January 14th, 2022

The Great Resignation is affecting businesses across the U.S., with over 20 million people quitting their jobs in the second half of 2021. As a result, HR leaders are being forced to get creative to address big employment gaps and even bigger retention issues.

Talkdesk Chief Human Resource Officer Laura Butler recently joined Athena’s monthly CHRO Perspectives forum to share her thoughts on the Great Resignation and the respective war to recruit top talent. Talkdesk is a $3B+ unicorn and global customer experience leader, serving a global client base and workforce.

As CHRO, Laura has seen firsthand how companies are struggling to recruit and retain talent. She prefers to call this period “the Great Contemplation”, as people are resigning as a result of re-evaluating their priorities.

Below, read Laura’s tips on how to create a more holistic employee experience to retain your top talent, and how to ensure your organization is resilient through the Great Resignation. She shares practical tips to protect yourself from losing your best employees, and new models for equity and compensation to turn retention challenges into scaling opportunities.

Shared purpose: Rethinking the employee value proposition

You know what you do and how you do it. But how often do you revisit why you do it? Increasingly, people want to align their work with a broader purpose to find fulfillment in their lives.

“Your values and your beliefs have never been more important as [during the] Great Contemplation. People are trying to align to say, ‘Does this company stand for the things I stand for?’” Laura explained. “How does that translate into your day-to-day? Performance, goal setting, [career planning]—all those things are very critical and necessary for people to feel invested in the company.”

It’s no longer negotiable to prioritize that sense of purpose and belonging.

“It’s not a nice to have. It’s actually important to attract the talent that you need,” Laura said.

At the forum, Laura outlined a few companies who are putting their company values to life to create a shared purpose for employees.

  • Adobe sends their employees plantable birthday cards made from seeds, aligned with their commitment to sustainability
  • Glassdoor lists nine companies (including AirBnb & BambooHR) that take “vacation pay” to the next level by contributing up $2,000 toward the cost of employees’ vacations each year
  • Flatfile offers a $10,000 office remodel incentive and has an interior designer on staff to aid in the process
  • Cotopaxi’s annual Questival brings together employees and customers for a weekend of adventure for a cause. “They are almost more committed to their mission than their actual product,” Laura said.
  • Oracle offers referral bonuses up to $5,000, putting their money behind the idea that it’s everyone’s job to be recruiting.

Holistic wellbeing: Reimagining how we care for our team

Great Places to Work says leaders hoping to bolster employee wellbeing should focus on six key areas: fulfillment at work, work-life balance, financial security, work environment, mental and physical health, and interpersonal relationships

Laura often revisits this checklist to ensure they’re covering all their bases, exploring whether they “have initiatives in each area that we can publicize to help emphasize caring?” She offered a list of tactics to consider that companies have employed to invest in their employees’ wellbeing:

  • Enhanced personal services, like caregiver support services, recognizing that people might be taking care of elderly parents or children with disabilities
  • Parental benefits like fertility treatment, childcare, and pregnancy coaching
  • School loan repayment programs and tuition remission
  • Tech-enabled mental health and mindfulness services like Spring Health, LifeDojo, Calm, and Headspace
  • Rethinking the workweek (e.g. implementing a 4-day workweek, extended holiday breaks, or company-wide no meeting days) so employees have time off to recharge
  • Sabbaticals for tenured employees

Personal growth: “I feel valued”

Nearly half of all workers are currently thinking about leaving their jobs. That number goes up to 63% for employees who have bad managers (vs. 23% of people with good managers). Add to that the average cost of replacing an employee ($100,000), and the tremendous risk of the Great Resignation becomes starkly apparent.

The stakes have rarely been higher; it’s time for companies to rethink the basic components that build the employee experience, like compensation and development. At Talkdesk, they’re doing just that.

“Compensation is changing. Off-cycle adjustments are happening a lot more frequently. Compensation rules are getting bent,” Laura explained. “We’re in the middle of going through an entire compensation benchmarking and re-leveling. We’re transforming the L&D team’s goals, focusing on creating broader capabilities like change management and digital literacy that are really required for a company to realize its potential today.”

