Kaitlin Kincaid of Keller Augusta on The Labor Shortage & The 5 Things We Must Do to Attract & Retain Great Talent
Dec 6, 2022
Authority Magazine interviews successful business leaders who can share stories and ideas from their experiences. Keller Augusta Senior Managing Director, Kaitlin Kincaid’s interview with Authority Magazine highlights how to create a culture of engagement in a tight labor market.
Create a culture of engagement. Employees want an inclusive culture where everyone’s opinions are heard and considered. Where things are done with a purpose for the greater good. This is as simple as having a clear business strategy when bringing employees back to the office. For example, providing lunch for employees to dine together and converse to re-engage after months of remote working.
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 experience that can address these questions.
As a part of this interview series, we had the pleasure to interview Kaitlin Kincaid.
Kaitlin Kincaid is the senior managing director of Keller Augusta, a national, full-service boutique search firm specializing in commercial real estate. With demonstrated real estate executive search experience spanning almost 20 years, Kincaid leads the firm’s research strategy and oversees the execution of search assignments.
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?
Born and raised in Boston, I grew up in a big, close-knit extended family. My grandmother regularly said, “your cousins will always be your best friends,” and I am so fortunate because that has always been true. I now have young children, and they are lucky enough to have the same relationships with their cousins. From Boston to New York City, where I lived for nine years with my husband, is where I really grew up. The exposure to the City offered countless life lessons that have shaped me into the woman I am today.
I now lead the Keller Augusta recruitment team in a fast-paced, relationship-driven business. We are a woman-owned and female-staffed national search and advisory firm focused on commercial real estate (CRE). I specifically love the real estate focus because as each day is different, I constantly meet knowledgeable and successful people, and it allows me to directly contribute to neighborhoods and communities by placing suitable candidates.
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?
The “Great Resignation,” or what we at Keller Augusta prefer to call the Great Reshuffle, caught businesses by surprise because the pandemic caught the world by surprise, creating a domino effect of change in all parts of life. The pandemic’s shelter-in-place mandate gave people time to reflect on what is important in life in the face of much uncertainty, from healthcare to societal issues. This reconsideration of values led to employees increasingly demanding more from corporations — highlighting a change in people’s attitudes toward work.
Although the desire for change in work-life balance has been observed in the workforce from the 1980s to the pre-pandemic era, it has been a gradual change where businesses were easily adapting. The sudden disconnect businesses faced during the pandemic was ignited by employees mandating their requests be met; companies that did not adhere to those requests fell short and continue to until today. Employees are shuffling between jobs in their respective fields until an opportunity that offers flexibility, competitive compensation, and growth presents itself.
What do you think employers have to do to adapt to this new reality?
The world is constantly changing, and adapting is a necessity to remain a relevant player in the game. I would advise employers to continuously examine what is important to their employees and meet them there. It’s important to note that different roles will have different needs, and they will change over time. It is not a one size fits all.
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 would argue that the plausible unhappiness in the world stems from outside factors beyond our control, such as interest rates, a looming recession, elections, children lagging two years behind in academics, and other effects the pandemic had on the world that shifted people’s views on life and employment. The mindset change is what kindled the great resignation.
The “new normal” that employees were presented with during the pandemic led to burnout, nervousness, and frustration. The demand for on-time availability, as there wasn’t much else to do other than work, created exhaustion.
Beyond that, many companies unexpectedly shut down, forcing employees to switch jobs, and in some cases, switch industries to be able to keep food on the table. The businesses that remained, large corporations, were expected to side with or act on societal matters. For example, the topic of implementing diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) initiatives or being involved with charitable organizations was brought to question by people across the country, especially by those heavily active on social media and the younger incoming workforce. The expectation of ‘doing good’ amid so much negativity became a must for companies to retain and keep talent.
I mention this because an organization’s social responsibility plan is synthesized with culture, a value deemed nearly as important as flexibility and monetary compensation. If your company did not meet the new list of demands, it experienced major labor turnover, adding to the great resignation statistics.
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?
In my perception of the commercial real estate industry, people quit because they are presented with better opportunities — a step into more responsibility with higher pay, competitive benefits, and wellness initiatives. An employee can have an extremely friendly, likable boss, but the moment a better opportunity that offers greater growth arises, they pursue it.
People seek to grow within their careers, and companies that outline the succession plan and inspire their employees with goals to work towards, tend to be the companies that retain the best candidates.
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?
And I am fond of the saying, “If you do what you love, you’ll never work a day in your life.” The goal is to choose a career that you are passionate about, even during frustrating times. Because, yes, every job has its frustrations, and that is part of the process. What is important is overcoming them today for a stronger tomorrow.
When recruiting candidates, my team and I spend a significant amount of time with candidates to ensure they are the right fit for the job, and that the job is the right fit for them. The candidate and the company need to align in terms of values and goals. We strive for both to be a value-add to each other, to create engagement and joy, ensuring longevity for both parties.
How do you think an unhappy workforce will impact a) company productivity b) company profitability c) and employee health and wellbeing?
A company’s workforce is its backbone — the ones holding it together. An unhappy workforce can greatly impact a company’s survival.
What are a few things that employers, managers, and executives can do to ensure that workers enjoy their jobs?
Job fulfillment goes beyond compensation. It’s about creating an environment that upholds the company’s mission and cultivates a culture of inclusivity, where successes are highlighted, and work-life balance is present. Providing employees with opportunities to present ideas that are appreciated and heard will create a sense of belonging that is crucial to job productivity and enjoyment.
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.)
- Create a culture of engagement. Employees want an inclusive culture where everyone’s opinions are heard and considered. Where things are done with a purpose for the greater good. This is as simple as having a clear business strategy when bringing employees back to the office. For example, providing lunch for employees to dine together and converse to re-engage after months of remote working.
- Competitive compensation & benefits. We are in an employees’ market. I have seen numerous firms readjust budgets to meet demand. A few adjustments include increasing the wellness stipend, 401k match, and healthcare premium to attract and retain the best talent.
- Flexibility. The growing trend is that commuting daily seems to be a waste of time for most. Call it groupthink or common sense — it’s happening. Offering flexibility is extremely important to candidates. Employers do not need to fret because this does not mean working fewer hours. Recent studies show that people are working more hours because of “flexibility.”
- Adequate training. Employees want to excel and grow in their careers, and adequate training and mentorship are the first steps to ensuring employees are on the path to success. Especially for a seamless leadership transition, which every company should have a plan for in place.
- Social impact. Employers need to think beyond the basics. I recommend finding new ways to engage employees through DEI, ESG, and collaboration with charitable organizations that will provide new meaning to them and the company. Highlight the importance of the social impact an organization can make together with community involvement.
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.
Definitely with the Queen of Pop — Madonna. I am always fascinated by successful women who seem to balance their work and life well. She is a legend in the industry, and I love her music.
Our readers often like to follow our interview subjects’ careers. How can they further follow your work online?
They can follow Keller Augusta on our social media platforms as we update our followers on industry trends, provide insight, and much more.
Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this. We wish you continued success and good health.