Piecing Together the Talent Puzzle—Four Truths About Finding and Keeping Talent

In celebration of National Small Business Week, TriNet experts, Kristin Russum, Director of Organizational Development and Lynne Vu, Lead Organizational Development Consultant, share tactics for attracting and retaining top talent. The two discuss getting creative and thinking outside of the box to gain new perspectives and getting to know your people to cultivate the conditions for your employees to succeed.

Please note that these sessions are for educational purposes only. TriNet provides HR guidance and best practices. TriNet does not provide legal, tax or accounting advice. The materials in these sessions and the products, advice and opinions expressed in these sessions are solely those prepared by the presenter and not necessarily those of TriNet.

Kristin Russum:
Thank you so much. We are thrilled to be here. For those of you who may not be familiar with TriNet, we're a professional employer organization that offers a full-service HR solution that provides payroll processing, access to big company benefit options, risk mitigation and HR support to thousands of amazing small businesses.

TriNet is a full-service HR solutions company committed to empowering small and medium-size businesses by supporting their growth and enabling their people. TriNet, over the years, has been recognized in many ways. In addition to being listed on the New York Stock Exchange, NEAESAC certified, most recently, we received two trust radius, top-rated awards in the areas of HR management and payroll.

These awards have become the industry standard for unbiased recognition of a B2B technology product. In addition, TriNet is proud to be named by Fast Company as a 2022 brand that matters for our 'People Matter' campaign that celebrated the hardworking and diverse employees of tens of thousands of SMB customers in the height of the pandemic.

I just wanted to overview our agenda. We've got a couple of things that we're gonna be covering: workforce trends and challenges. We'll talk about the four truths as we see them, and then some actionable takeaways. Lynne.

Lynne Vu:
Great. Thanks Kristin. So, as we know, the Covid crisis accelerated a lot of workforce trends that were already in play. Most significantly, it helped employees realize that they have the leverage to demand change in the workforce. So let's talk a little bit about the things that are here on this slide.

First is the rise of purpose. No matter what their role, employees need to feel a sense of meaning in their work. Employees are looking for companies that not necessarily just giving them a paycheck, but they want purpose. They want to make sure that the organizations have a sense of value that matches or aligns with their own core values.

Humanization of the workforce. The changing workforce is continuing to put diversity, equity and inclusion, or DEI& at the forefront. According to current stats from Indeed, Glassdoor, 74% of U.S. workers say that corporate investment in DE&I is either very important or somewhat important to them when considering a new job.

Distributed in remote work teams. We know this: hybrid work, remote work, it's here to stay. Although it may be beneficial for flexibility, sometimes it can be disruptive to company culture or collaboration. It may impact the way employees feel about their job succession, career progression, job security, maybe due to isolation.

Employee wellbeing. In addition to the mayhem that Covid had on the labor market, it impacted the mental health of many in the workforce. It's become even more important than ever to focus on employee mental and physical health. Employees are looking for places that they can feel supported.

And finally, retention as a strategic priority. We know this, as in any type of economy, the good employees, the best employees, can always find another opportunity. Companies should consider focusing on ways to keep employees not only productive, but also engaged. In order to keep up, companies need new strategies to engage their employees.

So let's start with the first truth. Hybrid work models are here to stay. We're in a whole new paradigm beyond the traditional, you know, get up in the morning, go to work, stay at work all day and then go home after the work is done for certain positions. It's become imperative to find ways of creating flexibilities for employees. People want to know that they can find balance, that they can have that job and work, or a job and life flexibility.

The new world of work requires a different approach to attracting talent. So what can you do to attract great talent? One way is to offer flexibility whenever possible, just like what I was talking about. Employees want that flexibility. They wanna be able to take their kids to school or they wanna be able to go to a doctor's appointment.

We want to be able to make sure that we can meet employees where they are and provide the flexibility. This may be a remote workforce, this may be a hybrid workforce, maybe giving employees the opportunity to be flexible whenever it's possible.

And look beyond traditional talent pools. We'll talk a little bit further about this in some additional slides, but think about how you're finding talent currently. Consider widening the net to find employees using additional or other sources. If you're only looking in the same ways or using the same sources to find candidates, then you're only gonna find the same types of candidates. So this could include colleges, universities that are different from the ones that you typically recruit from.

This could be creating a community network as a pipeline for unique talent. This could also mean, and we'll talk about this further on in our slide deck, updating your job description, your job ads, to make sure that you're capturing a wider talent pool.

