Veronica's background canvases recruiting in the Financial, Information Technology, Hospitality, Supply Chain Management & Light Industrial and Telecommunications industries, with specialties in IT and Hospitality. Her human resources background includes social media recruiting, networking, creating of employee diversity blueprints as well as process development.
In Today’s Podcast
In this episode, we speak with Veronica Jenkins, CEO of Hive Talent Acquisition to explore what companies are doing, and what they should consider as they take the leap into designing their diversity blueprint.
Listening Time: 23 minutes
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Intro/Outro: Schools in session. This is recruiting Daily’s sourcing school podcast. Real talk about recruiting, sourcing, and cyber sleuthing. Hot takes on sourcing tools, recruiting tech, and anything we want to talk about with no filter. It’s time to level up and put your sourcing pants on. Here’s your dudes, Ryan Leary and Brian Fink.
Brian Fink: Sometimes I get a good feeling. Yeah. Ryan Leary, welcome back to the show. It is Brian and Ryan. It’s the Brian and Ryan’s show, but we found out that was already taken. So instead we’re calling it Recruiting Daily. My co-host is Ryan Leary. I’m Brian Fink and we are excited that you are here with our most awesome guest, Veronica Jenkins in the house today. Ryan, what’s going on?
Ryan Leary: What is up Mr. Fink? How are you?
Brian Fink: I am good. You sound so good today, I know I said that in a pre-show, but you sound like big boisterous, ready to bring the noise. Ready to bring the boom. That is…
Ryan Leary: Yeah.
Brian Fink: No pressure.
Ryan Leary: No pressure, but I’m not. I’m definitely not going to break it out like you. I can’t do it. I don’t have the voice. I cannot sing.
Brian Fink: But you’re in my arms again. Yeah, I know you don’t sing. So we are on with Veronica Jenkins today. Really excited to have a conversation with Veronica. I have mentioned her on other podcasts. If you are not familiar with Veronica and the great work that she does as one of the two co-founders at HIVE Talent Acquisition Firm here in Atlanta, Georgia. I’m glad that I get to call her friend. I get to call her a peer. I get to call her a mentor. I get to call her all these different things. Veronica, welcome to the program.
Veronica Jenkins: Thank you both so much for having me. I am so excited to be here with you two. I hope that I can even hold a flame or candle to the awesomeness that you both are. So thank you for having me.
Brian Fink: Cool. Cool. Cool. Cool. About awesomeness, I’m going to let Ryan kick it off, because somebody told me I don’t let Ryan talk enough. So Ryan, I’m going to let you talk. I’m going to let you have some chit chat today.
Ryan Leary: You let me talk plenty. But so we were just saying, Fink’s been bragging about you Veronica for the last couple of days. She’s so amazing. You’re going to love her and I’ve never spoken with you. So why don’t we just start off with who are who’s Veronica?
Veronica Jenkins: Well, I am the chief executive officer and co-founder of this awesome little busy-be Haven called HIVE Talent Acquisition Firm, currently located in the sandy spring suburb of Atlanta, Georgia. We are an HR generalist support system for business owners all over the world. We do everything HR, but we specialize in talent. And what I mean by that is we speak the language of the people. We are very people focused in everything we do that’s HR related. So whether it’s company culture, whether it’s recruitment, whether it is culturing people out unfortunately.
Brian Fink: Boo.
Veronica Jenkins: Or just understand nuance and employee relationships, we are focused on people every day. And so that’s what we do here at HIVE. And I came to my wonderful business partner a little over four years ago and said, “Hey, I’m noticing that HR is getting away from focusing on people and we really need to put that focus back into this industry. So do you think we can create something awesome? That really does that.” And she was like, “I think so.” And I said, “Well, let’s give it a try.” And four years later, we’re still standing. We have some great clients, we’re looking to bring on more. We’ve shifted and adjusted due to the pandemic. But man, when I tell you the work that we do is so powerful and I’m excited to work every single day in this industry, and continue to affect change positively as much as I possibly can. So that’s me in a nut-
Brian Fink: Well actually. All right. So wait a minute. I’m going to jump right into that nutshell. I’m going to crack the nut open. One of the things that I know that Victoria does really well is that she puts diversity front and center that she honors candidates, and that she makes sure that the companies she’s working with honor those candidates and the voices and the perspectives that they bring. One of the things that we’ve talked about in the past is creating employee diversity blueprints and improving the process of diversity in an organization. That’s not typically where a recruiting agency fits, what are you doing? This is already different, but tell me why this is the rocky road ice cream variety instead of the just general chocolate or vanilla?
