Building a Strong Team for the Future

In this week’s podcast, Alex Habet shares a replay of a panel discussion at the 2022 BankOnPurpose conference with Donna Jaskolski from Civista Bank, Heather Gedman from Truist Bank, Mikey Trafton from Metro Cinema, and Q2’s Kim Rutledge about managing staffing issues in an interesting job market.

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Alex Habet

Hi, and welcome to the Purposeful Banker, the leading commercial banking podcast brought to you by Q2 PrecisionLender, where we discuss the big topics on the minds of today's best bankers. I'm your host, Alex Habet, and welcome back to the show today.

So we're going to continue a little bit on our look back to the few great sessions that we had from BankOnPurpose recently, the ones that we want to spotlight here on this show. If you recall in the last episode, we had Katharine Briggs join us after a very long hiatus, having not been on the show, to introduce the session that she led around digital transformation, which is, of course, a topic that we cover extensively here on the show.

But for today, we're actually going to switch things up a little bit. We're going to go much deeper into the people within the organization. This is certainly an issue that transcends banking and finance. One thing for sure is that there are opportunities and challenges on that front. It could be a little bit more universal as opposed to being very unique within the banking business.

But I certainly am by no means an expert on this topic. Which is why, as you would expect, we invited the expert to introduce the recap here today. So I'd like to introduce Kim Rutledge to the show. Kim is the head of the People organization here at Q2, and she also holds rockstar status within our walls, I should add.

But Kim moderated the session that we're going to be talking about today. It was titled, Building a Strong Team for the Future. It was a fascinating look at how two financial institutions and one non-financial institution think about building teams. Kim, on behalf of the crew at the Purposeful Banker, welcome to the show.

Kim Rutledge

Thanks for having me, Alex. I'm thrilled to be here.

Alex Habet

So one of the things that I like to ask a lot of people around the organization who've actually never attended BankOnPurpose before. I guess I should ask, have you ever attended BankOnPurpose before, back in the day?

Kim Rutledge

No. This was my first time.

Alex Habet

Awesome. So just what did you think of it as a whole? It has a long pedigree with the PrecisionLender team since the before times. But, just having been there last month, what was your reaction to the event as a whole?

Kim Rutledge

I was really impressed by the level of engagement that our customers and a few prospects brought to the conference. I thought the content was incredibly valuable and irrespective of whether you were a banker or not, candidly, I thought the content was really fantastic. And of course, if you were, there were lots of pieces that were particularly specific to them.

But it was a level of engagement and strategic conversation that I haven't seen at other conferences. At least not as readily and not as high a percentage, if you will, of that type of conversation. I was super impressed.

And the customers seem to be completely engaged in the entire event. Including giving out the cowboy hats at Q2 Stadium, which was a lot of fun as well.

Alex Habet

Wow. I can't believe you mentioned the cowboy hats because it's become kind of a thing, certainly at the event itself. But I mean, did you predict the cowboy hats would've been such a big hit before this event?

Kim Rutledge

You can't wear a cowboy hat and not have a good time. It's a rule. It's a rule.

Alex Habet

Yeah. Yeah. Look, as someone ... in my day job, I meet with a lot of clients and prospects. I've already seen the cowboy hats, the actual ones from BankOnPurpose, make it to the backdrops of the Zoom backgrounds, which is really cool. It's kind of a testament to this subtle cultural influence that we're having just with the simple hat, I guess.

Kim Rutledge

That's fantastic.

Alex Habet

Speaking specific to your panel discussion, which was great, and thank you for leading that, that was incredible. You hosted Donna Jaskolski from Civista Bank, Mikey Trafton, who's the co-founder and CEO of Metro Cinemas, and Heather Gedman from Truist, who I used to have the pleasure of working with as part of my day job. Again, who's awesome.

So it's a great trio to talk about this topic. I guess if I were to zero in on the first question I have for you, centered around talent management and whether it's attracting good people or training them, or retaining them, right? It seemed to be a very dominant topic, not just in your panel obviously, because that's what your panel is about.

But even in some of the other sessions in the Advisory Board meetings that we had, it was brought up. So as you were moderating the discussion, what was the general vibe that you got from the panelists and maybe even from others who were attending the conference? What was your reaction to that?

Kim Rutledge

It was a highly engaged group, not just the panelists, but also the audience. We had lots of questions and engagement in that particular session. And I think the reason for that, Alex, is that nobody knows what the right answer is. If we knew we'd all do the same thing. The facts are that the right answer for Q2 may be a different answer than the right answer for Truist, Civista, or anybody else.

The situations vary based upon the needs of your customers, based upon the way that you get work done at your company. And what I would say is that what struck me is that everybody is looking for answers. And I think as professionals in this field or as a professional in this field, one of the things that we have to recognize is that we can look at things that have worked and then try to dissect those and figure out what might potentially work in your own environment.

