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Human interaction, empathy key to recruitment and retention

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July 18, 2022
By Therese Castillo

(MyriamB/Adobe Stock)

Companies have been creative in revisiting and redesigning their employment policies to attract talent. From hybrid work, extended paid leaves, and office perks, new ways of working have been offered on job boards seemingly as a heed to the Great Resignation. That is timely, as over one million jobs are waiting to be filled in Canada, according to StatCan.

But amidst the employment phenomenon happening, the challenge is beyond just attracting talent, it is in retaining them. In fact, more than 50 per cent of Millennials and Gen Z employees – globally and in Canada – consider switching jobs in the next year, according to a recent study by Microsoft Work Index. Additionally, 53 per cent—particularly parents—say they’re more likely to prioritize their health and wellbeing over work than before.

So how can employers better their recruitment process and retention rate with the looming new priorities of employees? We take cues from Rob Lawless, the man who is in pursuit to meeting 10,000 friends – and have learned about effective human interaction more than halfway through his set target.

‘No one really knows what they’re doing in their lives’

“I think that’s something being missed by a lot of students coming out of school, or people starting in the workforce,” said Lawless. “They think that, ‘OK, I studied this subject, and I am now an employee in this field. I’ve gone to school and I know who I am and the person that I’ll be until I die,’ but that’s just not the case.”


When asked how this relates to hiring talent, Lawless added the need for employers to acknowledge that people shift interests, which may equate to shifts in careers and skillset. There is always room for newbie in the field as they might just be the good pool of talent the company needs.

Take time to really know your employees

“I was introduced to this framework called the FORD Human Project, which stands for Family, Occupation, Recreation, and Dream. If you want to know anyone in the world, think about their life like a timeline,” said Lawless.

“You can fill in that timeline by asking questions in each of those categories: family, the supporting cast of the person’s life; occupation, their education path and they do now; recreation, their hobbies outside of work; and dream, what they aspire to be in the future and where they want to go.”

Lawless said this becomes relevant in the workplace as “for professionals, especially for those in the human resources profession, they need to look at people as the full person.”

“We’re trying to understand who they are so we can make sure that they feel seen and that they feel heard when they come to work,” he added. “We need to make sure they feel they are in an environment of inclusiveness, where they can feel they belong. I think the way to create that environment for people is to acknowledge their lives in each of those four categories.”

Learn what impacts performance

“If you think about retaining or engaging talent, think about giving your employees a chance to share who they are,” said Lawless. “Take time to know their talents and interests. Oftentimes, people in the corporate space probably stick to the ‘O’ [Occupation] and they fail to ever really get to the other categories.”

Lawless said exploring the other key aspects of your employees’ life is crucial in retaining them in the workforce, as those impact productivity, efficiency, and overall performance.

“Unless you dive into those other areas [Family, Recreation, and Dreams] – while keeping under the corporate veil and drawing the boundaries – you won’t get a better sense of who they are.”

“I was part of this program called Leadership Philadelphia. The whole mindset was if you connect the talents in Philadelphia, they are less likely to leave the workforce. You think about creating those bonds within the workforce—if you allow people to create deeper connections with each other, they’re less likely to leave because they have that sense of community. I think that’s how it all ties in – recognizing the full humanity of people.”

Another technique that Lawless uses in his project is asking this question: If you think about your identity as a pie chart, what are the categories that make up who you are and what are the percentages?

Lawless added: “Then you start to understand that, ‘Oh, work might just be a 10 per cent sliver of who this person is.’ If work only defines 10 per cent of them, what is the 90 per cent I am missing here and what can I learn about this person through that?”

Through this people are also given perspective of what it’s like to have work-life balance.

Empathy as the essence of inclusivity

“Corporations and companies who want to push for diversity and inclusivity should go beyond just providing their employees boxes to check—about sexuality, accommodation, and whatnot—they really must instill this into their values. That’s the way to do it, and it’s so easy, too.”

“Communication is the thing that creates empathy. A lot of it [issues] is a general lack of awareness between parties that are coming together. If you talk someone, what’s relevant to them then becomes relevant to you.”

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