What you'll learn

  • The four things companies need to consider in order to be successful at recruiting
  • The importance of emphasizing the candidate experience
  • Five levers organizations can pull in order to retain talent


Click to read podcast transcript

Catch, Don’t Release – Transcript

Elliot Clark, CEO of HRO Today

Elise Freedman, Senior Client Partner at Korn Ferry
David Napeloni, Vice President, Client Services, Life Sciences at Korn Ferry

Elliot Clark: Good morning, good afternoon, or good evening and welcome to another HRO Today educational podcast. Today we're talking about the burning platform that is talent. Yes, the war for talent rages on. It's now in its 10,000th year of human history. And it's getting worse, not better. Today we’re going to be talking with two executives from Korn Ferry. Korn Ferry is one of the world's leading human resource service consulting and technology organizations with services built around recruitment, talent acquisition, talent retention and data and analytics.

I'm Elliot Clark, the CEO of HRO today, we publish HRO Today magazine we publish HRO Today EMEA and HRO Today APAC. We're also the producers of the HRO Today forums held around the world. And we're the managers of the HRO Today Association. I'm joined today by two distinguished members of Korn Ferry staff. Korn Ferry, as I said, also, by the way, one of the leading providers of recruitment process outsourcing services and employee engagement and retention services, leading in the sense that they are perennially on our HRO Today Baker's Dozen lists of service providers in multiple categories. We're joined today by David Napeloni, who is the VP of Client Services for Life Sciences, and has been with Korn Ferry for about eight years. And before that, actually worked in the life science industry. He is the VP of Client Services for their RPO group and has worked on developing recruitment programs for some of the largest life science companies in the world. And we'll hear from David in just a moment.

And we're also joined by Elise Freedman, who is a senior client partner at Korn Ferry on the talent management side. And she works with clients to develop talent strategies, and talent management processes to ensure retention of their workforce, more productivity. She's been with Korn Ferry for about two years. And before that spent more than 12 years with Willis Towers Watson also consulting some of the world's largest companies on talent retention and talent management topics. So, David and Elise, welcome to the podcast.

Elise Freedman: Thank you.

Elliot: So, I want to start off by saying that we are in unprecedented times, you look at some of the statistics that have come out, 40% of employees say they're actively looking for another job, the media likes the term ‘great resignation’. I'm not necessarily a big believer in that. But there is a lot of pent-up demand for new jobs, new opportunities. And there is also a great deal of wage inflation, labor economists would say no, no wage inflation isn't keeping up with price inflation. But it's really like watching two greyhounds chase each other, one is just a little faster. All right. So, we really have time where employers can’t even give people enough raises, to keep track with what a company down the street might pay them. So, a lot of pressure or pivoting in many, many white collar job families around this. It's also partly driven by employees after the pandemic, they're burned out. Okay, they're disconnected. They've been working from home, which doesn't necessarily build loyalty to organizations and companies are trying to rework their culture to address that. So, we're going to actually talk about these two things, how to get them and how to keep them. Alright, so I'm going to start, David, let me go to you. We've seen a huge number of companies are all vying for the same, not only the same some very hot job families, but everyone wants the top 10% of the market. No one ever runs an ad for looking for mediocre executive. Everyone wants the very best, right? So, what is sort of one key takeaway, you can tell your clients at Korn Ferry that make companies more successful at attracting and hiring talent, versus the clients who you see who are struggling? Right, who you would consider target clients because there may be vulnerable to recruiting? What distinguishes the really good ones from the ones where you can recruit their people?

David Napeloni: Yeah, thanks. Thanks for having us, Elliot. First off, you know, and I'd like to tell you that there is only one, there's a secret sauce and there really isn't. It's a market that is evolving and changing faster than I've ever really seen, and in my entire career. Every six months to a year, there seems to be a newer emphasis on what's important to potential candidates that I think our clients are trying to adjust to. But what I'll tell you is there's an overall theme that seems to be prevalent across the companies that are doing it right. So let me give you a number of our few different areas.

