An insider’s look at how to secure new talent and retain employees during the great resignation
A Q&A with Professionals Leading the Charge on Training, Recruitment and Hiring
There’s no denying that one of the lasting repercussions of the COVID-19 pandemic is the unprecedented churn in the U.S. labor market. As a result of two years of virtual work from home, there’s been a shift in priorities. Many are literally taking to the road to explore new horizons for personal development and mental health. All this and more has driven what’s come to be known as the Great Resignation—a conversation perhaps better positioned as the Great Reshuffle.
To explore how the workplace is evolving, I reached out to Vicki Brakl; MNI's Senior Vice President, Marketing, Training and Development; to get her thoughts on talent acquisition strategies and how to deal with the great resignation (full disclosure, I report to Vicki). During this free-flowing conversation, we discussed the new hybrid landscape, the importance of sharing brand values to employees and potential new recruits, the challenges of childcare, and a few other things including what we plan on wearing, now that we’re back in office a few days a week.
Q: While the “Great Resignation” is hitting companies suddenly, is it wrong to think that the hiring process and career paths have been changing for years? Why do you think many are caught off-guard?
Brakl: I love when I get start a conversation with a quote: as Elwin “Leper” Lepellier said, “Everything has to evolve or else it perishes.” Evolve or perish. Applies to business, innovation, and medicine. While COVID-19 surely hurt a lot of businesses, many thrived despite the challenges. They quickly pivoted to work-from-home and did what they needed to do to keep the lights on, employees safe, and revenue streams flowing. Even though we were all caught by surprise, companies managed to navigate uncharted waters.
Q: What do you think employers have to do to adapt to this new reality?
Brakl: In the advertising space where I sit, the mantra is knowing your audience, learning their priorities, and responding in kind. Plain and simple, that’s what employers should be doing as well. Do this, and you build a foundation of trust. Build trust, and you cultivate talent and customers. Finding top talent is a lot like branding:
Get your message to the right people .
Highlight your most outstanding features (in this case, benefits, competitive pay, company culture, etc.) .
Get your brand out there and bring more awareness to the job openings and opportunities you need to fill.
Q: Based on your opinion and experience, what do you think were the main pain points that caused the Great Resignation?
Brakl: Call me naive, but I really think that it all comes down to perspective. I prefer to think of challenges as opportunities—a chance to look at things differently. Are people unhappy or are they shifting their priorities? Every generation sets its own bar or alters the one that’s been set for them. Here’s another quote: “What doesn’t break us, makes us stronger.” From our corner of the world, we at MNI are stronger than ever. Yes, we’ve lost some talent and we have positions to fill, but people are expanding their horizons and trying new things like never before. And that’s something to celebrate. In the long run, we’ll all be better for it. Just as these last couple of years have shifted priorities— personal and professional—it’s incumbent on us to respond in kind. The pendulum may swing, but if a company stays true to its mission it’ll stay the course and the talent will be there throughout the oscillation.
Q: What can employers do to attract and retain top talent during the labor shortage?
Brakl: As part of our commitment to understanding how best to connect with target audiences, MNI recently readied an eBook entitled Help Wanted. It explores the social conditions behind the historically high worker shortfall the U.S. is now experiencing. In a nutshell, it highlights why there is cause for optimism during this Great Resignation. Successful enterprises adapt and thrive following disruption. The same techniques they used to draw customers—building personas, multiple channel engagement and so on—also appeal to employment candidates. And at the end of the day, the American workforce could well emerge stronger, nimbler, better trained, and more open to innovation.
Q: You mentioned the Great Reshuffle earlier, what does this mean?
Brakl: Before 2020, there was a trend to brands taking marketing services in-house and for some, to lean into the gig or freelance talent pool. Only you can decide what it best for your company. What makes it sing? How do you get everyone to row in sync?
We are currently seeing more security within the gig economy as companies are trying to provide benefits for workers during this crisis. However, the longevity of delivery service jobs is unknown. The high demand will most likely decrease as people return to their everyday lives. Companies like Amazon and Uber have created a relief fund and expanded sick pay for drivers who become ill or are forced to quarantine. Postmates, DoorDash, and UberEats are also offering contactless delivery to ensure the health and safety of employees and customers.
The downside of the gig economy is that workers aren’t protected by an employer. These workers face a lack of benefits, inconsistent income, and the possibility of becoming burnt out. Taking on more jobs than you can handle becomes stressful and overwhelming, and will ultimately lead to job exhaustion. Again, I think it comes down to finding personal and professional balance. Just as only a company can decide what’s right for it, same applies to the individual.
I lean into a middle ground, it’s not either-or, but rather, who has the resources to make me better? MNI works with a lot of companies in different capacities giving them support where they need it. Some need data, other a helping hand serving media. Thing is no one can do it all and thinking that may be what leads to Great Resignations and so on. Find balance. Find partners you can rely on. Do this and be well poised to meet fiduciary responsibilities.
Q: Why do you think brand advertising is a smart investment and how will it help secure and/or retain talent?
Brakl: It’s never been more important for brands and individuals to convey what they stand for. And to do so earnestly. You can’t just sell a product anymore. Enhancing the user experience and giving back in a way that resonates with you target audiences is the way to thrive. Strong brands consistently outperform the market.
The pay-off in investing in what your brand stands for can be extraordinary. Dividends include better marketing positioning, clearer connections with customer and employees, and even an increase in value to your business.
Building Loyalty & Trust
In 2016, Nielsen released a study that revealed that ads with an above average emotional response from consumers caused a 23% increase in sales compared to average advertisements. The Harvard Business Reviewhas stated that a positive emotional bond with a company is more important to consumers than customer satisfaction. I remain convinced that the go-to market strategy on BTC is parallel to tactics and philosophy that should be embraced when managing your own internal talent pool.
Q: Can you share a few things that employers, managers and executives should be doing to improve their company work culture?
Brakl: In recent research from the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), 52% of these remaining employees said they’ve had to take on more work and responsibilities. Another 30% struggle to get their work done. And maybe the most haunting stat of all: 28% feel more lonely or isolated. The first and perhaps most important thing any company can do is to be committed to its employees' well-being. Make sure they’re not spread thin and burned out. Make sure that if they’re working from home, they still feel a sense of community—talk to each other beyond work issues.
Vicki Brakl is Senior Vice President, Marketing of MNI Targeted Media (MNI). Vicki is always on the lookout for new ways to streamline communication to drive performance both internally and externally with MNI’s client base to improve efficiencies and create the best product. Her secret weapon is listening, asking, and knowing when to disrupt.