Employee retention has always been an issue, and recruiters aren’t solving the issue. The COVID-19 pandemic only accelerated the retention problem that companies are facing today. So how can managers reduce unnecessary employee turnover? That’s the question today’s guest, Cara Silletto, will answer.
Join Ryan Englin as he talks to Cara, the President & Chief Retention Officer of Magnet Culture. She helps reduce turnover by bridging generational gaps. The way people work has changed. Millennials are very different from the baby boomers. It’s a myth that they’re lazy; they are leaving because managers are not communicating with them. Learn how to help solve the retention problem today!
Old School Thinking Is Causing Your People To Leave With Cara Silletto
It is not every day that we get to talk to someone who is a published author. They have their own talks, travel the country, training and equipping frontline managers on how to better retain their people. There are so many things happening in this economy, our society, culture, and world that are impacting employers’ abilities to be able to retain great people. Our guest is a published author and she talks a lot about this generational divide. I am excited to have her on the show because it is the generational divide that is keeping us from being able to attract great people into our future jobs.
In this episode, we are going to talk about some of the ways that you can equip your managers to start retaining great people. I want to welcome Cara Silletto. She has an MBA and CSP. She works with organizations of all sizes to reduce unnecessary employee turnover by bridging generational gaps and making managers more effective in their roles.
Cara, welcome to the show.
Thanks, Ryan. I am so glad to be here.
I am so excited about this conversation. We did a workshop together. It is something that Vestige brought us in together. I knew by the time we were done that I had to have you on the show because you have so much great information to share with our readers.
I knew we had to partner and keep talking about this.
We both have these giant goals for how we shift the way that people think about the employee-employer relationship and retention. I am excited to dig in, but I want to start with one of my favorite questions because we are about breaking down these myths and beliefs that people have. What is the biggest myth about your industry?
The biggest myth that I have heard is that young people do not want to work.
They are all lazy and entitled. They want to play video games and be social media influencers, is that right?The biggest myth is that young people just don't want to work. Click To Tweet
Yes. “Send me a check, but I do not want to show up. I do not want to work or I do not want to work hard.” That is a myth, my friend.
I have never met a human being that did not want to sit around and get paid. I do not think it is a generational thing. Tell us real briefly about what you do over there at Magnet Culture and how you help overcome this myth and break down these mindset misbeliefs.
At Magnet Culture, we work with companies across the country to reduce unnecessary employee turnover. Mostly, we do that by bridging generational gaps. I happen to be one of the oldest Millennials. We make managers better in their roles because people think, “Nowaday’s young workers do not want to work.” In reality, it is more so that they do not want to work for crazy low pay, crummy bosses, and those who are still managing people as they did in the late 1900s because I-said-so kind of managers. They do not want to work in bad, toxic, and negative work environments where they do not have work friends and do not have appreciation. We are constantly working with leadership teams across various industries to create more managers that people want to work for.
You said bridging generational gaps. I think that is one of the things that I run into so often. We have a Baby Boomer boss who is like, “This is the way my boss did it for me, so this is the way I am going to treat the people that work for me now.” They have this mindset that they do not have to change. I read a book about Millennials. They talked about this generational divide. They said one thing about Millennials that most people do not understand is that their family raised them at a round table. There was no head or no foot on the table.
It was like, “You are part of the family. Let’s make decisions together.” Millennials were encouraged as they were being raised by their parents to make decisions together, “What sports do you want to play? Where do you want to go on vacation?” The parents involve Millennials in these conversations, and then we get to the employers and they are like, “It is a hierarchy. There is a person at the top, it goes down, and you do what you are told.” It is like, “Millennials do not want to work.” I am like, “They are used to having a voice and you are not giving them one.” This is where the biggest challenge is.
In fact, you brought up the vacation example. As a Millennial, my family was very egalitarian, which is the opposite of hierarchical. Hierarchical is a very top-down my decision because I am the leader. An egalitarian is everyone deserves a voice, a say, and a vote. We are all equal. You can actually have an organization that is still run that way, even with a hierarchical org chart. You can still run with a culture that is more egalitarian where we even take ideas and we listen to the new hires who are brand new. You do not have to pay your dues and wait your turn.
