iCIMS – Breaking Down The 2021 Workforce Report With Charles Mah

Charles Mah, Chief Evangelist at iCIMS

On today’s show, I have Charles Mah here from iCIMS to discuss the 2021 Workforce Report with us. He’ll talk about the findings and some of his thoughts on the findings as well. It’s going to be a great show.

You can download the 2021 Workforce Report here!

Listening time: 27 minutes


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William 0:33
Ladies and gentlemen this William Tincup and you’re listening to the RecruitingDaily podcast. Today, I have Charles on from iCIMS. And we’re gonna be talking about the 2021 Workforce Report that they’ve been working on for a while, and really the findings and some of his thoughts on the findings. And so without any further ado, Charles, you have a fancy title. And I’m definitely title-envious of that. If you would do the audience a favor and introduce yourself. And we’ll go ahead and introduce iCIMS even though I think most of them on the market, know iCIMS – we’ll go ahead and do that anyhow too.

Charles 1:07
Sounds great. Well, thanks for the welcome invite here, William. A little bit about myself is I’ve spent about 15 years leading talent at great companies like Business Objects, BlackBerry, Concur, SAP and Workday and felt iCIMS was a really interesting opportunity in that, you know, we’re focused on this very much best in breed approach to attracting, engaging, hiring, and advancing talent. Which is really the basis of our talent cloud. And so when the opportunity came up to leave the crux of day to day recruiting into a level of evangelism on best practices, thinking about how we spread the word on digital transformation, and connecting with talent leaders and helping them to excel their organizations forward, I thought it was a really interesting opportunity to, to take on. Now, Chief Evangelist can mean many different things in different companies. But here, it’s all about helping others and helping others succeed.

William 2:02
I love that. You know, when I think of Chief Evangelist, I think of Guy Kawasaki at Apple. So that’s my model. Do you have a model? Or did you do mimic? Is there somebody out there that you kind of follow one to model yourself after?

Charles 2:16
Yeah, not a specific person. But I think the model I think about is everyone that we engage with? My dream and my hope is they become evangelists for us as well. There’s a little bit towards where Kawasaki was going with his. Well, because I think products only are successful as the people who make them successful as customers. And so for me, I think the talent space is, you know, there’s a baseline of straightforwardness. You know, you want to recruit and you want to recruit the right people. But as you know, William, there’s so many nuances to it. And hopefully, my goal is to be able to spread some of those nuances, solve some heart problems, and have people engage with us and be champions and ambassadors for us as well.

William 2:55
I love that. I love that – I love the sentiment as well. It’s one of the things I loved about Guy in that role is he just sounded he sounded like a fan. Like, he’s just like, he’s just a normal guy. I mean, he wasn’t, of course, and isn’t, of course, but it just felt like he was approachable. He just loved and, you know, just, I don’t know, just he radiated this energy. And you have that as well. So let’s –

Charles 3:21
I yeah, and I love this space, right. And I love the fact that iCIMS is, you know, going through this kind of phase where we want to really define and dissect kind of this whole transformation movement. And, you know, it’s been a challenging year, but like this workforce report, well, you know, it’s we’re going to talk about really dives into how we have an opportunity to transform the industry with it, because I think everything is changing as we speak. And I know people talk about the new norm, I rather than top of the new norm, I always think about what it could be. And I think there’s an opportunity for this role to help the talent industry to do that.

William 3:55
I love it. So let’s just talk to some of the highlights of the report itself. Take the audience into, you know, some of the things that you’ll when you look at the findings, you know, that what, what has stuck out to you and struck you in a way like that interesting. And let’s go through a couple of those.

