Agency for Change- Bryan Seck, Chief Talent Management Strategist, Kawasaki » KidGlov

Announcer:

Welcome to Agency for Change, a podcast from KidGlov that brings you the stories of changemakers who are actively working to improve our communities. In every episode, we’ll meet with people who are making a lasting impact in the places we call home.

Lyn Wineman:

Hey everybody, let the good times roll. We have had many guests on this podcast from nonprofit leaders to financial service executives. Today’s guest works for a brand that’s synonymous with powerful, stylish, and category leading vehicles. Hey everyone, this is Lyn Wineman, president of KidGlov, and today on the agency for change podcast, I’m chatting with my friend, Bryan Seck. Bryan is the chief talent management strategist of Kawasaki. That’s a great title by the way. Bryan, I’m so excited to talk with you. How are you?

Bryan Seck:

I’m very well, thank you for having me today.

Lyn Wineman:

Absolutely. I’m looking forward to this conversation, Bryan. Would you just start by taking a minute to tell us more about Kawasaki? It’s probably a brand that we’re all familiar with, but maybe don’t know the full scope of the company. And tell us about out the work that you do in your role there.

Bryan Seck:

Sure. So Kawasaki is a global company with factories all over the world based in Japan, and opened in the early 1970s here in Lincoln, producing motorcycles for the US market. As the years went by, people’s interest in vehicles changed. Motorcycles actually became less popular with the rise of jet skis and all-terrain vehicles, ATVs, Kawasaki MULEs, and later on Teryx and Brute Force. So actually the motorcycles went back to Japan, and this plant here in Lincoln produces ATVs and jet skis, but also produces the cargo door for the Boeing 777, long block engines for commercial lawnmowers, and also rail cars that are used by New York City, Washington, D.C., the state of Maryland, several other states on the East Coast that have large rail car organizations, Metro Transit Authority in New York. So those are all the things that Kawasaki makes here in Lincoln. We also have two plants in Missouri—Maryville, Missouri, and Boonville, Missouri, that produce engines, Kawasaki engines for commercial lawnmowers.

Lyn Wineman:

I did a lot of work, at one time in my career, in the commercial lawnmower space, and I do remember reading a lot of copy about those great Kawasaki engines.

Bryan Seck:

They’re pretty indestructible. You can see them on most of the brands that you see with the zero-turn radius anywhere you see a lawn mower.

Lyn Wineman:

Fantastic, zero-turn. Man, you’re taking me back to a different time in my career. That’s a pretty amazing product line. I think it’s cool that so many of those things are produced right here in Lincoln, Nebraska, but Bryan, I’d love to hear a bit too about your role. I mentioned earlier that title, chief talent management strategist. First of all, does it fit on one business card? And second of all, what do you actually do?

Bryan Seck:

Yeah, so for that job title, what you do is you hit wrap text around the design of the business card. Then it goes around the front and the back. So it’s kind of like a circular job title. It also has three websites on it because Kawasaki has their own hiring website, which is something that we’re working on. My role is truly, “how do we grow our workforce?” We have an excellent workforce. We have people retiring almost every day now who’ve been with the company for 40 years. The Lincoln plant opened 47 years ago, and we have people who’ve been here 47 years. It’s crazy.

Lyn Wineman:

That’s cool.

Bryan Seck:

The amount of longevity is unbelievable. Recently, Kawasaki announced $200 million plus expansion. So not only do we need to retain of workforce, which is challenging in today’s environment, but we also need to grow, which is even harder. Basically, my role is to be thoughtful and tenacious about getting into new populations to recruit from, but also ensuring on the back end, the recruiters who are on my team and Maryville, Boonville, and Lincoln are able to handle an increased workflow. Because really hiring externally to a large amount is pretty new for us, especially in Lincoln. So it’s not only recruiting. It’s also making sure you have the system to handle the applicants and then handle people to stay with the company.

Lyn Wineman:

You know, Bryan, I have known you for a few years now and I’ve never known you to back away from a challenge, but really to take this job at this point in time, hiring is tougher now than it has been in years. Between we’re all talking about the great resignation and still dealing with COVID. It’s created some unique challenges for a lot of companies. Can you tell me more about how Kawasaki’s journey has been impacted and how you’re overcoming and dealing with this challenge?

Bryan Seck:

Sure. There’s a couple things that are in Kawasaki’s favor. One is that our starting pay is $18.10 an hour plus full benefits.

Lyn Wineman:

Nice.

