People’s pain point for leaving isn’t usually about money. How do you stop attrition during the Great Resignation? Elizabeth Bachman sits with Lizabeth Wesely-Casella, the founder and CEO of L-12 Services, who is passionate about figuring out how to keep your best people. Lizabeth explains that you need to communicate with them and listen to their needs. Does their vision align with your company? Are there ways for you to streamline their workflow? Create a better environment where people would want to invest back in. The best way to do that? Make the complicated simple. If you want to know more, this episode’s for you.
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How To Stop Attrition And Keep Your Best People With Lizabeth Wesely-Casella
I am happy to have my dear friend and colleague Lizabeth Wesely-Casella. Lizabeth, welcome to the show.
Thank you for having me. This is so much fun. I love speaking with you.
Thank you. You say all the right things. I wanted to get you out here to the world because we’re talking about the Great Resignation and why so many people are leaving companies. Before we do that, I should introduce you first. The wonderful thing about Lizabeth Wesely-Casella is that she’s the Founder and CEO of L-12 Services, which is a Washington DC firm focused on internal communications and organizational development. She’s a skilled strategic advisor specializing in attrition migration, workflow management, process involvement, and culture. That’s a lot of jargon. I would have to have you explain all of these.
Lizabeth has many years of experience as an administrator and policy and programming consultant. Her work has contributed to successful project outcomes in Federal Health Policy, international program development, and nonprofit association management. For those of you who are reading, I now see a picture over your left shoulder of you meeting somebody important. I can’t see who that is.
That was President Bill Clinton. My date for that event was Tony Rodham.
What I was going to ask you is, what’s your dream interview? If you were to share the stage with someone who’s no longer with us, who would it be? What would you ask them? Who should be listening?
This came top of mind for me. Unfortunately, it’s our deceased Betty White. I would love to share a stage with her, not just for all of the reasons that we uplift and love her now, but I’d like to ask her about not longevity in age but longevity in patience. She was part of the Hollywood crowd for a long time but she didn’t always have the same popularity that she did toward the end of her life.Use your innovation muscles to bring solutions to the table that may improve the playing field for everybody. Click To Tweet
There were periods when she was just an actress like everybody else and an aging actress. How did she keep in perspective her ability to work hard and plot it every single day? Eventually, it paid off in enormous popularity but there were times when it must have been very quiet. How did she keep her spirits up and know that there was a goal further down the road and stick with it?
For every Betty Whites, there’s one Betty White. There’s one George Burns. There are hundreds and thousands who had their career end at 30. It’s good for her to keep going. Let’s go to the reason I asked you for this. We are in the throes. Many companies of people are leaving corporate businesses. Can you define the Great Resignation? For those who are not familiar with it, what is the Great Resignation?
The Great Resignation boils down to mass attrition, people leaving their jobs in large numbers. There’s almost a zeitgeist to it. There’s a collective movement and feeling that people are experiencing that they’re just not interested in the way that things have always been and always run. The Great Resignation is excellent for me and my firm because it gives language to the work we’ve been doing for years.
We’ve been doing it. We’re doing it now and we’re going to keep doing it in the future, regardless of what people are calling it. The bottom line is for organizations to have an opportunity to either keep their high-caliber talent or capture high-caliber talent. What we’re doing with our emotional well-being and professional development in the office place now matters much more than possibly paychecks or benefits.
What I’m thinking is that for you and me, who are both consultants, what’s happened is that companies and company leaders are waking up to what we’ve been saying and are ready to listen because there’s an economic consequence.
If I use my crystal ball, it’s never been infallible. The way that we’re looking at this in the long-term is that there is going to be an exodus. There will be people who migrate to different jobs but there will be a large number of people who throw their hats in the ring into entrepreneurship. Give it two years, a lot of those people, the vast majority of them will say, “Entrepreneurship is way harder than I thought. I’d prefer a paycheck and something more stable.”
The impact isn’t just now businesses losing people. It’s businesses losing people, people going out on their own, and then eventually wanting to come back in some way, shape, or form. Building your own empire is a different skillset than a lot of people are either trained to do or interested in keeping up for the long haul because it is extraordinarily difficult.
When you’re responsible for your paycheck, you have to be the one who’s hustling. It does get old. We both know that one. How can businesses find out they’re in jeopardy before they suddenly find themselves desperately scrambling to fill a position? Replacing somebody, especially an important person is a lot of time and money.
