24 Oct Matthew Moloney Of Flextrack On The Labor Shortage & The 5 Things We Must Do To Attract & Retain Great Talent- An Interview with Phil La Duke
…Meet your workers where they are. Team leaders need to provide an environment that enables all talent to be successful and enjoy their work. Communicate openly, bring people together, and embrace different points of view. In everything you do, make sure the team is engaged, fulfilled, and having fun. Otherwise, you risk driving your most critical people away.
The pandemic has allowed people to reevaluate what they want from work. This “Great Reevaluation” has led to the “Great Resignation” which has left the US with a great big labor shortage and a supply chain crisis. What can we do to reverse this trend? What can be done to attract great talent to companies looking to hire? What must companies do to retain their great talent? If not just a paycheck, what else are employees looking for? In this interview series called “The Labor Shortage & The 5 Things We Must Do To Attract & Retain Great Talent” we are talking to successful business leaders who can share stories and ideas from their experiences that can address these questions. As a part of this interview series, we had the pleasure to interview Matthew Moloney.
Matthew Moloney has over two decades of experience in the contingent workforce management space. He has worked with global leaders in the industry and has served in multiple recruiting, sales, operations, and executive roles. In 2012 Matt joined Flextrack to deliver top-notch managed service provider (MSP) and vendor management system (VMS) solutions to clients across a variety of industries. Matt has been helping to lead the digital transformation of contingent workforce management, bringing the power and flexibility of the Salesforce platform to VMS while catalyzing business enablement and C-level strategy execution. One of Matt’s core purposes is to ensure the contingent workforce gets the care and recognition it deserves as a cornerstone of enterprise talent strategies.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Our readers would like to get an idea of who you are and where you came from. Can you tell us a bit about your background? Where do you come from? What are the life experiences that most shaped your current self?
I started my career in the contingent workforce management space about 21 years ago as a contingent IT recruiter at TEKsystems. I worked my way up the ladder into national account management at TEKsystems and soon after moved into a business development role at Modis, another staffing company, before joining Flextrack’s sales team.
My experience at the staffing firms taught me about the psychology around how customers buy, and what it means to bring in solutions that add value to an organization’s bottom line. When I joined Flextrack ten years ago, the company was actively growing and hyper-focused on customer value and building relationships and trust with people. The perspective I gained at TEKsystems and Modis proved to be invaluable during those early days and for Flextrack’s ongoing growth. That customer-first and relationship-focused mindset still define our approach today.
I was also fortunate enough to work in the music industry and travel quite a bit before I got into the contingent workforce business. I met a lot of different people and experienced various countries and cultures, which shaped my worldview. The ability to understand and incorporate different perspectives has been really helpful for my career in sales. There are many points of view that ultimately need to fit together for a company to make a buying decision, for example.
I’ve also been lucky enough to have had a seat at the table during important business transformation conversations. Flextrack noticed a need in the market for flexible technology to manage the non-employee workforce and we pivoted our business to close that gap. Being part of this shift has been one of the most exciting points in my career. It’s not often that salespeople are actively involved in these types of initiatives. It helped me understand from a change management and business strategy perspective what organizations need to fulfill the vision of their CEOs. For me, the experience fundamentally changed how we went to market with our new extended workforce management platform built on Salesforce and shaped the way I interact with buyers and executives to focus on positive business outcomes.
Let’s jump right in. Some experts have warned of the “Great Resignation” as early as the 1980s and yet so many companies seem to have been completely unprepared when it finally happened. What do you think caused this disconnect? Why do you think the business world was caught by surprise?
While experts warned about the Great Resignation, they likely weren’t talking about it on the scale that we’re experiencing today. No one could have anticipated something like the COVID-19 pandemic, which affected every aspect of work and life, significantly shifting worker attitudes and preferences.
A mass exodus of workers is also not something that organizations really saw historically because there was never a catalyst that could drive this type of fundamental shift until the global pandemic. Especially in the tech sector, everything we saw over the years was forward progress and growth. But I also wouldn’t say that people were caught by surprise by the Great Resignation given organizations have always had to deal with talent shortages. They’ve just never had to deal with one on this scale.
The conversation now should be about how we prepare ourselves for the future. Today, many organizations are highly siloed, managing full-time workers under HR and extended workers through procurement. There needs to be a convergence of technology and of business units in terms of how talent is acquired and managed. Until then, organizations will remain unnecessarily vulnerable to disruptive forces such as the Great Resignation.
What do you think employers have to do to adapt to this new reality?
The war for talent is over — and talent won. I always get puzzled looks when I say that, but it’s true. With skills deficits and talent shortages projected for years or even decades in some cases, organizations need to re-engineer the way they approach the talent marketplace.
