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Beating Turnover from Recruiting to Retention with Jennifer Paxton and Michael Brown

Learn from Talent Experts Jennifer Paxton, Former VP of Talent at Smile.io and Co-founder of Jamy, and Michael Brown, VP of Global Talent at Snyk, about how you can make your employees want to stay working with you. 

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Employee Wellbeing

As turnover poses a threat to many organisations, finding and keeping top talent is the number one goal for many HR departments. Putting people first is the prescribed way forward, but what does that mean in an ever-changing workforce?

Dive into this episode of ShockwaveTalks, where our special guests will give you tips and learnings to help you build and refine your recruiting and retention strategies. Watch it yourself or read up on the top insights from the talk on our blog!

Webinar transcript

Avery Khan: Hello everyone. Happy Thursday. Welcome to Erudit's sixth ShockwaveTalk series with today's topic, beating turnover from recruiting to retention. Hopefully you're all in the right place. My name's Avery Kane. I'm a senior account executive here at aerody. For those of you who are unfamiliar with our company, or this is your first Shockwave Talk, aerody empowers organizations with employee insights without having the need to run surveys. And big part of our process is we love learning and sharing insights with passionate people, leaders like all of you. And in this series, we invite experts to come in to share their thoughts and their learnings so that all of us can learn as well. So again, thank you for for joining us today. We hope this session is helpful. We all learn a lot, get some insightful tips on how to beat turnover with recruiting and engagement strategies.

Avery Khan: Our two guests joining us today are, are experts in these fields and we're excited to pick their brain. But before I introduce them, I want to quickly go over some housekeeping reminders. First off, this is an hour long event. We will get you out on time. If you've got a hard stop, please use the chat. We, when we've done these in the past, we've had great conversations throughout the entirety of the webinars. These can be questions for our speakers or just dialogues between each other on these topics as we go. Please definitely use that. And at the end of the of the session, we're gonna try to leave a little bit of time for questions to be answered by our guests, so it's also not too late. If you want to invite someone, a friend or a colleague who this talk might be helpful for, definitely get 'em in, send 'em the link. However, if they're not able to join, that's all right. We are gonna be sending out a recording link at the end here that you could definitely share. So, okay, enough of that. Really excited to introduce our two guests and just jump right into this. So first I wanna welcome Jennifer Paxton. She's the former VP of talent@smile.io and the co-founder of Jammer. So welcome Jennifer.

Jennifer Paxton: Thanks so much for having me. I think we might have some D difficulties on that lovely profile picture, but it's all right. I'm so excited to chat today. I've spent most of my career, you know, scaling startups and recruitment and retention have been top of mind for me then. And then now transitioning to building my own business with kind of video content within player branding, it is still top of mind. So this is something that is near and dear to my heart.

Avery Khan: Awesome. And, and last but not least, I've also got Michael Brown, vice President of Talent at Sneak. Michael, are you with us as well?

Michael Brown: We go. Okay, here we go. No more technical difficulties. Yes, we roll with this. So I'm Michael Brown, VP of Talent Attraction and Growth at sne. I actually know Jen and Am am glad to call her a friend. I've been in, in and around the talent acquisition and HR space. Virtually my entire 20 plus long year career now mostly focused on rapid growth tech startups. That is, that's where I tend to call, call home. But retention and, and bringing, you know, learning opportunities forefront are, you know, near and dear to my heart as well. So I'm excited to have this chat.

Avery Khan: Awesome. Well, we appreciate you both be in here and we could probably take the next week talking about this topic. There's just so much to, to unpack from retention, to recruiting to engagement and all the challenges the business has had. But maybe the best place to start would just be like, lay the foundation a little bit around w what work has been like and you know, we've, we all know what the last few years have been like, you know, we had a pandemic, we had this shift to remote work that happened almost overnight. We have burnout with employees, just a lot of challenges that people, leaders are facing. So I'm curious, maybe Jen, I'll start with you. You know, what do you think, if you could put your finger on it as has have the biggest impact on people leadership?

Jennifer Paxton: Yeah, I think one of the biggest impacts I have seen so far is just awareness and kind of, of how, of how people are feeling right now. And, and it seems like more on a deeper level cuz I remember even just a few years back you'd have lots of engagement surveys and just like, how are people feeling and you know, what's, what's going on at the company? And it was very much at a high level of like, oh, people are feeling good or people are not feeling as recognized. But now we're getting into deeper things like people are maybe feeling lonely or disengaged or really need additional kind of mental and emotional support at the company. And, and so I think that people are actually expressing more of their needs and the impact is also falling on, you know, HR as well to express their needs and, you know, advocate for themselves. If anything, the pandemic has proved how crucial, you know, HR and people operations is to, you know, the viability of a business. So yeah, that's probably what I'd start with at least.

Avery Khan: Awesome. Michael, what about you?

Michael Brown: I think for me, I think a lot about leading through the unknown. You know, I think that's been a big, big theme over since, you know, COVID began and we all left the office for what we thought was gonna be a week and, and then, you know, none of us actually returned. Right? And so, you know, kind of un adapting to the unknown and leading, you know, teams through the unknown. How, how do you do that? How do you keep the morale high? How do you, how do you make your team resilient to those sort of things? That's, that's really, you know, where I've, I've been spending a lot of my time having had to lead, you know, through a lot of this change. You know, there, there's, you know, just kind of so much that you need to do to be able to kind of get your team prepared and also get yourself prepared to be able to walk through all of that.

