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How GM's TA Leader Built a New Tech Stack to Drive Change

The general motors building in detroit, michigan.

​Kyle Lagunas faced a daunting challenge not uncommon to talent acquisition leaders in organizations undergoing strategic change. Lagunas, head of talent attraction, sourcing and insights for General Motors (GM) had to rapidly accelerate hiring for new skill sets and boost workforce diversity with no increase in recruiting staff.

In a keynote presentation at the virtual spring HR Technology Conference and Exposition, Lagunas described how he built a new recruiting technology ecosystem and partnered with internal stakeholders to help drive GM's transition from traditional automobile manufacturer to a modern company expanding into aerospace, marine, rail and other product lines.

"The electrification of our entire product line is within reach, and we have big goals for 2030," Lagunas told the audience. "We're trying to change the way the world moves. Our CEO also set the goal of GM becoming the world's most inclusive company."

That strategic shift required a transformative approach to talent acquisition. Lagunas said GM more than doubled its hiring from 2020 to 2022 while recruiting for many new or evolving job roles.

"The challenge is how we're going to achieve more with the same staff, which is where technology really comes into play," said Lagunas, a longtime recruiting technology industry analyst before joining GM. "We'd been in survival mode for the last three years and had become a reactionary recruiting organization."

Building a New Tech Stack

Lagunas knew doing more with less required upgrading a limited recruiting technology ecosystem he inherited when he took the job. For example, his applicant tracking system (ATS) was configured primarily for compliance and not optimized for performance.

Lagunas set out to build a new tech stack and talent pipeline that accomplished these key goals: proactively attract more diverse talent; tap into new and emerging talent pools; engage better with past, present and future job candidates; and nurture talent continuously.

Lagunas selected best-of-breed solutions that could integrate with an existing Workday platform by using application programming interfaces. "I wanted to extend the value of the core platform with new capabilities layered into it," he said. "These solutions would allow the ATS to just be the ATS, for example, and we could build on top of it."

Here are the key systems Lagunas selected for his new technology stack:

Candidate relationship management (CRM). Lagunas chose a CRM from vendor Beamery to serve as the cornerstone of his new technology ecosystem. "We stood the platform up in two months," he said. "I needed the system to build funnels, from the top on down to continuous engagement."

Lagunas said GM is increasing its hiring by 20 percent from last year and expects one million candidates to apply to jobs in 2022. "We want to be able to reintegrate the 900,000 who don't get hired," he said. "The talent journey goes beyond the apply process. Your silver medalists might go somewhere else but a year from now could be ready to engage with you again after acquiring new skills or experiences."

AI matching and scoring. Lagunas chose vendor HiredScore to help his recruiting team more efficiently screen the growing volume of job candidates. "It's the catalyst for our transformation, helping prioritize inboxes so our recruiters don't have to find a needle in a haystack from a ton of applications. They can start the process with the top-fit candidates," he said.

Lagunas said he selected HiredScore in part because of its use of "explainable" AI. "The tool doesn't just do matching, it [also] provides insights into why a candidate was given a particular score," he said. "So it helps us not only make candidate decisions faster, but be more informed about why those decisions are being made."

Conversational AI. Lagunas opted for vendor Paradox to "augment and extend the operating capacity of our recruiting team" with conversational AI, he said.

"Scheduling candidate screens and interviews takes a lot of time, and by implementing this automated system, we can free up our recruiters by not forcing them, for example, to have to go back and forth with hiring managers on scheduling candidates," Lagunas said. "It allows us to become more strategic because we're not bogged down with scheduling issues."

Global careers site. Lagunas chose employer branding communications agency Ph.Creative to help build what he calls the "experience layer" of his new tech stack.

"We want to create a personalized experience for all the different personas across our workforce," Lagunas said. "Someone on the assembly line will have a completely different work experience than one of our software engineers. I want to show candidates what they can expect from their experience at GM."

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Where the Rubber Meets the Road: Partnering with Internal Stakeholders

In retrospect, Lagunas said choosing new technologies to help drive the recruiting transformation was the easiest part of the process. "The hard part of talent transformation is you're not just solving for recruiting, you're solving for stakeholders across the organization," he said. That requires managing stakeholder expectations, working effectively with cross-functional teams and navigating shifting timelines, he said.

Lagunas partnered with HR, information technology, purchasing and legal as he selected new technologies and remade talent strategy.

He learned important lessons in the crucial partnership with IT, for example. "I wanted to educate IT on how partnering with us was maybe different from partnering with other corporate functions while at the same time being open to their advice, which often included having to walk before we run," Lagunas said. "It's about being patient while we sometimes ruffle each other's feathers."

Partnering with GM's legal department also proved to be an eye opener, Lagunas said. "Their job is to protect GM and not necessarily to enable rampant transformation," he said. "It's been a humbling experience learning to work on their schedule and become more solution-oriented. But it's also important to know when to stand your ground and when to yield, when to dig in and fight for what you know are recruiting best practices, and when to let legal have its wins."

Ultimately, moving recruiting out of survival mode and turning it into a force for transformational change requires resilience, patience and endless energy, Lagunas found.

"Transformational leaders push, break and challenge," he said. "Sometimes it's exciting and other times it's frustrating. But it's important to charge ahead and try to inspire people to follow."

Dave Zielinski is principal of Skiwood Communications, a business writing and editing company in Minneapolis.


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