On today’s episode of the RecruitingDaily Podcast, William Tincup speaks with Susan Vitale from iCIMS about what she learned from INSPIRE 2021.

Some conversation highlights:

If you were to just give the audience a brief highlight reel, what were some of the highlights of INSPIRE 2021 this last year?

It was fun. It was so fun. It was we have just the best people working on this. And I don’t even just mean within my team. I mean, across the entire iCIMS company, but even beyond that, our community of partners and customers who got involved and shared their stories. We had awards, and we had some amazing celebrities joining us as well, who I think oftentimes we hear like, well, why would you have celebrities at this? Why not just talk about people in talent? And, of course, we need those best practices. But a lot of these celebrities like Dan Levy, who of course many people know from Schitts Creek, Allyson Felix, just an amazing Olympian, and human Andrews. They were able to connect their stories and experiences in such a relatable way to what we do as leaders in talent, in technology, and business.


Tune in for the full conversation.

Listening time: 24 minutes

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Susan Vitale
Chief Marketing Officer iCIMS

As Chief Marketing Officer, Susan Vitale is responsible for the iCIMS brand and for driving company growth. Vitale joined iCIMS in 2005 and has helped build iCIMS to become the world’s leading talent cloud company that empowers organizations to attract, engage, hire, and advance the right talent.


Music:  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. Make 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:  Ladies and gentlemen, this is William Tincup, and you are listening to the RecruitingDaily Podcast. Today we have Susan on from Icims where,

Susan Vitale:  Hi.

William Tincup:  we talking about, hello? [inaudible 00:  00:  54] talking about what we learned from INSPIRE 2021. And we’ll talk a little bit about what INSPIRE is, but Susan, would you do us a favor, the audience, a favor and introduce yourself and introduce Icims?

Susan Vitale:  Sure thing, I’d love to, and thanks so much for having me and thanks to everyone who’s joining us today. I’m Susan Vitale. I’m the Chief Marketing Officer at Icims, the talent cloud company. We offer just an amazing talent cloud that helps employers all around the world attract, engage, hire, and advance the right talent for them to move their business forward. I’ve been with the business for more than 16 years, really honored to be part of the Icims family after all this time. And excited to talk with all of you today about what INSPIRE 2021 was all about.

William Tincup:  So, let’s just start with the basics. So INSPIRE is your conference. It’s a conference that you put together usually every year when we’re not in a complete lockdown or something like that. But you put an event together. So tell the audience just about what INSPIRE, what you’re trying to achieve when you started to create INSPIRE.

Susan Vitale:  Yeah, so we’ve had a lot of events over my time here, certainly plenty in person in years past on various levels, some small, some larger. And then last year we introduced INSPIRE which was our first ever global virtual conference. And so it was held in November of 2020 for the first time ever. And then we brought it back again this year, and it’s this incredible opportunity. I [inaudible 00:  02:  32] anyone who’s been to virtual events or just thinks of virtual events as sort of webinars on steroids. That is not what INSPIRE is. Last year we got a page just this amazing compliment from Google that said:   “Icims set the bar for virtual conferences. Because it’s this incredible virtual experience that brings together this amazing community of leaders in talent and technology all around the world to network and share best practices, talk about the challenges they’re facing and connect with one another, as well as learn about where our product is going and be entertained as well, with some incredible leaders in business, celebrity entertainers, and of course, experts within talent and technology.”

William Tincup:  So let’s go through, first of all, great explanation for the audience. Now, what were the highlights? So INSPIRE was the week before last.

Susan Vitale:  It was yes, November 16th and 17th was our global conference. Although we had a European summit, an INSPIRE for Europe in October. So we had one just for the European audience then, and then this was for the entire world. Anyone who wanted to join, we had thousands of people join really from everywhere, you can imagine, and it was November 16th and 17th.

William Tincup:  So what were the highlights? If you were to just give the audience a brief highlight reel, what were some of the highlights of INSPIRE this last year?