Avery Khan: Yeah, absolutely. W with, with the pandemic and work from home, things like that. Like how has that just changed how we work in general?

Michael Brown: You want me to go first? Yeah,

Avery Khan: Michael, go ahead. Sure.

Michael Brown: So I think, you know, we obviously we're, we've shifted to what, what's a pretty remote friendly culture these days. I think most companies, if they're not remote only have, you know, seriously considered how they work and when they work. And so you see, you know, variations of work styles happening, whether it's virtual or flex or in person. And I don't think that's gonna go anywhere. I think that's here to stay. I think, you know, the flexibility that that creates, the autonomy that creates for people is, is pretty, pretty impactful. But you know, in general I think, you know, you know, the kind of this kind of like, instead of people first is, is here to stay, right? I think it's, you know, we've, we've shifted from most companies at least like growth at all costs, right? Like just go, go and grow to more efficient growth. And so like you have to really ensure that the people that you bring on are really good and that, you know, where you put them is gonna be like a really great experience for them and that, you know, they have the, the tools and the flexibility that they need to be successful.

Jennifer Paxton: Yeah.

Michael Brown: That people, what do you think, Jen?

Jennifer Paxton: Yeah, that, that people first side that you just mentioned, like it's not even, it's it's not a fad to me. It is something that is, is definitely going to stay around. I mean, I think the talent market demands it, you know, it's something that employees have, especially employees coming into the workforce really expect. And I, I think it's something that gets, you know, I, I got asked a lot in initial screenings and it, I see all the content that pops up on LinkedIn around it. So I think companies are, are kind of under a microscope to see how they're going to lead with empathy and how they're treating their people. And I think more like candidates, but also employees are speaking up about how they're being treated just overall too.

Avery Khan: Yeah. Yeah, it's really interesting and I am curious to dive into that just a little bit more around just the focus on people first. Right. I do think that, you know, when I, when I log into LinkedIn and I see companies talking about their initiatives and how they wanna make the company a certain way and build a certain culture, you know, some of that's brand new. I also sometimes have seen some companies, you know, talking about productivity or there might be a situation like a startup that's super growth minded, right. And task related. Right. I am curious, you know, it sounds like you both are in the position of thinking, you know, this idea of people first is not a fad, this is the way business is gonna be conducted. You know, do you, do you that is going to be the long-term trend or do you think that there's a, a chance that something could happen where that pendulum maybe swings back to where the company is focusing on other things besides just, you know, primarily employee wellbeing?

Jennifer Paxton: I, I don't think the pendulum's gonna swing that far back that like, people are going to go from this new normal and say like, like basically like, go back to the way it was unless something, you know, unless kind of the jobs market and the unemployment rate, you know, goes ex like sky high, I, I don't think that pendulum is gonna swing as far back as it would need to radically change the way that we are treating people these days. Which, I mean, for me, I'm, I'm excited about that part of it. Like not, it's, it's something that I've been thinking about my entire career and I'm glad companies are focusing more on it.

Michael Brown: Awesome. I I totally agree. I I I I can't even argue any of that. Maybe the only thing I would say is that it might actually swing, you know, more in favor of people first and go even further. I think most, most good leaders know that their biggest investment is their people. And so if you're gonna spend all these dollars to bring these great people in, you really need to like build a culture and a community that is gonna engage those people and, you know, put the right tools and the processes in place that so that they can build, be successful and continue to build their careers. You know, beyond that, I don't think it, it needs to be all that complicated.

Jennifer Paxton: Yeah. And there's so much data as well on just kind of employee engagement leading to productivity at a business that like, I think we're just gonna get more and more data on that and companies are gonna realize it's a good business decision, not just a good like decision to have, but a good one for their business that is gonna drive the productivity of their team.

Avery Khan: Yeah, absolutely. Well, and Jen, I mean, one thing that's I think really relevant to you with, with Jammer, right? Is, and I, and I know you guys aren't a huge company yet, right? But I'm sure on roadmap as you, you expand and grow, you do have two different priorities, right? You've got, you've got this culture, this vision of what you want your place to be, like to work at, and then you also have a bottom line to look at. And so I am curious, you know, what do you think that looks like for companies as they're scaling and growing with, you know, having a, an emphasis on both? How do they do well, both of them really well?

Jennifer Paxton: Yeah, I think for me, the very first thing comes down to how you're budgeting. And so I really wanna run a company that's going to build in the employee wellbeing aspect in the overall strategy of the business. Just like you build in a marketing budget or tools budget. So many times I've seen companies want to do the, like, want to support employee wellbeing, but then they're like, it's like they're having to dig in couch cushions to find the funds to do it, right? So if they could just allocate those funds ahead of time, I, at least that's my, my theory is allocate the he funds ahead of time and then it'll be a little bit easier to get some of these programs and, and get kind of some of the things that employees are really looking for, you know, ear earmarked basically.

Avery Khan: Awesome.

Michael Brown: Yeah, I agree. I agree. I think, and I would kind of add it, I, I was thinking about it and framing it maybe a little differently. Like it's almost like, you know, the, the G s D mindset, you know, plus culture, right? Like, if you kind of put those two on the pendulum, they, they can be really at odds, right? But I think there's ways that, that we can, we can have both of those things, right? We can still gsd all day long and have a lot of fun doing it, but at the same time have this really great company culture where we have clear communications where we are, where we level set on real time feedback and, and just, you know, really kind of normalize, you know, this aspect of, you know, employee wellbeing. I just think that's, that's the way that, that's the way the world is, is shifting now.

