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Mathieu Stevenson Of Snagajob On The Labor Shortage & The 5 Things We Must Do To Attract & Retain Great Talent

Originally published in Authority Magazine.

The pandemic has allowed people to reevaluate what they want from work. This “Great Reevaluation” has led to the “Great Resignation” which has left the US with a great big labor shortage and a supply chain crisis. What can we do to reverse this trend? What can be done to attract great talent to companies looking to hire? What must companies do to retain their great talent? If not just a paycheck, what else are employees looking for? In this interview series called “The Labor Shortage & The 5 Things We Must Do To Attract & Retain Great Talent” we are talking to successful business leaders who can share stories and ideas from their experience that can address these questions. As a part of this interview series, we had the pleasure to interview Mathieu Stevenson. Mathieu Stevenson is the CEO of Snagajob, the country’s largest and most trusted marketplace for hourly jobs and work shifts.

Our readers would like to get an idea of who you are and where you came from. Can you tell us a bit about your background? Where do you come from? What are the life experiences that most shaped your current self?

I was born in a small town in central Puerto Rico and spent most of my childhood in Latin America before coming back to the US. After finishing school, I spent my formative years in consulting which was a fantastic experience. I had the opportunity to work across different industries and spent several years in Europe and Asia (where I met my wife!!). However, I realized that my passion was technology and helping build — which is why I left to pursue more entrepreneurial opportunities including most recently Snagajob. I remember the first discussion I had with our now Chairman about Snagajob’s mission and vision — we were supposed to talk for 30 min but ended up speaking for almost two hours. After I got off the call, I turned to my wife and said, “we have to do this.” I wanted to be a part of something bigger and saw that Snagajob could have a transformative impact on a massive segment within society.

Some experts have warned of the “Great Resignation” as early as the 1980s and yet so many companies seem to have been completely unprepared when it finally happened. What do you think caused this disconnect? Why do you think the business world was caught by surprise?

While we have had strong and weak labor markets in the last 40 years, by and large the changes in how we work have been evolutionary — the core model has largely remained intact. As a result, companies’ didn’t have to radically rethink their approaches. COVID was a huge disruption — at the onset, millions of frontline workers were displaced and transitioned to new industries while millions of white collar workers adapted overnight to an entirely new way of working. This “shock” caused workers to reassess what they wanted from their employers and when the job market came roaring back and the “balance of power” was titled more in their favor, they looked for opportunities that were better aligned with their needs.

What do you think employers have to do to adapt to this new reality?

The first is to recognize that this isn’t a fluke. Early on some employers believed it would be temporary and that they could wait it out. While it is true that the elevated levels of attrition we are seeing now will likely ebb over time, worker expectations have fundamentally changed and the status quo is insufficient. The second is to think about the employee value proposition/experience similarly to the customer value proposition. Are you addressing employees core needs around pay, benefits, and flexibility? What are the elements that differentiate you from other employers (e.g., mission, career advancement, community / culture)? What elements of the prospective and existing employee experience need to be addressed? How are you communicating and reinforcing the value proposition over time? This can’t be something just championed by HR — all leaders need to be engaged.

Based on your opinion and experience, what do you think were the main pain points that caused the great resignation? Why is so much of the workforce unhappy?

Part of it was clearly pent up attrition; workers who might normally have left for new opportunities but hunkered down when unemployment was so high in 2020. However, most of it has been a result of a historically strong labor market (the best for workers in a generation) combined with COVID being an impetus for workers to reassess what they want out of their employers — whether it’s better pay, benefits, flexibility, or career advancement. This has been compounded recently by many employers pushing to go back to the “old way” of working — which is out of step with what most workers want and expect now. Workers have always wanted flexibility — but now they expect it.

Many employers extoll the advantages of the entrepreneurial spirit and the possibilities of an expanded “gig economy”. But this does come with the cost of a lack of loyalty of gig workers. Is there a way to balance this? Can an employer look for single use sources of services and expect long-term loyalty? Is there a way to hire a freelancer and expect dependability and loyalty? Can you please explain what you mean?

I think it is a misconception that freelancers are less loyal. Most freelance to supplement income or have greater control / flexibility over when they work — not because they are reluctant to commit. As companies expand use of gig workers, they need to focus on the freelancer experience; i.e., are they made to feel like members of the team, do managers invest in getting to know them, do they get feedback on their work. Just because someone is a freelancer doesn’t mean they don’t also value those things. Companies that recognize that will be rewarded with their loyalty.

I am fond of saying, “If it’s fun they charge admission. But you get a paycheck for working here.” Obviously I am being facetious, but not entirely. Every job has its frustrations and there will be times when every job will aggravate employees. How important is it that employees enjoy their jobs?

It’s critical that people enjoy their jobs, but there is no job that’s always enjoyable or frustration free. Having a sense of purpose/mission, working with great people, solving tough problems, and taking on new challenges that help you learn and grow are all things that make a job rewarding. However, it’s important to recognize that there will be good days and bad. A good goal is for employees to feel like they enjoy their jobs more often than not.

What are a few things that employers, managers and executives can do to ensure that workers enjoy their jobs?

Ensuring pay, benefits and work/life balance are addressed is a critical step, but not the only step. Employers should acknowledge an employee’s contribution to a team of people with a shared purpose. People want to belong to a workplace community, be part of something bigger than themselves, and enjoy the day-to-day. Keep work interesting with energy, humor and fresh incentives — purpose, camaraderie and levity.

Can you share a few things that employers, managers and executives should be doing to improve their company work culture?

Improving company culture can feel daunting given it takes time to get right. While there are a number of things employers can do, I’d highlight two things that are often overlooked but incredibly important. The first is to lead by example. Set the tone. Don’t ask others to do things that you yourself aren’t willing to do. Exemplify the values that you hope others will want to follow. The second is to lead with empathy and compassion. Demonstrating that you care about what colleagues are navigating/going through — whether professional or personal — is so important to creating the right culture. Taking the time to check in and see how someone is doing, acknowledging challenges that people are navigating even outside of work, are small steps that have outsized impact on engagement, collaboration, morale, and culture. One of the silver linings of the pandemic has been that more employers and leaders have recognized the importance of showing empathy and engaging on topics that transcend the workplace.

We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them.

I would love to meet with Labor Secretary Marty Wash on how we better address the “disappearing hourly worker”. Specifically, I think there is opportunity via public-private sector partnerships to help parents with children at home rejoin the workforce through daycare subsidies, as well as increase employment of second chance workers through new employer incentives and programs.

Our readers often like to follow our interview subjects’ careers. How can they further follow your work online?

Follow Snagajob on LinkedIn and visit snagajob.com/blog/employers for insights on hourly hiring trends like our Weekly Hourly Hiring Report.

Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this. We wish you continued success and good health.

Darrell Jones |
Darrell is Snagajob’s Manager of Content & Copywriting, where he enjoys writing and editing advice that helps workers and businesses align and succeed. His first hourly job was totally chill, bagging ice at an ice cube f-f-f-factory.