But it's highly unlikely that you're going to be able to plug and play a lot of solutions that have been used elsewhere. It's difficult to imagine that you can do a plug and play solution that worked at a different organization because each organization, just like each person, has its own needs, has its own desires, has its own strengths and opportunities and things to overcome.

And so at the end of the day, the goal really is to take as much good knowledge and as many good practices and as much science as you can, and then try to test and craft answers that work in your own environment.

Alex Habet

Right. Right. So just to piggyback on something tangentially related, what are your thoughts on DEI, or diversity, equity, and inclusion? The panelists had some interesting things that they're doing in their organizations, right? But as you mentioned, the same solution doesn't necessarily apply to all organizations. So what are some things that stood out to you in that respect?

Kim Rutledge

Yeah, I loved that. And Heather talked a lot about it during the panel. And so our listeners will be able to hear that in just a bit. The way that organizations are focused on this space has shifted in the last number of years. And some of the things that stand out are the way that people are leaning in toward learning and development, specifically, and really trying to ensure that there is equal access to development opportunities.

So it's not only about making sure that you're recruiting from a broader set of the analogy about fishing in pools. And so it's not just about looking at different pools of talent, but it's also about ensuring that you're developing that talent once they're within your four walls.

There are no four walls anymore, as we all know. But with that said, making sure that you develop them and that you provide a lot of opportunity for people to opt in to those development opportunities. That's one of the things that I heard loud and clear from our panelists and one of the things that I see that's working better than other efforts sometimes, across the industry.

Alex Habet

So I'm going to shift it now one more time. Just one last question, right? Because I don't want to steal the thunder of the actual panel.

Kim Rutledge

Of course.

Alex Habet

But there was one heated part. I don't know. Heated might be a little extreme of an adjective. But there was a part of the conversation around the pros and cons of working remotely. So you said there's no more four walls, which I guess I have to stop using that term, too. You kind of just spotlighted that for me. So thank you. Which is great because I've always been remote anyway, so it's like you guys are all like me now.

But the bankers in your panel certainly seemed more supportive of a flexible work model rather than the CEO of a cinema chain. Does that surprise you? Were there any other surprises in that part of the conversation?

Kim Rutledge

I think that remote work is ... the answers on remote work are still not known. We don't know what it's going to look like three, five years from now. And I still think we are in a reactive mode post-COVID to some degree. I think that Q2 has one of the most flexible approaches of any company I've heard of. And we literally allow every employee to select how much they would like to be in the office.

That said, I think it's completely predictable that Mikey would anticipate that having people around in person is more successful when you think about the business that he runs. And that the bankers have figured out ways to flex with their employees, I think that's very normal. I think this will be one of those ... this is a social experiment that we are running today, whether or not we wanted to and whether or not we think of it that way.

And the answers will become more clear over the next few years. But it will be interesting to see how that plays out. I have a quick prediction that won't spoil anything from the panel discussion. My prediction is that we will become better at dissecting jobs into tasks. And through that dissection we will determine which things need to happen or are more effective when done in person, and which things can happen in a more remote, autonomous, self-directed way that requires less interaction for a successful outcome. And through that we will then redefine where and how work is done, and by whom, for that matter. That's my prediction.

Alex Habet

In that respect, a role that is more suited to operate asynchronously with a team might be a much better fit for the hybrid or remote model. And the recruitment happens accordingly as opposed to one where it's absolutely vital. How is that different from how it used to operate? It was just, hey, if you're in sales, you're in the office. Or ... ?

Kim Rutledge

I think the difference is, and it's a finer point than when you just restated my statement. I would say it's not about the job, it's about the tasks within the job. I think jobs will be redefined.

Alex Habet

OK.

Kim Rutledge

So instead of saying that it's OK for a salesperson to be remote, it's very possible there may be a task within what a salesperson normally is thought of as doing, and that task needs to happen on-site with others who contribute to that task.

And a lot of other tasks happen, to your point, asynchronously. And so I think that it will be a further definition of the roles themselves, and we will divide those roles into tasks, and then redefine roles over time.

Alex Habet

So I'm harping on this whole remote work hybrid model a little bit because it's just a fascinating topic. I think everyone is impacted by this. Are you taking your learnings from what other companies are doing? Or are you guys trailblazing this approach focusing on the tasks versus them just defining brute force job roles fit into this model, kind of thing?

Kim Rutledge

I would never refer to myself as a trailblazer. I will say that I think every HR leader I know of is trying to examine how to best approach a workforce and deliver desirable outcomes from that workforce. And we have global workforces, many of us. And many of us are trying to determine what work is done where.

