VP of Talent PaShon Mann's holistic approach to talent and HR

Nov 14, 2019 - Joe Matar

There are many aspects to HR — talent acquisition, talent management, diversity and inclusion, etc.

PaShon Mann, VP of Talent for Comcast NBC Universals' Technology, Product, and Xperience division, sees these different areas as highly complementary. 

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In fact, she’s dipped her toe in all of them, and this holistic approach has aided her career journey. 

"When I think about my success, I think it was just being really willing to try new things as part of that journey," PaShon says on an episode of Talent on the Rise, Brazen's new podcast about transformative leaders and how they got a seat at the table. 

She started out as a career counselor at a university but has since spent most of her time in talent acquisition. She’s also worked as an HR business partner as well as a D&I practitioner. 

Plus, she’s worked in different industries, including media and healthcare. “A lot of people will just stay in one industry. I like tech, but I led talent acquisition for Amtrak for a period of time because I didn't have any of the high volume experience,” notes PaShon, who’d only been in her role at Comcast for about eight weeks when we spoke. 

While recording our podcast episode, PaShon shared insights and tips that helped her rise through the ranks while remaining true to herself. Here are the highlights. 

It's about more than just finding the right people

Though PaShon is passionate about TA, spending time in different roles has helped her see shortcomings and areas for improvement. 

She cautions that TA leaders can come across as too “salesy.” 

“You want it to be authentic and sincere,” she says. If your only focus is on hiring people and filling seats, you're going to lose credibility. 

While there’s some discussion in HR circles about separating TA from HR, PaShon doesn’t consider that a solution. “You can't be only focused on bringing folks in and not be thinking about how we retain them … there’s a lifecycle of an employee,” she says. 

For PaShon, recruiter education is a critical part of getting beyond short-term hiring goals. Focusing only on “butts in seats” without considering the big picture is not a recipe for long-term success. 

3 things to help talent get a seat at the table

To ensure talent is well regarded in an organization, PaShon recommends the following:

  1. Understand the business

"You need to know your business," PaShon says. "I mean, no matter how high I've gotten in the organization, I stay deep and I stay close to the business leaders." 

She advises participating in meetings that position you to know the business better. 

PaShon advises, "Don't just show up when there's a talent review or just show up when you've got a position that's open, but really spend that time with them to understand their business." 

  1. Know the metrics

You have to know which metrics matter for the industry and business. For example, when PaShon worked in government contracting, she was able to walk into a meeting and articulate the dollar amount that they could generate based on every hire. She was able to speak their language and show them what mattered through the metrics. 

You need to determine which metrics help you define success, she urges. 

  1. Talk about it

PaShon says you need to be able to communicate those metrics to everyone to keep people on the same page. 

“I think it's keeping [the metrics] in front of the leaders on an ongoing basis so everybody understands that definition of success,” she notes. 

Relationships are king 

"Relationship is probably the keyword across all of TA or TM," states PaShon.  

You want your acquisition team to be happy because they're going to have a hard time getting others to come in if they aren't. And, PaShon shares, "The number one factor of happiness for a talent acquisition individual is that relationship with that hiring leader." It seems obvious, but it’s an “epiphany” when business leaders initially realize this for the first time. Stronger, data-driven partnerships — between business leaders and TA — can help. 

“It's almost like Uber for example, right? They rate us and we rate them,” she explains. 

Age diversity is another aspect that colors relationships in the workplace. "For the first time, you have folks that are now in the workplace with people the same age as their grandchildren," says PaShon. 

With Gen Z entering the workforce, there are four generations at play. "How we communicate, how we deal with stress, it is very different across these four generations."

This has to be something that you think about as you communicate and build relationships. It can be as simple as considering whether a person would rather text or use the phone for certain interactions. 

Sometimes sideways is just as good as up 

PaShon is a big believer in keeping things in perspective. 

“Sometimes we put too much of our self-worth into the workplace,” she says. You’re not a bad person just because your manager might have a different vision of how they want the job done. PaShon urges others to consider what they need to be most successful in a role — that might mean switching companies or departments for a better cultural fit. 

In some cases, a lateral move could make sense. “We have this perspective that you always have to be moving up,” she says. Instead, she advises going for roles that enable you to learn. When you’re in it, put your head down and do the work. 

She applied this to her career: “I never focused on the next position. I focused on where I was. I had somewhat of a plan where I said, listen, I'd like to be at this level.” 

“But that journey to get to that plan was not really fully mapped out for me. I just said, I'm going to go in, I'm going to do the best that I can and everything else will follow. And that's what happened,” she adds. 

Most importantly, PaShon has a strong belief that you need to care about the whole person. She lives by the motto, "Treat people well, everything else follows." That means placing an emphasis on work-life balance and quality of life because healthy people perform well. People need quality sleep, nutritious food, and regular exercise.

"I talk about the things that are going to allow you to be healthy as a person first. Then we lead to what's healthy in the workplace,” she says of her approach. 

And, in the end, PaShon believes, "You need to be your authentic self every day."

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