Michel Visser holds the Director HR Operations & CoEs position on Unit4 Human Resources team. As Director HR Operations & CoEs, Michel Visser is an important member of Unit4 leadership. Michel Visser is entrusted with maintaining the happiness of employees, whether it be through benefits, company outings, or perks.Follow
On today’s episode of the RecruitingDaily Podcast, William Tincup speaks with Michel Visser from Unit 4 about why big companies are losing top employees.
Some Conversation Highlights:
Why are big companies losing top employees?
Michel: Well, I think one of the things we’ve seen now, and found now, is that… Especially in the tech industry, where there are many other industries as well. Where it’s now so easy to work in a virtual way. That, before you know it, your job becomes a very transactional thing, right? You open your laptop at 9: 00, you close it at 6:00, and then at the end of the month, you get your paycheck. If that is the case, and there is nothing else, nothing more than this, then of course, always the business with the biggest pockets always wins, right? When it comes to attracting talent. That’s what we see happening in the market a lot, right? My take on this is that it’s hugely important for any business to put something next to this, right? To avoid it, to be only a transactional thing. That’s one thing, just things becoming quite transactional. Yeah.
That’s also why I think the organizations that win, and that are successful in this hyperactive talent market, are the businesses that create this, what we call, an extraordinary people experience, right? That invest in providing people with a sense of purpose, a sense of belonging. Invest in people’s professional growth and start to build some sense or feel of being part of a bigger family, because then it suddenly becomes a slightly bit harder, right? When you want to move to another business with a slightly bigger pocket, because you have to leave something behind. Yeah, this is absolutely critical.
Tune in for the full conversation.
Listening time: 27 minutes
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Music: 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.
William Tincup: Ladies and gentlemen, this is William Tincup, and you’re listening to the Recruiting Daily Podcast. Today, we have Michel on from Unit4, and we’re going to talk about why big companies are losing top employees. I’m fascinated by this, and I can’t wait to actually talk about this with Michel. Without any further ado, Michelle, would you do us a big favor and introduce both yourself and Unit4 to those that don’t know Unit4?
Michel: Sure. Thanks for having me, William. I’m Michel. I look after, what we call at Unit4, people success and enablements, which is basically everything that has to do with getting the best people to do join our business, and once they’re in, make them as successful as they can be. Unit4 is a tech business. We provide ERP solutions to customers all over the world. We’re operating in 24 countries. We’re about a 3000-people business. As many businesses, we’re operating in this highly dynamic tech industry, with all this labor market being on fire.
William Tincup: Right. I love that you’re in people’s success. First of all, just before we get into the topic, take us into that for just a second. How do you enable people? You’ve recruited them, you’ve romanced them, you got them. Finally, they say, “Yes.” Your offer letter. You onboard them, et cetera. What have you found that helps people be successful in their first 90, 60, six months, et cetera? What does it take for them to be successful? What have you found?
Michel: Yeah. Well, I mean, it’s so important, because indeed… I mean, people spend a lot of time and money. Organizations spend a lot of time and money indeed in getting people in, but then once they’re in, yeah, it basically stops. Right? Yes, we spend a lot of time and effort on making people feel part of the organization, which I think is hugely important, but for most, it’s all about gearing people up to be successful, so defining professional growth plans from day one. Spending a material amount of time, money, and effort into onboarding people into the business. Not only from a functional point of view, but again, also from a cultural point of view. Making them feel part of a bigger collective. It’s so hugely underestimated, but so hugely important.
William Tincup: I love that, and there’s so much information that you can pull out of the recruiting process. Where you ask people, “What do you want to learn?” Tech, most candidates will tell you. “I want to learn Python.” It’s like, “Oh, okay. Fantastic.” Well, you know what? Put them on a career path. You put them on a training path, a learning path, and all that stuff. We could talk about that. That’s a separate podcast. We just need to talk about that as a separate one, but the idea of why big companies are losing top employees. You’re seeing it. You’re seeing it on both sides, so tell us what… Let’s start peeling the onion a little bit. Why are big companies losing top employees?