Talent acquisition teams, on both the full-time and contingent worker sides, should view themselves more as a marketing function versus solely a talent acquisition practice. How can you create a true community around your employer’s brand? When a contractor has performed their work and walks out the door, how do you keep them engaged while they’re likely getting recruited by other firms? Conceptually, that’s a marketing play. You create communication and engagement pathways for workers who have left roles or ended assignments. You re-engage those folks quickly and easily and keep them apprised of new opportunities at your organization. You build brand awareness with prospective talent and ensure that once you get them in the door, they are happy, loyal, and want to stay with your business.
HR departments have created employee value propositions, focused on succession planning, and funneled money into HR tech for years on the full-time employee side. Identifying ways to match those investments on the contingent side now requires the same attention and investment. This is especially true given technology will drive and automate many of the conversation and engagement pathways required to build a compelling community.
Based on your opinion and experience, what do you think were the main pain points that caused the Great Resignation? Why is so much of the workforce unhappy?
I don’t think that most of the workforce is unhappy. I’d say workers are re-evaluating their lives, including work, and what is important to them. In fact, I tend to like the term The Great Reset over The Great Resignation because what we’re experiencing is a social and mental health challenge as much as it is a healthcare and pandemic response challenge.
We’ve gone through a mentally challenging period and it’s natural to take a step back and reset. Some people have realized what they’re passionate about and have explored new roles that align with those interests. Other workers have shifted from full-time to contingent opportunities in pursuit of additional flexibility and work/life balance. Others have retired early out of eagerness to start the next chapter of life.
The pandemic has also enabled organizations to open their doors to new types of talent — freelancers, gig workers, and more — and access talent in new geographies. Organizations can hire from anywhere now that remote work has gone mainstream. These shifts open up a world of opportunity for workers. Workers recognize that and are capitalizing on those new opportunities as they reset their work and personal lives.
Many employers extoll the advantages of the entrepreneurial spirit and the possibilities of an expanded “gig economy”. But this does come with the cost of a lack of loyalty of gig workers. Is there a way to balance this? Can an employer look for single-use sources of services and expect long-term loyalty? Is there a way to hire a freelancer and expect dependability and loyalty? Can you please explain what you mean?
This is a very interesting question. When I first got into this industry, people often raised concerns about hiring contractors because they worried about these workers leaving. I’d argue that you don’t have to worry about loyalty if you’re hiring and planning your workforce in the right way. More importantly, contractors might be the best or only way to access some of the most valuable skills in business today.
Instead of sourcing talent based on classic job descriptions, look at what a skills-based job or success profile looks like. Organizations looking for a project manager, for example, typically have a job description that outlines the project manager’s specific responsibilities. But companies don’t often talk about candidates in terms of skills. What does it take to be a great project manager? And do those skills exist in other people that don’t carry the project manager title?
Once you start thinking in terms of skills, you can connect more people with more roles. You get away from worrying about loyalty because you know you have the right skills to fulfill your needs as an organization. The goal of hiring a non-employee is job completion. The goal isn’t to have this person working for the company for 10 or 25 years. Organizations often get caught up in the loyalty aspect, but even on the full-time side average tenures for many roles are typically just a few years.
If you can think in terms of skills instead of job descriptions, you tackle the talent shortage by opening yourself up to a whole new pool of talent and you also drive projects forward in the way you need them completed. Putting folks in roles based on their skillsets naturally keeps them engaged and energized, which makes these workers more open to future assignments within your organization and can ultimately drive loyalty.
It has been said that “people don’t quit jobs, they quit bosses”. How do you think this has been true during the Great Resignation? Can you explain what you mean?
Business leaders have had to change the way they interact with their teams. There is much more of an emphasis today on emotional intelligence (EQ) within leadership than on the historical IQ side. Leaders need to be in touch with their teams, over-communicate and ensure every decision they make balances the needs of the organization with the needs of their workers — their social life, work, where they’re working from, how they’re doing that work, how work is allocated internally, and more.
If leaders adopt a skills-based model and closely look at the skills they need to drive project completion, it opens them up to engage people in different ways, gives talent new experiences within the organization, and equips people with new skills they didn’t know they had before. Ultimately that invigorates the workforce and enables the organization to retain its people. If you want to hold onto workers, you have to change the way you’re managing your business and specifically your projects.
I am fond of saying, “If it’s fun they charge admission. But you get a paycheck for working here.” Obviously, I am being facetious, but not entirely. Every job has its frustrations and there will be times when every job will aggravate employees. How important is it that employees enjoy their jobs?
Workers absolutely need to enjoy their jobs. Personally, I’m at a point in my career where I refuse to not have fun. I want myself and my team to enjoy what we’re doing, be supportive, bring in diverse points of view, and feel like we can bring our best, most authentic selves to work every day.
A company has to meet their workers where they are, and if you can’t figure out a way to do that, you’ll end up in the same bucket as the organizations that are really feeling the pinch during this Great Resignation. If you aren’t driving to a level of enjoyment, fulfillment, and personal success with your teams then you’re going to drive people away.