Charles 4:17
Yeah, I think for me, first of all, what was interesting was just the basis of the report. I mean, we have access to billions of anonymized data points to understand the labor market, right. So it’s kind of being able to take a forefront and saying what are the trends to see out of that normally, I think most places will look at the general economic reports, I think us being able to kind of aggregate and think about those trends is what really caught my eye which then, I think leads to the fact that we are seeing a level of asymmetrical recovery in the market, which is I think, a hopeful thing because they’re part of positive signs that there’s an economic rebound on the way but also looking at those key indicators in our platform. We are seeing some job openings that were down, you know, for example, just 3% hires are down by about 10%, which is, in the grand scheme of things not as dramatic as I thought it would be. But that said, it also was an indicator to me that the, I know people, I call it the war for talent, but I like to call it the war for networks is the building those connections is going to be ever more so important, because we’re also seeing a lot of people making changes in their roles, right. So it’s no longer the traditional definition of role x and y, but some of those skills that move from one role to the other. So I think it’s going to require all of us to be a little bit more focused on building connections and building relationships with prospects and candidates in the market. The other thing I also noticed, which was a really interesting kind of thing for me was the fact that obviously comes with no surprises that there’s a lot of movement towards remote in the hybrid workforces. But I think it’s about I think we saw about 50% plus of HR organizations moving towards that direction. I think it’s gonna be a continued conversation, you know, what does that mean? How do companies continue to build culture and values are aligned? I mean, you hear a lot about companies saying, well, it’s so important to me to have some level of on-premise workforce, because that’s the core of my culture. But I think it also shifts a question to talent organizations, to think about how to leverage their tools and in teams to be able to now not only look just at skills, but also values, alignments, as well because of this whole new remote piece. And then lastly, the thing that really amazed me and was positive, I think it’s a positive sign. And the market is, unfortunately, you know, with last year’s, you know, political, the economic climate of things. A lot of things became kind of headlines and recruiting, and one of those was diversity. And what we saw was a real big, I would say, meaningful effort and results, from the data that we saw that more than for example, you know, the largest portion of our hires that we saw in our data was underrepresented racial and ethnic groups. And so that was about 30%, followed by white women, 27%. And men and underrepresented racial/ethnic groups was 22% versus white men 21%. So it’s pretty good progress moving forward. But I think it’s also a sign that we’re going to continue to push forward with diversity, equity, inclusion programs, and the capabilities of our products to support building stronger connections between talent teams, and those candidate prospects that are diverse.

William 7:30
I love it, though there’s so much unpack. So one of the things that I find fascinating that you’ve mentioned, is kind of skills that are transferable as transferable or transference of skills. Like how does how do you see that playing out for folks when they’re hiring? And they’re looking down, you know, traditional job competency models and job descriptions and job ads? Like, how, how do they think about skills? Or how should they let’s do that? How should they think about skills in ’21 and beyond?

Charles 8:04
I think they should think about skills is if I think about this way, our traditional, I like to call it 20 to 30-year-old paradigm of recruitment staffing is you look at the company, then you look at their years and role, then you look at the skills or outcomes, right, I like to flip it the other way around and saying let’s look at the highlights of their outcomes and skills that were associated with it. So a perfect example would be, as I mentioned, there’s some as you know, the market is recovering in a symmetrical way. And partially it’s driven by, you know, the different policies and states of what has to be closed and what can be opened. But a perfect example would be somebody out of the service industry, perhaps in hospitality, and food and beverage might have translate ability into other sectors that are customer-driven, right customer experience-driven. Same thing with airlines is that I’ve you know, when talent leader was sharing with me out of the out of an international airline said to me, he said, Look, you know, we’ve had to kind of furlough and move some people out but you know, what’s great is that certain other industries that were open were hiring their folks because of the common skills that were needed. So I think we’re we’re gonna have to move towards is really looking at skills as lesser of industry or necessarily company brand align, although sometimes it is critical to be industry-aligned, like manufacturing, but looking at some of those core inner tenants of those skills and say, Can this be transferred into from one company to another, but also in from one industry to another as well?

William 9:33
I love that. So you mentioned some of the advancements that we made with you know, diversity, inclusion, belonging, equity, and equality. But I want to get your take on kind of, okay, their journey, so Okay, we can look at maybe the outcomes were having more discussions, which is great. We’re also looking at the outcomes of those discussions and it seems like we’re making progress because time will tell us if we are but Let’s relate this back to the candidate journey and a candidate experience. And you had mentioned to me previously about thinking about things in a more personalized way. When we think about D&I, you know, how can we make things even richer and more personalized to the individuals that are coming through the pipeline?