A lot of this work has been done for years because a lot of companies offshored work decades ago. So this isn't a new concept. We're just having to apply it much more broadly than we did previously, and to a much greater percentage of the population.

And we're having to challenge ourselves. And I think one of the key pieces that is integral to the way that, certainly, in North America we have frequently developed and trained our employees, is that there is a loss of the apprenticeship model to some degree. You don't get to hire someone and throw them in and just say, "Well, go follow Alex, do what he does, watch what he does, learn from him and then you can do your job." That becomes much more difficult in our current situation. And so I believe that we're just becoming much more intentional about the tasks that go into a job.

And we are trying to keep ourselves from the assumptions that we've made for decades and decades and decades, that this is what this job is. And instead we're saying, "Well this job is made up of a lot of these tasks. Are they put together in the right way? And could we do it differently that helps us optimize for the outcome?" So we are working on that, but we aren't alone. I think there are a sea of people out there doing similar work.

Alex Habet

Yeah, no, I'm really certainly glad to hear specifically around the topic of, I guess mentorship, would be another way to talk about it.

Kim Rutledge

Yes. That's right.

Alex Habet

My 15 years I spent working at a mega bank and for all intents and purposes, it was a good, great working environment. One of the best benefits of being in that environment was that it was a strong emphasis on mentorship, which I feel in today's day and age is shifting, and it hasn't quite found its footing yet because it's built on, I think, a more traditional model now. So just hearing that you were all focusing on that, I think is a tremendously positive thing to hear.

Kim Rutledge

It's an exciting time. It's a challenging time, but it's an exciting time to think about how the pivots that we're making today will build a foundation for people to expand their definitions of success and expand the ways that they can create their success in future generations. It's exciting.

Alex Habet

For sure. For sure. Well, Kim, is there anything else that stood out to you that you want to call out or give a hint to the audience to listen for? Or should we just let it play?

Kim Rutledge

I think that it is very exciting to hear the differences between the way that Donna and Heather particularly described their organizations in the way that they're addressing some of the challenges in front of them. Mikey adds a very different perspective.

But for your listeners, you're probably going to get a lot from both Donna and Heather particularly that would be relatable. And I think it's exciting to have such an illustrious panel with all three of those participants being able to really share their own experiences and wisdom with our listeners here. So I'm excited that they get to hear this, as well. I think it's a fun one to share.

Alex Habet

Alright. Well Kim, thank you again for sharing your perspective. It really does help the audience key in on some of the more interesting threads to pull on when they actually catch it.

So thank you again on behalf of everyone here at the Purposeful Banker. And we hope that you will come back one day soon and talk about some other great stuff that you've been working on.

Kim Rutledge

I'll be happy to do that Alex. Thanks again for having me.

[video replay]

Kim Rutledge

Hey everybody, we're happy to be here and talk to you about one of my favorite topics certainly. And I'm Kim Rutledge, I am the EVP of People at Q2. Donna, would you like to introduce yourself?

Donna Jaskolski

I'm Donna Jaskolski, the customer experience officer for Civista Bank.

Kim Rutledge

I think y'all met Mikey earlier, and then Heather.

Heather Gedman

Heather Gedman from Truist, head of Client Profitability.

Kim Rutledge

So we're going to dive straight into some questions and then y'all be sure to write down some notes on any questions that y'all want to quiz this illustrious panel on after we're done.

So obviously, the last number of years have created a tremendous number of changes in the talent market. And what that means for companies in terms of their ability to recruit, retain, develop talent. What are some of the major changes that you've seen in your companies?

Donna Jaskolski

Me?

Kim Rutledge

Sure, you can start.

Donna Jaskolski

So this is the first suit I've had on in three years. I shook it out of the closet and brought it for all of you. I would say that dress code, as simple as that is, right? We've all changed. Heather and I have laughed about wearing heels today.

Kim Rutledge

Awesome.

Donna Jaskolski

So those are some of the big changes that we've seen. We've also ... I work for a 138-year-old community bank, and one of the biggest changes was we were completely inflexible with work-from-home. Well, think back to March of 2020, and I remember still today packing up one of my marketing people and putting her on the elevator and thinking, I don't know when I'm going to see you in person again.

So when you think about that change, we went from absolutely no working remote to, during the pandemic, the height of the pandemic, 70% of our employees were working remote, 30% were in the office in the operation center. And now when you think about it, today about 70% of us are back in the office and about 30% of us are still working remote.

Kim Rutledge

What about you, Heather? What are you seeing?

Heather Gedman

I mean, flexibility's everything. And I think for banking specifically, we had this big flex of a lot of our talent that went to tech companies or fintech companies like Q2. And so ...

Kim Rutledge

Sorry.

