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How often have you heard someone say retention is everyone’s concern? Keeping this organization full is everyone’s responsibility. You don’t hear that, do you?
Welcome to The JoyPowered® Workspace Podcast, where we help HR and business leaders embrace joy in the workplace. I’m JoDee Curtis, owner of Purple Ink and Powered by Purple Ink, and with me is my friend and co-host Susan White, owner of Susan Tinder White Consulting, an HR consulting practice.
Our topic today is retention in action. Aaron Meyers, Transcend’s General Manager, recently wrote a white paper titled “Analysis with Proactive Approaches to Enhance Strength Maintenance.” Sounds pretty deep to me.
Aaron’s working on his PhD, so he is deep into this right now. his goal was to understand how HR experts perceive the functionality and state of organizational health in today’s environment.
In Aaron’s research, he found that 70% of HR employees said their responsibilities increased post-COVID. Personally, I think there is an upside and a downside to this. The upside is that I believe COVID brought a better appreciation of HR. Leaders and employees came to us to understand the needs of HR and they needed HR advice and counsel to lead them through the pandemic. It created questions like, How will people communicate now that we’re no longer physically together? Can our people work remotely, and if so, how do we stand that up? Can our people work on site safely? How are we going to provide the tools for people to work differently? How can we maintain or better our engagement through this? And how can we retain people?
I do think HR got more recognition during those crisis times when it was new for everyone – right? – on how to deal with with COVID and all of the questions you just asked. The downside, of course, is that when their responsibilities were increasing, whether throughout the heart of the pandemic or now, are those HR people continuing to just work extra hours to keep up with the additional responsibilities, or did their organizations provide them with more help or additional members to add to the HR team? One of Aaron’s studies pointed out that many organizations do not drive accountability for their organization’s retention rates. Those organizations with the highest levels of overall retention equally share retention responsibility between HR and first line managers. Right? It’s so easy to say, “Our people are leaving. What’s HR doing about it?” Right? We have to work together with those line managers. And although first line managers have a direct line to this every day, really retention should have multiple owners.
Yeah, we should all own it, I think.
Yes, I agree.
Recently, there has been a lot of discussion around quiet quitting. In an article on Bloomberg dated August 19, 2022 by Jo Constantz, she included some definitions. Number one, rather than quit outright, workers are giving up on going above and beyond.
Number two, despite what the name suggests, quiet quitting doesn’t mean turning in a resignation letter. Instead, it’s a stealth retreat from the hustle culture that dominated the pre-pandemic era of giving up everything in pursuit of ambition. Quiet quitting is the newly minted moniker for doing the bare minimum of the job description.
Ben Granger, head of employee experience advisory services at a survey firm called Qualtrics, said that quiet quitting can be a way to protect mental and physical health in a toxic work environment, but staying in a miserable job and putting in the bare minimum means giving up the fulfillment that can come from moving to a good job.
Absolutely. The article goes on to say that quiet quitting has gone viral at a time of deep uncertainty in the labor market. We have a war for talent and more jobs than workers in our economy. Employees have had the upper hand over their bosses, but a looming recession and layoffs at high profile companies like Apple, Peloton, and Walmart indicate the balance of power could be tipping.
A new survey by consulting firm PwC found that half of respondents in the US said they are reducing headcount or plan to. A July report from Joblist, a job search platform, found that 60% of job seekers feel more urgency to find a new job now before economic conditions change.
Interesting. I did have to laugh the other day, Susan, when I heard a news report that quiet quitting is because only a third of our workforce are engaged in their work. Well, I know that Gallup has actually been tracking engagement scores for the past 40 years on a monthly basis, and that 1/3 statistic has barely moved in those 40 years. So we’re calling it something different. It’s come about because of different… different reasons. But really, I think the pandemic and the return to work has just highlighted these engagement scores. The engagement levels are really nothing new.
The connection between the retention rates and quiet quitting is that retention, which is low already now, is exasperated by those who are being retained but are giving less or doing the bare minimum. In the long run, the likelihood that those quiet quitters will eventually leave is high – because they’re disengaged – if they can find a place to work with less pressure to work more or less demanding.
We wanted to talk more about retention today, so we invited the author of the white paper I mentioned earlier and Transcend’s General Manager Aaron Meyers. Aaron’s “people first, people always” credo is the driving influence behind Transcend’s employee engagement solutions and consultation services. Aaron is a retired veteran and spent most of his career in the Army National Guard. Aaron is also a partner of ours in the Powered by Purple Ink network.
So Aaron, we’d love for you to tell us briefly, maybe high-level, about the research that you’ve conducted.