Jennifer Paxton: Yeah, I, I really like the idea of employees working and it's just a smarter, more efficient way so that maybe they don't have to work, you know, a 40 hour work week potentially. Like they could get some of their things done sooner and just if they tweaked one part of their process, it's potentially possible. So thinking about kind of even my personal, like how I'm running the business right now, thinking about how I can actually do that more efficiently and what takes up the most of my time and is there a way to do it faster and with less can overhead for me?

Michael Brown: And, and I, and then just to, to, you know, tack onto that, right? We've got parents, we've got people that wanna do things outside of work that have, you know, lives or second hustles or whatever they have. And, and so, you know, trying to meet them in the middle and, and kind of build them some flexibility into how, how they need to operate in, in both worlds, you know, just makes it easier for everyone and, and I think would, would capture their heart.

Jennifer Paxton: Yeah.

Avery Khan: Yeah. That's awesome. So I, I think, you know, you definitely both agree that the, the focus on employee experience is here to stay. Not every company has that in place though, right? N today, right? And so I think one of those questions that's coming along is how do we, where do we start, right? You know, driving engagement, driving retention, making that culture a place that an employee buys into and, and really digs, digs in. Where do you start? Like how do you build that culture? You know, it's not the pizza party anymore that, you know, that gets people excited, right? So, you know, Michael, you talked a little bit about having flexibility and things like that. How does it, how does a company roll out an initiative to make this a priority?

Michael Brown: Well, I think in my experience, it's been a couple of things. One is setting really strong expectations upfront. So, you know, talking about what your company is and what your company isn't talking about, you know, the, what your company values and also where they draw a hard line in the sand, right? Those are some of the things that, you know, really help you understand, you know, are you gonna feel like you're included, right? Is there, is it an inclusive workforce based on who you are? But I also think there's also this, this element of the employee value proposition and, you know, going out and trying to understand and, and collect information from your current employees on, you know, what are the things that get them to come back every day? What, what are the exciting elements of of the company? How do they talk about it so you can understand their tone and their voice? And then really kind of building, you know, an employee value proposition that aligns truly to, you know, your employees and not just maybe your executives or the TA team. I think that's, you know, there's a couple of ways to, to start to like capture and retain people through that as well.

Jennifer Paxton: Wholeheartedly agree. I, I think starting with data and understanding what your employees are looking for and what they're saying is really important. You also, before even asking for the data and asking them to share their opinion, you need to come to them to, to Michael's other point, like with clear expectations on how you're going to use it and what your goal is for it to get that level of engagement to even have them express their opinions on what they need or what they want. You know, I think companies can do this from, honestly, the first time you hire your first employee, I think it's a good, a good thing just, just start having that conversation very early on. The one thing I've seen go poorly with that is if, if companies don't focus on it and they, you know, wait until maybe they're even like 200 people, there's bad habits that have already formed that are just gonna keep going and, and continue on and potentially bleed. So if you can catch some of those things early and how, how you wanna work, what the company is all about and what the company isn't very early on, I think that's gonna save you a lot of retention headaches in the, in the long run too.

Michael Brown: Totally, totally agree. One other thing I just thought of as you were saying that I think most people want to be told what to do and, and not, it sounds weird, right? But if you give people a framework to work within, they usually, they, they were gonna work within it. Yes. And so I think if you set that framework up just right, you know, you're gonna, you're gonna capture your people, you're gonna retain your people, you're gonna engage them, and they're gonna feel like they're doing meaningful work. And that's, that's the magic.

Jennifer Paxton: Awesome. And that also speaks to the accountability side of it too. Like having the employees be accountable, but also having the people team be accountable and also having leadership be accountable and you say you're gonna do something, this is how you're gonna do it, and then people are looking to make sure you do do it

Avery Khan: A hundred percent. And no, it's great. It's great feedback and, and you know, there's a lot of moving parts with all of this stuff, right? And, and there's obviously needs to be a really good plan in place on what our plan is, how we're gonna roll this out, how we're gonna hold our team, you know, accountable to things, how to hold our leaders accountable to things. I'm curious your thoughts on, you know, if a company thinks that they're not, they're not doing a good job with this stuff right now, is there a a a point in time where it makes sense for them to engage in a strategy and roll this out where things are in place they feel really confident or maybe they've grown to a certain point? Or do you think this is something that just every company from day one should, should emphasize?

Jennifer Paxton: Ideally, I wish it was every, every company from day one, but if a company isn't doing it, this is a great time to start. Like there's, there's no kind of hindering of you starting to gather this data and, and, and getting kind of your employee voice out there as well. Yeah. I don't know Mi Michael, you you have anything there?

Michael Brown: No, I think, I mean, I, I, so I've been fortunate to work at companies that have started it from the beginning and then others that have, you know, tried to limp along and then, and then actually execute it off on a big strategy later on. I think it's much, much better to start, you know, with it as a foundation, as Jen said, and, you know, you, you can then build modularly up from there versus having to corral everybody. And, and I, you know, as you, as you grow and you have more, more and more people, the perspectives also change, right? And so you may not have, you know, the, the perspective that you hoped you had had, you know, once you, once you get bigger,

Jennifer Paxton: You, you bring up such a good point though too, Michael, of if you can get people early on as well, like think about if you were doing a poll survey from day one, like it was just like a habit that like everybody at the company did. So you talked about it in the interview process. New hires knew it was gonna be expected then that they were gonna get a poll survey, you know, every week or every month. And it was just an assumed like part of your daily or your, your, your job title. Wouldn't that be amazing?

