surveys. When you have a situation, and I’ll use a few years ago, there was an ice storm in Austin, being able to reach out and connect with folks and see, “Are you okay? Do you have water? Do you have power?” And getting those responses back from people I think is probably the quickest way, because you’re going to get a sense from your employees. Do they feel safe?
07:28 I think the other thing too is really looking at what are your protocols that you have in place? There’s certain things you know depending on where you live or work, right? If you’re on the West Coast, you might be exposed to earthquakes. If you’re in certain areas, I mean, wildfires unfortunately seem to be everywhere now. But those types of things, being aware of your surroundings and then what are your plans in place should that type of situation happen. Unfortunately, active shooter has become… It seems if it’s not more prevalent, it’s definitely in the news more.
William Tincup: 08:09 Right.
Laura Woolford: 08:09 And so focusing on, well, what are your protocols in place? And have you built a culture of safety where everyone feels responsibility? It’s not just leadership. We all own it. We all own creating that environment and that safety culture and looking out for each other, training your employees, making sure they’re aware. How do you report a concern or an issue? So again, putting things in place and empowering your employees to raise those flags and alarms. And when they do, following through. You have to follow through because if you put those things in place and folks are either responding to your survey or putting something, let’s say it’s Slack that you use to highlight a situation or concern. If you’re not then circling back and closing the loop, you run the risk of not getting that buy-in and support from your employees.
William Tincup: 09:09 So one of the things I wanted to get your take on. A couple years ago, I did some work with Hogan Assessments out of Tulsa. It’s personality assessment. It’s been around for 30 years. One of their assessments that they have was a safety assessment, and I was really curious about this. I’m like, well, what is that, eh? And they’re like, well, based on your personality, some people’s personalities lend themselves to be more safe than others.
Laura Woolford: 09:39 How interesting. How interesting.
William Tincup: 09:40 I was fascinated by that because eh, I wanted to take the test and find out where am I on the spectrum.
Laura Woolford: 09:45 Did you take the test?
William Tincup: 09:47 I did and I’m definitely not safe.
Laura Woolford: 09:48 Oh no.
William Tincup: 09:50 But it was just fascinating to me. First of all, just looking at personality and just kind of hardwiring to think… If you’re hiring for, again, back to a forklift operator, you need someone that already is kind of hardwired to be cautious, we’ll say, or maybe more safe than not. I mean, first of all, what do you think about that? Because that’s just an assessment code. Kind of you said assessments, so that’s that.
Laura Woolford: 10:18 Well, it’s interesting. I mean we could go down a whole rabbit hole on assessments, which I find fascinating and I love taking them, but I also have found over time, certain assessments change over time based on your life experience.
William Tincup: 10:33 100%.
Laura Woolford: 10:35 Gosh. It’s funny because when I hear that, I almost think of like an actuary at an insurance company.
William Tincup: 10:42 Yep. They’re doing the numbers behind the scenes.
Laura Woolford: 10:45 That’s right. Like, are you going to go base jumping or are you going to wear your seatbelt?
William Tincup: 10:51 Yeah. It’s like that, but personality. It was really fascinating to me because it’s like they also personality people, not just Hogan, but personality people that study personality. They don’t believe your personality changes. After a certain age, your personality is what it is. So again, regardless of life experience or whatever else, you’re just hardwired personality wise. Like, “Wow. Okay. Well, so I should just give up on being safe.”
Laura Woolford: 11:24 No, I don’t think it’s that. I think though, it’s interesting because while that’s fascinating, I think maybe on some things there’s probably true. It’s like you are who you are and that’s who you’re going to be. But I do think you can still train people.
William Tincup: 11:39 Oh, 100%.
Laura Woolford: 11:40 I mean think about, gosh, I remember… I’m a child of the ’70s and ’80s and I remember cars that only had lap belts.
William Tincup: 11:47 Oh, yeah.
Laura Woolford: 11:48 I remember not wearing seat belts, and then we all think-
William Tincup: 11:51 Oh, yeah. [inaudible 00:11:52] in the back for trucks.
Laura Woolford: 11:53 That’s right. On a-
William Tincup: 11:55 On a chair.
