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EPISODE 059 : 04/28/2022

Thad Price

Thad Price is CEO at Austin-based Talroo, an award-winning talent attraction platform. He has more than 17 years of experience in online recruitment and the job search vertical, and he is a recognized thought leader in the HR/talent acquisition space. Thad uses his cross-functional experience to turn client feedback into innovative products that help companies hire better.

Host: Ned Hayes and Ashley Coates
Guest: Thad Price

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Topics discussed in this episode

  • Technologies and programmatic marketing that make talent acquisition more effective
  • The boom of gig work
  • Data showing in retail higher wages and flexible schedules are more likely to attract new candidates
  • Employee loyalty through core values and connection
  • The importance of diversity within the workforce
  • How a great customer experience can retain customer loyalty

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Audio Transcript

Ned Hayes [00:00:01] Welcome to Spark Plug, where we talk to smart people working at the intersection of business and technology. Brought to you by Snowshoe, your smarter loyalty leader.

Ashley Coates [00:00:12] Sparkplug is happy to welcome Thad Price to the podcast today. Thad is CEO at Austin based Talroo, an award winning talent attraction platform. He has more than 17 years of experience in online recruitment and the job search vertical, and he is a recognized thought leader in the HR talent acquisition space. Thad uses his cross-functional experience to turn client feedback into innovative products that help companies hire better. Welcome, Thad. So happy to have you here. 

Thad Price [00:00:40] Thank you so much. Great to be here. 

Ashley Coates [00:00:41] We’re really looking forward to this conversation. Thad, let’s start off by having you tell us a little bit about your career history. You have a long career in talent acquisition software and digital media. When did you first become interested in this field? 

Thad Price [00:00:55] Well, believe it or not, I responded to a newspaper ad and I entered for a company outside of Northern Virginia, a small location outside of Fredericksburg, Virginia. And I started working for, which is a first generation job search portal, as they used to say, and started and cut my teeth in everything talent acquisition and online job searching. And through that journey, I learned a lot about what employers really needed and what they were looking for and what job seekers really needed in their job search and how to make that entire journey more effective. 

Ashley Coates [00:01:27] And what do you love about this field today? 

Thad Price [00:01:29] The connection between helping a company find the right job seeker and helping the job seeker find the right company, I think is the matchmaking that happens. And there’s a lot of focus in that today and a lot of need, especially as a labor market is so tight. 

Ned Hayes [00:01:41] Absolutely. So speaking of the labor market, what verticals have really been successful for you? 

Thad Price [00:01:46] Retail, restaurant delivery, warehouse, logistics. We spend a lot of our time in the essential worker trades front line industries and have had a lot of success in reinventing the way that companies advertise jobs and find employees. And what we’ve seen from consumer advertising is that if you think of a movement that happened probably 10 to 15 years ago in consumer advertising is a brand says, hey, I want to find people that are in market looking to buy a truck. And I’m Ford. So Ford leverages this movement called programmatic advertising, and they’ve been leveraging that to help find audiences that are likely in market to buy a truck. And they essentially engage in advertising to the right audiences. And in job searching and in job advertising today, we’re leading the charge in helping companies find the right audiences right time, right place and right job seeker. So I think it’s an interesting evolution in how job advertising has moved from print, the newspaper, as I said earlier, to online destinations and now this idea of identifying new audiences, trying to find the right audiences, right time, right place, and helping companies be more efficient in job advertising, just as programmatic advertising has been efficient in consumer advertising for a number of years now. 

Ned Hayes [00:03:01] Right. Well, I know that you do a lot of talent acquisition for technologies like machine learning and A.I.. I’m actually curious if you use any of those technologies yourself to make your system smarter about candidates or about employers?  

Thad Price [00:03:14] Absolutely. That’s one of the keys to our product. We like to think that we are really a profile driven programmatic platform. So it’s about bringing companies the right candidates. So an example of that is when a company is using Talroo, we have a connection with their applicant tracking system. So the applicant tracking system is what they’re using to essentially house other candidates for candidate pipeline and offer process in some cases as well. So we’re connected to the applicant tracking systems. And when an applicant is actually submitted and enters that employer’s candidate pipeline, we receive a signal and that informs our systems a lot of ways in which we can be more effective in finding the right audience. And so we can scale up what works and we can scale back what doesn’t work. So that’s a way in which we can optimize that experience and be more effective for employers that are looking for top of funnel candidates to ensure that they’re meeting their hiring initiatives. 

Ashley Coates [00:04:02] That’s really cool. I’m sure you can serve a lot more people that way. 

