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Aly and Kevin Discuss Trends in Recruiting and Hiring [VIDEO]

Aly Finkle
Wed, Apr 29, 2020

Director Aly Finkle and CEO Kevin Kerl got together to share their thoughts about the current COVID-19 situation and its implications for businesses and employers. The conversation started by addressing the "silver linings" of the current situation and continued to include thoughts about workplace culture and opportunities for innovation. Enjoy!

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Full Conversation Transcript

Aly Finkle:
Okay, here we go. So, Hey Kevin, thanks for joining today. This is my second attempt in representing select one as we continue to forge relationships and connections with our network. This one is obviously a little bit easier since we work together on a daily basis. So I'm joined today by Select One CEO, Kevin Kerl. He has been our fearless leader for the last five years that I've been with Select One a little bit longer and we are continuing this conversation in an attempt to maintain connection within our network. And I wanted to honestly continue to practice having conversations that I normally would in person digitally because as we all know, that is where the world is going. So thanks for agreeing to muddle through this with me.

Kevin Kerl:
No problem. Thank you for having me, Aly. And looking forward to it. I think it'll just be a good open discussion and hopefully in the future we'll start to get some other business leaders from around Western New York and the US on here. It'll be great.

Aly Finkle:
Yeah, that's the goal. So as we've worked together on marketing, we have always talked about... and in sales and all assets of our business because we're in the business of people, the importance of personalizing what we say in our messaging. And we've talked about doing video for a very long time. So I'm excited that we're now actually diving to video and only took a global pandemic to really drive us in that direction. But here we are. So one of the things I wanted to start off with today, I wanted to start on a positive note. We've all talked about how this has been a really trying time for everyone. In so many ways it's just been really uncomfortable and really stressful, this massive transition for everyone.

Aly Finkle:
So I wanted to start today with the silver lining. What have you loved about this new shift towards either digital work, working from home, just this situation in general? What has been your silver lining? I know we've talked about a lot of things that you've really liked about this transition. So let's start on a high note.

Kevin Kerl:
Yeah, I mean at the highest level when you think about this and through my background going through downturns and coming back out of them in companies or in recessions, it's... I love the aspect of entrepreneurship. It's why I'm very involved in the startup community. I'm involved with a lot of startups. Well, when companies or countries or this is the first time globally, we go through things like this it makes people think very differently. And when people think differently, amazing things come out of that. The world changes. When there's an alternative, we're fat and happy. We just kind of keep doing the same stuff. So a lot of were doing really well the last 10 years. Things just kept going well, stock prices kept going up, their markets kept going up, unemployment kept going down. So people were just like, "Hey, what we're doing is working." They make subtle little changes, but they don't think about drastic business changes that can affect their business.

Kevin Kerl:
I always kind of mentally like to live in that edge of the world where it's like what major disruptive changes can you make within an industry, within the global business world? And so interestingly, as we've gone through this, I mean obviously there's unfortunate things that happened with people and lives, but at the same time it allows more thought to go into like, okay, how do we really change the way we do business? How do we change the way the world looks? For us, how has recruiting going to drastically change in the next three to five years? You can't look at like the next three to six months. But I think when you start to think bigger picture, you start to see huge opportunities. And when those opportunities present themselves, those who can act on those and when you put great teams together, like we have at Select One, I think you can really put yourself in a different direction and get ahead of the curve at that point.

Kevin Kerl:
So I think the biggest positive to me is like, sometimes when you go through these things, the whole world starts to think differently and look differently which presents opportunities for people to do amazing things and build amazing companies. You can look at my background, for those who don't know, 'O8, '09 I was at a company called Quebecor here in Buffalo, New York. It was a print manufacturer. Obviously, at that time, Kindles were coming out, people weren't reading books. We were printing a lot of books that dwindled quickly and there was a recession on top of it, so we in time had to close that plant down.

