Episode 046: Today’s Talent Truths [Staying Competitive with Recruitment and Retention]

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“You can have the best strategy in the world, but if the culture isn’t there – the talent won’t be either.”

With a fully deployed workforce in the professional service sectors, many employers are concerned about how to recruit and retain talent in today’s job market. How can business owners, small and large, plan for this talent shortage and consider their compensation, culture and retention strategies to accept and embrace the new market?

In this episode of The Wrap, Warren Averett’s own David Salters, CSP, TSC and special guest Tom Kosnik, President of Visus Group, join our hosts to discuss the truth of the current job market, management’s role in the talent strategy, and how to stay competitive with attracting and retaining talent in 2021.

After listening to this episode, you’ll be able to:

      • Uncover the truth of the current job market and combat misconceptions of talent availability and unemployment rates
      • Learn about the best ways to communicate company culture
      • Manage a remote work future after COVID-19 and what that could mean for your employees.
      • Determine your “shiny apple” – what needs to be offered in terms of culture and compensation to attract the right candidates.
      • Plan an employee retention strategy, professional development training and financial modeling to set you apart from other companies

Related Resources:

David Salters: (00:00:00) I would look at as that as one way to get ahead of your competitors is be prepared, own it, embrace it. Because if they don’t, you are going to beat them in the talent game.

Commentators: (00:00:11) Hey, I’m Paul Perry. I’m Kim Hart sock, and you’re listening to The Wrap, a Warren Averett podcast for business leaders designed to help you access vital business information and trends when you need it. So, you can listen, learn, and then get on with your day. Now let’s get down to business.

Paul Perry: (00:00:31) Hey Kim.

Kim Hartsock: (00:00:32) Hey Paul, how are you today?

Paul Perry: (00:00:34) I’m great. I’m very excited to be here today. I’m very excited to talk to our guests today. We have David Salters – who is one of our partners and leads our Warren Averett Staffing and Recruiting team. And we have with us, our guests, Tom Kosnik, who is an expert on all things recruiting and retention. So, we are going to talk about talent today, which I know is a very hot topic for our listeners.

Paul Perry: (00:01:01) Looking forward to it. David, welcome. Tom, glad to have you all here with us.

Tom Kosnik: (00:01:05) Glad to be here.

David Salters: (00:01:07) Glad to be with you. Once again, Kim and Paul…

Paul Perry: (00:01:12) Is this number two for you, David? It is number two or maybe three.

David Salters: (00:01:15) It’s always a pleasure speaking with you too, though.

Paul Perry: (00:01:18) I have you back. I’m glad you brought your friend. Tom, if you could, for our listeners, just a little bit of a background on yourself and what you do in the recruiting and retention industry.

Tom Kosnik: (00:01:28) Sure. I’ve been servicing the staffing industry and the recruiting industry for 26 years now. A lot of organizational development, growth strategy work, typically work with the people that own the businesses or the general managers of the business. And we get called in when they hit a plateau or they get stuck and they’re looking for new ideas. We come in and help them get unstuck and help them get back on the growth track.It’s been, uh, it’s been a joy servicing the industry, so, and glad to be here.

Paul Perry: (00:02:06) David, we know who you are, but if you could give our listeners just a little bit about what you do with Warren Averett, that would be helpful.

David Salters: (00:02:10) Yeah, sure. Uh, this is my 22nd year in the staffing and recruiting business. So not quite as long as Tom but have been around for a while and have been doing that from Texas to Florida over those years. And I’ve been with Warren Averett about 10 years now. At Warren Averett Staffing and Recruiting, we are responsible for the talent acquisition here, but also for many of our clients. And our job is to talk to talent, locate talent, motivate, and help retain talent. And that’s what we do every day.

Kim Hartsock: (00:02:45) David, you and your team do a great job for us and for our clients. And Tom, we’re excited to have you here with us as well. So, Tom, let’s start the conversation here. I think there’s some tension between a misconception of what the unemployment rate is saying and the feeling that most employers are feeling when they’re out, trying to hire. Can you walk our listeners through what that really means?

Tom Kosnik: (00:03:09) Sure. There’s quite a bit of confusion and misconception about the unemployment numbers but in the pandemic, when we see that number – and I don’t even know where it’s at right now – is it 6%, 7% unemployment. Still, those jobs are all your hospitality jobs, your lower end manufacturing jobs that have been reduced and whatnot.
That really makes up most of that unemployment number. When you get into these fields like accounting and finance, it, engineering, the sales profession… In the United States here, we’re at a fully deployed workforce. So I’ve got clients that think that there’s a bunch of accounting and finance people standing around waiting for job offers and things like that.
Not the case at all. I mean, in the accounting and finance, it is a very tight market right now. Those were the 35% of the jobs that could go remote. And so those people, like on the professional level, those types of personnel, they just went remote.
They didn’t stop working, they just took it home. So that’s the biggest misconception. That in the professional sectors, there are companies that are thinking that there’s a lot of available candidates.

