The U.S. is likely headed into a recession. According to Robert Reich, former US secretary of labor, economist and columnist for The Guardian, new home construction has finally slowed, mortgage demand continues to decline, and the country’s largest and most influential retailers are reporting disappointing sales and profits. “The stock market is in bear territory. Futures markets are signaling trouble ahead,” says Reich. 

The Federal Reserve’s response to May’s Consumer Price Index (CPI) report by raising interest rates three-quarters of a point was the largest single interest rate increase since 1994. Basically, rate hikes increase the costs of borrowing for individuals and consumers. We purchase less as a result and the economy slows. 

A recession, or even impending recession, often means fewer new job opportunities for workers but today’s unprecedented labor imbalance could work out a little differently. It is still a job seeker’s market. The labor market currently has nearly two job openings for every unemployed person. Sign-on bonuses in Charlotte range from $500 at some customer service jobs and up to $45,000 for nurses at Novant Health. Current job boards on Indeed.com include $2,000 bonuses for factory workers in Concord and $3,000 sign-on bonuses for apartment leasing consultants in Charlotte. 

While job offers might lessen for some seeking new employment, the dynamics are not likely to change anytime soon, and research shows that diversity matters when it comes to hiring. That research has shown that promoting gender and racial diversity has a positive impact on a company’s financial performance. Intel and Dalberg Global Development Advisors found clear correlations between more diverse tech company workforces and higher revenues, profits and market value. 

Specifically, to the LGBTQ community, Forbes reported last year that academics at two universities in Finland accessed the financial performance of 657 publicly-traded U.S. companies between 2003 and 2016 and found that those with “LGBT-friendly policies” saw higher profitability and higher stock market valuations. The study used HRC’s Corporate Equality Index to measure LGBTQ competencies. 

“These findings can be considered to support the view that socially progressive corporate policies and diversity management pay off and create value for the firm,” read the report.  

Employees have more power than ever and a new generation entering the workforce have higher expectations for fairness and equity. Events like the Out and Equal Workplace Summit, Lavender Law and the Reaching Out MBA career expo give companies an opportunity to reach students and graduates and spotlight their interest in hiring LGBTQ professionals. 

Longtime friends Zach Anderson and Coty Webb launched Zaddy Solutions in March 2021 as the first LGBTQ recruiting company in the Southeast. Photo courtesy of Zaddy Solutions

LGBTQ Recruiters in a Crowded Space

As the need for talent increases, recruitment firms are changing the narrative when it comes to building future employment relationships and some are setting a standard for inclusion. Zaddy Solutions in Charlotte is a boutique recruiting firm focused on the digital, creative, technology and marketing space. 

They are one of two LGBTE certified staffing and recruiting firms in the country. LGBTE stands for LGBT Business Enterprise, a designation of the National LGBT Chamber of Commerce (NGLCC). In addition to some positive recognition, the certification also gets you into the organization’s database which is accessible by NGLCC corporate partners, qualifies your business for sourcing opportunities and provides mentorship programs, leadership trainings and scholarship opportunities. 

With 20 years of combined recruiting experience, Zaddy Solutions is run by Zach Anderson, Coty Webb and Bradley McCurdy, three North Carolina natives. They have already set themselves apart in a crowded field, and not just because of their name. Anderson and Webb started the company in March 2021 to make an impact on the Charlotte area and disrupt the status quo. This didn’t come without ruffling a few feathers along the way. 

Zach Anderson kept hitting glass ceilings and wanted to make an impact on the Charlotte area as it grows into a hub for technology. Photo courtesy of Zaddy Solutions

“The system to me is broken,” says Anderson. “It is so crowded by the same folks, that the supplier diversity managers are excluded from those conversations. We’re not able to get through it so we are having to literally break the system and get people pissed off at us for breaking the system, then put it back together.” 

Anderson has been in the staffing field for nine years now and knows what success looks like. He made the money, did all the partying and schmoozing, and placed people in jobs everywhere from startups and small companies to large national brands. He spent nearly three years as an account manager and then recruiting manager on the marketing and creative side before expanding into technology at Meridian Technologies. He then got into the AI world working with Zen & Art, a leader in strategic business, IT architecture and digital services. 

“I didn’t feel like I was actually accomplishing anything other than just bringing more business in. I didn’t feel like I was really solving anything,” he says. Anderson didn’t yet know what the exact problem was when he started. The bells went off a bit later when working with a colleague resourcing HBCU contacts across the Carolinas. It was tough. There was no platform or strategy to make real meaningful connections. One school’s Director of Alumni Relations might be another’s Career Services. “This started sparking my way of thinking,” recalls Anderson. 

