Coca-Cola: 30 Seconds in an Elevator

The Coca-Cola Company’s Valerie Kennerson says the war for talent is nothing more than a constant because “there has been and always will be far fewer A players than the demand needs.”

As the Director of Global Strategic Sourcing and Selection, Kennerson urges all recruiters to get to know their company’s current A players and then get to know the people they know.

In fact, she claims these tactics do not need to include buying A players a fancy lunch or scheduling a meeting ahead of time.

“It’s about taking that opportunity in the moment. If you see them in the elevator, you have to be on; seize the moment. You always have to be prepared with that 30-second elevator speech,” she says.

It is a matter of building that relationship, she explains, while learning what those A players — from the legal department to the supply-chain department — are doing for the company and the unique challenges they face.

“It’s a high-touch, human-nature issue: if someone asks you questions that show you are sincerely interested in what you are doing, they will respond. There is no magic trick that will do this for you,” she says.

Focus Your Priorities

“The reality is there are a few who are going to be your big movers. In Coke, for example, right now it is understanding that the area of non-carbonated beverages is going to be a very critical space. So we need to gain market share and establish more in those areas. We need to determine who the A players are in the organization, as well as which A players they know outside of the organization.”

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Such moves may help recruiters draw conclusions or find out where to ask more relevant questions. “I love technology; I embrace it. But having a CRM…that is not going to be the answer,” Kennerson says.

The solution, she points out, is keeping current with critical areas for talent growth in your organization.

“One thing I try to do, which is so easy, is to listen to analyst Webcasts or any official state of the business. I go and listen, then come up with at least one question to ask one individual about something discussed in the meeting,” she says. “It works, and it’s easy. It’s not like you need to be an expert in the area. I am not an expert in the area of non-carbonated beverages!”

“Whether it’s sending an email, popping into their office, or approaching them right after a presentation, be sure to introduce yourself, explain what you do, ask your question, and tell them why you’re asking that question,” she adds.

Look for more candid, in-depth conversation with Valerie Kennerson in the February issue of the Journal of Corporate Recruiting Leadership.

Elaine Rigoli has nearly 15 years of experience managing content and community for various B2B and consumer websites. Elaine has written thousands of business and technology articles and has been quoted in The Wall Street Journal and eWeek, among other publications.

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