So first, of course, you hit the nail on the head with the wage inflation. Of course, most of our clients now are really looking at what their internal ranges are for positions to try to keep up with market conditions. This is a factor that I don't think anyone can deny at this point. And the almighty dollar absolutely is influencing maybe a candidate to listen right, to the potential proposal from a recruiter or from a client, or even allowing them on a Sunday afternoon to check the needs on different job boards. So, salary is absolutely a criteria. But what I'll tell you is that I think more so nowadays, the benefit package, the rewards packages, the potential for a sign on bonus, all fall into this category of benefits or secondary types of benefits that are influencing this final decision on a candidate. So, if the potential for salary is initiating the concept of “maybe I should look for something new”, the idea of where they may go, is really falling into that second category, which I think is again, all of those benefits that maybe would have not been as important in pre-pandemic lives, but absolutely are nowadays.

And wouldn't you know, the other part that I put into that is the work life balance, which I think nowadays, we should consider as a benefit. It's no longer a tertiary type of area that we would look at and say, “Oh, by the way, work life balance falls into that category as health benefits”. And it's very important to candidates to see that. Now, the last thing I'll say, maybe the second to last thing is the EVP brand, obviously, to the selling proposition to a client or to a candidate on who the company is, is important. But I would wrap all of this up into candidate experience, I think the idea of how companies are engaging a candidate, the process by which they're putting them through the days of multiple interviews are over. The idea of pitching to a candidate rather than being pitched to by the candidate. It's, it's a new world. So, all of these are factors. All of these are that one area that companies are doing better.

Elliot: David, do you think that, if you think about most job advertising, most Employer Branding, really lead historically, if you go back 10 years, 20 years, whatever they lead, historically, with the job description, and the job content, “you will be a recruiter doing work in in life sciences…”. Do you think they need to rethink that and really lead with sort of the workplace culture of the job, the work life balance as a more prominent aspect of how companies are soliciting candidates for the future?

David: Yeah, I would argue like, you'd have a hard time to find an established, and you know what I'd consider, a blue chip or top tier type of company that isn't leaving their job description, with a selling proposition to potential candidates “here, you get to change the world”, or “we're leading the industry with these types of products” that pitch to candidates to really understand what their purpose may be in the role, and understand why they should be there with the nuts and bolts of what they might do in the role, certainly further down on the job description. So that change is happening. But for companies that aren't keeping up, it's very, very clear or it’s very evident to candidates that they may not be as progressive in today's market.

Elliot: And that impacts you know, you talk a little bit about candidate experience. We know from lots of studies that if somebody, some employee has a bad experience during the recruiting process, you can still buy him, right? You make the big enough offer. They'll take the job, but they're much more prone to being short tenured than someone who had a very positive process, right. You're in the catch them category. So, your job and the Korn Ferry RPO team is out there to catch them.

Let me turn now to Elise, whose job is to keep them. All right. So, we know that money does buy acceptances, you can buy people, or you can pay him and offer an upcharge over where they are, but you can't necessarily keep them, money doesn't buy loyalty, it might buy the acceptance. So, we don't want to be in the rental market for people. Okay, we don't have we're not running the Airbnb version of employment. So, what's the real retention story in 2022? Now that we're in the, we hope, the post pandemic world, what do you see as being really critical aspects to employment retention? What are you telling your companies to keep doing, to start doing and to stop doing?

Elise: Great questions, Elliot, and I'd say that really the last 24 months have changed a lot for businesses, for leaders, for employees. And we've really seen the power shift from organizations to people, from profit to mutual prosperity and for “me” to “we”. And what we've seen really over the last couple of years, there's a lot of people really stepping back and really thinking about their work and reevaluating what they're doing and why and who for, and many of those people are choosing to make job changes. And I would say that a lot of the things that David said about attraction are also very similar to the retention area. The reasons that people are leaving are varied. Sometimes the work isn't fulfilling as much as they'd like. Sometimes people just are exhausted and want to do something different, or they've decided they just want to retire and kind of live a different type of life, there are a number of folks that have been able to leverage this into a nice pay increase. And we've also seen that flexibility and remote work both kind of being a dual edged sword in some cases. In some cases, employees are feeling a little bit less connected to the company. But in other cases, it's opening a lot of doors for employees and helping enable them a better work life balance. So, I basically say kind of like David, you said, there's like no one solution, that with retention, there are no silver bullets. The causes are multifaceted, and so are the solutions. And I would say that, you know, many organizations do start with a focus on money, but really, they need to think longer term. And it's more about like you talked about the candidate experience, David, it's about the employee experience and having a really strong employee value proposition and an equitable rewards approach.

