Whether it’s the Great Resignation or the Great Reset, whatever you choose to call it, it is undeniable that employers are currently finding it extremely challenging to attract and retain talent.
So which strategies should companies be exploring to improve their odds in such a difficult market?
My guest this week is Christine Wzorek, CEO and Founder of White Label Advisors. Christine is a highly experienced HR leader and has essential advice about building holistic human capital strategies to deal with these incredibly challenging times.
In the interview, we discuss:
• What is driving the Great Resignation?
• Employer engagement, happiness and fulfilment
• Adapting to the new reality
• Why talent acquisition needs to mirror sales
• Treating candidates in a hospitality orientated way
• Transparency in reward strategies
• Scaling L&D with technology
• Levelling the playing field for diverse talent
• Gender equality
• The future of talent acquisition and HR
Support for this podcast comes from Eightfold.ai. Eightfold.ai delivers the talent intelligence platform in the most effective way for companies to retain top performers, upscale and rescale the workforce, recruit top talent efficiently, and reach diversity goals. Eightfold.ai’s deep learning artificial intelligence platform empowers enterprises to turn talent management into a competitive advantage.
Matt Alder (47s):
Hi there. This is my Matt Alder. Welcome to Episode 428 of the Recruiting Future Podcast. Whether it’s the great resignation or the great reset, whatever you choose to call it, it is undeniable that employers are currently finding it extremely challenging to attract and retain talent. Which strategies should companies be exploring to improve their odds in such a difficult market? My guest this week is Christine Wzorek, CEO and Founder of White Label Advisors. Christine is a highly experienced HR leader and has essential advice about building holistic human capital strategies to deal with these incredibly challenging times.
Matt Alder (1m 34s):
Hi, Christine. Welcome to the podcast. Could you just introduce yourself and tell us what you do?
Christine Wzorek (1m 40s):
Happy to, and likewise, Matt. It’s a pleasure to be on the invite and really, really looking forward to sharing with the audience today. I redefined business strategy with human intelligence and in 2019, I was named an industry disruptor by Utah magazine. Since then, I’ve disrupted and redefined how human capital works within the framework of modern business. For 22 years, I’ve collected business strategy and human capital experience. I took the helm of modern business by marrying human capital with the financial strategy through the lens of human behavior. In my approach, it synchronizes business constructs to incorporate human intelligence as a proactive strategic function for the sustainability and perpetual impact of the organization.
Christine Wzorek (2m 30s):
Just quickly to sum that up, I really do this by recognizing and harnessing the pattern recognition and power of potential within human capital to optimize organizational efficiencies and ultimately return value to the bottom line.
Matt Alder (2m 46s):
Tell us a little bit about your backstory and how you got to do what you do now?
Christine Wzorek (2m 51s):
Sure. I like to say, I don’t know if HR found me or if I found it. My degree came from business management where, early on in pursuing that degree, I was able to study under an archeology professor. In my anthropology and archeology studies, I was really fascinated just with the dynamics of human groups and in our behaviors. I was actually reporting to a CFO and a different role, but because of our need to really focus on quarterly and yearend numbers, I was beginning to develop relationships with the employees of this group and found that, through these proactive employee programs and strong relationships, we were able to achieve those financial outcomes.
Christine Wzorek (3m 42s):
Then from there, it grew and I’ve started a number of HR departments from the ground up. Led a large HR team for an enterprise group that is going to remove a rapid succession of MNAs, had a lot of fun there. Since then, I’ve started White Label Advisors, which is a strategic direction firm, which focuses on everything that I just shared.
Matt Alder (4m 5s):
Very, very dynamic time for all things talent and HR at the moment. Tell us what you’re seeing happening in talent markets as far as employers are concerned.
Christine Wzorek (4m 17s):
It is a very exciting time because we’re finally understanding, I think, this harmony that really needs to exist within an org. Within talent markets, it’s fascinating just from the economics perspective on how our professional services and tech sectors are really struggling to find talent, but as we move into more of the construction manufacturing and then leisure and hospitality, at the bottom of this curve, those industries are having harder times than we tell them. Within our audience where, I assume most of our audience is going to be in the professional services tech and potentially, startup or VC space.
Christine Wzorek (4m 60s):
It is hard to fill that talent so we do need to focus on some new strategies and to attract the right talent. I think we’ll be talking about that a little bit later.
Matt Alder (5m 14s):
Yes, absolutely. I think that’s one of the key things I wanted to ask you really. What do you feel that talent acquisition, how does it need to evolve to meet the challenges that really all employers are having in 2022?
Christine Wzorek (5m 30s):
Yes. It’s interesting because we are seeing employers struggle to retain talent. Within those professional and tech sectors, it’s a hot market and employees are able to move and not only increase pay but find a better alignment, I think, to the overall purpose and mission of the organization that has a value set that they can align to better. For employers, I’m watching a few struggle with that right now. It comes back to very simple metrics around how we should be engaging and what we should be measuring with our employees.