We typically do research like this. I try doing it quarterly, because my entire professional career has been centralized around people and I understand that it goes well beyond a software program, the latest updates, things you’re hearing from people. You need to really understand the the socioeconomic environment and what’s going on. That’s what this research was all about. And seeing all the problems that we are dealing with today in today’s modern workplace, I needed to identify those problems so that I can come up with a good course of action to come up with solutions.
And tell us about the people you chose to represent in your survey.
Thank God for LinkedIn, I’ll just put it that way. I thank God for LinkedIn. What a wonderful resource.
Yeah, to go in a little bit deeper to the research and then why I chose the people I chose is that there are some serious problems going on nowadays that don’t just affect us now, but are going to affect us later into the future. For example, the baby boomers. People forget about the institutional knowledge that they carry that’s so valuable to an organization. The indoctrination and assimilation of Generation Z. Talk about a variety. I don’t believe there’s ever been generations at the opposite ends of the spectrum that have such distinctive differences in how they were raised technologically, between these generations that we’re doing right now. And it’s showing. It’s causing a lot of issues in the workplace, because we just don’t know how to communicate with these people. And then the depletion, of skilled labor and workers. I needed to figure out what’s going on by going straight to the source, and that’s our human resources professionals. So I wanted to get a diverse audience. I requested… I sent out about 1000 invitations across the country with HR professionals currently in place, and those people came from anywhere from non-supervisory middle management to… all the way to strategic leaders, and we had a good population. There are people from all over the country, all kinds of industries are represented, and that’s how I chose the people to… to provide the data for this research.
So what are some of the key observations and takeaways from your research?
The big one was how overwhelmed human resource employees are. It’s… When I saw that there were only three of the 112 people that answered the question, “How have my responsibilities changed since COVID?”, only three of them said that they have decreased or significantly… actually none of them said they significantly decreased. The other 109 people either said that they haven’t changed, they have increased slightly, or they have significantly changed. That was unbelievable to see, because normally when you see a poll like that, you’ll look at that and be like, okay, that’s probably the non-supervisory employees that are just complaining. They… or they don’t see the forest through the trees. But when you have every leader, every person at every echelon of an organization, state no, the result of what’s happening today is increasing our workload significantly, that’s something to behold. And that was the most impressive stat that I saw coming out of the research.
And, Aaron, you are an employee engagement consultant with Transcend and work with organizations across the country. Does anything about this data surprise you? Or what… Did you expect to get these results?
I expected to get most of the results. I mean, just working with… we have clients all across the country and from different industries, and I see what came up on that survey. It… most of it looked like it made sense to me. It did. However, there was one piece of information that dramatically put me in a different direction, and that was to see the positive correlation between organizations that share retention duties equally between HR and frontline leaders. And that makes sense to me. That does. It’s something we don’t think about very often, but when you have 70% of your time, of an employee’s time spent professionally with their first line leader, who better to influence that person, to provide purpose, direction, motivation, and get that person to know that they’re appreciated, to know that they’re valued, to know that they’re wanted on this team, to be a part of that retention process. I think the organizations that just put this on HR are putting an unfair advantage – or an unfair burden onto their HR teams, who are tasked with doing so many other things. And it shows. The proficiency levels, if you look through my research, it shows there is a dramatic correlation between organizations that have higher levels of strength, that are happier, have higher morale, have recognition programs implemented. Those are the ones that, as the statistics show, typically have organizations that share those responsibilities. So that’s something that really stepped out and… and surprised me.
And I feel so strongly, too, that those managers have to be trained on that, right? Sometimes we just expect our managers to know what to do or how to lead them better or how to take responsibility for those numbers. And yet, many times they don’t get any tools to help them do that.
Yeah, it’s… and that’s unfortunate. It is. It’s usually the first thing… when things go to crisis or when things get bad, the first thing that gets thrown out the window is whatever plans they had with employee development or performance management. Because it’s a… it’s a 300 meter target for most people. It’s not right there in front of their faces, and it’s easily forgotten about. One of the reasons I do this research, too, is that like I said, I’ve been in the people business for 25 years. I’m still learning things every single day. I mean, it’s… there’s… there’s so much that’s evolving with this culture, in this socioeconomic environment, that I believe that we need to stay on top of this and really get down to the root cause of what’s happening. So yeah, it’s… leaders need training, too. In my old line of business, we had it stuck right there in the middle of our creed. It said, “All soldiers are entitled to outstanding leadership.” Not just the ones that are non-supervisory, not just the middle management, but all of them. So it’s something to think about.
Yeah, very fair. So given the challenges we’re talking about today, what solutions would you offer to anyone listening?
