How formative childhood experiences can impact your career choices

March 8, 2021

As we continue to celebrate Black History Month, at Indeed with a number of internal and external events, Here to Help host and CEO of Indeed, Chris Hyams, is joined by Lannia Small, Sr. Manager, Global Strategic Partnerships on Indeed’s Social Impact Team.

Watch to hear them speak about how formative childhood and early career experiences led Lannia to pursue a career in social impact.

The pair also discuss how our global partnerships are helping to address the unique challenges vulnerable job seekers are facing right now.

- Hello everyone. I am Chris Hyams CEO of indeed. And welcome to the next installment of Here to help. This is our look at how indeed has been navigating the global impact of COVID-19. Today is February 15th. We're on day 349 of global work from home. And as you all know, at indeed our mission is to help people get jobs. And this is what gets us out of bed in the morning and what keeps us up at night. And we started this podcast back in April as a way to share how we were working to help people in the midst of this unfolding crisis. Today, I am delighted to be joined by Lannia Small Senior Manager for Global Strategic Partnerships on Indeed's Social Impact Team. Lannia thank you so much for joining me.

- No problem. Thank you.

- Well, let's start where we always start these with a quick check-in. How are you doing today?

- Doing good, had a great you day and taking it day by day and our sort of extended, you know pandemic quarantine working from home and doing what I can to keep positive, take long walks, you know read a lot of memoirs by comedians, so that's how I'm staying happy and whole

- That's great. Well, let's, let's start with your role on the strategic partnerships team of the social impact group. Can you talk a little bit about your role and what you do to help people get jobs?

- Yeah, so I lead our team, our Social Partnerships Team globally and like our Global Social Impact Team does, we're also focused on helping job seekers overcome bias and barriers in the hiring process. We kind of do that in two ways, you know trying to find, you know ways, tools to de-mystify the hiring process for job seekers. So they know what to expect and put their best foot forward. And then also working with our clients to identify solutions so that they can also hire more inclusively. And so, we stick partnerships is almost like a way to design and test new solutions and interventions. And we work with our platform and offer platform. And when we find something that works, we scale it. And so we have two partnerships so far in North America. It's Goodwill Industries International, and then, we recently launched a partnership with Shaw trust in the UK. And in between we've also worked with clients like JP Morgan Chase as well.

- So you have a, you have an interesting background. Before we get into the, the actual work that you're doing, I would love to hear a little bit about, and I know that you grew up in several different university communities in both the U S and the Caribbean. How did that shape your career path and your interests?

- Yeah, well, you know, I think first of all, it just made me, I think, more open-minded I think when you're in a university community, it means that you're meeting from all over the world. And so, learning lots of different languages, you know speaking different languages to communicate with people. But I think also it was a really great opportunity to just get perspective about possibilities, different career paths. And I would say, you know, my parents friends were all the type of people that were trying to solve really big challenges. So when you're hanging out with the adults you're kind of listening to what they're talking about and listening to people say things like," Oh yeah you know, you know, research is going well we're trying to find a cure for heart disease." or, you know my mother's friends are all, you know their focus was addressing inequalities in maternal health and women's health globally. And so you're learning a lots of things just from osmosis. And it just kind of put in my mind that, you know that's what a career looks like. It looks like you're really passionate. You are doing something that helps, you know others and not just, you know, your own personal goals. And I think most importantly from a representation perspective, you know I was surrounded by people of color who were really ambitious and passionate and found a lot of meaning in the work. And so it, it meant like, well that's the kind of model, like, obviously I can do that too. It doesn't matter if you have money or not. And certainly education is a luxury and a privilege to have but you know, most of those individuals that I grew up with and their parents, you know, they didn't come from money. And so I think for me, it just, you know it was really inspiring and great way to grow up with all those types of, you know, many experts around you you could ask questions and get, you know homework help with.

- So, so it sounds like you were exposed to people who are thinking and working on really big problems. How did you land on employment and workforce development as an area that was interesting to you?