Christine Wzorek (6m 13s):
For that employee engagement, which is really productivity stated in non-financial terms, we need to be focused on the happiness of our employees and fulfillment opportunities that we’re able to provide to our employees, then the organization within their teams, and then also creating a psychologically safe place for them to thrive in so they can feel like they can belong and contribute, which increases our connections as humans. I think those three simple metrics are really telling of why we’re seeing, some of the effects that we’re seeing from the great resignation within those sectors.
Matt Alder (6m 52s):
For many organizations, they’ve never perhaps focused on those things as much as they should have done in the past. How are you seeing them evolve? What are they doing? How are they adapting to this new reality?
Christine Wzorek (7m 9s):
Sure. The adaptation to the new reality is understanding that our talent acquisition process is very oriented in mirrors, a sales process. W need to get clear on what that marketing strategy is. What are we declaring to these candidates that we’re going to provide internally for them, whether it’s career housing or alignment to the overall mission, vision values, but we need to really synchronize that talent acquisition message and be training the candidates in a very hospitality oriented way.
Christine Wzorek (7m 51s):
I think the time is over when we have these aggressive interviewing tactics and it’s very overwhelming and we’re trying to stress test our interviewees, if we can get to a spot or a place of vulnerability and honesty and transparency sooner within that interview process, the candidate is going to come much more of themselves versus feeling like they have to sell themselves through that interview process. We have disparity or dysfunction after the hire. Additionally, it’s taking what we say we’re going to do and actually executing on that within their employee life cycle.
Christine Wzorek (8m 40s):
How are we working with leadership and management to ensure that management understands what we’re promising to these employees by way of career pathing and as an executive team, are we really committed to that? Are we committed to the diversity and inclusion that we may be seeking from the talent pool? That’s a really interesting conversation of, “Hey, we want to enhance our DNI demographic, but if we’re recruiting DNI candidates, we certainly should not be providing just the regular mainstream organizational tools or management styles that we have in the past.”
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Matt Alder (9m 27s):
The thing about describing this as the great resignation, it’s all about people leaving and creating this turnover within businesses. There’s been a lot of focus on what companies can do to hire people to fill these gaps or their business might be changing and they need new skills into their business, but actually, what you’re talking about there is effectively what we do to retain people. How do we make good on the promises of the employer brand and everything that the people are doing to get people to join their organization? Just to dig a bit deeper into that. What are you seeing employers do that really works to bridge those silos and get the whole organization working together to retain the talent they have and obviously, and also, offer a very inclusive work experience?
Christine Wzorek (9m 27s):
Sure. I appreciate that because I think we have the great resignation because employees are saying, “Hey, we want better and we deserve better in a way that my organization said that they were going to do something and that there’s transparency there.” I think for organizations to answer your question directly, Matt, is ensuring that we’re aligned to that higher purpose, that we can very clearly articulate what our organization’s vision is, and then being really, really transparent in a number of areas. I think in our total rewards package, people do expect transparency now, and employees are more knowledgeable, I think, than they used to be. We need to be very expressive and the quantitative data that we’ve used to maybe carve out our comp alignment and the internal bandings, which leads to pay equity, because we have transparency there. Then also the qualitative value in how that overall total rewards package was designed. I think education for the employees on, “Hey, this is where our company is at today by stage maturity.” For example, if you were in, let’s say, the life sciences industry, and you were at Johnson and Johnson or one of the major players there, and switched over to a new stage, more innovative biotech company that was developing something new, the pay structures are going to be very, very different between your mature and established Johnson and Johnson brand versus a newer age startup that’s developing innovative technology. We need to educate our employees in that way, because not every company is apples to apples. I think within our recruitment processes, we really need to stop asking candidates what they were making somewhere else because there just isn’t the alignment. We have no idea how that prior organization was aligning their cognitions because it may be an entirely different and how we’re weighing base salary and how we’re measuring that towards the market, whether it was 50th percentile or 90th percentile and what location, that’s pretty good too. Then also, we can start with our benefits package and maybe their stock options or retirement plan. We weigh those differently to provide short-term security by way of our base salary, but then we also have short-term incentives and then long-term incentives built into those rewards packages. We can’t expect our employees to understand what we’re not telling them within that because it is a complex design there, but then also, management and leadership development. The manager’s relationship to their employees and how they effectively lead the team really determines the employees day to day happiness on the job and their sentiment. If we’re not providing our managers with the right development tools or learning resources, and we’re not taking this due diligence stands on identifying pre-selection criteria for what makes a great manager within our organization, we can’t effectively retain talent because those gaps will exist.
Matt Alder (9m 27s):
What role can technology play in supporting all of this?
