Ogechi Ekwueme Joins The DEJ Group as Executive Assistant

This is a great way to start Q4.

The DEJ Group is proud to announce that Ogechi Ekwueme has joined our organization as our first executive assistant. This is an excellent opportunity to expand our team as we continue to grow our practice.

Ogechi will assist in executive administration, business development, and supporting our growth initiatives.

Please help us welcome Ogechi to our team!


Marquita Stephens is appointed CEO of the Urban League Twin Cities

The DEJ Group is proud to announce that Urban League Twin Cities has appointed Marquita Stephens as its new President & CEO, effective July 20, 2023. She’s the first woman to lead the organization in its 98-year history.

“I am driven to lead the Urban League Twin Cities toward its goal of building an equitable society,” Stephens said. “With a dynamic team and engaged board, together we can deliver on the democratic promises this nation made at its birth, but which for so many go unrealized.”

Stephens has spent her 20+ year career in public service, helping to build strong families and potential within communities, particularly communities of color.

We would like to thank the search committee for their collaboration during this process. We appreciate the opportunity to lead such a critical search and we are excited about the future of the organization.


C.J. Lloyd joins Bridging MN as their new Director of Finance and Business Services

This is a great way to start Q3 after a great holiday weekend.

The DEJ Group is proud to announce C.J. Lloyd will be joining Bridging MN as their new Director of Finance and Business Services. C.J.’s strong background in finance and accounting with both for-profit and nonprofit organizations (including Bridging agency partner CommonBond Communities – a previous client of The DEJ Group), along with being the Treasurer on the Board of Directors for Enhance Ministries will bring a variety of vital experience to Bridging’s finance and business services area. C.J. has a Bachelor’s Degree in Finance and will finish his MBA with a concentration in Data & Analytics this summer. He starts his new assignment on July 10th.

This is the 3rd successful executive search project that Bridging and The DEJ Group have completed. We are honored and grateful to Mark Wilkening for the opportunity to collaborate on another successful search. We wish C. J. and Bridging the very best.






Doug Lieser Joins Summit Academy OIC as its Major Gift Officer

This is a great way to start Q3 after a great holiday weekend.

The DEJ Group is excited and proud to welcome Doug Lieser to Summit Academy OIC as its major gift officer. Doug will be joining the development team on July 10th to start his new assignment.

Doug has dedicated his career to securing philanthropic support for mission-driven organizations such as Summit. Most recently, he was the Director of Advancement at Community of Saints Regional Catholic School.

We want to thank Sarah Armstrong for her tremendous support and collaboration during the search process. We appreciate working with you and the Summit team on this successful project.

Please help us in welcoming Doug to Summit!






Dr. Aida Martinez-Freeman Joins College Possible Minnesota as the New Executive Director

The DEJ Group is proud to announce that Dr. Aida Martinez-Freeman has accepted the position as the new Executive Director of College Possible Minnesota and will join the team on May 30.

Dr. Martinez-Freeman brings to the role tremendous experience in diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging (DIEB+), 20 years of higher education leadership, and a reputation for setting organizational vision and creating transformative initiatives.

College Possible began as Admission Possible in Minnesota 23 years ago with a basic goal, to help low-income students get into college. Since that time more than 5,000 College Possible Minnesota students have earned a college degree and had their lives transformed.

Dr. Martinez-Freeman will lead College Possible Minnesota into a new chapter as we support students in a challenging post-pandemic higher education landscape. Her education experience, diversity-centered leadership, systems innovation, and team-oriented motivation will enable College Possible Minnesota to thrive in its support of students as they face these challenges.

This is an exciting time for the College Possible Minnesota community and the students they support. We want to thank J. R. Thomkinson and the College Possible team for their collaboration to bring this project to a successful close.