Susan Vitale:  It was fun. It was so fun. It was we have just the best people working on this. And I don’t even just mean within my team. I mean, across the entire Icims company, but even beyond that, our community of partners and customers who got involved and shared their stories. We had awards, and we had some amazing celebrities joining us as well, who I think oftentimes we hear like, well, why would you have celebrities at this? Why not just talk about people in talent? And, of course, we need those best practices. But a lot of these celebrities like Dan Levy, who of course many people know from Schitts Creek, Allyson Felix, just an amazing Olympian, and human [Sekou 00:  00:  00] Andrews. They were able to connect their stories and experiences in such a relatable way to what we do as leaders in talent, in technology, and business.

Susan Vitale:  And frankly just the members of our community. So amazing sessions from Sekou Andrews in particular if you all haven’t heard him, please check it out on demand because he was magnificent. I don’t use that word lightly or often, but he was incredible. Dan Levy was just an awesome person to get to know and hear about not just Shitts Creek, but how he approached teamwork, how he approached inspiring his team over years, how he gives people the space they need to be successful while also driving them toward an outcome that he has in mind.

Susan Vitale:  Allyson Felix, who beyond just being an incredible athlete, has done amazing things for women, for mothers everywhere, and is just really inspirational. Jason Dorsey, who knows everything about every generation and is hilarious and has more energy than anyone I’ve met in my life. And then we had amazing customer stories from leaders at brands like Hilton and FedEx express, IBM, Accenture gave us a great story with Steve Lucas, our CEO, talking about diversity and inclusion. As was Blair Taylor from Accenture. So, just incredible people who we learned a lot from and were extremely inspiring.

William Tincup:  All right. So it’s like picking your favorite child, which of course, you should never do. What were, if folks missed the event live and they’re going to go the on-demand, you’re like, okay, you can only watch three things. That’s fine, got it. What are the three things?

Susan Vitale:  Aw, man, I wasn’t ready for that one. Sekou Andrews has to be on that list.

William Tincup:  Okay.

Susan Vitale:  He was unbelievable, such a fresh perspective, just amazing. I can’t pick our performers because they’re not available on-demand, but we had Amos Lee and Brittney Spencer, who were absolutely dynamite and were amazing. I would say we had a great panel discussion on using employee-generated content, specifically video across the talent life cycle, to engage employees and candidates. And that included conversations with leaders from Spectrum, IBM, and Hilton. So that’s one I would not miss. Oh, these are tough. And I actually, you know what Blair Taylor from Accenture was incredible. So there’s a session with him speaking with Steve, who I would not want to miss either.

William Tincup:  I love that. And I know that’s tough. I mean, come on now. It’s a game you got to pick your favorite one. Obviously, you also had some themes in emerged DEI, internal talent mobility. You said user-generated videos.

Susan Vitale:  Yes.

William Tincup:  And content also wellness initiatives, et cetera, you know themes that you think are going to kind of pull into ’20, because of the timing of this, which is well-timed, because you’re kind of looking back at ’21. But you’re also really looking ahead for a lot of folks are looking at and inspire and then get being inspired to think about what they’re going to do in 2022. What are some of the other things that maybe I might have missed that are themes that you think are going to pull into 2022?

Susan Vitale:  Yeah, certainly I think DEI, as you mentioned, is obviously important and should never feel like it’s a theme just for a year. This has to be continuous. We need to constantly be doing work here. I think we were able to take a little bit of a different approach in some of what we shared around DEI that we should see next year as well. So we had [July 00:  08:  30] Solas, who I know, talked a bit about what she does with Disability Solutions and this concept of intersectionality that I thought was so powerful that we often don’t hear a lot about when it comes to DEI. So I saw this as an opportunity to look at a next level of our work around DEI in that we can’t just talk about different groups and building more diverse and inclusive workforce. If we think about people or groups in a monolith that if we think about, for example, veteran hiring programs, without thinking about mental health benefits that we might offer to ensure that we’re not just checking a box and hiring vets, but ensuring they feel really considered at work, then we’re missing something really important.