I’m so glad you used the word solutions. I really am. Because one of the most valuable lessons I ever learned was from probably the best leader I’ve ever had anywhere in any organization. And that person said, “If you see a problem, identify it, before you bring it up to me, you better have a solution.” And at first, when you first hear that you’re like, “What, was that person not wanting to do their job? Or are they…” No, it’s not. It’s a leadership development resource, and it’s also good business. So what we did was we would identify problems and we’d bring them in front of that person and have courses of action to suggest what needs to be done. Well, I don’t see that being done enough today in today’s strength maintenance issues. So here’s a solution. I would… I would take… and it’s something that I’m directing a lot of our people to look at and explore, is how many times have you ever heard someone say, let’s say in a manufacturing environment, “safety is everyone’s concern.”?
All the time.
Right? We hear it all the time, no matter what. I even hear it in office jobs. “Okay, don’t trip over the… over the… over the wire there, because we don’t want to have to deal with a sprained ankle.” And it’s… as silly as that is, safety is so important. It’s everyone’s concern. But how often have you heard someone say retention is everyone’s concern? Keeping this organization full is everyone’s responsibility. You don’t hear that, do you? And one of the problems is that it’s very easy to point the finger at strategic leadership when you see an organization that’s not full, that doesn’t have enough people. And you start asking the questions around, like… the strategic leaders will say, like, “Well, maybe these employees just aren’t cut out for this.” And that goes back to the old adage, the first… rule 101 of change management, of get rid of that “this is how we do things” mentality. That has to go out the window. Because there’s a problem. It needs a new solution, it needs a new focus on it. So… sorry if this gets a little long winded, but I’m gonna tell you a story. It’s something that really resonated with me a long time ago, when I first came into the organization, the Army National Guard, as a… as a recruiter. The organization was at about 85% strength. It was July of 2001. Morale was low. It’s a tough job. It is. It’s a really tough job. Our Adjutant General saw a problem with this. And for those that don’t know military structure, that was the highest ranking person in the Air and Army National Guard in Minnesota. And they said, “We’re going to make recruiting everyone’s responsibility.” First time I ever heard it. Last time I ever heard it, too. So what they did is they took the… the 800 full-time workers out of our workforce of 11 or 12,000 strong of part time workers, there’s 800 that are full-time employees. He directed those 800 employees to embed with recruiters after hours. So a recruiter typically will work until nine o’clock at night. It’s one of the toughest jobs in the military. So to put it in perspective, you have 20 – 25% of people that want to serve, or that… that are eligible to serve. So for every four people, you will find one person that’s qualified. And of that one person, less than 1% of that wants to serve. You understand how big of a problem this is? It’s tough. It is a very, very tough sell to sell someone on something abstract where they’re changing a life… making a life decision. So needless to say, it was an unpopular decision, but they did it and there was accountability standards there and we had frequent updates saying, like, hey, look, our force is growing, growing, growing like this. In a matter of time, we’re at 100% strength. And God forbid…. we always have that God forbid moment that if you ever need the military to be ready. That happens September 11, a couple months later, and all of a sudden, they’re looking to Minnesota to say “How ready are you to deploy into Afghanistan and Iraq to serve our country?” And we were ready. We were ready, because our leader had the foresight to be able to implement something like that and say, “Look, this is our responsibility. If we’re only at 85% strength, we’re not going to be combat ready and we’re going to be putting people’s lives at risk. That’s why this is important.” So not only did the general put in a plan for what needed to be done, but there was also the what and the so what behind it. And that’s something that followed me for the rest of my career. And I always thought about that as I evolved in rank and started leading teams and started leading areas. I thought to myself, like, how can we make this everyone’s responsibility? How can I get that 18 year old high school senior who just enlisted that’s the captain of the football team to get his… to get his star wide receiver on board, too? Well, let’s just ask him. Let’s say, hey, let’s reward them, let’s make it your responsibility, too, so that we can have more people like you serving in our great organization. And for the years that I was over there, Minnesota was the tip of the spear of the 54 states and territories. And I’m not trying to brag. That’s… that is a legitimate fact. We won, almost every single year, the top recruiting and retention battalion in the country of all the 54 states and territories. Almost every single year. And I don’t think there was a time that we were under 115% strength. It all started there, though. I don’t think that happens without that directive. I don’t think it happens. Because it was such a dramatic change. It was met with resistance. It was handled with influence and… and motivation. And there wasn’t a single person of those 800 employees that lost their job because they weren’t good at recruiting. The general just wanted everyone to have skin in the game. And it worked. It did. So that’s something that I would suggest to most organizations. Ask yourself, who owns the strength maintenance… I use the word “mission,” because I’m a military guy. Who owns that? Who owns the strength maintenance mission? It is… it’s a mission. We have to keep this organization full. We have to keep our people happy. And that’s the one thing that I would ask organizations right now.