Kevin Kerl:
Out of that opportunity, I was presented other opportunities to go into tech startups and see like, oh my God, I went from printing books to working as a COO, a partner at a company who made apps. So it was like the direct opposite. It was what caused the one that closed is where I went and worked at the other one. But then communication started coming out. I remember seeing Zoom in its infancy stage back in early 2010s, '11s. HubSpot, I literally work two blocks away from them and they were less than 70 people at the time. Now we think HubSpot, and we're like, "Holy cow, how do companies live without it for the ones that use it or Salesforce?

Kevin Kerl:
So those companies all came because of a recession. That started because the world had to think and look differently. How do I sell differently? How do I market differently? There was new technologies, how do I use them? And that's where the HubSpots of the world came from. So I think you're going to see that same dramatic shift. You're going to look back three years from now and go, "Oh, because the world's sort of reset banking is done differently. Recruiting is done differently, manufacturing's done differently," and it'll be amazing just to watch the new companies that come out of this whole entire recession. So on the positive note, it presents amazing opportunities for those people who want to push the envelope.

Aly Finkle:
Awesome. Very well said. So one of the things that I have always respected about you and think you, do really, really well, is distill really big, challenging issues into achievable, actionable tasks. You're an operator and entrepreneur at heart and you're able to see a big picture and break that down into executable items, which is I think, awesome for a lot of people to benefit from, especially myself who works with you closely on a daily basis. So with that being said, as a business leader, as an operator or someone that leads a team, how have you taken the gravity of this situation and approached it from, okay, what do we need to do in the short term? What do we need to do immediately, now that we're five, six weeks into it? And the second question is about, now, where is your mindset and how are you thinking about kind of the future?

Kevin Kerl:
Yeah, I think when these things first hit, the first reaction... There's an old story I heard from a friend one time and it was, if a building is on fire, how do people react? And so the world's on fire. So the building was on fire and there's those who will sit in the building and tell everyone there's no fire. Don't worry, just keep sitting here. Well, in that situation, the whole building burns down and people pass away. There are those who will jump up screen, run around like their heads cut off like a chicken and run out the building and leave everyone else inside. And then there was those who will stand up and orderly escort everyone out of the building and save their lives.

Kevin Kerl:
It's sort of like a resonating thing that when things go wrong, even if they're small things, like forget this epidemic we're going through, like even when something just goes wrong in business where you lose two contracts and you can't make sales quota for the month. You only can control how you keep your demeanor and stay calm and how you think through those processes is what's going to allow you to successfully come out the other end. If you react like either of the other two, yeah, you may get lucky that time, but in the long run you're going to make wrong decisions.

Kevin Kerl:
So it's sort of the premise I took here when... We saw this coming. I think we all knew about it. I probably saw some writing on the wall in early January. I have some good friends who are from China, who I would talk to and he would explain what was going on there a little more in depth, I think, than what we were hearing here. So I kind of had a gut feel something was coming, but at the same time it was like, is it really going to hit us? Maybe the US will be ahead of it. Maybe we won't have the problem. But once you know something like that is coming, spend some time planning. You should always be planning for the worst.

Kevin Kerl:
When I was early in my career as an environmental engineer, I was also head of emergency response for the plant. In case there was a large fire in the plant, I had to know where all the chemicals were that could destroy half of the pew because if we didn't take care of that there would be a big hole in the middle of the pew right now. So you kind of learn like, planning for the worst so when it happens, you already have your plans in place. You can execute and move forward and hopefully help the company. On top of that, the way you look at this was me as a business owner, yes, we see you about the PPP and the SBA loans and all this stuff's going to come. Well, what if it doesn't come fast enough?

