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Executive Search | Stories With Traction Podcast


In this episode, Evan Sparks and Matt Zaun talk about CRG, executive search, and the future of work.

EVAN SPARKS: Evan is the Director of National Search at CRG.

For more info: Website and LinkedIn

MATT ZAUN BIO: Matt is an award-winning speaker and storyteller who empowers organizations to attract more clients through the art of strategic storytelling. Matt’s past engagements have catalyzed radical sales increases for over 300 organizations that range from financial institutions to the health and wellness industry.

Matt shares his expertise in persuasion with executives, sales professionals, and entrepreneurs, who he coaches on the art of influence and how to leverage this for profits and impact.

For more info, check out Matt Zaun HERE


*Below is an AI-generated transcript, which may contain error


Matt Zaun 

June of 2022, I was speaking in the Charlotte, North Carolina area and a metagenemon named Evan had a faceted in conversation.

Then more than a year later, in October of 2023, I connected with Evan and another workshop at the Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Based on what he does, I had to have him on the stories of traction podcasts. So today I'm joined by Evan Sparks, who is the director of national search at CRG.

Welcome to show Evan.


Evan Sparks (CRG, Inc.)

Yeah, thanks so much, Matt. Happy to be here.


Matt Zaun 

I'm happy. two, I really appreciate what you do. I think you'll offer value to my listeners, especially based on your industry.

So can you just give a synopsis of what CRG does for my listeners?


Evan Sparks (CRG, Inc.)

Yeah, so I work with CRG Search. CRG as a whole is a staffing and recruiting company. CRG Search is the executive and retained search division of CRG.

So essentially we are trying to make make the best match possible with our clients. We utilize a 30-step process and make sure we deliver three to five C5 qualified candidates in 10 to 15 business days and that C5 is character, culture, compensation, competency, and closeability.


Matt Zaun 

Do you say a 30-step process?


Evan Sparks (CRG, Inc.)

Yeah, we go through a 30-step process. It probably has a few more steps in there, microsteps, but yes, we go through a full 30-step process that goes through recruitment.

Strategy, candidate identification, candidate development, screening, candidate presentation, and all the way through to interview process management, onboarding, counter offer management, and even making sure that they are successful in their new roles.

full onboarding and training with what we're doing there.


Matt Zaun 

Wow, that is fascinating. So, within this process, it must have taken quite some time to get that process ironed out.

Is this years in the making to get that specific process down?


Evan Sparks (CRG, Inc.)

Yeah, absolutely. John Bingley, the president of CRG Search, he's been in the industry over 20 years and he's been just refining the process, making adjustments, especially in the changing talent landscape that we're in, being able to make sure that it's up to date as possible, always making tweaks and continuous improvement in that.


Matt Zaun 

So, when you say changing talent landscape, would be some of those changes that you're currently seeing.


Evan Sparks (CRG, Inc.)

Yeah. The biggest thing right now that we're seeing is not only the growth and compensation as well as remote work in different preferences, but it's more than just that.

People want to know who they're working for, who what they stand for, and every piece of that, not just, not just a number in a paycheck.

They want to be able to have a purpose and be a part of a company culture that means more than just just revenue.

So, want to see where they're part of it and how they're able to build and grow through that.


Matt Zaun 

Sure. So let's touch on the remote work piece because I, you know, I'm reading articles just like everyone regarding people are coming back.

They're not coming back. They're fighting with C suite that they'll never come back and some leaders are giving into that.

Some aren't. Some are getting initiatives from the cities that they're in to bring people back to spur on more economic growth.

So where do you see if you're. What do you see remote remote work being? Is it going to continue to be that hybrid model?

Do you see more people going back into the office based on your experience?


Evan Sparks (CRG, Inc.)

What do you see as headed? Yeah, absolutely. Great question. We are starting to see people go back into the office more.

think the hybrid approach is certainly something that is more of a common ground that people are finding success with.

But there still are people that are holding out and got a taste of that remote work environment. Obviously, 2020 and in 2021 was a gold rush of that time.

So you have so many remote opportunities. You're seeing all of the just whether it was staying staying home and maybe being able to have a better work life balance.

People want to be able to keep and hold on to some of that. People see the ability to collaborate virtually in a lot of different ways.

There are people holding out and a lot of people are not willing to do the commuter five days a week and fully on site and that I feel like might hold some people back especially as there is the big push.

it's a dynamic period. I think 2024 will be very pivotal on what that looks like for the rest of the year.