Veronica Jenkins: Well, I’ll start with me and I’ll work my way back. How about that? I remember-
Brian Fink: That works.
Veronica Jenkins: Yeah. I remember what it was like to be that person on the team that did not fit into the round hole as a square peg. Right. I didn’t feel supported. I didn’t feel like I could show up as my most authentic self to work every day. And man was it hard to focus on my work, worrying about what my appearance was doing to my team? Wondering if clients were taking me seriously as an HR professional, because I wasn’t so black and white and cookie cutter every day. And so that’s really where this came from. It really came from me and the experiences that I’ve had in corporate America every day. And I would really hate to put these wonderful and so many talented people into a position where they can’t show up as their most authentic selves every day.
So that’s where it really came from. Dana and I have had countless conversations around supporting our candidates as we continue to put them into the pipelines of our various clients for permanent placement in different roles. And helping our clients understand the importance of having a diversity equity and inclusion blueprint well established before they even talk about growing a team. And making it the focus of their company culture, because that’s really how they’re going to be successful in retaining talent. Not only just seeing people for who they are, but making sure that those people have equity, making sure that they have voices and making sure that they honor those people as who they are on a day-to-day basis.
Brian Fink: So when you’re telling the DEI story of how do you do that in an authentic, I mean… So I work for a company that our leadership is not a bunch of white guys and what have you, and so often when you look at a picture of venture capital firms or quote unquote, 150 year old organizations, that is what the board looks like. How do you bridge that divide and tell a compelling story that says we’re interested in diversity. And it’s not just some kind of, what’s the word it was on Sex in the City the other night, where somebody’s trying to be a white hero?
Veronica Jenkins: Oh yeah. We call those [cape crusaders 00: 07: 33]. Well, the way you bridge that gap is you put people in the same position, help them understand how uncomfortable things can be. Dana and I do a lot of eyeopening exercises, even just in general, having conversations about things like microaggressions and what that can make someone feel like. I tend to put myself in a position of vulnerability a lot when I am having these conversations, because I want people to understand that who they’re looking at is just a shell of a person as far as what they know. Until you really get to know me and have a conversation with me and understand everything there is to know about my story and who I am. Then you’ll really be able to understand what it’s like to have to go through the things that I go through every day and the people around me and so on and so forth.
And even Dana, Dana does it as well. Dana will share experiences with people and help them understand, “Hey, I know what I look like, but the book cover the cover of the book isn’t telling the story and you really need to be more understanding and willing to learn and gain experience in these situations so that you can be a better, a boss, a better manager, a better business owner, a better CEO or whoever it is you are within the company.”
Ryan Leary: How do you put someone in a position to feel vulnerable? Who’s never been in that role?
Veronica Jenkins: You do those exercises. So I’m going to tell you about one in particular that we did recently as part of an IED. So they kind of flipped it to inclusion equity and diversity council with a group that we belong to here in Atlanta. And basically it was a sheet of paper with a wheel, kind of like a color wheel. And the closer you got to the middle with self-identifying things, it showed you how privileged you are on a day-to-day basis. That was one of the most uncomfortable five minute exercises for everyone on that at zoom call, you could literally see, and we required everyone’s cameras to be turned on. You could literally see people’s faces changing. As they began to realize how privileged they are on a daily basis and in their everyday life. And some people were really emotional about it.
And we were having conversations about the fact that if you grew up in an environment where there was a grocery store five minutes away from your house that offered organic foods, you’re privileged. If you grew up in an environment where you never had to wonder where your next meal was coming from, you’re privileged. If you knew you were going to college immediately when you started high school, that’s privilege. We just had all these different identifying factors on this document that really help people understand that even though you’re privileged, it doesn’t mean you’re a bad person. It’s just what you do with the privilege that you have and how you view yourself in society. Do you want to be an advocate for people that don’t have the same type of experience as you do, and you want those people to show up as their authentic selves at work and beyond that.
And help them understand how to navigate through a society, which hasn’t really afforded them every single thing that you’ve had as an experience on a day-to-day basis. And help them be enriched in their experiences every day, or do you just want to stand by wayside and let them suffer and not have that type of experience, it’s up to you really. And so that’s one of the ways we do it. And another thing is like I said before, sharing experiences and it’s not because we want people to feel bad that they haven’t gone through some of the struggle that we have. But it’s just to open their eyes and help them understand, “Hey, what you think and what perceptions you may have are not necessarily true.” So that’s how we go about doing that.
