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Ep 432: Long Term Trends

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After over two years of unprecedented disruption, it has become evident that things have changed forever. However, many employers are still attempting to stick with the talent acquisition and employee experience strategies they had before the pandemic.
So what are the dangers of behaving as if nothing has changed, and how should companies now set their strategies for the long term?

My guest this week is Amanda Black, Director of Inclusive Search at Good Works Consulting. Amanda has wide-ranging experience in talent acquisition and DE&I and has some expert insights to share on the long term impact of The Great Resignation.

In the interview, we discuss:

• A disrupted talent market

• Shifts in the employer/employee model

• Revealing inequalities in the system

• Permanently changed expectations

• Long term solutions and The Great Opportunity

• How successful employers are shifting their employee experience

• Modelling and demonstrating values

• Are companies taking DE&I seriously?

Listen to this podcast on Apple Podcasts

Interview transcription:

Paradox (0s):
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Paradox (40s):
Curious how Olivia can work for your team? Then visit paradox.ai to learn more.

Matt Alder (1m 5s):
Hi there. This is Matt Alder. Welcome to Episode 432 of the Recruiting Future Podcast. After over two years of unprecedented disruption, it has become evident that things have changed forever. However, many employers are still attempting to stick with the talent acquisition and employee experience strategies they had before the pandemic. So, what are the dangers of behaving as if nothing has changed and how should companies now set their strategies for the long term? My guest this week is Amanda Black, Director of Inclusive Search at Good Works Consulting.

Matt Alder (1m 48s):
Amanda has wide ranging experience in talent acquisition and DE and I, and has some expert insights to share on the long-term impact of The Great Resignation. Hi, Amanda, and welcome to the podcast.

Amanda Black (2m 3s):
Hello, thank you so much for having me. I’m so excited to be here and talk to you today.

Matt Alder (2m 8s):
An absolute pleasure to have you on the show. Please, could you just introduce yourself and tell us what you do?

Amanda Black (2m 14s):
Certainly. So I am Amanda Black and I am the managing partner for the Inclusive Search practice at Good Works and Good Works is a human capital consulting and executive search firm. And we’re focused on doing good work to transform systems, to disrupt inequality. And that’s really all of the work that we do is centered around that. I also have a 20-year background working across various talent functions. Early in my HR career, I was a recruiter for many years, and also with talent acquisition programs and university and diversity recruitment for Dell Technologies in the Americas.

Amanda Black (2m 55s):
More recently, I have served as the global head of TA programs and operations, and as the chief diversity officer for Conduent, which is a global Fortune 500 technology and services company, and I have done, in addition to that, DEI corporate consulting and supported Genesis Technologies, which is a cloud-based experience as a service company. And I supported them in building their burgeoning DEI workforce practice. So that’s a little bit about me.

Matt Alder (3m 31s):
That’s an amazing background and there are so many things that I want to ask you, questions about and talk about, but before we do that, let’s just sort of start with setting the scene a little bit, very disruptive time at the moment. Tell us what you’re seeing in talent markets. What’s happening in the market at the moment from your perspective?

Amanda Black (3m 50s):
Yes. Well, to me, it’s one of the most exciting times to be working in talent that we’ve seen perhaps ever, but certainly, in many decades. There are a lot of rapid shifts. Many of them have been trying to surface for years. And there’s also a lot of tension in the market. And specifically with the kind of traditional employer-employee model and the expectations around what that looks like or should look like that is really kind of rises to the top of what I think about and what I’m seeing. And the shifts intentions are primarily in reaction to global macro level events that have forced us all to really rethink this model.

Amanda Black (4m 37s):
And a couple of the things that I think really have happened out of that is that workers are coming to know their value in regard to the trading of their time for an income and other benefits. And in many cases, a lot of people have really learned how to be successful in distributed and remote teams. This is something that I think a lot of workers really hadn’t experienced in our pre-pandemic world. And so most of us have also had to really adjust to new ways of managing each day and regard to things like family care, self-care and the like.

Amanda Black (5m 22s):
And so those types of shifts like for the individual have not only helped workers learn what’s important to them, but also what they’re capable of in a flexible or conversely inflexible working environment. And I feel like this time period as well has really revealed inherent inequities in our system, particularly for workers who have traditionally been underrepresented or marginalized. And, you know, the sheer number of job openings across every industry and sector has created a demand for talent that we haven’t seen really ever.

