Developing & sustaining employee engagement during The Great Resignation with Josh Vesely

While many factors (a lack of career advancement opportunities, pandemic-related struggles, and more) may have led us to this inflection point, Josh Vesely, SVP of Sales at Randstad Sourcerights believes most employees don’t leave an organization. They leave a manager.

In this episode, Josh offers insight into the forces underlying the Great Resignation and breaks down the ways managers can build the relationships that lead to greater performance.


Or, listen on:
Watch here:
The hosts:
Trinity Nguyen
Trinity Nguyen
Co-host
A profile photo of Christian Kletzl
Christian Kletzl
Co-host

In this episode, you’ll learn:

  • Being an effective manager in a remote environment
  • How to build rapport in the first meeting
  • The power of relationships

What to listen for:

  • [01:27] Observations on The Great Resignation
  • [04:16] Adapting to a remote workforce
  • [06:16] Being an effective manager
  • [09:11] Have time away from work
  • [12:07] How remote changes impact pipeline
  • [14:51] Advice for candidates exploring new opportunities
  • [17:37] Josh’s favorite sales play
  • [22:23] Josh’s DIY hack
  • [23:50] The breakdown with Trinity and Christian

Check out Josh's blog post on "How to improve and sustain employee engagement in a remote/hybrid world"

Reference Links:

Guest headshot

Josh Vesely is a seasoned sales leader, overseeing sales and solution design for Randstad Sourceright’s integrated MSP division, helping mid-sized customers achieve cost savings while acquiring the best talent. His consultative approach combines dedicated, end-to-end managed services expertise with best-in-class supply chain practices, all accelerated by technological innovation.

Read Transcript

Josh Vesely: What I want doesn't really matter. In the people business, I could want everybody to show up on time and give 110% and yet it's never going to happen. So you have to be willing to just care way more about what the other people want.

Trinity: Welcome to The First 100 Days, a show for revenue practitioners by revenue practitioners, giving you unscripted access and tips to help you navigate any new transition or initiative both in life and at work. According to a recent Forbes report, 41% of people are open to changing their jobs this year. Even though there are many factors, it's no secret that people generally leave managers, not companies. For our guests, the key to overcoming this staggering statistic is to be intentional about building relationships between managers and employees. Josh Vesely is the Sales Leader of Enterprise and Integrated Talent Solutions at Randstad Sourceright, a recruitment and total talent management firm.

He shares his observations on the current work environment from a recruiting perspective and breaks down the ways managers can build relationships that lead to greater performance. I keep hearing about this, like, the Great Resignation, where some people say it's up to 40% of people are thinking of switching their jobs. Being on the recruiting side, can you share some observations? 

Josh Vesely: Yeah, there's no doubt that organizations are just really struggling in terms of retention and holding on to the best and brightest that are out there because there's so many opportunities that are being presented to them on a daily basis and probably multiple times a day, depending on what skill and industry that they're in.

So I think there's really two main observations that I see every day. That is because organizations have learned how to adapt to this remote working world, you don't have to live locally in order to be attractive to an organization. One of the largest technology organizations that we have partnered with for over 25 years, primarily recruited for engineers out of the bay area for the entire time that we worked with them.

And throughout the last 18 months, really had their eyes opened to the fact that there are fantastic engineering talents out there in Indiana, in Chicago, and Michigan, and everywhere else in the country. And the main thing that they recognized was when the bay area went into its first lockdown, a lot of their engineers decided to go rent an Airbnb somewhere else. And so they were remote working from all of these other locations and they really adapted this team-working style and strategy, but then those engineers would meet other people locally and then develop this referral strategy for bringing them into the organization. I think organizations that have adapted to that remote working environment faster than others are really recognizing how broad the ability for attracting talent can be outside of what they felt was a very geocentric strategy that they wanted to maintain and uphold. That would be my first observation.

The second one is employee engagement is really hard in this kind of a medium when you and I can't sit in a room together, when we can't go out to dinner after work. When we can't really spend time getting to know one another and we're on these one-hour 30-minute blocks, it is just incredibly difficult to form a connection.

