Verizon Media calling out for new superheroes

Sandy Gould, Vice President, Talent Acquisition, Learning, and Diversity & Inclusion at Verizon Media shares the company's innovative new talent strategy.
By: | September 30, 2019

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Sandy Gould is an avid comics fan, and dons a DC Superhero T-Shirt for this interview at the Verizon office in Singapore. As the Global Vice President of Talent Acquisition, Learning, and Diversity and Inclusion at Verizon Media, he is a firm believer in superheroes. That’s not just the fictional Wonder Woman and Batman of the DC Universe, but also the very real colleagues throughout Verizon Media’s about 10,000-strong workforce around the world.

Gould says every one of us has “superpowers” of some kind, and these stem from each of our unique selves. “Every single person on the planet is unique and has a unique way of creating,” he says. “It’s our job (as HR leaders) to help them unleash these superpowers and excel.”

Gould’s own superpowers are likely his resilience and an enthusiasm to embrace change. But he also has a keen interest in studying the creativity of individuals, which saw him first take on recruiting roles for a wide range of businesses.

“By this ‘creative code,’ I mean the decoding of how people create in their life,” he says.

“I loved this, because that’s where I can help people find their destiny, their mission, and their superpowers.”

Sandy Gould, Global Vice President of Talent Acquisition, Learning, and Diversity and Inclusion, Verizon Media

Growing the super talent

While one of Verizon Media’s chief HR goals is to grow and develop its talent pool, the company also recognises that diversity and inclusion are crucial to its community, and long-term business success.

As one of the leads for the integration of the Yahoo and AOL merger, Gould helped to fine-tune the company’s employer branding strategy, which is to be the “best talent builders in the world.”

Gould says this is based on a “build, buy, and diversify” model, with diversity and inclusion particularly critical. “Difference plus imagination equals innovation,” he says. “We want to create a culture of authenticity where people feel like they can be their true selves, which is when they will unleash their greatest superpowers.”

The company is now two years into that hiring strategy and Gould says he couldn’t be happier with the results. Internal hires were one of the top two sources of hires for new positions, with that movement also extending to the key leadership levels.

“We want to train them [staff of all levels], help them learn, help them acquire new superpowers to become great leaders, and then, as leaders, turn and grow more people to build the organisation,” Gould says.

Keeping the superheroes on board

As part of that focus on developing talent internally within the company, Verizon Media has launched a specialist career tracking programme, back in February, called “Career Marketplace”. This includes a re-imagined job fair exclusively for current staff. Held in key Verizon Media centres including London, New York City, and Taipei in Asia, participating employees are given an introduction into the wide variety of teams within the company, including information on each of their projects and goals.

Each presenting team will also describe the types of skills and characteristics they are looking for in new hires.

When – inevitably – an employee decides that they are keen to learn more, their present manager is charged with helping them develop the skills necessary for a transfer. Verizon Media develops an individual curriculum for each employee interested in a change – with both learner and manager connecting regularly on what becomes an individual career development project that develop skills regardless of where the employee ends up.

Gould says there is no room for managers that try to hang on to their best staff by denying them access to new career development opportunities. Rather, those managers are encouraged to make alternative proposals to those high potentials with itchy feet.

“What I’m describing is an open or free market, which means that your employees are encouraged to look and find things, and you as managers and leaders are encouraged to help them,” he says. “If you really want them to stay on your team, then come up with a counter promotion that they can have by staying on the team,” he says, adding that the very real alternative scenario is that staff who feel they are being held back will simply leave the company altogether.

Gould says the first three editions of Career Marketplace have been incredibly successful, and there are a number of strategies now being employed to make the next ones even more popular.

“We’re doing a few other cool things to stimulate that marketplace growing,” he said “We’re making sure there’s leadership embrace of it, and we even have a cool, virtual map of the world that shows how people in different offices are growing and getting hired around the world.

“That helps encourage the next generation of participants, who are ideally thinking: ‘Look at all this growth; I should participate in this’.”

Gould says this approach to career development and internal promotion also feeds into its process for finding and on-boarding new, external hires. “We actually start onboarding them from the interview experience,” he says. “It’s personal, and it’s investing in them, and they definitely notice that.

“I think that’s why we get a lot of people accepting our offers versus a lot of the big 10 that are very competitive.”