Priscilla Koranteng's plans are ambitious. Koranteng, who was appointed chief people officer of Indeed in June, has already enhanced the company’s abortion travel policies and reinforced its goal to hire 4,000 people in 2022.
She’s joined the HR tech company in a time when many other tech companies are enacting layoffs and cutbacks, but said she sees this precarious time as an opportunity for growth companies to really get ahead. Koranteng, who comes from an HR and diversity VP role at Kellogg, is working on embedding her hybrid set of expertise in her new role at Indeed.
Koranteng sat down with Protocol to discuss the goals she has for her first 100 days, the changing nature of HR and how she's taking equity and politics into consideration.
This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.
When you speak with your fellow chief people officers, what’s the biggest source of chatter right now? Is it layoffs, retention, hiring?
It's no secret that hiring is very competitive right now. There’s still a war on talent and war to get the best talent … obviously, some of the issues around staying competitive from a reward standpoint and making sure that your total rewards package is very attractive. So you have to constantly think about that.
But the other thing, too, that is happening, especially for high-growth or growth companies like ours, is the speed and scale, because you're seeking to retain talent, but then you're also hiring. At Indeed this year we will hire more than 4,000 people. So you’re constantly making sure that you're well resourced, you have the right tools, the right approach to go out to find the right talent. And so those are some of the conversations that I’m having with some of my peers: How are you pivoting especially around this time where the war on talent is in place and what are some of the things that you're doing to get ahead?
We have a real fascination with what executives get done in their first 90 days and how they go about breaking down that time, because it's different for everybody. What would you say are your main priorities for the job in these first few months?
It’s actually my first-100-days framework. It’s centered around getting started, calibrating and then formation. The getting-started piece was all about getting to know the organization, getting to know the functions, the ins and outs, how do we do business, getting to know my team, deep-diving into the areas that I need to understand within my function and also outside of my function. And then, you know, focus groups and other things. So I'm in the thick of doing that right now. So my next thing to do is just calibrating the results, the outcome of all the information that I've gained, with my senior leadership team to say, “Hey, how do we make sure that we look at all these priorities?”
What is critical, though, is that while I'm doing that I'm also doing what I call “dual transformation,” because I can’t just focus on the future. There are practical things that I need to do. So I have a list of priorities around our policies and benefits that need to be done now. And I've already changed a benefit this week … but my 100-day plan is very aggressive. It's to make sure that at the end of the 100 days I do have a transformation road map that I'm executing against. That's how I work.
Priscilla KorantengPhoto: Indeed
What was the benefit that you changed this week?
As you know, because of the decision of the Supreme Court, our company had already in October made some adjustments to our travel benefit for our employees, but this week we were able to enhance that benefit by putting it into a health care plan, actually, and that benefit of $5,000 travel for our employees became $10,000. I collaborated with our legal team and, of course, my benefits team to get that done in very rapid form. So that's done, and we've also communicated that to our employees.
With a lot of the politics going on right now, how would you say the nature of your role has changed?
It's changed quite a bit since I started. The good thing for me is when I started my career, I was always someone who was looking ahead … When I came to the U.S., it was more about processes, making sure that employees knew what they needed to do, and it was quite stable. Of course, there were nuances. But recently in the last, I would say in the last 10 years, I have seen that we have a seat at the table to influence everything.
And so when things like a political decision, elections [happen], what happened with the pandemic, or the racial unrest, HR is at the front and center of all that to help the organization accelerate its response. You put the employee in the center from an HR standpoint, and that's why for me my title is very important in that it's a people function. Because you are serving the people. And everything that's happening around us in the world is impacting people, impacting their personal lives, and it's impacting their professional lives.
What has also happened within the HR realm is the focus on equity, diversity and inclusion. In the last two years, companies have really focused on that area. I myself as an HR professional challenged the status quo and said I would never be a stand-alone chief diversity officer. I want to own parts of HR, so I became a head of Talent, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion for that reason — to really drive equity within the ecosystem of HR. That has become part of what companies are now gravitating towards. It’s not a stand-alone position; HR has evolved. So you will begin to see companies embed DEI into everything that they do … You cannot separate it.
This is the first role, at least in comparison to your past couple roles, that you didn't have “diversity” in your title. Why did you not want “diversity” in your title this time around?
I was exploring different opportunities … [and] most of the time diversity sits within the HR organization. So I made it very clear that I want to be the head of HR, because when I'm the head of HR, [diversity] is part of it.
So at Indeed, my co-conspirator, LaFawn Davis, heads up ESG. She was Indeed’s head of Diversity. And so her team and I are collaborating, and I do have her team on my leadership team, and we are collaborating on everything to do with people and diversity. And to me the head of HR’s role, if you do it well, you should embed [diversity].
It's kind of interesting looking at the market. You see some high-growth tech companies cutting back right now and making some hard decisions and layoffs, but others are really taking this runway and running and still hiring. So how are you thinking about that as you’re on your way to hiring 4,000 people this year?
I've been in a transformation environment, so I know that sometimes you have to scale up, sometimes you have to scale down. And so, yes, some companies are going through that. What happens is also that it kind of opens up the talent pool on the outside a little bit. It opens up the talent pool somewhere else. But for me, though, as we think ahead, as we think about talent regardless of the state of the company — whether it's in high growth or a steady state or a big transformation is happening — it's how you look at your workforce in a way that really supports your culture. Because there's some cultural elements to how you execute at any level or at any stage. So definitely, there's some layoffs happening, which is expected if a business is not doing great. But it's also how you make sure that you maintain and preserve the good things about your culture, so that it doesn't become negative on the company. That’s how I think about it.