Amanda Black (6m 6s):
For example, NBC News reported in August of 2021 that the US had recorded the most openings in history in June of ’21 at 10.1 million job openings and similar, you know, we see similar kind of trends across the globe. And with that level of demand, it really puts workers squarely into the driver’s seat in regard to whom they choose to lend their talents to and for how long, and what I’m seeing directly like when I’m actively recruiting individuals is that they can really demand higher salaries, flexible working arrangements, and have an expectation for equitable and inclusive working environments, and really want to be seen holistically from their employers.

Amanda Black (7m 3s):
And one thing that I would say is that, like, I think that’s already known, I’m sure many employers know this, but it’s standing out to the worker that they can expect that employers would see that they are not monolithic. And they really want to have that be acknowledged and acted upon by employers, that and the gig economy certainly plays an undeniable role in, you know, how workers are able to set up, you know, how they spend their time and work. And it offers an even more viable and stable set of options for how people spend their time.

Amanda Black (7m 50s):
I think that while, you know, workers have come to see themselves more clearly and understand their expectations, employers have also come to understand what is most valuable to them. And that is, there are people of productive workforce that can really be agile and responsive in the face of unprecedented, unexpected adversity. And, you know, the design and maturity of companies, previous people, and technology practices specifically has been a factor in how organizations have responded over the last couple of years. And many organizations have been operating in a state of being reactive, which is understandable, definitely.

Amanda Black (8m 34s):
But I see this most clearly in responses to the great resignation or reshuffle, if you will, leaders and companies from across the globe have tried and often struggled with their responses to the great resignation. I’ve seen many that have kind of faltered and, well, in response to like the type of like how it was perceived by the public, whatever these actions were. So, you know, an example is this really stands out to me the most as something that, you know, organizations can identify as a place to start.

Amanda Black (9m 16s):
So I’ve seen many offer, quote/unquote, “perks” that workers often believe should have long since been in place and are in fact just equitable and inclusive offerings that shouldn’t be a kind of part of their total rewards package. And a couple of examples of that are things like flexible working arrangements or, you know, parental leave retirement, that type of thing. And I really do love that employers are trying, even if it’s reactive, I love that they’re trying to be a place where people want to go and stay. I will say though, that even as the pandemic recedes and some of the global disruptions of, you know, these more recent years start to fall away, expectations of workers have changed, and we really need to collectively understand how we’re going to approach them going forward.

Amanda Black (10m 12s):
I believe it is a worthy endeavor for employers to spend time evaluating their perspective on the Great Resignation and really work to shift from seeing this as only a disruptive event where they’re really trying to kind of hang on to the talent they have and, you know, backfill the talent they may have lost to more of seeing it as a gift and the rare opportunity that it, it really is.

Matt Alder (10m 41s):
I think that’s really interesting because a lot of the things you were talking about there are, you know, these are systemic issues. They’re things that we’re not suddenly going to go back to the way things were two years ago in a few months’ time. These are long-term trends and, you know, things have changed for, things have changed permanently and will continue to change. I just want to unpack that a little bit around what you were saying about it being such a big opportunity for employers because obviously, as you say, the Great Resignation has seen that kind of phrase has sprung up and is seen as a, you know, potentially quite a negative thing, quite a challenging thing.

Matt Alder (11m 22s):
Tell us a little bit more about why it’s a long-term opportunity for employers.

Amanda Black (11m 29s):
Yeah. So I think that, you know, as employers, we can choose to see this for what it is, a clear message and learning opportunity. I really think it’s that simple. And we have the opportunity to learn now more than ever, what workers want, what they need, and we can choose to structure our business and people practices around that in a way that is symbiotic and sustainable. And if we proactively do the work to create that and assume that we will need to remain competitive for talent for the foreseeable future, and not just try to, you know, enact kind of temporary solutions to a piece of workforces now while we wait for things to return to normal, as you said, or not normal, but like pre-pandemic, you know, times, you know, we will all win.

Amanda Black (12m 25s):
If we, you know, kind of acknowledge as you were, I don’t know that you’ve said it this exact way, but if we kind of acknowledge that the train has left the station and this is a forever change, you know, we can methodically evaluate how our solutions to appease the workforces now, and long-term can really put us in a position where we can, you know, be a standout and we can look at our values, admissions and practices, and align to the needs and expectations of workers.

Amanda Black (13m 5s):
Or better yet. I mean, we really can be leading and stand out from competitors for talent, and we can win also when we do that. And conversely, I do believe that employers who do not choose to view this as an opportunity and really kind of reflect on this global event, I believe that those employers will struggle in the coming years to attract and retain talent either because they may not respond to what the actual needs are or the expectations are, or maybe because they might design and build solutions that are not authentic.