Another approach is to get creative with incentives. We've listed a couple here, work-life balance programs, childcare, pet care tutoring, language courses, tuition reimbursement. There's a lot of different ways that you can get creative with programs that can help employees and keep them engaged. Maybe something that would help employees repay student loans. Also consider offering full-time benefits, stay bonuses, meal allowances.

A lot of companies are offering different kinds of opportunities to keep employees attracted, retained and happy within the workplace. So you can tailor these things according to your business. So two thirds of job seekers are saying that a diverse workforce is an important factor for evaluating offers.

With that in mind, embedding DE&I practices into your recruiting process is a strategic imperative. Diverse staffing is more than an obligation. It is a business imperative. So how can you do this? How can you make diversity, equity and inclusion a priority in your organization? Here are some tips to consider. As I mentioned in the previous slide, look beyond traditional talent pools to source candidates.

Think about diverse or divergent perspectives when evaluating selecting candidates. Look at all elements or all dimensions of diversity when you're building your interview and screening panels, building multiple viewpoints into consideration. Be aware of unconscious bias and the impact that it may have on an interview or an interview panel.

For example, there's affinity bias, which is when we all tend to gravitate toward people that think like us or talk like us or approach problems or complete projects in the same way that we do. If you're only focusing on those types of people, you can miss out on a wide variety of perspectives and styles and approaches. So think about different kinds of diversity of experience, diversity of approach and even demographic diversity. Provide training for hiring teams around that unconscious bias talent pool assessment. Awareness is key.

And use inclusive language or make sure that you're keeping the language as neutral as possible. And inclusive language, adding that into your job postings, there's a lot of words or phrases that may, for example, skew masculine or may skew feminine. Something that may skew masculine, for example, might be the word 'assertive.' Or there may be a word 'collaborative' that may skew feminine. These can impact whether or not a candidate can see themselves in a role.

It can also influence interviewers. So if you're using phrases like 'work hard, play hard', or you're using phrases like 'rockstar', this could impact whether or not somebody can see themselves in the role. And it can also influence whether or not your interviewer can see that candidate as being successful.

There's a lot of sites that can give you a quick answer about whether or not your job posting has a gender or other bias. And then you can use tools that can mask personal identifier information on resumes. Our brains make assumptions based on information so quickly that you don't even necessarily process it.

It's simply the way your brain works so that you can move throughout your day. It's important to be aware of those biases and make every effort to be inclusive. Sometimes this means masking someone's name, masking where they live, masking where they went to school or other information that typically isn't relevant to the job so that we can truly evaluate the candidate on what matters.

And lastly, tell great stories. Talk about your DE&I efforts and your programs. The key to a strong DE&I program is for everyone to feel that sense of belonging. If you're interested or if you've invested in employee resource groups, which we call ERGs, then talk them up. Publicize them online. Talk a little bit about what you are doing to make sure that you're creating that culture of belonging.

Let's move on to our second truth. Culture always matters, but it matters now more than ever. Leaders at all levels have always had to find ways to connect with people and now we're looking at new ways to connect with people. This emphasizes the need to create environments that embody that culture of belonging, to support all staff, to make sure people feel welcome, supported, set up for success.

So fostering belonging in the workplace means that people of all backgrounds get a seat at the table. They feel heard, they feel recognized for their contributions. Belonging is this feeling of security and support when there's a feeling of that acceptance and inclusion.

According to research by BetterUp, creating a sense of belonging at work can make a huge difference in employee happiness, productivity, performance and retention, leading to the stat here, leading to a 50% or more lower risk of turnover. To help promote engagement and belonging, leadership and particularly, frontline managers need to relearn how to lead and manage in ways that promote belonging for all employees.

So the reason why I emphasize frontline managers is because those people are typically highly engaged in the interview process, hiring, mentoring, guiding, promotion performance management, course correction, coaching. All of those things really fall on your frontline managers and they have that daily influence and they're the ones that are creating sort of that safe space environment and actively encouraging open dialogue. With this, it's important to make sure that leaders at all levels have tools and training. Sometimes we rely on, "Well, this is the way we've always done it." Instead of that focus, there should be a genuine interest in leaders and colleagues to seek out new and unique opinions, different perspectives, different ideas, collaboration, brainstorming. This is the type of culture that exemplifies belonging.

So up next, we're going to review the elements of how to cultivate belonging. According to co-equal.org, a global nonprofit DE&I think tank, belonging at work is rooted in four elements. The first element, as you see here, is 'seen'. This is illustrated when employees are recognized or rewarded or feel respected by their colleagues.

The second is 'supported'. Supported means that your peers, your leaders, they have your back. You feel like you're comfortable with what you have to get the job done, having that sense of fulfillment.

