goBeyondProfit CEO Interview: Reimagining Talent that May Already Lie Within Your Organization


Friday, July 15th, 2022

In order to help business leaders navigate this tight labor market, goBeyondProfit sat down with Valarie Mackey, the CEO of WrightNow Solutions to explore a generosity-mindset or a reimagination if you will, that might help executives discover the talent they need in unexpected places.

How can CEOs reimagine talent that may already lie within their own organization?

When you’re considering your roadmap for the future of your company and looking at the capabilities you have and don’t have, too many executives automatically build headcount externally. I think this is because when we think about staffing or even succession internally, we look only at the candidates that have the capacity to jump into the role immediately.  What about the person that doesn’t quite have all the skills but has the potential?  

Consider a model where a current employee shifts to spend 50% of their time training for a new role while maintaining their old responsibilities. They can shadow someone with the current responsibilities, so you have a combination of training and on-the-job experience. This may sound like a lot but when you bring in someone from the outside you don’t actually know their skills, they are not yet invested in your company, and you have to get them to that point where they are adding value. Don’t get me wrong, outside talent will always be an important component in the mix, but I’d encourage executives to take another look at the people who are already invested in your company, understand your culture and simply need additional technical skills.

You will see strong ROI for this type of strategy because reskilling an internal candidate is going to cost less than beginning someone on from the outside. The added benefit to this idea is that it demonstrates to your employees that you invest in career development, that you care about the people as well as the job.

Another approach is to create an apprenticeship cohort of outside and inside talent and onboard them together. You bring in high potential people from your call center, your warehouse, help desk, or administration along with external candidates who show promise. The goal for the end of the apprenticeship is not only new skills but also a clear understanding of where each person would best add value and thrive within the organization.

Another idea would be to offer specific high school internship programs. You would be surprised by the innovative skills that this next generation can bring even in an internship program. Design thinking is core in many high school programs and would be a great asset to bring to the workplace. And if you invest in these students in high school, the internships could continue through college and you have an experienced hire right after college or they may be ready to walk right in after high school graduation.

The generosity mindset shift is to stay open to the path that brings the right people to your company. Perhaps it’s a motivated candidate in a workforce development program or a college graduate from a school you’re unfamiliar with or a high school student who came up through your internship program or a person you can reskill vs restructuring out of the organization. This mindset shift helps you find that diverse, motivated talent you are looking for. There are different paths for different people and when we acknowledge that, we will have the ability to find the talent.

What’s the key to success when recruiting college students?

First of all, be willing to consider students other than those who have a 4.0. And when you recruit diverse students, take a few steps to help ensure they succeed. For instance, we work with first generation college students who may need more preparation and a bit of confidence building to help them successfully enter the workforce and acclimate to a corporate culture.

Students need help to understand power structures in companies, how to develop relationships, how to be multi-dimensional in relationships with people so that you can develop a better working relationship. We walk through how to deal with inevitable conflict at work, and handle it in a professional manner. We talk about effective communication, emails, calendar invites. We review techniques on how to structure communications to be succinct, and concise.

We talk through the experience of being a diverse candidate. We discuss the fact that although you may be the youngest person in the organization or the only one that went to the college you attended, or the only one without a college degree, the only Asian or black or LGBTQ does not make you broken or “less than” anyone else. We reinforce that they are being hired because they bring value and we help them understand how to show that value through their work. It begins by understanding themselves, who they are and what they bring to the organization – a shift in self-awareness to the corporate setting. We find this self-awareness helps everyone represent their values while integrating with the values of the company.

What’s the one thing CEOs need to get right?

We would be remiss unless we are honest about training current staff and getting a company ready to welcome diverse talent.

It’s crucial that companies create a culture of belonging, an inclusive environment.

This means being thoughtful about the policies you have in place, the rules in the organization should be inclusive for all types of people. It includes acknowledging that every company operates with bias because everybody has some biases. Including a thoughtful move to conscious inclusion and away from exclusionary practices is critical.

This work will benefit the people currently at the company as much as it will benefit those you are welcoming in. It’s reimagining the culture and what needs to shift to help everyone feel that they belong.  All of this begins with the leadership of the company. If you truly want to win this war on talent, tap into diverse, motivated talent. You need to be willing to make adjustments so that all these different people coming in from all these different places with different experiences feel like they belong. If you don’t do the work, then this talent strategy will not succeed because the talent won’t succeed.