Charles 10:21
Yeah, I think it’s part of what I call talent is customer, right, which is hard to do. Oftentimes, we think of it as simply coming to a meeting on time and making sure the interviews are tight and aligned. That’s important. Those are table stakes. I think the part I think about it really feeds into D&I but definitely broader than D&I. But D&I having a big, it would be a big benefactor from it, is that oftentimes companies when they recruit, and you probably see this a ton of times, William, when you talk with other talent leaders is, the first step is saying, Well, you know, let’s say I’m in x industry, and I’m going to look for candidates that come from x industry type of companies. And so oftentimes, you’ll present an underrepresented minority candidate, and they’ll look at it and say, well, the skills are kind of there. But you know, they come from a different space, even in software, sometimes we’ll be like, well, they come from infrastructure and not applications. And, you know, let’s look at all the other candidates first. And so I think when I say personalized experiences is that we need to be able to connect with diverse candidates of all, you know, types, color, you know, sexual orientation experiences, by being able to create accessibility for them, in what I would call your engagement phase, typically, it could be in your CRM or whatnot, and be able to give them custom experience opportunities where they can interact with you, they can share ideas, it’s not about just coming in for a job conversation, because on the onset, if you if you’re only looking at them of where they were, and what their skills are purely based on those two value points, if it’s not alignment, they lose the opportunity for a full interview and a higher. And so one of the things I would encourage folks to think about is how do you create those moments where they come together with the employer, and really talk about ideas show for this, I call it the social credits that are beyond them what’s on paper, and being the build those signals out of those interactions allows you when the requisition opens up, to have those conversations with the hiring manager, where even though they’re not an exact fit on paper, it’s a conversation of Well, they’ve been engaging us, for now, six months, our business seems to really like them, they’re inviting them back for more conversations, they’re really enjoying those personalized experiences and those connections, we definitely should have them as a candidate. And quite frankly, when you’re able to have a conversation like that with the business, if you’re in a company with the right values, they’re aligned to diversifying the workforce, I’ve always found that hiring managers were open to it. So I think it’s going to be critical, particularly when every single company starting to make bigger inroads, is that you want to be able to create your own pool, your own connective pool of diverse candidates through those custom experiences, and leveraging those experiences as signals to build better opportunity to accelerate them through the interview process to an actual hire. I think pipelines can get bigger, but it’s about getting that hire. And it’s I think, those that’s where I’m kind of thinking about when it comes to those custom experiences.

William 13:11
So you mentioned the content side of that I wonder what you both experience, personally in how you’ve recruited, but how important is it to see and interact with people that are like you?

Charles 13:25
So I think everybody, you know, the old saying is you end up hiring people that look and act more like yourself. And that could be

William 13:35
Mine’s the opposite, by the way, Charles.

Charles 13:37
Yeah. I think for me, where I kind of open it up is saying, Look, it’s going to be obvious that people who are diverse may not be looking like and acting like you. And so it’s going to force people to create new interactions that are would create what I call it the stranger to acquaintance relationship, which doesn’t exist typically if your typical circle is more people like yourself, right. So I think, by my personal experience would be as I’ve always found that my opportunities have come from folks, I’ve been able to spend some time with build a relationship with understanding where I’m coming from. And that has always yielded better results than me strictly. And I don’t apply to a whole lot of jobs out there. But you know, I’ve poured a bit of time of my career that I have applied. I found that when you’re up against probably 1000 or 2000 candidates, and then another batch of people who are referrals, you definitely get a better opportunity to make it to the finish line where you’re able to find those connection points and those connection points. I think today with today’s technology offers scalability there so I think there’s some room to say, Hey, you know what, we all know that we will hire likability so to go the opposite direction. It’s almost like let’s create some accessibility channels so we can build more likability with people who are different.

William 14:54
I love that. I love that. I agree. I think the struggle that sometimes that we have is okay. You know, if people are looking for experience – experience, especially highly personalized experiences, and we want to recruit, you know, let’s just pick a candidate, pool that maybe we don’t – we struggle with veterans, we struggle with veterans. And for whatever reason, we don’t have a lot of veterans in the work in our own kind of pool, we can put content out. And we can cater to them and a lot of different ways. But ultimately, at one point, they might ask, and probably will ask, you know, what were the other veterans been successful? Yeah, the first couple are gonna be difficult conversations. But it gets easier, especially, you know, you hire, you know, 10, 15, 20, 1000, you know, veterans, that conversation becomes much, much easier, because now they’re referring other people into the organization. So, you know, it’s, it’s, of course, like anything of quality. It’s not something that’s easy. But, uh, I did want to ask a question that piggybacked the networking part of what you said, How does, I mean, we’re in a global pandemic, so, of course, we’re not both getting together and having dinner. However, how does remote play into this in the future of how people network? Especially with people, I love your acquaintance model? How did they do that? In a world where people were, you know, are working more and more remotely, even after the pandemic?