The third is 'connected'. Connected is the feeling of being able to bring your authentic self to work, that you have a positive or authentic social interaction with the people around you.

And lastly, the feeling of 'proud.' Being proud of your work and your organization, feeling aligned to the purpose, the mission, the vision of the organization, like we talked about a little bit earlier, not only having your own personal core values, but knowing that those core values align with the core values of your organization. That can make you feel proud of being part of the organization.

So as you can see here from the stats, belonging isn't just good for employees, it's also good for business. Much of what's been emphasized within truth number two is the vital role that leaders play in fostering culture and belonging. So let's take a closer look at some leadership characteristics that can help build the culture of belonging.

The best leaders create a culture where everyone feels welcome and included. Harvard Business Review cites that “inclusive leaders share a cluster of six signature traits” that we've put here on the screen. Leaders and organizations that employ these traits will become better prepared to adapt to diverse customers, market, ideas, talent.

This first one, we've talked about this, a visible commitment. Leadership should have this visible commitment to creating that culture of belonging. It comes from leadership. Without that leadership buy-in, it doesn't necessarily work. It can fail, and you want to make sure that you're creating that culture of belonging.

So effective leaders convey that authentic commitment to diversity. They challenge the status quo. They hold people accountable. They make diversity inclusion a personal priority. Leaders can show this visible commitment with actions like attending and supporting employee resource groups, hiring promoted, qualified, diverse candidates, serving as a mentor or a sponsor to underserved populations, endorsing creative perspectives or different solutions, creating that space for brainstorming.

The second characteristic is humility. Employees realize that leaders are human. They want to see that their leaders are open and vulnerable. They want to see that their leaders are humble and that they're asking for feedback on their blind spots. They're asking for feedback on how to improve their personal management style.

They're modest about their capabilities. They admit mistakes and they create space for others to contribute. This is key for leaders to make sure that they're creating the opportunity for their employees to feel comfortable in their own humanity.

The third is curiosity about others. Strong and inclusive leaders have an open mindset and a genuine curiosity about others. They listen. They listen without judgment. They seek to understand with empathy. This empathy is critical for leaders to gain insight and to be respected, develop strategies that meet the needs of their staff.

The fourth characteristic is cultural intelligence. Now, it's not about symbol activities like identifying a list of holidays to celebrate. It's about considering how cultural history and personal experience drives an employee's sense of self. Leaders are attentive to others' cultures and adapt as required to bridge those divides or smooth potential gaps in a multicultural workforce.

And fifth, awareness of potential bias. The key trait to being an inclusive leader is to be aware of potential bias, take active steps to encourage that equity and fairness. Sometimes people fall short, sometimes they fall short of perfection. And again, you know, leaders are humans.

It happens even with the best of intentions. The mark of a true leader is how they would handle their personal blind spots or handle their potential flaws, how they create an inclusive environment where employees have a comfort level in showing their authentic selves, bringing their authentic selves to work.

And lastly, effective collaboration. Collaboration improves the way that our team works together and solves problems. Employees want to feel that their leaders understand their perspective and that they hear their opinions. Inclusive leaders encourage collaboration. They build that trust. They build a psychological safety so that everyone feels comfortable speaking up or challenging the status quo.

We've all been in situations where it's been comfortable to collaborate and brainstorm and you walk out of those situations and those meetings feeling energized and feeling that you've provided information and content and feedback and that's been helpful. From here, let's keep in mind how these traits support and contribute to a meaningful employee experience.

Kristin is going to talk about the next two truths.

Thanks, Lynne. As our third truth, when it comes to attracting and keeping talent, people want to work for a purpose. Remember what Lynne talked about when we were discussing trends. Purpose is really high up there on inner trends. Growing evidence shows that all employees need to feel a sense of purpose, a sense of connection, that their work makes a difference.

So let's review how this plays out in the workforce. What people need from work and what drives them personally can be very, very complicated. Sometimes an individual's purpose aligns perfectly with the organization's purpose, their core values and other times it's only a partial match. Start by simply discussing these matters with your team openly, honestly and thoughtfully.

Provide appropriate feedback to leadership. Is it time for a refresh? Maybe your values don't hold with the way that you work now. We find that there are three main areas where people find meaning and purpose.

Purpose from the organization. Does an organization with a purpose behind the defined mission and values? So when was the last time you reviewed or refreshed those? Are they still reflective of the needs of your staff, especially after the pandemic and economic turmoil that, you know, we're faced with right now. As an example, think about different groups in your organization asking how they would like to participate in development opportunities.

