Samantha Bateman started Integria Consulting from the ground up. She wanted to re-imagine recruitment, her way. Now, she leads her business with a close to 20-year legacy of integrity, diversity, and transparency.
Bateman fell into recruitment, and it quickly became a passion. So much so that she returned to McGill University to study HR and eventually taught a recruitment class there. In 2021, Bateman’s company established the McGill University Integria Consulting Bursary to support young changemakers.
In our recent interview, we got to hear her perspective on HR, where it’s going and where it’s been, from the outside looking in.
Note: This interview has been edited for length and clarity
I don’t think I’ve ever met anybody in recruitment who said, “I went to school because I really wanted to be a recruiter.” We all just kind of fall into it.
I think it’s an easy way to get into HR, from the talent acquisition side. It is a good way, yet I’ve kind of done the opposite.
I had taken on the role of office coordinator fresh out of university for an economic forecasting firm. We kept on hiring receptionists that didn’t want to stay; they would come in as receptionists but want to move into customer support. We always worked with recruitment agencies, and they were constantly replacing them, so I asked, “Why don’t we just hire somebody who’s been a career receptionist?” Monster had just come onto the scene, and it was revolutionary at the time. I pushed our firm to let me recruit through their platform in order to save on agency fees. Needless to say, it was a success.
And that’s how I moved into HR.
After 5 years, I transitioned to working in a recruitment agency. Unfortunately, my values didn’t align with that organization’s. My husband asked me at one point, “What’ll it take to get started on your own?”
That was 18 years ago. I’d like to say the rest is history, but it’s been a wild ride.
I think I’m just very curious about people and have enjoyed fitting them together.
Talent has always been our client. If we don’t provide a great candidate experience, then we haven’t adequately represented our corporate clients, and our candidates don’t feel valued.
That was one thing I’ve held onto [focusing on people.] A stark contrast with my experience at an agency that was very transactional. I couldn’t work in that environment, it never felt right to me. Especially after having worked at my previous firm which truly valued talent from entry to exit.
I would say there are a few that stand out, but definitely going out on my own when I did is one of them.
My husband was constantly working late hours, and I was working and rushing to tend to my three-year-old daughter night after night. I had no other option but to go through the grind that so many working parents do. It was day after day of sprinting to pick her up on time from daycare. At least twice she was the last one sitting on a bench by her locker waiting for me. I felt like I was failing motherhood, and I didn’t want that life for myself or my family anymore.
Making the decision to go out on my own was terrifying. But then, 6 months into starting Integria Consulting, I reached out to somebody at Pepsi Bottling Group (PBG). The HR Director there had gotten promoted and wanted to backfill his role. I had to make this one happen.
We met for breakfast and had an incredible first meeting. I felt like we really got to know each other, but when I left, I realized neither of us had said anything about recruitment. A couple of days later he reached out saying, “That was such a great conversation. It’s right in line with our values and our way of thinking. We’d love to work with you.” It took another 6 months for PBG to call me with a role to work on and they changed my life. Working with that company for about 5 years, and their leaders – Sian, Carm and Mary-Beth, they elevated my entire practice.
Then we fell into a recession. Everybody was making cuts. I wasn’t sure how I was going to make it, but I saw a solution in LinkedIn.
It was 2008 and most people didn’t know what LinkedIn was. Nobody was hiring a recruiter, but I was going into companies and charging them $3000 for a 3-hour session on how to recruit with LinkedIn. That paid my bills.
When you see a wall, you have to get to the other side of it. So, I’m going to dig a hole under, go around, go through it — you just have to figure it out.
If someone doesn’t make it past the first month, it’s a recruitment issue. If they leave within the first three months, it's an onboarding issue. And if they leave within the first 6 months, it’s a manager issue.
A job description is like a resume, it’s just your marketing piece.
When we launch a search, we dig deep with our clients. We ask about short and long-term objectives in the role, growth opportunities, the good, the bad and the ugly of the position.
