Ep. 19 Talent and Career Management Needs for Both Employees and Employers

If you look at almost any engagement survey that a company does, career development is almost always one of the lowest scores. Robyn Clark, the founder of WinningWise, an HR and talent management company, says that’s largely because employers career development because they think it's only for the person – the employee – and not for them. That’s completely and utterly wrong.

Robyn explains that if employers are preparing a workforce for the future, they should be looking to develop people so they can take on ever-bigger projects and go into broader roles, some of which may not even be known yet. 

Robyn further says career development is probably the most important talent strategy today, one that offers a huge win for both the organization and the individual because the employer is building the bench that they want and they're meeting two significant needs for the employee: mastery and personal growth.

Catch the full conversation.

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Produced by David Pittman


[00:00:00] Jennifer: It's no secret to those of you in HR talent and benefit roles that the last three years have been, we’ll say, challenging. The pandemic upended virtually every job, seemingly overnight, leaving HR leaders scrambling to figure out work from home, or work from anywhere policies, and shift the mix of programs they have in their total rewards package to be able to find and retain the best employees. 

I'm Jennifer Jones, enterprise practice leader at Springbuk, and today on Healthcare on the Rocks: Employee Benefits with a Twist, we're going to talk with a woman who's on the frontline of working with employers and job seekers.

[00:00:37] Mike: And I'm Mike Pattengale, mid-market practice leader. Joining us today is Robyn Clark. She's the founder of WinningWise, an HR talent management company, and she has worked with a wide range of companies all the way from L'Oreal to the Federal Reserve Bank. She has more than 30 years of experience designing and delivering solutions and talent management.

Robyn, welcome to the show.

[00:01:00] Robyn: Thank you very much. Thanks for having me. I appreciate that.

[00:01:04] Mike: Absolutely. Well, I know we, we've talked just briefly high level here on, on kind of who you are, but would love to just kick things off for our listeners if you wouldn't mind telling us a little bit more about your background and about your company.

[00:01:16] Robyn: Absolutely. Yeah. You know, as you mentioned, I have been in this work for 30 plus years, and the cool thing about it is there's nothing today that we're doing that was anything like what we were doing 30 years ago. There is just constant evolution and change and growth and opportunity, and I think that's why I personally kind of fell in love with the career long ago. 

And in our particular organization at WinningWise, what we're doing today is really talent and org development. We're really helping to grow leaders, to grow people, and to grow organizations and help all of that kind of merge together to create opportunity on both sides for the job seeker or even the job doer, right? It's really important once you get into that and of course, create opportunity and success for the organizations. We are a partnership in this kind of thing together, so when we work with clients and the work that we do, it's, it's all about really strengthening that partnership.

[00:02:13] Jennifer: Well, and how exciting that you work on both sides of that. I think so many people see groups that are, you know, only focused on helping the employee side or only helping the employer side of things. So a unique approach, certainly as far as joining those two benefits together. So Robyn, first question for you: our audience is well aware that finding and retaining talent has been challenging, especially over the past three years.

So what changes would you say you've observed on, on both sides of the equation from both those seeking the employees to those trying to find the right job?

[00:02:49] Robyn: Yeah. So it's just so different, you know, really, and it's challenging on both sides to try to figure out. You know, how does this work together so that we can figure out a way that we can both win? On the employer side, I think what they're really finding is culture is everything – the environment within which they create so that people can thrive in that environment and enable their growth and success is super important to be able to make that work.

And inside that culture, I think what they've noticed, especially since the pandemic, is that the contract has changed, right, between the employee and the employer in some ways. You know, back in the day, money was the currency. If I give you money, then you know that you work for me and you're going to meet my needs and do your job.

Well, money is just not the currency today in the way that it was in the past, and so employers are having to get a lot more creative. I mean, there's cool opportunity in that because you can differentiate yourself so much. But what, because what job seekers and job doers really know is they can get money in all sorts of different jobs.