- Yeah, well, I think I took a little bit of a path. I grew up with a lot of more science-based you know, that's my, you know, my parents that's kind of what they pursued. And so I kind of kept progressively trying different things and, you know, kind of settled on this idea of like business being something that I wanted to work within like trying to find a way to have social impact or impact a positive social impact within business. And, I didn't grow up with a lot of people who understood that. And so I went to grad school because people had been saying to me for a while, like you should just start your own business, nothing exists. I don't, I don't understand what you're talking about. Sounds great. Go, figure it out and start your own thing. And it wasn't really until grad school. And I would actually even say my last year of grad school where I discovered that there was a whole community you know, that small, but they were all focusing on subjects that I resonated with. So sustainability and social impact, social enterprise, project finance, and all these types of things. So I was like, "Oh, this is the language that I'm looking for." And so when I was looking for my first job after grad school, I was very focused. I was like, I want to do this as my full-time job. I want to work as a consultant, so I can try different things and learn new things. And I got really lucky with finding my first job. That was really great formative experience, where I worked on a variety of issues from environmental sustainability to you know, human rights. And it was actually with one of mine, a client that I didn't think would become my favorite client but became my favorite client just because they were just so open to change. But it was a large structures company that had been around for hundreds of years that, you know it was finally realizing that when they're going into communities, there's more that they should do than just think about the environmental impact and their regulatory impact. And so, we were at a critical moment when they were having to deal with sort of riots and protests in their, near their facilities. And the reason why, was because the community in question had an unemployment rate of almost 90 something percent and they had never thought that maybe there should be a jobs component or skills training component to their sustainability and social impact work. But that was like the first lightning, you know sort of lightning bulb moment of, okay, we should do this. And, you know, so I literally was crafting a strategy of like, okay so what roles could be, you know, you know, you can just do some little bit of training what roles require sort of exposing them to sort of degrees where they'd have to get more skills so they can come and work into your environment. But that was like the first like thought bubble of jobs and skills and training are really important. And then, subsequently all these different experiences that I had after that kind of reinforced it. And so by the time I had an opportunity to work at the mayor's office, where it was exclusively focusing on workforce development for young people it just seems so clear that this was why certain communities, you know an individuals weren't able to advance professionally and personally was because, you know they didn't get exposed to this I, grew up in a university community, so I saw lots of different careers could ask a lot of different questions but a lot of these young people that we were focused on did not have that. And, so it was our job, as you know the public sector to introduce them to those types of options in school, through extracurricular activities. And, you know, we really had a passion for making sure that in New York city where we have all this incredible diversity, and we have this really dynamic sort of cultural center with a lot of businesses that the young people who are walking these streets every day, know and have the tools and information to take advantage of the incredible career opportunities that are in the city. And so it was one of the exciting parts of it was that I could see these young people like take them into, you know, incredible corporate offices and just have their eyes like, wow, like this is a job. So many times I would hear like, you know 15 year olds being like, "Wow, you get paid for this." And it was really great, because then they could go back home, and they could tell their parents, and they could start planning out their studies with that in mind in terms of like how they can build their career and and really changed the future. Not only for themselves personally, but for their families. So it was really, you know, it really, really resonated with me that this was kind of where I needed to be.

- So you spent time working in the mayor's office and in the biggest city in the country here, when you came to indeed, what did you see as some of the big challenges here coming from something that clearly has has a lot of challenge built into it?

- You know, maybe this isn't like a problem with when I solve big challenges is that you you're like, "Oh, I you know, New York is just a city." I mean, yes, it's the biggest city in the country but like there's the world out there. And I think, you know, just my own personal experiences of you know, living in France and being a student in France, like I saw some of the system and similarities and sort of workforce development jobs and opportunity across the world. And so, you know, before we went to the mayor's office I had always had more of a like a global perspective in my work. And so for me, it was like, well, you know, this is great. Not that we fixed everything in New York but I learned a lot. And I was like, well, how can we take this into the core work that we're doing at indeed and and bring sort of a workforce perspective which is pretty unique for any sort of social impact team within a company, bring that global. And obviously the fact that, you know Abby Carlton was leading this work gave me a lot of confidence that we could do this, but yeah it was the opportunity to go bigger and and work on a different scale. And certainly, you know, you know, that really excited me.

- So before the pandemic, you were responsible for leading our partnership with Goodwill which is really the centerpiece in the U S of our social impact work over the last year, year and a half. How did the pandemic change the nature of our relationship?

