When you invest in bettering employee engagement, career pathing, and communication, you will find that talent retention becomes a whole lot easier. Tune into our 58th episode of the Talent Experience Podcast with Lance Haun! Lance is the Vice President of Market Insights at the Starr Conspiracy and is focused on researching technology and its practical implications for organizations and people. Together, Lance Haun and host John Hollon discuss retention vs recruiting, the communication gaps between employees and employers, and the importance of giving people the opportunity to explore.
Tune in to Lance’s episode below, at tlntx.co/lance or wherever you like to podcast!
Here’s how the conversation went… This interview has been edited and condensed.
John Hollon: Hello, I’m John Hollon and welcome to the Talent Experience Podcast. Today’s guest is Lance Haun. Lance lives life at the intersection of people, work, and technology. He’s currently Vice President of Market Insights for the Starr Conspiracy, and a contributor for Reworked and ERE.net. He focuses his work on researching and writing about work technology and its practical implications for organizations and people. Lance is a former editor for ERE Media, broadly covering the world of Human Resources, recruiting, and sourcing. He’s been featured as a world expert in the Harvard Business Review, The Wall Street Journal, Fortune on MSNBC, Fast Company and other HR and business publications. I would be remiss and not saying that I’ve known Lance for a number of years, and we go back to when he worked with me at ERE media when we were watching TLNT.com, which was a very incredible time, and we had a lot of a lot of fun then. So, Lance, thanks for joining us. How are you?
Lance Haun: John, I’m good! It’s great to be back and great to see you again.
John Hollon: It is and I’ll get right back into things here. I was reading something, and I know you do a newsletter for the Starr Conspiracy every week, which is kind of a wrap up on things in the world of HR and Talent Management, which turned into like a must read for me. And you were writing recently about going to the ERE recruiting Conference in Atlanta, and one of the things that you said, if I can quote you said if you get out of the tech sector, you see that organizations are more worried about not getting enough talent. Many industries are really concerned about their next hire more than their next layoff. This makes me wonder why are we still hearing so much about recruiting and not so much about retention? Because the more employees you can hold on to the fewer you need to recruit. This is something I have been thinking a lot too I don’t understand, even now, where finding people so hard, why retention doesn’t seem to get the love that should get. And recruiting still seems to be the only way a lot of companies think they can help their staffing problems. What’s your take on that?
Lance Haun: Yeah, well, on the macro side of things, I mean, I think tech gets a lot of attention. And you’ve been around the block a few times I have to John, you know, I mean, we’ve seen sort of tech go up and down, it gets a lot of word count and in major publications. And that’s how it goes. But you look across sectors, there’s lots of sectors that are hiring, that are desperate for talent, and you talk to them, and it seems like going to I think the primary point of your question is like, why recruiting, why not retention, because recruiting is somebody’s job, retention is like everybody’s job, it’s hard to assign a budget number to it, it’s hard to kind of putting a finger or a number on that. It’s much easier for organizations that are more accustomed to easy levers of you know, push this button, and it will do this thing sort of thing, retention doesn’t work like that. So, we’re looking at employee experience as sort of the primary driver of that employee experience is really complicated, because you’re really talking about, you know, what we define employee experience as, as the perception of the quality of all the experiences we collect at work. And so, when you put it that broadly, when you take a holistic view of that, you say like this is what’s going to drive retention, yes or no, you start to say, okay, I can see why organizations are not focused on this. Because it’s complicated, because it’s difficult. But even though it’s complicated and difficult, we should be doing it. And it’s the best way to give your recruiting teams that advantage because they have to recruit less people. And that’s probably a good thing right now.
John Hollon: Well, I connect, retention and employee experience and at Fuel50, we really focus on employee experience, because it’s one of the things that our software really, really helps with. And so, I know it’s an important thing, but how do you define employee experience because everybody defines it a little bit differently.
Lance Haun: Yeah, so whenever we think about all the experiences we collect to work, that’s an overwhelming amount of data. So, there’s organizations that are doing poll surveys that are doing all kinds of things. There’re some great organizations that are doing work along those lines, Qualtrics, culture, amp, those sorts of things are collecting a lot of experience data. But actually, what we have found through our research, through lots of other people’s research too on employee experience, is that employee experience is really defined by these key moments in a person’s career. You know, when they join a job, when they’re at a transition point, when they’re moving in or out of the workforce, think about a family medical leave issue or something along those lines. There’s these key moments that sort of stick out. And so, you think about employee experience is our perception of that. So, we’re really focusing on the perception of that. And really, whenever we think about how we build perceptions, and memories, and thoughts about what we experience in all the data points, our brains are taking in on a day-to-day basis, really focusing on, you know, maybe a handful of key moments during that point of your career. And so, when I think about, you know, what Fuel50 does with, you know, career development, and thinking about career transitions, or career promotions, those are key moments and defining moments of that, when you do it really well. They really just bring up sort of the tide of your employee experience, when you do a poorly pulls everything down. And so, what we’re, we’re always thinking about what the employee experience is trying to pull up the bottom of those bad experiences, and try to heighten the really, tall, those big experiences that make a difference that we know sort of stick in people’s minds whenever they’re thinking about their experience at work.