Well, what else have you got is kind of the question, right? In order to make it special and good for me so that I can build a life and a future for me, that works. So I think that that's the important thing that employers are having to look at is how can they really meet a broader set of those employee needs.

And it's hard because sometimes they don't even realize what they are. And so they're having to discover that, right, and really look at that in a whole new, different way. And employees, they feel stuff, but they don't always have the language to express what they're looking for. And so sometimes they, I don't know, maybe wait to be inspired more than come right out and ask for what they need.

So it's a, it's a dance and an exploration game trying to figure it out.

[00:04:42] Jennifer: And would you say that a lot of these have been driven by the pandemic, or do you think it's something essentially that had kind of been brewing for a while that, you know, just the way society has been going or the way the environment has been moving, that it was going to happen eventually or do you think the pandemic was just the catalyst for that?

[00:05:01] Robyn: I mean, it's hard to know. My first answer to that would be yes, you know, things are really different since the pandemic. But it's hard to know what it would've been had the pandemic not happened, right? I mean, we only know what we experienced, so I don't really know. But all I know is that things are very different today because what the pandemic drove was this kind of talent shortage and this talent panic. And so basically what happened is wages went up significantly and you know, companies were offering anything. "If you will just please come and work, sign up, sign up!" 

Well then all of a sudden since then, the economy has shifted and they're finding, especially like in the tech industry, that they've they overhired and they overpaid and now they're making some big shifts.

I mean, I think what we notice is that pendulum can shift around from both sides. It was really empowering right, from the employee side at that time. But I think what employers are discovering as well, maybe the pendulum is moving back towards the middle, you know, and we have to work together at this whole thing for long-term sustainability.

They are realizing that employees have choices and they have to create environments that get really clear about the kind of extra needs that they can meet. Because even though the pendulum is moving backwards again, it doesn't mean that people aren't really discerning in their choices and discerning in their effort.

And so you've gotta motivate and inspire to that.

[00:06:29] Jennifer: Do you see where that varies? You mentioned kind of like the tech sector specifically, but do you see by other industries where money maybe still is a top priority or culture reigns in other industries, or do you feel like it's kind of across the board, same type of thing?

[00:06:46] Robyn: I think it's pretty similar across the board. You know, especially as organizations are really trying to develop that sort of younger and middle workforce. I think they're seeing it across. We're not really seeing that big of a difference, you know, whether you're in finance or whether you're in tech or whether you're in, I don't know, healthcare. We're not seeing like that big of a difference, at least in the variety of people that we have a clear view into, because we're working with them on a daily basis. 

So I think creativity is gonna be important in figuring out what it takes to really be able to differentiate the thing that just keeps popping up everywhere is this whole idea of development. And there's great opportunity in that for companies, you know, because what they get when they develop people is a stronger workforce. What people get is a brighter future. So there's a really cool way to win, that maybe getting creative is, is sort of advantageous for all of us, and it can create more success for the company and a better lifestyle.

[00:07:52] Mike: Yeah. So I know we've, we've touched on money not really being the same sole currency that it once was. And hearing you talk about development as a key perk for a company, I think we've seen more and more perks start to pop up. Especially within the tech company space, I think there was sort of an arms race among employers really trying to see who could offer the best perks.

We'd see folks get Uber Eats gift cards or DoorDash allowances and stuff like that. And decisions would be made off of simple perks like that, that were a bit outside of the box. What are you seeing across the board that some of these employers are doing or can be doing now that the economy seems to start to, uh, be tightening a bit?

What are employers doing and what are employees really looking for?

[00:08:49] Robyn: Yeah. Well, you know, the one thing that we're really noticing, which has been super interesting, kind of post-pandemic because we just completed, uh, an employee needs survey and, and we did one pre-pandemic too. And there the results are very, very different. 

So by looking at the different results, it's interesting to help you think about  what you can offer in order to be able to meet the needs that are happening today. So, pre-pandemic, I'll start with looking at all, all the buckets so that you know what I'm talking about. Kind of have really good context for it. When we think about what employees look for, like these eight researched and validated needs, I like to put them in four buckets.

