Please Stay: How Companies Answer the 'Great Resignation'

BY Michael Stahl | September 12, 2021

In a recent job posting, a Tennessee trucking company offered pairs of qualified drivers a $30,000 signing bonus to join their team. Amazon has offered more than 750,000 U.S. workers the opportunity to pursue a fully paid bachelor’s degree. Microsoft said it would delay its return to the office “indefinitely” because forcing employees back to the workplace prematurely during the pandemic would be “shortsighted,” its CEO said. Meanwhile, according to a new Benefits Trends Survey, 69% of employers say they plan to “differentiate and customize their benefit programs over the next two years.”

This heightened level of care and concern about workers is emerging in the midst of the “Great Resignation,” the recent mass exodus of workers from their jobs, in which 11.5 million U.S. employees quit in just the three months of April, May, and June. It left the country with a record-high number of job openings in July and a huge question looming over Corporate America: What are employers going to do about it?

Coinciding with wide vaccine availability this past spring, the pent-up wave of resignation letters is being received as a referendum on business management, suggesting that many organizations during the Covid-19 crisis failed to meet the changing needs of workers.

Before the pandemic arrived, employers competing in a tight labor market were already actively improving conditions for employees. They’d learned that happy workers are more productive workers, which in turn can improve customer satisfaction. To combat employee burnout, organizations enhanced paid time-off programs and began providing mental health coverage. They also supported important social causes to help build brand reputation and boost employee morale.

However, the conditions wrought by the pandemic compelled new employee demands, and reinforced a growing sense among workers that they deserve better treatment. For working parents in particular, greater flexibility and better benefits became necessities.

“People were at home for a long period of time and they began to see their life differently,” Jason Walker, chief people officer at Thrive HR Consulting, told From Day One. The labor force was being asked to work “tremendous amounts of hours because they were at home,” Walker observed, and companies “intruded on that personal time.” Eventually, he said employees seemed to collectively realize “there’s more to my life than my work,” setting off a wide-scale reprioritization.

As we progress toward a post-pandemic world, organizations that prioritize the employee will be best positioned to hire and retain top talent. Here’s how leaders can respond to this reinvigorated spirit of employee empowerment:

Pay at Least the Market Rate

Not only has the labor market been flooded with dissatisfied workers, thousands of businesses have also reopened since spring, providing candidates a glut of opportunities. For hourly laborers as well as highly trained and experienced specialists, it is now definitively an employees’ market.

Job candidates are already cashing in on their leverage, which means it makes good economic sense for an organization to retain the best workers they already have. In addition to the time and effort spent on the hiring process, there are fees for recruiters and advertisements for open positions. There could be travel costs accrued, too, and expenses for training. Furthermore, there’s a loss of productivity while the search for a replacement plays out, among other detrimental effects from turnover.

To keep good employees around and attract the finest candidates on the market, companies have to be in tune with current pay rates and eagerly meet them. “If you’re under-paying, you’ve got to fix that fast,” said Amy Zimmerman, chief people officer at Relay Payments, a digital compensation platform. “It’s going to be a lot more expensive to get people in to replace the folks that you’re losing.”

In response to the current labor market conditions, Syndio Solutions, a platform that measures pay equity across organizations, is posting the salary ranges for all open positions in the company. CEO Maria Colacurcio said this maneuver gives “​​prospective hires consistency that reflects our values” and “respects the staff already at Syndio.”

If employers are not aware of market rates, Colacurcio said, when new hires engage in work comparable to that of other employees, they risk generating “potentially unlawful disparities, if you slice that by gender, race or ethnicity.”

Colacurcio posed an additional concern: “What happens when someone who’s been at the company realizes someone in their same job who was hired three months ago is making 30% more?” That, she said, could lead to more employees writing letters of resignation.

Adi Ignatius, editor-in-chief of Harvard Business Review, said his organization recently asked managers to identify the most important members of their team and determine whether they’re compensated adequately, compared to their peers inside and outside the organization.

“Instead of waiting for somebody to say, ‘You know, I just got a job offer from Fortune,’” Ignatius said, HBR wants to avoid “scrambling to make a counter offer” and is doing its best to “get ahead” of the head hunters.

Increase Flexibility, Day-to-day and Long-term

While fair compensation remains a focus for many members of the workforce, in pandemic times, pay is not at the top of everybody’s priority list. Instead, job flexibility appears to be of utmost concern.

