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How the Future of Work Will Support Underrepresented People

Summer Crenshaw | CEO, TalentNow

Summer Crenshaw grew up in poverty, teaching her the importance of education and hustle at a young age.

“So many of my friends and family struggled because they couldn’t get jobs in the standard sense,” she says. “My dad got a great job at a steel company because he showed up at the HR office and sat for hours on end until somebody in HR was willing to talk to him.”

Today, Summer is the CEO of TalentNow, the first unified marketplace that connects employers to talent without the “constraints of source, location or engagement model.” With more than 15 years of experience as a serial entrepreneur, she has made it her mission to help underrepresented individuals, including veterans like her husband, find employment.

On this episode of Human Resolve, Summer discusses how the future of work supports and even benefits underrepresented folks in all industries. In her eyes, technology has the power to lift everyone. Workers must adapt to the ever-changing tides, which is why empathy is your most important tool.

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Meet Summer Crenshaw

Summer Crenshaw is a serial tech entrepreneur, speaker, and author with nearly 20 years of experience in HR Tech, marketing, branding, strategy, and business development. Summer is a recipient of Cincinnati Business Courier’s 40 under 40 Award and Women Who Mean Business Award.

As a leader in the Startup ecosystem in the Midwest, her passion is rooted in seeking a better way to serve those that are underserved and underrepresented, including advocating for women in tech. She serves on the Miami University CAS Advisory board, the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber Talent Committee, and the Cintrifuse Startup Acceleration Committee.

Summer holds a Bachelor’s degree from Miami University and a Masters’s in Business at Liberty University. She is currently a doctoral student in Liberty University’s Doctor of Strategic Leadership program, with a focus on the future of work and the transformation of leadership.

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Show Notes

Summer Crenshaw grew up in poverty, teaching her the importance of education and hustle at a young age.

“What motivated me to make an impact was knowing that so many of my friends and my family struggled because they couldn’t get jobs in the standard sense,” she said. “My dad got a great job at a steel company because he showed up at the HR office and sat for hours on end until somebody in HR was willing to talk to him. … I just was horrified that really good people, regardless of their aptitude, just couldn’t get employment.”

After graduating from Miami University with a degree in communications and public relations in 1999, Summer went into marketing and consulting before co-founding her second startup, tilr. tilr was essentially the Match.com of recruiting and eventually led Summer to her current position as CEO of TalentNow, “the first unified marketplace connecting employers to talent, free from constraints of source, location or engagement model.” 

With more than 15 years of experience as a self-described “serial entrepreneur,” Summer’s big focus is helping underserved and underrepresented populations find employment. She’s spoken at everything from Techstars Startup Week to DisruptHR, and she has a strong passion for supporting military members/veterans, women entrepreneurs and the Midwest startup ecosystem.

On this episode of Human Resolve, Summer discusses how the future of work supports and even benefits underrepresented folks in all industries. In her eyes, technology has the power to lift everyone. Workers must adapt to the ever-changing tides, which is why empathy is your most important tool. She also touches on the unique needs of women, veterans and other traditionally underserved individuals and what value they bring as employees.

Notable Quotes

Remind your employees they're multi-faceted

“You’re always able to look at the skill set that you have, and it absolutely will transfer to other opportunities. So, for me, thinking about transferable skills is something that’s really important. It’s something that, in my previous startup, was kind of part of the ethos. … I think that part of that mindset is really helping people change a bit more to a growth mindset and having the ability to say, ‘You’re never too many steps away from your future opportunity.”

HR's tremendous impact on workers

“I’m approaching 40, so that midlife crisis is starting to kick in, I guess. I’m starting to think about life and what I want for myself. I want to have a life of legacy and my true goal is to make an impact. Even if it’s on just a small segmentation and even if it’s in my hometown in Cincinnati too, to really help lift others up. … I’m thinking through ways that I can take my research and pair that with my passions to have better outcomes for the future of work and really serve those that are underserved and underrepresented in a meaningful way.”

Identify needs of underserved workers

“I think that this is also something when we look at 2020 — what it did to women in the workforce has been really unfortunate, and the latest statistic I read [said] … we have the lowest female participation in the workforce since 1988. That is appalling, to say the least. But this goes back to the way that employers are gonna have to start to think about the way that they work with women and the way that they work with any underserved or underrepresented group as a whole.”

Adapting return-to-office for different generational needs

“A lot of the generational values are starting to come to fruition. So I have seen or noted that a lot of those that are in the older generations are really wanting to try to get back to exactly the way it was. And I don’t think we all understand that we’re not going to go back to exactly the way that it was. And so how do you care for those that might have the value of wanting full-time back in the office Monday through Friday, the eight to five — that world? How do you support them so that you don’t run into issues with things like age bias? I think that those are things we all have to be very thoughtful of as we’re emerging back into the new world.”

How technology was both a blessing and curse for jobs

“When the job boards came up, to me, it was revolutionary. It was transformative because it kind of evened the playing field. Anybody could apply to a job. You didn’t have to know somebody. … It was democratized in a way. But very soon after, we saw the challenge of resumes becoming the barrier — like, did you have the previous job title that the company is looking for? Was your resume written in a proper manner? Do you know how to use the internet in a way that’s meaningful? So all of a sudden, something that did open doors for so many in the underserved or underrepresented populations … started to become the blocker.”

Be empathetic toward underserved

“Those that are in the underserved population, what does their life truly look like and how do we as leaders — whether it be from an employment perspective or just leaders in our community — how do we start to look at ways to reduce that friction? What are those friction points? … It’s that empathy to say, ‘OK, your life might not look like my life. You might not have some of the things I personally take for granted.’ So let’s think through some of the challenges that you see. Is it transportation? Is it internet access? Is it access to a computer and a desk or a chair? Don’t assume that people have access to all of this, because they don’t.”

Giving veterans a chance at your organization

“Having those conversations with the guys that came home and like writing their resumes and just watching their expressions and their body language when they felt so defeated because they didn’t feel valued at all in the civilian workforce is heartbreaking. So many of the guys came home and could not find work. … In the employment space in the civilian sector, civilians don’t speak military. They don’t understand the direct value that service members can provide to our workforce. That doesn’t mean that they aren’t absolutely perfect for roles. It’s just, they don’t understand that a military occupational specialty that looks like what my husband did have … detonating EDS, that doesn’t seem to apply very well to the civilian sector outside of a bomb squad.”

Technology adoption since COVID-19

“COVID accelerated our technology adoption rate. You have 80-year-old grandmas getting on Zoom so that they can see their grandkids. So if there’s nothing else, that’s a picture in our own mind of how fast we just accelerated technology adoption, to me, that’s the perfect picture. … We know that AI and machine learning are going to be vast disruptors for us. But, what AI and machine learning bring is an opportunity to elevate the human, right? The goal is to eliminate the menial tasks that technology can take care of. So for us as an employee or just a person in general, we’re going to have to think differently about how our aptitude needs to evolve, and we need to always be leaning into our ability to obtain more knowledge, and it’s going to look a little bit different than going to your local college or university.”

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