Kathleen Quinn Votaw
Kathleen Quinn Votaw is a published author, a globally sought after speaker on all things talent and human capital, and the founder and CEO of TalenTrust, one of Colorado's top woman-owned companies for 6 years and counting, according to COBiz Magazine.Follow Follow
In this week’s episode of The RecruitingDaily Podcast, we welcome Kathleen Quinn Votaw, CEO and founder of TalenTrust, to discuss the “employees’ market” and how to keep your hires on board.
Kathleen Quinn Votaw is a printed author, a globally sought-after speaker on all things talent and human capital, and the founder and CEO of TalenTrust, one of Colorado’s top women-owned companies for six years and counting (according to COBiz Magazine).
TalenTrust is transforming how businesses find and retain great people and continue to grow. After nearly two decades of gaining accolades in the staffing industry, Kathleen decided that conventional models don’t always work in the best interest of clients—especially quickly developing organizations. TalenTrust is designed to fill key roles and solve business problems through strategic recruiting and human capital consulting, as well as address immediate needs and drive your company’s long-term growth.
A few things we cover today: What does the current marketplace tell us about how to keep people? Can we trust the exit interview? What’s the relationship between retention and bad managers?
There’s more, of course! Please leave your thoughts in the comments.
Listening Time: 26 minutes
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This is RecruitingDaily’s Recruiting Live Podcast, where we look at the strategies behind the world’s best talent acquisition teams. We talk recruiting, sourcing, and talent acquisition. Each week we take one overcomplicated topic and break it down so that your three-year-old can understand it. Make sense? Are you ready to take your game to the next level? You’re at the right spot. You’re now entering the mind of a hustler. Here’s your host, William Tincup.
Ladies and gentlemen. This is William Tincup and you are listening to the RecruitingDaily Podcast. Today, we have Kathleen on from TalenTrust, what we’re talking about is the employee’s market. Here’s how to keep them. And I can’t wait to get into this topic because Kathleen is not only just going to give us some advice on how to keep our folks, but also she’s written a book and I want to get into her book as well. So she’s going to have all kinds of nuggets for us. So this is going to be exciting. Kathleen, would you do us a favor, the audience a favor, and introduce both yourself and TalenTrust?
Yes, of course. Hello, William. Thank you for having me and it’s very exciting to have this chat today. I’m Kathleen Quinn Votaw, CEO and founder of TalenTrust. TalenTrust is a recruiting company and we work with companies throughout the United States to help them attract and keep their people. And I, myself, began in this industry 30 years ago, William. So I’m that young. I love the work that we do. I love helping companies grow by getting the right people so they can achieve their objectives. So it’s really a love affair with the recruiting industry and helping people get it right.
What I love about your take just so far is that most recruiters, at least historically, have looked at the job as sourcing, finding, recruiting, hiring, maybe even potentially into onboarding and then that’s it, they’re done. They’ve got other recs to fill. But you’ve obviously moved mentally and intellectually over into… Yeah, you got to do all that stuff, but you also have to figure out a way to engage and retain that talent, or you’re just going to be on some type of hamster wheel. So what are you seeing right now in the marketplace in terms of how do you keep people? I mean, and then I go, I know it’s not an easy question, a silver bullet or anything like that, but what are some of the tactics that you’ve seen people that have been effective so far?
Great question. And I’m just going to qualify what you just said very eloquently. I really believe that retention sets the table for recruiting much like marketing sets the table for sales. So that is a really important belief system of mine and of the people who work with us, because we don’t want our clients to waste their money if people are going to exit stage. And number two, your second part of your question, how do you keep people? Well, first, treat them with respect and dignity. Second, listen actively. And what I mean by listen actively is listen and then take action. Whether you agree with them or not, listening and responding quickly to what they’re looking for is very valuable.
And the most important thing you can do as a leader in your company, whether you’re an owner or a leader of department, is give really authentic recognition when it’s due. And often people want to matter, William, and we forget in an employer-employee relationship that they’re really just trying to do a job. They’re trying to matter. They’re trying to make a difference and we have to embrace that for them.
So one of the things I love about the way that you’ve kind of put all that together was kind of not just listening inactively, but then there’s a timeliness to this.
So we can have a town meeting, we can learn some things, but if six months later or nine months later, we’re just now getting around to both, either doing something or communicating that we’re doing something. Employees don’t… I mean, first of all, I think all of our attention spans are a little bit shorter.
I think so.