Ryan Leary: That’s so fascinating. Fink I don’t know about you, but I’m kind of thinking I want go through the exercise.
Brian Fink: Yeah. I’m sitting here. I’m like, well… So I think about this and at Recruiting Daily this is for Ryan to talk about for him to figure out how we get into the mix. But this exercise just hearing it, it talks… Just hearing about this, it makes me think about race and bias. It makes me wonder though about what we’re doing around accepting gender identity. Because I feel that’s been a maybe I’m just, maybe I’m mistaken, but I feel like that’s a big part of the conversation over the past year. I know that when I go to Starbucks and I get coffee from Jude, he is wearing a button that says, he/him. I feel like how does your exercise dropping into, or having a conversation around gender identity?
Veronica Jenkins: That’s a huge one. So we actually broke things down to a very micro level. We did a social identity group exercise a couple weeks ago in the same group. And basically it’s just like a little table, right? And it lists out social identity groups. And ironically, the first one is gender. And so the way it works is you put an X next to what you identify. And if you’re one up or one down that lets you know if you are more privileged as it relates to the group or less privileged as it relates to the group.
So with gender, if you’re one up, you put an X next to being a man or identifying as a man. If you identify as a woman, you put one down, but if you identify as they/them or anything else, then you’re two levels down. So the levels down indicates the distance away from the privilege, if that makes sense. And so we had a lot of conversation around gender identity, the difference between gender and sexuality. A lot of people don’t really understand that. The spectrum of sexuality, the spectrum of gender, how it ties into the LGBTQIA community, and what that means.
And I’m telling you that again, those conversations were super emotional, very charged conversations, but it wasn’t from a negative perspective. It was from people wanting to learn and understand how to be more supportive. And a lot of people ended up sharing personal experiences of just being confused and not knowing what to say, what not to say. A lot of people didn’t understand how mentally and emotionally draining it can be for people that are trying to understand where on the spectrum they lie, gender-wise, sexuality-wise. So we’ve been having a lot of conversation about that. And we’ve who done a lot of team trainings with some of our clients on what to say, what verbiage to use. Even dress code, policy and procedure that’s written into the handbooks that they use for their company policy on a day-to-day basis. We’ve done a lot of consulting education around that because it’s important. And it goes back to people being able to be who they are every day.
Brian Fink: Wow. I mean, this is a really powerful conversation as we’re talking about this blueprint.
Veronica Jenkins: Yeah.
Brian Fink: I’ve also kind of wonder is… I remember when I first started in recruiting, what is now 15 years ago, is that people would say to me, Brian… I was recruiting for pharmaceutical sales representatives and they would say, “Brian I want a pretty girl.” Right?
Veronica Jenkins: Oh yeah.
Brian Fink: I mean, I’m just being honest, right? I mean, Veronica you know what I mean, I’m only going to speak, I’m only going to speak the truth. I’m only going to tell you what it is, is that with that there’s a lot of unpacking that I’ve done spiritually, and writing things out about how that makes me feel and what have you. But in an agency, agencies there is a stigma attached to agencies that agencies are only interested in the next placement, the nearest dollar.
Veronica Jenkins: Yep.
Brian Fink: You guys are, you’re really kind of going against the grain there. You’re really fighting the stereotype of what the stigma is with an agency by saying, let’s go in and let’s make sure that this is… Let’s have a thoughtful discussion make sure that people of other backgrounds, other than those of quote unquote, I’m going to call it white privilege… I was just thinking actually of the book Waking up White by Debbie Irving. I salute you, you are putting a lot of marbles ahead of, ahead of dollars to make sure that there’s a difference made in the world.
Veronica Jenkins: Yes. But you remember when I was telling you my story at the beginning that I told you that that was the goal. I didn’t say, “Dana let’s create the company to make five million dollars in three years.” I said, “Let’s create a company that puts the focus back on people within HR.” So that’s what we’re doing. And I will just tell you, I’ll give you one example. We’re in open enrollment right now for one of our clients. They’re a disadvantaged business entity, black-owned business. I am so proud to call them a client.
We had a couple of issues with a couple of employees that one of them was having issues, having access to mental health resources. Another one had a child that needed some medical attention. Another one of them had some issues for orthodontic reasons or what have you, right. Instead of my client saying, use the benefits that you have and make do with what you have. He came to me just distraught. He said, “My people aren’t focusing on work. They’re worried about being able to afford benefits. This is nuts. Find me somebody that’s going to overhaul my benefits. We’re about to go into open enrollment. I want to switch this up. I want to expand my benefits package and I’m going to cover 90% of the premiums.”
