Solutions Driven

{Podcast} Ida Matthiesen of HBK on The Importance of Open Communication in Building a Strong, Diverse Talent Network

In episode 5 of The Talent Intelligence Podcast, we sit down with Ida Matthieson, Talent Acquisition Lead at HBK.

Ida has had an interesting first year in her HBK career, joining the business just as the pandemic hit and quickly moving up the ranks while never meeting most of her co-workers (sound familiar anyone?)

While she’s been working on a holistic approach to HBK’s talent strategy, Ida has also brought her passion for DE&I to the fore, an interesting challenge in the male dominated industry they operate in. Ida has been an instrumental part of a team that has pushed for diversity not only internally but from the business’s suppliers and partners. 

In this episode we discuss:

  • The impact of the pandemic on remote teams
  • How a fast-moving market has made talent departments more agile
  • What the future of diversity looks like
  • And much more…

For those of you who want to check out Rebel Ideas by Matthew Syed that Ida mentions, it’s available here

Listen to the podcast episode here:

Listen on Apple Podcasts

Listen on Spotify


Claire Murray: Hello and welcome to the Talent Intelligence podcast. We are recording episode five today, and are joined by Ida Matheson from HBK. 

Hi Ida. How are you doing? 

Ida Matthiesen: Hi, Claire. I’m good. Thanks. How are you? 

Claire Murray: I am doing fairly well. The sun is shining in Glasgow, which it hasn’t been for the last few days. So pretty pleased. You’ve just come back from a week’s holiday. How was that? 

Ida Matthiesen: I have, it was beautiful. I managed to go traveling, which is a luxury that I think we’ve all been missing a little bit. So I spent a week in Croatia, sailing around. The Danish summer can’t quite compete with the weather. It’s raining a little bit more here, but it was nice to get a week off and just completely log off from everything and go offline.

How was yours? You’ve just come back too? 

Claire Murray: I have the, I just did the North Coast 500 and for once it was sunny the whole week. It’s just not likely for a holiday in Scotland, to be honest.  

Claire Murray: So Ida, we have spoken a few times in the past as HBK and Solutions Driven work together quite regularly. So we’ve ended up having a few conversations and there’s been a couple of things that have come up that the interested me and I thought, you know what – let’s get Ida on the Talent Intelligence podcast. 

The first thing that I wanted to talk to you about is you have quite an interesting back story to your time at HBK. Do you want to tell us a little bit about, how you joined HBK?

Ida Matthiesen: Yeah. I was working on the other side as an agency recruiter and I was contacted by the Head of Talent Acquisition at HBK at the end of 2019. At the time I was living in London, but I was kind of looking to get back to Denmark a little bit, and it just seemed like a really interesting fit.

So I moved in 2020 and it all went a little bit quickly. And I was like ‘it’s fine, I’ll pack a suitcase and come back in a month and get the rest of my things.’ But that flight was booked for 24 hours before Europe shut down. 

So it was a bit of a whirlwind to come into the country. And then from n HBK perspective it was quite early in our merger. So there were still a lot of changes going on there. A lot of cultural integrations that we were working on. So it was a really exciting time – a lot happened kind of during that period.

And now we’re really in the space where we’re a bit more set and can really focus on kind of our ongoing growth which is really fun as well.

Claire Murray: Did you ever end up going back to get your things that were in London? 

Ida Matthiesen: I did in September but there was a lot of laundry in the meantime, a lot of trips to H&M to get things to survive inbetween. I’m glad there was nothing particularly urgent there!

Claire Murray: So when you started at HBK not long after you moved into a more senior role –  the current role that you’re in, as Talent Acquisition Lead. How did you manage with joining remotely and going straight into a promotion?

Ida Matthiesen: I mean, it was really exciting and it kind of came naturally, you know. Two of our values are actually to aim high and own it. And that’s something that I identify with quite a lot.

So I’m the kind of person where if I see something that can be improved or that we can do better, I will speak up about it. I will naturally volunteer too to get something done. So luckily I had really supportive management that encouraged me to do that. And then from that point, it was just natural that I would focus more on those types of overarching improvement projects and get the title that comes with it, I guess.

It was a combination of right place, right time, and then just a good fit between my management and my own approach. 

Claire Murray: Hopefully we are, if not coming to the end of all this, we’re coming to the beginning of the end of all of this. However, there are still a lot of people that are onboarding remotely, and a lot of companies ramping up and looking to grow in the next part of the year. 