And most individuals don't leave an organization, they leave a manager. And when you can't form that bond or that relationship with the leader, it's just hard to maintain the same level of stability within that organization and so you're going to be more open for opportunities as they get presented.

Trinity: That makes sense. So, I want to dig a little bit deeper on the first piece. So the remote workings, I think everyone now in the last 18 months, they know what the remote working is and, but have you seen companies figure out how to best adapt. I see both sides of the coin. So User Gems is a hundred percent remote and we seen both the pros and the cons before larger organizations, like, how can you adapt effectively? 

Josh Vesely: I think it depends on what your starting point was. My team has been remote forever, so I've always had a remote workforce that's worked for me and so my team of 15-20 individuals that kind of lead the different functions that I oversee, we never went to an office together and sat in the conference room every day and had that kind of an experience.

So, that was a much easier transition for us to adapt to the rest of the world, becoming a remote site, this is what we've been doing for a long time. What was harder for us was not being able to travel and see different people and things and environments. So that's a different type of adaptation. So I think you really got to be honest with yourself of, okay, what was the starting point? And then if you're going completely remote from a group that was in the office all the time, recognizing that each individual is going to have a different level of value that they put on that type of a working environment. And so really mapping that out and understanding at the individual level, what's important to them and trying to accommodate that as best as you possibly can as we navigate through this. It might be a hybrid strategy. People might love the remote and people might want to go even further remote meaning they want to go into four day, 10-hour shifts or schedules, and really try to adapt to a totally different flexibility within their workload. And so, I think, we're still playing around a lot with that, more to come, but I think it's really allowing individuals to customize the way that they want to work and whatever is the best for them.

And as a leader, you have to be the one to open the door for that to happen. 

Trinity: So that leads me to my second question. Is there anything in particular that, well, even a hack that you feel, like, most effective for a manager? Because now it sounds like a lot of the responsibility is on the manager to make sure that the employees are happy with the job and the company, and then build that rapport remotely.

So have you seen, have you discovered any hacks or tricks or any kind of playbooks really to build that natural rapport remotely? 

Josh Vesely: I'll tell you two things that I learned through failure, which is always the best way to learn. If you can fail fast and just adjust. The first thing is you have to be really self-aware of what your preferences are versus what your employee's preferences are.

I could have an idea at seven o'clock at night and want to talk about it and then shoot a text message or an email or an IM around the Team. And then I get responses and it was easy for me to think, oh, they must really want to talk about it now, too. And then we would get into these back and forths.

And then through, thankfully, one of my team members really just being open and honest with me sharing, I don't really want to get messages like that, but when I do, I feel like I have to respond, especially when I see other people from the team responding. And so being mindful of like, when people really are open and want to communicate and what the different modalities of communication are. That's the first thing. So just don't think that because you're okay with it, everybody else is okay with it. And I think the second thing is it is really easy in a remote work world to just always look at the gains of productivity because you don't have the hour commute into the office.

You don't have the water cooler time. And so it's easy to just to look at somebody's calendar and be like, oh, I'll block this hour. I'll block that half hour. And then it's just on the back-to-back to back-to-back schedule, because you have nothing in between it. So I don't have to walk to another meeting. I don't have to drive to that location.

And so you don't get those natural interruptions in the day. So as a leader, you have to be mindful of that. I think to really tell people like, Hey, you need to go to lunch today. Even if you're going to order lunch, let me order lunch for you, and then you eat that lunch in your sunroom, living room, back deck, whatever, like away from your computer, create the natural interruptions in your day.

Just to decompress because if you wait for the end of the day, it's been way too long and people just aren't wired to be 24 7 365. Whether you are a hyperactive person or not, you still just need those moments in the day to just step away, get a breath, look at something else besides your computer screen.

So as a leader, you just, you need to engineer that for some people because they're not going to do it naturally. And other people are going to want to take advantage of the ability to now have an always on productive employee. Yeah, that's true. 

Trinity: So on that note, someone said that we need to have more meetings with the cameras off or take a walking meeting, things like that, as like a hybrid. Frankly, you need to take a break away from work period, but some people were saying that just turning off the camera also helps. 

