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Meet Libby Sartain, Former Chief People Officer at Yahoo: “Brand for Talent”

Posted on February 28, 2010
Filed Under Interviews | 2 Comments

By Dave Mendoza

Libby Sartain Quotables:
“Today’s candidate, today’s worker is not the compliant applicant who used to apply for a job. The consumer of work looks for a work experience not a job. That means he or she isn’t looking for a “job” but for an overall experience that includes meaningful work, a career enhancing role, …”

“While the early adopters of this new mindset are members of Generation Y, the change is too complex to attribute to any one demographic group. The patterns of change are as true of people in their twenties as they are of people in their fifties.”

“The billboard was a math problem on a white background with no other information: {first 10-digit prime found in consecutive digits of e}.com … few would be capable of solving that problem on their morning commute, but many software engineers quickly devised codes and programs to solve the problem, which gave them the ten digits that led to a URL linked to the website. The site congratulated their brilliance and invited them to complete more quizzes and jump more hurdles to apply for a job.”



Libby Sartain
Consultant, Brand for Talent
Current:
* Principal at Libby Sartain LLC
* Board of Directors at Peet’s Coffee & Tea
Past:
* Chief People Officer at Yahoo Inc.
* V.P. People at Southwest Airlines
* Director, Benefits and Compensation at Recognition International
RecruitingBlogs Profile
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Business Website
Speaking Engagements”
http://Brand for Talent/Blog
• Phone: (512) 581 1554
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Articles:
Be The New Consumer Of Work
How Will Employer Brands Engage Via Social Media?
Wake Up People: Don’t Ban Social Media in the Workplace!
Twitter for Talent Brand: Avoiding Mixed Messages

After 30 years in corporate HR/Talent Management, Libby Sartain is now an active business advisor, Board Member, and HR thought leader. She is the former CHRO of both Yahoo! Inc. and Southwest Airlines and serves on the Board of Directors of Peet’s Coffee & Tea, Inc., (Nasdaq: PEET).

She is an active advisor to several start ups including Alumrise, Jobvite, Reputationdefender.com and consultant on HR, Employer Branding and Talent Management. A frequent speaker and is often quoted as a thought leader in human resources. She was recently listed in John Sumser’s Top 100 Influencers in the HR/Staffing Industry.

Libby served as chairman of the board of the Society for Human Resource Management in 2001 and was named fellow of the National Academy of Human Resources in 1998. Human Resources Executive named her as one of the 25 most powerful women in HR in 2005. She holds an MBA from the University of North Texas and a BBA from Southern Methodist University.
Sartain is the co-author of HR from the Heart: Inspiring Stories and Strategies for Building the People Side of Great Business, AMACOM and Brand from the Inside: Eight Essentials to Connect Your Employees to Your Business. And her newest book, “Brand for Talent: Eight Essentials to Make Your Talent As Famous As Your Brand” was published in early April 2009.

Q&A with Libby Sartain

Six Degrees: Tell us of your home world, Libby.

Libby: My husband, David Sartain, and I have been married 32 years. He had a very busy career as a Technical Account Manager for several software companies over the years. Now we live about 30 miles outside of Austin, TX and are dedicated to maintaining a semi-retired lifestyle, staying active in our community. And, I want to stay part of the vibrant world of HR.


We were brought to this life through seeking a connection with my heritage. In 2004 we bought a ranch that was once a cotton plantation built by my ancestors who were early Texas settlers in 1856. We have been restoring the house ever since and are slated to move in this year. We have been living full time in our guesthouse since August 2008.

This place has spawned many hobbies, such as; genealogy , mid-nineteenth century antiques, obsession with Texas history and the Civil War, and home restoration. I have met many distant relatives and befriended the descendants of the slaves who once worked here. They wrote a book about their experience and I wrote the foreword. I have a blog on all of this for my family and friends.