And so then, how are you also highlighting these areas within your job ads, career page, interview process? Are you really promoting your values? Are they spread near and far so that prospective candidates can look at that and really get a sense for, "Hey, I can see myself in this organization."

The second area that people get purpose is from the job role. People who find their individual purpose in alignment with their position tend to get more meaning from their job, making them more engaged. So in what ways can you celebrate individual and team success to illustrate the impact each person's role and duties play in the bigger picture?

Could it be more likely that individuals working in your role have a higher connection with their job based on, you know, a particular interest that they have? How can administrators and/ or employers make connection between the productivity or output that each position has to the bottom line?

And lastly, purpose from outside work. Some people work so that they can fulfill their purpose outside of work, such as taking care of family or working in the community. Leaders should find ways to reinforce organizational and individual purpose in everything, from hiring feedback and initiatives and matching individuals to the function that they play in the organization. But what skillset, at a personal level can be leveraged to create success and fulfillment. Giving them a sense that their unique contribution makes a difference.

By treating this, or, I guess, dealing with this from the beginning and ongoing conversations and personal reflection, you can help your staff connect more powerfully to meaning and purpose.

So with that, let's move to our fourth truth, and that relates to personal expansion and learning. It's the job of leaders and managers to help employees learn, grow and take time to get to that next level. It's important to focus, not only on developing talent today, but what are the skills and competencies needed in the future. Upskilling or reskilling can help soften the economic blow of disruption and ensure credentials are kept up to date and valid.

According to the World Economic Forums, it's the future of jobs report, and this is from 2020, more than one billion people will need to be re-skilled by 2030. I don't want to point out that that it's only seven years away. How can you prepare your organization so it doesn't get left behind? So let's look at a few steps you can take to reskill or upskill your workforce. First off, identify the job or the work to be done, not just today, but in the future.

What are your best predictions? Clarify the skills and capabilities needed. What skills are needed to successfully fulfill the job to be done? Let's look at and analyze those skill gaps, include development of processes to close them. You know, if you're missing a particular skill, let's come up with a plan for how you're gonna get there.

We use, in our world, 'build it or buy it.' Provide targeted training grounded in adult learning principles. So this is really important to know that when you're developing your training programs or you're developing these career development opportunities, that you really wanted to subscribe to the thinking that all adults learn a little bit differently and making sure you have different modalities.

And then what are those enablers and the infrastructure that sets these people up for success? You also want to think about and cultivate an environment of continuous learning where it's safe to make mistakes. You know, maybe document them and learn from them. So as you're looking at this, are you creating that environment where people feel comfortable really stretching their wings, and then providing performance feedback and support?

Lynne shared this in our trends slide, that good people will stay and perform if they see a role for them that will move their career forward. We are seeing such velocity right now with people in roles and you need to be focused on how do we keep them.

All right, so as we think about this, what about training? What does that mean exactly? There are tons of advances in technology and really what we found is that growth and development can happen from anywhere, anytime, any place, 24/7, 365. As a result, there's been a shift really towards dynamic, self-directed, and continuous learning opportunities for employees.

Really think about your audience. One size does not fit all. You need to allow people to opt in and to choose their learning. So as we move on to our next slide, I'll turn it over to Lynne to wrap us up.

Great. Thanks Kristin. So as we wrap up our presentation, let's review some of our key takeaways. Get creative. You know, experiment, iterate, make sure that you're trying to think outside of the box and gain new perspectives and new ideas on an ongoing basis. Think about what areas of the business could use a creative makeover.

And don't be afraid to try new things. Get to know your people. Get to know what's important to them. It's a great idea to ask them you know, for input. Do they want a flexible work policy? Do they want job sharing? Do they want cross-training, upskilling? What are they looking for?

What makes your team excited to come to work? And, you know, you don't necessarily have to guess. You can ask them. Cultivate those conditions for our employees to succeed. Identify clear paths for all individuals at all levels to accomplish their goals and continue to develop.

And that may or may not mean a direct career succession into the role that's immediately above them. It could mean a role that's in a different area, or could mean additional projects or different investment opportunities in training or certifications. And with that, help people find meaning and fulfillment in their work.

How are employees inspired to connect to the bigger picture of who you are as an organization and how you're going about doing your business? And provide the leadership tools and resources people need to win. I'm a huge fan of training. Invest in training. No education is ever wasted.

So if you invest in that training for opportunities for interpersonal connection, it's a great way to keep people engaged. So we're still in challenging times, we continue to have challenging times. If we do these things, it can give us the tools to help our organizations be more profitable, more sustainable and more attractive places to work.