Charles 16:34
Yeah, I think embracing remote to your advantage, right. So it’s interesting, you raise that point, because when I was leaving talent, during the time of pre-pandemic, you know, folks would say, Well, you know, geez, to hold an event to hold a hackathon. To pull things together, people have to kind of make the effort, drive over wherever the location is, you know, do a little bit of, you know, kind of wine and dining, and then finally, collect all the data points. It’s a bit of a journey, right? It takes about two, three days to kind of like total logistics. I think with remote, I’m going to look at the opposite effect of it as challenging as it might not be as personable as doing on sites. I think it offers an advantage to give you scale. So the argument I’ve had from folks I’ve tested this idea with in the past would say, Well, you know, Charles, I can’t do this for like, 5000 people, but I think with remote, there’s different ways to engage differently, right? There’s video snapshots, like for example, I’ve been really amazed with this whole movement towards interactions, even with people with short video snapshots, like we have video steep studio that does that, right? Ask a question, get a video response, a little bit like a quick shot, which storytelling is a big thing. The other part, which I think is an opportunity to remote places, you know, doing video, you know, events having Yes, it’s it’s not the same, but allows more people to join. Right. And I think this is the part is how do you allow more people to participate. And I think the remote environment, with the embracing of video technology is going to allow us to do more people to be involved. Now, the thing that I think is going to have to evolve along the way is those video environments are going to have to be more interactive. So it’s not just sharing a presentation and creating chaos back and forth that people share ideas and doing design thinking and breaking an idea apart during the call that would be crazy having 200 people trying to do that at the same time. But I think we are also seeing video technologies and also platforms that are more open to partnering with collaboration tools, like whether it’s Microsoft Teams, or whether it’s some of the whiteboarding apps out there, where you can actually allow people in an organized way to share thoughts. And I think this hybrid remote environment is going to start pushing towards the fact that even with post-pandemic, which I’m very hopeful for, even as we get more on-site, it’ll give an extra venue for people to consider and saying, geez, it’s gonna be really hard to pull 200 people together on site. Well, guess what? We’ve learned through the remote period that you can do these things virtually. And it’s an opportunity. So I see it as an opportunity for us to learn a new muscle in a new skill into the next era of interactions and relationship building.

William 19:07
Yeah, COVID pushed us, it sped a lot of things up, we were probably gonna get here in 20 years. But turns out on Thursday, we had to go there in March. That’s right. Well, you mentioned that hybrid a couple times, and I want to get your take on once we get past the pandemic, and companies decide to have a hybrid model. How do you think they’re going to make those decisions to like, what hybrid model works for them, like, well, they’re, you know, what will be the decision making process to figure out what workplace hybrid model works.

Charles 19:46
A lot of it’s gonna come down to the HR departments, number one, creating a lot of transparency for feedback from the employee base, right? I don’t think there’s a one model out there but as I shared, you know, 50% of HR professionals are saying, you know what, we’re going to loosen up or remove location requirements, I think it’s going to really come down to feedback. And that feedback, I think, is going to generate what I would call it the ideal baseline of collaboration in the work environment. So some folks might say, some companies might say, look, we’re still an early-stage company. We’re purely on collaboration projects. So you could have like a blended hourly model. So you don’t kind of have a crowded office. But some people also have personal family obligations. So there’s some flexibility there. There’s also another way of going about it for larger company environments is like for team building, you might want to come together more for a particular project, you’re going to come together more and more customers, you’re going to come in kind of ensuring that some on-site kind of experience is given to somebody that who’s visiting who’s a client, but I think it’s going to come down to what the company does, what its feedback from its workforces. And I think Thirdly, the criticality of some of the on-site skills that are going to have to be executed on the ground. So like manufacturing, I’ll be frank, no one’s going to be manufacturing, in-home.

William 21:05
Oh, bank tellers, bank tellers are still gonna be at the bank.

Charles 21:08
Totally. And so I think it’s going to really come down to HR leaders, focusing on the feedback, focusing on understanding the criticality. And then thirdly, understanding the right mix, that’s gonna be required to ensuring that the product, the services, and the customer experience for their customers remain really high.