Michael Brown: Yeah, yeah. And, and like reduce so much friction in, in every organization. Yeah, that would be awesome. Yeah.

Jennifer Paxton: Awesome dude. That's one thing I might implement right away. It was like employee number one, let's have up pulse survey out and see how people are feeling, so,

Avery Khan: Oh, I love it. Yeah. I wanna switch gears a little bit. We've been talking a bit about ways to engage employees and what's important to them, but you know, when we talk about building a culture, it ultimately starts with who you hire. So I want to talk about recruitment cuz I know that's one thing you both are really passionate about. Michael, let's start with you, you know, what is, what's your process? How do you find the right person for the job in today's environment?

Michael Brown: So my team will, will tell you this, I say this a lot, but I, we, we slow down the speed up. So I think it's all about aligning, you know, so if you're gonna sit down and, and try to determine who you're gonna go out and hire, it's all about figuring that out upfront. It's, it's determining what the profile looks like, what the skills look like, what's important to you, what are your non-negotiables, and then, and then, you know, trying to build a really great profile, job description that, that encompasses all of those things so that you can go, go find that person and then building the right process so that you can, you can measure and, and have a really great experience when you do find some candidates to, to be talking to. And then that also allows you to move fast, you know, through an offer, right? And that gives you like the opportunity to show commitment and, and make sure that the momentum that you've created in your process, you know, stays there. I think, you know, that's, that's, you know, I just simplified it for everybody, but that's, you know, the nuts and bolts of it right there.

Jennifer Paxton: And to piggyback off that, I mean the alignment from the recruiting team, but also the alignment with the hiring manager and the rest of the interview team too. Having everybody have kind of the right calibration for the, the skills they're looking for and what is good versus what is great really helps streamline that. Like that interview de debrief process too, where maybe you have more people aligned on, you know, how they're going to say like, yeah, this is a great hire, this is a good hire or anything like that.

Michael Brown: Yeah, the ki the kickoffs are, are like, the beginning is just like, where you can really kind of define a lot of good things too. And you can, you can decide, you know, do you want this person to be a diverse hire, right? You could, you can like, you could go out and be, you know, really forefront and, and thinking, you know, strategically that way you could think about, you know, do you want this person to come from, you know, a underrepresented, you know, group out there? Do you want them to be coming from a a top school? Do you want like, you can really start to understand a lot about the hiring teams as well based on their asks. And it just goes back to creating the alignment. And then also it's that in ability to influence. So if you know exactly what they're looking for, you can sometimes influence in certain ways to, to get the job done too.

Jennifer Paxton: I also think those kickoff meetings are a great opportunity for the hiring managers to understand where the gaps are on their team too and how this new hire could potentially fill those, those gaps as well from an experience level or a background level as well. Yeah, I I think if you, if you get the kickoff meeting right and set kind of the expectations for the entire interview process, you're gonna be, it's gonna go so much smoother and so much quicker too. And just a better overall candidate experience too.

Michael Brown: Okay.

Avery Khan: Awesome. One thing I've heard from recruiters is that with work from home, you just now have this huge audience of people you can pick from, right? Like you're no longer constrained to your, you know, 20 miles away from your office. Right. And you know, there's so many positives that come with that. I've also heard that it can be challenging cuz you almost have so many options that it's maybe hard to narrow it down. And so I'm curious, have you, have you both seen positives or negatives from that change in the last few years regarding hiring?

Jennifer Paxton: I think one of the first things for me has been just the level of like, the sheer, sheer overwhelmingness of getting so many applicants that you can't even get to every single person until like, throughout the entire interview process. So actually Hot Jar posted recently, I think they had like, oh, I can't even remember how many applicants. It was like thousands and thousands of applicants for their company this year, and they're smaller teams, so it was kind of astonishing that they got that many applicants. But I was thinking about it from a recruiter standpoint saying, you know, I'm one recruiter and I need to get through, you know, 500 applications and see which ones are going to be the best fit for the role. And there's only x amount of hours in the day. I'm not just looking at resumes, I'm, I'm doing kind of phone screens and potentially doing some coordination.

Jennifer Paxton: I'm doing kickoff. So how do you balance getting to every single person and giving every single person a good experience with kind of the overwhelming number of, of people that are applying. On the flip side of that, I actually spoke with a friend today with her job search and she said, she said that she applied for 200 roles. So she has a spreadsheet of all these different companies that she's applying for. And so she is also exhausted, so it's not just on the recruiter side, but candidates are also exhausted from applying to so many different roles. And I, I wish there was a way that we could tamper down some of that exhaustion or that level of kind of o like feeling of overwhelm or being overwhelmed. Yeah.

Michael Brown: Yeah. I I think you nailed it, Jen, different perspective, but on the same, same lines, I'm also finding it to be, you know, slightly difficult, right? To, you know, there's a, there's a few things that, that make it difficult, right? One is time zone, you know, time zone haven't changed, you know, just because we all are home now, time zones are still the same and, you know, making sure that you have really great overlaps if you have a global team is, is really, really important. And so making sure that you reign in your hiring managers on that point is really, is can be, can be really tricky. I also think that, you know, that, you know, to, to Jen's point, I think the person that had to, to apply to 200 jobs, you know, on top of that they're at home, right? They're, they're isolated, they're disconnected, they're, they're behind, they're by themselves potentially.