Paul Perry: (00:04:47) And it is tough if it’s that tight of a market. David, I want to be in the position to land that talent. How do I do that? What is my strategy? What am I going after? What kind of mindset do I have to have? And is it different than the mindset I had 18 months ago?

David Salters: (00:05:06) Paul, if you think back just a couple of years ago, you mentioned 18 months ago – we were, we were here again. We had a tight, tight labor market across the board. So not only professional, but manufacturing and labor jobs were tight. And we went through this whole phase of, you know, employer branding and employer reputation to make sure we were recruiting and retaining talent to the best of our ability.
And that really stretched some companies beyond their normal culture, because they really had to fight and to get talent and then to retain talent. And then 2020 hit and it’s like someone pulled the emergency brake – there were layoffs and cutbacks and shutdowns. All these companies had to pivot into remote working.
Some were prepared for that. Some were not. And so the market has been a yoyo out here. So we went fast and furious on hiring to an immediate stop – to this confusion and misconception that we’re talking about with unemployment numbers. We see these numbers well, two years ago, that number was not there.
So how do you get talent? One is accepting and understanding what the market is. We’ve had clients speak to us. They cannot figure out why no one’s applying for their jobs. They hear 6% unemployment, 7% unemployment. Whereas depending on where you consume your data from that, there’s available talent or there’s not. And so there’s confusion. The clients that will accept the market and understand, especially for the jobs that can be remote. We do have not only a fully deployed workforce, but one that has quite a bit of pent up demand. Every employee out there has a certain cycle in which they may change jobs.
We all know that has moved to a shorter cycle over the years. For example, someone averages changing jobs every four or five, six years, and that year would have come in 2020. And they stayed put because of the pandemic. Well, they’re going to find a new job this year. We’ve seen surveys for up to 80% of candidates expect to seek a new job in 2021.
Beyond your normal turnover and retention issues, you’ve got this pent-up demand that candidates are going to move. And so our clients need to be aware and then have a plan and essentially tune out the noise on unemployment and have a talent acquisition strategy that looks more like it did in 2018 and 2019, when things were at such a peak and go full force on recruiting and retention and this remote workforce.
Some companies are ready to go back to the office. Some are not, some don’t know what to do and carefully managing and communicating that plan is going to be key for retaining your folks. And that’s going to be the best way to recruit the rest of 2021 is to retain your best folks and managing that return to work is going to be critical.

Tom Kosnik: (00:08:07) Yeah. Companies will have to have a remote work policy. And a lot of the organizational development pundits that I’m researching on, they basically say that maybe beyond 2021, we are likely to settle into like an 80, 20 rule with the remote work thing. Meaning that 80% in the office, 20% working remote. 70% in the office, 30% working remote… There’s already data research from all the big business schools in terms of the productivity of teams are working together collaboratively in an office versus teams that are working from home. The teams that are like in the office working collaboratively, they’re far more productive.
It doesn’t matter what size you are. You’ll have to figure that out. But in terms of like the question that you asked about getting employees, attracting employees – if you’re a market leader, there’s a whole list of variables. If it’s not a market leader, then what are you doing to offer advancement training and development for those employees? A lot of people that are out there looking for new opportunities, they want a cultural match.
They want to belong to an organization that gives back to the greater society or is involved in some healthy social things. It’s a big deal. All of us on this call know benefits, 401k plans – you think about total comp career development, career advancement. When we send David some job orders to say, “Hey, we need some staff accountants here.”
One of the questions David’s going to ask is… “Well, why, why would somebody come work for your organization?” And you better have some compelling reasons because it’s sort of like the shiny apple gets the most looks. And so management, you know, are they making that Apple as shiny as it can be?

Paul Perry: (00:10:35) You both said two words that have been part of my new favorite quote that I’ve used several times, “Culture eats strategy for lunch”. Have you all heard that?

David Salters: (00:10:47) Absolutely. Yes.

Paul Perry: (00:10:49) It sounds like what you’re talking about is… David, you did talk about strategy. You did say to have a good strategy in place, but man, if your culture is just not there, the strategy means nothing and you’re still at step one. For the business leaders that are out there that heard Tom say, what are you doing from a cultural perspective?
If you’re sitting there going “Well, how do I communicate what my company believes in?” There’s that new whole concept of ESG or sustainability reporting that a lot of organizations are getting into to be able to take that stance of here are the things we believe in, here’s what we are truly doing to back that from a climate perspective, from a social perspective, from governance perspective and here’s what we’re doing as an organization. So I just wanted to put that in there cause y’all talked a little bit about culture and I think it’s important to say you can have the best strategy in the world, but if that culture is not right… you’re still stuck at first step.