Amanda Black (13m 55s):
And they are just kind of meeting that need of today to hold on talent, but they’re not sustainable or, you know, really aligned to kind of the DNA of the organization. So they’re not going to really last long-term. And I really believe that workers can see that and they know that, and they can feel that. And an example of that and then I’ll just, you know, wrap up my thoughts on this. But an example of that is, you know, I talked to, we have an executive search practice at Good Works. So I talked to many executives. Our focus is on typically the people organization.

Amanda Black (14m 35s):
So heads of people, heads of talent, things like that. And I am kind of continued to be surprised, you know, each day when I speak to people, a lot of the reasons that these really, I mean, outstanding, learned, accomplished, talented leaders are open to leaving their current place of employment is because of the perspective of like, we’re just getting through this time and we’re going to return to normal. And particularly people in talent, like people in talent organizations, you know, most of us know that that is not accurate.

Amanda Black (15m 21s):
And we need to have a long-term sustainable solution for how we, you know, react to these expectations from workers. And so when, you know, there is this internal tension and this kind of, you know, opposite really reaction from people leaders and, you know, the other more like business leaders in organizations, it really creates a challenge. And so there’s not only this risk of not being able to attract talent, attract and retain talent now and in the future, also, there is a risk at kind of alienating the people organization inside of a company because there likely will be these conflicting approaches.

Amanda Black (16m 8s):
And so there are many business reasons why it’s really good to take a close look at this, but those are just some examples of what I see, you know, every day. And I know that this is something that is real. It is surprising to me that some organizations are waiting for things to return to how they were, but we see clear indicators of that in the market. And like this is happening a lot in big tech where, you know, workers are being brought back to the office. I see it every day in my practice and speaking to talent executives. And it’s really something we need to take a look at.

Matt Alder (16m 52s):
Absolutely. And tell us a little bit about the employers that are really getting this right, understanding it, and embracing that change. What is it that they’re doing? How are they changing the employee experience to kind of really address the fundamental shifts that have happened?

Amanda Black (17m 13s):
Yes. So they are, I think that the most important thing is that they are taking the time to look at this and plan for it and be proactive. So seeing the response to the great resignation as a business imperative is really critical. A lot of organizations are still in that reactive mode, not only with their people but also with their businesses as well. And that’s understandable, particularly because of global economic factors and a kind of instability that’s happening in the globe.

Amanda Black (17m 56s):
I work with a lot of global organizations, particularly for global organizations that there is not an option. You know, things are changing so quickly every day that we have to be, you know, actively reacting to these changes, but finding a way in all of this minutia and the macro things that are occurring right now, finding and really identifying a space to look at how we want to react to the Great Resignation and really focus on shifting, you know, our perspective to one that wants to learn and see how we can create this, you know, as I mentioned, a symbiotic solution.

Amanda Black (18m 39s):
Those are the employers that are winning because they are able to, first of all, demonstrate that it is a priority that they want to get this right, and they want to get it right for the long-term. They’re not just going to slap together a solution. They’re going to be thoughtful. They are asking their employers what they need. They are telling– I mean, not employers. They’re asking their employees what they need, what they need to see differently, what is important to them for their future, and kind of how they see themselves in the future of their organization. They’re also telling their workforce that they are looking outward.

Amanda Black (19m 21s):
They’re not only relying on their own internal knowledge and findings. They’re looking at the extensive bodies of research and data that we have at our fingertips now about these behaviors that have changed with workers, what is important to workers, the trends that we’re seeing in, you know, different geographies, industry sectors, things like that. They’re openly sharing that they are looking at this and they’re gaining this understanding. And then they are, you know, coming up with solutions that are actually meaningful. So when they take the time to do that research upfront and make informed decisions, then they can provide offerings that are actually meaningful to their workforce and in their industry or in their sector or whatever it may be.

Amanda Black (20m 13s):
And that can help avoid that misalignment where it’s like some organizations in big tech have made some of these, you know, policy changes. A couple of them have been around family leave, paternal leave, those types of things. And they fell flat because of like what I mentioned earlier, where, you know, many places around the globe, the expectation is that this should have already been in place or has been in place in other places. And so therefore it is not a differentiator. It actually makes you seem a little bit kind of like you’re not, like you have a lack of awareness, I guess, of what has been important and what inequities have existed.

Amanda Black (21m 2s):
The other thing is just calling out the importance and value of the people. Organizations who are really pushing their values and how they, and not only pushing their values, they are modeling their values. They are demonstrating these to their workforce to potential talent, and they clearly understand kind of who they are and how they want to deliver that. And that paints a really kind of easy-to-understand picture for workers of how they can align to this organization and why they should stay.

