Employee Retention in 2021

  • Zack:

All right, thanks, everybody for joining in for the K-12 tech podcast, today’s topic is recruiting, training, and retaining employees especially in today’s market. This is on everybody’s minds, both in the private sector, in the public sector. Today, our expert is Mee Hee Smith, and we’re also joined by Jeffrey Botteron. Mee Hee, you can introduce yourself and your background and just where you’ve gone through your career.


  • Mee Hee:

Sure. Thanks for having me today, Mee Hee Smith. My background actually started in health care and very briefly was my first career. I switched careers actually in education, Secondary Education, stayed in for about ten years, and made the jump to the Indiana Department of Workforce Development. Wanted to kind of scale and work with a lot of different industry sectors. While there is what the Indiana Office and Workplace Learning and Apprenticeship. Currently, I’m now with the Ivy Tech Community College, Hamilton County campus, located here in Noblesville, and I am the executive director of career coaching and employer connections.


  • Zack:

Awesome. Thank you so much. You know one thing to kind of just prime the conversation, and I was looking up a few articles because of everyone’s hearing something from both ends and where it’s coming from right now. Not right now. Sorry. As of August seventh, this is an article by CNBC. There was 8.6 million people out of work and 10 million open jobs in the United States. So there are more jobs than people, maybe, maybe for the first time ever. I kind of want to get a little bit of back and forth on, you know, from what you see. Why do you think this is? Obviously, the pandemic is doing some things. What from your side are you seeing why there’s such an increase in jobs, but also just not enough people?


  • Mee Hee:

Yeah, there’s a lot of factors that really intensify things prior to the pandemic. While I was at the Department of Workforce Development, we saw there was still talent challenges. Employers were saying more “We can’t find the right skilled talent”. That was really the language we were hearing as the pandemic really heightened and grew and we started hearing, “we can’t find talent”. The skill piece went away. That’s what it becomes a little scary because the employers just need people and a lot of factors.

We know that a lot of states receive unemployment. Unemployment insurance are at the time at DWP. Unemployment is a large function of Department of Workforce Development, and so we saw that people were going on unemployment. Talent was going out and out.

I think people realized with also the remote work shift, I think that was starting to happen and was going to happen. It just really progressed fast. With the pandemic, and I think what people realize is that a work environment that was maybe hybrid, remote or fully remote, it provided some flexibility and scheduling and work options. And I think that’s also contributed to the positions as a lot of companies thought, you know what we can, we can do this remote and it became a value to certain employees looking and that became part of a compensation package that we can provide remote work as we know what happened in education.

K-12 education and school started to go virtual or remote hybrid. The flexibility know parents needed. I know a lot of parents and myself, we struggled through that, and I think that’s a lot of that. What we see now that’s also contributed to why there are more posting than enough people to fill them.

So I think there’s a lot of contributing factors there. I think companies that were very agile moved quickly to say, Hey people and retain you. Let’s think about offering what you might need right now. Might give remote work environment because your child may have to go home. And so I think companies that are able to adapt quickly have been able to do that. Some industries have not been able to do that. So a variety of factors, I think they’re.


  • Zack:

Yeah. And Jeff, I want to hear from the, you know, education side. And you know, I have an economics background and has spent quite a bit of time just looking into this. And you know, there was an aspect where a lot of people are like, “Oh, there’s a ton of people just pulling that employment”. And that would be an issue if there weren’t enough people for the jobs. But really, the unemployment rate isn’t much higher. It’s actually lower than even pre-pandemic numbers, but not very much off.

But the big thing is for us is following CDC guidelines. If we have somebody that is sick, like maybe has a cough or a cold they need, they have to stay home until they have a negative test. And then there’s a whole bunch of factors in there because if there are any instant tests available, then we have to wait for potentially two or three days while that employee is home. So what we realized on the private sector is we’re constantly having maybe 10% of our staff members out just following CDC guidelines. And then that paired with very low interest rates on, you know, refinancing homes or doing any home equity work.

I mean, I feel like that’s exposed to everybody that I know has done some sort of home project. You know, people are living at Menards and Home Depot and all those places. And then and then also just with just with people getting some sort of government funding through checks or subsidies, a lot of people who were able to keep their jobs were spending money on things they wouldn’t typically spend on. I think most of my neighbor bought a new car or, you know, doing home improvements or buying a new gadget. So I think we are seeing just an overall increase in demand of things in general, just because of that printing and distributing of money. So that’s what I’m seeing on the private sector. Jeff, on your side in the school, what have your challenges been?


  • Jeff:

Yeah, the schools kind of have a whole bunch of different challenges, right, like one is just retaining teachers right now. As far as our teachers, you know, spouse, they may be getting, you know, a new job, new income, it makes it a little bit more tempting to stay at home with the kids. So we saw probably the most turnover that we have seen in our teaching staff this last summer. And I think largely it was folks that were saying, “Hey, you know, I’m kind of going to hang it up for a little bit.” I’m going to stay at home with my littles and I’m going to have a great time. So that part of it, I think, is a direct result of, you know, these salary increases that we’re seeing when people are choosing to jump jobs.

I think the other thing that’s really interesting in this kind of plays into a little bit of you know Mee Hee’s role and specifically her employer, Ivy Tech. We had been working with Ivy Tech to try to recruit some tech team members. You know, ideally maybe first second year folks going for an associate’s degree. And you know, one of the biggest questions that we’re getting is is this remote. And it’s like, Well, you know, like we start to physically fix these devices that our kids have.

So we actually need you on campus. And that’s been proving to be a little bit of a challenge. So it’s been an interesting year, and I suspect that that trend towards people just wanting to stay remote kind of regardless of seniority level is probably around for a while, if not here permanently.


