Getting Creative to Recruit: Q&A with Susanne Gross of Permanent General Companies (The General)

June 7, 2018 Debra Auerbach

The market for good talent is tight, and no one knows that more than Susanne Gross, Director of Organizational Development and Talent at insurance company Permanent General Companies, Inc. (The General). With an average of 60 open positions a month, Gross and her team are tasked with finding creative ways to find candidates for tough-to-fill positions while continuing to keep the talent pipeline full.

We chatted with Gross about their top talent priorities, what they’re doing to recruit and retain talent, and how they’re working with CareerBuilder to solve some of their biggest recruitment challenges.

CB: What are some of your biggest talent priorities in 2018?
SG:
The insurance industry is very data driven, and we are moving that way within Human Resources as well. Our human capital data is scattered in multiple places, so organizing it is one of our big talent priorities for the year. We want to get our data right – and in the right places – so we can pull strong analytics to make solid talent decisions.

That’s also why I really appreciate CareerBuilder: It’s such a great partner because of the company’s best practices and because of the data that is available.

CB: What are some of your other talent priorities this year and beyond?
SG:
A big priority for us is to level up our skill sets and move from passive to active recruitment. We also have a strong focus on differentiating ourselves as an employer of choice, and our employer branding initiative is a major element in that effort. We want to understand who we are competing against when we fight for high-performing talent so we can better position ourselves to tell The General’s compelling story of being a great place to work. We definitely want to better utilize social media as a medium to tell that story.

We are also working on developing our high potential talent pools, determining the gaps, and better understanding when we need to get people into our talent pipeline – all critical to The General’s success now and into the future.

CB: What are some of the interesting things you are doing to recruit and retain talent?
SG:
Our employer branding initiative should help achieve that goal. Additionally, we have several exciting new things to offer our associates including: school loan pay back assistance, enhancement of our tuition reimbursement program, and the expansion of our parental leave program to include paid time off to care for spouses, parents and children who are under medical care.

Also, The General is a huge supporter of the community. I have never worked for a company that is so active in raising funds for organizations and initiatives they believe in. In the past few years, we have added a community service day to our PTO/vacation time, so our associates get eight hours annually where they can go off-site to participate in a community service project. Through our parent company, American Family Insurance, we’re also able to offer a two for one charitable match up to $3,000 per associate.

CB: What are some other things you are doing to “think outside the box” for recruiting?
SG:
Because the market is so tight, we are trying to get creative in how we recruit. For specific positions we offer referral bonuses and sign on bonuses, and for a few hard to retain roles we offer a retention bonus as well. We are also connecting with universities to implement a student worker/intern program for the future – something we haven’t done as much in the past.

CB: How has recruitment at your company evolved since you started working there?
SG:
We have been moving toward the idea of active recruiting, as well as thinking outside the box and investing in our employer branding. Also, working with CareerBuilder and using products such as Talent Network has helped us build up a true network of talent, so that we can go back in and tap into those candidates.

CB: How many open positions do you have?
SG:
We usually average about 60 open positions a month, but right now we have closer to 90 positions we need to fill, with an average time to fill of about 65 days. Some of our roles, like data scientist or scrum master, can take longer to fill simply because it’s much more challenging to find qualified talent in those areas.

CB: How has CareerBuilder helped you with your recruitment challenges?
SG:
We use a variety of CareerBuilder products and solutions to help with recruitment; Source & Screen, our careers page, data tools, and Talent Network have all been beneficial. What I truly value most about CareerBuilder though is the customer service we receive—like when we need to send a few extra emails to help fill a position or when we are looking at where we need to hire and our rep pulls data from Supply & Demand.  

We hire a fair amount of remote workers and are continually exploring how we can drive more of our workforce to be remote – something that is very challenging. But now we feel prepared and confident because we have data on hand from Supply & Demand.

CB: Anything else you’d like to add?
SG:
The talent market is tight, and technology is great with helping to hire people. But at the end of the day, it has to be a combination of technology and the human element. Technology, such as artificial intelligence, is valuable during the initial screening, but you need to provide a good candidate experience if you want to capture top talent. I love that CareerBuilder keeps both technology and the human element at the forefront of what they do.

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