That means there will be people in the position now that you were in a year and a half ago. You’ve said before that you’re not an expert on this, but do you have any advice for anyone who’s currently in the position you were then?

Ida Matthiesen: We kept hiring throughout the pandemic and, and throughout the past year, we just couldn’t afford to put it all on hold, but obviously we did have to adapt, especially like you say, with the onboarding process. And I think my key piece of advice would just to make sure that you set up specific one to ones with any key stakeholders, because we need to remember that you don’t get the chats by the coffee machine or the joint lunches in the same way.

And to really feel integrated is just quite important. It can just be half an hour or something like that, just to really get to know someone on a personal level so that you can actually get that bond as well. And what we’ve actually found, interestingly, is that people can connect on a slightly deeper level because when you do meet each other in the office, you don’t necessarily have the same time to really go into detail.

That’s been really positive and something that I think we’ll take into the future regardless of how that will look. But definitely for any new employee or any candidate, make sure that you set aside some time to speak to a new colleague so that you still feel part of the company and part of the team in the same way as if you were starting fully onsite. 

That’s also good advice for people who have worked in global companies. You’re not necessarily going to meet a lot of the people that you work with day-to-day so it’s as important to connect with them. 

One of my closest colleagues, we speak together daily and he’s based over in the UK and we’ve actually not met yet because we’ve not been able to travel. However, we just feel like we know each other so well now. It’s good we have the tools to actually be able to, to do that in a different way, compared to just a couple of years ago.

Claire Murray: Yeah. So the recruitment market at the moment, Ida is busier than ever.  There’s lots of movement. Lots of people are changing jobs. Candidates are ghosting companies almost to the final stages of interviews. And that’s happening across all industries.

Obviously you are in an industry that’s pretty fast moving. Can you tell me a little bit more about what HBK does and how you’re finding the fast-moving markets at the moment? 

Ida Matthiesen: Yeah. So, on a high level, what we do is we provide test measurement equipment services to industrial companies within automotive, aerospace, and bigger infrastructure projects and products. So it actually spans quite wide. We have  a massive product portfolio and a lot of different services that we can offer. But mainly engineering types of profiles are really our focus.

And you’re right, it’s been an interesting year, I think for everyone, but especially for recruiters. It’s been a journey. Overall, I’m happy to say that we’ve got some brilliant people in for sure. Not without your help. But yeah. We’ve definitely seen a trend of increased offers. 

So we’ve been going through a lot more processes at once, but also in particular, a lot of counter offers. You can really tell that companies are very keen to retain their talent. And you hear stories of people handing in their resignation and, and being offered whatever they want just keep them.

Because I think every company is hyper aware of just how tough it is at the moment. And, that it’s a candidate-short market. So there’s been a few ups and downs, but so far so good. I’d say we’ve done good, especially in an industry like engineering which is really busy at the moment. 

Claire Murray: We work quite a lot in stem recruitment. And engineering is a problem area at the moment. So it’s good to hear that, HBK is managing well.

One of the things that we’ve been talking about quite recently to quite a lot of clients is the idea of agility in recruitment. Last year it was hiring remotely and doing online interviews but as the year has gone on, and the industry has gotten so much busier, people have found the way they’re recruiting has changed. Have you found this within your own role and how has that affected you? 

Ida Matthiesen: There’s been a few things.

The first thing that you mentioned, like you say, is remote working and how we can be a lot more flexible. We tend to have more of a work from anywhere approach where we target time zones rather than locations. Unfortunately, this is obviously not possible for, for every position, sometimes certain equipment may be needed, but, but if you’re in a global role anyway, and you have reports all over the world, then it works. 

And if we can help an employee have a better work-life balance because they can pick up their children or they can be at home when the electrician has to come around and so on, we can support them in that way and still get the right person, then that benefits both parties. So that’s something we’ve really been focusing on a lot.

But also, the pace of our recruitment process is something we’ve really had to look at and try to see how we can be as efficient as possible, because there are many other opportunities out there. 

So we’ve tried to adapt it a little bit there because we are in the phase where we are growing and there’s a lot of new opportunities arising. We’ve sometimes also been able to adapt the positions, tweak them a little bit to actually fit what the candidate wants. So we’re not just hiring them for this role, but also taking long-term ambitions into account and making sure we can actually also live up to that because  one of the key aspects we have to consider as recruiters is this integrity and honesty piece. And making sure we can actually live up to what we promise during an interview process. It’s not just up to the candidate. So there’s been a few things that we’ve tried to improve on a little bit.