One is I want to do work that matters, right? I want to be able to do work that I feel I'm good at and makes a difference. That seems reasonable, like the work itself. The second one is I like to be in good relationships with others. You know about belonging and inclusivity, and that comes from a healthy balance between connection and autonomy.

I want to be with you and partner with you, but I don't want you to hover over me. You know, I want to be sure that I have freedom and I'm empowered. That feels like a good, healthy place for me to be. People also want to know they have a future. They want to know that they can grow personally and that their career can get bigger or broader, whatever might, you know, feel like the right thing for them.

And people also want today a good life. And a good life is where some of those rewards you were just talking about might come from, you know, like I can give an extra perk card for this, et cetera. That's lifestyle: rewards and recognition are like validation for a job well done. I want to be noticed. And that's a nice, uh, thing that people want.

What's interesting is kind of pre-pandemic, the three needs that were top of mind for people, which I think is kind of cool, was autonomy and connection. Which they work together, right? They're all about, I want to have a good relationship with you. And the other one was meaningful work. I want to do work that adds value.

When I look at those three needs, I think of them as external. They're things that I want to do to please you. You know, like “I'm here, I want you to treat me well and have a good relationship. And then I just want to do lots of cool stuff for you.” Okay? Look at the shift. The shift to today's needs that people say are that they want mastery.

So I want to be good at what I do. I want to increase my own market value, right? Lifestyle. I want to have a good life where I've got balance and flexibility and personal growth. I want to be sure that I'm getting smarter. Now, while there's nothing wrong with those needs, they're important too, notice the self-orientation.

Just notice the difference, right? One was about kind of taking care of others and this one says, I gotta take care of me. And I think what happened in the pandemic when everybody got sent home and real people were in a scramble about what that meant for them. They didn't know what to do. But you know, people are super resilient and they adapt and they adjust.

And in that adaptation, they said, "Okay, I gotta figure some stuff out for myself. I know I still need to be good at things to create a good life for myself. I need to get smarter. I want to keep growing, and I want to be sure that I got a lifestyle now that works. I'm not willing to give that up." 

So I think it's really important, not that companies have to meet all of them for everyone all the time, but it's really important that they kind of look at the shift and the difference, and then think about what their offer can be in order to be able to get there.

It's a huge distinction and huge difference.

[00:12:37] Jennifer: I'm curious because it's interesting to see it then from the individual perspective. Do you survey employers with that same type of of concept as far as what they look for in an employee?

[00:12:48] Robyn: Well, not exactly, but I do survey employers on what they think they can offer, right? So, because when we're trying to figure out that contract, you gotta figure out, okay, what do you need? And then what do you offer? I mean, what they need is they want people, they clearly want people who can do the job today, and then they look for people with potential that can do the job tomorrow.

Because most employers right now are really trying to build a strong talent bench. If you look at, I always find this so interesting. If you look at almost any CEO, and you ask them for their top five strategic priorities, at least one of them will be about people growth. It might be succession planning. It might be a stronger bench. It might be having individual development plans. There'll be something in there that is about people getting smarter and better because they know that they can't just have people doing a good job today. They've really gotta have that runway. So that's huge for them, and I know that organizations are interviewing and looking for people that they feel can create that kind of future for them. So that's really cool. 

The second thing that orgs have to think about is what are we going to be good at? Well, there's a lot when you look at all eight of the needs, that's a lot of work. Like, I don't know any organization that can make every, you know, can be good at everything for everybody. But I'll say to them, please choose what you're going to major and minor in, because that creates your culture.

And then you won't want to be bad at the other things, but you don't have to be as excellent at them. But then you have to train your leaders to deliver that. So you have the culture that you're looking for, and the people that are attracted to you will be ones that are really interested in those needs so that you can get the right people and keep people that really do kind of fit in your organization and in your culture, uh, in a really positive way, so that it's the win on both sides that everybody's looking for, right? 