Heather Gedman

... We have to try to be attractive for that talent and create the right flexibility to say we can come into the office if we want to. We can be hybrid if we want to. We can wear sneakers, which was completely inappropriate in banking three years ago. Let's be real. Like no one wore sneakers at a bank, but now you can wear the Cole Hans or whatever the shoe is with the white sole, and it's totally fine. Your sport coat, you don't have to wear the three-piece suit, you can wear a vest. I mean you have to do these things in order to attract the talent in addition to paying a premium for them. But you have to create the right set of flexibility and environment that we can attract the best talent, regardless of what their preferences.

Kim Rutledge

Do you think that these changes are going to be lasting? Do you see anything on the horizon that makes you think any of this is going to shift?

Heather Gedman

I don't know if we have a choice.

Donna Jaskolski

Yeah, that's it. I don't think we have a choice anymore.

Kim Rutledge

And are there specific things that you tried that didn't work or any particular wins? Maybe Donna first, then ...

Donna Jaskolski

Some things that have worked? It's the flexibility. It's understanding. And we were saying this before and now we really believe it; bring your authentic self to work. And it's looking at an employee holistically and being able to meet them where they're at and build from there.

Heather Gedman

I know some things for us that didn't work is we said we need to require people to be hired in Charlotte, in Atlanta, in a certain city. And then we decided, OK, maybe geography doesn't really matter. Maybe talent matters most. And we hired remote people. And then in some cases we told remote people they had to move, which is awful on a human level.

And so I think we've learned a lot from maintaining flexibility and truly saying, if you're going to be flexible, you have to keep it that way. You can't whiplash people and say we're going to have them go into the office all the time. We have to give them the opportunity to do it if they want to. And I think what a lot of people have missed during this completely remote environment, is they miss the human interaction, and they want the ability to go in when they want to go in.

Mikey Trafton

I have a lot to say about this.

Kim Rutledge

Let's hear it.

Mikey Trafton

I have a lot to say about everything. So I don't work for a bank. I'm just some tech guy and movie theater guy. And what my strategy has always been for talent has been to create an environment where people want to work. This is after I screwed up and had an awful environment and everybody quit and then I figured it out.

And the current ... everybody working remote. For a company like mine where I'm trying to differentiate as an employer against all the other employers by being a better place to work, if everybody is in their pajamas at home, then my company isn't that different from every other company. The things that we can make special about our work environment, it's 10 times, maybe 100 times harder to execute those things remotely.

You get everybody together. This is why companies like Google and Facebook, they have a chef who comes in and cooks lunch because it's not ... everyone says it's because they're trying to get people not to leave the campus. That's not why they're doing it. They're doing it to get people to be together during lunch and create a bond so that it's harder for them to leave because they have these human connections.

So I think that's the main thing that has gotten so much harder and that there's going to be a space for people who want a richer work environment. I mean, there's going to be a space for people who just want to trade their labor for dollars. Great, I'm going to work in my living room in my pajamas and I'm going to do this work for you and you might fire me and I don't care. I might quit, I don't care. I'm going to go trade my labor for dollars for some other company that basically does the same thing as you, or where my function is the same as you. And there's going to be that class of worker and that class of worker is going to go further and further and further from corporate headquarters.

If all I'm doing is trading labor for dollars, then that person can be in Bangladesh or anywhere, right? And they'll work for a lot cheaper than you in your pajamas at home. And then I think there's going to be a class of worker who wants a richer environment. And that's going to be the challenge for employers who want to be an employer of choice to how do you create that environment? And how do you have the right mix of remote and not remote?

So what we do in my tiny little movie theater company is we are in the office two days a week, but everybody's got to live in the same town so that we can get into the office two days a week and spend time together. So we're mostly remote, but we're really not remote, we're just work-from-home. That was a lot of vomiting.

Kim Rutledge

Yeah, I think it's going to be a challenge that we're going to continue to evolve and learn from over the next number of years. Because I think the points that Mikey brings up are certainly valid. It can be harder to create that communal sense of achievement and goals in a remote environment.

And at the same time we have a company whose employees sit all over the United States. We're in 49 states. We have employees in 49 states. And then we've got employees in Bangalore and London and Sydney, additionally. As well as expanding into Mexico now.

And so for us, we're finding it navigable to certainly provide success and provide an opportunity for people to grow. But there's a lot of work that has to be done to make it rich in the ways that might have happened a little more automatically, a little more easily in the past. It's definitely more intentional now.

Mikey Trafton

Yeah, that's my feeling is I'm kind of an old dog. I don't really know how to do it without getting everybody in a room and singing Kumbaya and holding hands. Right? So I'm excited to see what people are able to create in this remote world that still feels like a community.

Kim Rutledge

Yeah. Donna, you said a minute ago this idea about bringing a whole person to work. I'm curious as you think about that, what do you think is the value proposition for making sure that you have a diverse set of employees working in your community?