As a Millennial myself, growing up in the ‘80s and ‘90s, my parents asked us where we wanted to go on vacation and we would rotate, my mom, my dad, my sister, and I. Every four years, I got to pick where we went on vacation that year. When I was about ten years old, I wanted to go to Boston so bad. It was because that is where the New Kids On The Block lived. Our whole family took their family vacation to Boston that year because I was in love with Joey McIntyre. Fast forward, Ryan, to when I came into the work world at 22. Who wanted Cara’s opinion, thoughts, or vote? Nobody. It was a wake-up call for me that I had stepped into this other world that did not want me to speak up as a young worker.
There is a little give and take on both sides. We need to stretch the Millennials and understand, “This is not your company,” but on the other side, we have to say, “This is who they are, how they grew up, how they were raised, and how their brain works.” I am Gen X and I remember, “If we want your opinion, we will ask.” What a horrible way to run a business because you know who has the great ideas is the people that have not been doing it this way for that long. They might need some guidance. You might need to coach them, but you got to at least be open to that.
Understandably, I find quite a few chips on the shoulder of, “When I was their age, I was not given a voice. I had to pay my dues and wait my turn or do the grunt work.” What I am talking a lot about is, do you remember that old scouting adage of, “Leave the campsite better than you found it?” It meant you go into the woods. You see a piece of candy wrapper trash. You do not say, “That is not my trash,” and walk past it. You pick it up, put it in your pocket, and wait until you can find a trash can to put it in because you want to leave things better for the next camper and certainly not disrupt the wildlife there. I would say the same thing about our handbook, policies, and culture.
If I came into a work world many years ago that required me to wear pantyhose, then I don’t want the next generation not to have to wear pantyhose or a more general example is that old because I said so or no news is good news. If I do not talk to you, you are doing fine. That is a traditional mindset. Don’t want to manage better and communicate better? We know that people want more feedback.
Don’t we want to leave the campsite and the culture better than we found it and be better communicators who do not say to our workers because I said so or I am not going to thank you unless you go above and beyond? You get a paycheck for showing up, and that is good enough. That is who people do not want to work for, Ryan. As far as people not wanting to work, they do not want to work for that type of manager anymore.
It is one of the things we talk a lot about. Much of what we do is focused on sourcing and getting people to notice your company, especially small businesses. It is so hard to compete. You do not have the million-dollar budgets that Amazon has to attract people, so you have to compete. It is not that people do not want to do the work, be it in the trades or construction.
It is that they do not want to do it for you. I think that is where you come in. When you start talking about training these managers and leaders to think differently, there is a shift that needs to happen inside these organizations for them to have a magnet culture, be able to really attract, and retain these people. Tell me a little bit about that.
Remember what the opposite of attract for a magnet is repel. If you do not work on this to create that magnet culture that attracts people, you are absolutely repelling people with certain parts of the way that you do things, unintentionally. It is either attractive or repellent. Thinking about management effectiveness, managers and supervisors have the most influence on whether a person stays or goes. If you think about all the issues that we hear about, like pay, schedules, communication, team, dynamics, and generational dynamics, all those things that might cause people to leave can be buffered or cushioned by a good manager.It's harder to understand the mindset of younger workers today because they have access to comparison data. Click To Tweet
The companies that I see who are investing in their leadership at every level, I am talking frontline supervisors, leaders to management, especially director level and even executive training. When was the last time that your leadership team had training on generational dynamics and effective communication in 2022? Not in 2002 or even 2012. It is a whole different world. If the managers are well-trained in understanding others as far as behavioral styles, emotional intelligence, conflict resolution, and how to give feedback, we tend to promote people into leadership positions and think, “They will just figure that out.” If they were good enough to get promoted, then they are decent communicators. It is very different communicating, for example, in constructive criticism, mentoring others, or dealing with a difficult conflict on the team. Those things are hard if you have not received actual training on them.
It is where the Peter Principle comes from. We see this all the time, promoting these people. It is like, “I need new leaders.” Just because they are good at the work, it does not mean they are good at being a leader. You cannot throw them in and then go, “That person did not work out. They are a horrible employee.” I am like, “Not they are, but you promoted them because they were really good. Why did you take them out of that?”