- Yeah, well, I also even say that, like there's been a seismic shift in the space of workforce development since COVID, you know I think when we were designing the Goodwill partnership before COVID hit, you know we were going to leverage the strengths of Goodwills and workforce development, nonprofits and organizations across the country, which is essentially that they provide very sort of high touch customized, engagements with job seekers and that's what they do best. And so almost everything that we had in our original scope of work for this partnership was going to be in-person, lots of engagement, lots of people together, and small spaces, not socially distanced. And, you know, I think that we had to radically change, because you know they needed us to change. I mean, most of the Goodwill organizations were not delivering virtual services and then it kind of like flipped really cool, well that's what we do really well. And so, as you all saw in the video, you know we really had to pair down and focus and we decided to focus on like the essential things that we felt that Goodwill and their job seekers needed to get through this crisis. And I think first of all, we knew that, it was really a challenging environment for the Goodwills. A lot of them, you know lost staff. Some of our fellows, we, we selected 12 fellows in 2020 to work very closely with, you know some of them lost 85% of their staff. I mean, no retail revenue and being closed means that we can't keep some of these positions open. And so the crew navigators that were still working really had to focus with sort of emergency triage for job seekers and helping them get connected to, you know, unemployment benefits. And so that's where we stepped in and said, "Well, we really need to beef up our landing page." And so for those who are ready to work they're finding exactly what they need. And so the landing page has sort of all the tools, very special sort of link to the crew guy, which job seeker experience worked really hard to kind of keep updated with the latest information around COVID support, Since we can get there, it could also search for hiring events in their area, so it was just like very rapid information. In addition to a new service that we provided to the landing page which was virtual resume review which is one of the biggest things that Goodwill provided for job seekers in person. We also for job seekers who, you know, were, you know wanting to receive sort of updates regularly on their phone or through their email. We created an email campaign that we sent out every week, with just sort of, you're the people immediate job opportunities in your area. Here are, is where you can go to find information around COVID. And then I think lastly, one of the things we did is that, you know there are so many people that needed help in this moment. And as we knew, when we started the Goodwill partnership, many people don't know that that's what Goodwill does. They don't know that they have this sort of support arm. And so we really realized that we should really be introducing Goodwill to our job seeker community. And so, in collaboration with job seeker experience we started having Goodwill fellows, participate as hosts for our job casts, contributing to articles on topics that were relevant, that they knew a lot about. And I think that in the end, it really led us to be a little bit more creative in some of our solutions and, Goodwill really collaborated with us on this, this concept of sort of these drive-thru hiring events. So hiring events pre COVID had been really successful for Goodwills. And so we had one partner who spoke in the video, Tara from Northwest North Carolina and their team, through their university partnerships, they have access to all these really large parking lots. So we just like, you know, they just turned the parking lots into hiring events and just had people drive through. And, and that was really great. And that was a way to get a lot of people hired very quickly. We also had a Goodwill in a Goodwill for worth, who integrated indeed into their intake process. So when a job seeker comes into the door and need support they're making sure they create an account on indeed, upload their resume, so that they can start engaging with them very efficiently. And we actually had one particular job seeker that was hired under like really not ideal circumstances which was that she was working 80 hours a week. She had no transportation, no high school diploma. She had a background, and she only had access to internet once a week. And so by having her sign up on indeed and having an account, getting job alerts when she called her career advisor in that moment where she could be at a computer once a week, it was super efficient. And that really helped her find a job. And she was able to, you know she had multiple jobs before and she was able to get hired on one job that allowed her to pay most of her bills. And so that was really, really great for her and her family. And then I think lastly, one of the things that we did with Goodwill that was really, really great was they were a critical partner for the virtual hiring tour and helped, it really come to life locally. We had over 75 Goodwills participate, and the support that they provided, you know some of them were participated as employers but most of them participated as providing local support. So job training classes, one-on-one coaching sessions, getting people's technology prepared. So where are you going to do this? Do you need space? Maybe you should come to the Goodwill to do your your virtual interview. Just techniques so that they weren't caught off guard or, or, you know they could really work, go seamlessly and take advantage of the virtual hiring tour. And so that was really great. And then I think the most important thing that we learned as part of that process was just the importance of a free and reduced cost internet, which was part of the Goodwill partnership for job seekers that needed that, they were providing them with information about how to access that. So it was really great. And I think the lessons from this past year, I've really just been about focusing on the essentials you know, things that maybe don't seem very exciting which is just getting people to get accounts that get the resumes on indeed, so they can take advantage of all the offers, and they can get hired really quickly about really, really important and I think going into this year, we're really focused on doubling down on that, and also, you know, making sure that we're training both the crew navigators as well, to be able to support the job seekers now that they have the capacity or so.

- So can you talk a little bit about some of the unique challenges that a job seekers with barriers or more vulnerable job seekers are facing right now?

