Recruiting Black Executive Talent (w/ Kenneth L. Johnson)

Zach sits down with Kenneth L. Johnson, the president of East Coast Executives and a diversity recruiter, to talk about how organizations can better source and retain Black executive level talent. Check the links in the show notes to connect with Kenneth and learn more about East Coast Executives!

You can connect with Kenneth on LinkedIn and Twitter.

Click here to check out the official East Coast Executives website.


SPEAKER 1 0:10

What’s up, y’all, this is Zach we live in corporate. And you know how you got 12 Days of Christmas, right? We’re doing this thing, 12 days a podcast. So that’s 12 days of podcast, leading up to Christmas Day and a little bit after because it’s 12 days, really excited about this, want to make sure that y’all hear some of the great content that we have in our vault from earlier this year, that we didn’t release because of timing or scheduling and coordination. But we’re still really excited about it. So the next thing you’re going to hear is a conversation that we had earlier this year. I really hope that you check it out and you enjoy it. But before we get there, we’re going to tap in with Tristan.

SPEAKER 2 0:53

What’s going on living corporate FAM. It’s Tristan of lay field, resume consulting, and I’ve teamed up with living corporate to bring you all a weekly career tip. This week, let’s talk about how you can gain new skills without going back to school. Sometimes we’ll utilize the skills we currently have to their maximum capacity, or we need to learn something new in order to advance our careers. But we don’t want to go back to school. I get it school is expensive, and it isn’t getting any cheaper anytime soon. So here’s a few ways you can gain some new skills without going back to school. First, consider professional certifications. Maybe you want to get into project management, consider taking a project management professional PMP course and certification exam. Or if you want to get into HR, maybe you can work towards a professional Human Resources certification. Next, utilize the internet. Places like Coursera and Skill share, among many others offer free and low cost courses to gain new skills. Also, let’s not discount YouTube University not only can utilize YouTube to learn the specific tasks you need to complete, but there are even whole courses on YouTube. Next, consider entrepreneurship. I think many people discredit the skills you can learn through entrepreneurship. Take me for example, in my business, I didn’t just learn more about recruiting and resumes. I learned digital marketing, social media marketing, more operations, skills, bits of accounting, sales and so much more. While this may not have been taken into account previously, this idea of intrapreneurship or having an entrepreneurial mind-set while working in corporate is taking off so skills gained like this are becoming more valuable. You can also utilize entrepreneurship to break into new industries that you’ve been trying to get into in order to gain some experience. Next, consider internships. I know working for free or at a discounted rate is not usually what we want to do. But sometimes experience is just the best teacher it can also open new doors if you give it your all. This is also a great way to break into new industries. So those are just a few ways you can gain some additional skills without heading back to anyone’s campus and amassing more student loan debt. This tip was brought to you by Justin of lay field. Resume consulting, check us out on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook at Lakefield. Resume or connect with me Tristan lay field on LinkedIn.

SPEAKER 1 3:10

This week we have Kenneth L Johnson, Kenneth L Johnson is the president of East Coast, East Coast executives is a diversity recruiter, TEDx organizer and TEDx speaker, Forbes career coach, Google Learning Center NYC facilitated hosts at the career seekers show and a host of urban League’s jobs networking I look, I can read this whole extra-long profile, because he’s been featured in black enterprise magazine. He’s been all over the place, right? But I want to make sure that we actually get to Canada and he can we can talk more about what he’s got going on his background, his journey. Right now. Kenneth, welcome to the show. How you doing, man?

SPEAKER 3 3:45

Oh, man, I’m good. I see. I’m in the right place. I was listening to intro I’m like, All right I am at right place.

SPEAKER 1 3:54

Now, now look, I would be remiss to not ask how are your friends and family or loved ones during this time?

SPEAKER 3 4:02

Man, you know what, I appreciate the consideration. It’s been rough. You know what here in Harlem. So you know, New York City is the epicenter of this thing right now. COVID is ravaging the residents of New York City. So we’ve had, you know, some losses close to us family members, family members of the team. I sit on a call every Monday with members of the New York Urban League. I’m the diversity recruitment consultant for the New York Urban League as well. And there hasn’t been a week that’s passed that someone on that team and it’s a team of 11 people, I believe that someone hasn’t lost a family member or are really close friends. So it’s been a challenge, you know, internally, and also a challenge with some of our clients that we support. So, you know, prayers that everybody across the world across the globe, right? Because this is this isn’t just a New York thing or USA this is a global pandemic. So

SPEAKER 1 5:02

So let’s talk a little bit about it. Like I gave a bit of an intro. But I’d love to hear more about for the folks who don’t know you share a little bit more about what you got going on your profile. And what are you doing during this season?