So, in our research at Korn Ferry and leveraging our employee database of employee perceptions, as well as our KFI Institute, we found there are five levers that organizations can really focus on to help retain, and one of them is playing for a winner. The other one is somewhere to go if I stay. The third is a fair exchange. The fourth is control and influence. And the fifth is environment for success. And I'll kind of pause there Elliot happy to give some examples of what we've seen clients do in some of those areas, but just want to pause to let you see if there's any questions you want to ask about some of the initial information I've shared.

Elliot: Well, first of all, I can't count above three, so giving me five was overwhelming. I'm assuming that people can find this on the Korn Ferry website or the Korn Ferry Institute website, at www.Kornferry.com. The interesting thing, you know, you talk about the employees needing to feel like they play for a winner, that they have purpose. But one of the things I thought was most interesting was the “I have somewhere to go if I stay”, because now I'm going to shift to the other side of the table and say, David's pitch is, “you have somewhere to go if you leave”, right. But most companies don't look at themselves as actually re-recruiting their own internal employees. So, what companies need to do now to re-recruit people as they're going through their career journey. Right. So, what are the things that you recommend they do?

Elise: Yeah, that's a great question, only a couple of different things I would say. First of all, I've had some friends and other colleagues over the years talk about they've been at a company for 20 years, but they’ve had five different careers. So, in other words, that they feel like they're learning and growing in their current company. So, organizations really need to invest on development and career mobility and give people opportunities. And, for example, one of our financial services clients, when they were looking at their population and doing analysis of their turnover, they realized they were losing their under 30 employees a lot more than they were other employees. In fact, they had a kind of unbalance, so they had more employees over 60 than they did under 30. And what they found when they looked into this and did some focus groups and some pulse surveys, was that people felt like they had nowhere to go, they didn't see the career path. So, what they did was they invested in a development program that involved job rotations and skill building. And after putting that program in place, they actually saw a significant decrease in turnover for their employees under 30.

The other thing I would do, and I think, for example, that Accenture does this really well, it's again, how do you re-recruit employees that have actually left and Accenture, for example, has a really active alumni network where they push out information about the organization, they share jobs, and they make it so that people really consider ok I might have worked like, so for example, I worked at Accenture very early in my career, and they keep up with me. So, if I ever decided I wanted to go back, it would be a really easy transition because they've created a network that that could happen. So those are a couple things that organizations have done.

Elliot: That's great and asked for like employees under 30 I actually count myself has two, because I'm, you know, I'm close enough to make that work the math. So, it's the, it is interesting, because you know, you think about it nowadays, you know, speaking to our audience, you really have to be almost good at everything to be an employer of choice. So, you're going to be great at giving candidates a seamless experience, that is a positive experience, can't just be efficient. It's got to be that you actually seem to be interested in who they are and what they care about. And David talked about being able to, to change the messaging to include some of those cultural aspects, those work life balance aspects as part of it. And to your point, Elise, about really thinking through there are a number of different aspects of having a very positive culture that people will want to stay with. So, and by the way to the folks in our audience, we do quick podcasts here. These are very deep topics. There's a wealth of information on www.Kornferry.com. Korn Ferry is one of the leading providers of services around recruitment and retention. And as we all know, you’ve got to be good at both. So, if you're looking for overarching guidance on strategy in these areas, they're a great choice for our audience.

I want to thank Elise Freedman, who is a senior client partner at Korn Ferry and their talent management group providing strategic advice on, on talent management and retention. I want to thank David Napeloni who is the vice president of Client Services in their RPO group for their life sciences sector, for taking part. Thanks, Dave. Thanks, Elise. And I want to thank our audience for your time and attention to this HRO today podcast. Stay tuned for our next one. And we hope you found this interesting, exciting, and illuminating. Thank you and good day.


“The war for talent rages on — and it’s getting worse, not better.” That was how Elliot Clark, the CEO of HRO Today, set the stage for a recent podcast, Catch, Don’t Release: A Workforce Optimization Podcast. He was joined by David Napeloni, Vice President, Client Services, at Korn Ferry, and Elise Freedman, Senior Client Partner at Korn Ferry.

Observing that we are “in unprecedented times” with 40% of employees actively looking for a new job, Clark noted that there’s a lot of pent-up demand for new opportunities. At the same time, he argued there’s also a great deal of wage inflation. So, employers are facing a quandary: they can’t give people in white-collar jobs enough raises to keep pace with their competition.