But I think hybrid is a happy medium and where a lot of people are headed right now.


Matt Zaun 

So this is several months ago, but I remember the key point today. It was an article based on Google's approach.

And I was fascinated by this article because the entire article that talked about how much money Google saved by people working from home.

So a tremendous amount of financial resources they saved. At the bottom of the email or at the bottom of the email, the bottom of the article, they mentioned we want people back because of a lack of creativity.

So even though they were saving money, they recognized that there was this spur of creativity with having people under one roof.

And I do see that being what a lot of leaders are pointing to. It's not that article specifically, but they're hurting for creativity.

hurting for that innovation, getting people back together. though high bread more than likely would be here to stay, I know there's a lot of people, a lot of leaders, lot of C-suite around specifically the United States, that they are trying to get people back based on your experience and everything you've seen.

What are some of the ways that they're able to? I hate to use the word lore, but inspire people to come back to the office.


Evan Sparks (CRG, Inc.)

Have you seen anything specific? Yeah, I mean, obviously there's been a lot of talk about being able to have positive progression in the organization and things like that.

And a lot of that is coming to the office and having that facetime. I've seen anything from people offering childcare and and benefits towards that, which helps alleviate that gap.

So I know that's a big thing offering. just whether it's meals or anything brought into the office. So it is a little, a few more incentives than maybe before that people just got used to being able to, and not have to deal with kind of, sorry, with people just wanting to be home and having that flexibility and being able to work around that piece.


Matt Zaun

All right, so that's a really good point. And I don't want people to miss this, okay? So I appreciate you mentioning the childcare piece.

That's absolutely huge. So let's talk about that briefly because of the importance. So it's funny that you say that because I was recently working with a client that told me they're opening a school, a childcare school for employees.

There was such a need that basically they utilized elements of their budget to literally open a daycare, okay? But that's one, you know, that's the pendulum on the other side.

I also recently saw someone in my community that all she did, I hate to say all she did, but she basically created almost like an informational network of of childcare, suggestions, concerns, challenges, and then did a bunch of events in the community, bringing leaders together to talk about this, almost from like a collaboration piece.

Both have seemed to be working very well. So I would challenge everyone listening, even if you're not able to open, you know, daycare school based on your company, what can you do from a resource perspective to connect people to that childcare piece?

Because it is unbelievable the amount of cost for childcare. would definitely be a hangup for people coming back to the office.

So everyone listening that want to bring your people back, what kind of creative strategies can you utilize to connect?

act to that childcare piece. Evan, thank you so much for sharing that. really appreciate that. I do want to jump to something you had mentioned after you mentioned remote work.

You said stand for. People want to know that they're working for a company that stands for something. And one of the things that I've seen become more and more prevalent, it was focused on for quite some time for years.

But somewhere around, I want to say Q3 of last year, I saw this more and more and more. It's only going to continue into 2024.

Companies embracing a corporate social responsibility strategy. So have you seen this more and more where people you're bringing on to land different roles for that interest in the CSR arm of companies?


Evan Sparks (CRG, Inc.)

Yeah, absolutely. That's obviously a big concern. think especially is millennials start to become the majority of the work. or that that is what they're looking for, being able to be more than just a company that earns earns a lot of revenue and doesn't doesn't care about the environment or doesn't care about human rights or anything in that space.

They want to be able to understand what else the company's doing to make the world a better place. And it comes up lot when when we're connecting with candidates that that is a very common question of what what they're doing to stay involved in the community, what positive impacts they're making.

the more we're able to share about what companies are doing and and share about their mission and purpose and vision and values and everything that goes into that, the more attractive an opportunity to join a company and the more attractive that company becomes to prospective candidates.


Matt Zaun

So let's talk about this from a a planning perspective. So when an organization gets asked that question, clearly they should be prepared to answer it.

As far as what that means to them, I recently spoke to an organization where they just fit into their budget, having PTO hours for their employees.

basically, they have a list of 14 organizations locally that people can tie into within those PTO hours. it's eight hours of PTO where they can go for an entire day, serve one of those organizations.

And they had the whole blueprint laid out so they could clearly point people in that direction. Have you seen companies do something similar, or maybe it's a certain website that they can point people to maybe it's a calendar where they can literally show people, hey, here are the certain volunteer days that we have.

Anything that you can point to that you see companies doing more and more from a planning perspective with CSR?


Evan Sparks (CRG, Inc.)

