As she discussed in this recent interview with ExecutiveBiz, Mendenhall has spent a good part of her career working in HR consultancy and brings a diverse background across several industries to her role at ICF.
Mendenhall further delved into how this background has shaped her view on management, the emphasis ICF places on its veteran hiring intiatives and how she works to attract and retain top talent.
ExecutiveBiz: Where does ICF draw its talent from? And how does it recruit the best people for the jobs they have to perform?
Candice Mendenhall: First of all, we are a global company, so we recruit on a global basis. A primary area for us in surfacing external talent is actually the Internet through all kinds of different job post vehicles that we use all over the world. And we use just about everything that’s out there that’s going to give us the kind of talent we need.
Because we have very broad‑based business, we search for a wide spectrum of skills. Additionally we have a very active internal selection process that supports our ability to leverage the skills and talents of our existing staff across the company. Our career site is available to external and internal employees, giving candidates an opportunity to just go online and see what we’re looking for right now.
We also attend a lot of different college/university events, job fairs or association gatherings, particularly those that are industry or skill specific such as cyber security, health, education and energy efficiency. If we have the opportunity, we’ll also set up a booth to increase awareness that leads to increased interest in ICF as a potential employer.
We have a very active employee referral program that produces about 30 percent of our new hires every year. We utilize a robust cash award program to incent our employees to refer their friends and colleagues to ICF. Like other employers, ICF has found that employees refer very highly skilled and capable people with whom they want to work. We also proactively tap into the networks of our executives and other senior managers to identify potential candidates.
We actively re‑recruit individuals who might have left the company and would like to consider coming back. We are quite active on LinkedIn, utilizing this source to stay connected to our former ICFers who want to stay connected with us. We do use search firms on a more limited basis. Search firms are typically used to help with placing more senior levels staff and for more specialized kinds of skills.
And then as far as selecting the right people, we use a traditional interviewing and selection process to ensure that we’re getting the best person for ICF and for that position.
ExecutiveBiz: What are some of the programs you have for hiring veterans, and why are they so important to contracting firms, such as ICF?
Candice Mendenhall: As I mentioned earlier, ICF has a broad business portfolio. Our outreach to veterans is extensive, yet very specific. We have target our recruiting efforts to those veterans whose careers have been primarily focused on technology, energy, health and education or who have held more administrative roles in the military such as finance, accounting, logistics, contracts and HR.
Most recently we had a very successful targeted veterans outreach in Martinsville, VA where we have a business operations center. We were pleased with our ability to attract and hire several talented veterans. We are actively involved with the Northern Virginia Technology Counsel and its veteran outreach efforts. Our head of recruiting is actually part of NVTC’s veteran outreach committee.
Several of ICF’s executive women are also participating in a mentoring program for women veterans and spouses of veterans sponsored by Business Professional Women’s Foundation. The program is designed to help women transition to either public or private sector employers. We provide guidance on how to market one’s capabilities and how to secure the right opportunities.
We are constantly looking community‑wide at the things we can do to support and increase the hiring of veterans.
ExecutiveBiz: How do you incorporate the experiences you picked up at your earlier employers in your current role?
Candice Mendenhall: I’ve spent about 50 percent of my career managing and leading HR within organizations, and then I’ve spent 50 percent of it actually in a P&L role running human resources consulting practices. So my career has provided me with a broad understanding of how to effectively leverage a firm’s human capital assets.
I absolutely believe that as a result of my consulting experience and being responsible for a P&L, that I am better able to advise and implement programs and services that support employees and the businesses they support. When I think about my experiences, I have had the good fortune of having deep expertise in each of the functional areas of HR, starting with PPG Industries in Pittsburgh.
While the transactional elements of HR are extremely critical and must be managed and lead efficiently and effectively, the real value I believe that I bring is helping organizations leverage their employees to support their business objectives. That means that building HR’s capabilities in functional areas like talent development, talent acquisition, talent mobility and organizational effectiveness have been front and center for me.
Because my professional experience includes multiple industries and markets, it has given me a wider perspective about best practices across industry groups. Being part of the federal contracting consulting world is relatively new to me, having started when I joined ICF over 5 years ago. Like other industries, you find that what guides the human capital practices that you deploy is the company’s unique culture and business imperatives.
In other words, there are some things that are dictated by the market and the personality of your organization; the firm’s values, mission, and vision. In the end people are people. They’re motivated by the same things. They might be motivated differently by the same things, but nevertheless, they’re basically the same.
Managers manage and leaders lead in every organization. How to effectively lead, manage and motivate others is the same, whether or not you’re in manufacturing, financial services, retail, or in federal contracting. All of the tenets and concepts are easily transferable. The magic sauce is developing and deploying tools and services that connect the firm’s human capital assets in a way that resonates with them and produces results.
Coming from the private sector, I have found the public sector consulting world in general, to be far more complex. For example, in the commercial space, there is no such thing as a fringe rate. It’s not even a terminology that’s used.
The first time I’d ever heard it was when I joined ICF, and they asked me, two weeks into my new position, to provide the next year’s fringe rate. I said, Well, what in the heck is it, and why does it matter? So, I certainly quickly learned. It matters a great deal.
In the private sector business environment, employers have a great deal of freedom on how they set their pricing, their clients, how they contract, how they hire people.
There’s flexibility to change employee compensation and benefit programs mid-year if they wantto.You don’t have the kind of flexibility in the federal contracting space because everything’s based on the rates that are established at the beginning of each year.