“Covid really accelerated remote-work adoption,” said Clay Kellogg, CEO of Terminal, an employment-services platform that focuses on remote engineering teams. “It really went from an early-adopter market for remote work–you had some very forward-leaning companies [embracing it]–to now it’s mainstream. We did that within a 12-month period. It’s incredible.”

Study after study reveals that the overwhelming majority of workers want some semblance of remote work in their schedules, whether it’s a hybrid model, with both remote and in-office hour requirements, or the achievement of complete work-from-home status. After social distancing necessitated the shift, people are more familiar with remote work, and apparently appreciate its benefits, of which there are many.

“You really can’t unring that bell,” Kellogg said. “The old model was the result of legacy [thinking] and now we have people who say, ‘Look, that’s what I want. If I’m not going to get that flexibility option from my employer, I’m going to look around.’ And it’s a lot easier to look around when you’re working from home.”

Kellogg points out that if companies are willing to have their employees work remotely, leaders have to come to grips with new costs, covering necessities like laptops, Wi-Fi, and comfortable workspaces in the home.

But employees today want other kinds of job flexibility too. For them, staying with the same company over an extended period of time, while remaining fully engaged in what they do, means changing roles. Jeanne Schad, talent solutions and strategy practice leader at Randstad RiseSmart, a corporate consultancy firm, said many of her company’s customers are now interested in building internal-mobility programs.

Having adjusted to working from home, employees are reluctant to give it up (Photo by Visualspace/iStock by Getty Images)

“We often talk about the ambitious employee who has mastered their role and is ready for something new being a big retention risk,” Schad said. “By making internal roles easier–and safer–for employees to find, you can solve the needs of the ambitious, bored, burned out, and looking-to-downshift career employees.”

According to a Prudential report, 80% of workers who are planning to switch jobs post-Covid are choosing to do so out of concern over career advancement. More than a third of workers polled in a Robert Half survey say they feel “stuck” in their careers since the pandemic began. Providing employees the chance to change jobs within an organization inspires them to learn new skill sets, leading to more motivated, engaged, and productive workers, among other benefits.

“The biggest barrier for most companies to internal mobility is the mindset and orientation of managers,” Schad said. “Managers aren’t incented to share talent and in some cases, they can be penalized for unwanted turnover on their team–even if the employee moves to a new role internally.” Some clients she has worked with have created KPIs for managers who develop and then redeploy workers, “encouraging managers to share talent,” Schad said, “and bonusing them when they do.”

Adapt to the Presence of Different Generations  

Though this figure has been disputed by some, in 2014 the Brookings Institution predicted that 75% of the global workforce will be of the Millennial generation. One way or the other, the Millennial professional presence is growing, and Oxford Economics reported this year that within a decade, roughly one-third of the workforce will be members of the next generation: Gen Z.

These younger employees are already effecting change, says Brittany Hale, CEO of BND Consulting, a firm that focuses on retaining talent and developing company culture. Some Millennials are old enough to have attained senior management positions, while many Gen Zers–people born between 1997 and 2012–are either finishing grad school or making their way up the chain of command themselves.

Their value systems are notably different from those of previous generations, and they’re apt to evangelize about them on social media. There, Hale said, “you can see any number of skits about what a ‘fast-paced environment’ means.” In Millennial and Gen-Z minds, she said, that kind of approach to work means: “Goodbye to your life.”

“It’s not that they don’t have a good work ethic, it’s not that they don’t take pride in their professional integrity, but they’re looking for more of a work-life balance,” Hale said. She added that when corporate leaders don’t realistically consider “the changes and trends of your talent pool, and you’re expecting them to adapt to you,” the result is “mismanaged expectations.”

Given those conditions, in a time of crisis like the current pandemic, Hale said, work is not seen as a place for support, but instead as a stressor. And that leads to turnover.

However, not all members of the older generations have bought their retirement homes just yet. “There are some companies that have five different generations in their workforce right now,” says Suzanne Rohan Jones, a talent-management specialist at Graybar Electric, a Fortune 500 company that specializes in distribution and supply-chain management. Older employees might not understand why Gen Z workers would want a hybrid-work model or robust flexibility in career paths, she said. Leaders need “to be sensitive to the strengths and challenges of each of those different generations,” said Jones, who is also an adjunct professor of psychology at Maryville University.

Be More Transparent Than Ever

With the emergence of younger generations in the labor force and the prospect of radical changes to the workplace, which will include less time spent among peers and managers at the water cooler or snack bar, employees of today expect transparency from their leaders. “In the absence of it they’re making stories up,” said Amy Zimmerman from Relay. “In the absence of information, people assume the worst, unfortunately.”

