The Game Changers

How Will Staney continues to change the talent acquisition game

By Yasmeen Qahwash

Mar. 4, 2020

William Staney, founder and chief executive officer of Proactive Talent, was awarded the Game Changer award in 2013. In this Q&A, Staney discusses his progress within his career, what he’s learned and how the HR industry has changed over the years.

Workforce: What have you been up to since you received the game changer award back in 2013?

William Staney: In 2013, I was awarded the Workforce Game Changers award for the work I had done pushing the boundaries of recruiting and employment branding. Years later, I’ve continued to strive to push the boundaries of innovation in this space. Over my career in corporate recruiting, I developed the first global employer brands for VMware and SAP as well as built the recruiting functions for startups Glassdoor and Twilio. In 2015, I founded Proactive Talent, a recruiting and employer brand consulting firm that challenges old ways of recruiting and talent attraction by taking bold stances and methods toward driving positive innovation and a candidate-centric philosophy for the industry. In 2017, I co-founded Talent Brand Alliance, a professional community for recruitment marketing and employer brand practitioners to openly share best practices, network, seek mentorship and build best practices for that growing profession within HR.

WF: How has your career changed?

Staney: After receiving the Game Changers award in 2013, I had revolutionized the employer brand at VMware and traveled the world developing the global employer brand and recruitment process for SAP. It was an amazing and educational experience. It pushed me to think about recruiting in new ways and create a relatable brand in places I had never even been before. It was an eye-opening experience that also helped me gain a lot of the skills that have driven my success to date. 

I wanted to take it a step further by building a modern recruiting engine from the ground up by taking what I had learned in transforming larger tech firms towards more digital marketing approaches to talent attraction and moving into recruiting leadership in the Bay Area. After joining Glassdoor as their first-ever global head of recruiting, I was given the chance to do just that. Then, I later went on to join Twilio as their first recruiting leader, building out their recruiting function and helping them to expand into eight different countries. 

William Staney, founder and CEO of Proactive Talent

After spending years as an internal practitioner, I took a paternity break when my daughter was born. At home, I reflected on the many problems that the HR industry faces, the challenges I faced building recruiting programs in fast-growing startups, as well as large enterprise companies, and decided to become a consultant. I wanted the ability to solve many companies’ hiring problems in a unique way that hasn’t been done before. I realized I enjoyed building these machines and wanted to help as many companies as possible modernize the way they looked at recruiting and talent attraction. 

In 2015, I launched Proactive Talent. I wanted to create better solutions for companies’ hiring challenges while offering them an effective and affordable alternative to traditional RPOs or expensive third-party recruiting firms and headhunters.

WF: If you could give your younger self one piece of advice, what would it be?

Staney: I’ve worked hard to get where I am, but I’m also very fortunate. If I were to tell my younger self anything, it is to pick your battles. Change isn’t always instantaneous. Not everything is worth the time and energy to fight. Fight for the most important things.

WF: What is the largest challenge that HR has faced over the last few years?

Staney: The largest change in HR over the past few years is the consumerization of technology. Unlike the old days, where the only info about a company is a small job ad in a newspaper, candidates interact with companies in many multiple ways now — their website, social media, job review sites and more. Today, every company has an employer brand whether they want to or not. The only decision a company needs to make is whether they are willing to invest the time and resources to be part of the conversation. Your ability as a company to recruit the best talent hinges on your ability to do that well now.

WF: What do you foresee in the future of HR?

Staney: I believe that talent acquisition will be the heartbeat of HR. Most of the administrative functions of HR are becoming automated now. With the advances in technology, HR leaders will need to focus on the things that technology can’t automate. The human element of business, such as the experience that both candidates and employees have with your company. The full lifecycle of those relationships.

Due to the advances in technology and automation, I predict that more HR leaders will come from the business and marketing side of companies, and better data and alignment to business objectives and goals will result in human resources being given a seat at the table when it comes to decision making for the future of the company.

Yasmeen Qahwash is an editorial associate for Workforce.

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