Barry Flack, HR Consultant and Hiring Expert

July 19, 2019 at 8:00 am

Barry Flack

Barry Flack has 25 years of experience helping companies embrace and incorporate change to be more successful. His tell-it-like-it-is style has made him a sought-after consultant for companies world-wide that want to improve their hiring process to foster growth. We asked Barry for his insights about how companies can hire better and improve their functioning in the 21st century.

This interview has been edited and condensed.

Tell us a little bit about what you’re up to right now.

For the last several years, I’ve been living the freelance portfolio dream. I’ve been working with several private equity companies that need help with hiring and scaling up their operations. I’m doing a bit with culture and how that fits into hiring, and taking companies from startup to scale up in a way that will help them retain their initial concept and success as they grow.

What is one complex people-related business problem you see commonly affecting businesses today?

So many organizations are still addicted to the command and control way of operating from way back in the 1950s and 60s. You know, the CEO making all the major decisions, a top-down operating model. The world has changed drastically in the last few years. The market has become utterly unpredictable and impossible to understand well enough to implement a top-down strategy. The best companies can do is prepare against the market.

CEOs need to be able to admit that they don’t have all the answers. Saying, “I don’t know what to do in this situation” is healthy. Empowering those they have hired to collaborate, to give input, and to function more autonomously will open up a business to new solutions that a command and control structure could never find. This is how companies can solve today’s problems.

Can you give an example of how you see HR professionals try to solve complex business problems with overly simplistic answers and efforts?

I see this all the time in the area of learning and development. In today’s workplace, the average shelf life of a skill is four to five years. When employees need to develop new skills, however, companies often turn to online learning modules that are just dreadfully boring. It’s like a bad cable channel. You don’t like what you see, so you turn it off. Employees tolerate it so they can keep their jobs, but they don’t like it, and they don’t benefit much from it.

What should they do instead?

The solution has to be more organic. What do you do at home if you need to know how to repair something? You look it up on YouTube, and you watch a video and learn what you need to know. User experience needs to be part of the solution. Providing ways for people to get the information they need without having to sit through hours of stuff they don’t need.

What role can talent assessments play in helping companies hire better?

Hiring is a lifelong battle of matching people to the roles best suited for them. As companies try to improve their hiring, they realize that assessments can help them combat their biases. Everyone has biases, and the HR field is coming to accept that. It used to be a bad thing, now it is just a reality that every person has a set of biases toward or away from certain things.

In accepting that bias is somewhat universal, companies are finding that tools like assessments can take humanity out of hiring. But even assessments can still reflect biases in the way they are given or evaluated. There isn’t real AI (artificial intelligence) in hiring yet, but machines are getting better at eliminating biases, and they will get even better as time goes on.

What can other technologies help companies improve in their recruiting?

Well, AI when it is perfected and can be used to predict the best outcome of a situation like hiring. But for now, automation of different recruiting processes like scanning resumes for keywords can be tremendously helpful. People like to say that hiring is all about the human touch. And the human touch will always be important in selling the opportunity, getting the candidate to buy-in. But automation can be used for some parts of the process and can free up more time for recruiters to engage with candidates. It’s a shift, but a necessary one.

What is the best strategy for holding on to employees once they are hired?

I really think this goes back to the first question about changing the command and control structure of companies, and incorporating a model that frees employees to do their jobs without being micromanaged. An employee that feels valued and feels like they are doing important work in the company will be more likely to stay with that company vs. an employee that is always told what to do and exactly how to do it. When companies can make that mindset shift, they will have more satisfied and engaged employees, and they will see their companies grow accordingly.