The Great Resignation continues to cause problems for CS leaders that need to grow and retain their strong existing talent.


Debra Squyres saw this trend early and took action to create a workplace that was attractive to a remote-first workforce. As HackerRank’s Chief Customer Officer, Debra adjusts the hiring, engagement, and retention strategies and has offered to share her learnings via an interview below. 


People’s standards haven’t changed — their tolerance has

People are more willing to leave their companies due to several factors.


1) The world has gone remote (or hybrid). 

2) Movements like the contingent workforce population are growing rapidly. This is where people are disconnecting from the concept of security and the necessity of having a full-time job. 


Because of this, workers have more options than ever before and more power than they’ve ever had. We were headed in this direction, but I think COVID-19 accelerated us on this path by about 10 years over the course of about 6 months.


I don't think the Great Resignation is a bad thing. As a leader and hiring manager, the opportunity to hire talent is greatly expanded because I don't have to think in terms of traditional barriers, like location. In fact, I was the first leader at HackerRank that was hired outside of our headquarters location. Had it not been for COVID-19, I wouldn't be here. But we are now a remote-first company. 


Workers want the same thing that they've always wanted. They just are more likely to walk away when they aren’t getting it. 


The first way leaders usually try to solve this problem is by offering more money. This ultimately leads to a situation where your ability to compete with other companies for talent comes down to how much you’re willing to pay. Money is a hygiene factor. It may attract employees, but it won't retain them over the long term.


At the end of the day, when you look at employee surveys, it all boils down to the same things. 


People want to: 

  • be respected, 
  • have meaningful work, and  
  • feel like the company invests in their professional growth. 

What it takes in 2022 to retain CS professionals

Be clear about your organization’s maturity and the skillset required from CSMs

It's important to recognize that good people and good talent are not always a good fit for what you need at the stage of the company, the nature of the role, or the product that you have. You have to really drill into the basics and understand your company’s stage and your CS organization's maturity level. 


Do your CSMs have a broad spectrum of responsibilities? Or do you have CSMs who specialize? If you have Enterprise CSMs who work with multimillion-dollar accounts, scaled CS on the other end, and a variety of roles in between, the personas you’ll need in your org will look much different than at a company with CSMs who have an expansive remit. 


The colleagues who excel and thrive in an environment where they do something different every 45 minutes hate being in mature organizations where they’re specialized by function and segment. It's not the same nature of work.


You can have exceptional CSMs in both environments. But if you're not clear about what your environment is, or you're not hiring for what you need them to do, or the circumstances in which they're going to be doing it, then you will create a mismatch. There will be frustration and attrition. 

Be realistic about retention at a growing company

I have spent the last 15 years in rapidly growing companies. The reality is you can't retain everyone over the course of every phase of a company's lifecycle.


You can retain more team members if you're open about what that journey looks like and what opportunity it presents to them. You also have a better chance of keeping people if you’re clear on what their strengths and passions are because you can push them in certain directions or give them projects that keep them engaged for longer. 


But as a leader, you're really fooling yourself if you think you can have 90-100% retention in a rapidly growing environment where the circumstances and nature of work are ever-evolving.

Empathize with the reality your team faces

One of the things that many CS leaders, myself included, struggle with right now is the level of fatigue our teams are feeling. 


Customer-facing people have to juggle many simultaneous responsibilities in a fast-paced workday managing multiple customers. They’re the voice of the company to the customer. They’re the voice of the customer to the company. They bring feature and bug feedback to the Product team. They bring ICP and pricing feedback to the Sales and Marketing teams. And since CSMs are usually “people” people and we’re mostly working in a remote-first world, they don’t have outlets to recharge their energy like they used to.

So dealing with fatigue, engagement, and retaining passion around the work has been a true challenge from a leadership perspective and ensuring that the team is okay. 


All companies need to think about how to create an environment where people who have these intense experiences (like working with customers) can overcome obstacles and find a level of balance and peace in their work. 

Tips for creating an environment CS professionals want to work in 

  • Prioritize team connections. Make time for activities other than work communication. This can be as simple as taking 5 minutes at the beginning of your weekly team meetings to share about your weekends or scheduling virtual team breaks together to get to know each other. Small steps like these go a long way towards creating a welcoming, inclusive, and positive remote or hybrid team.
  • Provide market average or above compensation. If your compensation is well below the market, it’s going to be hard to hire people in the first place.
  • Show appreciation & celebrate people. Make it a habit to frequently share and celebrate the wins of your team. Awards, gifts, and public recognition can go a long way toward team members’ sense of accomplishment.
  • Invest in wellness & mental health programs. In hybrid and remote settings, maintaining a work-life balance can be challenging. There is now a multitude of initiatives and programs available to companies to better support their team members. Implementing such programs should be top of mind for every organization.
  • Create clear career & promotion paths. Design well-thought-out career ladder rubrics and paths to promotion. Have team members score themselves and host 1:1s to discuss progress. Team members want to know you are invested in seeing them advance professionally. 
  • Encourage your team to take advantage of breaks. Go beyond “no meeting Fridays”. If your company schedules wellness days off, make sure your colleagues take the time off.
  • Offer training, mentorship, and learning opportunities. Consider formalizing a mentorship program. Perhaps there’s budget for professional development courses. Be creative about how you can improve your team’s well-being. But above all, listen to what people ask for and do your best to bring those ideas to life. 





The best resources for Customer Success teams this week



Thoughtful Apologies for Bad Customer Service


So long as humans run companies, mistakes will be made. Here’s a post on how to craft a professional, but heartfelt apology when a customer is on the receiving end of poor service. The author also shares 5 email templates you can use for various scenarios like after a system outage, a negative customer service experience, or if inaccurate communication was made.


Read the full post





The Right Amount of Context to Manage Up


Here’s Wes Kao, Cofounder of Maven, with a thread of advice on how to share the perfect amount of information to make your boss’ life easier. She says, “It's your job to do the heavy lifting. By providing the right amount of context, your boss won't have to guess to figure out what you’re trying to do. Take the mental load off your boss & you’ll shine as an employee.”


Read the full thread





Stop Blaming the Sales Team


This quick read from Chad Horenfeldt, Head of Global CS at Kustomer, calls for Customer Success professionals to “stop blaming sales by default.” He advocates for leaders to develop a mentality of extreme ownership to “speed up the chance to make real change and progress” between CS and Sales organizations. 


Read the full post




The Dreaded Re-org


Lara Hogan’s piece will help you empathize with and prepare for how your team may react to an upcoming Customer Success team re-org.


Read the full post




Success Happy Hour is a weekly newsletter for Customer Success leaders. Each week we feature one digestible piece of advice or a framework from a top Success leader, along with the best resources from that week. Subscribe here.

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