Meanwhile, employees are suffering from post-pandemic burnout. They’re less connected to their employer than ever because they’ve been working from home. That makes it easier for them to explore new opportunities — and harder than ever for employers to hold on to good talent.

With these trends in mind, Clark asked Napeloni and Freedman for their thoughts on how to attract and retain employees.

What can companies do to attract top talent?

Clark commented that many companies are vying for the same job families and, within them, the top 10% of the market. He asked Napeloni for the key factors that make some organizations better at attracting and hiring talent than others.

Napeloni lamented that there isn’t a “secret sauce” to help companies gain footing in a fast-changing market. “Every six months to a year, there seems to be a new emphasis on what’s important to potential candidates that our clients are trying to adjust to.” Despite the disruption in the market, Napeloni said there are four general themes among companies that are more successful at recruiting.

Four considerations for successful recruiting

First, Napeloni said, employers should ensure they meet the market range for their positions. “The almighty dollar is influencing a candidate to listen to the potential proposal from a recruiter or a client or even allowing them on a Sunday afternoon to check the needs on different job boards.” But more important than that is the entire rewards package, including benefits and signing bonuses.

Second, employers should focus on work-life balance. Napeloni suggests balance should be viewed as a benefit. “It’s no longer a tertiary area . . . and it's very important to candidates to see that.”

Third, the company needs a strong employer value proposition. The company must have a clearly articulated, positive brand that resonates with prospective employees.

Emphasizing the candidate experience

The fourth thing to consider, Napeloni remarked, is that it all folds into candidate experience. “The idea of how companies are engaging a candidate — the process by which they're putting them through the days of multiple interviews — are over. It’s the idea of pitching to a candidate rather than being pitched to by the candidate. It’s a new world.”

As a result, Napeloni suggested that companies need to recruit candidates differently. Instead of leading with a job description, employers should start with the workplace culture and work-life balance. Napeloni suggested a selling proposition, such as “you get to change the world” or “we’re leading the industry with these types of products.” Basically, it’s a pitch to candidates to help them understand their purpose in the role followed by what they might do following later in the job description.

For companies that aren’t following this trend, they can still “buy” candidates, Clark noted. But they’re going to have to make a bigger offer. And then, the candidate is more likely to have a shorter tenure than someone who had a better, more positive experience.

He added, “We don’t want to be in the rental market for people. We’re not running the Airbnb version of employment.” He then asked Freedman for tips that organizations can use to improve employee retention.

Recruitment Process Outsourcing

More than RPO - talent realized

How can companies retain talent once they “catch” it?

Freedman observed, “The power has shifted over the last two years from organizations to people.” Employees have stepped back to re-evaluate their work, consider what they’re doing and why. Many of these people, she said, have chosen to make job changes for reasons including wanting to be more fulfilled, to do something different or retire.

Given the variety of reasons for leaving, there’s “no silver bullet” for retention that Freedman offered, but instead of starting with a focus on money, Freedman advised that organizations should think longer-term. “It’s about the employee experience and having a really strong employee value proposition and an equitable rewards approach.”

Freedman recommended that organizations consider five levers to pull that will help them retain talent.

  1. Play for a winner: Employees need confidence that the organization is well led and headed in the right direction.
  2. Ways to grow: Employees need to have a positive view of their opportunities to learn and grow with the organization.
  3. A fair exchange: Employees need to know that they’re valued as people and see a balance between rewards and contributions.
  4. A sense of control and influence: Employees want authority that matches their responsibilities and an opportunity to shape how work is done.
  5. Environment for success: Employees want efficient work processes and collaborative support from co-workers to allow them to perform at their best.

In other words, companies need to continue recruiting their internal people as they go through their career journey. Freedman gave two examples of this internal recruitment. One company struggling to retain under-30 talent invested in a development program that involved job rotations and skill building. Another created an alumni network so they could keep former employees connected to the company and aware of new opportunities.

Building a positive culture to retain talent

Clark summed up the call by suggesting that winning at talent acquisition and retention means that employers must offer candidates and employees a positive experience. All three speakers agreed that organizations must focus on building a positive culture that attracts people and encourages them to stay.

For more tips on how to improve employee recruitment and retention, listen to the full podcast here or contact us today.