January 4, 2022 | Podcast
The pandemic shifted the workforce in many ways, and one of the most pronounced changes has been the tide of people leaving their jobs or the workplace all together. How can businesses adapt to what’s being called the “Great Resignation”?
Eide Bailly’s Chief Human Resources Officer Lisa Fitzgerald joins the EB & Flow podcast to discuss why this is both a recruiting and retention issue for Human Resource (HR) departments, and why this trend may not be ending anytime soon.
The Great Resignation is both a recruiting and a retention issue for HR departments. The pandemic has caused people to reevaluate their priorities. What's important to them, their life and how to best support their family.
– Lisa Fitzgerald
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Clinton Larson: Hello and welcome to EB & Flow, I'm your host Clinton Larson, and today's topic is employee recruiting and retention in the current market. And joining me today to talk about that is Lisa Fitzgerald, Chief Human Resources Officer at Eide Bailly. Welcome to the podcast, Lisa.
Lisa Fitzgerald: Thanks, Clinton. Great to be here.
Clinton Larson: While you serve as our head of HR, you've also done a lot of work with clients, too. So can you talk a little bit about what you've done with clients so people have a context for our conversation.
Lisa Fitzgerald: Yeah, we have. We've been working with clients in HR consulting capacity for a number of years before this great resignation actually started. And we help clients in a multitude of ways, some of which is helping to actually recruit for our clients. So a client will call us with the position they're having a hard time filling or just don't have capacity in house to work on a fill. And so we will actually recruit for our clients and fill positions for them. So that's one aspect of what we do.
But we also put together recruiting processes and strategies and forms and all of the things someone would need to have to run a successful recruiting campaign in-house as well. In addition to all kinds of other types of HR needs, so conducting a compensation survey for our clients to see if they're on market or off. Of course that's really important nowadays to know kind of where you're at in the compensation pool and really just a myriad of things. Handbooks and retention and flexible work arrangement policies and all kinds of and everything in between. Kind of the lifecycle of an employee and everything in between. Are some of the things that we're providing for our clients right now.
Clinton Larson: Great. And I think that's why you're such a perfect resource for this conversation because, you know, you mentioned the great resignation. We've been hearing about this for a while and people are leaving their jobs in record numbers and they're simply just more jobs than people right now. And there's a lot of reasons for this that people are getting about why they're leaving their jobs. But the thing that's stayed consistent and that's connecting the dots is the pandemic and that the pandemic did something to shake something loose in the labor market. So my question is like, what are you seeing and what are you hearing about as you're going out to clients and you're seeing this trend sort of take place in real time?
Lisa Fitzgerald: Clinton, I agree. I do think that we were up against a labor shortage heading into COVID. We knew it was coming right based on retirees and the number of baby boomers retiring. Right? We knew that was coming, but I think many people retired sooner than they anticipated. COVID hit you know things were changing, work environments were changing. Priorities became different of how people view the workplace became different and many, many retired earlier than we thought. I think that's one piece of the puzzle.
But even the rest of us, those that aren't baby boomers, are not quite a baby boomer anyway. Really just reevaluating priorities, right? So what's important to me? What's important to my life and how am I best supporting my family perhaps. Certainly, we had parents that were homeschooling or had children at home or small children that they didn't want to take to daycares or even couldn't obviously, in many cases. And I think it just caused people to really stop and think about what their priorities are. So I think that's the biggest thing I'm seeing is I think people are just leaving the workforce altogether and they're making different choices. They're maybe staying home, they're taking time away to kind of determine what's really important to them. Or they were maybe in careers or jobs that weren't fulfilling. And this was an opportunity to step back and make a bold choice to reevaluate what might be important or what they really enjoy spending their time doing.