- Yeah, I think, you know, this has come up, I think in several of your conversations before, but I think, you know the inequality of this crisis is pretty striking. I was attending a conference last week and one of the speakers said that it's been business as usual for inequality you know, people who are doing well or doing even better. And the people who could least afford it, are have been the most impacted. And so, you know, we know that as women, black communities, Latin X communities low income, job seekers that were on the front line of those jobs that were disproportionately impacted that were already making like less than $40,000 a year but now they have lost their only income. And I think, you know, for me, you know someone who's kind of been doing this for a little bit of time, you know, I've been seeing and we kind of saw when, when the crisis hit but this is kind of how it was going to play out. And I think that there have been some changes, you know we've also companies have evolved in this crisis and, you know so now they're having more efficient tools to be able to hire people and they're using automated tools and virtual hiring. And, given that a lot of these job seekers were low income, they don't have access to internet or least likely to have access to sort of technology computer, you know, it is making it more difficult for them to engage in the hiring process, you know before in-person interviews was the way they could shine to their potential, get an employer to overcome a gap on their resume or the fact that they, they don't have a degree or there was some sort of, you know thing that happened in their past. And so, you know, in addition to sort of the economic and the health impacts of this crisis now, you know I think, they're even more demoralized 'cause they're not even getting to engage with people, you know, and the likelihood that they're going to make it through an automated process, you know, may not be the same. And so I think these are things that we're going to have to look at, but, you know, it's, it means that we have a lot more challenges that we didn't have before. And, you know, you know, one of the things that we're really focused on as a team is trying to figure out like how can we, even in our own goal of wanting to make sure we have 8 million interviews happen on indeed, how can make sure that we're allowing equitable access to those interviews and those opportunities?

- What are the things that's to me really key to our social impact work is that it's really just our core business. I think there's a, there's a lot of companies that might be in one business and then they decide they want to do something that's good for the world. And that, and that's wonderful in our case, our mission of helping people get jobs is the thing that we're focused on. And that has a social impact and partnerships play a key role because as you've been talking about there are certain areas where we do that really well. And then there are certain types of job seekers that are harder to reach. And one of the things that's, that's really I think so essential to the work that you're doing is finding these partners where we can bring something to help them with their mission and then they can do something to help us. Can you, talk a little bit about the role of partnerships and social impact?

- Yeah, no, I mean, you know, as I said before, it's where we kind of pilot and test solutions and I think, you know the strategic partnerships team, you know we kind of think very carefully about the types of partners that we go and identify, engage with. Because we do want to have that, you know what are we bringing to the table and what are they also how can they work collaboratively with us to solve our ultimate goal which is getting more job seekers hired through our initiatives. And so, you know, from the, as we kind of go and test I think now we're kind of thinking a little bit differently about this types of solutions, you know with folks like Goodwill or Shaw trust. We're now thinking about if the world has changed and we're now job seekers are going to have to interact with automated, you know, recruiting, virtual recruiting how can we collaborate with these partners to figure out what, how should we, what types of content and how should we share that with this, with the job seekers so that they can absorb it and do what they need to do to prepare to be successful. And so that's a collaborative effort. We can come up with a tool, we can come up with content, but, you know, we really need our partners to weigh in and co-design that with us so that, we're doing it in the best way possible. And I think that, you know, that's something that we want to focus on through partnerships. I think the biggest thing that we're also thinking about from a partnership perspective is how do our clients play into this? You know, our clients are hiring, how do we work with our clients to, help them think differently about this this talent pool, for example, you know, a lot of people one of the top three reasons that job seekers could have barriers either they have no bachelor's degree. They have a gap on their resume or they've been long-term unemployed. Well now, because of COVID we're going to have a lot more people in the long-term unemployed category. So how do we start working with clients to get them, to consider people that they might not have considered before? And, you know, a lot of that is going to be piloting and testing. We know some things that work through our collaborations with JP Morgan Chase, Omni Hotels and Resorts. But I think that we really could dig deeper there and think about like, what can we do? What can we build together with our clients? And maybe we can devote some sort of, you know, inclusive hiring toolkit with products and tools that help them hire more inclusively. So that's kind of how we're thinking about how partnerships could play a role.

- So you mentioned this idea of the pandemic being business as usual for inequity and inequality. One of the things that you also mentioned though, is that has clearly shined a light on some of these issues. How do you imagine or what are your hopes for the impact of this crisis on the future of the job market?