Laura Woolford: 11:56 [inaudible 00:11:56] lawn chair.
William Tincup: 11:56 A lawn chair, yeah. That made a lot of sense.
Laura Woolford: 11:59 Of course. That’s funny.
William Tincup: 12:00 Try doing that today and drive around your neighborhood.
Laura Woolford: 12:02 I know.
William Tincup: 12:03 That’s not only will you have the police, but your neighbors will be calling.
Laura Woolford: 12:06 Yeah, that’s right.
William Tincup: 12:11 Not good. That is poorly. One of the things that I wanted to ask you away from personality stuff is training people to be safe. The employer has responsibility to create a safe environment. Check. Got it. But also that awareness. And I’ll give you some context. When I owned an ad agency 100 years ago and the first PEO I had, they said, “Hey, we need to come by and do a safety audit.” I’m like, “Yeah, whatever. Sure.” They came by and they went… Literally, this is like 5,000 square feet. So it was a small office. But they went through and they came back and they had like 120 something things on this checklist. And I’m like, “What is this checklist?” And they’re like, “Okay, so see this plug over here?” “Yeah.” “This cord that runs here?” “Yeah.” “That’s a tripping hazard.” They walk me around the office and I’m like, “Oh my God. How did we survive?”
Laura Woolford: 13:03 Yeah, no, you know what? It’s so fascinating. I remember so, again, spent a lot of time in manufacturing. We used to do safety audits on a regular basis.
William Tincup: 13:12 Oh yeah.
Laura Woolford: 13:12 I think it’s a great thing. And again, it was simple things like that. Like, “Ooh, this is a trip hazard,” or, wow, the way these… Even in office environments, the way certain desks are configured can impact people’s ability to get out in an emergency quickly. So I think safety audits can be amazing, especially when they’re done by employees.
William Tincup: 13:37 Right.
Laura Woolford: 13:38 Yes. You can have outside agencies come in and especially if you’re looking for certain certifications or things like that, but I find employee safety audits fantastic because-
William Tincup: 13:49 Oh yeah. They’re going to see with a great set of eyes of what-
Laura Woolford: 13:52 Absolutely.
William Tincup: 13:53 And they’re going to point out things that they don’t feel safe that are safe.
Laura Woolford: 13:56 That’s right. And again, having people go into different areas. So again, I don’t know that I would have a team necessarily do an audit of their own area.
William Tincup: 14:08 No.
Laura Woolford: 14:08 I’d have them flip flop areas.
William Tincup: 14:11 Oh yeah.
Laura Woolford: 14:11 Go explore and-
William Tincup: 14:12 Have the engineers go, do marketing, have the marketing go.
Laura Woolford: 14:15 Yeah.
William Tincup: 14:15 The resales. And you know this in an office environment, but also if you’re in it all the time, you don’t see the obvious things.
Laura Woolford: 14:25 Right. And then you just-
William Tincup: 14:27 You just kind of get used to it.
Laura Woolford: 14:28 Yeah. And you start doing things that… I mean, think about how many times we’ve been told don’t… Oh gosh, I forget what the term is. But when you’re putting a bunch of power strips together, right? You’re not-
William Tincup: 14:40 Daisy chain.
Laura Woolford: 14:41 Daisy chain, that’s it. Correct. You’re not supposed to be doing that.
William Tincup: 14:44 No. It turns out that’s horrible.
Laura Woolford: 14:46 But people still do it.
William Tincup: 14:47 Oh yeah, I do it. It’s literally on my floor right now. Yeah, I absolutely do it. [inaudible 00:14:51]-
Laura Woolford: 14:50 Oh no. Oh no, William. No.
William Tincup: 14:50 It’s a terrible idea. I can easily go to Best Buy and get just one that goes there’s a longer cord. No.
Laura Woolford: 14:57 Yeah. And so I have found in my experience, and this is something we actually just recommended and we put a new video out about fire drills, because it’s one of the top things we hear from our customers is “Gosh, we want some advice on how to best do a fire drill.” And one of the recommendations we have is put a fire safety team together of employees, have them walk around the space, have them look at areas. Maybe they’ll influence some of those risk averse… Some of the risk averse employees will head these groups for you, and you can have smaller sub safety teams.