  • Zack:

Yeah, that’s a really good point. You know, I’ve heard, we work with like 140-150 districts across the United States. And actually the main pain point that I hear is actually substitute teachers. They can’t get substitute teachers because teachers have to stay home.

Same thing following the CDC guidelines. And even if a teacher is teaching from home, there has to be someone physically in the classroom. And that challenge, definitely on the on the public side, has been extremely difficult. You know, you know, that’s the pandemic, you know?

And really, you know Mee Hee, from your point at Ivy Tech in what you’re doing and also your history as well. What would you say like has changed with employers when they’re looking for employees? Has there had to be a big shift in training and they have to have better training and trained people faster? Like what have you seen kind of how are companies adapting and what are they looking for?


  • Mee Hee:

I think, you know, even pre-pandemic, a lot of employers were looking for shorter term training options to upskill their talent faster. Now that, you know, we’re kind of in the pandemic, still still very similar approaches for employers of looking at that.

I think some employers that relied on training entities such as Ivy Tech, we are an education training provider. They’ve started to look at how can we do it in house? How can we partner differently so that we can scale our talent faster because that is part of a retention strategy?

When you’re hiring someone, once you get them in the door, what what is the training look like? What does that continuation look like for that employee? Jeff mentioned Ivy tech students there in our programs, progressing through some short term certificates technical, potentially a degree one or two year degree.

And we even really promote with employers. What’s next for that employee? What are you selling to that student potential prospective employee? That’s going to spark something because we have lots of employers coming to us wanting to hire, doing strategies earlier, much earlier, even tapping into those high schools.

And I’m sure you see that a lot of how do they start to grow their own talent differently? How do they recruit in different pockets? So I think I see a lot of employers now looking at how are we training our employees?

Maybe they have it, and a lot of them maybe didn’t have to rely on that lens, so to speak. But during the pandemic, because an employee will jump to a different employer in the same industry, but there’s maybe better benefits.

Maybe there is a better tuition reimbursement package along and add to that employee that wants to scale themselves up. That’s what they, you know, that’s what they’re looking for from a new position or they’re looking for different options that employers looking at.

And I think a lot of H.R. teams right now, they’re very busy and I’m sure a lot of H.R. teams in multiple sectors, they look at the rate of resignations right now because it is the great resignation right now, and they’re looking at how many are resigning, how many are coming in, what’s that rate?

What are those exit surveys look like? Could we have prevented anything and are we listening to our employees? So there’s a lot of changes that I think quickly our teams in all sectors are really looking at differently because so many people are leaving their positions.


  • Zack:

Yeah, and that’s that’s a really good point. one thing that I have noticed and I’ve heard from employees is also a frustration on the recruiting side. So, you know, we’re going through a huge hiring process as well, and we’ve done we’ve done a lot of work on that exact thing.

What are we? What are we selling like? What is our culture like? Why would someone want to work for us? What does their career progression look like? And as we’re interviewing people, what we heard is what also say Hey, will offer them a job like, Oh, my employer came back and offered me $4 more an hour.

And what we’re realizing is, why didn’t they offer you that before you left or something or letting you know that you were capable of that? And I think I think a lot of these businesses that were like, “Oh, I’m getting a good deal right now on my current employees” they’re they’re really having to think like, I need to make sure that they know that I appreciate them, that I’m getting them up to that market value. And that’s been a really big push for us at K-12 Tech. When it comes to hiring, we completely restructured where our employees are.

They’ve got an increase in their base pay, but they have they have full capabilities to make an additional two $3 an hour based on production. And we’re creating more of an environment where, like you, your your pay is merited on your work and how well you do that.

And we’ve noticed an increase in people enjoying and then also the people who maybe don’t enjoy that that much. They’re like, you know, I’m going to look for something else. But what I’m realizing as a company and public and private is, what is your culture?

Is your culture rewarding those people who are working hard and are good employees? Or is everybody on the same playing field? And what does promotion look like? And as we’re growing across the United States, basically an employee could come in and in six months eventually, you know, if they have some previous experience, could be a location manager making like a really good wage. So that’s what that’s what employees come in. They’re interviewing for us. We’re letting them know like this is what your career progression looks like. And we’ve noticed that a lot of people coming in like that.

And you know, Jeff, my question is from the education standpoint, is that harder or what are you when you’re interviewing teachers and tech team? Like, what are you trying to convey to them? Like what? How are you trying to bring them in?


  • Jeffrey:

Yeah, I mean, our teacher markets are a little bit different because we are in the private sector. We’re a network of Catholic schools. There’s also a little bit of that, that kind of moral purpose or underlying reason why somebody may join.

But, in technology specifically, you know, I think to pull off something that me, he just said was, you know, there has to be an incentive for why folks want to come to you, right? And it can’t just be, “Hey, this is going to look good on your resume.” You know, it’s got to be you got to go deeper than that. So one of the things that we’re trying to work out is a structured fellowship. So we can say, Look, we’re not your destination, right? We know that you’re going, you’re getting your associate’s degree and you’re going to continue on a path to higher earnings and likely what we can offer. But through this fellowship, here are some of the connections that we can make for you.

And I think that’s going to be one of the keys to schools recruiting, you know, really talented young individuals is being a launching pad and understanding that you can’t retain. You can’t really expect to retain these folks in the education sector as a Tier one tech for the long haul, and you may not have those career opportunities or career progressions present that industry may have. But if you can tee people up for that, you can get them for two or three years and within those two or three years, they can do a lot to help your organization. That kind of sounds familiar with what some organizations might be doing to me.


  • Mee Hee:

And it does. I love that because organizations really have to self-reflect. What can we offer? Is it realistic and you kind of hit it right there, Jeff. Employees aren’t staying like they used to for seven to ten years, we would love that, right?