The HR Team Expands at The Science Museum

The DEJ Group is proud to announce that Dana Lindman-Gustner has joined our client, the Science Museum of Minnesota, as Director of Human Resources. Also, Grace Cabrera, whom we found as a part of this search, will also join the organization as the Total Rewards and HR Systems Manager. Both candidates started their new roles today and we were onsite to greet them and wish them well.

We want to thank Courtney Kuesel, SHRM-CPJuliette Francis, SPHR, SHRM-SCPRobert Doty, and the entire Science Museum team for their collaboration on this project. We wish them the very best as they continue to grow their organization to serve our community.


The Battle for Top Talent: Strategies to Succeed in a Competitive Job Market

The fight for top talent has become increasingly fierce in today’s competitive job market. Economic volatility and high demand have turned the job market into a veritable battleground, with companies struggling to attract, engage, and retain the best candidates. Navigating a tight labor market can be challenging, but it’s not all doom and gloom. Smart strategies can help businesses come out on top. In this podcast episode, we will discuss how companies can compete effectively in a tight job market and attract and retain top talent.

Cultivate a Robust Employer Brand

A strong employer brand is a crucial differentiator in the talent war. It’s essential to position your organization as an employer of choice by crafting an employer value proposition (EVP) that sets your company apart. Highlight your company culture, benefits, and work-life balance. Encourage employees to act as brand ambassadors and use social media to reach potential candidates. Furthermore, ensure your job descriptions are clear, reflect company values, and offer competitive salaries.

Provide Competitive Compensation and Benefits Packages

The current job market is highly competitive, and candidates have numerous options. To attract and retain top talent, companies must offer competitive compensation and benefits packages. While salary is important, other perks like health insurance, retirement benefits, flexible work arrangements, etc., can also be appealing. Annual bonuses, stock options, and other monetary incentives can be enticing as well. Providing these not only retain employees but also acts as a magnet for potential candidates.

Prioritize Employee Development and Growth

Today’s employees appreciate growth opportunities and value support for their learning and development. Offering chances to upskill, take on challenging projects, and advance within the organization can help you retain your talent. Companies with robust learning and development programs typically have an advantage in attracting and retaining top talent. Ensure managers provide regular feedback and coaching, aligning employee development and growth goals with organizational objectives.

Create an Inclusive Workplace Culture

An inclusive workplace culture is crucial for attracting and retaining top talent. It gives employees a sense of belonging and purpose that extends beyond monetary rewards. Companies should strive to create an inclusive and diverse environment where individuals from all backgrounds feel welcome and valued. This includes implementing initiatives such as mentoring programs, employee resource groups, diversity, equity, and inclusion training, and maintaining consistent communication about company culture and values.

Leverage Technology

Technology can be a game-changer in the battle for talent. Adopting the latest HR technology trends can help optimize your recruitment process and create a positive candidate experience. Platforms that deliver exceptional candidate experiences and personalized communication can distinguish you from other companies. Utilize social media, chatbots for candidate screening, and video interviews as part of your recruitment process. This will not only engage candidates but also showcase your company as technologically advanced, which can positively impact your brand.

In conclusion, the competition in today’s job market is fierce, and the battle for top talent shows no signs of abating. To compete and win in this market, employers need a well-planned strategy. By focusing on cultivating a compelling employer brand, providing competitive compensation and benefits packages, prioritizing employee growth opportunities, creating an inclusive culture, and leveraging technology, companies can differentiate themselves from their competitors. Implementing these strategies can result in a positive employee experience that attracts and retains top talent in a tight job market.


The Recruiting Game: How to Build a Strong Recruiting Pipeline

Recruiting is a complex and ever-changing game. As the workforce continues to evolve, so too does the way that organizations go about finding and hiring top talent. Today’s hiring managers, recruiters, executives, and HR professionals need to be equipped with the right tools and strategies to build a strong recruiting pipeline.

During this podcast episode, we’ll discuss the key elements of a successful recruiting pipeline and provide actionable tips for building and maintaining one. Whether you’re a hiring manager, recruiter, executive, candidate, or HR professional, this post will help you stay ahead of the game and build a strong talent acquisition strategy.