I grew up in New Orleans, and that culture shaped my outlook on life. I love a great party, friends, food and fun! I went to college in Dallas and lived there more than 30 years, where I have many family and friends. I spent 7 years in the Silicon Valley.

We are huge Dallas Cowboys fans and have season tickets, but I was very proud to see the New Orleans Saints win the Super Bowl—finally!

We now live on a ranch about 25 minutes from the Austin airport. That gives me the opportunity to get out in the real world as often as I would like. I have one grown daughter who is an M.D. doing her residency at Boston Children’s. I am very proud of her accomplishments. We have two adorable dogs, Hugs and Oreo that are poodle/Shih Tzu and Poodle/Lhasa Apso mixes. Our newest addition is Ink the barn cat, who spends most of her time inside bugging me while I try to write.

Six Degrees from Dave: I understand you have been active in Community Volunteering and historical preservation efforts. Can you share your experiences with us?


Libby: I have generally been active in the communities I lived in, except the Silicon Valley…where all we did was work! In the past in Dallas I worked with the Shakespeare Festival, Family Place, Wesley-Rankin Center. Currently, I live outside of a very small town, which is the most historic town in Texas. I serve as a trustee for the Bastrop County Historical Society and am leading the Community Fundraising initiative as part of our efforts to raise $1.25 million to build a new Museum and Visitors’ Center in the heart of downtown on Main Street.

National Trust for Historic Preservation named Bastrop, Texas, one of its 2010 Dozen Distinctive Destinations. We are very proud because of our work with the Main Street revitalization program, the museum, and because we were able to keep one of the jewels of downtown alive.

My husband and I own the town café on Main Street. We didn’t intend to own a restaurant, but to be a landlord of various investment properties. Unfortunately, our tenant—the café operator—passed away suddenly and we had to take over the restaurant. It is more of a hobby than a business, but it is the heart and soul of the town, the place where everyone meets for breakfast, including the good ole boys. Thanks to a lot of work and an excellent workforce, we were named one of the “Top 40 Small-Town Cafes in Texas” by Texas Monthly Magazine.

Six Degrees from Dave: Tell us about Your Consulting efforts since your Yahoo Days:


Libby: I am my own company and my own brand as the sole proprietor and investor in Libby Sartain, LLC, founded in 2008. I am working hard at maintaining a semi-retired lifestyle.

I bill myself as an HR advisor. That means I divide my time between public speaking, writing, and “advising”. I have a couple of good consulting clients. I advise several start-ups: JobVite, Reputation Defender, and Alumrise. (And, a couple who have gone kaput—not because of my advice.) I also serve on the Board of Directors of Peet’s Coffee and Tea (NASDAQ) where I am head of the compensation committee.

I market my work as a blogger and via my website, but I am pretty picky about what I say “yes” to. For me at this phase of my life, I only want to do what I enjoy.

To inquire further about my speaking engagements availability, and speaking topics, you can contact my agent at GDA Spotlight, Julie O’Keefe.

Six Degrees: How did you get started in the Humam Resources/ Staffing industry?


Libby:I made an early decision to go into HR at age 19. Back then it was called Personnel Administration. From my student days, both undergrad and graduate, I was active in SHRM (formerly ASPA) and I attribute a lot of my success to that involvement. I spent only a couple of years working as a recruiter in the 1980’s at Mary Kay Cosmetics. From there, I went into Comp and Benefits where I thought I would do a short stint, but turned out spending more than a decade in this complex field.. I worked in corporate HR for 30+ years at publicly traded companies with 15 years as CHRO at both Southwest Airlines and Yahoo! Inc. Besides being a CHRO, I possess a strong area of expertise in Compensation and Benefits and Employer branding.

As Executive Vice President of Human Resources for Yahoo, where I oversaw recruiting in intense marketplaces for talent. I learned the importance of establishing a best employer brand and a talent brand that acts as a magnet for the right talent.