Donna Jaskolski

I think it, excuse me everyone (cough).

Kim Rutledge

Do you need something?

Donna Jaskolski

I've got it.

Kim Rutledge

OK.

Donna Jaskolski

Thanks. The value proposition is bringing ideas and everyone's unique individual aspects of who they are to the table. And being able to create the collaboration and the synergy that those ideas, and the work that comes out of it.

And research will tell you that a more diverse team will get you greater return on investment because of all of the things that diversity brings to the table.

Kim Rutledge

Heather, I think you lead a group at your organization, or you are an executive sponsor for it. Could you share a little bit about your journey?

Heather Gedman

Yeah. So I'm Cuban American, and I know a lot of people don't think that when they look at me that I'm anything other than the American part. But we have a group at Truist called Juntos, which means "together" in Spanish. And it's just for Hispanic and Latinx teammates to really have a community that they can kind of talk to other teammates in the organization about what does your career progression look like? Well, who did you use as a mentor? What kind of resources? How does your career look different than if you're not Hispanic or Latinx? And we have different resource groups for all sorts of different teammates and cultures and backgrounds, but diversity is everything.

And in banking especially, we have to be very deliberate about where we source diverse talent, how we source diverse talent. We can't just do the same rinse and repeat that we've been doing for years with hiring from the same five or six universities and be surprised that diversity is just magically happening.

It's really not that easy. And it makes all the difference. It's not just the ROI, but I mean when you have people from different walks of life, different ways of approaching challenges, you really do get the best result when you have all of that together on one project.

Kim Rutledge

So when you talk about approaching things differently, could you share some specific things that y'all were doing differently than you did maybe previously?

Heather Gedman

Yeah, I mean technology's a perfect example for banking. I mean, look at our PrecisionLender implementation. We had a team of people that had completely different backgrounds. We had folks from fintechs, we had folks from military backgrounds, we had folks from banking backgrounds, finance, one of them that's here today.

And having those different challenges and having the different things that they've conquered in their individual pasts, as well as culturally where they are from different countries speaking different languages. I mean, you name it. There were so many times when one of those skillsets came in really handy in ways that you just don't expect.

And you can never look at one problem and have everybody agree on it. Because if that's happening, you're not helping anyone grow, you're not developing anybody on the team. You talked about it earlier, if you get that echo chamber going, you're not going to really advance anywhere.

Kim Rutledge

What do you think about, and I'd be curious if either of you or any of you, Mikey, have ideas around measuring your effectiveness in your efforts around DEI?

Heather Gedman

I always think about when I'm interviewing candidates, how many are we interviewing? How many people who are conducting the interviews are diverse themselves? And then you have to hire. You have to be very deliberate about hiring diversity, and that means different things to different people.

But, I mean, I have recruiters in my organization who tell me I'm crazy if I entertain a candidate who doesn't have banking experience. That should not be the case. I think that's stupid.

Kim Rutledge

Yeah, it's breaking that cultural bias.

Heather Gedman

Yeah, absolutely.

Kim Rutledge

Yeah. Have you had an experience through these efforts where you've seen ... I thought your implementation of PrecisionLender was a great example. But Donna, have you seen a specific example of your efforts around diversity adding value?

Donna Jaskolski

Yes.

Kim Rutledge

Can you share that?

Donna Jaskolski

Sure. We really took an employee engagement survey back in the end of '18, beginning of '19 and went out to our employees and said, "How are you feeling about this? How are we approaching this?" And out of that employee engagement survey came a lot of feedback from being more inclusive, being more diverse in the talent that we were hiring, but also the retention piece of it.

And in 2019 we started our DEI journey because it is definitely a journey. You're learning all along the way of it. And in 2020 we implemented and brought together our first DEI council; 30 engaged employees put their hat in the ring, come to the table to become the ambassadors, really. The DEI ambassadors across the company. Through the first 12 to 18 months, we brought in speakers monthly because one thing that we've learned is DEI training doesn't really work for anyone.

And we wanted to keep enlightening and giving people knowledge and understanding of what these words meant from an engagement standpoint. But also really put the focus around inclusivity because keeping the talent that we had was as important as going out from a retention standpoint. But also going out and recruiting new talent.

And we started ... So we're two years into the council. We brought in an additional 15 people a year ago, and it's a two-year process that we're going through for everyone. So our first group of people will actually move off of the council at the end of this year, next month; oh my gosh, next month.

And we'll bring on about 15 to 18 new people. But through that we learned one of the retention pieces that our DEI council and our human resources was we created a couple of things out of that, which were a colleague connection program. So any new person coming into the organization was assigned a colleague that would make a connection and help with culture and help with understanding all of those things that come into coming a new company. The benefit of that since we've launched our colleague connection is we have had about an 80% retention rate on those new employees coming in.