You mentioned pay. There are a couple of dynamics to pay that we see. I would love to hear a little bit more of your thoughts on this, but we see inflationary pressure. You got to be able to help your people, especially low-wage frontline employees. I talk about it all the time. The cost of gas doubles. For professionals or entrepreneurs, it is an inconvenience and annoying. It means a little less Starbucks this week or next, but when you are a low-wage frontline employee, it means it is time to find another job because that 12-mile commute is, “I cannot afford to pay my rent anymore.”
We have that side of it, but then we have the other side of it, “Everybody thinks they are worth $35 an hour when it is $18 an hour job, historically.” One of the things that I see is the amount of money they think it is worth to put up with the horrible work environment you have. That is the bribe amount. It is what I call it. I would love to know some of your thoughts on that. What are you seeing? How do we overcome an unhealthy work environment? People do not like the industry, but if they want to stay, they want more money to offset that, “I am not treated well.”
Even in a harsh work environment, so many of the folks that you and I serve are in construction and other areas, “It is a tough job. We have to be out in the weather elements sometimes.” I would love to go a little bit bigger picture on this topic. What a lot of employers, if you have been around twenty-plus years in the work world, it is harder to understand the mindset of the younger workers in that they have access to comparison data that we did not have. It is not just on Indeed, Glassdoor, Google Reviews, and things like that.
I am talking about people older than 40 who were told, “You not talk about money, politics, and religion. That is inappropriate, rude, private, and personal.” What do we see, first of all, all over social media? It is religion and politics. Second of all, people talk about money. They talk to their peers, siblings, and even colleagues sometimes, but more so, it is their friends. If I gave you an example of comparison, it is not just about the wages. Think about this. It is the wages and the workload or how laborious that job is, for example.
If I have a friend working in a call center or maybe even a toll booth, a lot of that has been automated, but not 100%. If I have a friend working in a toll booth who can study for a night class that they are having, but they can sit there and study or listen to music while they are working. Let’s say they are making $17 an hour in that market. I am going into a manufacturing environment or construction environment, and I am also making $17 or $18 an hour, but I am exhausted after work. If I want to take a night class for something or get a certification, I have to do that outside of work.
I do not have access to my music, laptop, and smartphone. They will talk to each other and say, “You do not work as hard as me and you are making the same or almost the same amount of money.” We have to realize is when we are doing competitive analysis or comp analysis, it is not what it used to be because people do not know what everybody else made.
You could say, “That is not normal for this industry,” but now that we are competing industry against industry, you have to look at how hard is the job, how tethered is the job, meaning, does it have to be at a specific place at a specific time or can they come and go as they want? Not necessarily work from home, but how flexible are the shift times? There is a lot more comparison going on if we are talking about re-evaluating wages.
It used to be a lot harder to find a job too. Years ago, you had to go to the paper. I remember when I got out of college, I was told, “Put on nice clothes, maybe a suit, go drive around, and knock on doors.” That is what we were coached to do. Now, I think 98% of people are online or on their phones.
Not even just online, but most applications, from what I hear now, and you know this better on the recruiting side, are all happening on their mobile device. I still see companies that have no online application or are not mobile-friendly. Have you tried to apply for your own job on your phone? If you have not, give it a try.
I am not kidding you. We are talking 2021, and we ran to a company and it was, “Download our application and fax it to this number.”
You know most people have no access to a fax machine or know how that antiquated piece of technology works.
That was a website that looked like it was from the early 2000s. Nobody has touched it. They are like, “Nobody wants to work here.” I am like, “Nobody can apply to work there. Let’s open it up and make it easy for them to apply.” The internet has changed things for people because of the comparison, but also the speed at which comparison can happen.