SPEAKER 3 5:19

All right. So you know, I think you started out in the right place, I’m president of East Coast executives were diversity recruitment firm, based out of Harlem, New York. So companies come to us when they’re looking to add diverse talent to their recruitment pipelines. That’s the foundation, everything else kind of grew off of that, right. So I started my business back in Oh, one. So I’ve been doing this for a minute. But it’s always kind of what I knew I wanted to do, I just didn’t know it existed. But I knew what I wanted to do, I didn’t know how to frame it. And when I finally was able to get a grasp on that, I was able to kind of move in the direction that I needed to move into. But everything else kind of came from the work that we do in that space. So the, you know, the relationships with Forbes and the relationships with Google, and relationships with TEDx. All of that stuff came from the work we do as a diversity recruitment leader.

SPEAKER 1 6:16

And so let’s talk about like, it’s interesting. Like, I want to learn more about how you were able to engage in all these different various spaces, right, so we got your TEDx Forbes curriculum like Google, like how did What did it look like to build this? This network over time?

SPEAKER 3 6:33

Yeah, that’s a really good question. And you know, the only way I can explain is that. And you notice, because you’re building it right now. It’s the work right. So the work and the relationships. When I was able to secure the career secret show with the show we do out in Philly, that’s the hometown. So it’s a show we do out in Philly on 106 point five wpm FM, and we branded as your only source for career and job search information with a focus on diversity. When I got that I was coming from a place of giving, right? They have a studio out there called Philly cam. And I wanted to record some of my live workshops, I do some workshops in Philly, with a place called Project home. And basically they’re designed to support people that are homeless with connecting with employment, right. So it was coming straight from a place of giving. And I said, you know, the workshops are really good. I’d like to record them. And then I don’t have to come out here and do this every, you know, every Wednesday, we can record it and keep it going. Because we’ve been doing eight week cycles. And as I was learning how to physically record the like audio and visual, like how to record I was taking a class on cameras and things of that nature. It just so happened that the TV studio said, hey, you know what, we actually are starting a radio station. And we think your idea would be great for radio. So they came to me with it. So I just had positioned myself in the right place at the right time. And I find that a ton of the stuff that I became involved in has came from a place of giving and doing the right thing. And then through that people have came to me and said, Listen, I got an opportunity that I think makes some sense.

SPEAKER 1 8:21

And so then, you know, as I think about as I think about like media, and I think about like kind of the work that you’ve been doing, of course, like I keep up with your content. I saw your show without Minda hearts. Yeah. Right. And so

SPEAKER 3 8:36

Which one? Was the show from the digital Career Success Series show?

SPEAKER 1 8:42

Yes, that one, the digital. That was great. That was fired.

SPEAKER 3 8:46

We actually did that at Microsoft Technology Center in Times Square here in Manhattan. It was great, because we did it during the New York Urban League Centennial job fair. We I brought him in the end. And we did a live digital Career Success Series. Anybody that’s listening to wants to see that can go to the URL jobs network, YouTube channel. Great. Great. Show.

SPEAKER 1 9:12

Let’s talk a little bit more about like, about COVID-19. Right. And like, you know, your space is executive recruitment. And really kind of like in building representation of in this space. I’d love to know more about as we look at this time, I’d love to know more about what does recruitment look like right now, particularly for black and brown executive leadership roles, considering the compression that we’re seeing economically right now?