David Salters: (00:11:47) Yeah. The idea of answering the question that Tom asked, “why, why would a candidate come to work at your company?” because we’re fully deployed. You’re convincing someone who already has a job doing a similar role somewhere else.
So there needs to be a value proposition for them to join the team and it’s going to be that culture. There’s a number of ways you can promote that culture. Easiest is really sharing your values out to the world via social media. But pictures and videos of your team working together on those things is a phenomenal way to do that.
And then you can link that on your web page and send the candidate to that page to see this is who we are, this is who we’re about. That’s one way the number one way is to have your employees be your brand ambassador for that type of activity, because you know what it’s, it’s best to say – “don’t take my word for it. Take Paul’s word for it. Take Kim’s word for it.” Let’s talk to them and see what they like about working at your firm and that goes back to retention and employee engagement and treating your people well so that they will help you recruit in the future because you can spend countless dollars on job ads and recruiters and the recruiting costs internally.
But the easiest way to close that gap is to share that through personal experiences of your employees and have a way to promote your culture socially through social media.

Kim Hartsock: (00:13:16) You guys both talked about the remote workforce, you talked about culture and all of that leads into: you can recruit a lot of people but I think that – David, you mentioned that the starting point is retaining your top talent.
So, you know, in this market where we’ve already discussed how tight it is, what do I need to know as an employer about. If I need to be retaining my top talent, what does that look like for me?

David Salters: (00:13:44) One, is recognizing that top talent and being intentional in grading, your team, who, who can we live with, uh, who, who can’t we live with rather? What is my plan for that person? What is my value proposition for that person and be intentional about their career path and small ways of showing appreciation, starting with simply: “Kim. I really appreciate you. You do a great job for this company and you’re valuable to me and this organization.” Just saying that sometimes is very critical.

Also the team comradery as people and companies decide what their return to work plan is… Tom mentioned people are more or more productive when they can collaborate. There’s going to be some circumstances where employees do not want to go back to the office.
They found so much value. They spent more time with their family. They have avoided terrible commutes in some cases, but it’s going to be difficult for you to retain your talent if they are not connected to their teammates.
Employees say they like transparency from their employer besides the social work and, and, and volunteering, they want a transparent employer. Well, if you communicate to your employees, this is why we’re coming back to work. And this is why that it’s, that it’s important that you come to work on whatever your schedule is.
Think about how difficult it is to train new employees in this remote workforce, traditionally, we’re in an office and we can go through training and lean to the cube next to you and pick up tips and tricks and get to know people and earn trust. We’ve got to get some of that back because if someone is sitting at their desk and they’re completely remote, it’s not so hard to leave the company because you’re not really part of that.
You don’t feel like you’re part of the company as you once were. So part of the retention is being intentional with the return to work, be transparent as to why this is important. And always communicate with your employees. We share successes. That’s one of our values at Warren Averett is to share our successes when the team’s doing well.
I have a friend of mine and his wife just returned to work after about 15 years and out of the workforce being a stay-at-home mom, she goes back to work last year. And the first job that she received that she went to was not very good, not very good at all.
She worked there for a while, you know, refreshed her skills and then got a new offer at a better employer. He texted me a photo just this week and it was a gift basket to his wife from the employer. And it simply said, “we appreciate you.” Would that cost 50 bucks, maybe? Right. That’s a lot cheaper than my recruiting fee.
I can assure you that to replace her, if she’s not happy. So being intentional and reaching out to those people and my friend, who’s a businessperson and a business leader said, you know, the cost of retaining good people. We overestimate that many times. Look how this made my wife’s day that she received a gift basket unsolicited and said, thank you for working here.
Kim Hartsock: (00:17:01) To learn more from Tom Kosnik, visit his website at www.visusgroup.com, that’s V I S U S. Now back to the show.
Tom Kosnik: (00:17:14) Hey, Paul. You talked about culture. Kim, you talked about engagement. A lot of organizations don’t even know what their culture is. It’s a good point, but every organization and there are cultural assessments and surveys and two things about culture, corporate culture.
And then you might have like the sales organization, the sales function might have a culture separate to itself where they stress certain things. Is an organization centralized versus non-centralized. Are they very prudent decision makers or are they very venturesome decision makers?
Are they a highly collaborative team or do they have folks that are very individualized, the roles and tasks and things like that. Understand what the corporate culture is by some of these tools and whatnot. And then how do you make that culture alive? That’s where you have organizations that will have culture committees.
What is the specific behavior that exudes being venturous zone or innovative or sales orientated, or operational excellence coming from people themselves, people do what they help create. People do what they help create. With engagement, my friends at the Dr.Clifton and my friends at the Gallup poll will tell you… all your listeners can take this to the bank and earn great interest on it. But the manager is the key. So you have to have, like, in terms of like training and development, Like the number one training and development thing should be management training.
Because if you’ve got great managers on staff, people leave managers, they don’t leave companies. Those managers are going to be touching these employees on a regular basis. They’re going to be knowing their motivations. They’re going to be knowing their strengths.
They’re going to be able to get them in the right roles and the job tasks. What does all that stuff do? It all drives productivity and you know what productivity drives? Satisfaction Doesn’t bump from, you know, fancy, fancy, this, and fancy that and whatever. An individual’s productivity in a job in an organization drives that drives the satisfaction.