Michel: Well, I think one of the things we’ve seen now, and found now, is that… Especially in the tech industry, where there are many other industries as well. Where it’s now so easy to work in a virtual way. That, before you know it, your job becomes a very transactional thing, right? You open your laptop at 9: 00, you close it at 6: 00, and then at the end of the month, you get your paycheck. If that is the case, and there is nothing else, nothing more than this, then of course, always the business with the biggest pockets always wins, right? When it comes to attracting talent. That’s what we see happening in the market a lot, right? My take on this is that it’s hugely important for any business to put something next to this, right? To avoid it, to be only a transactional thing. That’s one thing, just things becoming quite transactional. Yeah.
William Tincup: Michel, I totally agree with you. If we’re all mercenaries, and it becomes, “Who’s going to pay you the most money,” there’s always going to be someone else that’s going to pay you more money, right? There’s always going to be someone around the corner that’s willing and able to then pay you more money, so for some people, it’s got to be more than just money.
Michel: That’s right, yeah. That’s also why I think the organizations that win, and that are successful in this hyperactive talent market, are the businesses that create this, what we call, an extraordinary people experience, right? That invest in providing people with a sense of purpose, a sense of belonging. Invest in people’s professional growth and start to build some sense or feel of being part of a bigger family, because then it suddenly becomes a slightly bit harder, right? When you want to move to another business with a slightly bigger pocket, because you have to leave something behind. Yeah, this is absolutely critical.
William Tincup: I want to get into the extraordinary people experience. Let me ask you just before we do that, what have you found so far with candidates, and even employees, about the concept of being valued? Where they feel valued more? Maybe this is a COVID thing or whatever, but I’ve seen a recent trend with candidates and employees, where they’re just more apt to work with a place where they feel valued. It’s communicated the sense of belonging, and the sense of they’re actually recognized for the value that they bring to work. What’s your take on that? First of all, are you seeing some something similar or different?
Michel: Absolutely, absolutely, and I think feeling valued starts with being listened to. There is so much opportunity out there in the market when it comes to pulsing software or connecting with your people in general. Get to understand how they feel, or just have a cup of coffee and talk. I mean, that’s probably the easiest way. I think it starts with feeling listened to and feeling seen, and it can’t stop there. I also see businesses around me, who invest a lot of money into pulsing their employees and understanding how they feel, but then it stops. Of course, it’s only the beginning, right? So then, you need to act on this. I mean, just a very concrete example that we’ve been working on was that, we’ve found that, in these COVID times, people felt and learned that it’s hugely exciting and nice to work from anywhere. We’re now building our whole philosophy on work, building around this concept of work from anywhere, just because we understand that this is something that people now find important, so we completely flip our HR policies to accommodate this and that kind of stuff. It’s about interaction, yeah.
William Tincup: I love that. Thank you for validating that in some ways, because I’ve nibbled around the edges, but I needed somebody to help me with it. Now take us into this extraordinary people experience. What are some of the elements? Where do you start? How do you actually roll it out, and how do you know that it’s effective?
Michel: Well, I think one of the things that I found is that, now suddenly more than ever, there are organizations looking after your physical, mental, or social wellness. I think has become almost a no brainer, but at this point, I’m also still a differentiator. Next to this, it’s also those businesses who provide their employees with a sense of purpose as well. I mean, just as an example: We’re a tech business, right? We recently embarked on a journey together with an organization that helps girls in refugee camps to code. We now link our software engineers with those girls, and through doing this, of course, create this layer of purpose or provide this additional sense of purpose to our people, which is only a small operational example, but I think it’s things like this where organizations can really make the difference to their people. Then there’s, of course, a whole lot more you can do.
William Tincup: Love that, love that. Okay. Once again, back to the topic at hand. Those that don’t put people first, and those that don’t create an extraordinary people experience, but just don’t focus on the people experience at all — the candidate experience, the employee experience, the alumni experience, et cetera. Those that do it, they’re going to lose talent, and they’re going to lose top talent. And so, they got to fix that. Again, some of that’s mindset. Some of that’s probably workflow and technology. What’s your advice to folks if maybe they haven’t moved over to a place, because you all are very enlightened. The fact that you have a person in people’s success. The fact that you’re creating it and rolling out an extraordinary people experience. Okay, so you’re further along in your journey. Let’s deal with the folks that aren’t as far along in their journey. What advice do you give to them in terms of how they make the shift to become people-centric?
