Before the pandemic, Pari didn't worry too much about logistics. She ordered things online, of course and engaged in e-commerce activities. And her professional roles at tech giants like IBM, Google, and Microsoft had certainly exposed her to the importance of complex operations. Not to mention her stint as the Executive Director of Technology at The New York Times, where she had plenty of opportunities to think through how insight was delivered.
But it wasn't until the world shut down due to the pandemic and Pari and her family were stuck inside that she really realized the significance of the commercial transportation that kept everything moving.
"When COVID had essentially paralyzed our entire globe, not just our country and our economy, I realized the significance of the logistics industry," she says. "When the fear of the pandemic and losing lives literally took over humanity, and everyone transformed their lives to being fully virtual, fully remote, the only thing that kept us all living seamlessly was the logistics industry."
When the opportunity to join online shipping marketplace uShip as their Chief Technology Officer arose, she jumped on it, recognizing that there had never been a more important time to work somewhere that was supporting the future of commerce.
We sat down with Pari to hear more about how she's built her career, how her transition to this new role during the pandemic has gone, and how she's developed her approach to leadership and motivation during such a challenging time.
Strategic engagement from the start
As a seasoned technology leader, Pari is used to tackling real-world hard challenges. She began her career focused on Biotechnology, specializing in Genetic Engineering, doing her Masters in the field before deciding to do a second Masters focused on Computer Science, specializing in Software Engineering, with a dissertation in Artificial Intelligence.
"I love working in the area of data, [including] data engineering, data science, machine learning, and AI," explains Pari, who adds that some of her favorite past projects have engaged in building data science and engineering, applying the same to driving revenue for businesses, building next-generation platforms and future-proofing platforms against security threats.
As uShip's CTO, Pari is currently focused on transforming the EPD (Engineering, Product and Design) organization by hiring the right talent, driving transformation and building the next generation of their platform, leaning on data engineering and data science, to continue to differentiate uShip's product core IP.
Because uShip works by matching shippers and carriers on an open marketplace, it works with individuals and businesses of all sizes, explains Pari. "Building products in the logistics space is very challenging and very dynamic—nothing can get more real than logistics," she says, referencing the vital role the industry has played in distributing everything from PPE to furniture to cars, boats, RV's, over the last year and a half.
Motivation through change
Pari has never had trouble keeping herself motivated to achieve her professional goals. "For me, motivation is all about building a positive mindset and creating a feeling of gratitude for what we have and what we can do for others," she says. Still, she acknowledges that even as she took heart in knowing that her work was helping to drive a positive, real-world impact, it was hard to stay motivated during the extended isolation of the pandemic: "We humans are born to socialize, network, and work as a team."
But there's one piece of advice she returned to in the harder moments—"Get up, dust off, reload, recalibrate, re-engage"—and she applied that same approach to starting a C-suite role in an all-remote setting.
6 ways to manage, motivate, and lead at scale
Though stepping into a CTO role during a world-altering pandemic that only put more pressure on the importance of the logistic industry has certainly been complicated, Pari has been able to lean on her decades of management and leadership experience to settle in well and start making a positive impact.
Here are the guiding principles that will allow you to do the same thing, whether you're starting a new role or just looking to level up in the one you have now:
1. Set a vision—and then get out of the way. "It's our job as leaders to give a clear direction and then just get out of the way," says Pari. "Teams don't need micro management or over-focused process management, they need direction. Teams can tackle problems innovatively and productively themselves, and we can be there to guide the progress through workshops, demos or stakeholder presentations."
2. Connect with individuals. While providing team-level vision and guidance is important, it cannot replace building rapport on an individual level, says Pari. "With people I work very closely with, I engage in one-on-ones as often as I can. It's important to connect with people and understand what some of their challenges are." That's been especially important during the pandemic, she adds, when employees might be dealing with
economic or health challenges, losses in their families, or other hardships that require extra support. "I always sit down, listen, and try to understand what people are going through," says Pari. "No two people will go through the same sets of challenges in life, and trying to put yourself in the other person's shoes helps to solve for the challenges that people face."
3. Create a cycle of clear goals and clear feedback. "I focus on setting clear, attainable goals and objectives (Objectives and key results or OKRs, a goal-setting framework for defining and tracking objectives and their outcomes) for teams to chase after quarter over-quarter," says Pari, highlighting that she works to add development and cross collaboration opportunities into those goals whenever possible. "That helps teams reach their full potential, whether they're in-person, completely virtual, or working in a hybrid model," she says. She believes in getting creative with innovation too, and gives the example of uShip's three-day hackathon as a way to drive innovation and creativity organically by teams: "It promotes networking, collaboration, and socializing, and even in a virtual workplace, it enables people to foster those connections we've lost in the past 15 months and to build something ground up or organically that helps drive business."
4. Let people ask why. Pari says that the biggest thing she does in any tech leadership role is to bring alignment during times of change. "A lot of times when we are transforming in any organization, it can be painful for people...whether at the people level, the process level, the product or technology level, or the overarching company level," she says. "Being in groups where you can have open-ended conversations, have workshops, and ask the 'five whys'—like why are we doing this in the first place!—is very, very important."