Yeah, absolutely. a lot of companies, they have their partnerships with whether it's local organizations or national organizations. It's on the website.

Like you mentioned, there's been incentives added in where I've seen either half days, full days that people are able to take off and go and serve the community or be able to be a part of those organizations.

we have seen enough tick in that. It's still, I would say, most companies that are doing it, probably the early adopters, I think a lot more companies could do, could do more in that space, but we are starting to see a pickup a lot more.


Matt Zaun 

Okay. So from a process perspective, going back to that 30-step process, one of the things that you mentioned to me before about focus on stories, which I love to hear, right, because I definitely spoke at great length regarding storytelling on this podcast, for sure.

What are some things that you do from a strategic storytelling perspective that sets you apart from maybe others in your space?


Evan Sparks (CRG, Inc.)

Yeah. So... Oh, we have a few key pieces at the early stages of our process. So in our recruitment strategy phase, we have an intake call with the client.

We want to understand as much as possible about your organization and not necessarily just the financial piece, but we want to know who you are, what you stand for, the culture of your team, and then where you're going, where you want to be.

So we are able to gather information not only about the role, the company, but the hiring manager and team that we're then able to take and we utilize a cell screen approach with our candidates.

So we sell the opportunity, the team, and the hiring manager to the candidate first before we even go through any of the screening process to make sure they're actively engaged.

And a lot of that we use the information that we gather in that intake call to be able to create a story and build that out to be able to attract candidates because you could read a job description and job postings for the

I'll just trick in the book to be able to be out there, but does it truly give the candidate enough to really be ready to join the organization and jump in really a job changes is one of the most impactful pieces of someone's life and you're making a huge decision and we want to be able to give you as much information as possible to feel great about that decision and be confident when you are ready to accept the role and join a new team.


Matt Zaun 

So based on all that information and based on that cell screen approach, is there something in particular you can point to regarding creating that story is you mentioned a lot of things regarding you know who are they what they stand for.


Evan Sparks (CRG, Inc.)

You mentioned the intake call is there one thing you're trying to extract out of that or maybe a couple things to help build out that story.

Yeah, I mean you want you want to be able to take highlights and key pieces that would they would add fulfillment to their lives you think from the candidate perspective more so than just being able

a part of a strong and financially healthy organization, you want to be a part of something that stands for something and be able to build more.

So we're really asking and digging into those culture questions and we have our full intake questionnaire that we spend a lot of time in that space and we want to understand what the hiring manager is really looking to do in their leadership style and then how they interact with the team to be able to share that with the candidates.

Obviously everybody has different preferences on how they'd like to be led, how much information or not as much information that they need to be able to get going, how much oversight they would like over them.

lot of people, especially like micro management, is a hot button issue for a lot of people. So understanding like the environment that they're going into, that they can have confidence that they're trusted to be able to do their job effectively is big.

So we're trying to get all that information out. emphasize it into a compelling story that we're able to tell the candidates and attract them to these opportunities.


Matt Zaun 

Perfect. That sounds great. So anyone listening that would be interested in learning more, connecting with you or your organization, where's the best place they can go to get that information?


Evan Sparks (CRG, Inc.)

Yeah, absolutely. They can find us on crgsearch.com. And then we're also in LinkedIn as well.


Matt Zaun 

Perfect. crgsearch.com. I'll include that in the show notes. appreciate our conversation today, Evan. There's three things that I don't want people to miss based on what we said.

The first is I really appreciate you bringing up childcare. Companies are just starting to talk about this. They need to have some type of strategic approach.

It doesn't necessarily need to be opening a daycare, but at least some type of resources that they can point their team members to is huge.

I appreciate you mentioning that. The second piece is the CSR piece, corporate search responsibility. I'm actually going to include in the show.

On the other I did a three part series on CSR. How do you utilize the strategy? How to give back, how to have a massive impact?

include that. Highly recommend people check that out. appreciate mentioning that. The third piece is you mentioned stand for something.

You actually mentioned stand for something a few times. That is absolutely huge. don't want people to miss this. Is that there is a massive wave of millennials coming in decision-making seats across corporate America at the top of every single survey.

Millennials say they want an impact and fulfillment. I appreciate that you mentioned that gearing those stories regarding that. is absolutely huge.


Evan Sparks (CRG, Inc.)

Thank you so much for sharing that, Evan. I really appreciate our conversation today. Absolutely. Thanks so much for having me on.

I'm enjoying keeping up with you and watching your continued success.


Matt Zaun 

Thank you.

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