Thad Price [00:04:05] In our industry, there is always a term post and prey. So you post a job and you pray you get the candidates. We like to think of it as post and produce. So you post a job and you produce candidates because at the end of the day, that’s what our employers are looking for. 

Ashley Coates [00:04:19] That’s great. I’m in marketing and we always had a term spray and pray and we tried not to do that as much. We tried to be much more targeted about who we were marketing to. So that makes a lot of sense to me. Thad I would love to hear your perspective on how the pandemic affected the job market, both right at the onset of the pandemic and then what the job market looks like today in 2022.

Thad Price [00:04:41] Yeah, well, in the early stages, there’s a lot of fear across the economy, fear across job seekers. And people were at home and they weren’t engaging. They were buying, just buying other things a priority at that particular time. But as the vaccine rolled out, what we started to see is activity increasing. Across the board and then as states, of course, in the U.S. opened up. Then there was a flurry of activity where folks were looking to hire and to staff up to ensure that they were meeting consumer demand. So it was a fairly interesting experience because there was a lot of pent up demand in the economy and companies had to address and hire and ensure that they were hiring the right candidates to meet their business objectives. So all at the same time, everyone started hiring, so this created a very tight labor market. Now you couple that with the views and behavior of job seekers changing in general and you have somewhat of a perfect storm. So what I mean by that is what we’ve seen is this idea of flexibility, wages. All of these are so important to job seekers across industries, and that’s been a big movement. And so one of the surprising items that I’ve seen is the number one key that job seekers are focused on, of course, is wages. I don’t think that will ever change. The number two is flexibility. And that was a really interesting change because in a lot of roles, flexibility wasn’t necessarily embraced. Your open certain hours of the day, how can you provide flexibility? But over the last, probably 4 to 5 years, there’s been a huge movement in marketplace activity and what we like to refer to as gig work. So you’ve had a number of companies Uber, Lyft, Postmates, Instacart, DoorDash, all of these ways in which folks can find transactional employment, where they can make extra money, in some cases do this full time. So if you think about the idea of this calculus that happens of do I want to control my own destiny and work when I want to work and by destiny and basically thinking of it as a workday. There’s a reason why I’m pointing that out. Or can I be with a company that provides flexibility and is less transactional but more about career opportunity? And this change happened very, very quickly. And putting on our marketing hat, even though we’re in talent acquisition, but putting on our marketing hat, we have to strike and we have to ensure that we’re addressing the needs of the reader and what’s important. And so that’s the big change that I think has happened, is the focus on flexibility has shifted, especially in retail. And what I encourage companies to do is to think about this as a separate pool of talent. If you try to figure out how to offer flexibility to your entire pool, I think it has very quick consequences for businesses. You have to think about this as a separate labor pool and try to find technologies that will help you compete and be more effective at managing those schedules. And so that’s how I think about it, and that’s why I think a lot of business should think about it. But again, it’s this focus on flexibility, wages to how can I compete? Because there’s more competition than ever. So the advice that I provide to retailers is tell the story of the opportunity. It’s not transactional employment. It’s an opportunity at your company, sell the opportunity. 

Ned Hayes [00:07:48] Well, you’ve just pointed out that retailers who want to attract candidates who will stay need to make it purpose driven or opportunity driven rather than just a transactional basis. Do you think this is a change in the retail industry that will outlast the pandemic? 

Thad Price [00:08:02] I certainly hope so, because I think that as good marketers, even though we’re in talent acquisition, this is a story we should be telling regardless. The idea of story, purpose, the opportunity within a company. We talk a lot in business about the clearing wage, what we have to pay to get people to work and to be effective. I think it’s about telling the story of the clearing opportunity. It’s all of these things that you can benefit from by working for said company. 

Ned Hayes [00:08:30] Right. Well, in terms of benefits, too, it seems like retail as a business has undergone this vast seat change, not just from gig work, but also from how people are thinking about retail as an occupation or as an experience. Can you speak to the experience of retail either as a shopper or from the merchant perspective? What’s changed in terms of the retail experience? 

Thad Price [00:08:52] Well, I think the big changes happen is we’re e-commerce first. I think the pandemic has accelerated that entire move. If you think of some of the success stories of the pandemic, it’s been about speed, logistics and at my doorstep. So what you’ll see as a lot of retailers should be thinking about how to bolster logistics and all the things that need to happen in order to be more successful at bringing product to an individual store. And that means rethinking the idea of a merchandizer and bringing a lot of focus into that entire experience as a buyer, whether it’s e-commerce, whether it’s the last mile. All of that requires us to think a little bit differently than before. 