Michel: I think, first of all, many people are still of the mindset that these things cost a lot of money, right? I think that’s always holding people back, but I think it doesn’t, right? As we started off our conversation, it start with actively listening and doing something with the input that you get for example. But, I think at the end of the day, my advice would be start working on the visible stuff, because I think traditionally HR teams, recruitment teams, they always operate a bit on the backgrounds, but why not flip it, right? As an HR team, or people’s success team, start working on visible initiatives that touch people’s working lives instantly, right? Invest in people’s mental wellbeing, right? Deliver or invest in people being successful communicating virtually. Change your policies. Usually, it goes without any material costs. As we talked about the pulsing, right? Start pulsing your people, have conversations. Think how you, as an organization, can provide purpose to your people that syncs with their day-to-day job. I mean, there are so much opportunity out there just by becoming creative and innovative.
William Tincup: First of all, I love all of that. Great advice, so thank you. With top employees… People listening to the podcast. This is, as we’ve probably historically referred to this, as top performers or high potentials. The top talent, whatever. It’s your top five, top 10, top 20% of your workforce. Michel, with this group, do they need something different from the organization? Again, you want to do this with all employees, and we want to get there obviously, clearly, but do you feel the top talent of an organization, do they need something different from you now?
Michel: Absolutely. They need something more, I would say. All the stuff we just talked about, that absolutely needs to be in place, but they need one thing more. I think the most important thing is growth, right? In the most holistic way of putting it, because the top reason why these people tend to leave, aside from all the stuff we just talked about, is that they’re looking for the next big thing, right? To stay challenged and remain innovative, or being able to make an impact. It’s all about being, I would say as an organization, it’s important that you go beyond the traditional path when it comes to career development, when it comes to compensation. When you have your top talents, you need to keep their work environment highly dynamic, and if you don’t, they will find it somewhere else, because there is always another business out there with an exciting opportunity. You need to continuously keep engaging with those people and ensure you’re aware of their needs, and ensure you’re accommodating them as well.
William Tincup: Michel, with top talent in particular, how much of it is highly personalized? Let’s say you and I are working at the same company. Let’s just say we’re both working at Unit4. We’re both categorized in whatever way as top talent, and I need something different than you do. How does the organization shift? Because HR historically, we’ve cookie-cuttered things. We treat everybody the same, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but with top talent, just you and I in that scenario, I need something different from the company, whether or not it’s communication, whether or not it’s the variability of variety of the work or flexibility in doing international gigs. Whatever. I just need something different, define that as you wish, and you need something different. You’re dealing with this, so how do you build, bespoke, or highly personalize experience for your top talent?
Michel: Well, it’s true. I mean, I’ve been there too. We deployed generic initiatives before as well, and absolutely, you’re very spot on there, but I do have to say is what I’ve learned at least so far is that: Indeed, you need something bespoke. You need something tailor made, and there’s only so much you can do. A result of this approach might very well be that you spend a bit less effort. You focus a bit less on, let’s say, the non-talent group, if I could put it that way. It’s all about making choices.
For example, something that I’ve done over the past year is that we stopped our generic talent program, and we just focused on a very specific set of individuals and accelerating their development, but of course, always with a purpose, right? Because talent development in itself from a business point-of-view only make sense if you’re working towards a specific goal that adds value to the business, right? Being able to take on a bigger remit, to have a bigger impact. “Hey, why not flip your model,” would also be my advice to everybody listening and working on these talent programs. Why not, for 2022, flip your model and just focus on a very select few of people. See what effect, or what results, that will bring as well. Yeah.