What is a Recruiting Pipeline?

A recruiting pipeline is a structured process that organizations use to identify, attract, engage, and hire top talent. It’s a proactive approach to talent acquisition that involves building relationships with candidates over time, rather than waiting for open positions to become available.

A strong recruiting pipeline includes a diverse pool of qualified candidates who are interested in working for your organization. It allows you to quickly fill open positions with the best possible talent, reducing the time-to-hire and improving the quality of your hires.

Key Elements of a Successful Recruiting Pipeline

To build a strong recruiting pipeline, you need to focus on four key elements: sourcing, engagement, assessment, and hiring.


Sourcing involves identifying and attracting potential candidates to your organization. There are many different sourcing channels available, including job boards, social media, employee referrals, and career fairs. To build a strong recruiting pipeline, you need to use a combination of these channels to reach a diverse pool of candidates.

One of the most effective sourcing strategies is employee referrals. According to a study by LinkedIn, employee referrals are the top source of quality hires for organizations. Encourage your employees to refer their friends and colleagues to your organization by offering incentives and rewards for successful referrals.


Engagement involves building relationships with potential candidates to keep them interested in your organization. This can be done through various channels, including email, social media, and in-person events. The goal is to keep candidates engaged with your organization and excited about potential job opportunities.

One effective engagement strategy is to create a talent community. A talent community is a group of potential candidates who have expressed interest in your organization but are not yet ready to apply for a job. By providing these candidates with relevant content and opportunities to connect with your organization, you can keep them engaged and build a strong talent pool for future hiring needs.


Assessment involves evaluating potential candidates to determine their fit for your organization. This can be done through various methods, including resumes, interviews, skills assessments, and reference checks. The goal is to identify the most qualified candidates who are the best fit for your organization.

One effective assessment strategy is to use skills assessments. Skills assessments are tests that evaluate a candidate’s skills and knowledge in a particular area. They can be used to assess technical skills, soft skills, or a combination of both. By using skills assessments, you can ensure that you’re hiring candidates who have the right skills and knowledge for the job.


Hiring involves making job offers and onboarding new employees. This is the final step in the recruiting pipeline and involves ensuring that new employees are set up for success in their new roles.

One effective hiring strategy is to provide a positive candidate experience. The candidate experience refers to the overall experience that a candidate has during the recruiting process. By providing a positive candidate experience, you can improve your employer brand and attract top talent to your organization.

Actionable Tips for Building a Strong Recruiting Pipeline

Now that we’ve covered the key elements of a successful recruiting pipeline, let’s dive into some actionable tips for building and maintaining one.

Create a Comprehensive Talent Acquisition Strategy

To build a strong recruiting pipeline, you need to have a comprehensive talent acquisition strategy in place. This strategy should outline the specific steps you will take to identify, attract, engage, assess, and hire top talent. It should also include specific metrics to measure the success of your recruiting efforts.

Your talent acquisition strategy should be aligned with your overall business goals and should take into account the specific needs of your organization. It should also be flexible enough to adapt to changing market conditions and hiring trends.

Use Data to Drive Recruiting Decisions

Data can be a powerful tool for improving your recruiting efforts. By tracking metrics like time-to-fill, cost-per-hire, and candidate conversion rates, you can identify areas where you need to improve and make data-driven decisions to optimize your recruiting pipeline.

One effective way to use data in recruiting is to implement an applicant tracking system (ATS). An ATS is a software application that allows you to track and manage your recruiting pipeline. It can help you automate many of the manual tasks involved in recruiting, such as posting job openings, screening resumes, and scheduling interviews.

Leverage Technology to Improve Recruiting Efficiency

Technology can be a valuable tool for improving recruiting efficiency. For example, video interviews can help you streamline the interview process and reduce the time-to-hire. AI-powered tools can help you screen resumes more efficiently and identify the most qualified candidates for the job.