Zach Jones, managing partner of the Phenom Consulting Group, an executive-search and talent-optimization firm, suggested that managers lead by example and “be living proof” of whatever they’re delegating to their team. “Being involved is critical to someone knowing, Alright, this person is in the trenches with me; I have confidence in them and what our direction is,” Jones said. It’s no longer acceptable, he added, for workers to hear from managers, “Here are your marching orders, report back to me.”

Jones believes managers must be open to scheduling more one-on-one facetime with their employees, even if the meetings are held over video-conferencing platforms. Leaders need to discuss not just the performance metrics, but how their workers’ careers are going and the ways in which they want to grow, hopefully within the company.

Another way leaders can earn the trust and confidence of their employees, especially given recent events, is to construct what author Diana Hendel calls a company-wide, rapid-response process. “Companies don’t do a very good job, frankly, of preparing for catastrophe,” said Hendel, a pharmacist and former CEO who worked for years in a hospital setting, where she once experienced an active shooter event. She recently co-wrote Trauma to Triumph: A Roadmap for Leading Through Disruption and Thriving on the Other Side, an undertaking that began prior to the pandemic, and became even more urgent once Covid-19 struck.

A rapid-response process can look different from organization to organization, but Hendel describes it as simply a set of protocols that ensure company leaders will be able to meet with each other when disaster strikes, make informed decisions, and assign responsibilities. When a crisis emerges, she said, a signal such as a “code blue” can be relayed to workers.

“What it does for employees, even people who aren’t involved directly in having to respond to the code, when they hear ‘code blue,’ they know things are being taken care of,” Hendel said. “They can expect information to come when it’s available. They’re not left wondering, Who’s taking charge? They know.” Even if the rapid response process is never engaged, having it in place and understood by employees provides perpetual peace of mind for everyone in the workplace, she said.

Be More Compassionate Than Ever

More than fair pay and perks like unlimited cappuccinos, young workers today want respect. But employees of any age can appreciate that sentiment, considering the collective trauma Covid-19 delivered. “Think about the authenticity of your leaders,” said Mina Morris, a partner in the Human Capital Solutions practice at Aon, the professional-services firm. Leaders should strive to be “more connected” and “more humble,” Morris said, and consider how they can “simplify work” in ways that help people remain “better connected with their tasks.”

At the same time, he added, leaders should try whenever possible to remove the “urgency when we don’t have that ability to be in person, and really sift through priorities,” he said. “So really connecting on an individual level, a human level,” Morris continued, “is a really important part of the journey.”

Evoking that spirit of empathy, leaders at Emtrain, which provides training on workplace ethics and culture, recently shortened the company’s workweek to four days. “It’s giving everyone a beat so that the temperature and the pressure starts to simmer down a little bit,” said CEO Janine Yancey. “People’s internal pressure barometer is just too high [right now] and it just starts to become an emotional reaction where they have to leave.”

Yancey believes the emergence of younger generations of workers has made issues like mental health more prominent. She says the pandemic, as well as the murder of George Floyd and, more recently, the events in Afghanistan, have all spurred a shift in priorities for workers.

“When you see the traumatic consequences of this pandemic and losing people that you love, losing people that you know in the community,” Yancey said, the thinking becomes: “I’m not just going to be a mindless robot with my nose to the grindstone every single day. I’m going to think about what’s important because life is precious.”

Michael Stahl is a New York City-based freelance journalist, writer, and editor. You can read more of his work at, follow him on Twitter @MichaelRStahl, and order his first book, the autobiography of Major League Baseball pitcher Bartolo Colón, at Abrams Books.