And our learning and development team, along with our HR team, put that entire program and all of that information that floats around a company into one single document. And to be able to share that across the company. And we used our DEI council members to really become the first group of colleague connectors.

Kim Rutledge

That's a great example. In your journeys, have you tried something that didn't work? Can you help some of us avoid some of the missteps you've taken?

Donna Jaskolski

Colleague Connection has had its pitfalls, too. I actually have six colleagues myself right now because we didn't anticipate the volume of new employees coming into the organization. So those are some of the pitfalls. But I would say from the DEI journey itself, it's all learning.
We're all in from a retention standpoint and inclusivity standpoint. And it's all about coming back to the employees and asking them, what can we do differently? What would you want us to engage more of? And to be able to continue to bring that to the forefront.

Kim Rutledge

What about you? Any failures, Heather?

Heather Gedman

Oh yeah, we've had plenty. We've done campus recruiting at different diverse universities, HBCUs and HSIs, and gone in with a panel from Truist that was not diverse at all. And so that felt like a lead balloon. And then we've also had just a lot of different trainings like unconscious bias trainings, some of the different DEI trainings that were just kind of tone deaf.

And when it's so forced and when people feel like it's a check the box exercise, they really just don't buy in to the overall company's prioritization on DEI. And it can actually backfire pretty materially.

Kim Rutledge

Yeah, the training thing's tricky.

Heather Gedman

Yeah. No one likes a virtual training, especially not on something like that. It has to mean something.

Kim Rutledge

Mikey, what are your thoughts?

Mikey Trafton

Well, at our movie theater, so our movie theater is 40, 41, 42 locations across the country. It's called Alamo Drafthouse. It's the 10th largest movie theater chain. And a couple of things that we did that I think worked really well was focusing on kind of the inclusion. But the inclusion that we were focusing on was including our field employees in corporate decision making.

And since we have all these locations that are in all different communities, and so the employees, when you run a movie theater, basically, your employees reflect, even if you don't try, they reflect the community that you're in. That's who shows up and applies for the job. Most of these jobs are basically service jobs. They're like waiters is the way to think of them. We are a dine-in movie theater. So we're one of those theaters where you can get a beer and a pizza, and a burger. And so we operate more like a restaurant that shows movies than we do a cinema that serves food. And we are a huge freaking restaurant. It's 1,000 seats that turns over three or four times a day. So we need a lot of staff. One of our locations is going to have 250 employees.

And we used to have a kind of an approach of rolling out corporate initiatives, which was the kind of just fire hose, shove it down everybody's throat in the field. And I think probably the best thing that we did was elect a council of advisors from the field. So every location, the general manager would nominate four people that they thought would be good representatives. But all the employees voted on the person who was actually elected. And then that person, we fly them to Austin for a quarterly meeting where then all the corporate department heads, whatever initiative it was, said "Hey, we're going to change the point of sale system and we want to get your feedback and here's what's going to happen, here's what it's going to look like."

And so that group, I have to say, was the most sort of culturally and ethnically diverse group in the whole company because they represented the communities from all over the country. And that was one of our real ...

So we had, for example, an Indian person on that group and we were going to start showing Indian movies. And Indian movies are super long and they have an intermission and they really are different from how you normally watch a movie. And having an Indian member on that team was able to say, "Hey, here's the expectations of my culture. This is what we're going to expect when you come to the movie. People leave during intermission to go get more concessions and they come back."

And just having that access to that group of people, I think that was easiest because we didn't think of it as a DEI initiative. We thought it of it as an operational, how can we roll these initiatives out more easily if we have buy-in from the field? And we kind of got the DEI for free by just being more inclusive across our whole employee base. Here are the people who are going to be affected by this change, let's consult them. And that inclusion kind of got us, I think, a lot of diversity.

Kim Rutledge

That's a great example. So as the market for talent continues to change, because we all know it's changed dramatically over the last couple of years, but it's continuing to do so. And as you think about that, what is working for you with respect to retaining the talent that you have, developing the talent that you have? And what hasn't worked, or where are some of your continuing challenges? Donna, I'll start with you.

Donna Jaskolski

Continuing to work is continuing to listen to what the employees need and being able to bring those things to the light. We are branching out and doing some things directly with our state-run bankers leagues and things like that to develop talent or bring talent in to develop them.
And specifically doing some internship programs that we had not done in the past. So bringing people into the organization perhaps while they're in college to be able to identify them as diverse talent and bringing them further along into their careers.

The retention piece is going to be a play for us for the next years, and that's going to continue to be the piece. And then really just identifying some things that we can do out in the communities to bring those employees in.