They’re not. They’re staying for two, three years testing the market, building skills experience. If a company already says, where do you want to go? If that’s one of the first questions that you ask to a prospective employee, how do you want to grow? Where do you see yourself? It may not even be with us, but we’d love to bring you on board and help you get there. From a value standpoint, because right now it is about the employee and what value they see in their new company, their next company.

That’s the market. You know, the employees really are shifting the market and we’ve seen that with wages and we are hearing a lot of companies reassessing what is our purpose here and what do we give as value to our current employees? And if we can keep them, keep them for two to three years, that’s great. That’s that’s great. Of course, you want to also build and structures that can sustain them and win management roles that you talked about, you know, like different location managers, excuse me. So I think when we think of that, I hear a lot of that. I hear a lot of that with different companies.


  • Zack:

Yeah. And, you know, one thing that we’ve also realized is it also makes hiring so so when the market is like this, it also makes hiring. Finding the right person even more important because you don’t have as much time to train, you don’t have as much time to be like, All right, I think this employee could work out when you really need somebody. What we’ve really been focusing on, too, is what traits are we looking for in an employee specifically in the tech world like? So, you know, I’ve owned some repair stores and stuff, you know, for about ten years. So, you know, if hired and trained and you know, I’ve had, you know, probably close to 150 people, you know, right around that number. And what I’ve found out is over those years, I found out like, Oh, people who may be mechanically minded, they like working on cars are actually pretty good hardware technicians.

Typically, it’s a similar mindset. And then people who are gamers enjoy like PC gaming specifically are typically pretty good hardware people. And they understand technology. They understand software. So just having those keywords in those things that you can ask as they interview me, I feel like we’ve been able to kind of see, OK, like these employees have good traits that we’ve seen in the past that, you know, really kind of work out. And Jeff, I kind of want to hear from your standpoint, especially in the tech side. What are you looking for when you’re getting when you’re interviewing? What are some keywords you’re like? I like that about this person or I think that they’re going to work out over some other standard ones.


  • Jeffrey:

Yeah, so. Well, I think again, I just keep going back on these points that Mee Hee’s making because it’s we have to be so well-crafted in how we go about recruiting people. And the fact of the matter is it’s like even if we offer the best fellowships with the best launching pads and think about like K-12, you know, just the environment. We connect with so many vendors over the course of a year that we can introduce that new employee to so that they can level up at some point that that new employees coming to us, they have that advantage.

Let’s be realistic. Not everybody’s going to take that initial dip in salary to come join K-12 tech, right? And not the company K-12 as in the environment, right? They’re not going to take that back and necessarily take that dip.

So then you have to start getting creative, and that’s where it links into what you just asked me back. And that’s what sort of characteristics are we looking for while we’re looking for people? Yes, that are mechanically minded, that naturally are problem solvers.

Honestly, at times we’re looking for folks that are just already in our buildings doing things that that that are, you know, likely to indicate that they can level up. So if we see an administrative assistant, that’s particularly good at managing the data flow through the student information system, we’re going to look to see can that person level up into that next role when it opens? And what do we have to do to offer those inline career training opportunities so that when that opportunity arises, when we see that person that’s in that role now leave, we’ve got somebody internally to level up.

So we’re looking to see if are they collaborative? Do they go after solving problems on their own? Are they are they? Are they willing to, I guess, stick with something as opposed to just call the first person as soon as they hit an error?

When we see those sort of things, we start saying, OK, there might be some internal talent externally coming in. Here’s one of the things that we realized we used to be able to offer, or we used to be able to run performance task with prospective employees.

Prospective employees aren’t hanging around long enough right now to do performance tasks, so it’s actually much harder to figure out who the right person is. So, so for us, you know, in the questions that we’re asking, it’s kind of tell us a little bit about yourself and some of those hobbies, like you said, if they like working on cars, they like working on their home. They’re naturally leaning towards that problem solving mindset. So actually just asking them about their hobbies as they’re coming in can be a very helpful thing and figuring out whether or not that that person’s potentially going to be the right fit.


  • Zack:

Yeah those are great points. And you know what we’re working on like adapting. You know, it’s kind of what Mee Hee said, even before we started recording, like this is an employee market and employer market, you know, we don’t have people wanting it to be like, I want to drop off my application.

They’re just hoping and praying that they get, you know, an interview. And it’s kind of like the housing market, like it’s a seller’s market right now, not a buyer’s market. And there’s this huge shifts based on supply and demand.

So like Mee Hee, I mean, the big question is, you know, it’s interesting because you see both sides you see from the side of the student who’s looking for a job that also from the employer side. What do you think? Like on recruiting, right, what where are your students finding these jobs in these opportunities or people coming to you? Maybe. And then what’s selling them? What do you think is selling them on going to an organization over another organization?


  • Mee Hee:

Well, we do internally here. We have a talent connection manager that actually is very employer facing role, but they’re connecting with those employers that say, yes, I want to engage with college students early while they’re in their first semester of classes so that I can market, you know, market why we are a great employer, why we’re local, what we value and they want to start connecting. And so we’re seeing a lot of those employers very eager right now because they realize if they never had a pipeline talent strategy for talent acquisition, they need to get one pretty quick.

And it is to pipeline earlier, and we always encourage employers. It sounds weird, but I tell them, are you interacting with fifth graders? And they’re like, No, you should, because that is as early as you can start. I would even to say earlier, the more career exposure a student has and they progress through and they engage with different types of employers and learn the better prepared they will be to either make a decision “that’s a field I like, a field I don’t ” when they come to us at college, they, for the most part, really have an eye idea about what programs they want to specify in. Or you focus and either go to and finish out a four year degree or go straight into the workforce. So from the student aspect, we really hear and they come to us and they’ll say, “I’d like an internship.