HR, How Did You Get So Influential? The Evolution of a Profession

Long before the notion that you could love your work, the HR profession was founded on the fact that work could be harmful to your health. In many ways, the profession's growing focus on well-being is not a touchy-feely detour, but a natural outgrowth from its roots–maybe even a nod to its origins.“The birth of human resources today came out of the concerns for individuals, starting off with their actual physical concerns,” says Barbara Holland, HR knowledge advisor at the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM). “It’s moved well beyond that at this point.” Born on the dangerous shop floors of the Industrial Revolution, human resources has been gathering responsibilities, but not losing any, for 100 years. Where it once was charged with the physical safety of workers, HR’s list of responsibilities now includes employees’ mental, financial, and social well-being, and it’s contending with AI and all its practical, ethical, and regulatory implications.The HR department of 2023 takes on more workload and influence than ever before, and many practitioners are shifting to strategic roles and automating tasks that were once the purview of the “personnel department” of 50 years ago, like benefits enrollment, tax documentation, and fielding FAQs. They’re freeing up time to focus on the more creative elements of the job, like developing leaders, creating equitable work environments, and bolstering employee well-being.How did HR get here, and where is it going? From Day One spoke with HR scholars and specialists to provide perspective about how the last three years of disruption fit into the longer game.In the 20th century, HR went through a tremendous amount of existential change–it evolved from protector of safety to negotiator to compliance officer to paper pusher to strategic business partner–and as of the 21st century, it has come full circle. In many instances, HR has again assumed its role of employee advocate. Now, the profession is tapping into policymaking, giving employees a seat at the table and a say in their working conditions.The Modern Origins of HR: The Safety and Well-being of the WorkerThe modern practice of human resources originated in the late 19th and early 20th centuries in response to the dangerous working conditions of the Industrial Revolution. “As there were factories and more workers working in one place, that’s really where the whole idea of a personnel department started,” said Kristie Loescher, who teaches HR and management at the McCombs School of Business at the University of Texas at Austin.Not only were the physical working conditions dangerous, “the emotional and psychological hazards of working consistently in these conditions were immense as well. Long hours, limited sustenance, and impersonal treatment contributed to an already stressful work environment,” wrote the academics Robert Lloyd and Wayne Aho in their paper, “The History of Human Resources in the United States: A Primer on Modern Practice.”  Miserable conditions led to the proliferations of labor unions and their calls for workplace reforms. For instance, following the infamous Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire in 1911, in which 146 workers were killed as a result of locked doors and inadequate escape routes, both the city and the state of New York passed dozens of workplace safety laws in response to pressure from newly formed unions, community organizers, and the general public.Labor unions gave workers a say in their working conditions, and the National Labor Relations Act of 1935 compelled employers to give them a seat at the table. Now that there was a need for someone to negotiate with the unions, the discipline of “industrial relations” was born. HR Becomes a Compliance OfficerBy mid-century, among HR’s chief concerns was compliance with regulation. Following the passage of laws that protect employees from discrimination in the workplace–including the Equal Pay Act of 1963, the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which established the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act in 1967–installed a department designed to keep the company from getting sued. Its stance was a defensive one, said Holland.Under the new name “personnel,” what would become the modern HR department was steeped in the bureaucracy of mitigating legal risk and all the record-keeping it requires. Exchanges between HR and the workforce were minimal and transactional.Andrea Osborne, who has more than three decades of experience in HR and is currently the VP of people for the product team at the software company Genesys, describes the mentality of the HR department of that time like this: “Here’s your badge, here’s your documentation, here’s your tax paperwork. Bye! I’ll see you on your way out the door.” HR Becomes a Business PartnerThe globalization of business spurred the changes that produced the influential HR department of today. Companies turned their attention to the strategic capabilities of the HR department when, in the 1970s and 1980s, it became increasingly clear the U.S. was now competing in a global economy. In a paper on the international perspective of HR, Randall Schuler and Susan Jackson, both scholars of HR, wrote that “during that period, the focus of business shifted from domestic to multinational to global; the speed at which business was conducted increased; organizations recognized that labor costs and productivity must be address from a world-wide perspective; and many companies realized that competitive advantage could be seized and sustained through the wise utilization of human resources.” SHRM’s Holland began her HR career in the mid 1980s, driven to improve the cool and distant personnel department she encountered in the past. Holland saw transformation beginning to take place. “We were looking to make a difference,” she said. “I came in right on the cusp of the old still hanging on with some organizations, but newer organizations really embracing that HR was more than just a police department and signing people up with their paperwork and then walking around making sure nobody was breaking the rules.”HR operations itself benefited from globalization, according to Holland. “You had influences from other cultures and how people management was handled based on wherever their headquarters was.”Decades ago, the PR department was known for