Kim Rutledge

Heather, you mentioned losing tech talent and some of the challenges that you've run into.

Heather Gedman

I think it's a two-way street, and especially let's say this week versus two weeks ago, that looks a little bit different, too. But it's just setting expectations clearly for talent, making sure you're communicating with your team. No one wants to be surprised by something like a layoff or surprised by, "Hey, your job is completely different today than we told you it was going to be a month ago."

And teammates want to know that they have a path to doing something that excites them if the role they currently have doesn't do that. So really communicating with the team and ensuring you understand on an individual level, what are that person's career goals before you hire them?

And then after you hire them, that doesn't stop. You have that responsibility to that team to ensure that you're hearing out their goals and aspirations. And then paving the way for them to do things that excite them. And that's the only way we can retain talent and pay for them.

I think bankers, for a while, were very complacent about, well everyone wants to work at a bank, everyone wants to be an analyst with us and work their way up and work 100 hours a week. We can't do that anymore. The times have changed, and we have to change with the times. And some banks have done a better job with that than others.

Kim Rutledge

Yeah, it's definitely been, I think, a challenging time for many of us as we've had to adapt over the last few years to the differences in the talent marketplace. And how dramatically the demands changed over the last few years and things that had been on potentially a slow path had to accelerate quite a bit.

Do you find that once you get people into your organizations, you're able to retain them pretty well? Do you have a bigger challenge getting them in or keeping them or?

Donna Jaskolski

Both.

Kim Rutledge

Both. Yeah.

Donna Jaskolski

You have your core group of people inside of a community bank that are very happy in doing what they're doing and they find it challenging. I think that the other challenge is, and I heard it earlier today, we're a tech company that does banking on the side. I think that's going to be my new mantra. That's the talent that we need to attract. Long gone are the days of worrying about how many transactions are walking into the branches. So making sure that we are staying on top of that.

Kim Rutledge

What about you (Heather)?

Heather Gedman

I would say it's harder to attract for me.

Kim Rutledge

Yeah.

Heather Gedman

I mean people don't even know what the name Truist is. So I have to explain to them, "Hey, we merged two banks and now we're this big new purple bank." But it's also getting over the fear of what does a merger mean in this sort of environment? And is that opportunity or is that just a really big headache?

And I think if you can really attract talent, then you could be honest with them and explain there's a certain level of chaos that's going to happen every single day and you either get people who lean into that or people who want nothing to do with it.

And if you can really do the work on the front end to get the right candidate in the right seat, they tend to stick around if you continue to avail good opportunities to them, and the growth. And show them what the big picture looks like and provide that support. But attracting talent in this era is tough.

Kim Rutledge

It is. Well, building a strong leadership team is obviously critical for succession at multiple levels within the organizations. How are you planning and executing on your plans for building strong leadership teams, both internally and externally? How do you approach it? And Heather, I'll start with you this time.

Heather Gedman

I feel like succession is probably one of the easier parts.

Kim Rutledge

Oh really?

Heather Gedman

I mean you just make sure that you're investing in your leadership. And if you're doing that, I mean, I always like to kind of joke. I think bankers love the getting hit by a bus saying, I don't know why. And we joked about it last night when someone almost got hit by a bus. Nothing happened.

But it's kind of like the banker joke when you talk about succession. But if that were to happen, if you got promoted, someone presented the alternative, "Oh, if I won the lottery instead of getting hit by a bus, it's less morbid." You shouldn't really worry about whether your team will continue to go on without you.

And if that's the case, you have a gap as a leader. You have to make sure that your team understands what their next path forward is, what their next step is. And if there is a gap, what they have to do tangibly to fill that.

And I think when you do a great job with that and you create the right disciplines around it and you create the right visibility, you socialize that broadly and you ensure people think they can get to the next spot and it actually happens, then I think succession kind of takes care of itself.

Kim Rutledge

Mikey, what about you and your organization?

Mikey Trafton

It's freaking hard, man. Yeah, I think that if you have a growing organization, then there's more opportunities for things to happen naturally. But there are parts in the organization that maybe aren't growing where we don't need new people every year.

So that means in order for someone to move up, somebody's going to move out. And so I think that is kind of tough. In my software company, we used to talk about it all the time. I used to always say, "You're going to be gone before I'm going to be gone. I'm going to be the last man standing. This is my company and you're going to leave to go somewhere else."
So my focus is not on so much getting an employee to move up in the organization because I mean we did that a lot. But my promise to everyone is when you leave here, you're going to go two notches higher on the corporate ladder at your next job.

So if you're a project manager for us, you'll probably be director of projects at your next job, or something like that. That was what we strove to do was really give people more skills, more responsibility within our organization.

We may not have a role, the director of project management, they're probably sticking around. So if you want that, you're going to have to leave the organization. But we are going to train you, we're going to give you those opportunities.