15:33 And I’ve put those in place at a lot of companies I’ve worked at. And it’s funny because I think about some of the drills I’ve done and we’d have the hard hat and the whistle or the vest, and you have your checkbook or your checklist that you’re going through, to make sure that you’re following the protocol. And you do those drills. And so that’s something that really any employer can do and set up. But when it’s employee led, it’s amazing how much more impactful it is.
William Tincup: 16:03 Oh yeah.
Laura Woolford: 16:03 Because peers are going to listen to peers more in those type of situations.
William Tincup: 16:07 Yeah. You could easily do this top down.
Laura Woolford: 16:09 Yeah.
William Tincup: 16:09 The problem with that is they won’t stick as much as if it comes from the ground up and says, “Hey, here’s what we see.”
Laura Woolford: 16:18 Absolutely.
William Tincup: 16:19 And it’s Janet and Michael and Andre and all the different people that they can associate with.
Laura Woolford: 16:25 That’s right.
William Tincup: 16:25 So from your perspective or even from your customers, safe space as it relates to DEI, some of the things that we’ve just seen over the last couple years of just giving people more space to be themselves. So different type of safety, but it also important. Have you yourself dove into this or your customers kind of driven you here?
Laura Woolford: 16:54 I will say psychological safety, I mean, that’s really kind of what you’re getting at here.
William Tincup: 16:59 Yes.
Laura Woolford: 17:00 It is absolutely key and it’s something I’m super passionate about. It’s something that I think people have danced around for years, but it’s really, we all want to be accepted for who we are and want to be able to bring our authentic self to work. And that can be in whatever form. And so creating those safe spaces and there’s ways to do it. You can create employee resource groups to have those conversations and to open it up, you can have open dialogues with leadership about how they’ve created that safe space to have those types of conversations. And maybe things that… What I have found is when personal stories are shared, especially from leaders and showing that vulnerability, it really helps employees open up even more too. And then what you find is you create this sense of belonging that folks have, which then translates into retention, translates into looking out for each other and creating that community.
18:14 We’re all in this together. That’s one of our core values is we’re better together. And so part of that is creating that psychologically safe space where folks can bring their whole self to work. And it can be kind of scary. It can be very scary, especially if you’ve never had that type of environment before. And I think there’s been several studies that I’ve read. I’m sure there’s others that you’ve read or any of your listeners have that talk about, look, when your folks feel like they belong and they feel safe, they deliver better customer service. They have better productivity, and the business as a whole thrives.
William Tincup: 18:53 Right. And one of the things that’s interesting there to unpack is one person’s safety is not another person’s safety.
Laura Woolford: 19:01 True.
William Tincup: 19:02 One of my first offices was a kind of in a C, D area in Fort Worth, just because it was cheap rent. And I remember we were working pretty late at night or whatever. And again, this is a rather relatively C, D area. And I remember one of my account managers, she came to me. It was Lauren and she said, “Would you mind walking me out to my car?” I thought she was going to tell me something about an employee. I thought she was going to lead to like, “Huh, great. Good God, like I need another problem.” But it wasn’t that. She just needed someone to watch her get in her car safely. I’m like, oh hell, I don’t even think about it. I just go out to my car. Again, clueless.
Laura Woolford: 19:51 Right.
William Tincup: 19:52 A, not being safe. But she was thinking about safety in a different way than I was thinking about safety.
Laura Woolford: 19:57 Right.
William Tincup: 19:57 So I think, again, one person’s cut on safety… Or safety’s kind of multi-dimensional.
Laura Woolford: 20:04 Well, kudos to her-
William Tincup: 20:06 Yeah. 100%.
Laura Woolford: 20:06 … for being comfortable enough to ask you, because you are absolutely right. Based on backgrounds, experiences, where you grew up in addition to gender ethnicity and every other form of diversity that we could think of, we look at the world through a different lens. I mean, your version of safety is different from my version of safety. When I walk down the street, the things I think about and look at are very different from what my husband does. So I think creating that space where folks feel comfortable raising that concern-
William Tincup: 20:45 100%.