William Tincup: I want to go back to something you said very early on. The pulse surveys and asking people their opinions is great, fantastic, but if you don’t do something with it, people get frustrated with that, clearly. But also, you lose the opportunity to then communicate with folks that you heard them, and that you’ve done something with that. Well, let’s go backwards into that, because that was actually really, really important to talk about, especially if we don’t want to lose talent and we’re asking them for their advice. We’re sending out poll surveys, et cetera, and we don’t do something with it. Let’s go into that. You ask people for their advice. What’s been your experience in terms of actioning the advice that you get, either from top talent or from everybody in your organization? It really doesn’t matter, but how do you action, and then communicate-
Michel: Yeah, no. Absolutely. What I found to be a hugely effective instrument, it’s very simple, is… I mean, we’re all humans and nobody likes to show up in a red Excel books, right? So, we just make leader boards. We measure the engagement of our people. We make leader boards by manager, and we just share that with all our managers. There’s a number one, and it goes down to number 270 or so. Of course, nobody wants to sit in that bottom every month. It is a very simple way to incentivize our leaders to work on engagement with their teams, because I think it’s a combination, right? There’s so much you can do from a business point-of-view or global point-of-view, but then there is also the absolute huge impact that leadership has on his or her direct team. So, incentivizing those leaders a little bit. Make it completely transparent. Nobody wants to sit at the bottom.
William Tincup: Okay. So now, I wanted to ask you a different question, so thank you for that by the way, Michel. Back to the topic, big companies are losing top talent and top employees. Are there other factors? What I mean by other factors, mental health, wellbeing, exhaustion, too much travel, not enough travel. Is there other things that you’re starting to discover of reasons that people are leaving?
Michel: Yes, and I think one of the biggest reason is also that just people are looking for different environments, in general. Some different sparkles in their lives, especially as people just sit behind their computer all day. Why not change something? You can’t change your workplace. You can’t change your physical workplace, so why not change something else? My take on this as well is, organizations also just now need to… Of course, you need to fight it. You need to battle it. You need to win the war for talent, but you also need to accept that this is the new normal state, right? I mean, the attrition rates in my industry is 20% plus, right? So, you already know that 20% of your workforce will leave. You can mitigate it and move it to 18, but it’s still a material amount, so why not invest in keeping people in your ecosystem? Maybe in a few years, they get the same feeling again, and they might want to move back to your organization. So, I think it’s also a mind shift in terms of not only battling against it, but also embracing it a little bit.
William Tincup: How much of this is COVID driven? Prior to COVID, life before the COVID? We’re in COVID, so we won’t say “post-COVID”. How much of this has changed people? Because when you talk about the great resignation, a lot of people have also reformatted it to be the great reflection, where people have just rethought work. This is for top talent too. You put it like, “You’re working behind your computer terminals. What’s the difference between working for Company A and Company B?” It’s different Zoom link, outside of that?
Michel: That’s right, yeah.
William Tincup: Right? When you look at pre-COVID — we go back to, let’s say, December of ’19 or January of ’20 — top talent needed something different. We get that, but this reflection on how people want to work, how much of it has been driven from COVID, and how do you think we adapt to that going forward?
Michel: Well, I think it was already all there, but it’s just been hugely accelerated. Even when you look at just the metrics itself, right? The metrics on attrition levels, or how top talent is navigating and progressing their careers. I mean, all the trends were already showing in the situation that we’re currently faced with, so it was already there, right? In terms of increasingly wanting to see more, feel more part of a more dynamic work environment. Being constantly challenged. Being constantly poached by other organizations as well. Very easily, shifting between different organizations.
It was all already there, and I think it only accelerated, but I think, at the same time, it provides a unique opportunity for people in HR functions or people success functions to start mitigating this. I can’t think of any business who now underestimates the impact of mental wellbeing, or social wellbeing, or what have you, whilst maybe before COVID times, it was felt a bit like an unimportant HR topic, right? Not really spent a lot of time on, but that has really flipped, so I think there’s also lots of opportunity. Also, just to conclude, I know it’s very long answer, sorry, but-
William Tincup: No, you’re fine.
Michel: I think it’s also such a nice opportunity for HR teams to actively start adding strategic value to a business, right? Whether you’re in recruitment, or in people’s success, or whatever, because if you can keep that talent in for a year longer, or you can bring that talent into your business, yeah, you immediately generate strategic business value.
William Tincup: There’s two questions that I want to ask before we wrap. One of them is around your take on stay interviews and exit interviews. What do you think about those, especially with top talent?