So I think that's the most common reason I'm seeing people leave the workforce. Certainly, compensation is ridiculously competitive right now, so people are leaving for better compensation. Things seem to be very, very inflated in the compensation space. We'll see what happens right now. But some people are being able to kind of upskill and take on take jobs that they maybe weren't qualified for before, but did some things during COVID to upskill, finish a degree, take some online classes, whatever it may be. But most people are really just seeking better balance, potentially better benefits and better compensation as well.
Clinton Larson: That's interesting because one of the questions I had when I think about this is, you know, do you classify this as a hiring problem, do you classify this as a retention problem? You know, is there one side of this thing that is more prevalent than the other? But it sounds like we've been discussing with everything related to the pandemic, there's multiple reasons and multiple perspectives that people are bringing to this kind of decision.
Lisa Fitzgerald: I think it's both. I think it's a recruiting issue and it's a retention issue. I always say that it's easier to retain your existing staff than to go out and hire new people into your organization. Right. So I use this term a lot called re-recruiting. So how do you look at your existing staff and engage them and make them want to stay with you? Right? And it is, in my estimation, it's not, retention's hard, don't get me wrong, but it's not rocket science. It's having really honest, good conversations with your team members individually. Say what's important to you and what do you need right now? And that may change in three weeks. What I need today may not be the same thing I need, you know, three weeks or three months from now.
So continuing to stay engaged and to ask the questions and re-recruit your staff, your existing team every single day. Right. Not everybody's got a great day at work every single day. But what am I doing to make sure my team members are engaged and connected and understand the value of what they do and how it contributes to the larger organizational goals, but also individually. How can they continue to grow and develop?
Clinton Larson: And are you seeing any sort of breakdown in terms of the different generations we have it in the workforce right now? I know we're at a time where we have, you know, multiple generations you mentioned Baby Boomers, but we also have, you know, Gen Xers. We have the I forget all the names for all the other generations coming after that. But I mean, we have a we have a multitude of different age groups and different generations in the workforce right now. Are you seeing breakdowns in terms of how those people are approaching these kind of questions and this sort of great resignation?
Lisa Fitzgerald: I think what's really interesting is some of our younger generations are asking or expecting certain things from their employer, but it's not any different than what somebody of a different generation may have, may want or need, but isn't expressing it in the same way. So, for example, I think one of the things that's happened as a result of the pandemic, is really much better discussions on mental health. Right? I just I've never had as many discussions on employee mental health as I've had in the last 18 months. And I think, well, it's I don't love that we're having to have a lot of mental health conversations because that means people are maybe hurting.
The fact that we're willing to have those conversations is a real step forward. And I'm not even talking about individual conversations that I may have with team members, but I'm talking about organizations as a whole and talking about mental health with their employees and investing in resources for mental health like employee assistance programs or apps, Calm apps or whatever it may be. But I think that only makes us all better, regardless of our generation in the long run. So definitely mental health is being discussed more and more, flexibility. Employers offering flexibility is no longer an option. It's really necessary. Balance. You know that Work-Life Balance that we've all talked and sought after for years is becoming an expectation. Certainly, cultural inclusivity is a big topic with our probably younger generations, but it's something I think we all want and strive for inclusion. So I think, well, our younger generations are asking for this and maybe in some respects demanding that an organization have it, a lot of it it's just it's great for all of us in the long run. We other generations may not have asked for it in the same way.
Clinton Larson: That's a really interesting perspective that the pandemic has brought us to a point where we sort of have to talk about certain topics that we haven't had to talk about before. Maybe we chose not to talk about before because we're all in this same space together and we're all trying to figure out what to do next. And I'm curious in terms of businesses and organizations trying to re-recruit their employees, trying to keep their employees around and also trying to hire new employees. How do they best communicate that they are doing this in the right way, that they're not just paying lip service to some of these ideas, that they are truly committed to these ideas and these passions that you like you said the younger generation has for these areas, how do they make sure that they are coming at this at a way that is sincere and that resonates with people?