I’m in the business program, but you know, I’d like to connect with the local employer.” So we’re lucky that we have kind of a database that we use hire Ivey, that it does help to connect our students with those employers, but we also prepare them before they engage or interact with the employer because we want to make sure that the employer realizes our team is there to really help support the student and make sure that they feel ready to engage with that employer. They know how to talk about the program, the classes they’re in, the technical skills they’re going to gain.

So kind of see, you know, since we do see two sides, there’s a demand of the students. I think our students realize that we’ve built this model that when you’re in these programs, the support services is to connect them with employers and that that’s the hope that they have touchpoints with employers.

It could be an internship. It could be just an informational session with an employer. But to learn and to gauge because we were very honest with the employers. If you don’t come with a career plan or a development plan, another company does.

So the student also, that’s what they’re looking for. They, you know, if they know they’re going to take entry level, they want to see their projections. So we’re listening because that’s what our students want. We’re going and fielding those employers and telling them, if you don’t have one, let’s work with you to create what that looks like because that’s what our students are looking for. So because it’s an employee’s market, we look at our students as prospective talent and employees for various companies. So we want them to leverage right now what the market is, but also help our employers because not every employers.

I’m hearing such great things from you Zach and Jeff and just how you’re approaching finding talent, just different ways of thinking through. Not all companies have really sat through and thought through different tiers, different training options and where they can continue to progress in their career. So that’s huge. That’s huge when I work with employers, but I also tell the students the same side of what’s happening to the market.


  • Zack:

Yeah. You know, we, you know, through this process, really, you know, we’re growing very quickly as a company and, you know, we’re probably going to hire, I think, eleven people this month. And for us, being a small business, you know, that’s a lot.

I mean, that’s increasing like our staff by 20%. one thing that. Is interesting is one of the main things we do to weed out people who are applying is how many jobs have they had in the last two years because in our industry specifically it takes it takes about three or four months before you’re even able to do repairs on our at our schools devices. So we are making like, you know, for us, a long term investment in them. And it’s it is it’s unbelievable how many people are coming in and they’ve had four or five jobs in the last two years.

Is there any sort of education on that side where you’re like, where students are being educated, like, Hey, look, if you do take this job, you really should commit at least a year or two to that because you’re kind of shoot yourself in the foot later on because companies aren’t looking at it. I know that’s one of the main things we were told, just talking with other companies like, Hey, watch out for people who have jumped around job to job because more than likely, they’re going to be inconsistent.


  • Mee Hee:

Yeah, we actually we really encourage our students to research the company so that they don’t jump around and we want them to take the time to really assess if that company’s right. And a lot of students don’t have that skill.

How do they research the company? What? What are their gains? Were they a profit company? What are they? What’s the products? What the trajectory of the company from how many employees? What’s their growth? So we want students to be really versed in before, like they look at a company, Oh, I want to apply for that internship. What do you know about that company? And so that it is a much better fit for that student that’s looking for their prospective employer. And we there’s a lot of factors, right, with the job hopping and a lot of companies are turned off by that right now in certain sectors.

There are some employers they don’t care, right, they hold on to them, you know, difference in the service industry. I’ve heard where we will shun, you know, somebody no call, no show right after so many typically get fired.

That’s not happening right now because people cannot retain. So you didn’t show up Tuesday. You know, we don’t like that, but just come in on your next shift. It’s amazing what’s happening out there. I’m sure we personally have experienced different sectors where they’re closing hours or closing certain days, shortening hours.

So I think we really have to focus in and our students, you know, we know that there’s a trajectory. We know that after two years, they’re telling us we want to either go straight into the workforce. It’s our job to also to help our students know the companies, know the companies well, know their intentions as well, because that is better for the student to be prepared. And then we have those coaching appointments where we tell them, here’s this company, here’s what they do. Here’s what they’re really looking for. They can grow you. We want to also have that conversation as we learn about the company.

And because there are companies that have better packages of strengths in developing a student, and sometimes it’s when the company says we will pay for tuition. For certain students that that is the value and that’s the sell, “I can work for a company in, they’re going to pay my tuition so I can finish up my bachelor’s degree”.

It’s a huge win. And so we, you know, we do encourage our students that they are. They really need to research companies. We don’t want them to job hop. We want them to get the experience they need so that they can use that to then further themselves. And you’re right. four months. five months. It’s tough, it’s tough to think how experienced did you get unless there was a really great explanation or they stayed with the company and they did well and you know, they’re moving positions versus company the company.


  • Jeffrey:

OK, so I have a couple of follow ups for this because I have to think that people are out there thinking, OK, all of that sounds great. How do I connect in? And for those of you that don’t understand how comprehensive like Ivy tech is in the state of Indiana, I mean, you can’t go more than 20 miles without hitting an Ivy Tech. So there are plenty of campuses. And of course, Ivy Tech’s not the only option. But if I’m sitting out there as an employer and I’m listening, I’m hearing, OK, you know, this college is helping to educate students on, you know, who I may be.

But I also need to make sure that they know that I’m available. How is an employer? Do I connect in with ivy tech or generalize that to maybe another, you know, any any broad set of universities or colleges?

How do I go about that process of connecting in and then doing what you’re saying, making sure that they understand these are the types of benefits I offer? And here’s my USP. Here’s my unique selling point as an employer. Please share that.


  • Mee Hee:

Yeah, absolutely. Since we have 19 campuses across the state, the career coaching and employer connections model, we’re at every campus. So there’s an executive director like myself, there’s 19 of us and there’s a team that we all lead.