Another technology that is rapidly gaining popularity in recruiting is chatbots. Chatbots are software applications that can simulate human conversation through text or voice commands. They can be used to answer candidate questions, schedule interviews, and provide updates on the recruiting process.

Build and Maintain Relationships with Candidates

Building and maintaining relationships with candidates is key to building a strong recruiting pipeline. This involves engaging with candidates throughout the recruiting process, providing them with relevant information about your organization and job opportunities, and keeping them informed about the status of their application.

One effective way to build relationships with candidates is through personalized communication. This can include customized emails, text messages, and social media interactions that are tailored to the specific needs and interests of each candidate.

Focus on Diversity and Inclusion

Diversity and inclusion should be a key focus of your recruiting efforts. A diverse workforce can bring different perspectives and experiences to your organization, leading to greater creativity, innovation, and productivity.

To ensure that your recruiting pipeline is diverse and inclusive, you need to take specific steps to attract candidates from underrepresented groups. This can include posting job openings on diversity job boards, participating in diversity career fairs, and using inclusive language in your job descriptions.

Measure and Refine Your Recruiting Pipeline

Finally, it’s important to continually measure and refine your recruiting pipeline to ensure that it is meeting the needs of your organization. This involves tracking key metrics like time-to-fill, cost-per-hire, and candidate conversion rates, and making adjustments to your strategy as needed.

By continually refining your recruiting pipeline, you can improve the efficiency and effectiveness of your recruiting efforts, attract top talent to your organization, and build a strong talent acquisition strategy that can help your organization achieve its goals.


The Future is Now: How to Build a Remote Recruiting Strategy

As the world becomes more interconnected and technology advances, the traditional office-based work environment is gradually giving way to remote work. Remote work allows employees to work from any location, as long as they have access to the internet, and can result in increased productivity, reduced commuting time, and lower overhead costs. However, it also poses new challenges for hiring managers and recruiters who must adapt their recruiting strategies to attract and retain top talent in this new work environment. In this podcast episode, we will discuss the future of remote work and how to build a remote recruiting strategy that will help you attract and retain the best talent.

The Future of Remote Work

The future of remote work is bright, as more and more employees prefer the flexibility and freedom that comes with remote work. A study conducted by Owl Labs found that 65% of employees would be willing to take a pay cut to work remotely, while 34% would choose to work remotely over a pay raise. Additionally, another study found that remote workers are more productive and engaged than their office-based counterparts, resulting in an average of 1.4 more days of work per month.

With such significant benefits associated with remote work, it is no surprise that more and more companies are embracing remote work as a long-term solution. However, this also means that hiring managers and recruiters must rethink their recruiting strategies to attract and retain top talent.

Define Your Company’s Remote Work Policy

Before you can build a remote recruiting strategy, you need to define your company’s remote work policy. This policy should define the expectations for remote workers, including their work hours, communication expectations, and availability. Additionally, it should outline the equipment and technology that will be provided to remote workers, as well as the support and resources available to them.

By defining your company’s remote work policy, you will be able to attract and retain top talent that is a good fit for your company culture and work environment.

Use Technology to Your Advantage

One of the most significant benefits of remote work is that it allows you to hire talent from anywhere in the world. However, this also means that you will need to leverage technology to attract and engage top talent. One way to do this is by using video interviews to connect with candidates. Video interviews allow you to connect with candidates from anywhere in the world, without having to worry about travel expenses.

Additionally, you can use technology to create a seamless candidate experience. For example, you can use applicant tracking systems to streamline your recruitment process, and chatbots to provide candidates with instant feedback and support.

Emphasize Your Company Culture

When recruiting remote workers, it is essential to emphasize your company culture. Remote workers need to feel connected to their team and understand the values and mission of the company. You can do this by sharing employee stories and testimonials on your website and social media platforms, and by hosting virtual team building events.