paper-pushing and complicance (Photo by iStock/Getty Images)At the same time, the U.S. transformed from a manufacturing economy to a “knowledge” economy. Where we once made products, we now made services, and that required a new approach to employer-employee relations. “If I have analysis work to do, and customer service work to do, and work that requires more autonomy on the part of the worker, all of a sudden I have to treat that worker very differently. As jobs changed, the way we treated employees had to change,” said UT-Austin’s Loescher. “This whole new area of HR was added in the ’80s and ’90s about employee engagement and development–that if we invest in our employees and give them working environments that are satisfying and then help them develop and learn and grow, they’ll not only be ready for today’s challenges in our business, but they’ll be ready for tomorrow's challenges.”James Bailey, who teaches leadership development at the George Washington University School of Business, noted the influence of social science research in the 20th century, which asserts that people, not factories and machinery and financial assets, determine future business success. “It’s culture, it’s selection, it’s finding the right people, it’s properly motivating them to do their work better,” Bailey said. “Why you can have two firms of equivalent assets and one far outperforms the other is because of the people factor.”Though labor unions declined in popularity by the 1980s, Thomas Kochan and Robert McKersie noted in their 1989 paper “Future Directions for American Labor and Human Resources Policy,” the “rising expectations of workers for increased influence over their immediate work environment and long-term careers.” Following a period of bureaucracy that kept distance between employer and employee, the HR department now had to operate with employer and employee best interests in mind.As companies had to compete in a global economy that could access to talent all over the world, business strategies were adapted to include skills development and employee engagement. According to Loescher, “the profession was changing from one of mere rule implementation and screening of applicants to one where it included connection to the business strategy as well as a connection to the analysis and design of jobs that not only would meet the strategic need of the company, but would be motivating for people to do,” said Loescher.The “personnel” department became “human resources,” and in university classrooms, moved from industrial relations to business schools, said Bailey. HR was officially a business asset. Human Resources Becomes the People DepartmentHR practitioners today will have noticed another change to the department’s name. Just as the change from “personnel” to “human resources” marked a change in the existential purpose of the department, the more recent shift to “people operations” reflects the further expansion of the function in business.“Currently, even the term ‘human resources’ does not seem to convey the importance of human capital as we’ve moved more into a ‘knowledge’ economy, in which human thought, creativity, and innovation are critical to the success of new economy businesses,” said Sherry Moss, the associate dean of MBA programs at the Wake Forest University School of Business.In corporate America, the new term is “people operations,” in academia, it’s all about “human capital management,” marking “yet another step symbolic of ‘We are part of the capital that makes this organization function and we want a seat at the table,’” said GWU’s Bailey. Automation of repetitive tasks, or ones that are at least more easily handled by software and AI, frees practitioners to focus on the strategy of developing talent and better workplaces. As mundane functions are automated, “it will leave more opportunities for the HR business partners to have more human interactions,” said Amy Freshman, senior director of global HR at the HR software company ADP. “Automation will certainly help remove the repeatable mundane tasks. At the same time, what is being asked of HR is changing. In many ways it’s growing, which just adds more to the plate.”As the department gets more involved with the human elements of business, its reputation among employees is changing dramatically. Kam Hutchinson, a global director of talent acquisition who has spent more than a decade working in HR, said workers are more open to interacting with HR than they were in the past. “There’s more of an openness to reaching out to HR for support and seeing them as an advocate for you and not necessarily for the company,” she said. The HR Department of the Future is ProactiveSo, what comes next? As HR cements itself as a key player in business success, where is there to go? HR is no longer just a responsive organization. Its latest goal is anticipation, prediction. For instance, contributing to the excitement around the new discipline of “people analytics” is its potential for predicting things like employee engagement or employee attrition. And the leaders in the department aren’t just thinking about what goes on inside a company, they’re considering the outside influences as well. When Jackson and Schuler wrote their article in 2005, they noted HR’s growing responsibility to monitor the external environment. As people operations is called upon to respond to national crises, social unrest, and mental health needs, that responsibility is even greater today.Holland believes the next HR frontier is public policy. In the last handful of years, SHRM has become involved in influencing lawmakers. Its Government Affairs team has advocated in Washington for policies like paid leave, removing barriers to employment for immigrants, and employer-sponsored education assistance.“Where before we were a reactionary industry or occupation to what’s happening in employment law and things like that, now we’re inserting ourselves to try to actually influence that before the law is made,” said Holland. “HR is trying to actually influence change before it hits us.”Emily McCrary-Ruiz-Esparza is a freelance reporter and From Day One contributing editor who writes about the future of work, HR, recruiting, DEI, and women's experiences in the workplace. Her work has appeared in The Washington Post, Fast Company, Quartz at Work, Digiday’s Worklife, and Food Technology, among others.(Featured photo by Violeta Stoimenova/iStock by Getty Images) 

