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5 panelists speak during a GPEC Zoom event.

Regional Report: Talent Acquisition & Retention

Greater Phoenix industry leaders discuss the importance of office culture

Since April 2020, Greater Phoenix has recovered 93% of non-farm payroll employment jobs lost because of the pandemic. While private sector employment is back to pre-pandemic levels, a tightening labor market is driving competition for talent consistent with what employers around the U.S. are experiencing.

Industry experts joined the latest GPEC regional report to discuss hiring and retention strategies, building a company culture and the future of workforce development.

The panel included:

  • Chiara Hughes, Head of Technical Recruiting, Carvana
  • Sara Dionne, Director of Human Resources, Rogers Corporation
  • Rosanna Trenter, Regional Manager, Partners Personnel
  • Michael Stavros, Partner & Director of Business Development, M Culinary
  • Moderator: Eric Sperling, Social Television Network

Panelists agreed a key aspect of attracting and retaining employees is to create a culture in which workers feel welcome, are heard, and see their needs being taken seriously through material changes.

“A big part of it was a shift in focus of how we actually viewed and treated our employees,” Stavros said. “In the hospitality industries, we were grinders, and we realized that we were literally grinding people out of the job.”

Adjusting the culture

Part of the tightening labor market results from employees experiencing a shift in work-life balance.

“People look at work differently now,” Dionne said. “We’ve had these kind of work-life balance decisions that people are making differently now that this COVID experience is happening to them, so it’s really put a new lens on how we look at retaining and recruiting people.”

Panelists noted their companies and clients found success after listening to the needs of their employees and working to find ways to meet them.

Carvana provides mental health assistance and tuition reimbursement. Dionne mentioned childcare days or daycare services as a beneficial addition to a workplace.

After five years of strategic work, M Culinary was recognized as one of the top companies to work for in Arizona. They offer professional development opportunities, provide lunch for their staff and are considering bringing in financial planning assistance for employees.

“That really started to change the way that our employees perceived us,” Stavros said.

Yet these avenues of retention can be expensive. Not every company has the money to fulfill promises like childcare, tuition reimbursement and daily staff lunches, but there are free or inexpensive examples to boost morale in the office.

“We laugh about things like bring your dog to work day -- well, that actually matters to people,” Stavros said.

Dionne said maintaining flexibility with a willingness to let employees work remotely when possible pays dividends. M Culinary created a program in which employees who went above and beyond would be entered into a raffle to win prizes such as 40 additional hours of PTO, and the company participated in more community service and volunteer work to ensure they put their words into action.

Carvana welcomed the creation of employee-led community groups reflective of a modern and diverse society. Rogers Corporation has employee resource groups (ERGs), which are used to foster inclusiveness and ensure organizational values align with those of the employees.

Hughes said it’s important to note that executives creating ERGs themselves can come off as disingenuous and arbitrary. Instead, provide it as an option to employees and support those who express the desire to lead one.

“(The Carvana executives) said, ‘Tell us what you need to support you but get out of your way to have it be authentic,’” Hughes shared. “They’ve been very great about putting it in the hand of the employees so that we feel supported to create a space where we feel fulfilled, and we feel a sense of belonging. It’s resonated.

Attracting talent

It can feel insincere for the company to advertise community service and volunteer work, but in a hiring environment in which more people are looking for jobs that reflect their personal values, it is important to relay how the company finds meaning beyond profits and paychecks. Behind-the-scenes work is great, but promoting it can help job seekers learn about your business.

“Our applicants are quizzing us: ‘What are we doing to help the community?’ ‘What are we doing to help our own employee base?’” Stavros said.

Carvana creates employee testimonial videos to share the job details and work-life balance of the company.

Inclusiveness can help draw in more potential talent as employers try to expand the pools of candidates. Dionne recommended adding bilingual employees to leadership teams to assist with employees whose first language is not English, and Chiara said your mix of recruiters should reflect the mix of job candidates you are seeking.

“Those are key things to inclusiveness -- if all the people that manage me don't sound like me or look like me, how do we help include more people by changing some of our leadership staff?” Dionne said.

Trenter said some Partners Personnel clients will remove requirements such as obtaining a high school diploma to attract a wider swath of applicants or omit a required number of years of experience to encourage potential applicants to call and get more information.

Advertising the job openings

Different jobs call for different means of advertising talent. At Carvana, social media ads may be best to promote a corporate opening, but inspection center workers or truck drivers may not be on LinkedIn. They’re more likely to see a traditional method like radio or billboard, or perhaps even offbeat methods like an advertisement on the back of napkin holders in small-town cafes.

“Hiring for each workforce has a different challenge,” Chiara said. “We have to come up with creative ideas and ways to attract that talent, then hire that talent and retain that talent.”

Bringing in job recruiters can also help. Partners Personnel searches not just for backgrounds that match the job description, but people who will match the company.

“We have our recruiters go tour the facilities because we want to make sure that we’re seeing the culture in the business so that we are making that right fit for each client,” Trenter said.

At the end of the day, we’re human.

“The stressors in the workplace right now are just overwhelming,” Dionne said. “We've got to figure out how to work through some of that too because otherwise, people are going to be in the workplace for a short period of time and then they're just jumping for the money because it doesn’t matter anymore.”

Meet our panelists:
  • Chiara Hughes, Head of Technical Recruiting, Carvana
  • Sara Dionne, Director of Human Resources, Rogers Corporation
  • Rosanna Trenter, Regional Manager, Partners Personnel
  • Michael Stavros, Partner & Director of Business Development, M Culinary
  • Moderator: Eric Sperling, Social Television Network