Win the Talent War: Shaunda Zilich
GE’s Global Employment Brand Leader, Shaunda Zilich, shares her experience and insights on some of GE’s best practices around branding, their quest for a digital presence, and a positive candidate experience. She explores what that might mean for future applicants and the top potential with which GE aims to fill their ranks.
Zilich has a varied career background, but she always had an interest in branding and marketing. It’s all about her inner passion to make an impact in other people’s lives, and inspire them to find out if they can connect with the company.
Time-Stamped Show Notes
[00:00] Introduction and background.
[05:53] Four buckets.
[10:53] Brand Ambassador Program.
[18:22] Possibilities with your online presence.
[23:53] Changes in the job market and the war on talent.
[26:53] STEM and opportunities for women in technology.
[29:27] Zilich’s Advice to her college-aged Self.
[33:44] Contact info.
Introduction and Background
Shaunda Zilich grew up scared of everything, and claims that at heart she is a “scaredy-cat”. She was afraid of the dark, water, and dogs. This led her to try to conquer fears in her personal and professional life by taking action and trying new things. One of her mentors was Mel Robbins, who wrote The 5 Second Rule. “She teaches you not to think about it too much, count 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, and then just take the action,” says Zilich. And that’s what she did. When Zilich took a class about motorcycles to overcome a fear, she conquered that fear, but didn’t stop there. She ended up owning a motorcycle shop. It was just another step on the winding road of her career path.
Zilich’s work at GE, as Global Employment Brand Leader, isn’t just a job. It’s all about her inner passion to impact other people’s lives and inspire them to find out if they can connect with the company, as well as the career opportunities they offer.
“I am charged with making GE the employer of choice globally,” Zilich explains, “and making people want to work for GE, or have a positive feeling about working at GE, or even partnering with GE.” She likes to explain her role by talking about four buckets. The first bucket is the candidate’s experience. She eschews the push method of hiring, which is pushing people to work for GE. Instead, she favors the pull method, which is enticing them in. It’s all about helping them find out if it’s a good fit for them.
The second bucket is their employment brand bucket. It consists of the messaging and what GE looks like to the world. A huge part of that is the Brand Ambassador program they do with the help of their employees. It’s about employees putting that story out there about the passion, culture, and why they are doing what they’re doing. “It is this people-centered branding that lets people know that we are a company made up of people,” Zilich explains. “I think that GE is really an overwhelming place, honestly, but when you start making it people-centric, that’s when we really start to connect.”
The third bucket is GE’s online presence. They have three people in online branding. “We stay on the big channels, and try to focus on that,” she explains. “It’s about deciding which technology and tools to plug into it.” The fourth bucket is their overall messaging. “We need to see what candidates care about, and make sure we’re clear on that message.”
Brand Ambassador Program
The first three years of Zilich’s job were on a zero-dollar budget. One of the assets that GE did have was plenty of employees, so early on they implemented the brand ambassador program with their staff. Zilich believes it’s important to teach employees about storytelling, teach them about their why, and about how to tell that externally.
GE has trained over 13,000 employees to be brand ambassadors. They provide an hour-long training session for interested employees. It’s voluntary, and provides them with the tools to get started telling their stories on social media to their own network of friends and associates. GE has committed to this program, and they know that their employees’ networks are made up of people who might be good fits in the company as well. In addition to the training, they’ve launched a platform called Brilliant You with online courses, books, and audios that employees can use.
Creative Use of Your Online Presence
Zilich has found that some of their best practices include studying up on hashtags and mentions. If they’re recruiting at Purdue, she’ll always tweet to the Life at Purdue handle, because that’s what all the students read. Students retweet it, and everybody knows GE is going to be on campus. “We just had an awesome event that is wrapping up today. We tied it into our Women in Technology campaign and our Balance the Equation campaign, and we had a bus tour that went around to a number of different universities. The biggest thing that we did was just making sure we studied up on those hashtags and mentions.” Zilich advises to always be thinking about how you can make things more conversational, rather than just a push of information.
New Ideas to Compete in the Talent Wars
GE needs a lot more digital software engineer talent so they can become a digital industrial company. They are up to the challenge with creative ideas and solutions. “One of the things we’ve started doing is non-career events. You know, like, let’s host a hackathon where you’re able to solve this problem for GE,” says Zilich. “In doing that, that’s where we’re finding the best talent. And that’s where we’re finding people that care, that connection is made. But again, it’s not about pushing those jobs out, it’s about pulling and enticing them in.”
The second action GE has taken is placing value on listening to what people are saying is important to them, and then making their message about that. “Last year GE came out with unlimited, permissive time off. It also came out with extended maternity and paternity leave. That was all a result of looking at some of our reviews online, and listening to what people wanted in their jobs, and being able to pivot and provide those benefits.”
STEM and Women
GE recently launched an amazing video about the famous scientist Millie Dresselhaus. Girls from the junior high level to the college and university level are connecting with it, and realizing the possibilities for themselves in STEM. “We’re giving girls, women, and everybody the idea of, it’s not just about being a boring engineer, or just math and science. STEM is about a number of other things, and making sure we get that out there,” says Zilich. “And it’s not just about the job. It’s about the culture. What is the atmosphere like, and what types of things are you doing, and what are the outcomes.”
Zilich’s Advice to Her College-Aged Self
“I would want myself to start earlier in trying different things, and not closing doors, and not thinking something’s not possible … You have to take the risk. You have to take the action.”