'If I can get three solid years out of an employee, that’s a huge testament'

Chief People Officer of Klover discusses shift in recruiting strategy since Great Resignation

'If I can get three solid years out of an employee, that’s a huge testament'

Colette Freeman, chief people and administrative officer at Klover, has recently interviewed her first set of COVID-19 pandemic candidates.

These are college graduates who have transitioned from the virtual classroom to the hybrid working world. After earning their degrees, now they’re hoping to land a job at the Chicago-based fintech and data platform. It’s a great time to be seeking employment opportunities, Freeman says, as it’s a candidate’s market.

“The hybrid world has brought a change for all recruiters and talent acquisition leaders in how we need to look for talent and help the business grow,” Freeman, who currently serves as a board member of Chicago-based JB Training Solutions, told HRD. “I’m trying to help my recruiters shift their mindset and skillset. For instance, I’ve always gone for a gut read, connecting with candidates in person and reading their body language. Now that the process takes place on a computer, you have to use more automation and tech-driven tools to drive decision making.”

Read more: Klover chief people officer: How to scale your startup

With more than two decades of experience in the HR industry, Freeman has developed a reputation for quickly scaling startups. As director of recruiting at Trunk Club, she helped the Chicago-based fashion retailer expand to 600 employees in just two and a half years. She worked her magic again at Tempus Labs, taking the Chicago-based health care data firm from 400 employees to 2,000 in a three-year span. That’s even more impressive considering the accelerated growth happened in the midst of the pandemic and Great Resignation.

The latter remains a major challenge for HR leaders, as companies across the United States experience historic turnover. In June, 4.2 million Americans quit their jobs, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, down slightly from 4.3 million in May. Since the beginning of 2021, roughly 73 million Americans have fled their positions. Prompted by the pandemic to re-evaluate their priorities in life, employees have been leaving their positions for greener pastures, demanding higher salaries, better working conditions, improved work-life balance and more opportunities to advance their career.

“You have to be resilient and ready for what comes next,” Freeman says. “If I can get three solid years out of an employee, that’s a huge testament to the business and to the employee. I used to never look at a resume that had someone work for a company for a year and then bounce to another company for a year. I thought there was a pattern there and something was wrong. Now I’m completely comfortable looking at resumes where people are moving and growing because it’s such a different world.”

As a result of the Great Resignation, the scales have tipped in favor of labor. To combat the nationwide staffing shortage and compete for talent, employers are having to increase their compensation and benefits packages beyond the traditional healthcare, dental, vision and 401(k) offers.

“These days, you bring your whole self to work,” Freeman says. “As a people operations team and as a business, you have to support your employees in their whole self so they’ll be more inclined to do their best work. In order to retain talent, HR has had to change plans to ensure we can support employees with additional childcare needs or mental health resources or financial wellness needs, such as how to pay off student loans or get a mortgage for their first house.”

Despite the continued hunt for talent, the pendulum may be swinging back to employers’ favor. Several major brands have been reducing their workforce ahead of an anticipated recession. In the past few months alone, JPMorgan Chase & Co., Coinbase, Netflix, Tesla and 7-Eleven have all made hundreds of layoffs. Meanwhile, Apple and Google have announced plans to slow hiring efforts, and Meta (formerly known as Facebook) has urged engineering managers to identify “low performers” on their teams.

More than 450 startups and tech firms have laid off more than 75,000 people in 2022, according to professional social network Blind’s tech layoffs tracker.

“The next couple of quarters are going to shift in how we recruit considering how businesses are being conservative and tightening up,” Freeman says. “I feel for everyone who has to do layoffs. During the last recession, I was able to retain my talent acquisition team at McKinsey & Company by cutting costs in other ways. If we can prepare and be mindful and purposeful about the hires we make and the money we’re spending, we’ll be able to move into this next phase in the coming year.”

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