David Salters: (00:19:47) You mentioned the manager and we’ve had this discussion before. What’s your thoughts on not just investing in technical training for the general employee population, but for leadership training in those managers who are so critical to retaining that talent?

Tom Kosnik: (00:20:08) I guess we’d have to define leadership, but, uh, there’s there’s leadership. I don’t know how many leading leadership books that are out there but there’s management, right? Management, classic definition: getting people to do what they need to do on a day-to-day basis for the organization to hit its goal and grow and all that stuff. And then classic definition on leadership is the visionary, the, you know, looking ahead doing the strategy work and that sort of thing, but those key managers getting them to see beyond their foxhole or beyond their division. That’s only going to increase your retention with those senior managers that you have on staff. So very, very impressive.

Paul Perry: (00:20:50) So you guys have talked about culture. We’ve talked about retention; we’ve talked about the marketplace. Now let’s talk about compensation. There has to be, this can’t be something that everybody’s going to go in a different direction. There’s there’s good. Everybody is going to be helping each other get to the same point.
I mean, we’re all, we’re all picking from the same barrel. So we all got to say the same amount. Um, and compensation is not just dollars in my bank account compensation, total compensation is the benefits, right? It’s what are you providing me when I do come to work? So, uh, with, with this fast moving market, how do we handle compensation as business leaders? David, what are you, what are you seeing from, from the companies you’re talking to today?

David Salters: (00:21:28) Companies need to understand the data. Having the freshest, most reliable data available is critical.
Understanding what you’re dealing with. You would not go and buy a home if you didn’t know what the comps were in the area, you wouldn’t sell a home. If you didn’t know what the comps were or in the area. It is very tempting for business leaders to bury their head because let’s face it.
We don’t want to hear that rates or that wages are increasing. It’s not, fun. It doesn’t look good on the P and L and as Tom said, there’s something we’ll have to be reworked on that P and L, but this also leads back to that question who, who is going to get the employees who can be the best at recruiting?
Well, you will quickly eliminate yourself if you are not in the game on compensation. For me, it’s always been on compensation. That includes benefits that you mentioned, Paul. You can be at market. You can’t be out of market because when candidates are comparing offers, comparing situations, you just can’t be behind.
You don’t have to lead the market, but you certainly cannot be behind and eliminate yourself from consideration because you don’t offer a certain benefit or your wages are out of sync and we, as lead business leaders, can fool ourselves. It’s really a great company, though. If you really just understand what it means to work here, then you’ll understand, you know, we don’t need that pay you that much.
Well, if that’s the case, then you better have everything else in order. And that goes back to your culture and your community investment and all that. And you’re still going to have a tough fight if you’re not paying enough. So have the data be aware of what it is. Trend that out. It is not going backwards. It’s going forwards, trend out the data and have yourself in a marketable position that you don’t have to lead the market, but you cannot be out of market for compensation.

Kim Hartsock: (00:23:25) So I’m listening to this as an employer and I’m thinking, well, this is a lot of, you know, there’s, it’s a tight market. There’s not a lot of people out there to recruit from.
There’s a lot of people that want to hire my people. So I’ve got to work really hard to retain them. Compensation’s going up. What do I do? What do I do right now as an employer to get ahead of this? Maybe I’m thinking I’m way behind, right? So I’m not getting ahead. I’m just trying to get caught up to where you guys are telling me I need to already be. So what’s your advice to me as an employer right now, as it relates to talent.

