Julie Livingston, President, WantLeverage Communications
In my work as a public relations and integrated marketing practitioner, I’m seeing the effects of “The Great Resignation” play out firsthand. From March 2020 through November 2021, an average of more than 3.9 million workers quit their jobs each month, resulting in 2021 holding the highest labor turnover average on record, topping the 2019 average of 3.5 million. A high percentage were millennials, who make up 35% of the workforce (Pew Research Center). Experiencing detrimental losses of team members, my clients have been forced to re-examine the total employee experience – everything from the interview process, benefits package and candidate selection to onboarding and culture – to retain their current workforce, as well as get creative to attract new talent.
To navigate this extremely tight labor market, my clients are now focusing more on driving visibility and building positive company reputation. As a result, I’m increasingly asked to partner with human resources departments on their talent acquisition strategy as a means of promoting company culture and telling a bigger story about why their organization is an attractive, employee-centric firm to work for.
Over time, human resources professionals have seen the benefits of collaborating with PR, as well as the deficits when both areas are siloed. In speaking with Stacy Roger-Gordon, an HR consultant, and Erin Mohideen, People and Culture Lead at Inspirant Group, a management consultancy, both noted that the Great Resignation stems from a general unhappiness in the workplace. Issues that were bubbling up before the pandemic – a kind of breaking point – include the need for job flexibility and WFH (especially for working parents), as well as a more personalized career path. By working together, PR and HR can develop the right strategic communication tools and key messages that better connect with new candidates and existing employees in a more “tuned in” way.
Reexamining Company Culture
The backbone of any business is its company culture, and organizations today are wise to reinvent themselves as a place where people feel valued and look forward to coming to work. Are company core values simply banal words on a kitchen poster or are they real and meaningful? Mohideen stresses that “core values need to emanate from leadership and be articulated in an easy to understand manner. Developing no more than three core values ensures that they are more accessible and achievable for everyone.”
Once core values are in place, PR and HR can develop ways to weave that messaging into internal communication (think emails, email signature, e-newsletter and intranet discussion boards). Working together, they can also guide leaders on how to incorporate these values, along with pillars (shorter term goals) into everyday work life. One of my clients seamlessly weaves in their company core values at every touchpoint and as a result, I hear people across all areas of the firm talking about them in a conversational, authentic fashion.
Revelatory Interview Questions
For obvious reasons, strategic messaging comes into play during the interview process in impressing candidates, as well as in identifying candidates who are the right cultural fit. At Inspirant Group, Mohideen says that one of the most telling interview questions candidates are asked is, “When you wake up in the morning and start getting ready for work, what are the three things you’re most excited for? What would you be doing to ensure you’re happy at work?” While the answers provide HR with insight into cultural fit, they are also telling about the candidates’ aspirations, ambitions and level of engagement.
Intentional Listening and Responsiveness
“Culture can mean a lot of different things to people,” says Roger-Gordon. “Listening with intention to what employees are experiencing and feeling, and then delivering back what they need can really move the needle on engagement and employment interest.” This is underscored by Mohideen who shares, “Recently, an employee who was feeling stuck came to me with a plan to change her role a bit. Not only were we glad she felt comfortable enough to say something, but also, we were able (and excited) to accommodate her ideas.”
Proactively Meeting Employees Where They Are
Gone are the days of employees being beholden to their employers. The paradigm has sharply shifted. This is the year of workplace culture. Today, organizations need to rethink employee engagement and create an employee-centric environment – then spread the word about it. A culture designed around our new world of work will help reduce turnover, and when combined with storytelling and brand building, it can be a powerful tool to attract new talent. As Roger-Gordon affirms, “Together, PR and HR can be a huge point of retention and recruitment, working together with a singular voice to put the company in the good graces of an increasingly selective workforce.”
About the Author: Julie Livingston, president, WantLeverage Communications specializes in helping “under the radar” companies and brands break through the clutter to increase their industry authority and public visibility. A three time board member of NY Women in Communications, she devised a reverse mentoring initiative featured on Fox News. She holds an MS in Communications Management from Syracuse University’s Newhouse School of Public Communications.
For more information, visit www.wantleverage.com.