Kevin Kerl:
So really what you get into then, is understand your sales projections, especially in a service business. You have to understand cash in. And I think what we kind of figured was, let's kind of right down at 80% reduction in cash flow or revenue for the next three, four months. It's hard to look way out past that at this point because you don't know when things will turn around exactly. Once you know that, start to model out your cash burn and figure out, okay, I need to be at this burn to make it last because it's all about cash in a small business like ours. We do not have huge loans that we can get from banks. We don't have VC money, we don't have PE money. We don't have a support system that's going to just say, "Hey here, have more money so you can stay awake."

Kevin Kerl:
So it's how do you make that cash last is sort of the thing. So you start there and you work your way down through what do you need in the company, what is critical, what is not critical, how do you drive the business? And at the same time, how do you not lose strategic focus where you're trying to figure out how to build something new or adapt to the changing world. Like some people would probably get rid of everything except for just pure production. And what'll happen is in six months you won't have evolved and someone else will evolve and you'll fall way behind. So you got to measure all those angles that you're looking at. And then be decisive. It's hard to think that way.

Kevin Kerl:
I know, Aly, you and I have talked about when we've had to make really tough decisions, sometimes it's hard because you have a person you're dealing with, but you also have all the people at the company. So some of the toughest decisions, you try to look at in a positive notice that you're also helping everyone who is still there. And I think layoffs are never easy. None of that stuff's easy. We all know that it hits us up pretty good. I think we all have fun stories around it at some point in their lives. But those are what business leaders do. You are captain of a lacrosse team. You understand like it falls on your shoulders, you've got to make the hardest decisions. It's not always fun, but at the end of the day you only can do what you can do and believe in what you're doing and hopefully make the right decisions more often than not.

Aly Finkle:
Well said. And I think it's the tough reality for a lot of business owners now is making tough decisions, but I think you framed it in a really good way to think a little bit bigger picture and make sure you're being strategic about the decisions you're making. And then most importantly, just commit to it.

Kevin Kerl:
Yeah. It'll be interesting as we come out of this, I know there's a lot of people in the country got furloughed at different companies. A lot of people got laid off. I think some business owners you'll see use this as an evaluation of their team and who they need and what positions they might not need or, "We're back to fat and happy, we're all making money. Everything looks was good. Maybe we were spending money in places we shouldn't have been as business owner." So it'll be very interesting how that falls back into the real world reality.

Aly Finkle:
Yeah, that's one of the things that we've talked about as a leadership team about trying to... if we had this little crystal ball trying to get a sense from our HR partners out there and other business leaders for that matter about what is the effect this crisis is going to have longterm on the function of people management, talent acquisition, HR. And I think one of the predictions you made is probably pretty likely there's going to be a very tough hard look at current positions and the workforce to make sure that people are in the right positions where they can be effective, and assessment of if there's any duplication or opportunity to optimize a position.

Aly Finkle:
So I'll be very curious as we all will, to see how companies approach that as we start to talk about getting back to some sense of normal business operation. With that being said, I know you don't have a crystal ball. If you did, we would probably be in a different position, but if you could conjure up some sort of predictive ability here in the sense of how do you think this is going to change HR talent acquisition recruitment over the next couple months into a year to next year?

Kevin Kerl:
So there's multiple ways to look at that. And I'm glad you said short term, long term. So short term, when you sit there and think about it, it's what, we're over 20 million people who are now unemployed who were employed one month ago. That's drastic. I've never seen anything like it. I don't think any economists has ever seen anything like it. But they're furloughed. So as the PVPs come into play, as maybe the economy starts to kind of come back up, those people will either be brought back to their existing companies or be able to move on to other companies. So I think that will naturally flow out.

Kevin Kerl:
The real question I get into is like... Let's start with the commercial real estate business. Like I have a hard time envisioning as much commercial real estate being used as it is today. And I think it's a pretty obvious thing because people have now adapted, many companies have adapted to be able to work remotely. Let's not say work at home. Yes, we're all working at home now, but you can work at a coffee shop. You can work at a co-working center. I think you'll see more of those types of things pop up where you satellite yourself in different areas depending on what you need. Because of that, companies will save immense amount of money on real estate.