Emily McCrary-Ruiz-Esparza | May 16, 2023

7 Things HR Leaders Need to Know About AI

Like those car headlights in your rear-view mirror that suddenly are right up to your bumper, artificial intelligence has arrived gradually and then suddenly. While AI has been with us in one form or another for decades, the last six months have brought more disruptive changes from AI than in the previous 60 years.An outpouring of news stories predict that automation will expand on a massive scale, disrupting potentially hundreds of millions of jobs. New tools like OpenAI’s ChatGPT and Google’s Bard, which generate images and text on the fly with human-like skill from a simple prompt, can make it seem like the robots are on the verge of replacing us all.In an interview Sunday, Google CEO Sundar Pichai said that his experience with AI products like his company’s Bard chatbot were “unsettling” and have left him speechless. “We need to adapt as a society for it,” Pichai said. “This is going to impact every product across every company.”  That includes Human Resources in profound ways. While it can be hard to cut through the hype and uncertainty about such a transformative change, here are seven points to help HR leaders wrap their heads around what’s going on, at least in the short term.You’re already using AI at work, even if you aren’t aware of itAccording to a survey by Eightfold AI, more than nine out of ten HR pros are already using AI to perform their jobs. Common tasks enhanced by AI tools range from records management (78% of those surveyed) and onboarding (69%) to recruiting (73%) and retention (69%). In another survey, a consensus 98% say that algorithms will play a key role in deciding who gets laid off in the future.Those numbers are only likely to go up over time. Per that Eightfold survey, 92% of HR leaders say they’re planning to increase their use of AI over the next 12 to 18 months.AI won't take your job, but it will change your jobAI excels at automating rote tasks, rapidly digesting vast amounts of information, and identifying patterns within data. That makes it an ideal tool for rapidly parsing resumes, identifying promising candidates, or devising customized training programs.One of AI’s biggest benefits is the ability to give busy people a head start on necessary but time-consuming tasks, says Jess Lantis, vice president of people operations at Guru, an AI-powered knowledge management platform for teams.  For example, you probably don’t want tools like ChatGPT to write entire job descriptions or company policies for you, says Lantis, but they can get you 70% of the way there–and that represents a huge time savings for people who rarely have enough of it.But AI can’t simulate empathy or form genuine connections with employees, notes Matt Schmidt, founder and CEO of Peoplelogic, a real-time employee-engagement platform. That’s why organizations will always need a 'human' in 'human resources'.Many lower-level jobs will be automated. Organizations need to anticipate thatThe fact is, AI will make some jobs redundant. HR personnel on the front lines must be ready to deal with it.Information retrieval is an obvious application for automation. Someone on staff who spends all day answering questions about employee benefits, health coverage, PTO policies, and so on is at greater risk of being replaced by a chatbot, says Schmidt. But that person could then be given an opportunity to do work that provides greater long-term value to the company, such as skills development.Organizations need to start by fostering an environment of transparency and trust, says Lantis. When people are willing to talk about the possibility of their jobs going away, it allows the organization to engage in a deeper discussion about what they really want to do.“I would go to concerned employees and ask, ‘What do you enjoy doing? What motivates you? What could you be learning that helps you thrive in a workplace that uses AI?’ You should be having a lot of those conversations already.”Lantis suggests establishing programs that allow employees to rotate in and out of different projects, to see if there are opportunities for them to have an impact elsewhere in the organization. Companies may also have to devote more resources to upskilling and retraining.AI may force HR leaders to change how they assess talentShortly after generative AI platforms like ChatGPT became available to the public, people quickly learned how to use these tools to cheat on tests and plagiarize published materials.Potential job candidates can also use these tools to misrepresent their suitability for roles, says Teresha Aird, CMO and hiring manager at “They could use AI to generate tailored yet disingenuous cover letters, respond to online questionnaires, or pass screening tests,” she said. “Remote hires could leverage AI to complete their tasks, misrepresenting their actual abilities and performance.”Last June, the FBI issued an alert about scammers using “deep fakes” and stolen information to apply for remote jobs, pass background checks, and even perform work. HR pros may need to change their assessment methods, incorporating more in-person interviews, situational judgment tests, and realistic job previews, adds Aird.AI literacy is a new core competency–especially for HRWhile you don’t want to hire people who cheat, you do want your new hires to be AI literate, says Eric Sydell, EVP at the hiring platform Modern Hire and author of Decoding Talent: How AI and Big Data Can Solve Your Company’s People Puzzle. One of the skills recruiters will need to look at is how good applicants are at using tools like ChatGPT to do their jobs.“We have to view people as augmented and figure out what that really means,” said Sydell. “Digital readiness is one of the things we‘ll need to be looking at more”The need for literacy extends to recruiters and talent evaluators. "They've got to be somewhat fluent in data and understand how these tools work at a high level," he adds. "They need to look beyond the marketing hype and know the right questions to ask."HR needs to use AI tools for the right reasons and in the right wayAI tools offer myriad ways to make peoples’ work lives better. They can, for example, determine if someone is struggling with a task and offer automated assistance. But they can also be seen as intrusive, especially when used to surveil employees or identify disgruntled workers.According to a March 2023 survey by Hunter Marketing, 68% of executives whose companies have not yet adopted AI cite concerns over ethics.HR pros need to establish clear guidelines about the appropriate applications of the technology, notes Schmidt. For example, Peoplelogic’s AI tools analyze metadata produced by employee interactions to determine the overall health of organizations and teams, but only with the knowledge and permission of people in each group, says Schmidt.“Our goal is to enhance the employee experience,” he added. “Even then, the tools never look at the content of these interactions, and they only display data at an aggregate level.”HR pros need to tread very carefully when it comes to deploying AI, adds Lantis. “Anything that makes people feel like Big Brother is watching over them is a recipe for a really unhealthy culture,” she said. “It ends up encouraging busy work over business outcomes. At the end of the day, you have to instill a culture of trust and of accountability, so people are focused on the right outcomes, not on how many widgets you're making or keystrokes you're generating every hour.”It’s a good idea to get your feet wet nowUnderstanding AI’s potential, as well as its limitations, is essential for people in the HR business. Fortunately, with many AI models now open to the general public, it’s fairly easy to get started. People are using tools like ChatGPT to plan gardens, organize their messy computer desktops, summarize meetings, write wedding speeches, and much more. Getting familiar with what these tools can do now will help later, when you need them on the job.Dan Tynan is a Bay Area-based journalist whose work has appeared in more than 100 publications. He has served as editor-in-chief of Yahoo Tech and executive editor of PC World. He recently launched a newsletter on AI.