Tom Kosnik: (00:24:06) Hey, I would, you got to finance the financial modeling. That’s a number one. So, uh, from a perspective of just the health business – you’re in business to make money businesses, to create wealth for individuals and all that stuff.
So like organizations have got to figure it out financially. Then it’s all about many of the things that we’ve been talking about retain, it’s – like turnover? It’s ridiculous. How much money turnover costs. So focusing on that engagement and retention of employees is key.
That’s going to be a key initiative going forward and it’s going to be more challenging because a lot of the universities are telling kids that are coming out of college, “Hey, you know, worked here for two years here for two years here for two years here for two years.”
I mean, David will tell you that employers used to say, I don’t want to look at any resumes where the guy has had more than three jobs in 10 years. I mean, that these resumes, they read like rap sheets. Now it’s like every 18 months. Who can learn a job and really succeed in it in a two year period?
So that, and that goes back to the management piece of it and all that stuff. So really coming up with a strong, practical strategy of retaining your best and here’s some really interesting thing – Kim, you look really smart. If I want to come work for an organization that I want to grow, and I want to develop like, Hey, I’m going to go size these organizations up. I’m going to go work for an organization that’s got a lot of smart, talented people. Your top 20%. I mean, those are, you’d have to figure out creative techniques that keep those people involved in the organization because that becomes a big part of the attraction.
Like, I can become this kind of an accounting and finance professional, or I can really learn a lot about selling or about operations because of the people. So hate to say back to basics because the base that’s the ground has shifted a little bit on the basics, but those are some of the things, I think.

David Salters: (00:26:26) I think companies, if they’re not already, need to be very strategic with talent the rest of this year and going forward. What I mean by strategic is someone in the leadership of every company must be tasked with the talent strategy. It can’t be seen as just a problem or something we deal with when it comes and goes or push that down to HR or to recruiting or outside recruiting vendor.
It really needs to be part of the company’s overall strategy and comments that people do. What they’re involved with management and leadership needs to set the tone. And if they understand how important culture is, they’re going to get more involved and be intentional and setting that culture and communicating that culture, setting budgets, leaders are going to have to consider the added cost of wages and that has to fit in the P and L somewhere.
So why would you not budget for your recruiting strategy, your retention strategy budget for making sure you have up-to-date compensation data? That way, you can become proactive. What I fear for our clients is this quick shift from the stress job market in 2018 and 19 to the immediate halt in 2020, and now we’re back at it again.
It’s hard to be committed to talent when this thing is yo-yoing us like this. But if, if our clients will be committed to having that strategy, if someone doesn’t already have a seat at the leadership table that’s in charge of talent, put someone in charge of talent or bring someone up in those meetings – budget, budget, budget for these costs and stay ahead.
It is going to be a game of attrition with your competitors. Everyone was trying to hire the same people that you are, and early birds get the worm. If you accept this market today and get ahead, be ready for attrition, it’s going to happen this year. So plan, plan, plan, budget, budget, budget, accept the market.
And I would look at as that as one way to get ahead of your competitors is be prepared, own it, embrace it. Because if they don’t, you are going to beat them in the talent game.

Paul Perry: (00:28:46) So here on The Wrap, we like to wrap it up in 60 seconds for our listeners. What are the one or two things you want them to leave with and think about as they move forward with retention and compensation and recruiting and talent?

Tom Kosnik: (00:29:03) Number one, make sure you figure out the financial model. And that that relates to compensation and training and development and all that stuff with your people, so that your company’s making the net income that you’re looking for it to make. Number two, uh, how does the senior management make that apple the shiniest that it can be. So that’s think really thinking outside the box in terms of engagement, productivity, management, training, leadership development, giving back to the community at large, having these social programs that we’re involved in. So senior management really have got to come together and have conversations, uh, and a common understanding.
On how to do that. Uh, and then, and then get your employees involved in building the action plan of making it happen.

David Salters: (00:29:59) I want our clients to just heed our advice on don’t be lulled to sleep by the halt and the shutdown of last year. This employment game is not what, what it appears. Uh, again, just tune out any kind of 6%.7% and just understand the market that you’re in. That’s the first piece of advice I give our clients.

Kim Hartsock: (00:30:26) We could go on for hours about this conversation. Just so much to talk about, I’m sure there’ll be a follow-up to this podcast at some point in time, which is why we keep asking you to come back, David. So Tom, thanks for being with us, David. Thanks for coming back.

Tom Kosnik and David Salters: (00:30:40) You’re welcome. Great to be here.

Commentators: (00:30:42) And that’s a Wrap. If you’re enjoying the podcast, please leave a review on your streaming plan to check out more episodes, subscribe to the podcast series, or make a suggestion of other topics you want to hear, visit us at warrenaverett.com/thewrap.

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