In the end, this requires that organizations and individuals be inventive, be unafraid of frequent change, resilient, you know, all the things, committed to the advantages of what these new initiatives will bring. So we can move to a couple of questions if we have time.

Lynne, as we think about this, I know we've had a couple of questions that have come up in our work, and I'm hoping that maybe you could speak to it. One would be—how are customers using engagement surveys or pulse surveys right now and why should they be using them?

Great question. I love employee engagement surveys. I love pulse surveys. I love a more in-depth employee engagement survey. It's one of those things where, you know, you can't make an assumption unless you've asked the question. On the flip side of that, don't ever ask a question that you don't want the answer to. So once you ask the question and you get the answer, it's really important to take action on the feedback that you get from your employees.

TriNet has a couple of great employee engagement survey tools where we can do kind of a light version and a more in-depth version, where we can talk to, we can find out what your employees are thinking sort of, in a quick way and a more in depth way.

I'm a huge fan of just like I said, ask the question.

Well, it's that opportunity for employees. I mean, certainly we're encouraging you to have those conversations in, you know, real life, in face-to-face if possible, or virtual, but the anonymity of the engagement survey, I think is the biggest straw that you uncover things that maybe employees are a little uncomfortable about sharing.

Yeah. And you can see the themes that come up. And it's important to ask employees while they're still employees and while they're still engaged, rather than getting that feedback, say, from an exit interview. So it's a really good way to, you know, if there's some sort of area or department or group that is feeling less engaged, it's a great way of identifying that group and then taking the changes necessary to create that culture of belonging.

I love it. Well then in part two of my question, Lynne, is really surrounding, you'd mentioned just a brief comment about career development and really outlining the structure and that every person doesn't necessarily want to move into people leadership and that has been the traditional path that many organizations have followed, and what you had alluded to was that idea of moving laterally. Could you speak just a little bit more to that?

Sure. And you know, I've often said that, you know, a lot of employees or a lot of people are not necessarily waiting for their boss to die or retire. So it's really important to, again, ask employees what they want to do and how they want to grow and develop and providing those opportunities for them to grow and develop. There can be, you know, additional certifications, trainings, opportunities to take on new and interesting projects.

There can be some cross-training opportunities. There may be somebody that is interested in doing something that's a little bit outside of what their current role involves, but they still want to be able to do their current role. So maybe there's opportunities for cross-functional communication or cross-functional projects.

There's so many different things that you can offer to employees, but I really do think it starts with asking, asking employees, and we have a lot of different ways that we recommend doing this. One is what I consider, we call it a stay interview, where the manager or the supervisor or whoever's the direct leader sits down with the person and says, "Hey, what's keeping you here? What do you like about what you're doing right now? What do you want to do next? What would you like to do in the next year or 18 months?"

I don't think that something like five years or 10 years, it's too far, but what do you want to do in the next six, eight months, next year, next 18 months? What kinds of roles do you want to take on?

I love that. You know, I think also it helps. When you do that particular practice, it really helps small businesses weather uncertainty in the market. When you've got more people who can do more roles in your organization and do them confidently and capably, it does allow you to weather attrition or just contraction or whatever happens there.

We do have one question, Lynne, and it was something that you brought up around the DEI sites that help to uncover gender bias and/or you know, that sort of thing. Do you have a couple of recommendations off the top of your head for that or, you know, maybe it's something we might have to come back to.

I think we should come back to it. It's probably easiest to do a quick Google search on gender bias job description. And there's so many, there's some that are free. And there's some that are additional fee and you kind of have to look to see. Like, the free ones are great, but it's sort of a plug and play, where you put everything in and it'll spit out an automated answer.

The ones that have an additional cost, there might be an actual person or maybe a stronger kind of macro that's really looking at the data.

Or somebody like you behind the scenes helping.

Or someone like me behind the scenes.

Absolutely. Absolutely. I love it. You know, we talk about these truths quite frequently and, you know, just that overall connection to purpose is so very critical. Any parting words that you want to convey, Lynne, on purpose? And then we'll close out our time today.

Again, I'm a huge fan of leadership commitment to creating that culture of belonging. It starts at the top.

It really does. It really does. All right. Well, that concludes our session today. We hope that you got something out of it and we wish you a fantastic small business week. Thanks so much.

Thank you.

ESAC Accreditation
We comply with all ESAC standards and maintain ESAC accreditation since 1995.
Certified PEO
A TriNet subsidiary is classified as a Certified Professional Employer Organization by the IRS.5.