Jessica Clayton is the founding Partner of TalentStream and a member of the ownership group. She is a cum laude graduate of Clemson University with a Masters Degree from The Citadel.
Jessica grew up in the staffing industry and worked for a national staffing company before starting TalentStream.
In addition to leading TalentStream, Jessica enjoys giving back to the Greenville Community and spending time with her husband and three kids.
Lynette Mathews has 25 years’ experience in Engineering and Manufacturing Operations, providing TalentStream with strong industry experience in hiring, training, and retention.
She holds a Bachelor’s and a Master’s degree in Mechanical Engineering from the Georgia Institute of Technology and is a trained Lean Six Sigma Green Belt.
Prior to joining TalentStream in 2016, she provided leadership in design, engineering and operations for several Atlanta based equipment manufacturers.
Lynette lives in Atlanta and is active in APICS Atlanta, Georgia Manufacturing Alliance and the Georgia Tech Alumni Association. She has three grown children, loves to read, travel, and is an avid sports fan.
Intro: [00:00:04] Broadcasting live from the Business RadioX Studios in Atlanta, Georgia, it’s time for GWBC Radio’s Open for Business. Now, here’s your host.
Lee Kantor: [00:00:18] Lee Kantor here. Another episode of GWBC Open for Business, and this is going to be a good one. Today, we have with us Jessica Clayton and Lynnette Mathews with TalentStream. Welcome.
Lynette Mathews: [00:00:29] Thanks. We’re glad to be here.
Jessica Clayton: [00:00:31] Yes. Thank you, Lee.
Lee Kantor: [00:00:32] Well, before we get too far into things, tell us about TalentStream. How are you serving folks?
Jessica Clayton: [00:00:37] Thanks, Lee. And a special thanks to GWBC for sponsoring this interview. So, TalentStream, we were founded almost eight years ago now and we are a WBENC certification – sorry – certified organization. We have two primary areas of focus. The first and, really, what we were founded on is our direct hire recruitment. And we do that in the areas of engineering, supply chain, and then skilled manufacturing, if you think of production supervisors. We work with a variety of clients in the Southeast, mainly, in the manufacturing and warehousing space.
Jessica Clayton: [00:01:16] And then, the second side of our business, which we rolled out about two years ago or really started to build out two years ago, is our Diversity Supplier Platform or DSP. And I’ll talk more about that later. But, really, it is an alternative to your traditional MSP, where we have partnered with large staffing organizations to help their clients meet their diversity spend through our platform.
Lee Kantor: [00:01:46] So, now, can you talk a little bit about the back story? What was the impetus to get involved, not only in just staffing, but also to specialize in the areas you specialized in?
Lynette Mathews: [00:02:01] Yeah. I can speak to that. I think, you know, every third party recruiting firm kind of has to figure out what their niche is and what their expertise is. We don’t want to be everything to everybody, and I don’t think we have the bandwidth to do that. But what we did is kind of assess our internal resources and figure out what we’re all good at and what areas we’ve actually worked in, in past careers outside of recruiting, and figure out who’s got what expertise and what network set up in those specialties. So, it really turned out that, from the inception, we found we had a lot of internal engineering supply chain and even some production operations and manufacturing operations expertise among our resources. And that just kind of drove the channels that we started to market in, that we started to find business in, and that we were able to expand in very successfully.
Lee Kantor: [00:02:58] Now, what is kind of the pros and cons when a company is thinking about when they need more talent? What’s kind of the pros and cons of going with recruiters as opposed to doing it in-house?
Lynette Mathews: [00:03:10] So, you know, some companies do have dedicated resources internally for talent sourcing, but, you know, if you only have two to three positions that are open a year, it doesn’t really make a whole lot of sense from a cost perspective to have a full-time person onboard that you’re paying benefits on that is exclusively managing those hires. So, really, what happens in some companies is that they push those activities onto their H.R. staff. And then, it turns out that in conjunction with their other duties, you know, benefits, staff development, safety, retention, compliance, succession planning, I mean, the list goes on. Basically what happens is, it’s kind of hard to throw that occasional recruiting assignment into the mix on those H.R. people. So, really what happens is it becomes sort of a cost benefit analysis. You know, why would we want to contract with a third party firm to get that hiring and talent sourcing best practices in place? And I mean, really, at the end of the day, if you’re in that situation, it makes a lot of sense.