Bryan Seck:

I’ll put our benefits package against anybody’s. I’ll take the Pepsi Challenge. We take care of our families. Our premiums are excellent. A family of 10 can get insurance through us. We’re self insured. We also have, if you put in 5%, we put in 3% 401k. We have pet insurance. So, all of these benefits are really important. When I think about the workforce who we can go get, who we can go recruit, I think about underemployed people in Lincoln, people who are working multiple part-time jobs to make ends meet. What I can offer is one of three shifts Monday through Friday, eight hours a day, living wage job, $18.10 an hour plus benefits. Are you interested? To me, that’s the pitch. If we think we’re going to go out and recruit experienced fabricators, no. That’d be very difficult, but I think we can go find that single mom or dad or whomever, who’s scraping together positions and help them find a permanent home. When I think about the population to go get, to me, that’s what I think about.

Lyn Wineman:

Bryan, I think the benefits thing is such a big thing. I have kids now that are in the early phases of their careers, right? And some of them are still on my benefits too. You try to explain to them how important that is. I love to hear about companies that really take care of their people. It’s both financial and a piece of mind. I’ve also got to believe if you’re starting people at $18 an hour there’s going to be opportunity to grow and learn and develop, to become an experienced fabricator along the way, and really have some great long-term opportunities as well.

Bryan Seck:

Yeah, no, there’s opportunities to advance in your craft, so becoming a master of what you do. There are also opportunities to advance as leader. There are classes that you can take internally through Kawasaki about leadership development, reading blueprints, all these different things that you can do be successful.

Lyn Wineman:

That’s great.

Bryan Seck:

The other challenge that’s hard is when you’re recruiting to talk about the value of benefits, that’s hard.

Lyn Wineman:

It is really hard.

Bryan Seck:

Because if people are looking for a job, most of the time they’d be looking at the highest salary rate. How do you talk about the value of benefits, I think, is challenging, and, to me, energizing to talk about how it can help people get health insurance.

Lyn Wineman:

Right? That’s a great nut to crack, Bryan. Actually, a huge factor in hiring is reaching and communicating with those job seekers, and sometimes communicating difficult things. How does your team make sure you are doing both in your efforts?

Bryan Seck:

Sure. So when we are posting positions, we’re making sure that we’re leading with benefits. We’re being very transparent about what we pay. There’s a no mystery. We’re also kind of increasing our marketing and outreach to the community. We had an onsite career fair that attracted over 100 people that we hired about 20 out of, which is if anyone’s ever done job fairs, hiring 20 people that show up is unbelievable because a lot of people just come just to check it out. Hiring 20 people out of that is unbelievable, very successful. The other thing that we’re really trying to do is when we bring people in for interviews is we’re sharing with them information as much as we’re interviewing them. So really being cognizant of the fact that this is an opportunity to be in front of somebody and sell us as much as where they’re selling themselves to us as a qualified applicant. So after those are the two ways that we’re thinking about that, but that’s a never stop innovating piece of what we do, just constantly think about how can we tell people it’s the pay and the benefits.

Lyn Wineman:

Yeah, I love that you said that because there’s a lot of ways companies can innovate. It’s not just with technology, it’s not just with manufacturing process, but what you are doing in talent strategy is innovative as well. And so to go along with that, I think you mentioned earlier that you use job portals, you’ve mentioned career fairs. Are you using LinkedIn? I’m just curious, can you share how you are reaching out with these potential job seekers, maybe for anybody who’s listening right now?

Bryan Seck:

Sure, the most important thing I can hear my boss saying is that anyone who’s interested in a career with Kawasaki should go to kawasakilincoln.com, and check that out.

Lyn Wineman:

There you go. Kawasakilincoln.com, I’m going to say it really loud. Then I’m also going to make sure that’s in the show notes too, Bryan.

Bryan Seck:

For sure, we use UKG (UltiPro) as our employee portal and recruiting portal, for what it’s worth. There’s others like ADP. We also share our positions through Indeed and Facebook and LinkedIn and all these different sites, NEworks, community colleges, Handshake through UNL. I think most of our, I wouldn’t say competitors, but fellow manufacturers probably do something similar. I think one thing that sets us apart is the high number of employee referrals that we get. So always make sure that we take care of those employee referrals. Even if it’s somebody we can’t hire, to go back and say, “Thank you for thinking of us. Thank you for thinking of your friend.” Even, if it doesn’t work out. I’d say those are the main ones that we’re using now. However, we’ll be starting a marketing campaign in 2022 on corporate structure. So, really thinking about Kawasaki Motors as one recruiting piece between Nebraska and Missouri, and I’m sure we’ll have more strategies coming up then.