John Hollon: Well, you know, I know that I really like the connection between employee experience and retention, because as somebody who’s worked in a lot of jobs over a few years, I remember so many times starting at a new company and when you were in the interview, and maybe even when you first started the job, you’d ask about the future, and they didn’t want to talk about the about the future, they were focused on the here and now what you’re going to do and the job that you just got hired for. And if they talked at all about the future and your future job path, career path, they would talk in vague terms about you know, what might come up, and it was so vague that they could never be held responsible for it. And then what would invariably happen is down the road a year two, three, maybe more, you’d find that there was no career path. There were some people, they had their ion to move up. But you didn’t know how you got on that path, you or you didn’t know how you got pegged like that. And you never knew how you could get to the next step. And so, what happens, people leave, people get to a point where they say, you know, I’ve been here for three years, they’re not giving me anything new, I’m doing the same old stuff, and now I leave. I always used to tell people, when I started a new job, I’m gonna stay here for a year and a half, then I’ll re-evaluate. And what I found is that at a year and a half, if they hadn’t started talking to you about future path, it just didn’t happen. So, it’s great that people are talking about it more now, but is the talk actually going into action, is actually helping retention? Do you see that growing over the next few years, as companies come more head-to-head with the fact that recruiting isn’t going to get them out of all of their employee problems.
Lance Haun: Yeah, well, I mean, we’re getting to a point where we’re going to hit a talent crunch at some point. So, we see a lot of organizations dealing with this now, when you see this in really critical industries, like the oil and gas industry, where you’re seeing 1000s of people retire every single year people with a lot of experience. And they have to start thinking about what they have to do, because it’s not just about we’ll just go hire somebody to do this, there’s nobody to hire. And so, you know, for some, some industries it’s sort of that foundational level of their organization, they won’t survive if they don’t do that. So, you see a lot of action there John, I’m sure your guys’ research shows that as well. What’s I’m less concerned, not less concerned about, but I’m seeing less of is this sort of thing where you see a lot of people basically not getting the opportunities to not necessarily even move up, you know, I think lots of organizations, especially in early career transitions or early career opportunities don’t give people the ability to explore. I think what we see a lot of organizations trying to do is trying to add something more definition around, you know, how you move up inside the organization, but also how you move around, or the rotation programs are there project based, you know, things that you can work on to experience a different role inside the organization even temporarily. So, we’re seeing more of that. How much has helping retention? I haven’t seen a lot of data on that. I’d like to say that yes, we are, we are navigating that way. But outside of industries, where it’s just essential, I’m not seeing a huge push for that, I’d like to see more. And I think we will have to see more, because at some point, we’re still losing across the entire workforce, you know, what, 10,000 plus employees every day to retirement. And we’re not getting that many from Gen Z yet. So, we’re getting into a talent crunch. You’re seeing workforce participation rates at really, really low rates. And so, at some point, you run out of people to recruit, and I see this, and, you know, I see this at Amazon, too, you know, you look at their, their warehouses and that sort of thing. And they’re running out of people inside of some of their markets. And so, you talk to their talent leaders, and they’re like, you know, we’re still probably a year or two behind automating enough stuff to catch up with jobs. And so, we have a real challenge, you know, you can only increase pay so much to match the job. So, yeah, there’s a lot of challenges in the industry right now.
John Hollon: You know, we should have you back at some point. And we could have a great talk about Amazon and their talent management practices, because it would be a fascinating discussion. But, on the retention front, one of the things that you hear a lot about now is skills, people don’t have the right skills, and that people need to be, you know, reskilling, getting trained more, all of these things, and that the lifespan to skills is much, much shorter. As someone who watches these things really quick, do you? Do you think skills are a big problem? Do you think companies are trying to get like their hands around it? Are they getting their hands around it? Where do they stand with skills reskilling? And things that used to be called Learning and Development?