Six Degrees: Can you provide Insight on the significance of Employer Branding for Recruiters

Libby: Many recruiters who espouse a strong advocacy for employer branding are really focused on selling the organization to prospects versus creating an experience inside an organization for workers that supports the deliver of the consumer brand promise. To compete in the talent marketplace today and organization needs three brands:


  • The consumer brand reflects the collection of experiences that the public has with the product, service or organization. It is what the business does to differentiate the company, product or service from the competition and create a lasting impression in your consumers’ minds. The best brands in our book connect the consumer to a big idea and create an both and emotional and functional connection to the brand.
  • The employer brand is what the business does to build and package its identity, origins and values, and what it promises to deliver to emotionally connect employees so that they, in turn, deliver what the business promises to customers.
  • The talent brand reflects how an organization markets the employer brand to create demand as a magnet for talent to find, keep and engage people to do the right work at the right time with the right results.


  • Six Degrees: I have read about your emphasis on the concept, “The Consumer of Work” – can you elaborate?


    Libby: Today’s candidate, today’s worker is not the compliant applicant who used to apply for a job. The consumer of work looks for a work experience not a job. That means he or she isn’t looking for a “job” but for an overall experience that includes meaningful work, a career enhancing role, and an organization or group that is socially responsible and works toward a sustainable world. And, if the experience isn’t what is promised, then the consumer seeks to find a better work experience, or plans to as soon as the economy gets better.

    The generation entering the workforce today was born a consumer. And while still a consumer, he or she brings new habits and values to their behavior as a consumer. The new consumer of work treats finding work just like ordering a product or service. This consumer is educated, discerning and in control. This consumer checks to confirm his or her values are in line with the values of the place where he or she looks for work.

    While the early adopters of this new mindset are members of Generation Y, the change is too complex to attribute to any one demographic group. The patterns of change are as true of people in their twenties as they are of people in their fifties.

    This hungry, insightful, savvy consumer quickly looks at what a brand represents. The worker looks at the CEO and leadership team, and what they have done to create something in the business. They look not just to see if the organization has met its stated objectives, but how it treats workers all over the world, and how it treats our environment.


    The new consumer will quickly compare the opportunities of Business #A and Business #B using the consumer skills learned at the mall and online. And brand will be an easy and familiar way to compare places to work just as it is to compare places to buy.

    The Baby Boomer will be as much of a consumer of work as their younger counterparts. They will look for meaningful experiences and if they can’t find it in a corporate setting, they will start their own small businesses.

    Now is a great time to get ready for this new worker. Can you craft the kind of work that will appeal? Can you develop a brand that will reach out? Can you hang on to some of your institutional knowledge by allowing baby boomers to work the way they would like to work?

    Six Degrees from Dave: What single event had the most impact on your sourcing/recruiting career?

    Libby: Two times come to mind. The first was during the mid to late 90’s when Southwest Airlines went from having a pool of screened candidates waiting for a job to open up to a dry creek bed with no candidates during the dot com boom. We had to learn how to plan “just in time” to have a worker ready as the opening came available. I learned how critical and volatile strategic workforce planning could be. It was a tough time for those of us trying to deliver, but it also gave rise our work in employer branding.


    The second is the day we discovered Google was directing its recruiting efforts at our workforce at Yahoo. We had been in an enviable position. We had a recognizable brand in the world and we were one of the top employer brands in the world too—in the top most desired for MBA’s, Engineers, across the world.

    In the summer of 2004, that position was put into jeopardy when a mysterious billboard appeared on Highway 101 in the Silicon Valley near Yahoo headquarters (and another showed up near Microsoft headquarters in Washington State). The billboard was a math problem on a white background with no other information: {first 10-digit prime found in consecutive digits of e}.com. From what I understand, few would be capable of solving that problem on their morning commute, but many software engineers quickly devised codes and programs to solve the problem, which gave them the ten digits that led to a URL linked to the Google website. The site congratulated their brilliance and invited them to complete more quizzes and jump more hurdles to apply for a job at Google. I had to admit that it was a clever way to recruit talent. Within a few hours bloggers were blogging and business writers were writing about Google’s hiring needs and the very smart people they targeted for hire.