It is the speed of hiring alone. We talked quite a bit about expediting certain steps of your hiring process. If you think about it, the lower the wage is, the faster a person can find a replacement job. You are seeing people who do not even give a two-week notice. They just say, “I had a bad day. I am out of here. I am not coming back.” They might tell you or not, but many of them can then go DoorDash or Uber Eats. They can go make money somewhere else on one of those untethered job opportunities that do not have to have a schedule. That is another piece of the comparison puzzle that we are dealing with. I see a lot of the workforce say, “I do not want to be told where I have to be when, because of my family side, my personal side of my life, my hobbies, any schooling I might be in, kids, or significant other’s schedules.”Doing competitive analysis is not what it used to be. Back then, people didn't know how much everybody else made. Click To Tweet
We have some folks who say, “Cara, I’m getting up and going to work on a schedule that is called a job. You just have to do it. I have done it my whole life, so they should have to do it too.” We need to look at how the world has changed. Even though we cannot switch construction, manufacturing, and other jobs to work from home or pick-your-own schedule, we do need to have conversations around flexibility that are more creative than they used to be. I have one client. They are manufacturing. They have to have seventeen people on the line to go green.
To hit the button, it has to be seventeen people on that line. They have to have seventeen people at the same shift at the same location to do that job, but there are other lines in the plant and other positions around the plant that can be more flexible and have a different start and end time. I see a lot of folks go, not only from 8 and 12-hour shifts to 4-10s or even offering 4- and 6-hour shifts because we have scheduling software. You can fill in all the pieces with technology instead of trying to do that manually or on a spreadsheet.
You are not just competing against people that do the types of work you do. You are now competing for eyeballs of everything. I remember meeting with a senior leader with one of the associations around remodeling contractors. It was a guest on the show. We were talking, and I was like, “You know who your number one competitor is in that market you are talking about.” He is like, “Other remodeling contractors.” I am like, “No, it is Amazon. I know what they are paying at that warehouse in that city. They are paying $4 more an hour than you are paying people. The work is less intensive. There are better benefits and some flexibility.” Let’s not talk about Amazon and some of the culture issues they have, but from the job seekers’ perspective, they just want to jump out of the frying pan that they are in and into something better. It appears to pay more and they take it.
Let’s talk about training managers and helping these people become better leaders. While we focus a ton on sourcing and helping them make better hires, we do not do the level of depth of training and work you do to help these companies retain them. I believe, and I have data to support this, that most of the hiring problems we are having in this country are not hiring problems. They are recruiting problems. I talked to someone, and I said, “Tell me how many you have on your team.” They go, “Eleven.” I go, “How many W-2s did you issue at the end of 2021?” He goes, “Forty-one.” I go, “You know how to hire people. Hiring is not your issue.” Could you hire better? Probably, but let’s talk about this retention piece because that is so critical to solving the hiring issues out there.
I love a good recruiter who absolutely can make better hiring decisions, pull from the better pools of people, and make better connections. Ryan, I got to be honest. Recruiters do not solve the retention problem. “Hiring better people” does not solve that retention problem. I cannot tell you how many people come to me and say, “We need to reduce turnover. Can you help me hire better people?” Let’s put ourselves in their shoes for a minute. If you were running a business for 25 years and you were successful, profitable, and people did what you said, and then the Millennials came in. That is why I totally understand why people say, “Everything was great until these dang Millenials showed up.” Now, they “do not want to work.”
Here is a quick demographic lesson. We had 80 million Boomers and only 60 million Gen X-ers. For decades, the Gen X-ers did what the Millennials told them. The Gen X-ers tell me, “I figured out pretty young and early if I wanted to succeed, I had to play that Boomer game. I had to show up when they told me to show up. I had to work the way they wanted me to work and wear what they wanted me to wear.” You had the Millennials come in at 80 million strong. It is like an hourglass of demographic visuals there. The Millennials came in and said, “Gen X, they are taking advantage of you. You are only supposed to be working 40 hours a week or you cannot possibly get all that work that is on your workload done in just one job.”
The Boomers had been telling the Gen X-ers, “We have to do more with less. You have to stay till the job gets done.” As with many things, you see this pendulum swing, and then it swings back over time. You have got the Millennials and now Gen Z group under 25 pushing back, saying, “We are not going to let you normalize 50, 60, or 70-hour work weeks. We are not going to let you normalize over time as mandatory overtime.”