Josh Vesely: Well, and in my experience, the time away from work, it's hard to shut off thinking about some things that are really, really important. Just bringing in a different perspective of things you observe outside of work will help you solve for the things that you are observing. You get so tunnel vision into the things that are right in front of you. But yeah, I prefer to have about half of my calls during the day, just on my phone and right outside, here's my backyard. So I'll just, I'll walk outside and I'll sit down and take a look around as I'm talking through whatever we're meeting about.

And if somebody says, Hey, can you jump on camera? It's great. Do I need to look at something? Is it something you can email me? Like you need to be, you need to allow yourself to be vulnerable and push back and say, I've been on the video calls all day or half my day or video calls. And if we can just talk over the phone, great.

If not, if it's absolutely necessary, sure. But let's just be honest with each other. If it isn't, let's give over that and just talk through it. And those calls go a lot faster actually, for some reason. Now, calls over the phone, if you're not looking at something a different way, five different times, you can usually just talk through something really quickly.

Trinity: Interesting, that is true. I never noticed that, but that is true. Is it because, like, when you see face-to-face and you're going to start making small 

Josh Vesely: talk? Oh, of course. And that's great, too. There is no, like anything, especially in recruiting, there's just no silver bullet for anything. You have to put everything into the context and be willing to be multi-dimensional in the way that you think and engage with others.

Otherwise, you're going to fall into these traps of it has to be like this and why aren't we doing it in this very form- fitted process? And it's just not the way the world works. 

Trinity: That is so true. Oh my gosh. I feel like I'm going to turn a lot of my meetings into just a phone call. I'm usually a face-to-face person, actually.

I don't know why. So I'm like, either face-to-face or like SMS. I'm like, just a weird 

Josh Vesely: person. No, I get it. One of the biggest things for me to adapt to is just not traveling and seeing people truly face-to-face, right in the same room. And thankfully for the last six weeks, I've really started to travel again.

But that's where I get all my energy from is sitting across the table from somebody thinking out loud, kind of, riffing a bunch of different ideas and things. And so it was a big learning curve for me. And one of the biggest things for me was physical exercise. So just like being active was something that I just leaned on really heavily during COVID to just make sure that I wasn't losing what I got my energy from, which was being around other people and being outside in the middle of January in Chicago, isn't really possible.

So I got this Whoop strap and then they have all these communities, so you can start to engage with people. So, that was, kind of, my social slash physical exercise type of outlet. 

 So talking about traveling again and seeing people face to face, so on the sales side. So as sales leaders, you've seen all of these like job changes, I'm sure.

Trinity: On the client's side, you probably see that as well. How have these changes impacted your pipeline? 

Josh Vesely: I think it was really different depending on what industry you are focused in in our space, in particular, I was very lucky that at the onset of the pandemic, I was just starting to engage quite heavily in the healthcare space.

So for healthcare, it was going like this and then the pandemic happened, and then it went like this. Cause it just, it accelerated the need for flexibility, travel, new protocols, testing, vaccine distribution, like all these crazy things that have never happened. And we had a great partner, AMN Healthcare, that we kind of joined forces and offer this holistic solution for the healthcare industry.

And we stood up hospitals together and within a very short period of time, we supported state-run vaccine distribution efforts. And so I feel like we had a really big impact, but sales in that particular sector never was an issue. Everywhere else, it had this initial kind of huge decline because of the amount of uncertainty.

And so everybody initially thinks, okay, pull back. What's our revenue stream going to look like? What is the future of our business? And then as the year went on, it slowly started to rebuild and people started to backfill positions that they had let go of or add to Teams as new projects were being created and new opportunities were identified through the pandemic.

And so, it really accelerated towards the end of the year. And now, if you look at our industry just in terms of sales, it is closely attuned to GDP growth and what I would call the job posting metrics out there. So prior to the pandemic, February of last year, there was somewhere around 12 million weekly job postings in the market at the end of July, which I think is the most recent data that I've seen.

Close to 17 million. So almost 5 million more weekly job postings, which is everybody trying to backfill what they lost and then trying to make up for the acceleration in their business, all while you just, you have more people retiring and leaving the workforce, wanting to be more flexible, as I mentioned, getting opportunities to do work for a global organizations outside of the U.S. Or outside of the U.S. Doing work for companies in the U.S.