Lyn Wineman:

That sounds good. So keep an eye out for a great marketing campaign coming up in early 2022.

Bryan Seck:

Definitely.

Lyn Wineman:

So, Bryan, we’ve talked a little bit about the COVID-19 pandemic. It impacted so many organizations, so many companies, so many people all over the world. I’m curious, can you speak to how it affected Kawasaki and any pivoting you maybe had to do to refocus your strategy?

Bryan Seck:

On hiring, I think it’s just communicating to folks that we’re in masks here because we’re in the city of Lincoln. If you go work at our friends at TMCO or friends at Lincoln Industries, you’re going to be wearing masks too. We did hear some objection when we had to go back to masks. After, in the summer we were out of masks for a while, and then we came back. So really, I think the biggest challenge was just communicating with our employees that this is something that is a community decision, so we’re going to do it.

Lyn Wineman:

Yeah. Yeah. You don’t really have a choice, right? You don’t really have a choice.

Bryan Seck:

It’s not something that the safety manager decided to do.

Lyn Wineman:

Right.

Bryan Seck:

So I think we communicated that effectively. We have been consistent and people, I think, are used to it. Obviously, when we’re able to drop mask mandates again, I think people would welcome that. But, for now, I think between hand sanitizer stations, being cognizant of distance, masks, I think we’ve done a great job. We’ve been able to really stay within our hiring goals and manpower goals to cope.

Lyn Wineman:

That’s really great. Congratulations to you for that. So, Bryan, I’d love to switch gears. Talk a little bit more about you. I’m curious, how did your path lead you in this direction? Were you an eight-year-old on a playground saying I want to be a talent management strategist when I grow up?

Bryan Seck:

No. No, I thought I was going to be an FBI agent or a Foreign Service Officer or something like that. But no, so I was born in New Jersey. I grew up in Wichita, Kansas. I was very lucky to go to International Baccalaureate High School in Wichita, which really changed my direction. Lincoln High has one here. I went to KU and then I was in the Peace Corps for three years in Kazakhstan, lived in Russia for a while, Spain for a while, and then came back to D.C. I went to grad school at NYU, and got a master’s in public administration. Really focused on program evaluation and metrics, understanding how can nonprofits be affected. I worked our consulting firm there in the Trump Tower on Wall Street for about three years.

Lyn Wineman:

Cool.

Bryan Seck:

Yeah, and then I worked on John Street before that, which is just a block away. I was a consultant travel all around the country, and I met my wife, Janelle, on a site visit to University of Nebraska. I quit, and I came out here. We went on four dates in four months, and got married. Ten years later, I’m here. How does that path all connect to Kawasaki? Since I’ve been in Nebraska, I’ve been really focused on equity. I’ve worked with public schools with homeless students. I’ve worked with Community Foundation on the workforce, and our Chamber of Commerce, Lincoln Partnership of Economic Development. Really, what I’ve found is people who struggle to be successful in our community often don’t have the stability to overcome obstacles. So if something bad happens to Lyn Wineman or Bryan Seck financially, we have credit cards, we have friends, we have a personal line of credit, we have a hundred things we can do. When I’ve worked with families over the years, and still do so today, families don’t have $20.

Lyn Wineman:

Yeah.

Bryan Seck:

So if something happens, a funeral expense, a medical expense, a car breakdown, that can cause homelessness. So, as I’ve been in workforce development the last five or six years, what led me to Kawasaki was the opportunity to hire people directly and pay people $18.10 an hour to go be successful here at Kawasaki. Because that is financially stable. That’s what really led me here is thinking about, “how can we help people access quality jobs and be successful and stable?” Stability is the end of poverty. I am 100% convinced of this. I’ll take on anybody. If we can create stability for families, we can reduce poverty.

Lyn Wineman:

Bryan, I love that. I have to say, the first part of that, up to the point where you talked about, “I met my wife Janelle. I quit my job. We went on four dates. We got married.” I think you should sell your story to Hallmark, right? That would make a…

Bryan Seck:

Can Dean Cain play my role? I feel like he’s in all the Hallmark movies.

