A Candid Conversation with Ben Eubanks: What’s Working — and What’s Not — in Employee Experience

Devin Foster

In this recap of the August 5 episode of Talent Experience Live, we address a big question: How can we prepare for the Great Resignation? Ben Eubanks, Principal Analyst and Chief Research Officer at Lighthouse Research & Advisory, joined us to explore new ways to track retention and employee experience success.
 

As employers face the “Great Resignation,” they’re trying new ways to build an employee experience (EX) that will boost retention and engagement.
 

But how can organizations hone in on approaches that really work? 
 

To figure it out, Eubanks dove into Lighthouse research findings and shared practical tips HR leaders can leverage to effect meaningful culture change. Watch the full video below to catch all the details, or read on for highlights below! 
 


Top trend: Why employees are leaving companies


As an industry analyst, Eubanks hears perspectives and commentary across a spectrum of HR and TA leaders. Right now, the conversation is around employees expecting more from employers when it comes to supporting their emotional and physical wellbeing — and going elsewhere if they aren’t getting it.
 


Eubanks encourages a positive view of this trend. “Change hurts always. But long-term, it’s going to encourage employers to really see people and value people as individuals, and care about them," he said. "Last year, when the world turned upside down, one of the first things employers had to do was realize they had been making a lot of assumptions about their people."
 

It’s time to get beneath the surface and address employees’ true needs, Ben added. 


What are the biggest challenges for HR and TA teams now?


A global health crisis, remote work, social unrest … there’s no shortage of major challenges to choose from. But the priority to elevate Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DE&I) stands out to Eubanks as a top concern, with HR teams reporting that they need to ensure it's incorporated throughout the business. 
 

Balancing efficiency with inclusive hiring
 


As organizations turn to artificial intelligence (AI) to drive a more efficient hiring process, Eubanks hears apprehension over whether these tools will introduce a negative bias toward diverse candidates.
 

To dig deeper, Lighthouse researchers surveyed employers earlier this year on how they’re balancing automation and AI with fair hiring practices.
 

Respondents said they’re using assessments and tools to ensure they grade all candidates fairly, and performing analyses to see how many diverse candidates are in the funnel and identify where and why fluctuations occur.


Related: The Definitive Guide to Diversity & Inclusion for HR



Looking at the right data to make real change
 


Making data-driven decisions throughout the entire talent lifecycle is an across-the-board goal. But how can you decide which metrics will help you make effective change?
 

Time-to-fill is a traditional benchmark, noted Eubanks. But it may be time to prioritize other data. “That shouldn’t be the end-all, be-all of what we’re measuring, because if you’re filling jobs quickly with the wrong people, guess what? You’re just really efficient at the wrong things.”
 

Instead, Eubanks recommends looking at a few different data points.
 

Check your “quick quits”

How quickly people leave the company can illuminate problems in the recruiting process, such as poor quality of hire. 
 

How can you determine a benchmark timeframe for quick quits? That depends on your organization and the specific role, Eubanks said. For example, for some job roles within a company, staying eight months may be considered a win; for others, several years is the desired tenure.
 

Dig into the numbers to identify problems (and solutions)

To take action, Eubanks advises HR teams to get beneath the surface of data. “The problem with data is when it’s this really big thing, this aggregate … it’s hard to do anything about it," he said. "But when we start really honing in and narrowing down that focus, we can start trying some things to impact that and really lead to better outcomes.”
 

For example, knowing you have a 50% turnover rate doesn’t give you a direction for improvement. But uncovering additional details can guide positive change. Are employees leaving in the first month of the job? Are high or low turnover rates tied to any specific manager? What can you discover from exit interview data?


To drive retention, show employees they have a path forward
 


With a tsunami of turnover looming, how can employers get people to stay? Today’s employee experience needs to provide much more than yesterday’s ping pong tables and gourmet coffee bars.
 

“The biggest predictor of someone sticking around is if they feel like there’s a path ahead for them,” Eubanks said. In fact, he added later, 88% of employees who left a position said they would have stayed if they saw a path forward, according to Lighthouse research. 
 

Here are 4 key ways organizations can improve the employee experience through better career pathing:
 

1. Enable managers to be career guides

Managers need to be empowered to coach team members on career growth, Eubanks said. Managers should “cast a vision” for employees on ways they could contribute in the future. 
 

Educate managers to conclude one-on-one’s by asking, “What can I do to help you achieve your career goals?” Then involve the employee in activities that will help them upskill toward those goals.
 

2. Evaluate in-house talent first

Filling roles with internal talent is less risky and less costly for the organization — and just might be that elusive factor in solidifying company culture, according to Eubanks. 
 

“Those things really create that culture, that engagement, that we are all trying to figure out where it is. It’s right there in front of us. We just need to tap into it.”
 

3. Build internal structures that support talent mobility

It's not enough to simply say there are opportunities for movement within a company — it needs to be woven throughout the entire employee experience. Eubanks shared some examples of this from his research, including one company that made it an expectation for managers to ask starting employees about their future aspirations. 
 

Another employer made the decision to always promote from within to fill store manager roles, and to give leaders a bonus when they brought an employee into that role. (PS: The company also drastically reduced store manager churn!)
 

4. Showcase internal mobility success stories

Build momentum for internal mobility by celebrating employees who move to new internal roles. In fact, Eubanks said, data shows that high-performing companies make this a leadership initiative rather than leaving it up to individual managers.
 

And don’t forget to share success stories with candidates to also demonstrate that the organization will invest in their growth. “That’s a conversation every candidate is excited to hear,” Eubanks said.


Blog: Show & Tell: How Life Time is Winning At Video Testimonials



Looking ahead: Leveraging data and AI
 


As highlighted earlier, data-driven decision-making is taking center stage. We’re all sitting on mounds of talent data, Eubanks pointed out — and harnessing it to make accurate predictions is a major challenge.
 

“One thing I’ve seen is organizations increasingly saying, ‘We can no longer just make decisions based on what we think in the moment, or based on what’s the biggest fire to put out right now. We’ve got to actually have data to help us think about what’s coming.’”
 

The true value of AI 

AI and automation get a lot of buzz, and for good reason: these tools unlock the potential for much greater efficiency. 
 

But the organizations that will benefit most are the ones that realize its true value. “The real value in [AI] isn’t the things that it automates,” Eubanks said. Rather, AI allows recruiters more time to focus on the human aspects of their jobs that machines can’t replicate: empathy, relationship-building, and strategic thinking.


Related: The Definitive Guide to Artificial Intelligence


His final thought on HR becoming a more data-driven function? Keep the “human” in HR. 
 

“Every data point we’re looking at is a person — it’s someone’s hopes, dreams, their career … and it’s so easy to sometimes distance ourselves from that in the transactional day-to-day,” he said. “I encourage everybody to be data-oriented, but really keep the people element there.”


Get more from Ben Eubanks

Catch up with Eubanks on LinkedIn, and look for the upcoming 2nd edition of his book, Artificial Intelligence for HR: Use AI to Support and Develop a Successful Workforce.


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