So we’re all there. We exist in every Ivy tech campus. My, you know, my representatives across the state, universities, other two-year institutions, there’s career advising on all campuses. Obviously, I’m representing Ivy Tech, so I can really speak to our model.

But employers can reach out and say, Hey, I’d love to connect in some way, shape or form. And that begins there in they can post any position they have. We do strategies of also working with that employer. OK? You want an internship? Do you know what that looks like? Do you know how to structure that? So it’s going to be impactful for you because ultimately you’re, you know, it’s kind of like speed dating. You’re testing the student to see, do they fit in our business? Can this person become a full time role? Because the students that engage with those employers that invest in they’re more likely will take a full time position if offered, and that that’s that build early of its relationships.

And those employers that kind of know that we exist, we offer so many programs across the state. And if you just invest a time an hour to do like an informational panel with a class, an accounting one on one class, I tell employers, that’s your future pipeline. And you know, it’s late. Like I said, if you can do other strategies, work with your local elementary schools or middle schools pipeline, then those students remember the brand. You know, the tags and the motto, the culture.

They’re going to remember somebody from that company. They may not remember they’re the person, but they’ll remember that company. And that, to me, is just so important as you continue along the, you know, the educational journey. When they get to us, we’re very intentional and we’ll tell employers like, we’ll have an employer panel, come, I’m going to tell them, here’s your promise, but you each have 60 minutes to do, do your minute pitch. We talk about, you know, students doing a 60 minute elevator pitch. I’m telling the employers, do it. You have to sell yourself now because our students have options and they want to hear which employer is going to have the best culture. 60 Minutes is not a lot of time, or 60 seconds is not a lot of time to to pitch, but you know that every opportunity employer can do to recruit, and that’s just one strategy. It’s so important now because of where the labor market is.


  • Zack:

Yeah. two things you said in there, too. And, you know, it’s like ABH, like always be hiring. You know, I think many companies are like “Oh I have a good crew” now they’re realizing they’re behind, they’re behind now and they’re like, they’re trying to get caught up. And that’s not a place you want to be like, I definitely understand that a big thing that we’ve done as well as we’ve had to look like what our employees telling their friends about work. Are they saying that they enjoy coming into work every day? Or are they saying, Oh, I got to go in? And then what are those things like? What are the things that people just don’t like? And there’s an aspect where maybe you work at a factory and you just really don’t like.

It’s kind of hard to spice up, you know, putting a nut on a bolt. You know, it’s kind of hard to spice that up. But what are you surrounding those people with at your company to really make them enjoy? And that’s culture. I think what’s hard is as a company or an organization school, like what are you doing culturally, where your best salespeople are your employees? And we just initiated a program with us where our employees, if they bring in a friend and we hire them, they get an extra PTO day. And we got one employee who’s got four extra PTO days this year because of that. And it’s like, are you utilizing your best recruiting for your people? And that’s done by, are you treating them right? And do you have a good culture where they do want to bring their friends and they enjoy that?

And I mean, we’ve had to do a couple of things like we did four times over the summer, so everybody had a three day weekend. And we’re even now considering there’s a DFS center in Indianapolis, they do something really unique where you can come in between 6:00 a.m. and 9:00 a.m. and you can just do your eight hours.

So there’s a lot of people who enjoy that flexibility and when they start. So as an organization, I feel like you need to ask your question, what can I do uniquely that people will like? And that will bring them in.

And that’s what I think. That’s why retail’s getting killed right now, because nobody wants to work overnight, and if they don’t have to, they’re not going to. Same with restaurants. No one wants to work till 2:00 a.m., you know, so I think that’s where it’s, you have to look like, what is my competitive advantage? What is my culture and are my people who we work with? Are they out there giving you a good name? Are they telling people, Hey, it’s great to work here?


  • Mee Hee:

I think so, too. That speaks to a lot of that retention because people run companies and you know, the most, you know, the people really enjoy who they work with, why they’re working, you know, they believe in the mission of a company. They stay because those are those core incentives, really, you know, internally driven that they’re like, I just love where I work. I just love what I do. I love the people I work with. You always want to hear that from your employees and first, Zach on those PTO days I’m taking notes.

That’s awesome. You know that you strategize and also your workforce. Who is your workforce, your age, your workforce, the generation of your workforce? What values do they like versus a different generation? Because people with family, we love those PTO days because we might need a, you know, for child care, things like that.

And that, you know, for me and my generation love that as a parent, for someone who is a little bit younger, they may not care, but they love, they might because they like to go on the weekend trips, too.

So I love, you know, you just said like working four days, right? So of the week. So it’s finding that balance and also listening. I think that’s so key to any organization. What do your employees, what survey them?

H.R. teams, I think, have a daunting task right now. If they’re looking at their data, they see how many people have resigned, especially large global companies, even small to midsize one employee to a small company can be detrimental, especially with their knowledge, you know, if they decide to retire early and just the company wasn’t expecting it and didn’t have a pipeline strategy. So all those things are kind of key. And looking at overall that it’s really about your retention strategy, and it just may be offering an extra PTO day, might be flexing a work schedule day.

All those are part and can contribute to that retention culture. I’ve heard you say it a lot, Zack. That’s that’s it. That retention is part of how you build your culture and how you think about retaining different, different talent, you know? And I talk about different generations added, diversify your workforce to as well. So all those all those are great. I feel like I could keep going on those. But you’re right, retention is really similar to just if you’re thinking about your retention strategies, you’re really thinking about a good culture at the company.


  • Jeffrey:

The thing I love about where the conversation is headed to is like as I’m processing it, you know, all the folks out there that might be listening, that are sitting in tech director chairs or assistant soups that are thinking about how are they going to go about revamping their technology department?