Ashley Coates [00:09:32] There is data that shows in retail, higher wages and flexible schedules are more likely to bring in new retail job candidates, more so than bonuses or benefits. Can you expand on that at all, what that data is actually showing? 

Thad Price [00:09:48] I think it’s showing this opportunity. It’s about not a one time transaction of a bonus of $1,000 or 1500 dollars or $500. It’s about work life balance. How can you help me balance the opportunity at your company with my life and I have said in a few other conversations. Unfortunately, it’s taken a pandemic for us to really think about what matters. But work life balance is so important to everyone and ensuring you’re providing and that you’re able to care for your family. And I think this experience that we’ve had over the last couple of years has shed more light on that than we could ever tell. 

Ned Hayes [00:10:21] Well, I’ve also heard you speak elsewhere about retailers, current employees, as being a great resource for talent acquisition. Can you spell that out? 

Thad Price [00:10:30] Yeah, I think there’s two great places for talent, for retailers. The first is your customers. I think people work for brands they like, people work for products they like, they feel a connection to it. Advice that I always provide to retailers is when you’re having an open house or you’re looking to hire, the first thing you should do is tap into your customers, send some type of invites or email to your customer list and say, Hey, we’re hiring in your area. And try to use that as a way to bridge your talent pool and use your customer list as a talent attraction tool. And the other, of course, your current employees. Career pathing, be very candid and transparent about where you can go in the company and showcase some testimonials. Tom was with retailer ABC and he has had a terrific path and he’s moved in the last five years and make an example out of it and showcase that and share those stories and be very focused and excite about those stories with your team members. So a lot of it is about engagement, a lot of it is about ensuring you’re providing terrific performance management to your team members. But it really is about the story and what you can accomplish and how a company can help you accomplish your career goals. And as leaders and as managers, we should always know the goals of our team members. 

Ashley Coates [00:11:46] Absolutely. I know one of the things you do at Talroo is help retailers to optimize their job postings in order to remove friction from the hiring process. What are those friction points and how do you solve for them? 

Thad Price [00:11:59] Hiring is tough now. As I said, it’s a tight labor market. One of the things we like to think of a job ad is marketing copy. We’re attracting talent to your company and we’re attracting talent to the opportunity. So we have to sell them and we have to close it. We like to think of recruiting as a marketing and a sales process and think of all the things that have to happen in a marketing funnel or in a sales funnel. Those are the same things that have to happen in a recruiting funnel. In sales, someone has to sign the deal. In recruiting, someone has to sign the offer letter. All of these things along the process. So I think the first thing that I would say is we take a holistic approach in what that experience looks like. What are your job titles that you’re using? Are you attracting the right audience? Are you attracting the right candidates? What’s in your job description? Are you being transparent with pay and opportunity and bonuses and benefits? With a tight labor market, people are making this decision to apply to your jobs or not. We have to be as focused around what the opportunity looks like and really focused on our copy. And then the last step is process. And this is where a lot of companies really need a lot of help, especially now is traditionally, especially with a tight labor market. We haven’t really thought of the recruiting process as a sales process, but it is. A great example is your marketing team is generating early and that leads sits and the sales team doesn’t call that lead or that prospect. We all know what can happen, right? One of your competitors has already gotten to that lead in a recruiting process. It’s the same way now. If you’re not contacting candidates as fast as possible and responding, you’re losing them just like you’re losing sales if you’re not contacting as fast as possible. So one of the products that we have that has been successful is our events product. And what we do for customers is we allow customers to host an open house and they can provide times and dates in which a company can have an open house and hire them on the spot. And customers love that because you’re able to gain a lot of scale very quickly. And we message candidates, we automate the experience, but there’s little friction in that because basically we’re saying if you’re interested in working with this company, if you’re interested in this opportunity, show up at this time. You will meet with a manager or a hiring manager and you’ll get hired. And that’s as frictionless as it gets. So that’s one product that we are very excited about that helps streamline that process for hiring managers. 

Ned Hayes [00:14:19] Right. Earlier in this conversation, you talked about what workers are looking for now with the gig economy and with a lot of changes to employment. Is it worth it to continue to build in flexible schedules or should we lock things down post-pandemic? 