Zach noticed that no one was truly addressing diversity. While people were throwing around terms like D&I (Diversity and Inclusion) or DEI (Diversity, Equity and Inclusion), organizations weren’t really creating meaningful relationships or measuring their progress in building tangible partnerships with diverse communities. 

He did as much as he could in the structures that existed, but soon reached out to Webb, who got his start in financial operations working at his family’s tax preparation company. “It’s not like we were flush with money,” remembers Anderson. With a notebook full of charts and ideas, the two began hashing out a plan. This is what we can do. This is how the industry currently works. The two started brainstorming on how to solve the problems they had witnessed. 

They brought McCurdy on a few months later. Today, Anderson and Webb, the official co-founders, serve as CEO and CFO respectively. McCurdy is Head of Talent Management. His parents ran a successful medical staffing company for over 30 years. “We just came together, set out a mission and have been working ever since,” says Anderson. 

“We had a good number of iterations of this company already,” says Webb. “The initial idea is not quite what we’re doing now.” The goal resonated with him and just as he lives his life, Coty knows that you may change the plan, but you don’t change the goal.

Trust, Honesty, Transparency

“We don’t do process for process-sake,” says Anderson. The three agree that there is a big problem with trust in most staffing firms and that’s damaging both the industry and the job candidates. 

Zach compares it to an airport. “If the airport is successful at what they do, parking will be easier, getting through security, doing all that, getting all of your baggage – the quickest way to get to the airplane and the most enjoyable experience.” Zaddy Solutions wants to work in the background, building opportunities for inclusion and success. Instead of being the destination, they want to help candidates find their way through and land. 

They work with other organizations like Charlotte Gaymers Network, Carolinas LGBT+ Chamber of Commerce and Per Scholas to expand their connections and build strong relationships across industry and community. 

“The goal for any recruiting firm, especially one that’s small and boutique like us, is to use those relationships to your candidate’s advantage,” says Webb. They haven’t found a way to fully democratize that yet, but that is part of the long range vision. 

Anderson also heads Out in Tech’s Carolinas Chapter. The organization, led solely by volunteers, is the world’s largest non-profit community of LGBTQ+ tech leaders and is building more inclusion in the field. The organization has been a good ice breaker for Zaddy Solutions as they’ve built the company over the past fifteen months. Out in Tech has a long record of creating positive networks and doing the right thing when it comes to growing an equitable and respectable industry. 

While Anderson continues to grow his own reputation as a leader in the field, he knows it is not just about him. “If it was up to me and I was power-grabbing, this would not flow,” he says. He leads by inviting people in. “There are so many companies that are not telling the truth or throw up barriers. Establish the relationships by allowing people to come in and be part of the journey,” he says.

Breaking Barriers

 “We are working with people that want to work with us,” says McCurdy, noting the confidence that people can have in the company. Just like consumer loyalty to LGBTQ-supportive companies, those looking to build careers find comfort in knowing that a company has been vetted. 

As Head of Talent Management, Bradley McCurdy works to place candidates with Zaddy Solutions’ clients. Photo, Facebook.

Zaddy has customers that they regularly do business with, and they stay in contact with the people they place in those companies. This helps insure that their impressions of a company stay true. 

Barriers still exist though, for both the candidates and the company. Much of the system, and I mean the staffing firm industry and that of finding a successful career, is based on who you know and not what you know. Webb wishes they could have gotten around those barriers in the beginning.

It all starts with the candidate knowing where they want to be in five years and then Zaddy Solutions helps them come up with a plan to get there. It might incorporate training with their partners at Pro Scholas or going through interviews with Anderson. 

“If we’re doing our job right, we’re removing all the blockers and removing all those kinds of stuff,” says Anderson. It all goes back to being a trusted institution and the relationships they’ve built. 

When it comes to building LGBTQ representation in the field, opportunities for tech jobs abound. Remote work has opened the door for folks and the power dynamics in the workforce and in the recruitment process are showing signs of progress. 

With only a year under their belts, it is difficult for Zaddy Solutions to capture their impact on that industry in Charlotte. As they make connections and build relationships, Anderson says he wants to make sure “the door stays wide open” for others. “We have all seen how Charlotte changed in the last twelve years. Some of it has been for the better and some of it has left a vast amount of gaps,” he says. 

Zaddy Solutions hopes to be the rainbow bridge for someone who might not yet be confident enough to be out and open about who they are, to help them get access, education, mentorship, apprenticeships, internships and build their own relationships. 

There is the chance to be more. “Tech is everywhere,” says Anderson. “You either have to research and develop it or you have to make it happen. You have to sell it, or you need to know how to make money flow around it.” 

It seems that despite economic concerns, focusing on our own diversity and our own goals might be the best path forward. As Anderson says, “we get to choose who we work with.”

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