SPEAKER 3 9:41

Yeah, true. You know, so I’ve been thinking about this. And here’s the thing I’m going to try to answer this question isn’t as intelligently as possible, because I want everyone to understand as you have mentioned, this memorial day, so what were maybe five or six weeks and to this day, I don’t even want to say new normal. Cuz I don’t know if we know what the new normal is going to look like, but we’re five to six weeks and on, you know, really being in golf by this pandemic here in this country, right? So from a recruitment standpoint, we’re making decisions based on what we believe things are going to look like in 2030, versus what they’re going to look like in 2020. We just have to be proactive and kind of think it through and see how things might look moving forward. So for us, I think, in a sense, as a as a diversity recruitment firm, I think we’re at an advantage and I don’t know if I’ve ever been at an advantage in the 20. Well, I’m sorry, that 19 years that we’ve been in business, I don’t know if we’ve ever been at an advantage. But right now, I think there’s a levelling of the playing field. And here’s why I say this, that now, as people, I believe that companies are going to start embracing remote work a little more diligently a little more, I think it’s going to be the way people look at things, right. So from our perspective, if I have Zack, where you’re in Texas, right? What’s missing Houston, man? All right. So you’re in Houston, shout out to everybody out there. So traditionally, if I was recruiting someone for a job in New York City, I would typically if the company wasn’t doing relocation, I would have to pretty much stay with a candidate pool that’s in the tri state area, primarily. Now, I can honestly, hopefully, give Zach Nunn a call and say, hey, listen, you don’t even have to move. I have an opportunity in New York. And they’re 100% comfortable with you working remotely. Right? So now I really pitch you for a job as a diverse candidate. And you’re not even in that city. Now, New York has a good representation of diversity as Houston does. But how about the companies and cities that may not be as diverse are simply cities were. And let’s just be real for us, you know, I’m talking about black people, maybe cities where black people prefer not to live, whatever they may be, for whatever reason, now, I can honestly recruit people from markets, I can recruit people from Atlanta, I can recruit people from Houston, and I can send them to cities that maybe they haven’t looked at in the past, but because it’s a remote opportunity, and they may only need to travel to those cities a couple times a month at best. That’s an option now. Right, right. Yeah, so. And that’s how we always recruited, like we had a globe, we had a national footprint, but sometimes it was just a matter of moving talent around. So I think we’re at an advantage because typically, you know, we try to stay abreast of who the subject matter experts or who the influences are, who the top people are in each city. And that way, you know, I think our line to filling an actual search request may be shorter or a little more streamlined from a diversity standpoint than the traditional company’s talent acquisition team.

SPEAKER 1 13:17

What are you seeing from some of the companies that you’ve worked with? As it pertains to attracting talent right now? Like, does it seem as if folks are kind of like pausing on that? Are they kind of are they still trying to figure out ways to make it work? Or? I’m not asking if it’s not slow at all. I would imagine it’s slow, somewhat. But what trends or patterns, if any, have you been seeing from your clients right now?

SPEAKER 3 13:42

So, you know, the way I kind of judge it is, you know, how much passive how many passive inquiries do we get? You know, on an average month, right, so I will say during the pandemic, and so I only have like a month sample. But we’ve received, we’ve had some conversations with some really big companies that and this has been out of the blue, like typically, I’m in business development mode, I’m touching people I’m trying to get these conversations started. And people have actually been reaching out to us from, from fortune 50 companies saying, hey, listen, can we have a conversation about, you know, the services that you provide, and how maybe we can partner to add some diversity? And that’s, that’s been great. So I think this time, because maybe people have slowed down some of the actual hiring. It’s allowed the talent acquisition teams and the recruitment teams to sit back and say, all right, where do we need to get better? What do we what have we been wanting to do? What’s been in the mission that we’re kind of falling short on? If that’s diversity, then what do we need to do to kind of ramp up prior to us coming out of the pandemic like so when we come out? We’re moving in the right way. Direction. And in turn, I think we’ve received some calls because of that. So the companies aren’t doing as much hiring, but I think they’re doing a lot of strategic positioning.

SPEAKER 1 15:12

So, let’s talk a little bit. So when you say strategic positioning, like give me a practical example of that.