And so, there's just this huge dynamic of supply and demand that is completely out of whack, where there's just way more demand than there is supply for people across every level of work 

Trinity: With this hiring and then recruiting frenzy is what's going on, like everyone now, even if they weren't looking before, and now they just decide to, like, you have nothing to lose so they start looking. What would be your advice for candidates exploring these new opportunities? 

Josh Vesely: I think it's much more important to decide what you want in terms of growth and opportunity than it is to look at jobs or companies. So in my mind, it's always about the kind of path that you're on to not necessarily the next role or the next job, but what are you building along the way?

And so if you want to be, let's just say a product manager, right? And so you're working within a SaaS company, maybe you're doing some development. What are the three or four other things that you need to have, like what's on that checklist that you need to have in order to get to your ultimate goal of being a product manager? And explore every opportunity you can.

And I tell my team this, which probably isn't great advice, but if a recruiter calls you and they say, Hey, you know, I've got this really great opportunity. It's with a great company, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. If it sounds interesting, I tell the people that work for me, I'm like, you should go on the interview because if nothing else, it's going to teach you something, it's going to help you think outside of the box of the way you think about things.

So my biggest suggestion is, think about what you want long-term and don't think about the job title or company name. Think about what it is that you want to have from an experience perspective, to get you ready for that ultimate goal that you might identify. And if you don't know what that is, go on a lot of interviews and explore like what's out there and learn from what a ton of different organizations are doing to help you make that decision.

Trinity: That's some great advice. I don't know if you read the book about Netflix, but essentially that's what they encourage internally. If someone calls you, a recruiter reaches out to you, go talk to them, explore it. And then if you want to have a conversation later on, like, a manager, the hiring manager, or not the hiring, the current manager would be open to discuss it, whether it's still great fit, whichever role that you in right now, compensation, same thing as well.

So they actually encourage the employees to go on interviews. 

Josh Vesely: Yeah. And the one thing that I always learned is that what I want doesn't really matter. In the people business, I could want everybody to show up on time and give 110%, and yet it's never going to happen. And so you have to be willing to just care way more about what the other people want and then help them understand either how to get there or to really just establish what the best way for them to think through some of those, you know, needs and opportunities are because that's really the only thing you can control is how you help somebody think about those things, not necessarily whether or not they're going to take action on them. 

Trinity: So I want to be mindful of the time. So on this podcast, the audience is sales and marketers. So I will segue over to day-to-day work.

So as a sales leader, what has been your all-time favorite sales play? And it could be anything. 

Josh Vesely: I think there's two rules that I learned fairly early on. And I think they just hold true for everything in life. But sales in particular, people buy from people that they like. And the ultimate truth within the sales world is people will always run from fear more than they will run to pleasure.

And so helping organizations and individuals really avoid the pitfalls of what can go really wrong from doing something, whether it's a short-sighted or making a decision based on the wrong parameters versus selling them this big pie in the sky. Oh, we could accomplish all these great, monumental things and yes, that's possible, but ultimately at the end of the day, if you do these things the wrong way, if people aren't thinking about long-term workforce planning right now, and what that really means for investing back in your workforce, everything that they're trying to accomplish with recruiting, all the new people in the door is in vain.

Getting to know somebody and ensuring that they know who you are and what you represent in terms of character, I think, is important. But then, ultimately, helping them avoid really bad situations more than you are painting them a picture of what's possible. I love the art of the possible, but again, I think that those are the two truths that I always remember in the back of my head when I'm in front of somebody and having a discussion around what we can do 

Trinity: together.So basically, get to know them on a human level and then focusing on the human psychology of loss aversion. 

Josh Vesely: Yeah. I just think that if every single one of your conversations starts with, let me tell you about what I do instead of let me tell you about who I am then you've definitely lost the game. 

Trinity: I love that.

Is there a fine line that you don't want to go up to someone, shake their hand and go, Hey, let me tell you about who I am. 

