Inside Etsy’s Pivot to Internal Recruitment

Kim Seymour focuses on the pipeline, i.e. the technology talent pipeline. Etsy’s new CHRO joined the digital marketplace in April this year and is working to double down on the in-house talent development it inherited. This week, the company launched a new development program to help chart the career paths of its workers.

Etsy has long been the industry leader in gender diversity, with a workforce comprised of approximately 47% women. But Seymour acknowledges that the company still has a long way to go to develop and retain underrepresented talent. On par with many other tech companies, black and Hispanic employees made up just 6.1% and 6.3% of Etsy’s U.S. employees, respectively, in 2021, according to a report by Protocol. It’s a pipeline problem, that’s for sure. But the solution, says Seymour, is to make it everyone’s problem to solve.

“It’s not the job of HR. It’s everybody’s job,” she says. “It’s everyone’s job to move the needle because it’s ingrained in who we think we are. [as a company].” Seymour spoke with Fortune how she sees the future of Etsy’s talent pool and why she prioritizes internal talent.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

Fortune: What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you hear the phrase “talent pipe?”

The first thing I think of is our internal talent and whether we’re making sure they get the feedback and development they need to be appropriate for the jobs we have. We have invested a lot in finding these talents, attracting them and keeping them. So if we have open roles, this should be our first hunting ground before we even talk about the pipeline outside.

What initiatives have you developed to help move your internal talent through the pipeline?

A number of things. [This week] we are rolling out a program called “Pathways”, which is a series of development opportunities, curricula, [and] different skills that will help people decide for themselves where they want to go and how we can help them get there.

We always pay attention to our entry-level pipelines through a learning program. We focus on people who have not historically had access to this type of training and curriculum who may be self-taught. We have a whole curriculum that teaches how to work in the tech space, and we’re in our second year. The first year was really successful. We’ve hired all the people we’ve recruited into this program, and they’re still here.

What initiatives are you most excited about?

Some of them are just what I’ll call BAU initiatives – status quo initiatives, which is important to instilling that spirit into everything we do. So, for example, the way we interview people is very deliberate. It aims to remove bias from the system as much as possible, and that is not an easy thing. It’s very structured. Everyone had to learn how to do it.

With racial and ethnic diversity, we focus on where we have a problem with people showing up in our population. For us, we know it’s Hispanic, African American, and Native American ethnically. Even looking at the leadership level, we think about how to grow there.

What’s the biggest misconception in HR about the talent pool?

People will always have options, so don’t act like they don’t have any and be complacent. Invest in their development, invest in their aspirations, invest in ensuring they are connected to your business, your mission and each other. It all invests in your culture, and it’s usually the secret sauce of any business when trying to create a place where people want to stay and thrive. This does not happen by chance. You have to be intentional about this.

Amber Burton

Journalist’s notebook

The most compelling data, quotes and insights from the field.

US cargo activity looked a bit spooky this week. Labor disputes in the rail sector came to a head before a tentative agreement was reached late Wednesday night to avert a strike. Here’s what you need to know about the news:

Crisis averted. After 20 hours of negotiations with the Biden administration, major railroads and unions reached a tentative agreement, averting the planned strike. Reuters

It came down to the attendance policy. Like many essential workers, railway engineers and conductors are exhausted and tired of adverse working conditions. The root cause of negotiations stems from dissatisfaction with unpredictable and inflexible work schedules. NPR

Amtrak discontinued service…briefly. The passenger railway announced it would stop operating long-distance journeys on Thursday ahead of a possible railway strike. Now the company is scrambling to restore service. All aboard! New York Times

Around the table

– Bank of America will offer paid sabbaticals to long-serving employees in an effort to retain talent. Eligible employees will have up to six weeks off in addition to their regular vacation days. Bloomberg

– The number of deaths from the coronavirus is at its lowest since the start of the pandemic in March 2020, according to the World Health Organization. The encouraging recovery could provide companies with further evidence to push employees back into the office. Associated press

– The number of new jobless claims fell for the fifth week in a row, indicating that companies are reluctant to lay off employees despite continued inflation and rising labor costs. CNN

– Atlas, an HR software company specializing in providing a centralized database of local laws for global businesses, has secured a $200 million investment from Sixth Street Partners. The new funds will be invested in expanding the platform’s regional customer service.

Water cooler

Everything you need to know about Fortune.

RTO Reports. Elon Musk would have received weekly reports on who is and is not in the office. The roll call is part of Musk’s bid to end remote working at Tesla, which he calls “pretending to work.” Tesla employees who visited the office found that there were not enough desks, parking spaces and office supplies to accommodate them. —Chloe Taylor

Inclusive dismissals. Cloud company Twilio announced on Wednesday that he is taking steps to ensure that it is imminent layoffs do not disproportionately affect marginalized groups. It is one of the first instances in which a company has publicly acknowledged that job cuts often affect underrepresented workers more than others. —Kyle Robinson

Debates on unemployment. Two of the world’s most eminent economists do not seem to agree on whether higher unemployment reduces inflation. On the one hand, the unemployment rate must reach 6% to control inflation, while on the other, limiting job vacancies will help avoid layoffs. Either way, the eventual results will have a significant effect on the job market and the pool of available talent. —Does Daniel

Keep the guards. The suicide of former Bed Bath & Beyond CFO Gustavo Arnal has brought the C-suite’s mental health to the fore. Fortune‘s Lila MacLellan writes that just as it is important to destigmatize employee mental health, it is also important to do the same for entrepreneurs, who are less likely to ask for help. —Lila MacLellan

Can I buy you a drink? When Rachel Barrie became master blender of Scotch whiskey in 2003, she was the first and only woman to hold such a title. Nineteen years later, her team is made up of 60% women. Her employer, alcohol conglomerate Brown-Forman, made female representation in leadership one of its main pillars in 2019 and has since developed programs to help women become master whiskey blenders, winemakers and general managers. —Stephanie Cain

Leave a Reply