Lyn Wineman:

I think that would be a great choice. I think that’d be a great choice. Also, I love your… You come to this role with, I think, a very different background than other HR and recruiting people. I’m really excited to see how you use that knowledge and those skills to match people with stability and jobs because it will make Kawasaki better. It will make our community better, and it will help improve people’s lives. So, I love that so much. Bryan, as a leader, who does a lot of work that requires patience, it requires smart strategy, I’m curious, what advice do you have for other leaders who want to make a difference in the world?

Bryan Seck:

Oh man, that’s such a good question. Since I’ve been here the last four months, we’ve really increased the amount of external recruiting that we’ve done. In the past, Kawasaki has recruited externally, but it just hasn’t been the focus that it is now because we seemed to grow our manpower numbers so much. So, as a leader, you set a plan, you put that plan in motion, but then it can be easy to dive into the details of one day, realize those details aren’t right, and get too close, get too much into your team who’s executing.

Bryan Seck:

And so, to me, one of the hardest things is when you see something that’s wrong to not jump in immediately and try to fix it, but think about what caused that to happen. How can I fix it? And then have that conversation with your person who’s executing in the field. Because if you jump in every time there’s something wrong, it won’t get fixed. It’ll just be a constant break. I think, if someone’s out there wanting to make a difference in the world. I think the strategic patience is such an important piece of it. Decide what you want to do, make your plan, and then continuous improvement. That’s one thing Kawasaki’s taught me a lot, is that a process doesn’t have to be perfect right away, but you do have the responsibility to be constantly improved.

Lyn Wineman:

Hmm. I wrote down those words, strategic patience, I think that is really good. As a leader, you have to make sure you are leading and coaching and not doing, but a lot of us got into leadership positions because we’re good at doing. Right? You lose some of that power of being a leader if you just jump in and keep fixing things. Something I have to work on every single day too. Right? But strategic patience. I’m keeping that note in front of me for the rest of the day. Everybody who listens to this podcast knows this next question is my favorite because I get to talk with a lot of really interesting people. I know we all have famous quotes that we like to look to that inspire us. I like to ask our podcast guests. So, you Bryan Seck, can you give us some of your own words of wisdom that could inspire our listeners?

Bryan Seck:

Yeah. So, for myself, I’ve worked in nonprofit sectors, I’ve worked in private sectors, and for myself, my personal motto is to be patient, humble and kind. I just have this mantra that I tell myself all the time and I fail all the time. But to be patient, humble and kind, if you can pull that off, you win.

Lyn Wineman:

Yeah.

Bryan Seck:

Because people understand that you respect them, but you’re still going to be there. Because patience to me means you’re not going away. You’re working on it. You’re working the problem. So patient, humble, and kind is a constant mantra that I think about. You know, in New York, you don’t have to be humble. Here, you do, you need to be humble to be successful.

Lyn Wineman:

Yeah, it is different. It’s very different.

Bryan Seck:

A distinct regional difference, and you got to know that. To me, the other phrase that I think of all the time is “build your team.” Anyone out there who’s starting a business or a nonprofit or an app, which are all things that I’ve done. We can talk about it. I’ve done all that. You have to build your team.

Lyn Wineman:

Yeah.

Bryan Seck:

Especially in Lincoln, Nebraska, this is a place of 300,000 souls and we’re all interconnected. I would argue in Omaha too. It’s all interconnected.

Lyn Wineman:

Yeah.

Bryan Seck:

So you have to build your team. If you’re an iconoclastic personality, it’s my way or the highway, that’s a tough way to succeed. So, to me, it’s being patient, humble and kind, and building your team. That’s the way you can be successful.

Lyn Wineman:

I love that. Those two statements actually go together so well, Bryan.

Bryan Seck:

Yeah, and just know, anyone who’s listening, Lord knows I fail in this all the time. I keep it in my head and I do my best, and I figure that’s all anyone can ask,

Lyn Wineman:

I think to lean into a quote from someone else or something we’ve all heard. I think success is standing up one more time than you fall. Right? So, we can all have goals and mottos that, and we should have goals and mottos that are not easy to achieve. So, we all fall off and get back up.

Bryan Seck:

Oh my goodness, yes. Here at Kawasaki, every Tuesday and Thursday, we try to schedule four people to come in for external assessments. Right? These people can walk in here with no job and walk out of here with a job. It’s three hours. We get people in and out skill assessment, English assessment, us so people can be safe, interview, drug screen, physical. Three hours, in and out. You walk out with a job. We try to get four people scheduled each Tuesday and Thursday. Sometimes people don’t show up, and that’s okay. Right? This is a very competitive job market. I’m not blaming applicants. I’m just saying it’s difficult when you schedule four and one shows up. How do you metaphorically get yourself back up off the ground and tell your team, “Guys, all right, let’s do this for Thursday. Here we go.”