Lynette Mathews: [00:04:23] The other thing that we find in our business, the reason that we get pulled in on a lot of job searches is, because of our expertise, you know, a typical H.R. manager who may be doing some recruiting on the side doesn’t necessarily know all the ins and outs of the engineering lingo or the supply chain lingo. And, you know, they may be operating on some key words that are fed to them via the hiring manager. But, you know, unless you can literally get somebody on the phone and prescreen them with some level of expertise in terms of the subject matter that you’re talking about and really be able to vet those candidates out against the requirements for that job along with the cultural fit, then, really, that’s where our value comes into play.
Lee Kantor: [00:05:12] Now, are the folks that you’re looking to hire or place, are they already employed? I would imagine the unemployment rate for these folks is pretty low. And I would imagine if you’re not doing this all the time, it’s hard to kind of vet and find the exact right fit.
Lynette Mathews: [00:05:31] Well, that’s kind of the other value of a third party firm like TalentStream, where, basically, a lot of the candidates that we are sourcing are passive candidates. They’re gainfully employed. Lee, I’m sure you’ve heard the term headhunter. We get poked with that term every now and then, but that’s really somebody who’s going out there and figuring out who’s got the exact criteria that our clients are looking for. And, oftentimes, they are working for other companies or competitors. And that’s not to say we’re in the business of swiping good talent out of other companies, but it’s about timing in someone’s career. Are they poised to make a move because of the progression they’ve made where they are currently? Has the market fluctuated in their industries such that they might be looking around because they need to, maybe, reposition in an industry that’s a little stronger right now in the market? So, yeah, we sort of are the radar. We bring the radar to a lot of talent that’s not necessarily inbound via some job posting.
Lee Kantor: [00:06:41] Right. I would imagine that that’s really a lot of the value. I mean, it’s one thing, the opportunity cost of the H.R. or internal person to be doing this kind of work or not. But the fact that you specialize in this, and this is what you’re doing 24/7, and this is what you’re thinking about, and you’re kind of learning where these people hang out. And what do you have to say to get on their radar to help them, maybe the talent, find that right fit that’s going to inspire them and to help them be the most they can be. I think you’re creating win-win situations everywhere.
Lynette Mathews: [00:07:17] Well, that and the fact that, you know, when you do this day in, day out for a while, the 80/20 rule finally kicks in, Lee. And we have a pretty robust network. So, it turns out that some of the really good candidates or prospects that are out there that may be gainfully employed, but that may want to start looking around will actually reach out to us and say, “You know, what do you have on your radar? I’m sensing some shift where I am, and I think it might be time.” And so, you know, a lot of it is serendipitous, it might be timing where the candidate reaches out and aligned with a job order that we have from a client. So, you know, we kind of are that broker in the talent sourcing arena.
Lee Kantor: [00:08:03] Now, has anything changed in your industry since COVID? I would imagine the work from home aspect of the job has impacted things. How have things changed because of COVID?
Lynette Mathews: [00:08:18] Well, certainly we are seeing a lot more remote work options even in the interviewing arena. We’re seeing a lot of video interviews being conducted as opposed to bringing people on site. I still have a lot of clients that are at that kind of last mile interview is required onsite because a lot of our job orders are so tied to manufacturing, that many of these openings sort of require from both parties to take a good look at, you know, expertise on the floor, cultural fit, and all that kind of thing.
Lynette Mathews: [00:08:55] But you’re right, I mean, a lot of the remote work situation has changed the dynamic. I think the good news is – you hear the word disruption all the time, Lee, and, you know, disruption is either good or bad, right? Despite some of the job losses that have occurred because of COVID, I think a lot of companies have done some internal inspections, some reassessment of their current resources, and decided, you know, do we have the best people onboard? Are we really helping develop our employee retention and growth trajectories? And in some cases, they’ve seen some people jump ship because there’s been some uncertainty in the market. And I think companies are taking some very strong looks at how do we best fill our positions and retain our real strong talent.
Lynette Mathews: [00:09:49] So, some of the disruption due to COVID has caused some internal reassessment. But I also think that in the fields that we place in, it’s been pretty steady. To be quite honest with you, over the last five years, the median wages for the college educated type recruitment that we do has steadily gone up. In fact, it’s increased by about 18 percent since 2015. So, we’re not seeing any downside in that. And then, I also think that despite COVID, I mean, our unemployment rates are still lower than they were, say, in 2010 by still about four percent. So, you know, the market looks grim sometimes when all you do is read the news or listen to the media. But, quite frankly, I think we’ve seen still some healthy growth in a lot of the sectors.
Lee Kantor: [00:10:42] Now, being a woman-owned or minority-owned business as you are, why is that kind of maybe an advantage for your firm as it is compared to other firms?