Amanda Black (21m 43s):
And it shows that if organizations can demonstrate their value, they can show– Not demonstrate. I keep saying demonstrate. When organizations are modeling their values and showing that they value their workforce and they are making decisions, they’re talking openly about it, and those decisions are informed by data and feedback from their own workforce. And they acknowledge that a lot of these changes that they are making are to be more flexible and inclusive, and perhaps overcome inequities that were already in place, or have really risen as a result of the pandemic, really like things that I was mentioning, like the kind of family care situations and things like that, where inequities have either been exacerbated or been created, when they act in those ways and they have those behaviors, they are winning.

Amanda Black (22m 46s):
And I know this is absolutely true because I see it in the conversations that myself and my team has in Good Works every day with people that are sitting squarely in these, you know, senior leadership roles in people organizations. And I can see and understand where and when we can pull people from their current organization and when, you know, companies have done a good job to retain the talent.

Matt Alder (23m 16s):
Digging into what you were saying about inequity there and it’s something that you mentioned earlier in the conversation, huge amounts of talk about diversity, equity and inclusion over the last couple of years, but a real sense that many companies aren’t taking it as seriously as they say they are, is that the case? Are companies taking diversity seriously? What should they be doing if they are to build more inclusive workplaces and have appropriate time acquisition processes?

Amanda Black (23m 48s):
The answer is yes and no. So many are, which is exciting. I think that many companies do really understand why it’s important and it is something that they will not waiver on and they are going to keep going until they are successful. There is also, you know, kind of in the mix. A lot of organizations who have been reactive, particularly over the last couple of years to events or demands from the market, or maybe, you know, stakeholders, and they’re really facing challenges now and will continue if they’re not now, they will in the future, if they are only reacting, you know, to events or demands.

Amanda Black (24m 36s):
Because of the concept that I was mentioning earlier, where they are designing solutions that are either uninformed or not really authentic to who they are as an organization. And one of the things that I think happens besides like, so even if, even for companies that are trying to take diversity seriously because it truly is important to them and they are not just trying to be reactive, perhaps maybe a certain event or set of events made that, you know, held up a mirror or just brought about awareness that they didn’t have. And they said, hey, we now have to make this be an imperative.

Amanda Black (25m 18s):
We are going to do this. We are going to become more diverse and be equitable and inclusive, even for organizations who do that but don’t really focus on that diversity, equity, and inclusion at the most senior leadership levels of their organization, they tend to really struggle. And the reason is because, even with the best intentions, if an organization is already, if their leadership of an organization already represents the majority, whatever that majority is in a certain country, I’ll take the United States as an example because that is where I sit now, even though I worked globally.

Amanda Black (26m 9s):
In the US, particularly in technology, you know, white men tend to dominate boards, senior leadership teams, things like that. You know, it’s different in other countries, but whomever the majority is, if these are the decision makers around what actions we take, what investments we make, what the timeline is for enacting, you know, changes and things like that, they design solutions, often without even an awareness that they are doing it, they designed solutions that still keep themselves in mind for the most part and preserve inequities.

Amanda Black (26m 53s):
And the reason for that is because, unless one has spent a lot of time focusing on, you know, inequities or inclusion or the need for diversity, their own personal experience will define how they design solutions, how they think about them. And if they have not been impacted by inequities, they may not even know they have blind spots. So it’s not a matter of desire or know-how, or like business prowess or anything like that. It’s a matter of not having had the opportunity to see and experience some of these inequities.

Amanda Black (27m 33s):
And so it’s really important to start at the most senior leadership level and get that diversity in place because first of all, diversity will certainly breed diversity. And second, well, not certainly. Diversity will likely breed diversity, diverse leadership will likely breed diversity. And there will be that understanding these leaders will likely have been underrepresented or possibly marginalized in their past. And they understand what to think about. They know how the inequities and systems have impacted them. They see it with others, they have their eyes fully open.

Amanda Black (28m 16s):
So they understand more about how to design solutions that are meaningful. And so, yes, to wrap that up, yes, companies are taking diversity seriously in many cases. Others are not necessarily taking it seriously. They are doing it because they believe that they have to in a reactive manner. And even still a lot of organizations who are taking it seriously, but not necessarily like they’re focusing on diversifying the workforce like the broader kind of more junior level workforce, but they’re not starting at the senior level, even when they are taking it seriously, they are struggling.

Matt Alder (28m 57s):
Amanda, thank you very much for talking to me.

Amanda Black (28m 60s):
My pleasure. Thank you so much for having me today. I really appreciate the work that you do, and it’s just been so great to speak with you.

Matt Alder (29m 11s):
My thanks to Amanda. You can subscribe to this podcast in Apple podcast, 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 very much for listening. I’ll be back next time and I hope you’ll join me.

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