There’s always more you can do. Sometimes the process does take a long time and there’s nothing you can do about that. But we are consistently trying to audit ourselves to see how we can do better next time, whether it’s been a successful recruitment or not.

Claire Murray: And it’s that idea that it’s a two way interview just because the candidates are so in demand. In terms of that ability to move quickly and that agility, how has that worked for HBK? You obviously work with various recruitment partners (ourselves included) – how does that work with your partners? Have you managed to include them into your way of working? 

Ida Matthiesen: I think it’s worked really well. We’ve got a small group of recruitment partners that know us quite well and where we’ve really established a very strong relationship. I’m from that world myself, I’ve been on the other side of the table, and I really appreciate that we are hiring you guys for your service and for your expertise and the best way for you to be able to help us is for us to really have just open communication and for it to be more of a partnership than in an advisory kind of relationship, rather than a supplier relationship where you’re just expecting CVS. Because it’s real people you’re dealing with and there are many things that we need to consider here. 

So by keeping those open lines of communication and supporting where I can, and then giving our partners everything you need to do your job, that’s important. 

In this industry it’s all about people, and it’s about being able to understand each other’s perspectives and work together rather than expecting everything to almost run as a machine. It’s a give and take situation where the end conclusion is you get a great new employee. 

Claire Murray: In our past conversations, a few of them have been about diversity and it’s obviously it’s a passion topic for you, and it’s a big point in your career. 

From what I can tell, engineering  is quite a male-dominated industry, so what does the gender divide look like? 

Ida Matthiesen: It is definitely still male dominated. Especially when you look at the more senior levels.

One of our division directors she mentioned that when she did her PhD, she was the only woman. And that was only 20-30 years ago. So we’ve come a long way, but there’s a lot more development to come within this. That needs to come from the businesses and from the private sector. It’s really up to us and our colleagues in other engineering companies to help that growth and help increase the diversity within our organizations and the industry.

Claire Murray: Can you tell me a little bit more about what HBK as a business is doing to improve the diversity in your own business?

Ida Matthiesen: For sure. There’s kind of two aspects when we talk about diversity and inclusion within talent attraction, and that’s the fact that we can do a lot within the talent attraction piece, but also, how can we then retain that talent and make sure we have this inclusive environment so they actually also stay.

So we approached both sides of that. So when you look at the recruitment piece, it’s also supported very much by our executive management. So, our CEO, he actually requires all of his employees to provide a diverse, final shortlist for any position.

And we won’t move forward with any hire, unless we have solid evidence as to why we’ve not been able to, to fit that bill. Because, it’s just not feasible to say diverse talent isn’t out there. 

I think it makes sense from an ethical perspective, but also from a business perspective to have this kind of cognitive diversity within your team.

It’s something that he really feels very strongly about. 

At the moment, we’re also trialing some case-based recruitment approaches. So rather than just sending your CV and your cover letter, we actually have to evaluate on that. And then after that, we start looking at people’s backgrounds and so on. 

It’s still very early so I’ve not seen results yet but I’m very excited about that. And I’m hoping it’s something we can improve on and use more in the market as well. 

So that’s specifically what we do in the interview process, but then there’s a much larger piece. We’re also working on increasing the collaboration with networking groups and societies and universities because, it’s about improving a lot at the earlier stages. If we can support new graduates coming into the job market, that can also help us. 

And the Spectrum Group, which is the group that HBK is part of, they’ve just appointed a head of STEM strategy whose job it is to increase outreach for all our affiliate companies. We’re really trying to look at the outreach piece in a very holistic way. Seeing what specific initiatives we can change right here, right now, but also what we can do in the bigger picture, and what we can improve in the longer term. 

And then when you look at the retention piece, once we have them within the organisation, what can we do to keep this inclusive environment? 

And one of the things we’ve done there is we set up company-wide group calls for different minorities just to create a safe space. They’re not compulsory to attend and you don’t have to RSVP or anything, but it’s just for people to be able to speak with their peers and for us to also find out, what can we do better? 

It kind of started as part of pride month, and we’ve done it with some of our LGBTQ plus colleagues. That’s something that we’re also really building on so we can actually listen to the people that are really affected by this, because it’s very difficult if you’re not part of a certain community or not part of a certain demographic to know what it is you could or should be doing. That should be coming from the people in these different groups. 

So that’s really what we’re trying to focus on a lot is listening to people. Again, Joe, our CEO, he’s being mentored by, by someone who is out to find out how can he be a better ally, both as a leader and as a person and really taking the initiative to find out – okay, what can I do better? 