Lisa Fitzgerald: That's the challenge always right is to make sure you're not on some passing fad because your, you know, your neighboring businesses offering an EAP that you offer one. I think it really goes down to really listening to what your staff are telling you they want and need, right? So whether that again, these one on one discussions, whether that's doing some type of like pulse surveying of your of your organization to see what people really want and need and then following up on those things.
So nothing is worse to me than conducting some kind of a survey that no one ever hears about again. So ask the questions. You need to ask the questions. You need to listen. And then you need to respond. And the response may be that we are we can't do that right now, right? We don't have the resources, the bandwidth, whatever it might be, but we heard you and we heard you and we'll put that on the plan, right? Or we'll action that or try to action that at a later date.
But I do think it's about being sincere and authentic in your approach. And then following up. I think one of the things that I really learned the importance of over the last 18 months is communication and transparency. I think flexibility, communication and transparency have been the things that have been brought forward from COVID that maybe and that maybe are more positive in nature than dealing with the pandemic. But it's got to come from a sincere place
Clinton Larson: For those experienced professionals or those who have been in an organization for a long time and are seeing some of these changes happen in real time in a place that you know, has always been sort of the same to them. You know, like obviously, the pandemic has changed office dynamics and in a multitude of ways so change management has become a critical part of navigating the pandemic. But for those employees that you've had for a long time that have just been at the organization and are sort of used to things, how do we help them deal with this massive amount of change management that's coming their way? Because obviously, a lot of the stuff you're talking about, these are great things. But for some employees, it's going to be a pretty drastic change to the landscape that they're used to. So how do we help them deal with these kind of change management issues?
Lisa Fitzgerald: You know, I was actually just talking with someone the other day, and I said, the comment I made was COVID is hard to deal with, how we work is hard to deal with, how we recruit or where we find people is hard to deal with. But I think the thing that's hardest is change management. So it's bad that there's a great resignation that we can't find people, right? But what's harder to me is having hiring managers think differently about where they find people or where people might reside and do the work.
So while COVID and remote work and all those things are difficult, the thought process change is hardest to me. I mean, I don't know how many times I have said we have to think differently. I feel like I'm a broken record in some respects because we have to think differently. I think it also comes down to the how much change can one person manage at a time? I think organizations need to be thoughtful about how much we're asking our employees to absorb and change in any at any given point in time.
I think the beginning of the pandemic, you know, there's a lot of change, right? We might have been living and working from home. We might have been working with different technologies. We weren't collaborating with our coworkers in the same way. So then throwing in five new tools that someone should use was really overwhelming for people. And I think that was one thing that I that I learned, which is we have to be thoughtful about how we go about change and what we ask people to absorb at one time.
Clinton Larson: You mentioned the remote work aspect that we've all had to adjust to as part of the pandemic. And for a lot of organizations, this has opened up the idea that, you know, if they were looking locally for talent when they were doing their recruiting and they're filling roles, you know, now there's sort of this idea like, well, wait a minute now I can maybe expand my reach to, you know, a much larger segment of, you know, my region, even possibly the country. You know, if someone's working remotely, does it matter if they're here in my city or does it matter if in their the state? So if an organization is looking at the idea of maybe opening up what has been sort of a very local or regional recruiting effort to something that's more national or something that's more just I just want the best candidate. I don't care where they're at, how can they approach that in a in a good way and sort of, you know, get over the hurdles that they need to get over to establish a recruiting effort like that.
Lisa Fitzgerald: I think my advice would be first off, make sure everybody's on board, right? So make sure that if I'm the hiring manager and I'm going to hire somebody and I don't care where they reside, I'm just going to take the best talent wherever they live. Make sure that other people in your organization support that. Nothing's worse than you're going down a road and you think you've got this person hired and find out as you're getting ready to make an offer that wait, wait, wait other people in your organization aren't quite there yet. Right. So make sure you have buy-in and commitment from all the individuals that may interact with this person, and everybody is ready for this.