Michel: Yeah. I love that question. The exit interviews, I think stop doing it, my advice would be, because those people already left.
William Tincup: 100%.
Michel: It’s highly likely that they won’t tell you the honest answer anyway, right?
William Tincup: That’s right.
Michel: Everybody will tell you, “I’m leaving for pay or career opportunity.” Yeah, let’s focus on those stay interviews. Actually, before that, let’s just focus on that pulsing on employees, right? And do something with the results, because then you’re really at the start of this whole game, so focus on that. That will be my advice, yeah.
William Tincup: I’d love that. I feel the exact same way, ironically. The exit interviews, again, unless they just want to burn the bridge, they’re not going to give you, because you had your time to get their take and their advice. The second question is a little bit different. For those that haven’t started a people success part of their business, because there’s customer success. You’ve got sales success, marketing success. You’ve got all these different folks, and there’s not as many people with your title. And so, for companies to make that shift, to actually enable success for their employees, how do they get started?
Michel: Well, I think the best way to get started is actually start connecting and reading on customer success, right? Having a look at this field through that lens is so massively inspiring, because at the end of the day, it’s completely similar. Customer success is all about ensuring that your customers get the most value out of their product or services that they buy from you. It’s the same with people success. How can you get the most value out of your people, which stretches way beyond the traditional HR topics, right? Because if you know that people only stay for two years, if that’s the new normal situation, let’s spend a lot of time on making people as productive as they can as soon as possible, for example, right? That’s people success from a business point-of-view. If you see potential in a person, let’s invest in accelerating the professional development or in the career development of that person. That is people success. I think, take inspiration from customer success.
William Tincup: You know what? I lied and said I only had two. I have one last question, and it’s about boomerangs with top talent. What’s people’s success look with the alumni. People have, for whatever reason, they’ve moved on, but they’re still alumni. They worked with us, and we liked them. They did good work. We wish they were still here. How do we engage them and communicate with them? Maybe even enable them to come back in to the company?
Michel: Yeah, yeah. No, that’s a great question. Absolutely. I would say, make them feel special. Make them feel special, as you hopefully already did when they were part of your organization. Even when they leave, and when they’ve left, make them feel special. For example, we built this portal to stay connected with them. They, now and then, get this personal message from our CEO with insights into the business, which we don’t share with other people. To a certain extent, we give them the feel that they’re actually still part of the family, right? They still have this inside information, and I think that’s a great way to get started.
William Tincup: Yeah. I love that you went that way with it, because a lot of companies get butt hurt. When someone puts in their resignation letter and they leave, our feelings are hurt. It’s emotional. We feel it’s a personal attack, and we typically treat people really poorly on the way out. That’s not just top talent, that’s just all talent, but this is a moment. To your wisdom, this is a moment of actually saying, “You know what? This is a moment where we can celebrate everything that you’ve achieved here. We want to stay in touch and celebrate all the success you’re going to have. You never know what the future’s going to bring.” But be real graceful on the way out, which is not historically the way-
Michel: Yeah, I know.
William Tincup: … that we’ve approached talent. When they decide to leave, they’re dead. They’re just dead to us. We treat them like they’re dead.
Michel: Yeah. It’s interesting because, at the end of the day, it’s highly likely that they will stay in your ecosystem anyway.
William Tincup: That’s right.
Michel: Right? They work with a competitor.
William Tincup: That’s right.
Michel: They work with a customer, they work with a supplier, so why not make them your ambassadors as well, right? Invest in that relationship too, because it might even generate business value along the road as well, next to them potentially rejoining your business in the future, so there’s so much opportunity in managing that alumni community.
William Tincup: I love this. Listen, you and I could talk about this forever. Thank you so much for your time today, Michel. I just absolutely love it, and thank you.
Michel: Thank you, William, for having me. It was great.
William Tincup: Thanks for everyone listening to the RecruitingDaily Podcast. Until next time.
Music: You’ve been listening to the Recruiting Live Podcast by RecruitingDaily. Check out the latest industry podcasts, webinars, articles, and news at recruitingdaily.com.
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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.
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