Thad Price [00:14:34] Oh, we should change. We should definitely change. And the reason is because it’s a movement. Gig work isn’t going away. It continues to increase. You’ve seen very successful retailers make bets in more of a flexible marketplace experience. The two that I would mention is IKEA. IKEA purchased TaskRabbit a few years ago to basically create a talent pool of workers for tasks. Whatever it may be. Probably assembling IKEA furniture. We probably all had that experience in our life. But the second one is Target. And Target purchased a company called Shipt, and this was a number of years ago as well. So if you think about a company like Target, a large retailer saying I need to somehow create the ability to tap into a labor market that is looking for more flexible work while still ensuring my stores are flexible as they can be is an interesting trend that we have to be thinking about. So I would think of this as somewhat of a test. Try to find a way to stand up, more flexibility in your existing structure to ensure that there is a talent pool that you can pull from when you need it. And I think that’s the way to think about it, because if you take it on the service and you’re like, I have these hours, I can’t just shut down. Then it gets a little overwhelming. But if you think of it as well, I need to augment my schedules or my shifts with another talent pool. I think that’s the way to think about this and to be able to actually move on it in a way that’s beneficial for retailers. 

Ashley Coates [00:16:01] That’s really interesting. Well, you’ve also said Thad that development programs are crucial to employee retention. What kinds of development programs have you seen to be the most effective? 

Thad Price [00:16:11] Mentorships, mentorship programs are absolutely effective in so many ways. And the reason why that is you’re showing there is a focus on the individual and that there’s a focus on a career path. And that provides such an amazing benefit to someone to be mentored and to walk them through what it’s like in someone that they admire and they look up to. So I think mentorship is one of the most probably underrated, maybe underutilized programs in a lot of organizations. 

Ned Hayes [00:16:41] With retail changing during COVID, we’ve seen stores vacant. Signs that say unable to staff closed this Friday. So what’s the real cost of vacancy in retail? Why is it more important than ever? 

Thad Price [00:16:53] We’re seeing retailers closed because they can’t find the labor they need to be open. 

Ned Hayes [00:16:58] Yeah. 

Thad Price [00:16:58] Huge cost to the economy. You see a lot of retailers that are family owned businesses. So if you think about the calculus that happens with a family owned business where the owner is now the cashier or the closer in that situation, if that owner wants to expand and can’t find talent, we’re going back to that calculus. Will that owner say this is too much? I can’t afford to split myself and open up another location. I can’t even take care of the location that I’m investing in today. So it’s a real problem. We have to rethink and reset expectations of what it means to attract talent. And a lot of that starts with defining purpose, how we treat our customers, how we treat our employees, and building a great brand. Because we can’t underestimate the power of a brand and the power of a great product, a great company. And how that really helps to influence top of funnel activity. And it’s super. 

Ned Hayes [00:17:53] Important, right? When I think of super important, I also think of the need for employers to understand the urgency of building a diverse workforce. So how do we continue to build a workforce that looks like America? 

Thad Price [00:18:08] Yeah, I think it starts at the top. I think we have to have a clear conversation around ensuring that we are investing in a diverse workforce and ensuring that we’re committed to that and having those conversations. Ensuring that your talent pools are diverse. If you think of going back to this idea of a top of funnel, if we’re not diverse in our experience and we’re not diverse and how we’re attracting candidates top of funnel, then how will anything down funnel live up to that expectation? So I think it’s super important. Also, the idea of diversity gives us that value of seeing through a different lens that we need to be more successful to challenge the status quo, challenge how we do things and be innovative as companies. And without that diversity of thought, diversity of thinking, we won’t be innovative. So I think it’s really important to think about that together. 

Ashley Coates [00:18:57] Yeah. Thank you. Absolutely. So our sponsoring company, SnowShoe specializes in customer retention and engagement. And I’m curious to hear your thoughts on employee loyalty and if the current job market even allows for employees to be loyal to an employer, if that’s something that employers can even expect right now. 

Thad Price [00:19:18] I think if the employer is loyal, then the individual will be loyal. But I think it’s one of those situations where as talent acquisition leaders, as managers and leaders in general, we have to make an effort to be loyal. Right. And we have to engage. And there are a lot of ways you can accomplish that. But I’ll give you an example of something that our team members really embrace. So during the pandemic, when we were all remote, we instituted an idea called management mingles. And the management mingles is where the executive team will have lunch through DoorDash or GrubHub. And we chat, we talk about life. It’s a cross-functional team across all different departments. So I connect with client success or I’ll connect with. Engineering. They’ll be six or seven folks and we’re just eating and talking during a Zoom conversation. And that’s just a great way to engage employees outside of the daily routine. And small efforts go a long way, but if you never make it, you’re one thing. I spend a lot of my time in this, but if you don’t make it your one thing, I’m going to engage with team members as much as possible, then I don’t think you’ll have that loyalty. 