I love that. Aaron, I think it might also go back to your earlier comment about HR taking on more responsibilities, because they’re typically the ones getting the most pressure around recruiting and retention, right? So it could… it could really be a solution for two things, to… you know, have better recruiting and retention and to reduce some of the responsibilities of the HR team.
Yeah, absolutely. That’s a great point, JoDee. And to add on to that, too, you can always measure strength maintenance by how full the organization is, right? But it’s so hard to measure the engagement that goes in behind that, too. And with this research, that’s something that I implemented into our software is, how can you measure engagement? How can you measure how socialized an organization is? With generation Z and… and the baby boomers and everything… the Xers and everything, the Ys are all integrating and molding and making a strong, formidable team? That’s hard to do, but that’s something that this research also helped me to do. I was to find those measures and metrics that I can use to add value to that overall number and help organizations get better.
Well, you know, Aaron, we always like to talk about joy. So what do you think is one small step that people can do regarding retention or accountability or recruiting that would create more joy at work?
Okay, I thought about this, and this kind of goes off the adage that everybody… everybody needs social belonging, they need social status in an organization. So going back to that old saying of “safety’s everyone’s responsibilities,” and “strength maintenance should be everyone’s responsibilities,” here’s what I would say to any employee in any organization. You can run this up your management chain, or what… but if you’re working in-house, why don’t you, as a mid-level manager, find an employee that’s completely off of your grid, not in your chain of command, anything, go sit down and have lunch with that employee, get to know them, figure out how long they’ve been there, what they’re doing, let them know what you do. Now, in smaller organizations, this might be a lot easier to do… or harder to do, because it’s so much… much more tight-knit, but… but I guarantee you, no matter if you… if you’re an organization of 300 plus, there’s people you don’t know. There’s people you don’t know, and there’s people that might need that help. This is what we used to call “taking initiative in the absence of orders.” But it’s JoyPowered®, because you are making a significant motivational difference in another person by showing them interest and ending that conversation with “Hey, it’s great to have you here. Thank you for what you do. We appreciate having you here.” That’s what I would recommend. Go off the grid. Go meet people, get to know them a little bit better.
I love it.
As long as food’s involved, I’m happy. I’m in. Count me in.
That’s why it has to be during lunch. [Laughs]
Yeah. Sounds very fun. So Aaron, how can our listeners reach out to you to find out more about Transcend and/or your white paper?
The easiest way is if you have LinkedIn, find me at A-A-R-O-N M-E-Y-E-R-S, Aaron Meyers. Our website is transcendengagement.com. You can always reach out and call me. And more than anything else, if someone’s looking to use our services, be warned that I will ask you more questions than you ask me, because I need to know if it’s something… if the problems that exist are something that are in our avenue, or that are in our power house. Because if it’s not, and this is one of the beautiful things, one of the reasons why I love working with JoDee and with you, Susan – we all know people in the human capital community that can help. We have a strong foundation. So I would say also, along with that, keep on listening to JoDee and Susan and keep on rockin and rollin, because it’s… you’re gonna… you have nothing but good people to draw from. And there’s… every single person I’ve ever met in this organization or in these groups can have a profound effect on your human capital. I guarantee it.
Thank you, Aaron. And thanks for joining us today. And thank you for your service as well.
Well, thank you. It’s… I appreciate it. I really… I’m grateful to be here. You know how much I appreciate you both. And I will tell you this, as far as the service goes, service is lifelong. It is. And I think if you also look at it that way, you’re never going to have an empty seat in your organization. Because if you’re serving your people, you’re doing right by them, then you’re gonna get positive results out of it. So thank you so much for the time today.
Thank you. It was very fun.
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Well, that was great hearing Aaron’s perspective. You know, it’s funny, I never thought that retention or recruiting really was owned by HR. I never have. I really believe it’s the leadership. And we in HR are conduits, we are support. We’re subject matter experts on how to, you know, find, source candidates, but they’re the ones that really need to make the hiring decisions, and line management also on the retention. They own it. We could report on how they’re doing and give them good consultation about ways to engage your staff more, but I’ve never seen it as an HR issue. But interesting that Aaron’s found that in most organizations he’s dealt with, they’ve had HR owning it, and he wants us to make sure that it’s jointly owned.