It was extraordinarily expensive. If we’re talking in units 1, 5, or 20, it gets to be terribly expensive. You’re right. There are a number of different ways that organizations of any size can go about this. Some of the big businesses have engaged their HR departments to do surveys or polls. Some of them have started team focus groups to find out if there’s a certain area of culture or DE&I that could be improved upon and made more robust.
There’s also the opportunity for organizations who are focused on the product or the material and don’t have a lot of bandwidth to invest in this kind of research. There’s the opportunity for them to bring people like me or other consultants in as an unbiased third party to talk to their teams, to not only do surveys but to do one-on-one interviews and focus groups where people can feel free to speak. They can also use their innovation muscles to bring solutions to the table that may improve the playing field for everybody.
Let’s get back to the innovation. I want to ask you. Bringing in an outside person is often much easier. Do you ever find that managers and CEOs resist admitting that maybe they’ve been wrong or don’t want to ask people how we’re doing if the answer is because we hate you? How do you deal with the embarrassment?
You’re right. It’s very common for organizations to say, “We’re doing everything but talking to the people. We’re offering to increase pay or benefits, remote work compromises but we don’t want to hear from the people.” There are a number of different reasons that they’re citing. Maybe it’s that they don’t think that the workers should be running the ship or any other number of reasons that, at a human level, you nailed it. A lot of people don’t want to hear that they may be the problem. The way that I get around that is honestly say what we can do as an unbiased third party, is to find out the truth.
It’s more than just the complaining or the personality conflicts. It’s finding out on a wide variety of measures from, “Do your people understand how decisions are made at the leadership level? Do they understand the platforms that they need to work on? Do they feel that their hours are in alignment with what’s required from them?” A wide variety of metrics can be gathered and boiled down in a synthesized report that says, in aggregate, 87% of your people think this or feel this way.
That’s an easy way to look through and identify if your problems are related to workflow, process, or culture and then be able to create a priority list of what to address first and how to address it. What we do in order to help create a better environment and an environment that people want to invest back in is to take the complicated and make it simple.See the value of the people who do the work. Click To Tweet
That’s a very interesting question. Where does innovation come in?
The way that I’m speaking about innovation is what we’re known for. Our firm is very dedicated. Our focus is to solve the challenges and the problems that face the organization by leveraging the institutional knowledge of the great workers you already have. We’re creating their reinvestment in the business by giving them an opportunity to solve the problems that they see on the horizon.
Through the various ways that we go about doing that, we’re helping those staff members create self-confidence that allows them to begin to trust their peers, their leadership, and themselves to be able to bring ideas to the fore. At times, we’ve had some great moments where leadership didn’t know that the quiet person who has never spoken up in a meeting has some great ideas. They’ve gone forward to invest in professional development and managerial development for that person.
They have a leadership path in front of them. They have a real career, not just a job. Those are the happy endings that we like to see. We keep in touch with the organizations we’ve worked with and do a periodic check-in to see how everybody’s doing. Those great stories matter. They help us know that we’ve hit a home run.
The other day we were chatting, you mentioned a situation where the company called you in because they had lost so many good people. You managed to get the right people to come back. Can you tell us about that?
That was an interesting client. The work that they did was all about immediate results because they’re in pre-hospital trauma care in war zones. We needed to get it right, right away. The people performing the jobs were under extraordinary stress and had to be okay with change and change on the fly. What they weren’t okay with was policy creation that didn’t include their voice. That makes sense because if you’re sitting in America creating policy but your people are in Syria, you can’t do that effectively without getting some input.
It became a situation of toxic leadership. When leadership brought us in, it was assigned to the people who were still in place doing the work that there was some goodwill happening. The leadership understood that there was a breakdown and they were dedicated to finding a solution to it. Through the relationships that we developed with staff, listening, interviewing, and taking action to put in place the suggestions they’ve made, that’s where we see a lot of processes and programs fall down, putting in place what people have suggested.
We helped to ameliorate the people who were on staff. Those staff members who’d stayed in touch with the people who had left gave an indication that the environment was changing. Those people who left knew that this was the one game in town where they could do the work they wanted to do, which they were incredibly dedicated to doing. All the two of them came back to the team. That was something we were proud of.
That’s a great story. How do you deal with a case where you’ve got an employee who says, “I should be running this department,” and they’re not qualified?
That is an unfortunate matter when the organization’s alignment is no longer in alignment with the worker’s values. We need to find out if that is a permanent state or not getting what you need in other areas. If it’s possible to find and meet the needs of that worker in other ways, maybe offering actual professional development or managerial development is the key to allowing that person to see that they have a bright future.