If we take your advice, Mee Hee we say, OK, start in fifth grade, start in sixth grade, start in seventh grade. You’ve got a captive audience. If you are already working in schools, recruit those kids. Pull them into a student-led tech team. Let that student-led tech team have some ownership of things. So it’s not just about fixing a device here or there, but let them own, you know, how they go about configuring devices and get into using some of these mobile device in mobile device management programs and and really getting into the weeds.

And as they get into the weeds, the hope would be retain them, right? So so you have them as a seventh grader, eighth grade or ninth grader all the way through their 12th grade year. They go off to college and you want those folks coming back to you saying, Hey, can I work again this summer if we can start to get creative in that area and then say, you know, this is where that fellowship comes into play, we know all of these, you know, we know what we have all these connections in the community. We know you’re coming out of ivy tech. We know that you’re coming out of Purdue University and we know you’re coming out of Indiana University with it with a high-paying degree. You give us two years. We’re going to create so many connections for you that you’ll have a chance to really understand what you love and what you want to do, and we’ll make that connection for you. But give us two years. And I think those are the types of pitches that as somebody who’s in the field right now, processing this conversation in real time just kind of makes sense.


  • Zack:

Yeah, and one thing I want to put in there, too, it’s just like competition and what does competition like breed? And, you know, I think one organization is actually like, Hey, well, you know, our market value made for this employee is $20 an hour, but we can’t afford it, right? I think that’s probably a lot of the words of what we can’t afford to give you that much. And I think the question that organizations are going to start asking themselves as, are we efficient? Could we become more efficient, maybe not hire as many people, but the people we are hiring?

We are getting in that upper echelon of pay. And I think that’s part of that and the competition of like, are you as a company making every leap and bound you can, you know, public and private sector, you know, combined? Are you trying to get efficiency so you can pay your employees more? And I’m going to be honest, that’s been an area where I realize like, Wow, we really need to get dialed in in our operations side to become so much more efficient so we can pay our employees more.

Otherwise, I mean, I’ve heard of a couple of things. I have some friends who work for their like the temp that temp agencies, but they basically help. They basically help with recruiting employees. And they said there’s people who are still wanting to hire people at $8 an hour for factory work.

And he’s just saying that that won’t happen. You’re so far off of the mark. But these companies want they refuse to adapt, they refuse to look, how can we become more efficient? And that that kind of thing? That’s why I think this competition is good to me. You said it. The agile companies were able to retain their employees, the companies who kind of sat back and said, Oh, we’re in the pandemic, people are going to love. People are just going to be worried. People are just going to be happy that they have a job.

They’re kind of probably kicking themselves now being like, Dang it, like, I really should have started to think of how we could adapt through that meeting. one question I have for you. If you were looking at a company public private sector, you know, and Jeff, want to hear your opinion as to what online marketing tools can they use? Obviously, there’s like ZipRecruiter indeed. You know, LinkedIn, Glassdoor, Monster. I just wrote down like the top ones. Where do you see students going to? Are most students using? Indeed, are they using ZipRecruiter? Like if I’m a business and I’m spending money to promote my position of my school? Where would you be posting what? Where are you seeing students go to?


  • Mee Hee:

We have, you know, our internal platform called Higher Ivy, so our students know. Employers come and post their positions there, but there’s all the other like you mentioned, the other search engines exist. We see that I think more for just any community member, any person looking for jobs.

I think an untapped resource is through the work once they typically, you know, people think of work one departments, they’re typically located almost one per county or, you know, specific regions, but they actually source a lot of the search engines altogether. So you don’t have to go through all the separate search engines to find and look at postings that matched your skills. So I think students, it just depends on what resources they’re using if they’re in college. Whatever their career advisory department utilizes, they’re going to hone in on that.

And our county, at least in Hamilton County, has a really great economic development organization, and they’re pooling all of those postings together for the entire county. And so I’ve seen a lot of that where County’s Economic Development Chamber’s workforce development really coming together to try to make that efficient for the job seeker.

So I see all those platforms being used. And if you’re I just know the unemployment process, they have to go through a different step and processes to ensure that they’re looking and seeking for positions. So they’re typically directed to our work one departments to help look for those jobs specific to the skills they have and then maybe a new position that they want. So I see it all all across right now because everyone is posting on every type of hiring platform right now.


  • Zack:

And then, Jeff, for you. You know, coming from education, you know, is there a certain platform schools use more of or is it is it all of it or what’s what are or where have schools seen success recruiting employees?


  • Jeffrey:

Well, I think from a teacher side, it’s a little bit different. There’s a pretty standard posting location through the Department of Education, but for technology specifically, it honestly feels like we are just throwing everything we got out there into the market without much strategy.

So I appreciate you having Mee Hee on today to say, Hey, connect connecting with your community colleges know you’re in unique selling point. Understand if you’re a destination or a launching pad and communicate that well to not just the Ivy tech representative, but invest and take that time to sit in the college classes. Give an overview of what your organization is trying to do, who you need and go from there. Like all of this stuff, I feel like you just take notes today.


  • Zack:

Yeah, thanks, Jeff, and that’s a good point, I think it’s hard, I think in many ways. Many organizations haven’t even had to think about this before. You know, they’ve been able to get employees through friends and family or through other employees, so this is the first time it’s like the taps been turned off and they really have to go after it. And that’s a good point. I’d like don’t have all the answers I know as a company we use indeed, and we actually haven’t seen a lot of success in that. It is more of an ocean where you’re getting a lot, a lot of applications because that process is so simple for like, Oh, I’m going to select 15 I like and it sends out. So it is kind of a drilling down things that you might get 100 applications of those hundred you like, 20 of those 20, 10 will reply to you. Of those, ten five will say they’re going to go to an interview of those five, three show up. Of those three you like to, you offer them both the job one accepts. Except, you know, so it is a funnel right now, but you were always looking for new areas to go in.