Dan Tynan | April 19, 2023

The Great Getaway: Travel as a New Employee Benefit

When Cana Whitted and her husband traveled from Portland, Ore., to Istanbul for their honeymoon last year, they took advantage of a novel employee perk. Whitted, a recruiting manager at the employee-search firm IsoTalent, tapped into her company’s partnership with Dónde, a platform that enables employers to offer travel as an employee benefit.As she planned the trip, Whitted’s employer matched up to $50 in savings she put into her Dónde account each month, then helped with travel advice in picking their destination and setting up side trips, she said. “I ended up being able to book a couple of hikes that I wouldn’t have found on my own, some experiences in the center of the country.”Just as important was the message from her company in providing this benefit. “It feels like you’re empowered to take some paid time off,” Whitted said. "You get to see the world, and they just make it a sweet process.”At a time when demand for leisure travel is booming, and many employees are suffering burnout after years of workplace disruption, a notable number of companies are finding travel-as-a-benefit to be an attractive new way to boost worker satisfaction and retention. Travel companies were natural candidates to lead the way–notably Airbnb, Expedia and United Airlines–but tech companies have joined the trend as well, including BambooHR and Evernote.“Anything an employer can do, now in particular, to be creative in terms of benefits to employees is significant,” says Rick Grimaldi, an HR lawyer and author of Flex: A Leader’s Guide to Staying Nimble and Mastering Transformative Change in the Workplace. Today’s workers, especially younger ones, Grimaldi said, “come to the workplace with a very different set of expectations.” Among those are not only fair pay and a sense of purpose, but also an acknowledgement of the need for time off and rejuvenation. “Mental health is a huge issue in the workplace, particularly post-Covid,” Grimaldi said. “So to the extent that an employer is concerned about employee well-being–as well they should–that is now part of the social contract.”Employers have more than altruistic reasons to pursue such benefits. The boost to employee well-being and productivity that comes with paid time off and travel has been well-documented. So have the corporate cost savings associated with retention and strong recruitment capabilities. Many workers now rank personal and career growth as being as important to them as their salaries, said Grimaldi, so they may look at the offer of travel in a benefits package as “an opportunity for me to grow socially and intellectually.”One more factor stimulating travel-as-a-benefit is the growth of so-called “bleisure travel,” in which workers combine their business trips with leisure time. The Wall Street Journal reported last year that nearly half of the ticket revenue at American Airlines, for example, is now coming from people on bleisure trips, “and those customers are spending nearly as much as what corporate travelers once shelled out” for business-only travel before the pandemic.The marketing platform Conductor is one believer in bleisure. The company permits its employees to work two months out of the year from any location in the world. The only catch is that workers must maintain business hours aligned with those of the company’s New York headquarters.Outsourcing the ProgramsGiven that busy HR leaders may not want to administer these programs themselves, startup platforms like Dónde can offer one-stop-shopping for both funding and planning employee getaways. One feature establishes a company-matched, travel-savings program, which works like a 401(k), but for travel. Dónde also aims to make travel-shopping less stressful and cheaper for employees through a marketplace available on its own branded app. Employees set travel goals on the app and monitor financial progress toward them. They can also set up recurring deposits into their travel savings accounts and see company contributions. When workers are ready to vacation, getaways can be booked and scheduled on the app, too.Jessica Lim Sorenson and her husband on a visit to the Dole Plantation in Hawaii (Photo courtesy of Jessica Lim Sorenson)“It’s a way for companies to reward their employees with time off and vacation, and it can look like anything