William 21:25
Yeah, it doesn’t suffer. So one of the things that we’ve taught is candidates, that some of these jobs that maybe, you know, I’ll take the director of demand Gen. Prior to COVID, that would have been a job that, you know, somebody had a desk or an area or whatever at an office doing, what we’ve taught ourselves that actually that job can be done from anywhere in the world. So now, once we post COVID, will that job come back to the, to the office? Or will it be some type of blended or hybrid model, it’s gonna be fascinating to me, just to see how people kind of make that decision. I love the way that you kind of brought HR into the center of it, because you can see finance operations and the C suite also, you know, making this there’s as well, but yeah, you’re basing this on, you know, who you are, as a company, and how you serve people, both your customers or your partners, your employees, your candidates, all the people you serve. I love that I’m our time’s running short, but I do want to ask you, they usually phrase this with like, what shocked you when you looked at the results initially? Like, yeah, what kind of Huh? What and but it really, it’s, it’s more what really made you think when you looked at the results of the report? What, what really stood out to you and said, Hmm, okay, let me give that a weekend and think about that.

Charles 22:48
Yeah, I go back to not that I wasn’t expecting positive progress in, you know, diversity workforces, it was far more dramatic than I expected. Because I know it was so hard over the years now, there’s a lot of work to do. But that aha moment gave me a follow-up aha moment, which is, it’s going to be so important that talent and HR organizations, look at the right blend of technologies to think about the experiences you want to create for your talent prospects. And I’m going to go a little deeper here, and it’ll be a little bit bold, I think you need to start looking at telling prospects like customers. And I go back to, you know, William, I was reading one of your pieces, what, couple years back? And, you know, it’s the whole notion about how do we treat candidates post-hire, right? They get hired, great, if they don’t get hired, what happens to get a disposition letter, and they probably go into kind of the database somewhere, if they get that letter. And so why I was thinking about that is when you think about how hard it is, and it’s gonna get harder to really kind of splice out the right skills, the right values, you want diversity, what really shocked me was how great progress companies have made. So it shows the commitment. And that’s great, how now we need to embrace technologies that start treating talents like customers, because quite frankly, any other business activity, you’re not going to give a disposition letter to somebody and then disappear. So I think there’s going to be a huge opportunity to really think about applying automation AI personalized experiences, to really capitalize on the networks that companies have built making these great progress in expanding the diversity of their workforce, and growing it from there. And so as much as it’s got me thinking, it also gave me some new ideas and how do we start capitalizing it and how we accelerate the progress that’s been made by you know, customers on our end, but also main companies beyond our customer base as well.

William 24:48
And you’re reporting about automation not lost on me. It’s, it’s also in automation. How do you make it personal, you know, it’s like, I think we’re going to have to develop, I mean, we’ve developed at gunpoint. We’ve done Built flexibility over the last year, I think one of the things maybe a half step past that is going to be listening. You know, when we hire someone, and again, when we use D&I as a great as example, and veterans will just keep that example kind of going forward, we hired our first veteran. Okay, we’re gonna have to listen. Which is, which, again, is not something we’re necessarily great at. Okay, that’s fine. But we can get weak, as we found out with flexibility we can get good at this. We just kind of we’ve run up to change our kind of way of thinking about, you know, post-hire, and listening to people and finding out what they need. Yep.

Charles 25:43
I think what you said there really, you know, is the nail on the head for me, right? It’s listening. It’s These are things that are not the hardest things to do. But they’re hard because it wasn’t habitually built into our practice, and so super insightful. And like I said, it’s going to be really interesting in 2021. I think, you know, I’m excited. You know, like I said, when I see the report, I’m excited to see the opportunities ahead. It’s just how now we help people build strategies around it, and hopefully capitalize on.

William 26:13
I love it. Charles, thank you so much for your time. I know, obviously, you’re super busy. And I just, I appreciate the wisdom. So thank you and for everyone. We’ll link to the 2021 workforce report by iCIMS. So we’ll make sure that you have access to that. But thanks again for your time, brother. Appreciate you.

Charles 26:35
Hey, thank you for having me. Appreciate it.

William 26:37
And thanks to everyone who listens to the RecruitingDaily podcast. Until next time.

The RecruitingDaily Podcast

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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