Michael Brown: And, and that, that can also be, you know, a pretty, pretty negative on the positive though, to Jen's point, flexibility, you know, the, the inclusion, the balance there is a much larger talent pool than, than we had. I had, I had recruited for a company a long time ago that was all about remote and we didn't really, we didn't know we were, you know, four, four thinkers on, on that. But we were just going where the talent was. And unfortunately, you know, fortunately slash unfortunately for us, the talent was not in Massachusetts. And so we were, we were looking everywhere for it. And, and it ended up being a global, global perspective. One, one last piece on this. If you go to global though, than your time zones spread out so much that it becomes very hard to connect your company back together. And also the cost associated to employing people around the globe becomes very, very expensive. So I, I think those are just a couple of, of barriers that need to be, you know, thought through holistically.

Jennifer Paxton: One more piggyback off of Michael's thing, cuz when, cuz global, I, I love global and being able to work in different time zones, but the one part that is like the Achilles healer can really make or break sometimes is the way that people are working the asynchronous communication versus a synchronous communication. Cuz I had a team at my last company that had people in 11 different time zones, which meant they maybe had 30 minutes where their entire team overlapped maybe. And so they had to figure out a way of working. And if it's, if you're new to that, it's a new skill you have to learn. So that's also challenging. So I think also in those kickoff meetings, really having a candid conversation about, with the hiring manager about like the team's capability of working across time zones is, is really, is really important. I, I've kind added that in as a line item at this point.

Avery Khan: Yeah. Super interesting. And now, yeah, there's so many things to think about with that process. One thing that you both kind of alluded to is the scale right now that, now that the talent pulls so much bigger and there's so many other options now, one thing starting to come up is, is AI or tech that's helping recruiters with this process. And I think that's something that a lot of HR companies and recruiters are starting to just dip their toe in and figure out how to use. So I'm curious, and you know, Jen, I know this is right up your alley, so maybe we'll start with you on, on on this side. What have you seen that's out there? What have you seen work or not work and, and how can these types of tools be effective for recruiters?

Jennifer Paxton: I feel like I have a love hate relationship. Michael, I don't know about you. There's the part, there's a part of me that really loves kind of the AI side of it because it potentially gets down to the heart of the people, but then there's so many flaws that you really can't get that, that haven't been, you know, corrected and, and kind of perfected yet with AI from a, a bi like, you know, incorporating in bias into it. I also, I mean, I remember years back when Afghan tracking systems did have a few kind of weeding out parts of the job description. So if you, and, and like of your resume, so if you forgot to put in like the Afghan tracking system that you worked for, you were booted. It's like a lot of recruiters out there. I I don't know about you, but one acting tracking system, you can learn another one pretty quickly, but like that was a deciding factor to like, you know, kick somebody out. So I feel like I have a love hate relationship with more AI coming in. The part that I like potentially is, is that it could potentially save time, but if it's, if it's costing us authenticity and human connection, I have a strong, like a strong problem with AI doing that. Like I, candidates don't wanna just talk to a block, they wanna talk to a human. So, sorry, soapbox, soapbox off.

Michael Brown: No, that was, that was great. And I, I don't have a whole lot to add. I I think there's, there's efficiency gains, you know, to Jen's point that you can find, but there's also flaws, you know, just like, just like anything. And so it, it does become a matter of, you know, how much do you trust it, you know, when you do put it to work. I've also seen, you know, some, some, you know, some of the new stuff, you know, the chat, let's just, we'll just call it out chat, G b t hashtag, but you know, it's, it's everywhere right now. But it can be, it's pretty powerful too. And then, and you know, my team's been, we've been playing with it on the side and, and we've all been, I think all of us have been playing with it, none nonetheless. And there's, there's some really interesting things that I think we'll be able to do, you know, going forward.

Michael Brown: But again, it comes back to the human connection and you know, to me it's not about the tool itself, it's about the, it's about the efficiency gain that the tool creates for the, for the, the, the team. And so if the tool allows the team to have more time having real human conversation and connection, then that's probably a good thing. If it, if it become, if it makes the process more complicated, probably not a good thing, right? And so, you know, there's, there's definitely some trade-offs that you'll have to walk through, you know, if you do decide to implement one of these types of tools.

Jennifer Paxton: Yeah,

Avery Khan: Yeah. Awesome. Awesome. Before we, we move on to another topic, I just wanna remind everyone, please do use the chat to put in any questions. We're gonna spend some time at the end here and they'll be able to, to address those questions directly. I'm gonna transition kind of to the last main topic here, which, you know, recruiting obviously is where it starts, but I think most companies are looking today like, what can we do to move the needle so that conversation centers around engagement of the current workforce that they have. So let's just start with the foundation, like table stake stuff, you know, as, as an HR leader, what strategies are you implementing to not only understand your employees, but to I impact their engagement and their, their satisfaction at their job? Jen, let's maybe start with you.

Jennifer Paxton: Sure, yeah. I mean, I, I'm a big fan of surveys if they're done, you know, the right, the right way and, and kind of with the accountability and action piece attached to it. But I've been focusing on a few kind of clear buckets. So overall happiness, relationship with manager recognition and work-life balance. So I, I try and bucket the questions into one of those particular themes, mostly because people leave bad managers more than they leave bad companies. I still, I still believe that, but also with kind of the layoffs that are happening right now, there's kind of twofold to to that is people are feeling either that they are having to pick up additional work and additionally prove themselves more so that they do not get caught up in the next round of layoffs. Which leads to the recognition piece, which is if people are doing an amazing job, are you telling them that? Are you reinforcing positive behavior? And then all of those kind of lead to and make up kind of the overall happiness. So I'm a big fan of using pulse surveys to, to start kinda understanding employee engagement and, and where it can go from here.

Michael Brown: Yeah, I totally agree. I think it all starts with listening and you know, whether it's, I I I I love a pulse, but you know, if it's an, if it's the annual big bang engagement survey, regardless of what it is, I think it's, it's great for any company to be listening and doing the surveys and, and collecting the feedback, but as, as we all know, if if there's no action behind it, it's all for none. And so, you know, making sure that there's a clear action planning and communication that comes from, you know, from those surveys. I also think that, you know, there's, there, you know, a couple other buckets that that, that Jen didn't mention that I think are also important, but I think the ones Jen mentioned are probably the most important. But one is really, really clear communication and cascading communication, making sure that, you know, the message is coming all the way from the top down and it's really clear and the talking points stay consistent and, you know, it might be, it might be kind of shifted, you know, for its audience over as it as it makes its way down, but making sure that those communications are really crystal clear.

Michael Brown: I think building careers internally is also a big engagement piece right now. You know, there's, there's a lot of people that, you know, with all the layoffs that are happening right now, there's a lot of people that have either entered the market or there's a lot of people that have now like, decided I'm gonna hunker down and, you know, those people that have decided to hunker down, that's our opportunity, right? Those are the people that we have the opportunity to engage and retain and find new ways to, to build, you know, careers hopefully internally. So I think a lot about that. And then the only other piece, and I think Jen mentioned this, but it, you know, the manager enablement, that middle, that middle tier of managers is the one that's always neglected at every, at every company I've, I've ever been at or talked to or worked for or, you know, you know, it's just that area that, you know, tends to be neglected.

Michael Brown: And part of that's because you've got people that, you know, as these companies grow and, and mature, they get tapped to become managers and they weren't managers prior. Or you've got managers that are coming in with previous, you know, either bad habits or good habits, but they're, they come in, they're coming in with habits. And so, you know, making sure that you're level setting across the organization on, you know, what the expectation is on what a man, what it is to be a manager and then, you know, the associated tools on, you know, how to be a great one, you know, I think are really, really important.

Avery Khan: Yeah. Awesome. Yeah. So one thing that just came out fairly recently was the new Gallup poll for 2022. It was pretty shocking, at least in my opinion. It kept at 21% of the workforce is engaged in their work. And I thought about it from the other side of the coin, that's 79% of people were not engaged in their work, which just seems like a really high number. So I'm curious to just get your opinions on that figure by itself. Like how did we get to that point and, and what do companies need to do if that they feel like that's a representation of their company? Where do they need to start today to kind of fix this? Because I see, you know, if you, if we wanna run surveys to get a better pulse of them and they maybe just went through layoffs, are people gonna give them, you know, are they gonna kinda stick their neck out and give feedback? And tho tho those types of questions come out. It's like, so where do you start as a company if you feel like that is actually a representation of your organization?

Michael Brown: I'll, I'll, I'll give it a stab here. I think, you know, I think one of the things that can be really impactful is the concept of a stay interview. And it goes back to listening. It's all listening at the end of the day, Avery, it's, you know, asking questions and, and being human about it, right? Having a human moment with your, with your team to, to un to understand, you know, what is either keeping them there or, you know, driving them to leave, you know, or asking the question, you know, what, what's it gonna take to keep you here for the next three years? Right? That's a, it's a great question. It makes you think, and I think, you know, starting with an inter you know, one of those types of interviews, and it doesn't even have to be formal, it can be informal. You can do it in a one-on-one. I think that's, that's where you start.

Avery Khan: Just a quick follow up on that, is that kind of where you see that middle manager that kind of does get as much love and attention? Is that kind of where those areas where that person can really shine?

Michael Brown: Definitely. That is exactly where they can shine because they can have those conversations and they can show, they can show their, their teams that they're, they're either bought in, right, and they can kind of model some of that behavior for their teams. They can also, you know, try to advocate for their teams as well based on what they hear.

Jennifer Paxton: Yeah, I wrote down more ear service when you were talking more ear service, less lip service. I, I think it does all start with, with listening and, and that's kind of where you know where to go from, from you know, where you are now. I think also just with, with everything that's happening, I'm not surprised about the 21% with the layoffs and the level of uncertainty within the economy. I think people are trying to find their footing and it's very, it's very hard to like keep yourself engaged when you're just like, you're, when you're just worried, like, do I have a job tomorrow? You know, I, my company gave me two weeks notice to know if I was gonna get let go. I don't know how much productivity companies think that like their employees are going to give during that two month, like two weeks notice of when they just let everybody know that, hey, there's gonna be a layoff.

Jennifer Paxton: Like people are in panic state, they're not an engaged, engaged date at that point. So I think what companies can do though is, you know, recognize where they are and if they're, if they were at fault, be open and honest about it. And, but then also come with, here's our plan. You know, we recognize where our mistakes were, here's what we're gonna do to move forward and to get through this, and we want you to help us get through this. We wanna work together with you. So come to us with your, your feedback and your improvements and you know, what you wanna do. If you have ideas on innovation of how to, you know, do more with less as, as people have also said. But yeah, I think you're right, Michael, it has to start with, with listening and then you go from there.

Michael Brown: There we go.

Avery Khan: Patrick has a comment in the chat here. He talked with someone in hr. How, how do you, how do you deal with attrition snowing after layoffs happen? Yeah, I think this is, I think, I think layoffs are kind of the elephant in the room with a lot of companies right now talking about how to keep employees engaged. And so I am curious on that topic that Patrick mentioned kinda what your approach would be.

Michael Brown: It's, it's, it's really hard, I think, and you're gonna, you know, I think after every layoff, and it's funny, I was trying to find if there was a benchmark at one point in time, you know, post layoff, what's the, the attrition benchmark that, you know, you'd, you'd potentially see? I couldn't find anything, but it'd be interesting if there was one. But I think it's, it's, you know, you've gotta be real. You can't, you can't, you know, paint, paint everything through rose colored glass. It's gotta be a very, you know, real kind of experience for people. And the more resiliency that you build into your teams, the more real you can be. You know, the more you can, you can talk about, you know, how the economy impacts the company or how, you know, the impacts that you had to make to the company are, you know, are, you know, negative for certain people.

Michael Brown: I think, I think you can have those, but I also think, you know, you have to be, you have to, on the flip of that, you also have to ha be positive about things. You have to be positive about the outlook. You have to be positive about the culture. You have to be positive about, you know, the future and the growth. You know, and I think, so you have to, there's a, there's a real balance that you have to find there. The other piece is that you need to be able to offer, I I think offering growth opportunities to people after, you know, a layoff is, is the name of the game. And, you know, sometimes after a layoff team shape shift and there's like a, there's potential opportunity for people to pick up, you know, a different department or another task or expand their role in a way that they hadn't thought of before. And now sometimes you, you know, some may call that, you know, loading people up, but other people may, may look at that as a real opportunity to build their career and, and drive in a direction that they hadn't thought of before.

Jennifer Paxton: Yeah. Awesome. The one thing I think I'd add, Michael, cuz you, you nailed that one. Like, it should be like you're pinned. I don't know, answer. It's amazing. The one thing I might add, which is actually something you had said earlier about just communication, because it starts to snowball when people do not feel that you're being truthful or if people feel like you didn't treat employees with empathy or, or you get, you start to get a bad kind of reputation when you, when that happens. And people don't wanna work for a company like that. So if you can actually take a little bit more time up front, and I know like not everybody has, you know, infinite amount of time before layoff. I've heard some horror stories recently that people basically had eight hours before they knew that they were going to be laying off their, like half of the half the organization.

Jennifer Paxton: So like I understand that like, that time thing can happen, but sometimes if you can plan your comms ahead of time, you can mitigate some of that snowballing as well. This is not gonna be a very popular opinion or popular thing to say, but I'm gonna say it anyway. Most of the times, at least the, the rifts that I have been in and the riffs that I have heard some of them recently com like companies are actually kind of accounting for a little bit of additional attrition and so they're not cutting as deeply because they're already accounting for it. I know that's horrible to say publicly and everything, but it is something I think that maybe, you know, any of the HR leaders might even think like, yep, that was our company. But I don't know.

Michael Brown: On, on the flip of that, I also, I I've seen, you know, companies decide to, to decide to go a bit deeper, you know, and, and you know, kind of use that as a, as an opportunity to either right size or, or you know, change shapeshift, you know, what they're, they're doing. The other thing that can help companies stop from snowballing when it comes to attrition is retention and retention packages. Not, I'm not saying that everyone should just go out and pay for everyone to stay, but those that are your key performers, your, your top talent there is, there's a definite opportunity to either layer in additional equity or, you know, equity's probably the best, but, or, or additional cash for that to keep them, you know, in the business or to keep them, you know, vesting longer if you will. That can all, that can also help.

Avery Khan: Oh, that's good. So let's say we're, you know, we're a company that is taking this, this, we have a very intentional plan for our recruitment. We have a really intentional plan for how we're going to engage our employees. We're gonna roll this thing out. How do they check in with themselves? How do they check the progress over the course of time? What are the benchmarks that they're setting and how are they measuring how effective that plan and rollout is? What would you suggest as, you know, someone in HR or in leadership position really measures the effectiveness of these strategies? Hmm. Although whoever wants to go first, I don't know.

Michael Brown: I mean, I think we're gonna say the same thing.

Jennifer Paxton: Yeah, probably go for it.

Michael Brown: Go first. Yeah. So I think it's, I think, I think you've gotta, you gotta keep asking, you know, it's not, that's, that's why, you know, the one and done engagement survey is a, is a tricky thing to do and why, you know, a pulsing strategy, you know, helps you really understand, you know, the, the heartbeat of the company aka the pulse. And so, you know, that gives you more real time opportunity to measure and flex and also pivot like that's part of these action plans. Or, you know, sometimes you head down a path and you quickly realize this is not the path we needed to be going down, or this is not, we're not seeing the, we're not driving the outcome that we had hoped we were from this, this plan. And so pivoting is, is also a really good thing. And by, by pulsing constantly, it gives you that opportunity to reset the clock and, and then, you know, be able to continue to measure without having to like do the big bang all over again.

Jennifer Paxton: One other thing that I have found, it's not as easy to do as I would have hoped, but, but one other thing I have found is find a few employees at the company. They don't have to be leaders, they can be individual contributors, they could be mid-managers, but people that you can build a safe space with for them to come directly to you. Hmm. And, and figure that out. I've done it in fo focus groups before sometimes, but I've also had just a handful of employees that do not pull any punches and they come to me with those. And I think it's been a great learning experience for, for me on that end of, oh, like this is what's being said in like the slack underbelly that I'd, I'd never get to experience. Like I'd rather know what that was and hear it than just think everything is fine on the surface. It's like a, it's like the duck, you know?

