Thought Leader Q&A: Talking Staff Augmentation Challenges And Sourcing Top-Tier Talent With Rodrigo Salazar

Thought Leader Q&A: Rodrigo Salazar
Summary: This Thought Leader Q&A features Rodrigo Salazar from SweetRush, who explores how staff augmentation solutions can help improve L&D ROI and learner engagement.

How Can eLearning Staff Augmentation Help Organizations Fulfill Their Needs Rapidly?

Rodrigo Salazar is SweetRush's Director, Talent Solutions. The company is known in the industry as a vendor capable of designing and delivering effective and engaging solutions for significant yet challenging projects, and to do so requires a high caliber of talent. SweetRush's Talent Solutions' mission is two-fold: finding talent for SweetRush internally, and sourcing talent for their clients in a staff augmentation capacity. Today, Rodrigo speaks with us about augmentation obstacles and how to address them with the right talent sourcing solutions.

What is one of the biggest challenges modern organizations must face when sourcing talent to augment their staff?

Fundamentally, everyone seeking talent faces the same challenge, and it's all about securing high performers. We can all recognize high performers—they stand out as the people who take ownership, get the job done brilliantly, and always bring a lot of value. Industry research indicates they are worth as much as four to eight times the value of an average employee.

This is the caliber of talent we all want and really need on our teams—it's certainly the bar for talent at SweetRush. This need is exacerbated in a staff augmentation capacity when you need not only a high performer, but the type of person who knows how to fit in quickly, is self-motivated, and gets traction fast. So, the challenge we all face—all organizations face—is not filling a seat, but filling it with an A-list player.

OK…but that top-tier talent is always in high demand. How does SweetRush's Talent Solutions team secure these professionals, and what sets your approach apart?

There are a lot of obvious things I could say here, but I'd rather focus on things most people, even most recruiting agencies, are not aware of, and it's really where the magic is. Because of who we are in the industry and the custom learning solutions we produce for our clients, we've had to build high-caliber teams for over 20 years. We've also been doing so as a service for our clients for eight years. Top of the list in our secret sauce—and this answer may surprise you—is that we treat everyone with caring and respect.

We know that, for any one search, we may hire one person and hundreds will not get the position. This can feel like a rejection, and we want those hundreds to feel good about themselves and how they were treated. Hopefully, they will all remain in our constellation of potential future hires. Many times, these same people go on to join client organizations and, when they need talent, they turn to us because of how we treated them, even if they did not get the job. If we take up someone's time with multiple interviews or an assessment but they don't get the job, we compensate them symbolically to respectfully say, "Thank you, we really do appreciate your time." We want everyone who encounters us to walk away feeling good.

We really don't see ourselves as a recruiting or a temporary staffing agency, but rather a Learning and Development company that offers talent and team building as a value-added service. The folks on my team have a deep understanding of the L&D craft, they are empathetic, and they try to bring value to every conversation. People know SweetRush as a company with heart—and that is so important—and also as a team that is dedicated to the craft and very selective about finding coworkers to join us or our clients in what really is demanding work.

So…all in all…there is a culture and multifaceted holistic framework that enables us to excel at securing really great talent, both for SweetRush internally and for our clients. Every day I meet with clients who are amazed that we are able to fulfill their needs quickly and with great talent, and I understand why it's hard for them. Top-tier talent are in demand and they get to choose who they work with, and thankfully, for a variety of reasons, they like working with us. The formula works for our clients, the talent, and us.

What sort of people or roles do you place, and how successful do your engagements tend to be?

We have many Instructional Designers and Learning Experience Designers, learning-focused project managers, and creative multimedia design talent placed with clients. These folks often provide a skillset missing on a team, or they have multiple skills and can handle all aspects of a project from start to finish. To fill these roles, we're always sourcing new talent, and we are adept at doing so. We've also built a strong and trusted pool of talent. It's extremely rare for us to have an alignment mismatch—it's happened, but it's very rare.

Each client's needs and each assignment are unique. Aligning their needs with the right specialized talent is the art and science of what we do, and it's what makes our work both challenging and engaging.

For example, an interesting request that has been coming up more and more is for LMS consulting. Everyone has an LMS and there are hundreds of LMS vendors; the market is fluid, and now clients are looking to transition from internal servers to cloud-based systems. There is a strong need for help from an unbiased party, not an LMS vendor, and this is an area in which we have deep expertise. On one very large project, we are guiding the LMS cloud transition and, at the same time, we're building courses for this client. This project requires a lot of different skillsets, and it's been rewarding to take on this effort.

We love the talent and clients we get to work with, and thankfully everyone wins from these arrangements when the fit is right.

Are there recent projects or initiatives you'd like our readers to know about?

Yes, absolutely. We recently placed 25 Instructional Designers with one client, and making that happen quickly was challenging and energizing for the team. It's just cool when we get to really flex our muscles and help a client who is in a jam. Another project that is exciting is a large custom learning project that is a hybrid effort between our Talent Solutions temporary talent and our Custom Development team. Our XR team is also involved in this project, creating web-based simulations. At SweetRush in general and in my Talent Solutions team, we are feeling great about our ability to be nimble and meet different kinds of client needs as they emerge. I've got to say how fortunate we all are that this is just such a vibrant field with amazing talent, and the work we do, like these two projects I just mentioned, will have a huge impact not only on our clients' bottom line, but really on the learners and society at large.

Are there common misconceptions about talent augmentation solutions? And what would you say is the bottom line?

We've all been hearing about "the gig economy," but I don't think folks realize just how much of the US workforce are contractors or temporary staff of some kind. My observation is that our clients, who are, for the most part, large corporations, are inherently adaptable and always organically adjusting to market conditions. Most have adopted a hybrid workforce model with a mix of W2 and temporary staff. I know this model works, is smart, fits their needs, and provides flexible opportunities for people who want to fill those roles. Let's not forget where we started this conversation, that everyone desires high performers, and many high performers like the freedom and flexibility of being on temporary assignments with specific, clear objectives. And, of course, there are many other reasons why people desire flexibility in the duration, hours, and location of their professional engagements. So, this way of working can and does fit for all parties.

The bottom line is there is an ongoing need to source and secure high performers and to match their unique talents with nuanced client needs. This is the art and science that has SweetRush Talent Solutions up every day and eager to engage in conversations with clients and talent to find those perfect matches. It's challenging and yet fun and fulfilling.

Wrapping Up

A big thanks to Rodrigo Salazar for participating in our Q&A and sharing his insights with our community. SweetRush's approach to business development is consultative, which is to say they're always ready to engage in a discussion to understand the nuanced needs of their clients. If anyone needs talent to augment their team, be it one or a team of 30, be it to take on a specific role or project or to manage an entire service, they are ready to engage in that discussion and find the best solution to achieve their clients' goals. You can learn more about staff augmentation solutions by visiting their website.