But also I think our expectations have changed.+ So some of this is, we just explained, we got the little X in the corner of everything that we do. It’s okay, I gave you feedback, you asked for it. I gave you feedback, tic toc.
Yeah. There’s a cadence to it. And , I always… So many companies pat themselves on the back because they do annual employee reviews. Well, congratulations. I’m glad at least you do that. But think of the rate of change, William, we’ve had in the last 18 to 20 months, I mean is once a year, do you remember what you did on September 7th, 2020? I don’t. Do you remember how you behaved? Do you remember the project that you were working on, what you did right? What you learned from where you needed some improvement? So the rate of change is so fast right now.
We have to adapt our employees that they are learning daily and they’re confused and uncertain. And then we are confused and uncertain as leaders. And I recommend the cadence for active listening to your internal customers, your employees is every 90 days. So right there, William, people are waiting too long to ask, what’s going on? How you feeling? What are we doing right? What are we doing wrong? They’re waiting too long.
I love that, what are you doing right, because it gets into stay interviews. So exit interviews. I don’t necessarily have a disdain form, I just don’t trust the content as much because you’re leaving. You’re either going to say really hateful stuff, which is one direction, burn all the bridges down, or you’re just going to give them a bunch of stuff that makes them feel better because you’re leaving. So, I just don’t trust that content, but I love stay interviews.
I love stay interviews too. But when you think about an exit interview, I totally agree with you. It takes people a lot of courage to leave their current employer. So when they come into your office at four o’clock and say, “William, I’m done, I’m out of here. I’m giving my two-week notice,” they have emotionally left the building six months prior.
A hundred percent.
They’re just not going to give you the… They have worked up so much courage to leave you. They’re going to say it was my manager or it was compensation. So then you have a bunch of employers who think, ah, people are only leaving, leaving because of bad managers and compensation, where those are some reasons, but they’re not the only reasons.
It’s funny, well, years ago when I owned an ad agency, we moved to a model, when someone gave their notice, we would just say, first of all, tell us why, we’re just going to go in a room and you just give us everything, tell us what all the things we need to work on. And it just stays here, it goes no further. And by the way, you can have the two weeks. We’ll figure it out. If we need to, we’ll call you or whatever, but you know what, take two weeks off. And because not only had they checked out six months before that, so there’s that, but also, it’s like that two weeks that you have them or three weeks or a week or three days, whatever it ends up being, they’re not that productive.
Well, you’re so right, William, but it’s also awkward. I mean, it’s just so weird, so.
It makes it weird for everybody else. It’s like, well, Sandy’s still here and, well, do we still go to lunch with Sandy? What do we… Are we still friends? It’s weird and I get it. But at the same time, you can do something really cool. Even at that moment, like, “Hey, listen, first of all, we’re not perfect. We’re never going to be perfect, but we can learn from where we failed with you. And by the way, we want you to have the time, just take it off, read a book, go on vacation, do whatever you need to do, get you right for your next great opportunity. And be friends with all the people you want to be friends with.” We can turn that into a moment that’s actually pretty cool.
Or we’re hurt. No one’s dealing with the emotional. When someone says that they’re leaving, we’ve historically looked at that as like they’re leaving the village. They’re no longer a part of the village.
Well, when I speak to audiences, I talk about building pipelines for hiring people. And I am a fan of boomerangs, which are people who come back to you having gone somewhere else. But so many hiring managers and business leaders treat them like, “Hey, if you quit me, you’re dead to me.” Never-
Dead, dead, dead.
Dead to me. But you’re so right because business employer-employee relationships are based upon relationships. It’s emotional to have a relationship with another human, whether it be in business or personal. And if you broke up with a human in your personal life, you wouldn’t say, “But hang around for two weeks.” So, we get kind of awkward in business relationships. We think there’s a whole nother set of rules. But if you remember, there’s humans involved and behave as you would with another human, you’re probably going to get it right more times than not.
The easy converts to the people that listen to you and they’re like, they’re just shaking their head, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes. We should treat people like humans. We should listen. We should do stuff. What do you do when you run into folks? Because as you know, as you do, that either don’t get it or they don’t see it as a priority. They don’t want to put a sense of urgency around it. How do you convert them? Or how do you kind of move them over to where you are?
Well, I learned from, in my speaking career early that I’m not in the convincing business. What I’m trying to do is help people understand best practices. And then they have to adapt it the way it fits their company, their culture. But I will tell you, I notice sometimes with business leaders, that they get uncomfortable, and when they get uncomfortable, they get mad. And when they get mad, I know I’ve hit a nerve. So, Rome was not built in a day. And we come from a employer-employee kind of historic place where we don’t tell each other the truth.