Josh Vesely: Well, I mean, at some point, I want to know who they are. I want them to know who I am. I think the first thing that is really important in today's world, and one of the main reasons I actually got to know you in the User Gems group is being able to introduce yourself to somebody by saying, Hey, we know somebody in common.

We know so-and-so from such and such and they and I have worked together for many years, and that's why I thought it might be interesting for us to have a conversation with each other. And I want to tell you about who I, and I just think that is so much more powerful than just trying to make some sort of an introduction around some product line or service offering, or make the assumption that I'm interrupting you in the middle of your day, or we're just meeting for the first time.

And I know something about you that you don't know yourself. You already know what you're working on and what your priorities are. And the main thing that that I want to introduce is, Hey, I know people within your network. I'm trying to lower that hurdle of, kind of, who is this person. And at the same time, really just be more genuine from a personal level than anything else because, at some point down the line, we're going to eventually have a discussion about what do you do? Why are we having this discussion? Oh, what happened naturally? The play, if you will, for me, is the more people I know in my network that know me, it's not going to take you long to, to know who I am. I am who I am in every single conversation I have.

So you, which is what you get, but I would much rather start there, right? Cause to work back there from if we're just being professionals and talking about something that's business-related, to get personal from that point is a harder build than it is to go from personal to business. I feel. That's true.

Trinity: And that's a very good advice, especially now with the conferences slowly reopening and people start traveling again. 

Josh Vesely: And that is a good point. I also think that if you cannot find at least some level of a personal connection and it doesn't need to be super deep, but things that you can discuss with somebody outside of the weather, and being able to talk to each other, it's really important in any business relationship because, especially in recruitment, things are going to go wrong. Things are probably going to go wrong at some point fairly quickly on in the relationship because we deal with people. And if you deal with something that has a high propensity for variables and challenges to arise,

you're going to need to work through those, and you're going to need to work through those through talking and really collaborating versus "You said this and in the contract, it says that," and it's, I understand all that, but on a human level, we need to be able to interact and then we can find our way through this without a doubt.

Trinity: One hundred percent. So final question, what is your number one DIY life hack? 

Josh Vesely: Oh, so, this isn't so great anymore, but I never check any bags when I travel. And sometimes, you know, and I'd go overseas, I'd be gone for two weeks at a time or whatever. So I watched all these YouTube videos on how to fold clothes in the most efficient way possible.

And it's funny because I worked at a dry cleaners when I was in high school. And so I used to have to fold a lot of like clothes, but efficiency and like space was never the thing, but that was something that I always felt like I was super good at it. Anybody that knows me that is listening to this will tell you, literally I traveled with a duffel bag that is not very big.

And I just have found a way to always pack clothes, especially like suits and stuff that you don't want to get wrinkled and the most efficient way possible without wrinkling them or doing anything like that. 

Trinity: Let me guess, do you roll it up and then vacuum seal it? 

Josh Vesely: Nope. So no vacuum sealing and, for some clothes, it's good to roll them from a space, but some it's more folding, and some it's like laying them super flat. Like t-shirts, you can get really flat.

So you can, anyways, there's a bunch of videos that people can look up, but that was something that I was just always like super. I love doing that because getting ready for a trip and being able to just travel with the one bag that I could carry on versus having to check something or go through all that hassle. That was always my favorite. 

Christian: I think what stick out to me is kind of like he's business development, but he's in human resources, in the human part. Like he is very thoughtful about where your energy coming from. What are your preferences versus your employees preferences? Like, I think so many of the thoughts that a lot of us have, intuitively, he actually spelled it out and only by spelling it out, it actually becomes real. And then you start thinking about it, what of these things could I be doing better? Communication with your direct reports? Like I think it's, it's like, no, I just sent him a quick message, but for them it might be perceived as something I need.

He's my boss. I need to respond. So, see it from the other side so you more thoughtful in your communication. 

Trinity: I really enjoy talking to Josh as always, but also just re-listening to the interview, I started writing down notes, physical notes, and mental notes and, kind of, checking myself like, am I doing these things with my team right now, where I can improve?

And a lot of times, it's not, like, rocket science. I'm sure managers hear this advice here and there, but somehow just, kind of, put it all together and I don't know. It 's just such a good reminder. Like, what you talk about is like the sending message, like be mindful of what time you sent the message, but also like the being cognizant of natural break times, like this false sense of productivity.