Lyn Wineman:

Yeah.

Bryan Seck:

Yeah. It’s definitely a challenge to survive.

Lyn Wineman:

Right, because sometimes that patience. Everything you said here all goes together in such a good way because when you are relying on others, it becomes, sometimes, you lose the control and then you can lose your patience. Right? And then you can want to jump in and fix it all yourself, and none of that’s going to work. Yeah, none of that’s going to work. Good for you, Bryan. So for our listeners who would like to learn more about your work and what’s going on at Kawasaki, if they want to apply for a job at Kawasaki, what’s the best way to find out more?

Bryan Seck:

Yes, so kawasakilincoln.com.

Lyn Wineman:

Kawasakilincoln.com. All right.

Bryan Seck:

That’s right. It’s such an exciting time at Kawasaki, and I don’t say that because I’m four months old. Right? It’s my honeymoon period. Honeymoon period into the first week when they were like, “Yeah, you need to hire like 500 people.” Okay. So, the exciting thing about Kawasaki right now is almost all of our departments are hiring.

Lyn Wineman:

Yeah.

Bryan Seck:

So we’re hiring for assistant positions, like clerical position. We’re hiring for engineers, we’re hiring for software development, we’re hiring for production and assembly, forklift, welders, maintenance techs, and it’s first shift, second shift and third shift that are all open. And for many years it was very difficult to get on first shift. But now we can hire people right off the street on to first shift cause of the organic growth and because of the high number of retirements. It’s just such a high number of retirements with Baby Boomers exiting the workforce. So, I guess what I would say to anyone who’s listening is, “If there’s anybody out there that you know who wants to be a purchase planning specialist, who wants to be a logistics person, who wants to work on the assembly line, who wants to work at shipping and handling, oh my goodness. We can help you. Kawasakilincoln.com.”

Lyn Wineman:

Nice. Very nice. That’s great. So Bryan, as we wrap up our time together today, what is the most important thing you would like people to know about the work that you’re doing?

Bryan Seck:

What I would say is, we are lucky to have Kawasaki here, in Lincoln. We’re lucky. We’re lucky that this place entered in the 1970s. This facility employs more than a thousand people at living wage jobs and higher, right? You know, engineers, executive people like that are making good money too. And as Kawasaki continues to grow, I think the most important thing is how do we make sure that our community can fill these positions so Kawasaki can keep growing, so we can keep producing product, but also, so that it stays and we can grow here.

Bryan Seck:

So, when I think about the most important thing that we can do is how do we tell high school students who might not want to go to college, but they can come work at Kawasaki, and we’ll give you $2,500 tuition reimbursement if you want to go back to school, or we’ll train you up within Kawa Tech, which is our own system. How do we tell the 34-year-old, single mom, who I’ve worked with for years to help be successful and take care of her kids, that she could work at Kawasaki without previous manufacturing experience and come in and be here successful?

Bryan Seck:

So to me, the question is how do you help people come to Kawasaki who might not have a background in manufacturing and know that they can be successful here? I would love people’s help to share that message.

Lyn Wineman:

Sounds great. Well, Bryan, you just told all of our listeners for this podcast, and I am glad to play a small part in helping you get the word out about the great work that you’re doing and the great things that are happening at Kawasaki. Bryan, I just have to say, I really believe the world needs more people like you. Thank you for taking time out of your busy day to talk with me.

Bryan Seck:

Oh, anytime Lyn, thank you for having me. It’s a humbling experience starting at a new position and recruiting, but I think we’re going to get that. I think we’re going to bring people over to Kawasaki and help them be successful.

Lyn Wineman:

Bryan, I’d never bet against you. I have no doubt that you are going to make this a success. So, congratulations to you and we’ll talk soon.

Bryan Seck:

Thank you very much, Lyn.

Announcer:

We hope you enjoyed today’s Agency for Change podcast. To hear all our interviews with those who are making a positive change in our communities, or to nominate a changemaker you’d love to hear from visit kidglov.com at K I D G L O V dot com to get in touch. As always, if you like what you’ve heard today, be sure to rate, review, subscribe, and share. Thanks for listening. And we’ll see you next time.

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