Lance Haun: Yeah, it’s good question. So, we did some research, within the last year, with another vendor in the space on skills in particular, what we found is like, you know, companies feel like they’ve got a good handle on the skills, landscape. They feel like they’ve got under control for the most part, they know what skills they’ve identified what skills they need; they’ve got to plan for filling it. What isn’t happening is that that’s not getting translated to the employee level. And so, employees are never supposed are thinking about this. And to your points, they’re not getting communicated what’s the plan, if you’re in a skill set that is constantly be updated, what’s going to happen whenever, you know, if you’re a developer, and you’re working on, let’s say, the Swift programming language, it changes, like new things are added to that every single year. How am I going to stay up to date? If you don’t tell me, I’m gonna assume if you’re not communicating with me, I’m gonna assume that you don’t have a plan for this. You might have a plan, but you’re not communicating with me. I’m going to look for an organization that does support me. And so, you see a big gap between where employers think they are on skills and where employees are assessing how their how their organizations are doing there. So yeah, I mean, huge, huge issue there. I think a lot of it has to do with communication, but a lot of it just has to do with like, I think organizations still aren’t 100% on this trend.
John Hollon: Well, it’s funny, because you hear people like Josh Bersin, and a lot of folks like that talking so much about skills and reskilling and the need, and companies need to do it. And while it’s great that they’re trying to I mean, wow, it’s a huge problem if the fact that they’re doing that, and that employees have a role in that, a big role, isn’t sort of seeping down to the employee level. I mean, it makes you wonder about internal communications, when those things don’t happen, because I mean just reskill people, it’s not cheap, it costs money, and it takes time.
Lance Haun: Yeah, it takes huge amounts of time and planning and resources, and most importantly, communication, open and honest communication about like, hey, you know, this is the type of role that we see sunsetting in a couple years because of that, instead of telling you it’s going to sunset and just tell you, hey, good luck, in a couple years and hoping they’ll state stick around with you like, here’s the plan. What we’re going to do with this role, we’re going to change it into this new role that we’re anticipating and doing that requires a certain level of confidence. With a certain level of like, you know, a clear crystal ball for their business, which just I think a lot of organizations just don’t have it. So, it’s great to be excited about reskilling, it’s great to go to a Josh Bersin presentation and listen to him talk about this stuff and say, yes, we need to do that. It’s another thing to put it into action and communicate with your employees. And that’s where I think a lot of organizations are dropping the ball.
John Hollon: Truer words were never spoken, Lance, hey, you watch a lot of this stuff. And I know that you write about it a lot. And you go to conferences, and you watch it, and you do a lot of it, have you bumped into anything recently, in terms of talent management, that has been surprising that you didn’t expect? Or that it jumped on out at you, and you kind of said, wow, I hadn’t heard of this, but this is a really interesting change or topic that folks are talking on.
Lance Haun: Yeah, we had a speaker, I say we like I was a part of the organizer; I was there, I saw speaker at ERE talking about their testing solution, you know, kind of coming out at a COVID. And realizing they had to sort of staff up, in spite of work from home stuff, they needed, people like to come the office, they needed people to come to medical facilities, and do work, they needed people to produce, chips and technology, ventilators for organizations to keep people alive. Very important work. And so, the really interesting thing, there too, was just how they spun up sort of a data layer to understand where the shortages were understand on a regional level, and site basis, where they need a technology and how quickly you know, when you have the resources, and sort of the crisis mentality, like what you can do when put to work. And so, what I loved about that presentation is like, it showed what amazing things can happen, when it’s sort of that wartime progression, and promotions inside the organization and trying to like figure out how to, like, do really big stuff in small periods of time to save as many people as you can. It just shows that if you can do it in those circumstances, if you could put the data in place, if you can get the visibility into the workforce, I mean, not just your workforce, but the workforce of general who was out there that can actually help us produce ventilators. And then you can apply that get people hired and get them into buildings where they have to work together, face to face with a pandemic raging to save people’s lives, then what can we do when we’ve got maybe a little bit more time, a little bit less pressure, but the same level of issues and challenges we have in the talent space. And so, if it’s possible, at that sort of crisis level, it’s definitely possible when we’ve got the resources and time to put those strategies to work. And so that was one like, just incredible story that I heard, that I loved being able to talk to the speaker afterwards, just understanding a little bit about what they did, and sort of, you know, how they pulled it all together. And they just said, like, a lot of long days and nights to try to figure it out. It seems like this is this is within reach of so many organizations now.
John Hollon: Well, it’s funny, because it’s a great point that you know, when you have sort of a military battlefield approach, we got to really pull everybody together and get it done. You can get lots done, and I’m struck by the recent hurricane that hit Florida, Gulf Coast. And one of those one of those islands that had a community that the people were completely cut off. They had a new bridge built in three days. And you say three days, my goodness, well, that’s because they had that focused approach. And it’s like a great point. I would love to talk to you more, but I think we’re kind of getting to our end here, so we need to have you back some time. I’d love to talk about the Amazon’s talent. So anyway, thanks again Lance. You have been great!
Lance Haun: Thanks again John!
John Hollon: We will do it again I’m sure. So, for the Talent Experience Podcast at Fuel50 this is John Hollon. Thanks for listening.