On Leveraging OKRs to Recruit, Hire, Train, and Retain Talent


Jem Pauley headshot
Jem Pauley

Senior Operations Partner at Talentful

Episode notes

When we leverage the right recruitment and hiring tools, talent and retention follow! It’s just a question of taking a strategic approach, explains Jem Pauley, who is featured on this episode of Dreams with Deadlines. In her role as Senior Operations Partner at the global embedded recruitment services firm Talentful, she has developed OKRs and systems that are clear, replicable, and hold space for both innovation and ongoing process improvement.

What you will learn

  • The tools that Talentful provides clients ramping up and expanding (much as Talentful itself has been doing throughout its steep-growth startup trajectory).
  • Why strategy, replicable work, decisions, and change are among the four key areas on which to focus when it comes to creating and implementing OKRs.
  • The data-driven tools Talentful’s state-of-the-art methodology leverages to help clients identify, onboard, and retain talent.
  • How to manage competing demands and balance long-term, proactive startup development standards and priorities against near-term reactionary fire drills. 

The episode wraps with thoughts on VUCA (volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity) and a fun round of Quickfire Questions for Host Jenny Herald’s guest.

Show notes

  • [00:02:13] Jenny introduces Jem, who shares her journey from teacher to recruiting at a time when Talentful was just launching in London.
  • [00:04:53] What Talentful brings to the table as a personalized intermediary aligning and optimizing companies’ hiring goals, practices and execution.
  • [00:06:00] Some of the tools Jem deploys to help clients:
    • Creating new Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) to leverage metrics.
    • Training/interview prep.
    • Hiring qualified identified applicants.
  • [00:07:13] About Jem’s transition into an operational role and engaging Talentful’s employee base through the use of Objectives and Key Results (OKRs)
  • [00:08:11] Activity within companies typically fits into one of four buckets:
    • Strategy.
    • Replicable work.
    • Decisions.
    • Change.
  • [00:08:48] Jem highlights her areas of focus (strategy and replicable work) and the role that OKRs play in keeping operations on track.
  • [00:09:53] Standardization of replicable work practices and how OKRs serve as a framework to support the process.
  • [00:11:38] How “pushing down decision-making where the data lives” enables teams to make the right decisions when leadership is not in the room.
  • [00:13:39] What a data-driven approach means in the context of onsite client consulting and aggregating metrics to understand timeline, pipeline, and other activity.
  • [00:14:43] Jem explains outdated versus state-of-the-art hiring practices Talentful has developed to get the right people in the right roles at the right time.
  • [00:17:38} About the context-driven nature of recruiting – including the nuance of understanding candidates, contours of individual roles, and fit with team cultures.
  • [00:18:58] Weighing in on talent retention – what it takes and the culture as well as strategies that
  • Talentful deploys within fluid, often challenging, distributed workplace:
    • Knowledge sharing: Communication through channels like Slack is candid and supportive.
    • Heavy emphasis on collaboration over competition
  • [00:23:29] Jem traces the impacts of a steep growth trajectory and the challenges it has manifested throughout Talentful’s growth and development, including:
    • Siloing of work across geographies and departments.
    • Lack of global cultural understanding and shared definitions.
    • Lack of clearly articulated SOPs.
    • Time lag in communicating replicable models.
    • Fragmented data and segmented/overlapping systems.
  • [00:26:43] Strategies that Jem and the operations team use to advance understanding and move teams cross-departmentally toward OKRs include:
    • Writing down procedures and making sure everyone is on the same page.
    • Defining and validating data points.
    • Using metrics to establish baseline workplace integration and functionality.
  • [00:30:22] Insights on ramping up new team members quickly and effectively through strategies such as:
    • Establishing clear, standardized, replicable procedures.
    • Using tech tools, such as video resources, to optimize and customize training.
    • Providing data-driven decision points.
    • Fostering safety and permission to fail.
    • Deploying seasoned talent to share institutional knowledge with new team members.
  • [00:33:58] Getting down to startup priorities among competing urgent demands, balancing long-term proactive development against near-term reactionary fires.
  • [00:36:13] About making judgment calls for “edge case” clients with regard to bending SOPs based on mitigating factors (like revenue, length or ease of engagement).
  • [00:36:48] Jem explains “edge case” accommodations and scaling back  Talentful’s team of “Talent Directors” as the result of the economic downturn.
  • [00:39:53] A shout out to VUGA – volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity – and weighing investments and resource allocation against future goals and realities.
  • [00:40:08] Wrapping up with Quickfire Questions for Jem:
    • What’s your Dream with a Deadline? Mastering CrossFit and feeling confident enough to enter a competition when she’s “very much someone who doesn't want to compete unless I think I have a chance of winning.”
    • Does Talentful have a bragging channel? Jem is looking to convert a “goals channel” to a space reserved for kudos and celebrating team wins of all kinds.
    • As a seasoned veteran, what advice would you give someone just launching strategic OKRs? Don’t underestimate the amount of time it takes to roll out an effective program. Don’t rush! Brainstorm, establish sound metrics, and get teams fully onboard.

About our guest:

Jem Pauley headshot
Jem Pauley

Senior Operations Partner

When Jem Pauley joined Talentful five years ago, she was among a small group of people with a shared vision to change the perception of recruitment. Now with a team of 100+ talent partners working in London, Berlin and the US, Talentful is helping clients recruit, hire and retain talent while navigating a steep growth trajectory of its own

Additional resources