SPEAKER 3 15:17

Yeah. So without saying the name of companies, because, you know, I just want to keep it completely transparent with you. So I got a call from a company. They have headquarters in New York City, and in Charlotte, and in over in the UK, and they’ve been having some conversations about how I can support them. Right. So really, right now, the conversations just are what’s the process going to be? As we start to identify talent for them? What segments of their industry? Is it? Would it be best for us to support of course, you know, we’d like to come in mid management to it would be great sea level, but typically for us, it kind of looks like VPS, and directors and things of that nature. But where can we most add value? And how do we go about, you know, setting up a strategy that will allow us to just immediately run into seeing some of these candidates companies know that, when we come out, a lot of people have shifted, and a lot of people will be maybe they’re looking for new opportunities are deciding that they want to transition right completely out of an industry. So the strategy involves kind of understanding what type of talent works best for that organization? And then, is there a process that we need to go through here at East Coast executives to identify it and present it? And that’s all what I’m, that’s all I mean, by strategy, it’s pretty standard. But it’s really it often works, where we reach an agreement, we sign a contract to engage in a search, and then we go out and do it this way. We’re kind of speaking about it prior to us engaging in it, and finding a strategy and a system that works best every employer’s process is going to be different moving forward. So are you going to be bringing these people in to meet your team? Directly? And if so, what’s that going to look like, you know, in the in the covid, 19 pandemic? Or even coming out of it? Or are these going to be virtual interviews, where they never meet the members of your team and tell? Right, they might need it for six months? So it’s just a strategy around how we effectively do it moving forward?

SPEAKER 1 17:31

And I’m trying to figure out, like, you know, there’s been a lot of different studies and research about the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 from a health equity perspective, right. So as you think about like, the death rates amongst black and brown communities are significantly higher in some communities, three, four times higher than that of the white counterparts. And, and there have also been predictions about the impact that that is going to have for black and brown folks. And when it comes to unemployment, right, in terms of who will be laid off furloughed? And who will not be and who will somehow find some hedge of protection somewhere. And I’m curious, have you had any conversations or, you know, any discussions with folks around how to mitigate that the How to mitigate black and brown folks catching the worst of this from an employment perspective. As the economy continues to adjust to the pandemic.

SPEAKER 3 18:35

I think you have access to my calendar, apparently. It’s crazy. So I want to say it was probably about nine months ago, give or take McKinsey and Company came out with a study. And they have a study about the future of work in black America. So with that being said, I’ve been reaching out to people about having a national conversation around that topic. Well, so. So we’re going to have a conversation, I think it’s going to be right before Father’s Day, because I’m actually trying to get it to be focused towards black males. Apparently, automation will affect black males the most because we’re in a lot of roles that can be automated. So with that being said, I just wanted to have a conversation about what that looks like for us and what we need to do to lessen the effects of automation on black males and black people in general. Right. So with that being said, I have a conversation plan with some really interesting people that I think will have some great ideas and we want to start addressing it on our own. I don’t think other people need to address this for us. I think we need to be proactive as people of color and address the situation and hold some people accountable for, not for allowing us to continue to earn a living.

SPEAKER 1 20:00

Yeah, I mean, it’s just, it’s really concerning to me. And I recognize that the black men, you know, we do have a position of privilege here and that we benefit from patriarchy. And I’m not saying that we were at the bottom line I, I believe in I think multiple studies in American history points out that black women are at the bottom of the rung. And as we think about systemic inequities, and we think about I just my question, if black men have been considered enough, as it pertains to mistreatment and disparate impact, and I don’t see a lot of like public efforts around black men, right, and making sure that they have the support and resources that they need. And I find that I find that curious, you know, I’m not a psychologist I’ve had, we’ve had folks on the show that we’ve talked about that a little bit in the past, and will continue to delve into but that’s great. That’s awesome. Yeah, I do recall the McKinsey article on the McKinsey research piece, rather, very insightful. And that’s really cool that you’re doing that. So we got to make sure that once as you ramp up around that conversation that happens, you got to come back on the show. And let us know how it went. We got to talk about.

SPEAKER 3 21:12

Yeah, I would love to I’m excited about it. It was just something ever since I, when I saw the study, you know, last year, the end of last year, it’s been on my mind, you know, it’s really been on my mind, because it’s real. And here’s the thing with COVID-19. So, you know, we knew we were headed toward a very automated workplace, right. And now COVID-19 is put that on full blast, we’re not headed there. We’re there. And we’re running even closer to it. So what people thought was going to be the norm and 2030 might be the norm in 2022. So I think we have some serious conversations. You know,

SPEAKER 1 21:54

I don’t want to hold you too long. But I’m curious about, you know, you said, you talked to some you have some clients and some touch up as conversations. What are some of your biggest points of advice for those who are in the middle of a job search right now, for those who are considering to look elsewhere, considering the climate today?