  • Jeffrey:

I will add one of the things that’s just kind of tried and true of schools that I think was their pre-pandemic and they’re still there now. It’s just make sure you when you send out your community postings, you know, just newsletters, things like that that if you’ve got a job that you know you need filled most people when they’re thinking about your school or your district are thinking, you know, education positions, right? They’re not thinking about the tech guys that are that that are needed. So if you highlight that position and you and you do do it, do it with the same level of diligence that you would do if you were sitting in front of that college class, you’re probably going to get some hits that way. And I’ll tell you what, that’s the way that we recruited some really strong talent is just the kind of the family and friends connections still. So even though it’s not as strong as it once was, right, I think schools have this unique ability to capture people’s attention because they just have so many ways of communicating with with a very specific audience that’s invested already in their organization.


  • Zack:

Yeah, that’s that’s a very good point. I think you’re right. Probably when people see a post that we have a job, we’re like, Oh, well, I don’t know anybody who’s got a teacher’s license, you know, help. But like, Oh, there’s a janitor there, janitorial, there’s tech staff. There’s all these other areas where, Hey, I’ve got a buddy who is really good or my son is really good at technology. He’d be perfect. And you’re right, utilizing your congregation, but utilizing your footprint. I mean, getting that word out there is so important.

You know, we kind of touched on this a little bit, but it’s probably twofold with first up, recruiting. We’ve touched on retaining, but like Mee Hee drilling down to the two questions Why are people leaving jobs and why are people staying at jobs? What are you saying?


  • Mee Hee:

And why are people leaving? I think what’s happened to the market and with the pandemic? People are looking for different things now. And some employers are meeting those needs, whether it’s remote work. People want more flexibility. I can personally say having done some of my work remote, there are aspects of my job and the focus I have. I really miss being in person and being in office. My husband, who’s in an office, typically and has meetings, and he was actually Zoom before Zoom was intensified. And so he really adjusted to being remote and being able to work from home and really enjoyed that flexibility.

And so. Work environments shifting that has really, I think, allowed people to really think I like that work environment and I can’t have that back anymore, but I just saw this posting of the same work I’m doing and I could be fully remote.

That’s what’s allowing people to leave. Not only that, I see it all the time. Sign on bonuses. They are all over the place. And that has also created a much more competitive market. And I think people are seeing, wow, I can get and I’ve seen it. This is true. 50,000 dollar sign on bonus with this company, it’s the same shift. It’s the same type of work. It’s in health care, obviously. But those, the attraction from company to company it’s causing competition. And that’s what’s causing the market shifting. Everybody’s increasing their wages. And so that’s attracting people to leave their current position to maybe a similar role or even completely out of their industry sector because they see, you know what? And health care, all these bonuses, I my, you know, I always wanted health care.

Now’s the time to go train. You know, go back, you’re my friend or get reeducated, get skilled up and I can enter this industry. So that’s what’s, I think, driven a lot of people out. What? Why people stay?

Because they, you know, it’s value. I think a company who’s always valued, they’re people that have really thought about their compensation overall packages. And then we’re also still creative. We value you and here’s what we’re going to do because you’re you’re with us, right?

Here’s an extra spot bonus, or we see that you’re taking on more accounts or you’re pro tip. Productivity has had to increase. You’ve had to take a different region. They’re finding ways, creative ways to say, Hey, we valued here and thanks for being our employee.

So I think those are the people that are saying, we see in the news, we see the numbers record breaking, people leaving and resigning. And so I have the coin term of resignation right now. But there are great employees staying that are investing.

I see a lot of companies also promoting from within right now, and that is another retention strategy that they’re doing. OK, let’s look at what positions we have and how can we build our talented employees into roles that we create that we can fill, that we can keep building?

So I see that obviously, you know, I always encourage a lot of our students who are in that first kind of entry level phase to mid-level phase of their career and wanting to progress, wanting them to stay with the company so that they get to experience true value, understanding culture or also learning that, hey, this isn’t the best cultural fit for me anymore. But I’ve learned a lot and I’ve grown a lot. So both sides, right? There’s a lot happening to entice people to leave, but some companies are really digging into their policies, their own structures and looking at how can we reward our great employees and value them and show them that their value? Sometimes it’s monetary. Sometimes it’s not okay because that’s it is monetary at the end, but it means something. It values it a different value.


  • Zack:

Yeah, those are great points. And like going back to like culture, like do your people enjoy coming into work? I’ve seen a lot of people, like a lot of people, they see this opportunity. You’re right, they got the taste of being able to work from home or more opportunities to do that.

We were like, Hey, I want to go live in an RV in Utah and work, right? So, you know, that’s another aspect for those positions that you do have. Can they be remote? And you’re right, just like those things of like, how do you retain?

And there’s a really good business book called Traction, where it talks about it, talks about everybody having a number and it’s not like, oh, like, you’re just the number, but it’s a way of like, do you know if you’re personally doing well?

And then also, I’m being rewarded based on that number. So you’re right, if I take on a new responsibility or if I’m exceeding expectations and I’m making the company more money, am I making more money because nothing, nothing is going to deflate a great employee more than being like, this guy next to me is doing half as much as I am getting paid the same.


  • Jeffrey:

You know, it’s always a great thing in education to really make sure that you’re doing. I think it was the study several years back by T.A.R.P. that was called the irreplaceable, and it talked about how. Those teachers performing in that top quintile, you know, reported regularly that they just weren’t really told that they were doing a great job, and it may have just been as simple as telling them that they were doing a phenomenal job with their kids that could have retained them. So whether it’s, you know, your tech department, your custodian, your, you know, if if you’re a superintendent, you’re you’re building level administrators, you got to tell people, thank you and you got to do it in a meaningful way. And I think that goes a long way specifically within the field of education to retaining people because there is this kind of moral purpose that holds people to a position potentially a little bit longer than in some other industries where they may be seeking more of the financial reward.