Susan Vitale:  So, that was important for us to highlight. We also highlighted a great organization called SMASH. And through the power of the community that was at INSPIRE, we’re able to donate $10,000 to SMASH. It’s amazing nonprofit that I highly recommend everyone check out. That does an incredible job of connecting underrepresented students into STEM programs within employers. There’s a gentleman there, Dr. Brown, who had such a compelling story on how much access and awareness and community can literally change the course of someone’s life. And I thought that was so powerful, really. So, DEI, but in a way that is quality and fresh if I might say that there’s a lot of vaporware around that topic, unfortunately. And it was really important to me personally; to ensure that we were highlighting good quality organizations; that are doing really good work here. That was important.

William Tincup:  Well, it’s kind of evolve, right? Like you and I have seen it for many years evolve in different ways, and there’s no different, it’s just got to keep evolving. We got to keep moving the ball.

Susan Vitale:  Right.

William Tincup:  So I love that.

Susan Vitale:  Yeah. It’s actually like this broader theme. We actually talked about AD INSPIRE, which is this concept of continuous talent transformation. And I think what you’re saying around DEI, it fits in exactly there that these can’t just be for those who work in the world of software are familiar enough. You know, we think about waterfall versus agile that you do these big, big lifts, and then it’s over versus these iterative sprints and the like, and I feel like that’s where we need to be as employers and talent leaders now around DEI, around overall talent transformation that we need to continuously be looking around us, and the environment we’re in to say what needs to change now. And it’s not always this big sigh of relief when something’s over, because as soon as we’re done, we need to do it all over again. And that was a big theme that I think we’ll see next year for sure that we’re championing.

William Tincup:  So, first of all, I love that you applied it to the endorsing inclusion, but continuous talent transformation is the way that you all kind of frame it up. You’re thinking on both sides, right? So the organization is thinking about how they continuously look at skills and maybe their gaps in train and teach et cetera, or fill either internally or externally, but also from the employee or candidates perspective on how they continuously invest in themselves and grow as well. So take us into your vision, or what you think, continuous talent transformation. What do you think that looks like for the next couple of years?

Susan Vitale:  Well, I think a lot of this just needs to stop being so inward facing.

William Tincup:  Right.

Susan Vitale:  We hear about these transformation projects within talent organizations that feel like they are taking place because of something the business is going through versus what the world around them is going through and the people around them are going through. And so this concept of continuous talent transformation is really ensuring that we all have our fingers on the pulse a bit more. And, so, unfortunately that might mean we can’t plan something eight years out and work backward all the time. It’s a lot more real-time, but a lot of that is also just better responding to what candidates and employees care about. It’s not just about throwing money at a problem. I think Steve talked a little bit about this AD INSPIRING, even in his keynote that if it was just that everybody wanted more money, we could all raise wages, and we never have a talent issue again, but there’s more to that, right.

Susan Vitale:  And of course, in some cases, comp is getting out of control for some organizations to bear, but there’s a lot more to that. People want to feel connected to the work. And Jason Dorsey did a great job of talking about this from a generational perspective too. But when we think about internal mobility, I think that’s another piece of this around transformation in that a lot of what we heard at INSPIRE is that employees just want to make sure you’re having a conversation with them. And if they’re being considered for some of these different opportunities and that alone makes them feel more committed.

Susan Vitale:  I am not saying go through this fake process by any stretch please, but that work and that continuous conversation engagement is really important here and it can’t just be, go to this glorified internal job board and apply for a job and then go through a black hole process like we did externally for people 15 years ago. It needs to be more than that. What are we doing to continuously engage those candidates, through text, through [inaudible 00:  14:  02] letting them know about new skills and opportunities that might not be just full time [inaudible 00:  14:  06]. That is critically important in this new era of transformation that is continuous.

William Tincup:  I love it. You mentioned awards and we kind of got on some other really cool stuff, but I want to go back to that. If you don’t mind, when you put awards together, you all get to see you’re on the front lines of seeing all kinds of cool stuff and innovations that are coming from your customers. And so you got just a wonderful advantage point and Vista in which to look at it at innovation, can you, whether or not they’re named or not, but just some of the stories of where some of your folks, your customers are innovating and how they’re innovating.