Ned Hayes [00:20:22] Right, because we work with shopper loyalty programs. I’m also aware of some employee loyalty programs, like there’s a company called Walker Tracker that companies can give to their employees to help them work on physical fitness. And there are other programs that help employees help each other. Like Intel has an internal program where you receive badges for answering questions by other employees. I’m curious if you know of any programs that really help employees to feel connected to each other or connected to the company? 

Thad Price [00:20:50] Sure, we use a platform. We use the platform Reflective that I think is really interesting for performance management as well. You have to pop it up to your corporate values and try to find a way to connect your corporate values to your team members because it reinforces a lot of the items in the behavior that we were talking about earlier in the conversation. So I would say if we can find ways to be more effective there, then you’re serving a number of purposes. 

Ashley Coates [00:21:17] Our audience is made up of a lot of independent retailers, and I’m wondering if you can summarize what you hear from job candidates in terms of the biggest reasons they leave a job and conversely, the biggest reasons they want to stay at a job. 

Thad Price [00:21:33] Well, the number one reason I hear is the old saying, people don’t quit companies. They quit managers in a very simple way. So that’s why engagement is so important at that level and that connection is so important at that level. So I would say, look, pay is important. It’s definitely important. So you’ve got to be at market rate. And if you’re unsure of the market rate, then you need to research what the market rate is in your area. That’s number one. After that, it’s about that connection when folks are looking to make a change in that world. If that connection it’s there, it’s harder to make that change because the opportunity isn’t enough. So I would say definitely focus on wage, understand what it looks like. Two, would be try to find ways in which you can provide flexibility as much as possible, have a conversation about flexibility. Three would be the connection to the manager. Make sure there’s a connection, make sure you understand the goals. Make sure you’re making moves in that direction for the candidate and for the team member and whatever that may be, and provide mentorship that’s needed. I think if you focus on those three things, you can have a lot more opportunity. And then the last is probably brand, focus on your brand focus on creating a great experience for your customers, because if you create a great experience for your customers, it’s easier to create a great experience for your team members. However, if you’re not creating a great experience for your team members, it’s going to be hard to create a great experience for your customers. 

Ned Hayes [00:22:56] Well, if we took all of your recommendations and the world executed them, what would the world be like in 5 to 10 years? Could you look into your crystal ball and tell us what the future looks like for retail and hiring in retail? 

Thad Price [00:23:08] Oh, wow, that’s a tough one. What we’re seeing from retail is more of a movement to service, e-commerce and niche experiences. I think independent retailers could grow market share substantially, especially if you’re thinking about the idea of service, providing a great team member service and great service for customers. A great example is a cousin of mine who is expecting and I was looking for a gift and in the area of Virginia that he was expecting, I was trying to find a way to get him a jelly cat for his daughter. And if you guys know jelly cats, jelly cats are amazing stuffed animals. 

Ashley Coates [00:23:48] I’ve bought them for all of my friends who are expecting. 

Thad Price [00:23:50] Yeah! And I couldn’t find one. So I called up an independent retailer in Richmond, Virginia and said, Can you send a jelly cat to MCV for a newborn? And of course, we can we can have it there today for you. And there’s not a delivery fee. And they were so helpful and they said, go online and you can buy online and then call me and I’ll wrap it for you and we’ll go over your options. They have a customer for life because of that service and because of creating an amazing experience for me and an amazing experience for my cousin who is expecting. So I think service is super important in this industry and when you pair service with the right technologies and the right product, independent retailers are unstoppable. And we like to think about that in our business as well. We can’t underestimate the value of service. I think it’s so important in today’s world, especially when you’re looking to gain market share in more of the larger e-commerce marketplaces. 

Ashley Coates [00:24:50] Well, we could not agree more with your sentiments Thad, thank you so much for chatting with us today. We do have one last question for you, which is what do you want your legacy to be? What would you like to be remembered for? 

Thad Price [00:25:02] This is a great question. I want to leave the world better than I found it. I think if all of us think about that in our daily life, then as a society, we’re moving forward. 

Ned Hayes [00:25:11] Amen to that. Well, thank you for your time and your insights on retail hiring and hiring in general. Really appreciate it. 

Thad Price [00:25:18] Thank you all very much. Have a great afternoon. Really appreciate the invite and the time. 

Ned Hayes [00:25:22] Spark Plug is a wholly owned property of Snowshoe. All content copyright 2021 Sparkplug Media.