This helps guide our candidates no matter the role. The candidate experience is critically important from the first reach out. You need to have honest and down-to-earth conversations with candidates to really do right by them.
It’s not just about, ‘we’re nice to them and we care about them,’ it’s really about having their best interest at heart. If the role will side-track their career, we need to be able to say “I’d love to work with you, but this role may not be it. Let’s work through it together. It also means, sharing market data and salary guides – especially with traditionally marginalized community members who may not be aware that they are grossly underpaid. For new arrivals especially, we get them in touch with people doing the same work, advocate for what they deserve, and support them in what they’re asking for.
‘If you don’t have all the qualifications listed, please apply anyway.’ A statement like this in your job description really does have an impact.
I think the statistics tell us that men will apply if they’re only 30% qualified for a position, but women will only apply when they have 90%.
And I’m always very critical about this “lack of Canadian work experience,” idea that keeps job postings open for months on end. We have great talent that comes from other countries. They don’t always need to have knowledge of local laws or designations.
We’re getting a lot of candidates asking for representation too. They’re asking about the diversity at the top. We have those conversations, and we’ve stopped working with companies for discriminatory hiring practices.
We need to talk about managerial courage. When a new hire is disrupting the culture, you need to have the courage to change or reverse that.
Culture is so important, but it can be difficult to put your finger on it.
I see organizations where hiring managers are looking for different things, so each team has a different culture because of it. I see a lot of miscommunications about culture, but it’s hugely important when it comes to retention and engagement.
We need to talk about managerial courage. When a new hire is disrupting the culture, you need to have the courage to change or reverse that. First, you need to be clear on what you tolerate and what you don’t, and then you need the courage to hold everyone to that same standard.
Candidates are also talking about the culture they’re staying away from.
We see a pattern where candidates worked in one place for ten years, 5 years at the next, and then 3 years following that. Oftentimes, they’re looking for that first culture fit again and just haven’t been able to find it. They know deep down what kind of culture they’re chasing after, but they sometimes can’t put it into words. Often, it’s that continuous learning and development piece that had them staying for as long as they did.
There’s an expression that if someone doesn’t make it past the first month, it’s a recruitment issue. If they leave within the first three months, it's an onboarding issue. And if they leave within the first 6 months, it’s a manager issue. Retention of talent is very important to us, and we make sure to check in at these benchmarks.
We also look at how diverse our slate of talent is. With every role we’re thinking, “Is this group too homogenous? Are we looking in the right places? Are we connected to the right people?” Somebody said to me once, and I agree, that any employer who doesn’t have diversity on their teams has consciously decided not to. I agree.
In the end, we can measure success with a slew of KPIs but I would tell you, that when talent takes our call a year after placement when we check in, and they’re getting promoted or just still enjoying their role, and organization, then we know we’re doing the right things.
It’s a very challenging time right now, there are a lot of managers who were promoted well ahead of their curve without any support. Many haven’t been given any tools or training, so they’re failing.
The best companies have strong development plans for their team members, and we find it very challenging to pull anybody out of those organizations. Even if bigger opportunities fall on their lap, people will rather stay if you have a plan for them — talk about retention and engagement.
What’s also of concern is all the conversations about diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility, because I don’t see the needle moving on that, to be honest. The easy, lazy approach is to ask your recruitment firm to present a diverse slate of talent, right? Even then, it’s rare that we are asked to bring forward diverse talent. I’d like to think it’s because they know we’ll do that regardless, but it’s really because they haven’t woven that into their HR strategy. That’s extremely concerning to me.
And leaving my concerns out of the equation, if you don’t make a conscious effort toward diversity, your culture will suffer for it. Not to mention, great talent will avoid your organization because they see you don’t take it seriously.
Ultimately looking ahead, it will be all about finding ways to engage employees from multiple generations and cultural backgrounds in a way that makes them feel valued and appreciated to drive retention and employee satisfaction.
Thank you, Samantha Bateman, for sitting down with us and sharing your experience and knowledge!
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