Christine Wzorek (9m 27s):
Yes, it’s a great question. I think certainly technology and AI tech that’s coming to market can really help us understand employee sentiment because looking at it as an NPS score, but in a way, that’s more altruistic and transparent and honest than what general employee surveys do. We can’t change community communication strategy or meet the need of employees if we don’t truly understand what they need and what their sentiments are around a current policy or current structure, but then also, we need to be providing the employees, through technology, great learning development opportunities. Technology is a way to scale that so that we can reach more employees and push those opportunities through the organization. I think, technology has also changed the game because our employees are more knowledgeable now and we’re almost a flat world. Employees across the US and in Europe can be exchanging dialogue around the employment experience. I think it provides kind of this fantastic ecosystem where we have some gentle pressure from what employees are asking for on organizations that organizations will be more transparent, provide better DNI opportunities, and essentially, help elevate each other in this very healthy balance this way.
Matt Alder (9m 28s):
I wanted to specifically ask you about gender equality. How far are we from achieving gender equality in the workplace and what should employers be doing to accelerate this?
Christine Wzorek (9m 28s):
Yes. Thanks, Matt. I love this question. It’s a topic that we need to be talking about and I think bringing more to the forefront. There are multiple factors that lend to gender equality in the workplace. I think we will see gender equality improve just due to attrition because of retirement with individuals that have been in the business world for a long time and might have more institutional views around it. Also, I think it’s going to take some time to educate executive teams and leadership teams on what diverse talent looks like. Meaning diverse talent has a different pipeline to success and a different trajectory and path to success than a non-diverse candidate. I think a really good representation of this is if, because of the SCCs human capital reporting requirement, publicly traded companies now have to report on DNI at each level of the organization. Across the board, we’re still seeing very sequences from a more diverse rank and file employee base up to management, and then up to leadership, where it’s very stark and we almost have a complete drop-off once it leads to management. Oftentimes, I get questions about diverse candidates’ resumes and where they haven’t had long stints or long duration at the employers on the resumes. They often go out and try consulting for a time, but if you think about it, they’re working within an organization that maybe just doesn’t provide the opportunities for them yet, and they’re working with non-diverse talent. That can mean our backgrounds look different, our education looks different, and we need to, I think, close that gap so we can be promoting more diverse talent up to leadership and up to the executive level. Again, we can’t expect diverse candidates’ resume to look like the non-diverse candidates resumes. There needs to be a lot of training around that. I think specifically for gender equality, men and women communicate very differently. Men and women analyze very differently whereas women start very broad and they’re looking at this holistic view. Women are very good at strategy. I think that’s why women are fantastic fighter pilots, and there are a lot of studies coming out about that because they can multitask. They have a broader view of what’s happening, where men start narrow and expand out, and neither is bad. I think they’re entirely complementary to each other. If we have an all-male executive team and you have females that are next year leadership level and they’re communicating differently and they’re seeing and analyzing problems differently. It’s very easy to say, “Well, they’re not doing it right, or they can’t be promoted yet.” Whereas, we just need to understand, I think, some of the differences there and bring those in. Statistically, for years, we’ve known that a more diverse boards, more diverse executive teams have better tenure amongst their employee groups and a better returns on their financials, but there’s still a gap. As far as the time, how long is that going to take? I hope it’s not another 20 years, but we still have concerns within pay equity, and applaud to the SEC for really getting down to the crux and human capital reporting. There isn’t a lot of guidance on it yet. At least it’s starting to get these public groups looking at it and being transparent about it. Once we see truth in the numbers, I think it will help change and help us progress as a business society and network.
Matt Alder (9m 28s):
Final question, what does the future look like for talent acquisition and HR? I know it’s obviously very difficult to predict what’s going to happen, but what would you like the future to look like?
Christine Wzorek (9m 29s):
That’s a fantastic question. I would like it to look like a concerted humanized effort, understanding that HR mirrors the internal constructs of the business externally. You talked about talent acquisition, mirroring sales, and HR. We need a communication strategy, which is very much a marketing function. We could go on, come down the list around performance management and understanding what we’re measuring too. It’s also very operational. We need to understand how those internal functions and constructs are supporting the external constructs of the business to achieve our competitive edge or that desire level within our marketing industry. For talent acquisition, it’s bringing in the right talent, attracting the right talent and ensuring that we have everyone onboard that’s aligned to the mission and vision, and we’re working from the same value set. If we have any type of disparity there, we often see higher turnover in. Just, again, to sum that up, it’s a concerted harmonized effort having between those two functions.
Matt Alder (9m 29s):
Christine, thank you very much for talking to me. My thanks to Christine. You can subscribe to this podcast in Apple Podcasts, on Spotify, or via your podcasting app of choice. Please also follow the show on Instagram. You can find us by searching for Recruiting Future. You can search all the past episodes at recruitingfuture.com. On that site, you can also subscribe to the mailing list to get the inside track about everything that’s coming up on the show. Thanks so much for listening. I’ll be back next time and I hope you’ll join me.