they want it to look like,” said Rilee Buttars, Dónde’s CEO and co-founder. “We believe that the employer and employee relationship will be stronger if the employee is able to take time off and feel like they can have the work/life balance that is so often promised in interviews. The company will get a better employee because they enabled that to happen.”’One of Dónde’s partner companies is Zartico, a “destination operating system” designed to help grow tourism economies. Dónde provides Zartico with employee-rewards programs that include worker-recognition events and employee contests. To drum up attention, Zartico’s chief people officer, Leslie Hooper, launched an internal wiki page and paid employees to craft posts for it, with a couple of workers earning as much as $1,000 each in travel benefits in their Dondé accounts.“We are in the travel and tourism space, so people who work for us–even though they’re data scientists or engineers–they’re passionate about travel and that’s one of the qualities that speaks to them for working at Zartico,” said Hooper. “To have that as an added benefit is very, very attractive to them.”A Range of OptionsThe features of such packages vary widely. Some, like Calendly and Evernote, simply offer workers $1,000 yearly stipends for travel expenses, such as plane tickets, vacation activities, dining allowances and even passport fees. Travel stipends provided at other companies can run upward of $7,000 per year. Airbnb gives its employees $2,000 a year in platform travel credits, while United Airlines allows its workers to travel for free, on standby, on an unlimited basis.HR and benefits leaders who would like to incorporate travel into their company’s benefits package will need to devote some thought to how they might sell the idea to upper leadership. Grimaldi says the C-suite might be a little afraid to offer travel as a benefit, especially at a time when efficiency and austerity are corporate watchwords.Grimaldi suggests that HR leaders conduct research and accrue data that quantifies, to some degree, the positive impact that paid employee travel might have on productivity, retention and recruitment, among other considerations. “Show statistical data as well as anecdotal information where it’s been successful,” Grimaldi said. He also suggests framing travel-as-a-benefit as a cousin of the more-familiar sabbatical arrangement to help communicate its upside. “Then, develop a plan that works for your company,” he said.One of the goals of benefits leaders is to make sure workers understand their options and how to navigate them. That has been a challenge as travel-as-a-benefit gets off the ground. A few years ago, New York City resident Debbie Martinez was working for a tech company that offered subsidized PTO travel benefits and bleisure options to employees, but many co-workers were unaware of them. “It was like something that was a rumor,” she recalls. The company’s people managers didn’t understand how to deliver the benefits. “There was a whole mixup with HR,” Martinez said. “I didn’t really know how to make it work and no one gave me straight answers.”Once she figured out the system, it proved to be a boon. After logging eight days of work in Florida, she added 12 days for vacation. Other destinations included Hawaii and the Sundance Film Festival in Utah, both of which included subsidies paid by her employer. “It’s extremely beneficial,” Martinez said of the benefit perk. “I wish more companies would offer it, and sometimes just a change in location while you work is all you need. It was a great reset.”Since her early experience, travel programs have sought to become more user-friendly. Jessica Lim Sorenson, a Utah-based user-experience designer, used Dónde to book her honeymoon in Hawaii last year, partly paid by her employer at the time, Lendio. “You’re getting free money out of it. All you have to do is use it,” she said. “It kind of takes your traditional benefits and gives it a nice twist. It was reassuring to know I can take PTO and I don’t have to feel pressure to always be working all the time.” Michael Stahl is a New York City-based freelance journalist, writer, and editor. You can read more of his work at, follow him on Twitter @MichaelRStahl, and order his first book, the autobiography of Major League Baseball pitcher Bartolo Colón, at Abrams Books.

Michael Stahl | March 22, 2023