So that's what I learned. Now what's funny is what they'll say sometimes they want to create, and when we actually do like surveys, or I look at their engagement surveys, they'll find they're not good at what they said they wanted.

That's an awakening, right? Yeah. So then they have to create plans in order to get better at that stuff. And that's, you know, part of what will help them do sometimes. But you can't do that until you at least have a vision of what you want.

[00:15:15] Mike: I love the idea of you can't be good at everything, you know, all eight, you're not gonna exceed at all of 'em. I think a lot of times in what we do, it's, “Hey, you know, while we might push out 98 Insights, let's focus on two to really focus on for the next three months.”

And I love the idea of, you know, what are you gonna major and minor in?

[00:15:35] Robyn: Yes, and the other thing that I was mentioning is like for practitioners that are thinking about how to help their executive teams have conversations around this, you don't have to pick the three that are in the survey as the top three. It's not like the other five didn't get a mention. Not true.

Everything gets mentioned. You don't have to pick the top three, but you sure should pick some stuff and be super at it. That's really important. Like if you want to be a relationship-oriented company, that's fine. Even if it isn't top of mind for people today, that then you'll want to talk about that and internally market that and really tell people how important that is and how you offer it.

But you better be really great and really working on important things like belonging and inclusion and communication to be sure that you're really delivering on the relationship piece.

[00:16:28] Jennifer: So Robyn, as companies think about their workforce as a whole, what do we see is important for employees and what really motivates them?

[00:16:39] Robyn: As I was saying, it's a little different for each person, but there are some things that you can really think about. You know, what seems to be top of mind for people is personal growth and mastery. Those are big. So since those are big, they both speak to development and they speak to career development, and that's a really important place where companies can play today, that they can set some very differentiating.

You know, in the old days of yesterday, people liked to think of career development as promotion, right? It's just about going to a higher level role and you know, “we don't want to do career development for everybody because you know, that's just for them and it's not for us as a company.” 

That's like really old thinking. If you are preparing a workforce for the future, you're going to want to be developing people so that they can take on bigger projects, they can go into broader roles, right?

So that they can develop other people and create more forward momentum in your organization. And career development provides all of that. One could argue that it's probably the most important talent strategy today and there's a huge win in that for the organization because all of a sudden they're building the bench that they want and they're meeting two super-significant needs to people if they want to, which is mastery and personal growth. And you know, one could throw a career achievement in that bucket as well. 

We've been spending a lot of time really helping companies kind of rethink and reexamine this whole sort of career development topic. If you look at almost any engagement survey that a company does, career development is almost always one of the lowest scores.

And it's because they ignore it because they think it's only for the person and not for them. Completely and utterly wrong. And so we're really hoping that we can help people kind of change their mind around that and build strategies that build the individual and the organization at the same time.

There's no reason there has to be one without the other. It's impossible, honestly, one without the other.

[00:18:46] Mike: How would you say that employers can go about setting up programs that enable employees to get this career development? Whether it's getting more rewards as we think about meeting growth and future-focused needs or what? What would that look like for you to share with our listeners?

[00:19:03] Robyn: The cool thing about the rewards is that people will get more rewards as they grow and develop, right? And that's what they want for growing and developing. They're hoping that they're going to get, you know, bigger roles or they're hoping they're going to get more money, or they're hoping they're going to get more responsibility or more autonomy, like whatever it is that kind of charges and energizes up that person.

So rewards come as a natural sort of outcome of growth, and that's why it's cool for people. And what comes as a natural outcome of growth is a stronger, better, more effective company today and tomorrow. Like, I don't know how anybody can possibly lose with that. It's kind of that old adage, if you're not growing, you're dying.

You have to create that forward momentum to create that growth and opportunity. As a practitioner, it's important to build that career development strategy, that's an important thing to do. But sometimes while you're building strategy, you also want to create some quick wins because if you wait too long to build strategy, people get frustrated with some of the folks in our kind of roles – that it's just all talk and no action.