But definitely, I mean, one of the things I was most excited about was look like I can hire from anywhere now, right? And it's beautiful, and it's great in terms of opening up the candidate pool. However, the flipside is, your employees can be picked off, work from anybody, from anywhere, so it's a little bit of a double edged sword. However, I would say if you're going to make an offer to a candidate that doesn't reside in one of your normal kind of office locations, you do want to be really careful that you do the research around what are the employment laws for that state, city or county, even sometimes, right? So sometimes it's not just as simple as I'm going to go hire somebody who works from Hawaii, for example. Yes, you may be able to do that. But then you need to have done your research to figure out, are there different leave laws? Are there different benefits that are required? Are there different overtime rules? Are there different compensation thresholds for exempt status, things like that.
So. Yes, absolutely. To me, I think that's the really exciting thing about recruitment right now is we can open up our minds and our worlds to people working from a lot of different places. But there is some homework needed on the front side to make sure you have everybody on board for such an arrangement, and you have to be prepared then to do the homework and the research on the back end to make sure you don't get yourself into trouble from a compliance standpoint along the way.
Clinton Larson: And as organizations build out a more remote workforce and as they get used to people not being in the office, maybe ever. How do we maintain engagement with those remote workers? How do we make sure that they are still living the company culture?
Lisa Fitzgerald: Right, and that's the big challenge, right? So I think regular check ins with those individuals that work remotely. So whether that's a weekly check in a daily 15 minute huddle, whatever it may be. But there's got to be things that are very intentional built around this. So I'm going to check in with you every day. I'm going to check in with you every week just to make sure you're doing OK and you've got all the tools and training that you need to really do your job well.
I mentioned pulse surveys earlier. I think doing some kind of surveys to make sure people to get a truly get a pulse on how they may be feeling about their work environment is important so that you can address issues that may arise in a speedy manner. I think you know what, we started when the pandemic started it was kind of an all or nothing, right. So many of our organizations went fully remote and we were losing connection. We were losing culture. And that's scary, right? But where we're landing in the end, I hope where we're landing in the end is somewhere in between, right? Somewhere in between, being in the office all the time and not ever being in the office. And so I hope then that we take those opportunities when we're together in an office space to collaborate and to work together and to bring some of the fun back.
I tell people that we have hired or are our clients have hired that are 100% remote, I don't know if there's anything is 100 percent remote, right? I actually hesitate to use a hundred percent remote because there may be and should be probably instances where you get together for training opportunities, for networking opportunities and really just for team gatherings, right? Team development. So I think where you can, where it's safe, when it's safe, have some of those types of gatherings and opportunities for collaboration. Those things will be very, very important in the future.
Clinton Larson: And where do you see the great resignation sort of going from here? I mean, do you have any sense of if this is going to be something we're going to talk about historically as a period of time? Or is this kind of the new normal for how we're going to be approaching recruiting and retention for a long time?
Lisa Fitzgerald: Well, Clinton, I wish I could tell you I feel like it's going to be over. Some cloud is going to lift and we're going to have a lot of potential employees. I don't think that's the case. I do think that this is something that is going to last for some period of time. Again, I think some of it's the baby boomers retiring and not having enough people to fill those positions, which we had talked about pre-COVID, but that was headed our way. I think things get expedited because of COVID. We saw a lot of students take a gap year last year and not go to college. So I think, you know, for three or four years, we're going to end up with another dip because we have we don't have people graduating at the same rate as we had before because people took a year off and deferred going to college. So I think we're in this for a while. I mean, no huge predictions on my part, but I don't think it's a one or two year thing, that's for sure.
Clinton Larson: Well, lots more to come on this issue, I'm sure, and it's been a really good conversation. Thank you for joining me on the podcast today, Lisa.
Lisa Fitzgerald: Thanks, Clinton for having me. Appreciate it!
Lisa Fitzgerald, SPHR
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