Right. I would say in my internal roles in HR, I didn’t always feel the responsibility of retention. I mean, I felt some responsibility for that, in a good way, but I did feel a lot of responsibility about recruiting. And maybe that… maybe that came from me internally as opposed to others. But you know, I would have people come back to me six months or a year later and say, like, “Why did you hire that person?” And I was like…
…well, they talked to 12 people here, right?
I wasn’t the only one who… I didn’t just interview them and bring them on all by myself. So I did feel that pressure in HR for that.
You know what, I’m sure I did. I think on the recruiting side, certainly, that we needed to source candidates, and we had to make sure that we were finding the top of the funnel pool. But boy, once they touched the organization, I felt like we were facilitators, right? I used to always say that when I was in a large organization and I was running staffing for different points in my career, that all of us are in the army of recruiting and that every one of you, you know, it’s important to think about who do you know that should work here? And we’re all vested in making sure we’re at full staff. So interesting perspectives. I think he’s absolutely right that if you have just HR owning these things, you’re not going to have success. You’re not.
Alright, it’s time for our listener question, JoDee. The following question comes from a listener of one of our podcasts. We welcome questions anytime from anyone. Please let us know what’s on your mind. So JoDee, “In the FMLA guidance when they say the workplace has to be within a 50 mile radius, I am not sure what that means.”
Yeah, so that is a confusing part. The actual rule is called the 50/75 rule. But before I get into that, I want to say that FMLA is the Family Medical Leave Act, where employees… some states have tighter rules, but the… the federal government has established the FMLA guidance that employees – certain employees, there’s requirements and all of that – are eligible to take a medical leave under certain circumstances happening to them or in their family. So the rule is that in order to be eligible for Family and Medical Leave Act leave, an employee must work at a location that has 50 employees within a 75 mile radius. Okay? 50 employees within a 75 mile radius. This rule can create confusion for employees who have 50 or more employees total, but they have no locations that have 50 workers within a 75 mile radius. For example, if you had one employee in every state in the country, you would not be eligible for FMLA – or the company is not required to offer FMLA to their employees. Susan, this question, though, did raise another question for me, and I’m wondering how this might impact organizations now who have so many remote employees working all over the country or even around the world. I suspect that leaves us with less employees who are impacted by FMLA. But at the same time, it doesn’t impact the real intention of the law. So let me give you an example of that. If you are an accountant in a company with 100 employees, the intention was that the law assist you with the ability to return to that same role. But if you only had 40 employees, for an example, that could be very burdensome for the company to go without an accountant for 12 weeks. So that’s why they’ve made that allowance. So now, if an accountant works remotely three states away, they may be able to fully perform this function. So does the 75 mile rule really make sense anymore?
Interesting. I have not given it any thought. I wonder if the government will relook at it.
I wonder that too. And I would think a lot of organizations must be coming up with this question right now. So it’ll be interesting to see what happens.
In our in the news today, in a recent blog by North Treatment Center, which is a drug and alcohol addiction treatment center in California, they said that binge drinking increased by 21% during the pandemic. That, of course, leads to more risks of liver disease and alcohol related deaths. And there is mounting social pressure and the stress at work can, of course, encourage excessive drinking, and when you’re working from home, that’s a bit easier to do.
But the blog went on to say they found in their research that executives are four times more likely to be tempted to drink at work, and that 50% of people say they drink more if they’ve had a stressful day or week at work. Not surprising there, but I guess we always assumed it was after work that might have been happening.
So interestingly, they reported the top five industries where employees drink on the clock are… now this won’t one won’t surprise you. Number one, arts and entertainment. Right? Number two legal services. Okay, that does surprise me. I’m not sure I want my attorney drinking. Number three, real estate. Okay, I get that it’s more kind of a relaxed atmosphere. Number four, food services. Well, maybe because it’s there, right? And then number five, sales. Maybe that wining and dining of clients.
Yeah. So to take it a step further, they also looked at the top five industries where employees have actually gone to work drunk. Some of those industries are the same, but number one was tourism and hospitality with almost 25% of those employees saying they been to work drunk before. Number two is sales again. the number three one scares me a bit, because that one’s transportation, so that’s people on the road with us, bus drivers, you know, whoever. Number four, food service, which we saw in your top five, and then also arts and entertainment again. So I think no one will fault you for meeting up with a group of coworkers or friends for a happy hour after work, but it is clear that drinking in moderation is the safest way to minimize the negative effects of alcohol. Workplace drinking can turn into a dependency and, of course, ultimately, maybe addiction, which leads to poor health outcomes and problems with work performance as well. And of course, the North Treatment Center recommends treatment or counseling for those who have an unhealthy relationship with alcohol.
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