The ongoing trend of businesses struggling to onboard new employees is likely going to continue through the new year. Here's what you need to know. Photo via Getty Images

As 2021 comes to an end, businesses continue to struggle to fill open positions caused by "The Great Resignation," and this trend is likely to continue well into the New Year.

It has been particularly difficult to hire and retain Gen Z employees, the newest generation in the workforce, as we navigate the expectations of these employees, as compared to past generations.

Fortunately, businesses can bounce back from "The Great Resignation" or protect themselves before they experience a similar mass exodus by taking the time to understand employees' preferences and motivations, and make a few small changes accordingly.

Prioritize DEI&B, mental health and provide purpose:

Today's world is much different than the world many CEOs and hiring managers grew up in, and a shift is required to successfully recruit, retain, challenge and excite the newest generation. Gen Z is one of the most diverse populations to enter the workforce, and not only do they seek out companies that value diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging in the workplace, they want to see that their diverse ideas, backgrounds and creative approaches are recognized and celebrated.

Additionally, Gen Z places a major focus on being purposeful in their actions. This generation, especially after living through COVID-19, has begun prioritizing their mental health and overall well-being in their job positions. It's important for these young professionals to make sure that they have a good work/life balance, and that they work in an environment that is healthy for their mental stability.

New professionals ask two main questions when it comes to accepting a job: "What tasks am I doing?" and "How do they relate to my overall life and career goals?" Today's blossoming workforce will readily decline a higher paying role for one where they feel they're positively contributing to society and fulfilling their own purpose. According to NACE's 2021 Student Survey Report, 75 percent of recent college graduates rated finding a job where the "organization helps improve my community/country/world" as being a higher attribute while on the job hunt, in comparison to a higher starting pay.

Explore and offer non-traditional benefits:

As COVID-19 transformed the workplace, Gen Z'ers entered the workforce with the ability to work from home. The benefits of saving time commuting to and from work and constant flexibility are all they know in their careers up to this point. As these professionals grow into managers, executives at all levels will be forced to shift their mindset about working from home (or working from anywhere, for that matter!) as the younger generation has already adapted and grown accustomed to this benefit.

While giving up this level of control feels daunting to many business owners, myself included, it is no different than millennials' demands 10+ years ago for working on teams versus in silos, digital communications and expectations for transparency from employers, which we all became accustomed to and are now norms in the workplace.

Other non-traditional benefits, such as paid volunteer hours, continuing education stipends, DEI&B committees, paid mental health days and donation matching can go a long way with younger talent. This generation equally values professional development, self-care and the community at-large, so these work perks are of high interest to them.

Competitive pay is still a top priority:

At Ampersand, we shifted our business model to provide interns with paid internship opportunities in the companies we match them with for many reasons (mostly it was the right thing to do), and the shift dramatically increased the interns' commitment to the work, the accountability and the ability to recruit higher quality talent. By offering a paid internship to aspiring young professionals, we are appreciating their worth while concurrently closing the equity gap created by unpaid internships.

Simultaneously, our business partners are able to keep professionals engaged in day-to-day work, and allow them to earn a living with a fair wage. While most internships force young professionals to choose between getting the experience and getting paid, we provide young professionals with both!

Don’t overlook the power of interns:

Interns can be a powerful tool to propel a business forward. Many young professionals are brimming with new ideas and can make a significant impact within a business. Furthermore, National Association of Colleges and Employers' research shows that 32 percent of interns initially hired by a company for an internship are likely to stay more than a year in an entry level role than new hires. Additionally, hiring interns could be the perfect solution to offset employee turnover during "The Great Resignation," since they are able to take the load off of other employees who may be feeling burnt out or overwhelmed.

While interns can be valuable additions to help reduce the workload of full-time employees, we also understand the work and time commitment it takes to train interns, which is why Ampersand was created. Ampersand's curriculum teaches young professionals solid work practices, such as how to actively participate in a business meeting, presentation skills, communicating with managers and managing their workload. Overall, Ampersand's curriculum increases a young professional's contribution to businesses while providing a solid foundation for the young professional to launch their career.