Laura Woolford: 20:45 … and from an employer’s perspective, recognizing it, acknowledging it and where possible, supporting it and taking some action, I think is absolutely key.
William Tincup: 20:58 In that particular, after I learned that and it wasn’t going to lead to a longer employee story, and it was just people want to get to their car safely. Then we actually talked as a company and just said, “Okay, here’s the deal. If we’re working late and somebody wants somebody else to cover them.” It’s actually how we phrased it, which is probably not the right way to think about it. But somebody wants somebody to watch them walk to their car, walk through their car. Just like, it’s really easy. Just ask and then that. And it wasn’t just male, female. That would be really easy to do, but it actually was… It wasn’t that. It’s people would just say, “Hey man, watch me get to my car.” Like, “All right. Cool. Cover me.”
Laura Woolford: 21:44 Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. And that’s where, when you build that safety culture in your work environment, it creates that safe space where folks are asking one another for things like that. And here’s the other thing that I think a tip for leaders. Challenge yourself and each other to maybe offer some of those things up before people ask.
William Tincup: 22:09 Right.
Laura Woolford: 22:09 Perfect example I’ll give. Early in my career, the general manager of the business I was working in, phenomenal gentleman, just couldn’t say enough amazing things about him. His name was Steve. And I remember we had offices all over the US. And whenever my coworker and I would travel, he would tell us, “Listen.” We were working outside of Chicago, and he’s like, “When you go to O’Hare, I want you to park in the garage. I don’t care how much it costs, but if you’re coming back, especially late at night on a flight, I don’t want you going out to one of the parking lots further out.” He’s like, “Just go to the garage. I want you ladies to be safe.” And it was like, wow. He just took it upon himself to think about us and the things that we might think about. And it was just so nice to be like, “Oh gosh, I don’t have to worry about saving the company $20 or whatever.”
William Tincup: 23:01 Right, which is exactly what we would do. It would be what my mom refers to is penny wise and dollar stupid. So we would totally do that. That would be something we would think about. But I think with leadership, it’s not only getting out of their own way, but being proactive and just asking, “Hey, if you’re ever feel like you are not safe, run to a place for safety.” And again, if that’s the O’Hare story, that could be a lot of different things. But if you don’t feel safe, you’re not safe.
Laura Woolford: 23:35 That’s right. That’s exactly right.
William Tincup: 23:38 So let’s do two things before we end. One is things that you’re seeing pop up from clients that probably you didn’t see pre-pandemic, that are just top hot topics for folks as it relates to safety,
Laura Woolford: 23:53 I think one of the big things that we’ve seen an uptick in… So we have a global threat offering and it is… We’re very fortunate. Our team is so amazing. They are monitoring everything that’s going on around the world 24/7 from environmental things like weather situations, whether it’s the heat or storms or again, heaven forbid, some of the shootings that have happened, whether it’s at parades or schools or other events. That has become really, really top of mind for a lot of our customers. And so we’ve seen a big uptick. It’s a great product offering and really just helps companies feel like they have a pulse on what’s going on.
24:40 So we provide briefings on a sometimes quicker basis than the local news, because we’re constantly monitoring situations. So that’s been huge. It helps a lot of companies feel like, okay, they have a sense of what’s going on, especially where their employees are. And then there has been a lot around, I mentioned this fire drill, because it’s come up recently. Just the different drills and things to be aware of. We have a podcast as well. We’re bringing in folks that even aren’t our customers to talk about the challenges they have. So creating that learning environment from each other has been really key.
William Tincup: 25:23 I love it. Okay. So we’re having this call in a year from now, what did we get blindsided by?
Laura Woolford: 25:31 Oh gosh.
William Tincup: 25:32 What’s not on our radar?
Laura Woolford: 25:36 Oh my gosh. I don’t have a crystal ball.
William Tincup: 25:38 I know. I know.
Laura Woolford: 25:38 No, but I know-
William Tincup: 25:40 But the thing about safety is it can come from any directions.