We create boundaries and you shouldn’t talk to him that way or don’t do that with her. There’s all these unwritten rules. So what my work with companies is to try to really debunk all of that learning.
And it’s going to take some time because people who run companies tend to be in their older decades at this point. And the people who are working from them are in their younger decades. And the generations are trying to figure out how to do it together. And there’s this friction I see where, “Hey, I pay ya. Shouldn’t you be happy?” Where the audience we’re trying to hire rightfully wants more than just compensation. They want a community that has meaning and really understands what they’re trying to achieve. And not all leaders can lead that way.
It’s funny. Well, not funny, but I love the way you kind of bring people, I’m not in the convincing business. I think I might use that later on today or at least this week, unless you have a trademark. I don’t want to break a… I don’t want to infringe on anything.
No infringement, go ahead.
Okay. But one of the things I’ve done with leaders is, I feel exactly the same way. I’m not in the convincing business. I’ve never said it that way, but I phrase things with what I see successful companies doing. So I don’t make it personal. I kind of get out of there, depersonalize the experience for them, you’re doing this right or wrong or whatever. And just go, “You know what I’m seeing, I’m seeing this. And this is what’s really, really interesting on the retention.” Take that as a for example.
We’ve come from a world in the personnel department and HR department where we thought in months and years, and now we have to think of seconds, minutes, and hours, days, whether the velocity has changed on us. And so something as simple as feedback, these successful companies that I’m witnessing, they’re engaging with people at a higher frequency. So I make it about this mythical success and it doesn’t have to be mythical. I mean, we can point to successful companies that do this, but I make it about a mythical company that’s doing this so that it doesn’t make them feel bad for not doing it or doing it.
Totally agree. Yeah. I think we’re all stumbling around the new way we work, and as long as we’re listening, as long as we’re asking questions and we’re open to what’s next, we’re all going to be better off.
So odd question.
What’s the responsibility of the employee, if any, for retention?
Oh, huge. I believe we’re all in the boat together. It’s not us versus them. When you create a community, everybody is part of the community. So when you think of schools, churches, synagogues, those are neighborhoods. Everybody is responsible to create that community. Same way with the company, but we’ve over years gotten into this hierarchical structure with companies that I make the rules and you follow them. Where we need to shift, I recommend people to shift into gathering information from their internal customers, their employees, about what kind of community do we want to create here together. And it’s okay if we’re all not on the same page, because some may come in for a little bit and stop on their journey and then they might leave. So, it’s an inclusive build versus I tell you and you adapt.
So what part… First of all, thanks for that. I feel the exact same way. But what part of this from an employee perspective do you feel like just giving them some advice around communicating their needs or expectations or whatever desires? What they want out of the job, et cetera, or learning in development? What should they do? Because I love the way you said, what kind of community do we want to build? And then that then has a bunch of obviously things that come from that. But what advice would you give employees, say, listen, if you’re not already doing these things, pick these things up and talk to your manager and talk to your peers about these things.
Mm-hmm affirmative). Absolutely. So be true to thyself and know what you want to do or explore and be open to the possibilities. Employees need to be honest. If they’re not happy, I promise you, you’re not trapped in the job. I see it often, William, and I don’t know if you’ve seen it over your career that sometimes employees feel like they’re trapped.
But guess what? You’re in the driver’s seat right now. You have a lot of choice out there, but it does take courage to decide to investigate, what can I do with my current company? Can I grow here? Can I learn here? Can I expand here? Do I like the work that we’re doing? Does it bring me joy enough to stay? Have that active conversation with a mentor manager who could be the same person or different people. And if it’s not, then put a plan together to exit with grace and dignity.
So you can go toward your future. I get calls all the time, and many of your listeners in recruitment do, “Hey, I’m looking for a job” or “I don’t know how to start,” and “Where do I do here?” First step is know what you want, have active discussion about it. Tell people what you need. Leaders aren’t mind readers. They don’t know what you need, unless you tell them.
So, a quick question as a follow-up. Bad managers, what do you see with the relationship between retention and bad managers today versus maybe a decade ago? What do you see? And again, who’s responsibility for a bad manager, is it the employee’s responsibility to kind of talk about the bad manager or go above their head? Is it the company’s responsibility to kind of find them and be more transparent about who is and isn’t a bad manager? What do you see in the interesting world of the crisscross between retention of talent and bad managers?
