Sapphire Now 21 - practical tips on Vaccine Economy talent management success from Tenneco and Qualtrics

Madeline Bennett Profile picture for user Madeline Bennett June 15, 2021
How to retain and attract the best post-COVID talent, via Tenneco and Qualtrics.


Despite moves from certain quarters to convince us that a full-time return to the office makes sense, businesses are much more likely to be feeling the pressure to continue offering remote working options long-term.

According to the Qualtrics Future of Work study, more than half of workers (51%) believe they have been more productive working remotely, while 80% want their employer to offer the opportunity to live anywhere, without being tied to a particular business location.

This is going to be tricky for many organizations to navigate, especially those like Goldman Sachs, which have already spoken out against ongoing remote working. Julia Anas, Chief People Officer at Experience Management firm Qualtrics, says:

HR is being pushed in ways it's never been pushed before. Particularly around the future of work, a lot of employers are focused on what is the ultimate outcome, thinking about employee preferences, and thinking about the company they want to be. Managing across both of those can frankly be tricky. This is where listening becomes really important.

Automotive company Tenneco uses SAP and Qualtrics to engage with its employees and listen to their concerns and requests. The firm has carried out a couple of return to work surveys, and is moving in the direction where remote work is going to be permanent.  Adam Ross, VP, Global Talent Management at Tenneco, argues:

We know that the world is going to be different coming out of the pandemic. There's going to be more and more of a need for flexibility around schools and around take taking care of elders. We've all had a year where we've rearranged our lives around the five square miles in which we live, so we're in the process of changing the way that our organization thinks about where headquarter locations are and working from home.

The biggest change that Tenneco is anticipating is that around a third of its workforce will be permanently working from home starting in the fall, compared to zero before.

It's not something you do in automotive, it's just not part of the culture. The way we see it formulating right now is about 30% will be permanently remote and they can work anywhere, we don't care where. We're working on the tax implications and how that's going to work. There'll be about 30% in the office and then a third will be in a couple of days a week. We're restructuring all our office space around the world to accommodate that.

Over at Qualtrics itself, the firm expects the vast majority of its employees will return to the office about three days a week. This will require some changes to the environment and workspaces to ensure they support a blend of in-person work and virtual work, and allow staff to do their best work, according to Anas.

The Qualtrics study also revealed that ten percent of workers would probably quit their job if they were forced back into the office full time. Anas says:

Companies generally are going to have to figure out what that means for them, and actually employees are going to have to figure out what that means for them as well. There are some people that are going to have to make some decisions for themselves because in some cases you can't please 100% of people. When you're talking about having thousands of employees, everyone's preferences are something different.

Happy employees

Tenneco, which designs and manufactures original equipment products for the likes of Ford, Jaguar Land Rover and BMW, is particularly keen to keep its existing employees happy as the firm has found itself losing a lot of staff for various reasons. It has then been filling these positions with people from the outside rather than internal promotions. Ross explains:

We were favoring talent on the outside 75% of the time. So we sat down and had this conversation with our Chief Operating Officer and our CEO going over the data, and they're like, 'This is completely backwards. How are we ever going to establish who we are as a company, what our culture is, our own identity, if we're just made up of all these other different identities?'. And then you find yourself in meetings where people are like, 'When I was at Goodyear, I did this' or 'When I was at Tyson, I did that'.

Tenneco realised it needed to flip the equation and so the firm set itself an organizational goal to have 75% of jobs filled with internal talent. This requires conversations with staff around if they want to have a career at the firm and if so, what they need to do to progress; and teaching managers how to have those conversations and how to construct development experiences.

To help meet the target, the firm is putting its 5,000 managers through a training course to equip them to be better leaders of the other 68,000 people in the company. So far, 400 have taken the course. Tenneco is now focused on making the people management training more portable and self-paced so it can hit bigger numbers; the next step will be working out the training needed for the rest of its employees to ensure they can develop. The firm can then offer LinkedIn Learning, virtual coaching and other formal learning programs for high potentials. Ross explains:

The firm is much more stringent around the vacancies it advertizes now, to the point where every single job posted on the outside has been scrutinized by the C-Suite. I know that sounds like extreme micro-management, but we had to make a move like that to say that if we're really serious about only filling 25% of our jobs from the outside, someone's got to take a look at it. Every Tuesday morning, people go in front of the Spanish Inquisition and they don't like the outcomes because the first question is. 'Who did you look at internally?'. And if the answer is ‘I didn’t look at anybody’, it's immediately, 'Please leave the room'.

It's a big culture shift because it was real easy in the past to say, 'I’ve got an opening, I'm going to go get somebody from the outside, I know a guy'. We're ending that. We want to be a company that has an identity and it’s an identity where people grow up here. It’s all in support of this idea that we want people to see Tenneco is a destination employer within our industry and hopefully beyond, as a place that they can grow and develop.

Outside in

Still, some roles will require an external hire, and when it comes to attracting new talent to the business, candidate experience can be used as a competitive advantage. According to data from PwC, 49% of job seekers have turned down an offer because of a bad experience during recruitment; meanwhile, candidates who have had a positive experience are 38% more likely to accept a job offer, according to the Society for Human Resource Management. Qualitrics' Anas says:

When HR teams understand where candidates are at and what they're thinking or feeling, you can take actions based on feedback and create a better experience. One of the findings was that candidates place a high degree of importance on the future relationship with their immediate manager and also team members that they might engage with on the job. So making a minor tweak like adding managers and potential direct and cross-functional team members to an interview loop is a small change, but one that can really produce some big results for candidates and their overall decision-making process. They're having an opportunity to meet, speak, talk, sense can I fit in here, can I belong, which are all things that are top of mind as a candidate is interviewing for a role.

Qualtrics is planning to grow its own global workforce by 50% in 2021, taking the company from just 3,500 people currently to over 5,000 by the end of the year. To meet this target, the firm is going to increase its recruiting team, but is also relying on existing employees to help attract new talent, she adds: 

A lot of what we're doing is sharing more of our 'Q stories' in market with candidates and leveraging managers to tap into their networks. To expand on who we are as a company has been really important, it’s about sharing some of the direct stories from our employees and pointing candidates to that.

However, the firm is aware recruiting these numbers won’t be without a challenge, and will need to be flexible during the hiring process to get the right people rather than just hit a target. Anas explains: 

It's about hiring the right talent. We are measuring the candidate experience along the journey ourselves at five different points, through questions at the apply, review, screen, interview and offer stages, and we're continuing to make tweaks and evolve. We are not going to allow the need to get to an end outcome to compromise at all the quality of hire that we would be doing to add to our organization. We'll continue to iterate and improve our candidate experience on the way based on the feedback that we're hearing.

For Tenneco, when it does need to turn to the outside world to fill a vacancy, the firm is changing how it announces these new hires. Previously, every time a VP or a director was hired, Tenneco would post an announcement on the financial webpage, which would lead to people questioning why it was hiring so many people from the outside That wasn’t necessarily the case, but the firm didn’t announce every time it hired a new salesperson or engineer. Ross concludes: 

It shouldn't be all about a leader show. It's forcing us to really celebrate and recognize the people who are actually coming into the company that are doing work. The rest of us are figureheads as leaders, so we're even changing the way we talk about bringing in talent and celebrating it more.

A grey colored placeholder image