There’s a way for us as leaders to balance and sustain both the drive for profit and running a successful business with the health, well-being, and enjoyment of our employees. If workers are having fun, you’re going to drive better project success because you’ll have an engaged team looking out for everyone’s mutual success.
How do you think an unhappy workforce will impact a) company productivity b) company profitability c) and employee health and wellbeing?
An unhappy workforce will fundamentally cripple your organization. ‘Fun’ isn’t a bad word. There are ways to drive happiness and enjoyment at work, but it requires meeting workers where they are. Start by taking in diverse points of view, bringing people together, openly communicating, and creating space for people to do what they do best. The rest will take care of itself.
At the end of the day, we want to be successful as workers. We don’t come to work to not be successful, but the company needs to enable success to happen in the right way.
What are a few things that employers, managers, and executives can do to ensure that workers enjoy their jobs?
Outside of creating a supportive, fun, and inclusive work environment, I’d say one of the biggest things employers can do is ensure that workers are truly engaged in their projects and are regularly and appropriately challenged. On top of that, take time to make sure they know the purpose or the “why” of what they are doing.
Don’t let a role become stale or less rewarding to a worker. Keep your people motivated and happy by matching them to assignments that will give them new experiences and opportunities to learn different skills. Check in with them regularly throughout the project to ensure they’re enjoying the work and give them dedicated channels to share feedback. If at any point they aren’t thrilled with the role, swiftly rectify the issue. Showing workers that you’re committed to their happiness, development, and overall success goes a long way.
Can you share a few things that employers, managers, and executives should be doing to improve their company’s work culture?
The biggest thing organizations can do to build a strong culture is to be forward-thinking when it comes to diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I). When you are looking at your workforce through a diversity lens and bringing in people with a different point of view than what you may have in your organization today, that’s truly where the fun begins.
People love sharing their backgrounds, cultures, and different points of view. The best way to create an open, empowering, and inclusive environment is by looking at the makeup of your workforce and at the diversity equation for your organization. There’s also a direct correlation between alignment to DE&I and project success. I’m also confident that the employees at the organizations that prioritize DE&I are having the most fun.
Okay, wonderful. Here is the main question of our interview. What are your “5 things employers should do to attract and retain top talent during the labor shortage?” (Please share a story or example for each.)
My five recommendations to employers for winning and retaining talent in today’s market:
- Re-evaluate your in-house technology. Make sure you have the right systems and modern technologies in place to source the talent you need and maintain a smooth and effective work experience for your people.
- Think about your outward-facing brand and how workers can easily engage. Consider this for both your full-time employees and your contingent workers. A happy and satisfied workforce hinges on prioritizing the contingent worker experience equally. Having the right skills is more important than how long an individual stays in a role, and contingent workers are uniquely suited to bring organizations the in-demand skills they need to move the business forward.
- Rethink the talent sourcing model. As you hire candidates of all types — contingent, full-time, diverse workers, and more — how are these people moving through your sourcing model from the time the job posting goes up to the time an individual is onboarded and has actually started work? All those processes impact your ability to drive talent into your organization. There are always trade-offs. If you change your workflows because you want everything to be fast, you could sacrifice quality. If you focus too much on quality, you could sacrifice time.
- Understand the vision of your CEO. Know what they are trying to accomplish and how they are compensated. Find the right people with the skillsets that will help your organization accomplish your CEO’s goals. Many executives now have key performance indicators tied to their ability to drive DE&I. If that’s important to your Chief Executive, that’s something to prioritize and evaluate when sourcing talent.
- Meet your workers where they are. Team leaders need to provide an environment that enables all talent to be successful and enjoy their work. Communicate openly, bring people together, and embrace different points of view. In everything you do, make sure the team is engaged, fulfilled, and having fun. Otherwise, you risk driving your most critical people away.
We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them.
While there are many people that come to mind, I’m going to say Michael Jordan as he was my idol growing up. I played basketball at university, and I always looked up to him. More so, he has individually changed the entire fortune of the Nike and Jordan brand. He is an owner in the NBA and his ability to drive business goals and align them with sports is compelling. He’s been very successful in sports and in business. It would be very cool to sit down with him one on one.
Vic is an accomplished leader who brings 20 years of experience leading marketing and communications at some of the world’s foremost technology companies. Vic previously led global marketing and communications at Ingram Micro Cloud helped launch the CloudBlue brand and led digital marketing for the PaaS business. Before Ingram Micro, Vic led the Global Marketing Team at Printronix. He oversaw programs and initiatives to merge the company with TSC Auto ID and form a new independent brand. Vic held senior marketing positions at Havas Worldwide and IBM earlier in his career. He received his Bachelor of Arts Degree from Bond University, his MBA from the University of La Verne, and is a graduate of the Performance Leadership Program from Cornell University.