- Yeah, I think, you know, one of the things that I've seen is that, we're starting to talk differently. You know, I think before the crisis especially when I was at the mayor's office we would have these conversations and we would talk about like, the hidden impacts of our great recession recovery. Like what's behind the curtain that no one's talking about, sort of the stagnant wages, the rise of the gig economy, which a lot of the people that do have bachelor's degree have fallen into as sort of moving from one gig to another. And it all while costs, higher costs higher healthcare costs, higher housing costs. And so, I see that people are now starting to use that language. They're starting to talk about that. And they're talking about the fact that COVID has just revealed all of this, that, you know it was there before. We're just now seeing it more clearly. I think that's great. I think that the fact that that is may in part of the mainstream conversation is a really good thing. And you know, what I'm also seeing is that, you know, internally, you know, more people are speaking this language and people understand really what it might take to really change the way that our society works, so that, you know people are not signing out for precarious job paths or career paths and settling for that. They have an opportunity to, you know have one job that pays for their family, pays for themselves. And, you know, it means that for us we need to focus on that, whole conversation around equitable access to these roles and being able to get a chance to be interviewed and to receive an offer. And so, you know I think that, it's hopeful, I'm hopeful and I can see people already starting to tackle some of the systemic issues that kind of brought us to where we are.

- So you mentioned that a key part of what we can bring to our partnerships, obviously there's our technology and our people, but also our customers. We have millions of employers around the world that we work with, what can indeed employees and the employers that we work with all over the world what can they do to help us get to this future?

- Yeah, I think, you know, I think part of it is looking very closely at how you're hiring today. You know, I've been a hiring manager in several of my roles and even me as I've sort of evolved and got it more exposed, have seen things that maybe were done in the past that you know, they just didn't provide full access. And so how can we change? You know, it's, I think first is the recognition that you could do some things differently and then kind of go on this process of figuring out how and actually implement them. And I think that's where we can, we can play a role. We can help. I think a lot of employers do want to do the right thing and and want to be more inclusive but they just don't know where to start. And I think that that's part of what, we're really excited about. And I think that, that's what we mean when we say client partnerships are sort of the next avenue of our collaborations and partnerships is to help them figure out, who they're hiring. You know, if, you know, if we're looking at the chain of their interview process where it might be people falling in and out of the process and how can we design interventions tools to help them maintain and stay in the process and how can we educate them on the fact that, you know, as I just said, you know a lot of people are going to be unemployed. They've been unemployed, they've been long-term unemployed. That doesn't necessarily say that they're not going to be a great member in your team. In fact, we really need to be focusing on skills and potential, and not some of these other signals that we thought meant something that we have a lot of data even before COVID that they did not actually mean what we were hoping they meant in terms of, will this person stay on with us? Will this person be loyal? Will this person performed really well? And so I think it's, it's about, you know being there for them, once they've made the recognition and providing them with the tools and supports so that they can, you know meet their goals and, and be an inclusive employer.

- I could keep talking about this stuff for hours but we have to, we have to bring things to a close here. What I'd love to do is actually come back to where we started with you. So we talked about what indeed can do and what are employers and employers around the world can do. What do you think you will take away from this experience of the pandemic? How has, how has it changed your perspective? You know really moving forward.

- You know, I think that it's, it's really kind of validated that maybe the work that I'm doing is important. Not that, you know, you kind of know that, but I think that, I think what attracted me the job space is that it's so essential like you cannot hit any of their parts of making people happy and whole without talking about work. And so I think it's made me realize that this is really important. There's a lot more work to be done, and you know, it doesn't have to be done alone right? I think that, for me, I've always kind of said and lived by the sort of idea that you should fall in love with this, the problem and not the solution. So I've worked in different sides of the table, trying to get at the solution. And I think that now in this partnership role it's also saying you need all those people at the table. indeed can't do it alone. Our clients can't do it alone. We need some other people guiding us in collaborating with us. And I think that's what's really exciting about partnerships is that you can get that other perspective and kind of, you know, you have that support, as you're moving along this goal of creating more equitable access to great jobs. And so, it's made me hopeful despite all of this, despite all the challenges that we're, we're getting there, we're making some progress.

- Well, and I thank you so much for joining me for this conversation today but really thank you for everything that you do. You know, our mission is to help people get jobs. And it's so clear that you and your team are just living and breathing that every single day. And so thank you, for everything you do to help people all over the world.

- Yeah. Thank you.