Secrets of the ‘Best Book Publishing Company to Work For’: A Q&A with Hays Steilberg, Random House Vice President and Director of Human Resources
As vice president and director of human resources of the world’s largest book publisher, Random House’s Hays Steilberg knows a thing or two about creating a great workplace. The company recently ranked No. 1 in Book Business’ “Best Book Publishing Companies to Work For” survey (Book Business, October 2007).
Steilberg will speak in-depth on what makes for a great workplace when he serves as a panelist at the Publishing Business Conference & Expo (www.PublishingBusiness.com) March 10-12 in New York City. Here, he gives Book Business Extra a preview of his take on how to attract and retain top talent, and create a happier, more productive workforce.
Book Business Extra: With so much competition for talented employees, how can book publishers still attract—and retain—the best of candidates?
Hays Steilberg: Book publishing has tremendous appeal for individuals who want to be part of a creative and intellectual cultural enterprise. Our challenge lies in finding and identifying talented and motivated individuals, not necessarily just book lovers, who want to be part of our company. We constantly source the relevant networks and talent pools to try to connect with these individuals. Other factors—all of which are Random House hallmarks—certainly are also important in attracting talent: competitive pay, generous benefits, a collaborative work environment, good work and life balance, and a non-hierarchical operating philosophy that allows people to make their own decisions. As far as retention is concerned, providing opportunities for career growth—which includes not keeping people in functional silos throughout their entire careers—is probably the most significant attractor. …
Extra: What is the main skill set you look for in candidates today that you may not have five or 10 years ago?
Steilberg: The biggest changes in our business stem from shifts in the book-retail environment and new developments in technology. The proliferation of digital information and the advent of online social networking and marketing opens up a multitude of promising opportunities for book publishers. Consequently, new hires today must bring a technological affinity and skill set, regardless of their particular hiring destination.
Extra: How much has technology and the need to understand and utilize digital technology affected the job requirements for Random House employees?
Steilberg: … We are currently working to extend our in-house training offerings to include many aspects of digital technology to ensure all employees, whether new or with long service records, are current with a basic, Web-oriented, digital-technology skill set imperative to meet today’s publishing workplace demands.
Extra: What unique traditions do Random House human resources executives continue that may not be present at other competitors/businesses?
Steilberg: … Creative freedom. Random House uniquely prizes and supports the autonomy of its publishing units. Our publishers act as entrepreneurs, growing their own businesses and developing the distinct culture of their imprints. [Also,] quality of work-life. Random House makes a firm commitment to the health and welfare of employees and to social responsibility. This includes our extensive offerings in healthcare provision and prevention of illness; our work-life balance initiatives, including our sabbatical program; our many literacy-support outreach efforts; our numerous in-house, quality-of-life seminars and programs open to all employees; as well as our multi-faceted, companywide, go-“green” commitments.
Extra: How have employees’ expectations of their employer, and specifically human resources, changed over the years?
Steilberg: Employees expect employers and HR to consider their individual and personal needs when it comes to structuring work and the work environment. In particular, employees at the beginning of their careers tell us that flexible schedules, work-life balance, a respectful workplace and a meaningful job head their list of priorities when considering an employment offer. Employees also expect that the employer will invest in their continued professional development. Ensuring an individual’s ongoing employability is increasingly seen as part of the company’s responsibility.