  • Zack:

Yeah, exactly, and obviously on a on the public sector, it’s a little more challenging, right? It’s not really easy just for you to go, Hey, this employee did a great job. Here’s a quarterly bonus. You know, a lot of schools might not have that capability to do that.

But the question is, what tools do you have maybe letting them have half days on Fridays? Or what unique opportunities do you have as a as a company, as a school to reward them? It might not be monetary, it might be an extra PTO day, but really taking stock of that and how you can reward those employees. So, you know, getting to the end, we’ve covered retaining recovered, recruiting, training, retaining me, you know, just going through all the wisdom you’ve given us. If I’m a tech director and I am trying to build a really good team and I’m trying to recruit what would be like the three main principles or the main principal per in first off recruiting and then training and then retention. What would be the number one for each one of those?


  • Mee Hee:

Oh, hot stuff – there’s so many, you know, and I always talk about employers needing multiple prongs of strategies for the whole talent pipeline. I think, you know, for recruitment for employers, find where that potential talent is. If if you’ve been using search engines, I’m telling you right now it’s oversaturated.

So you have to actually really start early. Go deeper. Jeff had mentioned this a little bit. How do you build your pipeline for potential employees? Maybe they don’t have any tech skills right now, but do they have that potential? And who can you find and build that with? Because that’s the investment of that recruitment process of taking somebody who’s like, Oh, I thought about that. Well, let me tell you about my company. And and then this goes into the training, right?

So finding for recruitment, finding those areas, finding the training entities, whether that’s higher education, whether that’s high school, whether that’s in the elementary schools, where does that pipeline start? And you should have, I would even say, have multiple strategies within different age groups and build that pipeline and continue it.

That would be for recruitment. We didn’t mention it, but there are third party training providers across our state that are focused on tech skills certification, quick return, quick training, R&D. You as an employer tapped into those because that’s another pipeline. Those training programs are short. People are getting those skills. Are you connecting with them before their class starts? That’s the key to getting in early for training. What does your training program look like? Do partner with the vendor?

Do you partner with higher education? Who’s doing your training? Is there also internal training built from in your company that also will supplement because there’s nothing better than bringing in someone new, but having that really great employee, that manager, that that new employee can really learn from and also confide in, and they know who to go to for support. That’s hard to find. Sometimes those great employees that know how to train know how to support their colleagues and their peers. And so focusing on what does your training program look like? How are you going to upskill your own talent to keep them or to build?

Jeff talked about, you know, build them to their next destination. What does that look like and do you need if you don’t have one, do you need to partner with someone or do you need to hire someone that’s a training, you know, a training manager. That’s something maybe new that some employers really have to think through. And then retention is always key and that that is, you know, employers really looking inside of their own company. What values do the company hold, you know, and. Are you assessing your employees, are you listening and asking what as an employee? What are the things that we already do that you like? What are some changes that you’d like to see? It’s really listening to your employees because there’s nothing better than an employee giving feedback and then seeing the feedback, you know, in action.

And I know Jeff is in the K-12 world. We get asked feedback all the time, but it goes nowhere sometimes or it takes a very long time to the process. So if you know our team’s CEO, the C level suite, you know anybody that listens to their employees and then can act upon and say, Oh, OK, this may take a long time, but let’s see. What we can do is they’re flexible, just just listening and really taking into consideration as a company. You know what, I think we can do that. I think we can offer an extra PTO day.

It’s like a raffle, right? Those incentives that you can build in that really from an employer standpoint, there’s a big ROIC. And I think that’s key in retaining your great talent and be realistic right now with the market.

There are people resigning. And but also, how can you also take advantage of the people resigning to really understand why, why, what you know, and it may be salaries right now, baby bonus potential, but it also may be growth that your company hasn’t built in yet. And so retention really to me is the foundation is listening to the employees, to the needs, to their growth as well and how they want to be valued.


  • Zack:

That’s amazing, thank you. Mee Hee, you know, I think really what I’m taking away from this is is really the recruiting training retention starts from a look inward at your organization, like are we are we? Are we being more efficient or are we creating a good culture?

What are people saying? And then are we are we not selling that are representing that? The people in a clear manner like this is what we’re doing. These are our values. And then the people internally, you know, listening to them and be like, Where do you want to go with your career?

Asking them, Where do you want to be in five years and then helping them get there, whether that’s with your organization or not? And because also, I’m finding out how an employee leaves your organization is so important. Are they saying, Oh, that place was terrible, they treated me horribly? Or, you know what? They were very respectful of me, and I got a different opportunity that’s so important. And me, I thank you so much. Jeff, do you have any closing remarks.


  • Jeffrey:

Disperses into the conversation today? I think there’s a lot of nuggets that folks will be able to take from this probably go back to their team, but also just stay internally with their tech team and say, how do we do things just a little bit better?


  • Zack:

And then mean, last thing just for everybody. So if people are interested in hiring people for their tech teams out of Ivy tech, what was that website called again?


  • Mee Hee:

Oh, they can look at, you know, Ivytech.edu and search for any campus that’s local to them. And they’ll probably want to search for the career coaching and employer connections team to get pipelines right into the programs.


  • Zack

Awesome. Well, that’s that’s incredible. And now that we have that in me, I really appreciate your time and hope you have a wonderful rest of your day and everybody listening thank you for listening in, and we’re going to sign off. Thank you, everybody.


  • Mee Hee:

Thank you.

Show transcript