Kevin Kerl:
I saw one company, I think it was maybe 400 employees. Of course, they're in San Francisco, which means the real estate costs are super high and their CEO basically came out and said, "Yeah, we're never moving back in an office." He's like, "I can spend a fraction of that money and do full offsites for all 400 people four times a year to build our culture. I don't need to be in an office anymore. I'd rather give it back to my employees." I think you'll see a lot of that actually. So people will have to become more remote workers.

Kevin Kerl:
The secondary part of that is, and kind of had this theory before this even happened, is when you look at salespeople, a lot of sales is still networking. Who you know and how you're able to sell. Will sales become a gig type position for the world? So if I'm a salesperson who sells for a company A, do I actually sell now for a company, A, B, C and D? So I actually worked for four companies at once. I could see that having a dramatic change and that won't happen in a year. That'll be like five, six years, seven years from now. We'll look back and be like, wow, a lot of companies now use these floating salespeople out there.

Kevin Kerl:
And automation comes because at the end of the day you look at some... I'll use manufacturing. I was in manufacturing. We had plants that were pretty heavy labor on some of our machines and in the late 2007, eight maybe we implemented two large print machines that allowed us to run with a fraction of the people. Well, not only do you run with a fraction of people, those people stand farther apart. So when you hear about the six foot thing, you can run these machines and not have anyone interact with people. I think a lot more automation in that world will come out that allows machines to keep running. If there's another one of these issues, those machines can just run on their own. You don't even need someone there. So being able to almost run a whole manufacturing plant remotely will be, I think a movement you'll see in the next 10 years. AI, virtual... AI, especially, some virtual reality stuff allows you to do that.

Aly Finkle:
Interesting. Interesting. So you touched on one thing that I want to dig into a little bit more is culture. Everyone talked about culture before we went virtual. How important it is, how skillset almost wasn't as important as this cultural fit and this cultural alignment. And it was always an interesting discussion point when we were working with our partners, guiding them, coaching them, collaborating on how we balance. Finding someone that can execute a position based on skill set and experience, but also adapt to enhance and really integrate into their all important culture. Well, given that we are all distant and desperate at this point, what's your advice or thoughts around how companies can still maintain culture from afar? Because I do think that's going to be an interesting question and consideration for leaders moving forward.

Kevin Kerl:
Yeah, culture is always an odd term, right? You could have a really big successful company that has what you would perceive as a bad culture, but the people there are happy because the company is super successful and productive and they're getting big paychecks. And then they have a great... They can do the things they want to do in their personal life because they have the money in the means and enough flexibility that are not driven into the ground working 15 hour days. So I think culture is a slightly misused term. Personally, I think it became very popular last four to five years because unemployment was shrinking so low and the war on talent drove people thinking culture.

Kevin Kerl:
If you go back to 2010, culture was not as important. People didn't talk about culture, they talked about talent, you needed the best people. And there was more talent available because unemployment was at a happier six, 7% so you could... you still attracted them. But you look at software developers, to them, they just want to work on really cool stuff and different projects that make them think and continue to improve their skills. Playing ping pong and having like a culture of free meals is nice. And I know Facebook does a lot of that stuff, but that's not why the people work at Facebook. They were going Facebook because they work on really cool projects. Whenever you talk to someone who works there, they're like, "Yeah I'm working on this." And you can see the jazz in their eyes or it's not the, "Oh yeah, I get free meals every day."

Kevin Kerl:
So I think what happened in the last three years is the war on talent got so tight, companies decided the only way they're going to be able to attract the best talent is to have a cultural difference within their organization that would attract that same person from one company to another. And so because you couldn't create more people, you couldn't create more good workers, there was only so many. So to attract them you had to really try to create a culture that they would enjoy. But at the end of the day, I think if you ask most CEOs and people matter and culture matters, but productivity matters too.