So you stack up your calendar with meetings and meetings and there's no break in between. That's true. We do do that. I mean, Christian, only recently, you start reducing your meeting time to 25 minutes. So just so that you have that five minutes break. I need to do that, I am not a very good person. 

Christian: Put some more time in your cabin.

And then just block for thinking time, for not even thinking time because that's business as well, but just relaxation. Going for a walk in between the way, the way you would have done it if you weren't in an office where you, maybe you go for lunch, maybe you're at least outside. And right now you're not doing this at all.

Josh Vesely:

Trinity: know. Yeah. I'm not very good at it. I mean, when Josh said it, I was like, yeah, of course I should be doing it. But now if I'm being a hundred percent honest, looking at my calendar right now, It's not what I'm doing. And that's just, that's just terrible. I'm going to be at the beginning of the pandemic, somebody had been advised that you should take more, like do more one-on-one on the phone.

So you walk around and it's more casual and you don't have FaceTime all the time. I knew it then. And I told myself then to put that as my way of doing things and trying to do be better. Still Zoom. You can 

Christian: also hide yourself. Apparently, that's the one that's 

Trinity: really taxing. Like minimizing your, like, seeing your own camera.

Right. 

Josh Vesely: But 

Christian: can't do that. I tried that. And then, nope. I want to see how I look when I talk. 

Trinity: Yeah, because you don't want to be, the person sees me. You want to make sure that you presentable, nothing stuck in your teeth

To build on what you said about, like, how Josh is so good at being aware and also spelling out the humaness in any kind of human interactions, not just within his team, but when he said about, but in sales, too. The people buy from people that they like. And yeah, sometimes like in the high velocity, SaaS sales, we tend to forget.

And we just think that, oh, what are the hacks and the sequences, what are the, like the AB testing resolve that I can optimize all these kind of like personalization that scale. We love it. But at the end of the day, you do buy from the people you like, and he always starts conversation with, how can I help you with, how can I get to know you?

And he knows it, like when we met him too, he's always introducing us to other people and talk to other people about us. He's a natural connector and it's really fun talking to him. Yeah. 

Christian: I thought that too, like 

Josh Vesely: the whole part about what I do 

Christian: versus who I am, who I am. You start with who I am, and then you get the permission to talk about what I do.

Yeah, 

Trinity: it's true. People are not good at doing this, and then I, myself, included. If you think about San Francisco, right, when you first meet someone, first question after asking your name is like, where do you work? Right? Yeah. 

Christian: Then on the other hand, like in a sales conversation, there's also, I know there's an agenda.

We only have limited time. There's always a question. Like how much does this person actually want to talk about who they are? I feel like there's this natural rhythm of like, we start the conversation, then we've a little bit of a chit chat, but at some point it needs to move on because that's why we're here. 

Trinity: I don't know.

I feel like good salespeople, they can make it seem like it's natural. It's actually, because I want to know you as a human being because, Hey, we going to be talking for the next three months, right, and working together. And this 

Christian: could also be that the other person just 

Trinity: don't want to share. Yeah. I'm terrible at small talk.

If anyone wants to try small talk with me, please don't. Josh is great. He's so good. Making you feel comfortable having conversation with him. What do you think about his last comments about - so the two tips that he gave, so a) people buy from the people that they like and b) as people run away from fears more than to what benefits.

So, the loss aversion, I mean, we know this, right, like from psychology in business school. Is this true? 

Christian: Just wish it wasn't true. I think in this case I just trusted psychology studies. I wish selling would be different in terms of you highlight more, the things someone can gain that does something to things people can use.

Trinity: Well, I think like the fear drives more urgency. I mean, painting the vision and what they could achieve. Everyone wants to feel that, but I think it's less urgent. You take more actions when the ship is sinking. Are you going through a major transition within your organization or your career? Do you have a first 100 day journey to share recently or in the past?

If, yes, I want to hear from you email me@podcastatusergems.com. And if you're looking for the ultimate revenue leader cheat sheets, sign up to receive them@usergems.com forward slash podcast.