They transformed their learning delivery to be more experiential and immediate, creating bite-sized content that can be delivered when and where it’s needed, adaptable to different learning styles.

“The trend is to move away from traditional classroom instruction and adopt approaches that can scale to more employees, but also in more customized ways — online and audio courses, video conferences, interactive simulations, gamification, as well as opportunities for employees more formally to do learning circles and apply what they’ve been taught,” Laura said.

Radical flexibility: Rethinking the workplace experience

Jobseekers are watching as companies reevaluate their return-to-work plans, set up hybrid work arrangements, and commit to remote work options going forward. More than ever, employees are expecting flexibility in where and when they work—with 77% of people preferring flexible working arrangements over swanky corporate offices.

But as many have experienced, that shift came with a dark side: a blurred line between work and home life and rising levels of burnout.

“People aren’t working from home, they’re actually living at work,” Laura said. “In some cases, people don’t want to be home full-time. They do want an option to go into an office.”

She offered a few suggestions to get started as you rethink the physical workspace and workplace experience.

  • For fully remote or hybrid teams, consider simulated workplaces and virtual events and team building.
  • Read Rituals for Work to gain practical ideas to transform the employee experience.
  • Use the Icebreaker Deck from BestSelf to create connection at the beginning of meetings. “If it’s a big meeting, we’ll do it in the chat. Otherwise, we go around answering the questions, and it really helps that connection and get people feeling caring.”
  • Offer coworking credits for remote employees so they have an option to work outside their home.
  • Reevaluate what the new physical office looks like. Leading companies are installing conversation pods, increasing ventilation, and decreasing occupancy.

Deeper connections: Feeling understood

Laura explains that leading companies foster creating deep connections and belonging from the beginning of the employee experience. She recommends:

  • Create a meaningful experience from the start with a simulated job offer. A new software called Welcome creates a personalized simulated experience around getting a job offer.
  • Give new hires swag boxes that have deeper meaning or personalization (e.g. dog swag for dog owners). Laura recommends asking yourself, “How does this swag box represent who we are and our value proposition to our employees further?”
  • When onboarding new employees, introduce them to the team with more than just their new responsibilities and title on the org chart. Laura says they ask questions like “What was your biggest dream?” Or “What’s the thing you’re proudest of?” to help people connect with the new hire in a deeper way.
  • Create connections across the organization without the watercooler using software like Donut and RandomCoffee.
  • Create a culture of gratitude using a platform like Motivosity for peer-to-peer recognition. “It’s pure cheat and jot to see gratitude coming through,” Laura said.
  • Connect employees across the organization through mentoring programs, ERGs, volunteer events, or even special interest groups (like a Peloton club.)
  • Set up a suggestion box and follow through with appropriate actions to ensure employees feel heard. “Even though trust and transparency are important, sometimes people are intimidated to give an idea with their name… Provide an anonymous way for them to give feedback anytime they want to,” Laura suggested.

Creating a more resilient organization

You can check every box and implement every failsafe, but in the end — people will still quit. So how do you create a more resilient organization?

Information and people need to be easy to navigate and access. Infrastructure like internal wikis and intranet are critical in ensuring alignment and cohesion across the organization.

Get intentional about your onboarding design. It’s critical to get people onboarded and functioning as quickly as possible. Set clear goals and outcomes with new hires. Conduct “stay interviews” for top talent you want tp retain so you know what motivates them, and try to replicate that experience across your workforce.

Manage your talent using journey maps to set a two-year trajectory to grow their careers. Be intentional about creating the experiences that employee needs to reach their next career goal (hopefully within your organization!)

Be aware of burnout. Burnout directly undermines your company’s resilience.

Creativity requires constraint. “I remind myself of that daily,” Laura said. “There’s a lot of constraints that are happening — people not getting everything that they want or need — right now. And that’s where creativity comes, and new problems, and growth.”

CHRO Perspectives is a monthly forum exclusive to Athena members and CHRO leaders and heads of learning and development (all genders). Each month, Athena founder & CEO, Coco Brown, hosts a fireside chat with an HR innovator, focusing wholly on executive development trends, workforce management, human capital thought leadership, and more. Join us for our next event.

Athena members can watch the full recording in the Library.



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