Jess ElmquistFebruary 8, 2023
Topics: Talent Experience

The Five People Trends That Should Be On Your Radar

“I’m the least HR HR person you’ve ever met,” joked TruGreen’s CHRO Rebecca Schoepfer during our webinar on 2023 talent trends. “The biggest way to differentiate yourself as a HR leader is to make sure that you talk about your work in the language of the business — which is often data and money.”

That’s exactly what Rebecca does. And with growing staffing shortages impacting so many corporate bottom lines, more CHROs need to hear a valuable voice like Rebecca’s, especially when it comes to big patterns we’re seeing in the labor market and the direct impact on profitability – especially in retail, hospitality and services.

In discussing the following 5 trends in my last webinar I came to two conclusions: one, get ahead of what’s about to come. And two, apply these trends to your business so that you can work in a proactive stance on meeting business needs.

With the new year well underway, it is healthy to keep in mind that these are long-term trends that aren’t going away anytime soon, so keep them front and center in both your talent acquisition and talent management strategies for the foreseeable future.

Trend #1: HR problems are business problems

This is a big one.

I mean, let’s be honest — there are business leaders in the HR seat who frankly don’t know the Xs and Os of the business. They’re quick to say ‘yes’ to the CEO without really thinking about driving business performance. That’s a huge swing and a miss.

“It's really all about making the business successful and people being a lever to do that,” Rebecca shared of her mindset. An HR leader who talks ROI? That can come as a shock to some in the C-suite, even though it shouldn’t. Yet when you can correlate your HR metrics to business outcomes, it creates momentum company-wide, and that’s a game-changer.

TruGreen is a finance-driven organization, so if HR is going to compete with other functions for share of voice, Rebecca and her team have to come armed with compelling, data-driven metrics. And they do. In fact, she knows the operation inside and out.

“We're in the business of making grass grow, not cutting lawns,” she clarified. The Memphis-based company is a geographically distributed, branch-based business with a big hourly worker population.

That segment of the workforce is mostly split into three primary groups — sales, the people who actually treat lawns and shrubs, and customer care. But the thing that makes the enterprise unique is the cyclical nature of its business. Headcount shoots up considerably in just two months, going from as few as 2,000-3,000 to as many as 12,000-15,000 people. Seasonal, high-volume hiring at its finest.

“I always joke that the head of talent acquisition for me is the person that I try to keep the happiest,” Schoepfer laughed.

The talent team at TruGreen also has a broad understanding that they compete for talent with much more than other lawn care companies when benchmarking jobs or setting wages. It’s competing against Amazon warehouses, fast food restaurants, and other retail giants. A full view of a market and how you stand can make the difference in hitting your hiring goals or missing them completely.

Not hiring enough people means there may not be someone who shows up to treat a lawn. I can relate to the seasonal hiring frenzy when I was the CHRO at Life Time, which operates luxury-scale athletic country clubs.

My team and I would have to search left and right to find 9,000 seasonal workers between May and August. We’d have to hire them before May so we could open the outdoor pools, staff the restaurants, and all the other things that come with a major leisure and hospitality brand.

Staffing our summer kids camps was a huge undertaking because employees had to be trained and certified for first aid. They had to know what they were doing, just like at TruGreen.

Without a technical solution offering proactive support, sourcing large numbers of qualified talent on mass would not be possible. So as a CHRO, it requires your leaders to think differently, and you must have the right tools to support that way of thinking. This new way of thinking is an imperative because of the next trend Rebecca and I covered.

Trend #2: Activated talent will hold all the power

This isn’t news to CHROs, of course, but we’ll continue to see people switching jobs or staying on the sidelines. Candidates will continue to have options in spite of the layoffs that are dominating recent headlines. So how can companies differentiate themselves among competitors and secure top talent first?

With the spotlight on remote work and hybrid schedules, it’s easy to lose sight of the fact that many people still have to show up for work at someone’s house and deliver a service. But that's really important to think about when activated talent holds the power — especially when the majority of your workforce is going to a brick and mortar establishment, like at TruGreen.