So you can get people growing with either really cool development experiences, creating some pathways, making sure that everybody has a development plan. That is a huge thing you can do inside an organization. I'm not saying it's easy, but it's incredibly important because most people are really bad at it.

Most leaders are not good at creating good development plans. Most people don't have any idea what to put in their development plan. And so to be able to really school up leaders and individuals in development planning: super big. That's a good thing you can do because how do you go wrong with that? 

I like to think of the quick wins as things you can't lose while you're trying to build the broader strategy. Because when you're trying to build a broader strategy, it always has to start with discovery. You know, people like us have to spend time digging into organizational talent needs and assessing the business needs and creating a clear problem to solve. And that takes time and it takes thought, but it doesn't have to happen without diving into some of the low-hanging fruit, you know what I mean?

So it makes it easier for there to be a good plan coming forward and some good wins along the way. And that way you kind of bring people along with you and then you can get into other parts of it, you know, where you're really building a thoughtful strategy around exploring growth opportunities and pathways and shifting roles and things for people.

Creating really good plans for your whole strategy. And then make sure that you get people growing and moving. Because ultimately, the work of career development is moving people around so that your organization has a broader use of the talent that you have. That's a huge organizational win.

Understanding though that win can take a little bit more time so you can have the long-term wins and the short-term wins.

[00:22:15] Jennifer: Yeah, that's what I was gonna ask you. As far as from a long-term perspective, how long-term are we thinking here? Is this like a three- to five- to 10-year plan or am I off base there? 

[00:22:27] Robyn: Yeah, when most people have so little patience for super long-term these days, you know, like, long-term is two years. So I would say, you can really see some great wins within the next two to three years. And I think organizations are calling that long-term because they don't have a clue what they're gonna be in 10 years.

Our strategies don't look as far out as they used to because our lives are just shifting so fast, and I think that's okay. 

[00:22:53] Jennifer: Mm-hmm. 

[00:22:53] Robyn: But that's why the quick wins have to be quicker, right? Because, you know, two years to wait in order to get people in a development program will, you know, make everybody crazy.

So it's really important that you're kind of thinking about how to do both of those things. But it's sometimes hard. I get why sometimes even in our field, we can be pretty sparsely staffed. They don't always have a lot of people to do all that. That's kind of how you know, we generally will help too, right? Because we'll come in and help 'em think it through and move things forward faster.

[00:23:26] Jennifer: Yeah, absolutely. Well, as we wrap up our discussion today, bottom line here: what would you say are the biggest takeaways for our listeners today?

[00:23:37] Robyn: You know, I'd say make sure development is high up on your list. I would be hard-pressed to think it wouldn't be because it's so changing and, 10 years ago, development was not in the top CEO strategic priorities, no way. But almost every single company now, when I ask a CEO what they are, it's in the top five. So that's cool.

And that means you have a really great …  like we, finally, as practitioners, have a runway to do the really cool work that we feel so passionate about. That really our thing. So grab that. And figure out what are some quick wins. How can you do things that really support the leaders in your organizations to be able to grow their benches of talent?

If you can do that and have really great talent-review meetings where people are aligning around language and growth plans, get individual development plans functioning in your organization. You can build that into performance management, succession planning. It helps you align all of your talent practices.

So many organizations have these separate little buckets for all their talent practices, and it's not really very effective because there's so much overlap in all that stuff. You know, performance management overlaps with succession; it overlaps with individual development planning; it overlaps with your learning and development strategy.

So it's really great to get all that stuff really neatly aligned and then develop leader capability to have really good, meaningful conversations and to create and to live out the employee needs that you decide you want to major in in your culture. And then you begin to, you know, put a nice cool little bow around that stuff and you can just keep building on it and improving it as you go forward.