And I looked at him and I said, “You’re amazing.” And he goes, “No, I have you and Dana to thank for this because I don’t have a problem paying for the benefits that I have, but I want my people to focus on their work. And if they can focus on their work and being comfortable in their own skin and being who they are every day, then I’m going to cover 90% of these premiums because I don’t want them worried about that.” To me, that’s why we started this company. He-
Brian Fink: That’s powerful.
Veronica Jenkins: Yeah, it is. He expanded his benefits to offer more mental health coverage, to give a better leave policy for all parents, not just the moms, not just the dads, but all parents right. Changed all the verbiage in his employee handbooks, even his job descriptions to be more gender inclusive, because he didn’t want anybody to be uncomfortable. He removed restrictions on coming into the office, work from wherever you are, I don’t care. Get the work done, make my clients happy. Those are the types of people that we work with at HIVE. And it is a joy and a pleasure to send candidates to this man to help him expand his team because we know that he really gets it and he cares. That is why we started this company.
Ryan Leary: Veronica, I have a question for you. What are steps that a co, obviously not every company can do this, or I guess every company can do it. Not every company does.
Veronica Jenkins: Right, right.
Ryan Leary: What are some of the steps that a company needs to take in order to get headed down this path?
Veronica Jenkins: First thing you need to do is give your people the opportunity to tell you how they feel, create an employee satisfaction survey, or create some sort of forum or have an all hands meeting and leave the floor to the people. Ask an open question and then sit there and let them talk to you. Take notes and listen, don’t listen to respond. Listen to understand that’s your first step. Your second step after you do that is to figure out where you can make the changes that need to be made. I understand everyone’s in business. I’m a business owner, too. We have to keep the lights on. We have to pay the bills, but what good is all of that, if you don’t have a happy team to support your vision.
So start there first. And then once you really understand what your people need, figure out how to make it happen. Figure out how to make it happen, because it’ll be so worth it. When you have the type of company culture like my client does where people are literally knocking at his door, just for an internship. They’re like, “I just want to intern here. You don’t even have to pay me. I’ll take college credit. I’ve heard so much about how awesome your company is. I know the awesome work that you’re doing. I want to work here, please just consider me for an internship.” That’s the type of company culture you want based on inclusion, equity, diversity, acceptance, and understanding how valuable people are to you.
Brian Fink: Hey Veronica, you said acceptance there. I’ve always heard belonging and I’m just wondering, what’s the difference between acceptance and belonging. Help me, help me so I’m not mumbling.
Veronica Jenkins: No, no. You’re fine. Acceptance is accepting people for who they are understanding that people are going to be who they are and you let them do that. Belonging is a sense of being part of a unit. But if you’re accepting someone, then of course they’re going to belong. It’s a default. That’s [inaudible 00: 21: 52].
Brian Fink: No, no, no, that’s it. I think that, I think we’ve had… Wow, this conversation has gone from light to heavy and back and forth again. And there’s been some laughter in there. And there have been some lessons. Veronica. Usually I say, give me three points to wrap this thing up. Instead, I want to ask a different question. We’ve talked a lot about DEI and [DIEMB 00: 22: 27] today. What question did Ryan or I not ask you that we should have asked that would really resonate with companies and founders and owners and employees? What question did we not ask you that would resonate with all of those individuals to make sure that it was a safe, well, deserving, belonging environment?
Veronica Jenkins: Excuse me. What is the best way for a company to be an ally to their employees?
Brian Fink: What’s the best way for a company to be an ally to their employees?
Veronica Jenkins: The best way to do that is to be open to listening to their voices is and be willing to change for the better.
Intro/Outro: Oh man, that means it’s over. You’ve been listening to the Recruiting Live Podcast by Recruiting Daily. Check out the latest industry podcast, webinars, articles, and news at recruitingdaily.com.
Ryan Leary helps create the processes, ideas and innovation that drives RecruitingDaily. He’s our in-house expert for anything related to sourcing, tools or technology. A lead generation and brand buzz building machine, he has built superior funnel systems for some of the industries top HR Tech and Recruitment brands. He is a veteran to the online community and a partner here at RecruitingDaily.
In 280 characters or less, Brian Fink is a Senior Technical Sourcer at Twitter. Obsessed with all things sourcing and recruiting, Fink focuses on attracting open-source technologists who want to build the future!