That’s something that we’re trying to establish throughout the whole organization. And it’s been incredible just how supportive all the employees have been in really creating this inclusive environment. 

Claire Murray: That’s excellent. So it seems as though it comes from a board level downwards also, you’re almost reverse mentoring upwards? 

Ida Matthiesen: Yeah, absolutely.  A lot of these initiatives that we’re working on now, have come from employees that have just said, ‘Hey, you know, what can we do about this? And how can we be better?’

That’s one of the key things is creating an environment where the board or senior managers will listen and support those ideas, but they won’t dictate how something should be done. 

And I think if you can have a place of work where people do feel comfortable to go straight to people that are maybe two, three management levels up and say, ‘Hey, I’ve got a great idea!’ and actually feel that they’re being listened to and that we’re being receptive – that’s really the first step to ensure we do have an inclusive environment. 

Claire Murray: You had mentioned earlier how you’re expected to provide evidence as to why you couldn’t hire diversely – is that something you require from your partners? 

Ida Matthiesen: Absolutely it’s in all of our contracts. It’s a non-negotiable part of all of our contracts with our recruitment providers where we say, it has to be possible. I think, especially in the engineering world,  historically, there may have been an attitude within the industry to say ‘we all know there’s a specific demographic within this market. So you can’t expect us to find diverse candidates.’ So we use this opposition to say to partners, actually no, yes we can and we will. And we won’t go through to interview stage unless we have a diverse shortlist. 

Don’t get me wrong, we expect these candidates to be qualified and they all are. It’s not a case of saying, we have to tick these boxes – we have three viable candidates and a diverse one because that’s what you asked for. In that case we have to go back to the start. 

We have lost candidates because of that and it can take a bit longer and that’s counterintuitive to speeding up and being agile but this is just too important to compromise on. 

And if that means that a recruitment process is going to be a little bit more complicated or take a little bit longer, then so be it. Because unless we take a stance, then I don’t think we can expect any real change in the industry as a whole too. 

Claire Murray: In the last few podcasts we’ve done, we’ve spoken about diversity because it’s something that’s on leaders’ minds consistently.  And one of the main thrusts of these conversations has been that we need to take accountability and diversity needs to be something that they don’t compromise on. So it seems like this is what you’re focusing on in HBK and with your partners?

Ida Matthiesen: Yes. I feel lucky to be in a company where it’s not just coming from HR – I have hiring managers contacting me and before I even say anything, they say, right, I am very aware of the demographic diversity within my team. I want to change that. So, it actually comes from, from the business as a whole.

I think this is really the only way to go. While I was away last week, I read a book by someone called Matthew Saya. It’s called Rebel Ideas. It really explains and gives some very good arguments as to why it just makes good business sense and why businesses perform better if you have this kind of cognitive diversity.

That often goes hand in hand with, with the demographic piece. I’d really encourage anyone in any kind of hiring position to read his book, because I think it can really change your approach to hiring and attitude of ‘what is the right candidate?’

Claire Murray: I’ll put the link to that in the episode description below, so if anybody wants to get that book and follow up on it, you can do that.

I guess one final question for me, and that is – we spoke a lot about what HBK does, and what you require your partners to do, but what about your own suppliers, do you have requirements of them?

Ida Matthiesen: We’re actually looking into how we can best do that now. It just came organically from somebody who works in our supplier team that heard about the work we’re doing in recruitment and said, ‘Hey, why don’t we apply this to all of our suppliers?’

We have an extremely complex supply chain, so we’re trying to work out how can we best do it? I am working quite closely together with them so that we can audit any kind of product supplier on their own diversity and inclusion, but also what they are doing towards it. This helps them towards improving it and, and our own ethical approach.

And it’s definitely going to be something that is going to be a key part of choosing our supplier partners in future as well. 

Claire Murray: That’s fantastic. I think we’ve covered most of the topics we’d set out to today, is there anything else from your side that you want to discuss or impart?

Ida Matthiesen: I think maybe just the final point from my side is that the way I see it and the way I see the market, this focus on diversity is here to stay and all I would encourage people to, do is continue focusing on it and seeing what they can do, both at a professional level and a personal one too to be more inclusive because it’s not a topic that’s going to disappear any time soon. 

Claire Murray: Ida, it has been an absolute pleasure having you on today, thank you so much. 

Ida Matthiesen: Thank you. Thank you for having me. 

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