The pay, realistic, and sustainable workloads are an issue and then the management training as far as their mindset in understanding where this new workforce is coming from and how we got ourselves into this pickle of lower pay. The wage was stagnant for so long, for lower-wage workers, overloading the workforce, trying to do more with less for decades. Those things are not sustainable. The management needs to understand how to communicate better, lead, and manage the folks that are in these difficult situations sometimes.
I think that is one of the things the pandemic did. It ripped the Band-Aid off and exposed these things for so long.
They were problems before the pandemic.
Anything that happened during the pandemic was a result of practices prior to the pandemic. The pandemic exposed it so much that, all of a sudden, the employees were like, “I do not have to deal with this and be stuck. There are opportunities out there.” The gig economy and all of the non-tethered jobs, as you put it, became so commonplace. There was so much awareness around them. People are like, “I did not know these options existed.”
To your point about the pandemic exacerbating the previous issues, we had cut training and development years ago. They had supervisor 101. They had emerging leader programs and all kinds of mentoring programs in place. We just kept cutting over the last number of years yet promoting people into those positions without giving them the proper tools. Now we wonder, “They are in an even more difficult situation, but they do not know how to deal with it, the managers, themselves.” They are just spinning their wheels.
Thinking about the entrepreneurs out there reading right now. They might have a few hundred employees, but they do not have a dedicated trainer. They do not know people that can come in and do all this stuff. What are 1 or 2 action items that you could give them to help them just take that next step in getting their leaders a little bit better at being good leaders so that they can work on the retention in their business?
One of the immediately actionable tactics that we always train on is we must communicate our expectations because everybody defines professionalism a little bit differently. If you are reading, you cannot see it, but I have purple hair. I use that as a talking point, particularly for executives and managers, about what does professionalism really mean? If we do not communicate exactly what we want from someone, the behavior that we want from them, the attitude, responses, and whatnot, then they will just do what comes naturally to them.Recruiters don't solve the retention problem. Hiring better people doesn't solve that problem. Click To Tweet
At my very first job, no one told me I had to keep my shoes on at the office all day. In construction and manufacturing, we have got OSHA and other requirements, but there are still lots of little things. Punctuality, for example, and you think, “That is just common sense. Who does not know to wear their shoes, show up on time, or not wear that clothing to work?” Instead, we have to realize, “If they are missing the boat, maybe I did not communicate my expectations as clearly as I thought.” Particularly because the new workforce is raised differently. Ryan, in the previous conversations we have had, you said, “I was told here is how you dress. Here is how you show up on your first day. Yes, sir. Yes, ma’am.”
Think about it. We have quite a bit of generational poverty in the states. I know people who are 50-plus years old that have never held a good job. They were always the person who would quit because they got mad or something like that. Now they have children trying to get jobs, and the employers are saying, “They wore the wrong thing. They said the wrong thing. They showed up late.” They just dismiss them like, “They are not professional.” They just need a mentor. They do not know any better. They cannot read your mind. They did not even have moms and dads, aunts and uncles, or even neighbors who got up every day worried about being on time and what they wore.
Because the schools and parents are not able to do that, the employers have to think about, “How do we fill that professionalism gap and how do we train our managers on how to communicate more effectively, especially with those expectations? Here is how we want you to show up and what that looks like.”
I would say that, in general, when people are doing things in their personal lives, we have learned that whether you set expectations or not, there is a lot of a gray area in that. A great example, I was at the movies. It was the first one since the pandemic. It is one of those that have the assigned seating. My buddies and I do not get to sit next to each other, so we are all scattered all over the theater because they are all sold out. We walk in and there are three people in the theater. We are like, “What is going on? Why is everything sold out? We are not social distancing anymore.”
We all sit together. We are just like, “Whatever. Maybe it is empty.” We were there on time. The movie started at 6:30 PM. That is what they told us. For 30 minutes, it was commercials, previews, this and that. By 7:00 PM, when the people do this all the time, the whole theater was packed. We had to scatter. There are so many things in people’s personal lives are teaching them, “If we do not set the expectations, you are going to get what you are going to get.” We talked about it. We are like, “We would have had dinner later and showed up 30 minutes later had we known.” I think that is the same thing that employers are doing. They think, “You should know better.” Says who?