Kevin Kerl:
So you got to balance that a little bit. And I think we're going to see that balance go back to... we need productive, hardworking, good companies where output matters. How people do their output. I'm interested to see loyalty. I mean, I started in the workforce early 2000s after college and I worked in manufacturing. There were people there for 35, 40 years. As I've evolved in 15 years, like more and more companies, people change jobs every two to three years. We see it. I mean we look at resumes and it's like... You used to look at resumes and if someone changed the job every, I think John mentioned this yesterday, every two or three years you'd be like, "Oh my God, they're a job hopper." And now you look at that and you're like, "Wow, okay. So they continue to progress their careers."

Kevin Kerl:
So it's like will we go back to a more loyal base of workforce? Or will that continue to evolve where people just are sharing their jobs out as much as possible and people are turning over that much? I don't know where culture comes into play in that. I think it's a word that gets thrown a lot on the lot, but I think work life balance is the bigger key. That's what people want. Less so than I want to work at a company where I feel like it's my family.

Aly Finkle:
And do you think that work life balance, and this is obviously specific to individuals, but generally do you think this has improved people's ability to have a more even work like work life balance or do think that because people can just pop downstairs or happen to their kitchen the work life balance has been skewed disproportionately?

Kevin Kerl:
I think it's created a better work life balance, but work is part of life's now. So it's all one. But you have more control over, I mean I look at myself like, yeah, you're right. Wake up in the morning, feed my two kids then I hop on a computer. I don't have to shower. I don't have to clean myself up and get dressed. I don't have to drive into work 30 minutes. 12 o'clock rolls around I eat lunch with my kids. I never eat lunch with my kids. I barely ate dinner half the time with my kids because I got home too late. Now I get to see them more so I spend more time with them. Like this morning my son's doing an art project and he literally could walk over to my computer because he needed to trace my hand. That's those little moments matter.

Kevin Kerl:
I think we'll be way more involved in our children's lives if you have kids or your family life than you were before, where what's nice is you can still get your work done. When you were at an office, you couldn't do both. Now your ability to manage your own time in that aspects can be very important for people to be able to not get overwhelmed or get distracted, I think. I don't think people also realize how much you get distracted at an office. Like everyone's like, "Oh, man, at home I get so distracted by my kids or a dog or whatever." And it's like, if you think back to your day at your office, no one works an eight hour days through their nine to five.

Aly Finkle:
We talked about that. You leave your house at 8:30, get to the office at nine, you say your hellos, you get your morning snack, and next thing you know it's like 9:45.

Kevin Kerl:
Yeah, basically if you were at home, you lost an hour and 45 minutes already. Now you got to drive home. Same thing, right? And if you go off for lunch versus just grabbing something out of your cup board, you literally, I calculated it out, I probably said somewhere around two to two and a half hours a day. Multiply that by a week, it's 10 hours. Multiply that by a month, you literally have an extra week of work.

Aly Finkle:
Yeah, pretty interesting way to put it.

Kevin Kerl:
So you can still be productive, you could still have those small distractions as long as you have more time to do that. So I think there is a better work life balance in that aspect. Now, you have to control it. You can get burnout really fast because you can't get away. I saw someone yesterday who set up their wifi at their house, literally turns off at 10:00 PM and turns back on at 9:00 AM. So the wifi in their house shuts down so they can't work and it's their way of having personal time, good sleep, get up in the morning and take care of themselves and then, "Oh, now I can work again because my computer turned back on." Their computer is on for 13 hours. They still get work done, but they figured out a way to give themselves a total break from the world. I think [crosstalk 00:23:38]-

Aly Finkle:
Yeah, even before this, I think it took a really conscious and concerted effort to back away from the phone. I mean we were so connected or such a connected world begin with that. Personally for me, it takes a very deliberate effort to say I'm not going to look at my phone, I'm not going to check. But now it's even easier to stay connected and like just pop to your computer because it's been in the same place it's been all day. I think that's kind of a cool story that they've made the...