Laura Woolford: 25:46 It can really come from any direction. And frankly, the thing for me, there’s kind of two things. And I don’t know if it’s necessarily blindsided or it’s just something we have to keep top of mind. I think the mental health and wellbeing. I think as much as folks say, “Oh, the pandemic’s over.” “Oh, things are back to normal.” No, we’re never going back to the way things were before. And so there’s a lot of fatigue, I think, still out there. And we’re starting to see I think a lot of the stress cracks. And so I would love to see more offerings around how do we help support folks going through these challenges?
26:31 I think when you look at our workforce, we have a lot of younger folks coming into the workforce now who these are their first jobs, and they’re starting post pandemic and they don’t know what they don’t know and they need the help and the support. I’m of the Gen Xers. So we’re aging, but we’re the smallest generation and we have our stuff too. So that mental health and support, I think we just can’t lose sight of. And I’m hoping there’s more offerings to help support all of us. And I think number two, I mean the environment. I mean, good grief. Look what happened just this past week between the crazy heat waves in the UK to all of the heat and wildfires and stuff going on here in the US. I mean, mother nature’s upset at us.
William Tincup: 27:23 “Global warming’s not a thing. Don’t worry about it.” Oh, okay.
Laura Woolford: 27:27 [inaudible 00:27:28]. It’s here.
William Tincup: 27:29 Fantastic. It’s like animal farm. The term’s just kind of keep getting redefined.
Laura Woolford: 27:35 Oh my goodness. Yes, it is.
William Tincup: 27:36 Great. Fantastic. One of the things I’m looking forward to, and I think actually Gen Z and Millennials actually drive some of this as they have with other things, is in talent acquisition is asking questions about safety. And maybe even in job descriptions and on career sites, talking more about safety. And the relationship between safety, not the hard hat safety or mindset of safety, but the things that you’ve tethered it to in terms of safe space and care and communication and things like that. I think we’re going to see more of those types of proactive steps in talent acquisition that basically say, this is actually how we view safety.
Laura Woolford: 28:19 Yes, no, I couldn’t agree more. I’m very hopeful these generations coming into the workforce now, and I’m hopeful I look at my children. I mean, gosh, they’re in elementary school, but just the things they talk about and think about, it’s going to be amazing.
William Tincup: 28:36 They don’t put up with the stuff we put up with, which is fantastic.
Laura Woolford: 28:39 I know.
William Tincup: 28:40 I’m not bitter. I’m not bitter at all, which is great. Because I tell my 16-year-old, I’m like, “If I were to receive a 4,000 word job description, I would’ve read it.” I would’ve printed it, read it, redlined it, had questions the whole bit. And he’s looking at me like, “4,000 words, how many pages is that?” It’s like six pages. He’s like, “Oh, I couldn’t read that.”
Laura Woolford: 29:08 It’s like, “That doesn’t fit on my iPhone. What are you talking about?”
William Tincup: 29:11 “I couldn’t. That’s way too much scrolling. You’d have to sum that up into a paragraph.”
Laura Woolford: 29:16 That’s right. That’s right. But I think-
William Tincup: 29:17 Which is great. They’re right. That should have been summed up in a paragraph.
Laura Woolford: 29:22 It is. They’re going to change. They’re going to continue to change the future. I mean, just like the generations before us, they created that physical safety in the work environment and it’s just going to continue to evolve. And hopefully, we get to be a part of that.
William Tincup: 29:37 Yep. Jobs, Mike walks off stage. Laura, thank you so much for coming on and sharing your wisdom.
Laura Woolford: 29:43 Thanks so much, William. It was a pleasure.
William Tincup: 29:45 Absolutely. And thanks for everyone listening to the RecruitingDaily Podcast. Until next time.
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William is the President & Editor-at-Large of RecruitingDaily. At the intersection of HR and technology, he’s a writer, speaker, advisor, consultant, investor, storyteller & teacher. He's been writing about HR and Recruiting related issues for longer than he cares to disclose. William serves on the Board of Advisors / Board of Directors for 20+ HR technology startups. William is a graduate of the University of Alabama at Birmingham with a BA in Art History. He also earned an MA in American Indian Studies from the University of Arizona and an MBA from Case Western Reserve University.