Ampersand has had over 250 young professionals graduate the program, and their experience with us has only propelled them further to thrive in their places of work. We encourage our professional alumni to show up to the workplace with their own unique personalities and requests, but we have taught them to do so in a respectful and professional manner. With that, we hope that employers will see the benefits to bringing on skilled interns who can contribute in a meaningful way to the organization, regardless of background or previous experience. And in doing so, we're confident employers can buffer the impacts of—or even avoid—this recent wave of mass turnovers.

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Allie Danziger is the co-founder and CEO of Houston-based Ampersand Professionals.


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Houston VC-backed tech founder on reinventing a sales team and supporting financial independence

Houston innovators podcast episode 112

Four years ago, Samantha Ettus found herself as a keynote speaker in a room with thousands of ambitious and talented women. It was a conference for multi-level marketing sales associates and, as Ettus found out later, most of them — despite their talent and passion — were losing money on whatever product they were selling.

"I realized there was a problem. There obviously was a need — all of these people want to be doing something outside of their families that gives them fulfillment and meaning and has goals associated with it — but they also want to be earning money," Ettus says on the Houston Innovators Podcast. "And the first part was being fulfilled — but the second part wasn't."

Ettus created an alternative to check both of those boxes. Park Place Payments is a fintech startup founded in 2018 in California. Houston was one of the initial six test market for the business model, and the company now has over 1,000 account executives across all 50 states. Sales team members are trained for free on how to sell Park Place's payment processor service to local businesses.

Ettus says the payment processor industry is competitive and most small business owners are very disappointed with the customer service they receive. The average business changes payment processors every three years, Ettus says, and Park Place wants to change that.

"Payments is an industry where something always goes wrong," Ettus says. "As a small business owner, if you can't reach someone — that's really important for the livelihood of your business. ... We really think of ourselves as an outsourced payment partner for small businesses."

This past year has been one for growth for Park Place, Ettus says, and earlier this year, she closed on the company's seed round, which was supported by Curate Capital, founded by Houstonian Carrie Colbert. Now the company is focused on its tech team, including hiring a CTO. Early next year, Ettus hopes to close a Series A round, again with support — financially and otherwise — from Colbert.

"I feel so lucky because a lot of people pointed us to traditional Silicon Valley VCs in the beginning, and I had a lot of conversations. I didn't feel some of those firms had the patience to grow with us," Ettus says.

The company has been tied to Houston from its early days, from testing the business in town to a Houston-based early hire, Nancy Decker Lent, who is a founding member of the team and head of product for Park Place.

Ettus shares more on her passion for supporting financial independence for women and how she plans to grow her company on the podcast. Listen to the full interview below — or wherever you stream your podcasts — and subscribe for weekly episodes.

New Houston-based specialty pet supply company aims to pamper your pooch

good dog

Considering that Americans will reportedly spend $109.6 billion on pets this year, according to new data, it really pays to be discerning when buying. Now, Houston dog owners can stay local when shopping for their fur babies.

Houstonians Brad Madrid and Bobby Dwyer have launched Fido, a new e-commerce pet wellness brand. Available all over Houston, Texas, and indeed, the nation,

Fido products will initially start with Chill Chews and Clear Ears, both of which are scientifically formulated and aim to provide relief and comfort, per a press release. Products are lab-tested and veterinarian-approved, per the company.

Anxious pups may benefit from Chill Chews, which make training, traveling, and everyday life smoother and are said to help pets relax. The Clear Ears, meanwhile, is composed of natural ingredients such as eucalyptus and aloe and is meant to keep pets’ ears clean and clear of any wax, debris, fungus, and bacteria.

“As a professional dog trainer and breeder, I’ve worked with hundreds of dogs which has allowed me to develop a deep understanding of how dogs think and function,” said Dwyer in a statement. “Through my profession, I’ve discovered a need for products to ensure canines’ health and wellness, and it’s our mission to provide great products to make good boys even better.”