So, two things on that, I think it’s a two-way street. I really do think it’s a two-way street. One, the company has a responsibility to listen to their internal customers, their employees. And if you listen actively enough and often enough, every 90 days, you’re going to know what department leaders need help or who are succeeding. Because sometimes our leaders need help in training that we’re not giving them. I see often, William, that people do not invest enough in leadership development. We just assume because somebody is a good producer that they’re going to be able to lead, and leadership is a whole different skill. So that’s one way.
So the company has responsibility to listen and ferret out where leaders need development or be moved to a lone producer role because they can’t lead. Number two, the other side of the coin or the other side of the street, I’ll stay with one analogy at a time, is if an employee is not getting what they need, I do believe it is that employee’s responsibility to first work with their direct manager, give them one or two tries to listen. If they don’t listen then, and get help from another leader or the leader’s manager, because it is your journey.
Got to ask you about your book. So tell us about your book. Look, first of all, what led you to write the book? What the book’s about, and again, some of the things that you learned while you were writing the book?
Well, this is my second book, William, my first book was Solve the People Puzzle, but this particular book that’s going to be available on September 14th, it’s available for pre-order now, it’s called Dare to Care in the Workplace: A Guide to the New Way We Work. And this really was a labor of love for me, William, because I work with companies throughout the U.S. all the time and I see so many struggles with communication and relationship building within the workplace, but I wanted to help people have more intimate discussions that would lead to better success, not only for the companies, but for the employees too.
Because when your employees are happy, then your customers are happy. So it’s a quick book, they call it a hook book or micro book, and it’s building trust because when you have trust within a organization and with another person, you can do great things together.
So being transparent, building trust, then focusing on the employee experience, because guess what, when the employee has a great experience, the customer does too. Then empathy, I’m a big fan of empathy, putting yourself into other people’s points of view without judgment. Again, there’s been a lot of judgment lately and that I really don’t think that’s necessary. So I’d like us to stop judging each other and listen with some empathy. We don’t know what people are going through. People are really solitary creatures. We don’t know what another person is experiencing, so don’t assume you do. Listen with real empathy. And that’s hard for a lot of leaders. And finally, I focus on-
Sorry to interrupt. But what’s interesting about that is I think it’s tough for a lot of leaders because they don’t want to cross some of those unwritten rules of being personal. I don’t want to ask you about your family because then it might seem too personal. I think COVID’s broken a lot of that stuff, which is nice, silver lining out of all of that stuff is you get to see people’s cats in the background and kids running around interrupting calls and stuff like that. That’s… So I think it’s helped us. And I think it’s actually helped a lot of managers that might have had that reluctance before, to then be able to then cross over and go, “How are you doing? How’s everything going?”
Exactly. When you hire a person, it’s not just to do a job, you hire the whole human and their family. I mean, it’s never just them because they have lots of people and you’re affecting their whole life. So I do think I was just on a call earlier, a training call earlier, and one silver lining, and there’s many silver linings to what we’ve just been through is that we are invited into each other’s homes and we can actually experience each other as whole humans, because at the end of the day, I do not… I choose to work for you because I want to have a great life.
My life, again, taking the job, but not always at skills and competencies and being successful. I want my life to be better at the end of the day. Well, Kathleen, this has been absolutely wonderful. I love both. I just love your outlook and the way that way we started the conversation where you attached talent attraction to talent retention and flipped it, and said, if you retain people and do that well, talent attraction, that necessarily get easier. However, it becomes a more enjoyable experience. And you even said, even in the last question you talked about the employee experience. If we focus on creating a wonderful customer employee experience, and we fulfill on that and we just could keep getting better, it’s not one and done, just create the employee experience, and go, “Oh, hey, done.” I created it.
It’s not a check the box.
It is not a check the box.
It is a ongoing every day, every week, every month, every quarter, every year.
If done correctly, it’s those things and highly personalized to the individual. So I love your outlook. Thank you so much for coming on the RecruitingDaily Podcast.
Thank you for having me. It was really a lot of fun, William. Have a great day.
You too. And thanks for everyone listening to the RecruitingDaily Podcast. Until next time.
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William is the President & Editor-at-Large of RecruitingDaily. At the intersection of HR and technology, he’s a writer, speaker, advisor, consultant, investor, storyteller & teacher. He's been writing about HR and Recruiting related issues for longer than he cares to disclose. William serves on the Board of Advisors / Board of Directors for 20+ HR technology startups. William is a graduate of the University of Alabama at Birmingham with a BA in Art History. He also earned an MA in American Indian Studies from the University of Arizona and an MBA from Case Western Reserve University.