Jessica Clayton: [00:10:57] I’ll jump in here on the kind of minority-end or women-and organizations, and I think that when you kind of think — partner with a woman-owned organization, first and foremost, is social responsibility. And we strongly believe that a strong supplier diversity program that really reflects the demographics of an organization’s workforce is going to resonate both with external and internal stakeholders. And as we all know, diversity and inclusion is a hot topic right now, as it should be. And partnering with women-owned and minority-end owned firms is one way to show an organization’s commitment to really changing the world for the better.
Jessica Clayton: [00:11:40] And while social responsibility is clearly one of the most important reasons that we encourage companies to partner with us on either the direct hire side of our business and the third party recruitment services, but also with our diversity supplier platform. We also encourage clients and reinforce that there are a lot of other advantages to partnering with a WBENC certified organization from growth opportunities and business opportunities, access to certain RFPs that they may not have had access to before. And then, of course, the federal, state, and local tax incentives that they receive for conducting business with certified women in businesses. And, again, they can get those advantages on both sides of our business, the third party recruiting and our DSP.
Lee Kantor: [00:12:34] Now, let’s talk a little bit about kind of how this industry has evolved over the years. This isn’t your grandfather’s supply chain or manufacturing anymore. This isn’t like a male only industry. I mean, it’s a primarily male, I would imagine, but there’s a lot of opportunities for females in this industry. Do you have any advice for that young female that, maybe, hasn’t had engineering or supply chain or manufacturing on their radar as a career path? It’s evolved now where this is more, maybe, female friendly.
Jessica Clayton: [00:13:07] Absolutely. And I think as Lynette, our resident mechanical engineer, Georgia Tech grad – Lynnette, you may be more suited to answer that question on just some advice for young women engineers.
Lynette Mathews: [00:13:22] Well, and I mean, I don’t know whether you’re asking us about opportunities for women in recruitment or whether you’re talking about how we’re filling these roles with some diverse resources.
Lee Kantor: [00:13:35] Well, I’m just trying to let women, especially young women, out there, I would like them to be aware that there’s so much opportunity. These are really good jobs and that they should consider manufacturing, engineering, and supply chain as an area to pursue as a career that they may not be thinking about, because in their head, they’re picturing it in this old school way of, you know, “I got to lift heavy objects. It’s dirty.” And that world has changed dramatically.
Lynette Mathews: [00:14:08] Oh, absolutely. And, Lee, you know, one of the things that has changed that dramatically is the overlay of automation in all of the manufacturing environments. Industry 4.0, which is really getting a lot of data from your equipment, from your machines, so much is computer driven and PLC driven. You know, the old days of the wrench and hammer just kind of gone. And that’s not to say that people, you know – I mean, I used to work in a sheet metal fabrication shop, Lee. I mean, I was a roll up your sleeves, get out there with the welders, and do some inspection, and that kind of thing.
Lynette Mathews: [00:14:49] But, quite frankly, you’re right. The industry has changed, particularly in high volume manufacturing environments. Now, so much of it is automated. We have so much more robotics in play in some of the manufacturing operations, vision systems, you’ll see so much feedback control. So, a lot of times it’s really being able to – I mean, certainly the software, the data driven, the analytics, six sigma had a lower variance in your operations. So much of that is what’s really driving the continuous improvement within the manufacturing environments these days.
Lee Kantor: [00:15:29] And so, that means that it is available. The skill set necessary is something, obviously, that a female could easily handle. It’s not something, “I have to be super strong and I’m going to have to lift a ton of things.” It’s not that environment anymore. Like you said, it’s clean, robotic, automated. There’s a lot of other things that go into having a successful career in engineering and supply chain and manufacturing that maybe it did 20 years ago.
Lynette Mathews: [00:16:00] Oh, absolutely. And surprisingly enough, because I do maintain a healthy relationship with my alma mater, Georgia Tech, I mean, last year they had just short of 50 percent enrollment of women in the school and about 30 percent of those were in engineering fields.
Lee Kantor: [00:16:21] Which is a dramatic shift because that wasn’t the way it was 20, 30 years ago.
Lynette Mathews: [00:16:28] Well, and if you look at the U.S. Labor statistics, careers that are still growing and that have, you know, as far as the wage rates are going and the salary increases are going, certainly engineering is one of the top professional career paths. I mean, you see, certainly, a lot in the software fields. I mean, that’s huge, anything computer engineering and data driven. But supply chain has so much of that in it now that it’s got a huge overlap with all of the data analytics and demand planning aspects that go into the software systems.
