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Roundtable member HR webinar outlines talent strategies

Updated: Apr 14, 2023

By: Roundtable Staff


Tennessee Business Roundtable members Chris Murdock of IQTalent in Nashville and Chris Snow of American Residential Services in Memphis presented talent strategies for 2023 during a virtual session March 30 with fellow member-company human resources professionals. Both senior HR executives who represent their respective companies at the Roundtable, Murdock and Snow took turns outlining six key strategies to attract and improve talented employees during a one-hour virtual convening.

Chris Murdock and Chris Snow

“We are fortunate to have talent leaders like Chris Snow and Chris Murdock within the ranks of our member-company executives,” said Pat Sheehy, president of the Roundtable. “We appreciate Chris and Chris investing time to share about how they help their companies and partners to attract and retain top talent. Their insights equipped their corporate talent peers with new approaches that they can implement in today’s hyper-competitive talent market.”


Here are highlights and insights from the March 30 session:

Murdock and Snow began by outlining internal strategies for developing and retaining employees. Snow singled out internal mobility as a top retention strategy, pointing out that horizontal opportunities – those that offer workers the ability to change to another job type at the same level – feed workers’ needs to improve, achieve, learn and grow.


“I think most people make the mistake [of believing] that once you’re in a role, that’s [all you’re ever going] to do, especially if it’s a technical role,” Snow said. “It’s like, ‘hey, I’m satisfied’ or ‘I’m maxed earning in that.’…You’re going to lose your good employees if you don’t provide them with the opportunities to do something else or even exposure to learn, even if they’re not ‘getting a promotion.’”

Instead, Snow suggested, employees can be offered multiple vertical paths to career attainment – especially via roles different from those for which they were originally hired – to help retain valuable talent as senior employees above them retire. Snow described three strategies which are paying off big for ARS, giving the company “a tremendous amount of traction” in significantly reducing employee attrition. “We started an internal career day, and we did that really with no expense…We’ve also found rotational programs to be big, and we’ve also invested in training programs, specifically on our technical labor.”


Murdock described a successful mentoring practice that his own company adopted after learning how it helped one of their multinational Fortune 200 clients. “It was an informal mentoring program [which] came about because of some surveys that they had done [which showed] a lot of people didn’t understand what roles they could move into, what they could grow into,” said Murdock.


“And so we did that ourselves [after] one of our surveys showed that our [own] employees didn’t know where they could grow. We started putting in place lunch-and-learns to show people what their paths could be, and then we started mentor and mentee programs to make sure that people could get to where they want to go.” The results? “We have actually seen attrition drop because [our] people can see not just a horizontal opportunity, but they now see a vertical opportunity to grow.”

Snow and Murdock then discussed how employers can develop and train skilled talent by partnering with technical higher education institutions. While many companies try to cast a wide net by connecting with as many post-secondary providers as possible, Snow related that taking a ‘narrower and deeper’ approach has worked better for his. “We’ve really tried to develop local relationships in each state to where they’ve got one or two [schools] that they’re working with,” he said.


Murdock talked about how employers are now expanding their talent outreach to social organizations in non-workforce contexts as a means of getting in front of workers interested in working in their industries.


“One of our railway clients had to build their own train conductor training program, but they struggled to find the students to go into it,” Murdock said. “They didn’t know where to start, so we helped them find pockets of train aficionados in the various geographies where they were trying to recruit the conductors. It’s not just trade school relationships, but also social groups are also a good sign.”

After his firm began targeting the client’s jobs to online social platforms, says Murdock, the approach began to bear fruit in just 90 days. “They were able to fill more classes in three months than they had in the three years prior, because they were actually building a relationship with an online group versus just a trade school.”


Next, Snow and Murdock highlighted the value of partnering with the military on transitioning enlisted servicemembers and officers to civilian careers – another avenue for attracting quality talent.


Snow hailed veterans hired by ARS as among the “most committed, reliable and diverse” within its employee base, and highlighted how his company works with military bases and partners with others to offer civilian career exploration opportunities to transitioning service members. He recommended the Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve (ESGR) as a valuable resource for employers in recruiting National Guard servicemembers.


Murdock noted the challenges posed in “translating” military occupations and experience to civilian skill sets and jobs, and how multiple “MOS Converter” tools have been developed and utilized in response. He also pointed out a novel way for talent staff to recruit and hire new veterans to worksites across multiple geographic markets.


“One thing to also note, everyone who transitions out of the military gets one free relocation fully paid for by the government,” Murdock said. “So, you could be recruiting for someone [to work] in Memphis from Fort Campbell, and the government will pay for that one relocation.”

Murdock and Snow then addressed the need for employers to overcome generational stereotypes and biases to make prudent talent acquisition, development and retention decisions.


Murdock said it’s important – especially for talent leaders who belong to older generations – to understand that different generations think, work and learn uniquely. He emphasized that employers need to tailor or modify their approaches to training – and even to defining work and rewards – in order to effectively convey the value of their company and employment opportunities to candidates spanning multiple generations.


Snow echoed Murdock’s ideas, pointing out that his own company has discovered significant generational “dynamics between departments when they work together - it is very interesting.” To prevent generational friction, Show said his company addresses this up front as part of its manager training – and that because of the importance of creating understanding, ARS is considering offering the generational training component as a stand-alone training.


Murdock and Snow then discussed recruitment of younger generations through employment branding. Snow noted it’s important for companies to “right-size” their expectations by not expecting younger workers to mirror the generations that are now at or near retirement. He recommended companies position themselves in ways that resonate meaningfully with younger employees.


“A lot of companies are focusing on ‘who’ they are, so employment branding is becoming incredibly important in retention,” Murdock said. “Gen Z and Millennials will literally stop working for a company if they feel that the company doesn’t align with who they are and what they care about.”

Snow said employers can “brand” themselves successfully to these generations by attaching a sense of challenge, accomplishment and achievement to working at their company. As it has implemented strategies aimed in this direction, Snow notes that his company’s levels of customer satisfaction and employee turnover, satisfaction and internal placement have all trended positively. “I don’t think those things move individually; they all move together.”


Murdock wrapped up the presented material by discussing why it’s important for employers to move from a “compensation” mindset to a “rewards” mindset. He highlighted flexibility and choice as foundational elements of a “total rewards” approach. Murdock suggested that employers can succeed by first deciding their total benefit spend per employee, then providing multiple benefit options from which each employee can choose in deciding how they want to build and receive their total benefit package.


Snow and Murdock ended the presentation by fielding questions from fellow HR leaders on how to implement flexible or step-down programs for employees not fully ready to retire, making internal career-exploration resources available equitably for both corporate and field employees, and targeted recruiting strategies.


ABOUT THE PRESENTERS

Chris Murdock is a recruiting and talent acquisition veteran. He co-founded IQTalent in 2009 and currently leads search execution and client relationships as the chief sourcing officer for his 300-person firm based in Nashville. Murdock is a highly sought-after speaker and presenter available to the media as an expert source on workforce planning, corporate culture, candidate research, talent acquisition and recruiting.


Chris Snow is senior vice president and chief human resources officer at American Residential Services, LLC. Headquartered in Memphis, ARS is the nation’s premier provider of residential heating, ventilation, air conditioning, electrical and plumbing services. Snow serves as a member of the executive leadership team and leads the human resources, learning and development, talent acquisition and communications functions across a network of more than 75 branches and about 7,000 employees.

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