The question then becomes: How do we attract and hire candidates who have to work on-site every day as efficiently as possible? Rebecca is clear. You need to know what those candidates value. One, is making the entire experience quick and easy, and two, you have to personalize their hiring experience.

“Your application process is talking to an applicant before you ever get an opportunity to,” Rebecca noted. “If it's really hard to work through it, they're going to assume it's really hard to work for you. If it's really fast and easy to work through it, they’re going to say ‘Hey, this might be a place for me.’”

Trend #3: DEI remains critically important

This may not strike some as a particularly newsworthy trend. I mean, we’ve known for years that diversity, equity and inclusion is a key business strategy. What is new — and the reason I included it here — is because I found such value in Rebecca’s advice for those of you who may feel stuck and not know how to go about promoting diversity programs.

Hearing her counsel is well worth your time.

Total mic drop response.

To Rebecca’s point, other leaders I’ve talked to about DEI feel that it can be overwhelming. One of the points I make with them is to regard the effort as a long-term endeavor. You’re not going to solve it overnight. But the notion of focusing on one or two areas where you’re stuck is both interesting and manageable.

For example, TruGreen undertook a company-wide Hogan personality test last year (that’s where you find others in the organization who have similar traits and interests). While it’s nice to find your workplace personality doppelganger, the real value in the Hogan test is discovering and partnering with people who are actually different from you.

“They're going to give you the best feedback and identify your blind spots,” Rebecca explained. “At the end of the day, that's what DEI is all about.”

Trend #4: Lifestyle is the new work style

I’ve written about both of these trends extensively, but it’s worth a refresher: lifestyle is the new work style. Look at your people beyond the prism of “work,” and think of them as unique individuals with their own set of life priorities, loves, challenges, and problems.

They’re looking for an employer that aligns with their sense of values, so HR leaders would be smart to communicate their purpose and mission early and often.

What’s the word on the street about your employer brand? Why does your organization exist?

“The goal,” Rebecca said, “is to get people to buy direct.” By that, she means your organization has to be known and have a name, making the candidate choose you based on reputation alone.

“Phenom has been great in helping us optimize our process,” she added, but applicants have to be able to get to TruGreen, so “buy direct” essentially comes down to how you are known externally and internally.

For those organizations that choose to fly under the radar and say nothing, “you're letting your employer brand manage you,” she cautioned.

Trend #5: AI will continue making a big impact in HR

Companies today need AI tools to automate yet personalize how they hire, develop, and retain people. And these tools aren’t only to improve the process and experience for candidates and employees, but for recruiters, managers, HR, and HRIS teams as well.

And let’s be clear. AI isn’t making personnel decisions. Rather it’s supporting and informing decisions faster and more accurately over time, with appropriate feedback loops. Leaders make the decisions; AI provides the objective data to help us get there.

Rebecca’s simple advice to CHROs skittish about AI? “Make sure you have a great vendor partner.”

She’s right. At Life Time, Phenom learned how to work with my team to the point they moved from vendor to partner — and the platform became a trusted single source of truth where I could rely on a platform to perform well in areas out of my expertise.

Rebecca was an amazing guest and truly suited to talk about the trends we will all face this year. With a CHRO/business leader mindset, she clearly offered insight that can help the most sophisticated team in talent. It’s been great to see the TruGreen team find success in all of these areas and like me at Life Time, using the intelligent talent experience platform at Phenom plays a critical part in her team’s success.

I’m also excited to share that Rebecca will be one of many talented, insightful keynote speakers at our annual IAMPHENOM conference in Philadelphia. Come join us, CHROs. Network with other leaders and workshop shared challenges. As a former attendee, I know it’s a sound investment and well worth your time.

Jess Elmquist

Jess Elmquist is the Chief Human Resources Officer and Chief Evangelist at Phenom. In a previous career as the Chief Learning Officer at Life Time, the healthy way of life company, Jess hired more than 200,000 people and spoke to hundreds of his executive peers about talent trends.

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