Lee Kantor: [00:17:08] Now, let’s kind of dive into this diversity supplier platform that this is a relatively new offering. How is that kind of working for you and how do you help and partner with your clients to help them kind of get the most value from that?
Jessica Clayton: [00:17:24] Thanks for asking about the Diversity Supplier Platform. It is a newer offering for us and we’re really excited about it, and have seen some really good traction even over the last six months. Obviously, everything kind of paused there for a little bit in 2020, but we’re starting to see a lot of traction and have signed on quite a few more clients, both on the staffing side and the end user client side in the last month.
Jessica Clayton: [00:17:54] So, as we discussed earlier, TalentStream is a certified WBENC organization and we’re proud to have held that distinction. We’re Going on seven years now. And in addition, we formed a strategic alliance with Talent Code, which is a certified MBE organization, to offer our Diversity Supplier Platform. So, I’m not sure, Lee, if you’re familiar with an MSP. But an MSP is a Managed Service Provider that often has a variety of staffing firms that they bring to an end user client. And that end user client manufacturer, really, call center or whatever it may be, is able to gain the advantage of using a variety of staffing suppliers. And what we’ve done is kind of create an alternative to that traditional MSP. We provide many of the same benefits, including a single point of contact, we have centralized billing, enhanced compliance through third party audits.
Jessica Clayton: [00:18:56] But the difference is, our platform is fully integrated with our staffing partners’ front and back office, allowing the end user client to still work with their trusted staffing provider without the duplication of processes that often impact cost of services. So, we are integrated with our staffing suppliers platforms. We then work together and partner together to provide staffing for the end user client. And they are able to then claim that spend as diversity spend with a woman-owned partner. And we partnered with some of the largest staffing organizations in the country thus far and it’s been really exciting. We’re continuing to add new staffing organizations and end user clients on the platform. Our current alliance serves a variety of clients, including one of the largest automotive OEMs, global 3PL logistics company, large call center, one of the largest packaging companies in the world, just to mention a few.
Jessica Clayton: [00:20:01] So, we’ve seen a lot of benefits for both our staffing partners and end user clients for them to be able to really meet that social responsibility that we spoke about earlier, as well as get some of the other benefits that come with partnering with a WBENC certified or MBE certified organization.
Lee Kantor: [00:20:21] So, what could we be doing to help you? What do you need more of now? Do you need more folks to jump on that Diversity Supplier Platform? Do you need more talent to place? Do you need more clients? How can we help you?
Jessica Clayton: [00:20:35] We always love more clients. You know, we are committed to growing and continuing to grow. We’ve had an exciting last three to four years and really see a lot of opportunity for the next 10, 15, 20 years. So, you know, introductions to clients that can use and see the benefits of using a third party recruiter on the direct hire side that have those positions that are just hard to fill. Or that their H.R. department is having trouble filling because of all of their other responsibilities and they’re looking for that time back. That’s one introduction that would be great.
Jessica Clayton: [00:21:15] And also just those companies, maybe, on the staffing side that run into situations where they’re looking for a solution to be able to partner with a diverse-owned company and bring that partnership to their end user clients. Those are the companies that are best suited for this diversity supplier platform.
Lee Kantor: [00:21:44] Now, if somebody wanted to learn more, have a more substantive conversation with you or somebody on your team, what’s the website or best way to get a hold of you?
Jessica Clayton: [00:21:52] Yes. Our website is www.talentstream, like a river, staffing.com. And we also are both on LinkedIn, Jessica Clayton and Lynette Mathews, and that’s Mathews with one T. And you can find our company page on LinkedIn as well, TalentStream.
Lee Kantor: [00:22:14] Well, Jessica and Lynette, thank you so much for sharing your story. You’re doing important work and we appreciate you.
Jessica Clayton: [00:22:20] We appreciate your time.
Lynette Mathews: [00:22:21] It was great speaking with you, Lee.
Lee Kantor: [00:22:23] All right. This is Lee Kantor. We will see all next time on GWBC Open for Business.
The Greater Women’s Business Council (GWBC®) is at the forefront of redefining women business enterprises (WBEs). An increasing focus on supplier diversity means major corporations are viewing our WBEs as innovative, flexible and competitive solutions. The number of women-owned businesses is rising to reflect an increasingly diverse consumer base of women making a majority of buying decision for herself, her family and her business.
GWBC® has partnered with dozens of major companies who are committed to providing a sustainable foundation through our guiding principles to bring education, training and the standardization of national certification to women businesses in Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina.