It’s difficult enough to recruit and retain talent in a “normal market”. But what about in times of inflation, staffing shortages, and a looming recession? Tia Gordon, VP of People at Issuu, moderated a compelling panel discussion at Elevate on how business leaders can tackle these challenges. She was joined by the following experts to share their insights:
- Eva McCloskey, Director of People Operations, Recognition Media
- Maia Ervin, CPO, JUV Consulting
- Dawn Sharifan, Executive Coach & Consultant
- Aleksandr Volodarsky, CEO, Lemon.io
Find out what they had to say in the video below, or keep reading for the session highlights!
How has volatility impacted your people strategy in the past year?
For Maia, her organization is looking at this time as an opportunity to invest in their current people. “We shifted our efforts to retaining and motivating our team. We believe our company is our people and it’s important for us that they feel supported where they are.”
“More specifically, that looked like revamping our performance review process, and conducting goal setting exercises to affirm for our team that we care about their personal goals and growth, even at a time like this. It’s not just caring about them as folks who are operating as a function within the company.”
Transparency is also crucial. “Being transparent with your team about where the company currently is and what you’re able to do for them is important. You may lose some people along the way, but that’s okay. It’s important that we as a company are integral, honest, and transparent about where we are.”
What can leaders do to foster a positive workplace culture in times of uncertainty?
Eva reiterated the importance of transparency. “Communication is key to building an open culture and promoting employee well being. Clear is kind. Another important piece is leading with empathy, which leads to more innovation, higher engagement, and increased productivity.”
“Leading with empathy is a skillset that I’ve helped many business leaders learn over the past three years,” says Tia. “Everyone’s situation is different and we shouldn’t treat everyone as one.”
Aleksandr also encourages leaders to celebrate small wins. “Even if it’s not important in the business in general, celebrating small wins gives people more purpose.”
Finally, Eva reminds leaders to focus on the things they can control. “We can’t control what’s going on out there – the layoffs, inflation, the stock market, recession. We can only focus on what we can control, how we lead, our attitude, our work ethic, our mindset, and how we respond to stress.”
For growing businesses with plans to hire, what do they need to know about recruiting right now?
Compensation is a growing challenge for many businesses, both in terms of recruitment and retention. “I don’t know any company that has a budget for increases in line with inflation right now,” says Dawn. “I saw a poll that said 70% of people want to change jobs, but only 36% are actively looking. People are scared of the macroeconomic climate. They know they can make more money somewhere else, but they also like safety and stability.”
In some cases, a wider pool of talent is opening up to employers due to layoffs and hiring freezes. However, Dawn encourages business leaders to recruit responsibly. “Many people in my network have accepted offers that have been rescinded. You don’t want to damage your employer brand in that regard, and it’s just not a kind thing to do. Be clear on what the role is and that you can support it before you go out to market.”
When growing teams, it’s also important to keep existing salaries in mind. “Keep an eye on the compensation gap between the people you bring in and the people you currently have in your company. You might be paying a bit more and there might be unintended consequences, so keep an eye on internal equity as you bring in new hires.”
Dawn also pointed out that compensation is more than just a base salary. “What is your employer value proposition? Can employees go to their kid’s soccer game at 3pm? Can they work from home? Do you have fertility benefits? Whatever those things are, make sure you communicate them.”
How can we retain high-performing employees in the current market?
“Corporations are not really trusted by employees right now,” says Dawn. “How can you make deposits back into that trust account? People will ride with you in choppy waters if they trust that you’re going through it. If they don’t know what’s going to happen, or if they think you’re going to throw them overboard at the first chance, they are going to look out for themselves.”
Leaders also need to over-communicate. “You can feel like you’ve said it, but say it again. In an absence of information, people fill in their own story, and it’s usually the worst case scenario.”
Aleksandr agreed. “It’s not about people trying to create drama, it’s just how they see it. You think you’re being transparent, but assume that you’re not. Say things over and over again. It’s not just about top talent either, we’re a small team and we feel it on every level. Show everyone you are in the same boat.”
Dawn says gratitude can also go a long way, as can a positive atmosphere. “How can you inject just 1% more playfulness into your work environment? What can we do to bring joy and play into our world?”
How can business leaders plan for the future in unpredictable times?
Aleksandr says planning for the future is deeply impacted by individual company circumstances. “For some companies, they will face layoffs and suffer from losing talent. For other companies, especially startups, there is less competition for talent from top companies in terms of salaries and compensation.”
“More and more, employer branding matters,” says Maia. “As a company, we have a brand for our consumer, but what do you represent to the folks who are interested in working for your company?” Whether it’s your company website, social media, or other public places, she says people are actively seeking information – and not just on Glassdoor.
“Impact is becoming more important,” she added, as we saw throughout the Great Resignation. “It’s not just higher pay or better benefits, people want to align with the company. Showcase your impact and who you are as an employer.”