That’s one way to solve it. There are times when the worker is no longer aligned with the vision of the organization. It’s not a good fit for anybody. I pride myself on trying to work through those problems first because people start their careers or invest themselves in a job because they want it to work out. If we can find that solution, that’s the best possible outcome.
That’s good. I’ve been challenged on that when I talk about the work I do with helping women be heard. From the other point of view, people feel like they’re not being heard and various people say, “What if they’re not being heard because they’re not qualified?” I tend to assume that they’re all qualified. Maybe that’s my rosy view of the world.
You and I both come from the point of view that we are interested in supporting the worker. We see the value of the people who do the work. If there’s an advocacy side that I’m on to a certain degree, though I am about being a liaison or a translator, it would be for the worker. Oftentimes, I feel like that’s a very complex area. The reason that problems bubble to the surface is because communication isn’t clear. It’s often fraught with emotion. If we can help those people, that’s where you and I align.
Can you talk a little bit about stay interviews? Is this a different aspect from what you’ve already told us? Talk about calling it a stay interview. That’s putting it out into the world that we’re afraid you’re going to leave.Communicate with people and listen to their needs. Click To Tweet
It circles back to the first question of how organizations can keep their people. This is an excellent way to do it. It’s a way to gauge how competitive as an organization you are and where in the life cycle are your people. If you know that there are appealing opportunities out there and are afraid that you’re going to lose your people, the information about what it will take to keep them is invaluable.
It’s an important piece of the puzzle especially if you’re looking at larger teams considering leaving. It’s valuable for one individual regardless of where they are on the scale. If you have a successful team and other organizations are fishing for them, you want to know about it and know how to give them the best deal in town.
I’ve got so many questions for you. How do you answer the question, “We need to keep these great people but we can’t afford the extra salaries?”
That’s an age-old question that I’m not going to be able to answer in general. However, I can say that our findings over the last years have been that people’s pain point for leaving, for the most part, isn’t about money. There’s that Tylenol part. Let’s look at the vitamin part. If a company is minding to find out what jazzes their organization and makes them plum get for any new hire, then they’re finding out that it’s anything from holding their office hours in hybrid, having different types of meetings, or professional development opportunities.
For cause-related organizations, it’s the type of volunteering opportunities that they have in the external organization. There is any number of ways to address your ecosystem that is specific to your organization. That’s why I’m not able to say, “It’s this,” because all businesses are different. They’re comprised of the needs of the people that work there. Off-the-shelf products or DIY books to create these solutions have limited years.
You mentioned vitamin versus Tylenol. What did you mean by that? Tylenol is a pain reliever for our international readers.
Instead of looking at focus groups, stay interviews, surveys, or that type of information exchange as a way to solve a problem, you can also use that information to set up success on top of the status quo.
In these interviews, you don’t have to think of them as a pain reliever or a patch. They’re also a vitamin or fertilizer to help things grow.
Depending on how you do them, they’re one type of fertilizer or another. Successful HR departments in businesses that are thriving now have adapted to this preemptive information gathering. What we do touches on HR but we predominantly support them through the training, priority setting, and relationship development.
There is an HR aspect to this that deals with one-on-one relationships, information gathering, and data points. I want to make it clear that there are some businesses out there that are doing this extraordinarily well now. Other businesses don’t have HR departments. They’re either smaller or a one-person department with HR that can’t touch everybody. We go in to help fortify that.
That’s a very interesting question. Do you work at all with personality typing? How can you understand your people better?
I’m agnostic on personality typing and the various tests out there. We don’t use anything like DISC or all those related tests. If an organization wants to use them, that’s great. It’s the tool that works for an organization. I’m not going to say, “Don’t use it because we don’t.” I found that the way that we communicate with people and listen to their needs is we’re in there for a shorter amount of time. We need to be listening from all channels.
I can’t walk in and say, “This archetype listens to you and communicates with you in certain ways.” I need to listen to everything that you’ve got. It comes from the best things that I learned in the kindergarten paradigm where I’m treating you with respect. I’m listening to you. I’m not multitasking. I’m not discounting what you have to say and I’m coming to you free from bias. My intention here is to be of service. The best way I can do that is to be completely present with you and then put all the cogs in motion to work with you to try and find the solution.