    That was the beginning of my education as to how to compete in one of the most intense talent marketplaces of all time. And, through collaborative efforts with our Marketing, Communications, and Technology teams we held our own by establishing our own talent brand. We didn’t want people who were just smart enough to solve a math problem. We wanted people who could solve real problems for the biggest audience in the world. Experience told us that was true, but it was validated when I read in the Wall Street Journal a quote from the head of recruiting at Google who said that when they competed against Yahoo, they won 50% of the time.

    Six Degrees from Dave: Tell us about the mentors who helped develop your overall outlook within our industry.

    Libby: I had many wonderful mentors along the way. Bill Moore, my CEO at an early job took a strong interest in my career and taught me a lot about working as an executive. He established a group of fast trackers in the organization and taught us about time management, working with assistants, about how to think and act like a sales person since everyone in the organizations sells the product and expected us to know about the business first before we even started working in our fields.

    At Southwest I worked closely with Ann Rhoades, now President of People Ink, who taught me to look beyond the nuts and bolt of HR to what HR delivers and how to sell the HR Agenda to the organization and leaders.


    Colleen Barrett gave me my big break by promoting me to V.P. of People. When I was at Southwest Airlines, Colleen served in the role of “Executive Vice President of Customers”. Colleen created the Culture Committee, the Proactive Customer Service Group, and many other innovative programs to insure that Customers, inside and outside are served as specified in our brand promise. Employees or “internal customers” were Customer #1. This philosophy led to the creation of and success of this unique role. And, since I reported to Colleen, I learned a lot about marketing and customer relations along the way.

    Due to Colleen’s leadership, Southwest considered Customers, with a capital “C”, to be anyone inside or outside the company who we serve or who provides service to us. That includes Employees, with a capitol “E”, Customers, Vendors, Business Partners. Reporting to the EVP of Customers were: Marketing, Sales, HR (People Department), Customer Relations, Frequent Flier Program, Governmental Affairs, and other functions that served primarily internal and external customers.

    At Yahoo, I learned so much from my co-workers and leaders. Terry Semel, former CEO at Yahoo, was a levelheaded leader who had the patience to take his time to make decisions during our turnaround. Sue Decker, EVP, Advertiser and Publisher Group at Yahoo, was brilliant when it came to financial matters. When she was my bossed, I learned to think about HR as a business driver. Jerry Yang, our founder, and later my boss was the heart and soul of the organization and never let me forget what we stood for.


    Outside of the organization many people have helped me along the way. I always find it helpful to be part of a small group of peers to serve as advisors and friends. In Dallas, I was part of a “Hole in the Wall” gang and in the Silicon Valley, “the HR Divas”. I couldn’t have survived without either.

    Comments

    2 Responses to “Meet Libby Sartain, Former Chief People Officer at Yahoo: “Brand for Talent””

    1. Most Tweeted Articles by Recruitment Experts on March 3rd, 2010 11:11 pm

      […] Thoughts on recruiting and HR from a dinosaur who’s learning to evolve… 3 Tweets Meet Libby Sartain, Former Chief People Officer at Yahoo: “Brand for Talent” : Six Degr… 3 Tweets I Love TRU – Part 2 (Recruiting Conference) 3 Tweets […]

    2. Dr. Brian A. Schwartz on March 9th, 2010 11:06 pm

      Libby….should you want to take your important messages to China through Tsinghua University, China’s premiere university, please let me know. Your messages are important and I am organizing an integrated talent management coterie of thought leaders, cutting edge assessment technologies, consulting services, etc. to educate the China market about using talent management to upgrade and transform Chinese companies and government ministries/agencies.