Additionally, you can create a sense of community by providing remote workers with access to collaboration tools, such as Slack or Microsoft Teams. These tools allow remote workers to connect with each other, share ideas, and stay connected to the company culture.

Focus on Soft Skills

When recruiting remote workers, it is essential to focus on soft skills. Remote workers need to be self-motivated, able to work independently, and excellent communicators. Additionally, they need to be comfortable with technology and able to troubleshoot any issues that may arise.

When interviewing remote candidates, it is essential to ask behavioral questions that focus on these soft skills. For example, you could ask the candidate to describe a time when they had to troubleshoot a technical issue on their own or how they stay motivated when working remotely.

Provide Clear Job Descriptions

When recruiting remote workers, it is essential to provide clear job descriptions that outline the responsibilities, qualifications, and expectations for the role. This will ensure that you attract candidates who have the necessary skills and experience for the position. Additionally, it will help remote workers understand the expectations for their role and what they need to do to succeed.

When writing a job description for a remote position, it is essential to include information about your company’s remote work policy, as well as any equipment or technology that will be provided to the candidate. This will help candidates understand the logistics of the role and what they need to succeed in a remote work environment.

Offer Competitive Compensation and Benefits

Remote workers often have different compensation expectations than office-based workers, as they may not receive the same benefits as office-based workers. For example, they may not have access to a company-provided desk, office supplies, or other amenities.

To attract and retain top talent in a remote work environment, it is essential to offer competitive compensation and benefits. This includes providing remote workers with the equipment and technology they need to do their job, as well as offering health insurance, retirement plans, and other benefits that are comparable to those offered to office-based workers.

Provide Ongoing Support and Training

Remote workers need ongoing support and training to succeed in their roles. This includes providing them with access to training materials, as well as regular check-ins with their manager to ensure that they are on track and meeting their goals.

Additionally, it is essential to provide remote workers with access to IT support and other resources they may need to troubleshoot technical issues or overcome other obstacles that may arise while working remotely.

In conclusion, as the world becomes more interconnected, remote work is becoming an increasingly popular option for both employees and employers. However, it also poses new challenges for hiring managers and recruiters, who must adapt their recruiting strategies to attract and retain top talent in a remote work environment.

To build a successful remote recruiting strategy, you need to define your company’s remote work policy, use technology to your advantage, emphasize your company culture, focus on soft skills, provide clear job descriptions, offer competitive compensation and benefits, and provide ongoing support and training.

By following these tips, you can attract and retain top talent in a remote work environment, and build a successful remote team that will help your company thrive in the years to come.


Chris Crutchfield Joins Ujamaa Place as New Chief Executive Officer

The DEJ Group is proud to announce that after an exhaustive recruitment process, Minnesota attorney Christopher Crutchfield will join Ujamaa Place as its incoming Chief Executive Officer. Crutchfield, who has significant experience in the government sector, begins his term on April 10, 2023.

Board Chair, Sam Clark, states, “with his background and experience, Chris is uniquely qualified to steer the ship at this critical time as our communities rebuild in the aftermath of a global pandemic. We want to make sure we are helping as many men as possible, and I am confident Chris is the individual to ensure we are doing just that.”

Operating since 2009, the Saint Paul-based nonprofit organization’s mission is to transform the lives of young, predominantly African American men experiencing inequity at the intersection of race and poverty. Via its trademarked Theory of Transformation program model, Ujamaa Place helps participants achieve brotherhood, stability, and personal success.

Crutchfield’s acceptance of the new role, comes on the heels of former CEO Otis Zanders, announcing his retirement in August of last year. Michael Belton has served as Interim CEO since October. When asked what the role means to him, Crutchfield responded, “I am humbled, honored, and excited for the opportunity to work with such an excellent organization to build on the past and grow into our future.”

The DEJ Group would like to personally thank the search committee, the staff, the board of directors, and the Ujamaa men that participated in the search process. We are excited to see where the organization heads under Mr. Crutchfield’s leadership.

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