So the way we thought about it was that in order to get better, you need both knowledge and experience. So we would say, you need to take these classes, read these books, but you also have to get some practical experience in this thing. And part of our commitment to you is we're going to make room in the schedule for you to do something you've never done before and you're probably bad at it because it's your first time. So we're not going to have a tight deadline on that thing.

And it was just a little bit part of our kind of growth mindset within the software company. It was more about people when you leave. So that was the reputation we wanted. The reputation we wanted was if you come to work at this place, when you leave, you're going to be catapulted.

Kim Rutledge

Well Donna, what about you? How do you think about succession and building that team?

Donna Jaskolski

I think it's hard. I think it's hard what we all said that in a community bank you're not going to have those people. That movement's not going to happen quickly. So to what Mikey said, but also to what Heather said. You're going to have those opportunities when they avail themselves are going to be there.

But those roles are not going to open up quickly inside of a community bank. So develop, develop, develop. Give them opportunities. I think the biggest thing I learned in the last couple of years has been give that person the opportunity to come in and work on a project that's outside of what they would do every day.

And, excuse me, that's part of that development plan. You're going to be able to do something that's not in your daily task list, but also get exposure to the executive team and how that team works together to get the things done. So it's tough. That succession planning's tough.

Kim Rutledge

Well, so when y'all think about talent and where you are today as it relates to recruiting and managing talent, what do you wish you had known 10 years ago?

Donna Jaskolski

Start developing people before I thought they were ready to be developed.

Kim Rutledge

That's good counsel. Mikey what about you?

Mikey Trafton

Humans are hard.

Kim Rutledge

Yep.

Mikey Trafton

I mean, I'm an engineer, and I spent so many years trying to create systems for managing people. And then one day I hired a really great manager. And I remember he was putting together his goals for his subordinates, and 20% on revenue growth and 10% on customer satisfaction, and then 40% on management discretion.

And I was like, management discretion? How do you measure that? No engineer would say management discretion. We need measurable metrics. And he was like, "Yeah, but I'm a great manager and I have to basically have a good reason to give somebody a bonus or to slap their hand or whatever it is." And that's what I wish I had known the most was just how hard ... can't treat people with an engineering solution.

Kim Rutledge

They're not widgets.

Mikey Trafton

Yeah.

Mikey Trafton

I wish. I just wish, but ...

Kim Rutledge

Heather?

Heather Gedman

That's a tough one. I really don't know. I mean, I wish maybe I would've kept a little black book of all the really smart people that I met over the last 10 years. And that's your talent pipeline right there. But short of that, I mean, I think times have changed so much in 10 years that a lot of things wouldn't even apply anymore.

But you really just can't treat everybody the same. You have to speak to your data people differently than you speak to your strategy people. And you really have to learn when to double-click into the details and when to come up. And I think for me, I probably wish I would've listened a little bit more to some of the more quantitative stuff and some of the more technical stuff that I was like, "Oh, I'm never going to use this," but boy do I.

Kim Rutledge

Well, to that end, that's a great segue into my last question. What are some of the challenges you think you're going to need to solve, or at least make progress on, over the next, say, 12 to 24 months as it relates to talent?

Heather Gedman

I'm building a team right now that's pretty significant. And for me that's a challenge in and of itself. So we have a pretty big opportunity to solve a problem at Truist. To define and build out how we consider client profitability. Which is a result of the merger and just us not having it figured out yet from mushing these two banks together.

And so putting the right team together that's going to get us there, but not just recycle the old ways that one of the banks used to do it, but really the way we should be doing it. How that's going to set us up for the future and the trajectory of the bank is going in.

I mean, that's going to be a tremendous undertaking. So taking all these things we've talked about—diversity, building all these teams, succession—putting that all together, it's going to be putting my money where my mouth is.

Kim Rutledge

Yeah, that's a big one. Yeah. What about you, Mikey?

Mikey Trafton

I think my biggest challenge in building this new cinema brand is how do I create this great work environment that I was able to achieve in my technology companies? But technology companies have super high margins and very low people count relative to revenue. And so I could kind of just throw money at the problem. And the cinema industry, this is hourly workers making kind of minimum wage or thereabouts. And so my mission is how do I create that great place to work in a completely different environment with a completely different class of employee. So that's my challenge.

Kim Rutledge

And Donna, what do you see in the next couple of years?

Donna Jaskolski

Prioritization. When we sat through ... we're going through a series of strategic planning sessions right now. And writing all of these projects that we have coming up on the board and looking at them. And understanding that we want to get a lot of things done.

A lot of implementations are happening, and it's really going to be prioritizing without burning out and killing our employees in the meantime because that's going to be the greatest challenge that we have in the next three years.
 

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