Kevin Kerl:
Shutdown.

Aly Finkle:
Total shutdown.

Kevin Kerl:
I think where we miss interaction though is the non-work interaction that we used to have. Like, I didn't go to a lot of events. I tried to go to one every other week and most with my two kids at home. But we don't do that at all anymore. And I know people are trying to do virtual happy hours, but I think those are cool but it's not the same. I also think about like, I work out at home, I used to go to a gym, and it's not just the people you work out with at the gym, it's everyone you need. As you go, you get to know everyone and it's just like those conversations help free your mind of everything else sometimes. We don't have that right now.

Kevin Kerl:
I think what we're really missing is that conversation with someone where it's not about Corona and it's not about work. The whole world is about that and it's like... Last night, my wife laughed at me because I was just flipping through Netflix at like 9:30 and I was like, I started watching He-Man from when I was a kid at seven years old, and she's like, "What are you doing?" I said, "Honestly, it's nothing, like it is nothing. The show is nothing. It's an old cartoon. I just wanted to see what it would look like," but because it just wasn't everything else that's in your face.

Aly Finkle:
Yeah. That allows your mind to just focus on something completely.

Kevin Kerl:
Including Tiger King. Like I didn't need to hear about the Tiger King or whatever. 

Aly Finkle:
I know. I have found my dreams have been much more vivid recently because I think I'm digesting so much information at all times, like my brain at night when it's supposed to be digesting information, resetting and relaxing is still processing. And so again, I've tried to make a more deliberate effort to not engage in information and news intake after a particular point just to give myself this reset. So I felt very fresh because now more than ever, it's just been a deluge of information from every which way.

Kevin Kerl:
I have found it interesting when I look back and it's only been, what, three weeks, four weeks now. I've reconnected with people in a way I never thought, college roommates, friends from around the country, less so Buffalo. But it was like we used to hear really good stories. Kelly, my wife, she has this group of friends they were in high school, always great. I think it's five of them. All in everyone's weddings and they kind of got distant because they moved in different areas and they had kids and things happened and now they do every Friday for two hours. They sit down and have a glass of wine and just talk of Zoom. But it's like that wouldn't have happened without this. And I remember overhearing them last week and one of them said, "Why are we doing this?"

Aly Finkle:
Yeah.

Kevin Kerl:
So in one aspect it's kind of brought back the people I think who really mean a lot in your life back into your life, versus we all have lots of acquaintances that we hang out with just because of convenience and they're there, versus the people who I think we really want to still be in our lives.

Aly Finkle:
That is so true. So true.

Kevin Kerl:
[crosstalk 00:27:05] those doors back up.

Aly Finkle:
Yeah. No, that's great. And it's a good kind of, I think end cap to this conversation. We started talking about what is the silver lining, what are the opportunities as result of this situation. Now we're closing it with this really has been an awesome opportunity to reignite relationships that you normally wouldn't have ever thought of investing in. And I think that's so cool because I feel the same way. I mean I have had the unique opportunity to just spend more time connecting with family over house party, or FaceTime and college roommates. And so if anything, this has forced us to reevaluate relationships and rekindle maybe some of those relationships we didn't spend enough time investing in, in the first place.

Kevin Kerl:
Yeah, I was on a call last night with a group of buddies, we ended up talking for like two and a half hours. So it happens and it's great. It's the only advice I give people, is watching what you drink. It feels like we're all drinking a lot more than we thought.

Aly Finkle:
Yeah. Well, this was fun, Kevin. Thank you for indulging. Thank you for your insight and your wisdom and your thoughts. We are in the business of connecting people, so I appreciate the chance to connect with you outside of our daily responsibilities. This was really cool and probably talk to you in a couple of minutes.

Kevin Kerl:
Sounds good. Thank you so much, Aly. Have a wonderful day.

Aly Finkle:
Thank you. Bye.

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