Suzy Walther is chief people officer at Carta.
When the news of the delta variant broke, many of us had only just started to feel the relief of getting back to "normal." We were going back into our offices. Taking our kids to their soccer games. Removing our masks and feeling safe, thanks to an effective vaccine.
But now it feels like we could be going back to square one. As a chief people officer, that means it's back to conversations about remote work, vaccine disclosures and our employees' well-being during an unprecedented time. Add in record-high employee turnover and one of the hottest job markets on record — and I know that many in the people and recruiting space feel like we're barely hanging on.
So what do we do in the face of so much uncertainty? How do we recruit talent, retain our people and keep ourselves motivated amid the chaos? My advice: Go back to the basics.
Make sure your benefits actually benefit your people
In April 2021, more startup employees quit their jobs than during any other month on record. Employers are pulling out all the stops to drive retention and recruitment. But fancy snacks and ping-pong and office happy hours aren't enough to keep employees happy anymore (and in truth, they never were).
We are not the same workers we once were. People want to be thought of as whole humans, not just workers. For the last year and a half as this pandemic has raged we've all had a chance to take stock of our values, and we now expect to see those values reflected in our benefits.
People want time to recharge (at Carta, we require minimum time off). They want mental health benefits — through wellness reimbursements or through employer-sponsored platforms. They want to see that work-life balance is valued through benefits like childcare stipends to support working parents through COVID (which we offered at Carta). Sounds simple, but how are you showing up for people in ways that actually matter to them?
Treat your people like people
Employees aren't just looking for good benefits, they're looking for respect. Danielle LaGree, a researcher cited in a study on employees' value of respect, said she believes the study indicates that more emphasis needs to be placed on training leaders and managers on how to convey respectful communication with their employees.
She's right. Your leaders are culture keepers as much as they are managers. Invest in making sure they're trained and empowered to play that role. Do they know how to lead with empathy? Are they managing in an inclusive way? With an eye on the well-being of the team?
Take the time to make sure they do, and you won't just win talent — you'll also gain a reputation for caring about your people in an authentic way. As organizational psychologist Adam Grant has said, "If you don't care about your people, they won't care about your mission." Which brings us to our next point.
Remember your organization's mission
Life is short. Every one of us was reminded of that this past year. People are looking for work that's meaningful and motivating. Take a step back and think about your mission. It doesn't get any more basic than this.
Is your mission authentic? Not all of us are saving the world, and that's okay! Small and real is better than big and fake. But it's important to show how we're creating a real difference in people's lives. Is it specific enough to be clearly understood? Is it threaded through everything you do — job descriptions, candidate interviews, internal memos? If you can't communicate your mission and show your employees why it matters, you will lose.
Sometimes, in the midst of the chaos, we lose sight of the things that really matter. We still need to make decisions by analyzing complex data. We still need processes and stakeholder conversations. But there are some things so fundamental, so simple and human, that they can make a real impact on our organizations if we remember to keep them front and center.