Brad Madrid and Bobby Dwyer have launched Fido, a new e-commerce pet wellness brand. Photo courtesy of Fido

Madrid and Dwyer aren’t just business partners but also brothers-in-law. Bringing science to Fido, Madrid boasts a background in pharmaceuticals, while Dwyer brings canine know-how with his experience as a dog trainer.

Both hope to see their business grow by leaps and bounds. Products are available for purchase on the website and shipping is available nationwide. Plans for products to be sold in local pet stores, as with international shipping available in the future.

If current data is any indication, Madrid and Dwyer are in the right business. A survey of 2,000 dog and cat owners found that 52 percent of respondents said they spend more money on their pets than they do on themselves each year, per GoBankingRates.

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This article originally ran on CultureMap.

Houston startup shakes up antiquated hiring process for the next generation

new way to hire

Companies across the country have been requiring resumes and cover letters from their new hire hopefuls since the World War II era, and it's about time that changed. A startup founded in Houston has risen to the occasion.

Houstonian Samantha Hepler had the idea for SeekerPitch when she was looking for her next move. She felt like she had developed a formidable career in digital transformation and had worked with big name clients from Chevron to Gucci. However, she couldn't even get an interview for a role she felt she would be a shoe-in for.

"I knew if I could just get through the door, a company would see the value in me," Hepler tells InnovationMap. "I wasn't being seen, and I wasn't being heard. I didn't know a way to do that."

And she wasn't alone in this frustration. Hepler says she discovered she was one of the 76 percent of job candidates who get filtered out based on former job titles and keywords. At the same time, Hepler says she discovered that 80 percent of companies reported difficulty finding talent.

Samantha Hepler had the idea for SeekerPitch based on her own ill-fated job hunt experience. Photo courtesy of SeekerPitch

"I was just a symptom of a larger problem companies were facing," Hepler says. "Companies were using algorithms to dilute their talent pool, and then the hires they were making weren't quality because they were looking for people based on what they've done. They weren't looking at people for what they could do."

SeekerPitch, which is in the current cohort of gBETA Houston, allows job seekers to create an account and tell their story — not just their job history. The platform prioritizes video content and quick interviews so that potential hires can get face-to-face with hiring managers.

"We empower companies to hear the candidates' stories," Hepler says. "We're bringing candidates streaming to computer screens. We are the Netflix of recruiting."

Hepler gives an example of a first-generation college graduate who's got "administrative assistant" and "hostess" on her resume — but who has accomplished so much more than that. She put herself through school with no debt and in three years instead of four. SeekerPitch allows for these types of life accomplishments and soft skills into the recruiting process.

SeekerPitch profiles allow job seekers to tell their story — not just their past job experience. Photo courtesy of SeekerPitch

Over the past few years, a trend in hiring has been in equity and diversity, and Hepler says that people have been trying to address this with blurring out people's names and photos.

"Our belief is that connection is the antidote to bias," Hepler says, mentioning a hypothetical job candidate who worked at Walmart because they couldn't afford to take multiple unpaid internships. "They can't come alive on a resume and they won't stand a chance next to another person."

SeekerPitch is always free for job seekers, and, through the end of the year, it's also free for companies posting job positions. Beginning in January 2022, it will cost $10 per day to list a job opening. Also next year — Hepler says she'll be opening a round of pre-seed funding in order to grow her team. So far, the company has been bootstrapped, thanks to re-appropriated funding from Hepler's canceled wedding. (She opted for a cheaper ceremony instead.)

Right now, SeekerPitch sees an opportunity to support growing startups that need to make key hires — and quickly. The company has an ongoing pilot partnership with a Houston startup that is looking to hiring over a dozen positions in a month.

"As a startup, your key hires are going to make or break your company — but you have to hire quickly," Hepler says. "That's the ultimate challenge for startups. ... But if you don't hire well it can cost your company a lot of money or be the demise of your company. It's people who make a company great."