Top 100 HR Influencer Lars Schmidt

When Lars Schmidt launched NPRLife, a twitter hashtag that gives an inside look at working at NPR, it was one more in a series of bold, inexpensive moves. Schmidt, who has built Recruiting teams around the media industry, is the prototype of a pioneer.

In conversation, Lars seems to have a built in reminder. Somewhere, in the back of his brain, a little alarm goes off. "Say it now. Say it now." Then, as if you’ve never heard him say it before,

"Never let what might go wrong get in the way of what could go right."

In practice, that means he takes a lot of whacks at the jungle to see if there’s a path. Although Schmidt doesn’t describe himself this way, he is the poster child for a rapid experimentation, rapid fail approach to getting things done. Try it, see if there’s traction. If there isn’t, stop. If there is, do more.

He tells the story of his second or third day at NPR (where he is the Director of Talent Acquisition)."I’d just gotten there. All of a sudden, I was supposed to be co-hosting a hackathon with Google at South by Southwest." As he details the scramble to understand the problem (why co-host a hackathon?) and generate useful collateral while packing, you get a clear picture of Lars in action.

This is a guy who creates a reality distortion field that causes stuff to happen. Somehow, he aligns himself with the fates and good things flow in his direction.

"Never let what might go wrong get in the way of what could go right."

So, why is NPR hosting hackathons?

"We compete for talent in three distinct areas. The thing you’d expect, media and journalism is on the nameplate. That’s a tireless hyper competitive area that is our legacy. In recent years, however, our digital team has come into its own. NPR is really a digital operation. We compete directly with high-tech companies for the best talent in technology and other digital expression. Finally, we compete for business people. That’s where our recruiting has its deepest local orientation."

That’s an impressive span for an operation driven by contributions. In this role, Lars is demonstrating how to make a little budget go a long way.

"Branding is critical for Recruiting", he says. "In the news business, the product is the brand that matters. In Digital, it’s our national employment brand. What matters locally is how we’re perceived as a place to work. These are distinct manageable aspects of Branding. In our industry, we call it Employment Branding. It’s really just a layer of engagement with the overall brand."

We spoke about influence in four different ways.

  • Influences on Lars
    One of the great things about most influential people is that they give credit easily. The list of people who influence Lars is long and you’d recognize most of them (They are almost all on this Top 100 List). He tells glowing stories about being welcomed into the social media scene by an army of people who are generous with their time and insight.
  • Influence as a trait to hire for
    Both the Media and Digital components of the NPR employment Brand
    are environments where influence and audience reach matter. While there is no current activity to use influence as a hiring criteria, Lars clearly understands its utility.
  • Influence as a way of reaching potential employees
    Part of the brilliance of #NPRLife is that it gets its traction from the reach of the people who work for NPR. The initial launch was accelerated by a series of tweets from a well known on-air personality.
  • The measurement of Influence
    We talked for some time about the idea that influence can be measures. In general, we agreed that
    things are very primitive now but that you have to go through the primitive phase to get to useful tools.

Keep your eyes on LArs Schmidt. His experimental attitude is exactly the way that innovation will percolate into our R&D free environment. In his case, influence is a combination of position, temperament and the willingness to leverage whatever you have.

 
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