Susan Vitale:  Yeah, it’s such a fun part of what we do. And it’s fascinating too. I think it’s there were a couple of areas in particular that I thought were really special to learn more about. Ascension Health is a great example. As we think about internal mobility, they’re on the forefront of such a challenging area in that they have this critical need to hire and retain nurses. I mean, now more than ever, how important we all know that that group is. And if we have unfortunately leaky bucket of nurses, obviously that is truly life and life and death. So Ascension did a really interesting thing where they really looked at the data to say, what do we need to do to help here? And how do we stretch what we’re doing for our nursing population to ensure they stay with Ascension and they grow their careers? And so they did some really cool things with Icims and without Icims to focus on internal mobility for nurses.

Susan Vitale:  And so they’re seeing really interesting cross pollination where they’re even saying, Hey, our nurses are understandably very burned out. So in some cases, they’re moving nurses to nurse recruiter roles and things like that, where it’s connected, but it’s not just being a nurse in a different wing it’s truly mobility and changing things out. And they were able to use data in a really interesting way to know that, for example, I’ll probably [inaudible 00:  00:  00] these stats I apologize. But if you talk with an internal candidate and they don’t get the job within 90 days, they leave the business, something to that effect. So they were getting really smart about this and knew how to acutely addressed the issue. I thought that was super interesting. And so we recognize them for that, Jim, from Felonies, who does incredible things, was recognized for some of the work he’s done with historically excluded groups and the work in DEI.

Susan Vitale:  And he’s a pleasure to work with, and we’ve already opened up nominations for next year. So for anyone who’s interested, they can go to icims.com/inspire and start getting involved so we can recognize them as well.

William Tincup:  I love that. So, okay. So a part of INSPIRE is also kind of a culmination of the year of things that you all have done and announcements both of if people have missed them, but also announcements going forward. So what were some of the things that you all announced at INSPIRE this year?

Susan Vitale:  We were excited to make a lot of these announcements because as we see on one end, this concept of continuous talent transformation that employers need to embrace on the other end, we see that so many of the technologies and processes, et cetera, that a lot of organizations are frankly stuck with are not going to get them there. So we need to bridge the gap. So one area of that is we think about, again, this outside-in perspective, versus just going through transformation because of what is happening in a business. But instead looking outside of well what’s happening with candidates and employees in the world. Is new consumer-grade experiences for our technology and our tools? So what can we do more in the flow of work? We know that everybody doesn’t just want to log into one system. So what are we doing through video, through mobile, through teams, and in the future, other tools like Slack and more to really live where everybody else is living.

Susan Vitale:  So as we think about mobility, for example, if we were to plot out what the experience is like for an external candidate to be courted and get hired into a new organization, versus what the experience looks like for them internally, they’re vastly different. And so we were able to share a lot more about our new internal opportunity marketplace and what that means for employees who are candidates to get better alerts through text, some of amazing tools we’re rolling out for them through video, and really be consumer-grade for that internal process and not feel like that is vastly different from what external candidates get elsewhere.

Susan Vitale:  There’s also a lot that we shared around the dynamic candidate profile, something we first introduced last year, but we’ve been able to expand upon over the last year and plan on further expanding on in ’22, which includes new features that help mitigate unconscious bias and also better populate through third party tools and really be hydrated a regular basis through both partner generated, integrated content, as well as content that candidates or employees self populate. That was great, and then a couple of great partnerships. Some of the work we’ll be doing with Textio as well as with Visier, for some enhanced talent analytics that I think will be really powerful. They just have an amazing technology and great product.

William Tincup:  So as we look forward, you’ve got these obviously, for 2022, probably even in December as well, new research, new studies, things that you think that you know, each year you do something different, which I love about you as a marketer. You’re always kind of changing things and doing, pushing yourself, and pushing the company. What do you see in terms of Icims in turn from a research perspective? And then the second part is, do you already have a date and some type of plan for INSPIRE 2022?

Susan Vitale:  Well, I appreciate the kind words. I think it’s important to talk about the research and some of the things outside of the core product because there’s so much more to what we need to be delivering as thought leaders and partners in the industry than just product. And so we’ve seen, I mean, I’m sharing may be specifics, but in the heart, it doesn’t price sound dramatically surprising. And that our latest data is showing that job opening are up 80% since the beginning of the year, but job application activity is only up 3%. So there’s obviously this just massive gap that just feels like it’s getting bigger by the day. And so we’re repeatedly sharing on a monthly basis what we’re seeing in our data in terms of not just openings versus applications, but we’re also taking a cut at it by industry.

Susan Vitale:  We’re taking a cut at it by gender and more. And so there’s some really rich information that we share for free on Icims.com/insights on a regular basis. And so we’ll continue to share that as well as with the slant that takes a look at internal versus external, DEI and more we’ve even seen it by region, which is super interesting of like somebody is in Idaho where they most likely to apply for jobs, just cool stuff like that. And then, in addition, we’re hoping to not just share the insights but better connect that with outcomes and tips and tricks. And we’re doing that, not just through Icims, but through this community, we’ve got thousands of these talent innovators.

Susan Vitale:  And so, we’re opening up the community for more partner-generated content and also more video-based content from our super users to share how they’re able to successfully, for example, pull off virtual career fairs or what they’ve seen work or not work and internal mobility strategies. And they’re delivering that through our own video studio tool. And so we thought that was super cool and just a really fun way of seeing some authentic content come through the community. And then, in February, we’ll release our 2022 workforce report, which looks at things for an entire year, in addition to the monthly activities that we share on through icims.com/insights.

William Tincup:  And insight.

Susan Vitale:  INSPIRE 22, you’re right. Yeah. So that’s going to be virtual again. I think we just have seen so much goodness from that. It doesn’t mean we won’t have other events in person over the course of the year, but the big event will be virtual again. Final date to come, we’ll share more probably in Q1 of 2022, but looking forward to doing that virtually again, see if we can beat ourselves, we try to raise the bar every year, making it harder and harder on ourselves, but I’m sure we’ll pull it off.

William Tincup:  Well, that’s the best way because it’s the conferences that say stale or kind of rest on their laurels, then folks stop attending. They stop scheduling it because it’s like there’s nothing new there and [crosstalk 00:  23:  01].

Susan Vitale:  Yeah [crosstalk 00:  23:  03] fresh. So if anyone has any suggestions on what to do, what not to do, what you wish virtual conferences did, you know, topics that you can’t believe nobody’s talking about, feel free to send it to me directly. I would love to hear it. You can send it to me, even just on Twitter or LinkedIn; I’d love to hear it. I’d like to see a bit more of this be crowdsourced and not just what we think everybody wants to hear.

William Tincup:  Well, you all have a wonderful audience, so you can tap just your customers and partners alone. You’ve got a wonderful audience to tap for ideas so.

Susan Vitale:  Yeah, they did a great job helping us shape 2020 and 2021. We’re super appreciative of that.

William Tincup:  Very good. Well, listen, Susan, thank you as always. Thank you so much for the time. I know you’re crazy busy, but I appreciate you taking time out and in explaining kind of what it went on at inspire 2021. And I look forward to 2022.

Susan Vitale:  Thanks, I really appreciate it for anyone who missed it, most of the sessions are available on-demand on icism.com, and we’d love for you to check it out on-demand; it’s free, and thank you so much for the time hope to, to have all of you there next year at inspire ’22.

William Tincup:  Awesome. Listen, have a wonderful day, and thanks for everyone listening to recruiting daily podcasts until next time.

Susan Vitale:  Thank you.

Music:  You’ve been listening to the Recruiting Live podcast by RecruitingDaily, check out the latest industry podcast, Webinars, articles and news at recruitingdaily.com.

William Tincup

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.


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