SPEAKER 3 22:11

Sure, you know, so here’s the thing. More than ever, I think the advice we typically share, and we do a class, at the grove with Google Learning Center, here in New York City, on job search, networking. And I think it’s more important now than ever, you know, that just naturally. So you’re out here. And I know, you’ve had some family changes and things of that nature. But you’ve consistently reached out and said, Hey, I know this is going on. But I’m committed to getting this done. And my commitment to being here, because of the importance of your platform, I love your platform. And I just you know, I want to add value. And I think it’s a great place for me to kind of share pieces of my story. But here’s the thing with people that are in a job search are looking to transition. Now, there are so many people that are taking this time, his time off. And I think the separation will be all the people that continue to plow ahead, even though there was a pandemic going on. But people that continue to be active on LinkedIn, continued to network strategically with others, just to try to position themselves for conversations coming out of this, those will be the people that kind of really, really move out of this quickly, right, or those that move out of this with the least amount of impact. I really believe that’s the advice. I have people like continue your process, if you were in a job search, or if you were looking to transition prior to this, I hope you continue doing the same work, and maybe even ramping it up a little more. Because people have been really receptive to a lot of virtual networking. And there’s been opportunities, there’s been more zoom, webinars and things of that nature than you can imagine. Be active, get out there start reaching out to people on the back end of that, and I think it’ll pay dividends.

SPEAKER 1 24:06

Look, y’all heard it right here. I agree with you to that. It’s like, we have to manage this time differently, right? Like, this is not, we’re not working from home, we’re in the middle of a pandemic, there are, you know, folks, folks respond to working from home or being at home and being feeling stuck at home differently than you have different living situations and all different things. So it’s not to minimize or dismiss the reality of some of those challenges, as we all navigate those different social and mental health context differently. And it’s also about thinking through, what does it look like to take advantage of some of the extra time you have if you’re privileged enough to have the extra time. Right. And so I’m right there with you. Man, Kenneth, this has been a super dope conversation, man, you know, I’m really excited that we were having you on the platform. I want to make sure I give you space to plug, you know, the Finland places that are blessed to have you and make sure you have space to talk about those things, man. So you it’s your space you go ahead.

SPEAKER 3 25:01

Now listen, man, I, you know, again, I just think that, uh, you’re doing a great job with the platform, you and your team. Kudos to you guys. All the stuff we do people can find out about by going to East Coast That’s the website. You can find out about the grove with Google stuff you can find out about the career secret show, you can find out about the Urban League jobs network show, you can find out about the events that we do with the New York Urban League, anything and everything that we’re involved in. Is there on that portal. So it’s a one stop shop for us.

SPEAKER 1 25:35

That’s incredible. Yo, this has been leaving corporate. Okay. And this has been Zach, you’ve been listening to Kenneth L. Johnson, President at East Coast executives diversity recruiter TEDx home organizer TEDx speaker, Forbes career coach, Google linings in NYC facilitated host of the career seekers show and host at the urban League’s jobs network. That’s right. Hey, what’s up? What’s up?

SPEAKER 3 25:59

Yesterday, I had to announce that we postponed TEDx Harlem we postponed 2020 TEDx Harlem. We’re going to do it in 2021 is the pandemic said we were going to do it at the National Black theatre here in Harlem on Fifth Avenue 126. Fifth, if you get a chance, if you’re in Harlem, check them out yet, but we were going to do it there. But it’s just we can’t pull it together in time right now. Man. Yeah, so we’re going to do it in 2021. God willing.

SPEAKER 1 26:26

Look, it’s this is the thing. If you’re going to do it, it has to be done. Right? It has to be done safely. It wouldn’t make sense. You do something like that in such a historic location for the people. And people aren’t in the best position. Right? So I get that. That’s awesome. Until next time, y’all. Peace. Listen, I want to thank y’all. I hope that this holiday season is treating you safe that you’re staying warm, and to take care of yourself. We’ll catch you soon. You know what it is we’re creating content and there’s an empathise black and brown folks at work. We do this every single week. Make sure you give us five stars. If you’re not you’re a hater, but I love you anyway? Alright, peace.

SPEAKER 4 27:22

Living corporate is a podcast live in corporate LLC. Our logo was designed by David Dawkins. Our theme music was produced by Ken Burns. Additional music production by Anton Franklin from musical elevation. Post production is handled by Jeremy Jackson. Got a topic suggestion. Email us at living corporate You can find us online on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and living dash Thanks for listening. Stay tuned.

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