This is a very interesting question. Is there a tipping point for mass attrition? What does it look like?Just because you had a business that failed does not make you a failure. Click To Tweet
It looks like that point in time when the people who are interested in either changing jobs or starting their own businesses have maxed out. It means we have everybody, for the most part, gone from the business environment in corporate that we’re going to lose. We look at the landscape and see what it can hold and withstand. Small business is the backbone of the American economy. However, we can’t run only on small businesses. It’s not as though we’re in some old English landscape where there’s one baker, one candlestick maker, and one shoemaker.
We have a wide variety of industries but they’re all going to be impacted. Some of them are going to be saturated with people with similar good ideas. That competitive market is going to filter some people out and then they’ll have to go back into the corporate world. Most of them end up going back to the corporate world and will be doing so voluntarily because they want that steady paycheck. They want those benefits. They want the power of somebody else going out and doing the sales for them so they can do that specific job they’re good at.
Do you have any advice for people going back to corporate but feeling like they are a failure because entrepreneurship didn’t work out?
Almost every motivational card that I have on my bookshelf is about that. Just because you had a business that failed does not make you a failure. Just because the entrepreneurial lifestyle isn’t for you doesn’t make you a failure. Milton Hershey had 29 businesses before he decided to make chocolate. He decided to make chocolate at the middle-age. That’s a business every year for a long time. The thing that is the flip side of that is not, “Don’t have hurt feelings. Go on your way,” but leverage what you learned while you were trying to build your own business.
You learn how to network, budget, and create a presence on social media. You learn what you’re good at and enjoy doing. Take that bundle of skills and knowledge and apply it to the next job that you get. When you have a manager that runs a department, it’s like a mini business. You have either the skills to perform the work or the understanding that it takes to appreciate the work that your colleagues or peers are doing. For example, when it’s budget time. You know that Bob over here is going to be head down in the books during month X.
You can perform your work and wait until month X is done, until Bob is done, so you’re not adding work on top of his time to focus. You’re going to be appreciated in the business place. You’re helping to build each pod, department, or team with that added experience. It’s never lost on a person that has tried something. It has only enhanced their ability to do the next thing.
It’s also vice versa. What you learn in corporate is where you can be good at things. It’s all our experiences. Now I’m in the middle of career number 4 or 5, depending on which reinvention you choose. I find working with younger colleagues. I remember back in opera days when I would be working with young singers who were on the rise, had done everything right, and believed in their own press. They were too busy talking to listen to me when I was the director telling them what they were supposed to do. You had to wait until they had failed and come back before they could listen. You then become a much deeper person by using those lessons, the learning experiences.
There are a couple of other questions for you, Lizabeth. Let’s say you’re a manager. You know that a company like L-12 Services would be very helpful but your direct supervisors or C-level don’t want to admit there might be a problem so they’re not willing to bring you in. What argument could you make to say, “I want to bring in L-12 services?” It may be for your team. I know you’ve met this circumstance before.
We have worked within larger organizations, specifically in teams and pods. I’ve found that when organizations are reluctant sometimes it’s almost the emotional versus data points. If you have a leadership that’s all touchy, feely, and caring about people’s stuff, that usually means that they’re more interested in data-driven information.
If you have statistics about, “We’re losing people at this rate. We’re inefficient and our workflows aren’t streamlined. Therefore, we’re losing money at this rate.” If you can use those factual parameters to have a discussion, that’s when you can bring in the piece that says, “These data points are all driven by people and their work.” We need to look at the people in their work. L-12 Services works in workflow, process, and culture. Notice that culture is the third one.
Lizabeth Wesely-Casella, this has been so much fun to have you here. Thank you for joining me on my show. How can people find you?
Thank you so much for having me. I always enjoy talking to you. This is my favorite subject so thank you so much. Reaching me is easy. I am on LinkedIn. I’m probably the only person with my name spelled this way, Lizabeth Wesely-Casella. Our website is L12Services.com.
Thank you so much, Lizabeth Wesely-Casella, for having joined me here for this interview. I’ll see you in the next episode.
- L-12 Services
- Lizabeth Wesely-Casella – LinkedIn
About Lizabeth Wesely-Casella
Lizabeth Wesely-Casella is the Founder and CEO of L-12 Services; a Washington DC firm focused on internal communications and organizational development. She is a skilled strategic advisor specializing in attrition mitigation, workflow management, process improvement, and culture. Lizabeth has over 20 years of experience as an administrator and policy and programming consultant. Her work has contributed to successful project outcomes in federal health policy, international program development, and non-profit/association management.