[00:25:24] Jennifer: Well, it's tremendous insight and really, from our perspective as far as Springbuk, we're obviously looking at data from a healthcare perspective, and there's been a tremendous emphasis, obviously, on mental health over the past three years. It's really interesting to hear you speak from both the employer and employee sides of all these different attributes that are really important to make your employees happy, keep them there, but ensure that, you know, they're successful as well as the business, which very easily bleeds over into healthcare and mental health. And ultimately, again, it all weaves in together. It'd be fascinating to take a look at the companies that you're working closely with from this perspective and see what that impact has been on turnover rates as well as healthcare spend and all the stuff that we get into from the data side too.

I'm a data nerd, so I get really excited about that kind of stuff.

[00:26:23] Robyn: I think that's super interesting because we feel happier and our emotional well-being is better when our needs are met. You know, like each one of us gets up every single day on a mission to meet our needs for the day. Nobody gets up and says to themselves, “I'm gonna make today the crappiest day possible! When I go to bed tonight, I want to be miserable.”

No one does that. So we get up in the morning on a mission, you know, to make our day a great day. But it doesn't always turn out that way. Some days are better than other days. It can kind of be a rollercoaster ride of fun, but it's all based on whether or not our needs get met.

Now the really cool thing is we are responsible for that, right? We're responsible for meeting our own needs now as leaders inside organizations. What we want to do is build a sandbox that makes it easier for people to do that. We're not trying to take that responsibility away from people. It's my job to figure out what matters to me and what kinds of things I can do in order to make that work.

But it's sure easier to do it with good partners around. You know, we're not in this life together. You know, we're all one big tribe and community here. We work together on that stuff. So as leaders, we want to be taking the bricks out of the backpack and making it an easier climb up the mountain.

And when we do that, we promote the well-being of others, because when my needs are met, I go to bed feeling much better at night and much more empowered getting up in the morning. But if it's a toxic work environment, if I can't talk to my boss, if I feel like I'm being micromanaged, if I feel like nobody recognizes and rewards me for the efforts and energy that I put into the work, if all that stuff is going on, my mental health is going to be lower and my need for health benefits is going to be higher, right? Because we know there's such a connection between the body and the mind. So that's just amazing how it all sort of fits together.

But that goes back to where I started, which is about the culture and really deciding how you want to do that. It changes everything about the kind of environment that you create that creates the health and wellness for your organization. So I see a huge connection. I mean, there'd be a cool study to do in that for sure, but the connection is so clear, you know?

[00:28:39] Jennifer: Yeah, absolutely. And I think we will leave it at that note because that's a perfect ending, but thank you so much for joining us today, tremendous insights. And I am sure there are tons of people who are listening who will want to get in touch with you after this as far as just about your services and what else you are doing.

So what's the best way for someone to get in touch with you, Robyn?

[00:29:02] Robyn: Oh, terrific. And yes, thanks so much for having me and for having us. You could easily go to our website at winningwise.com. It's spelled exactly like, like it sounds “winning” and then “wise.” You could easily find us on LinkedIn. My name is Robyn Clark, you can look me up at WinningWise, or you can look up our WinningWise page.

You can find us very easily there. We have a blog. We have lots of insights and blogs and articles and all that stuff on our website. If you're interested, you want to read about any of these topics I'm talking about, we write about all of that stuff. So there's lots of information there. We also have an online scalable tool for career development, and we have videos on our website that can give people lots of ideas about how they can make career development much more available to everyone in an organization.

So you can find all that stuff there and easily get to it, but if you want to LinkedIn together, that'd be great. Send me an invite and we can start talking.

[00:30:02] Jennifer: Perfect. And TBD on that coordinated white paper we'll do together.

[00:30:08] Robyn: I would love it, we would love that. Love, love, love that. It'd be great.

[00:30:13] Jennifer: All right, and that's it for this episode of Healthcare On the Rocks: Employee Benefits With a Twist. Remember to get your copy of our in-depth Employee Health Trends report at springbuk.com/eht23. On the webpage, you'll also find links to a recent webinar of the Springbuk authors of the report, as well as other related resources.

[00:30:35] Mike: And finally, before we go, we would really love and appreciate if you would take a minute just to leave us a rating – preferably five stars – and like us on your favorite podcast platform. Thanks for listening, and until next time,