If you think, “He should know better,” or my favorite phrase of judgment, “That is just common sense. Who does not know that?” Anytime you think or hear that phrase, that should be the trigger that tells you, “Maybe we are not communicating the expectation because they cannot read our mind.” I had a CFO come up to me after training. She said, “I hear you about I need to communicate clearly, but here is another example. I am the CFO. I have clearly asked my team to come to every weekly meeting to give me a status update. They just continue to miss the mark.” I said, “When you ask for the status update, what do they tell you?”
She said, “They just say, ‘Everything is fine. Everything is on track.’” I said, “Isn’t that a status update?” She said, “When I want a status update, I want to know what they have accomplished since last week. What are their roadblocks? Where are they now? What are their next steps?” I just got quiet, Ryan, and looked at her, and then she said, “That is what I need to communicate to them,” because they were giving status updates because it is what she asked for, but they were not on the same page with exactly what the status update was.
As soon as it clicked in her mind of, “I have very specific expectations of what a status update is.” It then changed everything. Think about the other people too. She thought they were being rude or unprofessional by not giving a proper status update. They were thinking, “My boss is the CFO. She is busy and does not want all the details. She just wants to know that we are on track.” They thought they were doing the right thing. Both parties were frustrated by the other party in that situation.
I love what I just heard in what you said, even though I do not know you specifically said this. If you are frustrated with your team, go look in the mirror first and make sure you are not the one that needs to do something differently.
She said that when we got done after I looked at her and I let her process it. She said, “I am the problem.” Those were her words, not mine.
I love seeing people have those breakthrough moments, even if they are little ones. They can be so profound and change things so much. Cara, I know we could keep talking for a long time about this. This has been so much fun. I cannot believe we are at the end of the show already. You have said so many great things in this episode and so many great nuggets. If you were not taking notes, go back to the office and take notes. There are some great things in here. Cara, if someone is reading and they are like, “I want to know more.” I am sure you have got some great nuggets of wisdom on a website or through some offer. Number one, how do people get ahold of you and then where is your best stop?
Our website is at WeReduceTurnover.com. It is easy to remember, but I would say the best nuggets are either on LinkedIn and/or YouTube. That is where you can continue to hear our content. We do free webinars all the time and post those blogs and articles. If you are ready to dive into how to reduce turnover, we have a hidden website at MagnetVolt.com. That is a bunch of downloadable resources that you can go in. It has a retention audit, a cost of turnover calculator and all kinds of great resources for you and your leadership team to figure out your next steps and actionable items that need to happen moving forward.
If you are reading this, you take her up on it because I promise you, there is gold, whether it is YouTube, LinkedIn, or even that super-secret hidden website. Cara, I really enjoyed it. This has been great. Thank you so much for being here.
Thank you, Ryan. Thanks for everything you do, both you and your readers. I appreciate it.
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About Cara Silletto
Workforce thought leader Cara Silletto, MBA, CSP, is the speaker and trainer with that memorable purple hair who works with companies across the country to improve employee retention by making managers more effective in their roles.
As President & Chief Retention Officer of Magnet Culture, Cara has built an incredible team of generational and turnover experts to provide relevant live and virtual keynote speeches, specialized training programs and consulting, all of which are custom-built to make businesses more profitable!
Workforce Magazine named Cara a “Game Changer” for her innovative solutions for bridging today’s widening generational gaps in the workplace, and Recruiter.com listed her in their “Top 10 Company Culture Experts to Watch” list. She’s been quoted in Forbes, HuffPost, The Boston Globe and many more publications, and is the author of the 2018 book, “Staying Power: Why Your Employees Leave & How to Keep Them Longer.” Most recently, she was recognized in the Forty Under 40 list in Louisville, KY.
In 2020, Cara earned her Certified Speaking Professional (CSP) designation from the National Speakers Assn; she became a Certified Virtual Presenter through eSpeakers; and Magnet Culture became a certified Woman-Owned Small Business (WOSB) through WBENC.
Contact Cara today to check the availability of her and her talented team of trainers for your next event!
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