Lisa Varga’s keys to constructing a talented, motivated team

Lisa Varga

Lisa Varga, founder, chairman and CEO, Phoenix Energy Technologies

With unemployment levels still high, it remains a buyer’s market when it comes to talent.

But Lisa Varga says that’s not the whole story. The founder, chairman and CEO of Phoenix Energy Technologies says you might be able to find talented individuals in the stack of resumes on your HR director’s desk. But finding the right talent — the right mix of skills and values that match your company’s mission — can become more of a challenge.

At her growing 41-employee company, Varga and her staff have needed to get creative and methodical when it comes to getting the best possible candidates in the door and sifting through them to find the right person for each open position.

Smart Business spoke with Varga about how to move from merely hiring to building a cohesive team of players who complement each other’s skill sets and share common values.

What is the biggest recruitment challenge you have faced at Phoenix Energy Technologies, and how have you overcome it?

The biggest challenge is we’re a growing firm with many positions to be filled, and we need to find qualified individuals to fill those seats and help execute on our plan. Many positions you’d think would be easier to fill with the unemployment rate where it is, but the percentages of the unemployable are something to consider, because they’re not just sitting out there knocking on your door.

So we’ve had to get creative with overcoming the challenge, particularly in the technology area, with the seats that we needed to fill — not only using recruiters but trying to get feedback from the individuals of quality that we were finding and how do you infiltrate their network. It’s almost like you’re interviewing the people in those fields and trying to figure out where they’re looking for new opportunities.

What did you learn from that experience about recruiting?

Definitely, you have to give yourself the proper ramp-up time to get those positions filled. And make sure you have a good, solid story, because you’re pretty much conducting a sales pitch to those individuals, selling them on your company. So you want to get your marketing team involved in putting some excitement into an ad for your positions that are open.

On my end, I try to get people excited about coming to work here by being as accessible as possible. I constantly engage our employees at all levels to make sure they know our successes and our vision, and let them share in the celebrations and wins we do accomplish. That is key for keeping everyone aligned and motivated and excited about what we’re doing.

As you go through the recruiting and interviewing process, how are you ensuring that you’re finding the right match?

It can be tough, but we have a multitiered interviewing process for every position in the company, and we have one person from our HR department who is in every interview, so that we are consistent in certain values. I think we are a very family-oriented company, and it is always good to see people who have a good, solid family life. It is good to see people who are used to working in fast-paced environments but are able to leave that behind at the end of the day and transition into their family life.

What questions do you ask of someone to determine if they’re going to be a cultural fit?

We want to know their likes and dislikes, what excites them, what drives them, what did they like to get involved in at the companies they worked at previously.

Some people like to be very strategic, some like to be very tactical, so we try to ask many different kinds of questions. Where do they see themselves in the future? Are they someone that likes to get in a position and just stay there forever? Or are they a growth-opportunity person?  Do they multitask well? How do they do in serving different scenarios?

Do you recruit first for the technical skills of a job or for a cultural fit?

They have to have the basic skill sets for the position. If they’re a programmer, they have to have certain technology applications that they’re able to do. But we actually weight it heavily on the cultural fit.

Years ago, we tried to hire people who were familiar with our processes, but we realized that it was just as easy to take someone with the core basic skill sets, values and cultural principles, and teach them our processes. That has helped us with retention and growth in those areas. So there is a lot of weight we place on culture.

How to reach: Phoenix Energy Technologies Corp., (877) 340-8855 or