Michael Brown: Yeah, totally. You know, and and to that point, Jen, you know, some of the, some of the people in your organization that tend to know the most are the typically there's sometimes the most junior people in the organization too. Yeah, right. And but the perspective that they bring and their ear to the ground is so good that it's, it's really important to pull those people in too. I've, I've had in in past company built this thing where we had, we called it safe space launch and we had rules, couldn't, couldn't, it wasn't fully, it was very safe but not completely safe. And, and you could bring anything. It was, you know, anything that was, that was on your mind and you could bring it and talk about it. You know, sometimes the topics were spicy and sometimes they weren't. But it was a, it was a great way to, to air, you know, concerns and, and not anonymously hate anonymous.

Avery Khan: Awesome. Very good. Well, we've got about 10 minutes left. This is normally a time where we, we wanna make sure we open it up to the floor to get any specific questions from anyone in our audience. So please do put in any questions you want Jen or Michael to address while we wait for those to come in. Michael and Jen, I, I don't know if you have any like last thoughts or anything that we haven't talked about today so far that you find to be really crucial. If you were talking to someone that's a people leader and they're asking you about 2023 and like, where do we go from here? We're, we feel like we're in the Gallup poll statistic bucket, we feel like we need to find a way out. What would you tell 'em that we haven't already talked about here today so far?

Michael Brown: I mean I think I, we touched on it at the beginning ever, ever so slightly, but I, I honestly, I think, you know, as, as companies start to shift, you know, their budgets, you know, and, and start, stop doing as much hiring as they used to be doing, I really think the opportunity to help people build careers internally is, is the name of the game. And whether, you know, with the gold standard of getting to a place where maybe you can actually even recruit internally, that is, if you can get there, I believe that's when, you know, your, your organization is, is like really for thinking, you know, they, they have the comfortability around, you know, the, the transition conversation or the manager's comfortable leaving, losing their best performer because they know it's in their best interest to go to that next team. And so if you can get to a place where everybody is very comfortable with this, you know, that's when you'll be able to create a ton of engagement and truly build and ca and capture people to build their careers internally. That's, that's where I hope things continue to go.

Jennifer Paxton: Yeah. I also want to, I want to like think about and, and have people think more about kind of the contingency planning and the succession planning. Cuz that goes to your point, Michael, about, you know, getting growth passed for people. And I think that those mid-level managers and, and kind of the leaders could even have more conversations around if, if they left or if they, if we had, if we had to do a rep or something, what would, what would happen and how could they repurpose their team? Yeah.

Avery Khan: Hmm. Interesting. Awesome. Michael, you, you, you talked about the, like the internal promotion and, and creating like those types of opportunities for people. I think one thing that, when I've talked to a lot of HR leaders recently, they, they, they think they're skewing the reasons people are leaving their company. They really believe it's compensation. And I think part of that is because I'm seeing they're seeing a lot of turnover in certain areas around like engineering, things like that where there's certain parts of the org that are experiencing more than others. And you know, there is an element of, yeah, you have some data, but then you also have some sort subjectivity from, or like exit interviews, right? Where you're trying to glean some information on why people are leaving. Do you think people are job hopping the way they are primarily because of money? Or do you think that there really is a lot of other factors and that's really the reason people are leaving?

Michael Brown: My personal opinion on that one is that people are not leaving for compensation. I think comp I think that's the, that's the added bonus of job hopping is that you get to ratchet up faster than, than maybe you, you would've if you were staying internally. I think it's about skills. I think it's, it's, people have started to recognize, you know, the opportunities that they wanna get themselves into in the future. And so therefore it becomes about building or collecting the skills needed to be able to get to that job. And so that's, that's where I think things are, that's why I think, you know, the skills over compensation kind of argument is, is it's, it's an easy one, right? I think and, and in a lot of cases it's easy, it's also easy for companies to measure that too from an at attrition perspective. I've seen, I've seen, you know, multiple attrition spikes over my career, you know, you know, different points in the, in the, in time. And I can't remember one that really kind of came back to an analysis that we l where we landed on compensation being the primary thing.

Jennifer Paxton: If you would've asked me in 2022 this question, I would've talked about the compensation side. Cuz there was so many qu like, there's so many kind of conversations I was having where people would talk about like their offer list or they were getting, or they were having to make offers like 20 K above what the budget was. I'm not hearing that as much anymore. So my client, I do agree with you, I don't think it's on the compensation side. I also think that there might be a direct correlation to burnout and skills development because people, if they're doing the same role and they're not growing, they're not learning and they're feeling like they're in this rut, then they're feeling burnt out and there's a lot of people feeling burnt out in many different ways, but one is kind of on the learning side. So I, I think that is one area that it doesn't take a lot of finances. It takes some finances, but not as much as, you know, giving a person more 20 k raise, but to help develop their skills. And it takes time and attention for that part of it.

Avery Khan: Yeah. Awesome. Great discussion, both of you. Thank you so much. We are getting close to time here and so I just wanna wrap up. And first off, for all of you watching this, please definitely give a follow to, to Jen and Michael. They're outstanding, they've got great content and they're, they're thought leaders in this space. So we really appreciate both of you being part of this and, and just sharing your learnings with all of us. There is a recording that will be coming out right after we're done here. We'll send that out to everyone that attended. Appreciate everyone. Michael or Jen, do you guys have any last thoughts before we sign off?

Michael Brown: Yeah, thank you for having us. This was, this was a lot of fun.

Jennifer Paxton: Awesome. Thanks.

Avery Khan: Thanks so much everyone for attending. We'll see you the next one. Take care.

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