5. Invest in your people, not just your products. "In business, I believe strongly in one core principle: 'a company is only as good as its employees'," says Pari. "So I believe heavily in: 'Invest in your people and you will see huge rewards.' which is critical to success."
6. Don't forget to celebrate the wins. "It is so important to pause frequently and celebrate wins," says Pari. "They can be small wins, they can be large wins; it can be in meetings, town halls, All Hands, or even small team ceremonies. That's how we motivate ourselves and keep moving no matter how hard times get," she says.
In the “Great Resignation,” an estimated 47 million employees (and counting) voluntarily quit their jobs. The job market still hasn’t recovered from the unprecedented “quit rate” of 3.3% at the Great Resignation’s peak. Now, about 50% of the workforce are “quiet quitters” according to a Gallup poll — meaning, half of workers are disengaged at work and do only the minimum required of their job.
Having engaged talent is a competitive advantage for companies in today’s work environment. Replacing an employee who’s handed in their two-weeks notice can, after all, cost your company 21% of the employee’s annual salary. Employee retention strategies — ones that go beyond a box of donuts in the breakroom — are key to keeping workers engaged in the workplace. But given that overly played-out retention tactics can be ineffective at best and make your company look insincere at worst, it’s important to prioritize the right strategies. To that end, let’s go over some new and improved employee retention strategies that you may not have tried yet.
In this article, you'll find:
- Why employee retention strategies fail
- The best employee retention strategies
- Your employee retention strategy is your DEI initiative
Why employee retention strategies fail
There are plenty of employee retention strategy examples out there, but efforts can fall short. For your employee retention strategies project to be successful, you need to avoid these four common pitfalls.
1. Not delivering on promises. If you say you’re going to do something, follow up on it. Consistency is key to building employee retention strategies. Don’t ask employees to be honest about how they're feeling at work and then ignore their input. Or worse, promise big reform and fall short with token changes.
2. No trust. Studies indicate that “quiet quitting” is largely due to the relationship between employee and boss. Managers need the time, skills, and training to build solid relationships with staff. There are resource forums for people leaders to share ideas. Using tried-and-true best practices is the best strategy to build trust.
3. Siloed initiatives. Employee retention strategies can’t just live in HR. The moment they become siloed within one department or position, they fail. Employee retention strategies need to be a priority in every department and at every level.
4. No resources. Employee retention strategies need resources. To put it plainly, unfunded initiatives don’t work. Employees should be compensated for extra work such as sitting on an employee retention committee or putting together a workplace social. Likewise, pay raises and compensation should be a central part of the conversation. Remember, one of the main issues for quiet quitters is doing extra work for no extra pay.
The best employee retention strategies for 2022
With the don’ts out of the way, let’s move on to the best employee retention strategies you can start implementing today.
Listen to your employees
Well-run companies spend time and effort collecting feedback and customer satisfaction information. But what about employees? Managers need to ask, “how’s my driving?” Having data is critical to understanding how your employees are affected and making the necessary changes in order for employee retention strategies to take off. Send out an anonymous workplace survey asking about stress levels, feelings of creativity, people’s sense of inclusion, and how connected they are with their managers. If you’re not sure what to measure, start with a couple in-depth interviews. See what people want to talk about. The responses in the interviews will give you the basis for your wider survey.
If you ask your employees to be honest in giving feedback, management needs to be honest and transparent too. Acknowledge publicly the challenges the company faces based on what your employees have told you. This is the first step in accountability. Be transparent about compensation, pay raises, and benefits. Did you realize it is perfectly legal for employees to openly discuss compensation? This traditional taboo is becoming a common water cooler conversation. Social media is informing workers how to advocate for themselves. Meet them where they are. Actions speak louder than words.
Recognize and reward people, not just numbers
Over 1 in 5 employees does not feel valued at work. Feeling valued means knowing that your work is worthwhile and desirable. Watching the same sales people get rewarded for hitting their numbers again and again can be demoralizing for those who go comparatively unrecognized. Know your team and what they’re working on. Openly celebrate different kinds of triumphs, big and small, and be specific when you do. Helping people feel seen takes more than a generic “good job.”
Be flexible about work
Rethink how, where, and how long we do work. Research shows that 52% of workers prefer a hybrid remote-office work model. Employees even prefer it over a 10% pay raise. Employers must respond to this need as part of honing effective employee retention strategies.
And, as far as flexibility goes, time ownership is a massive benefit to offer employees — including by enabling them to work fewer days. Iceland is a leader in experimenting with the 4-day work week. Icelandic companies found it reduced burnout while improving work-life balance. Consider flexible arrangements that have proven results like these. Imagine how teams can be ambassadors for the company when they enjoy a new normal.
Employees that can’t see a clear career path within their company will look elsewhere to grow. The longer an employee stagnates in a position, the more their likelihood of leaving increases. Managers need to regularly work with each employee to envision their growth. Movement can be within their same position or laterally, as well. Give employees a discretionary budget for ongoing education and skills enhancement. Encourage projects and rotations with different departments to learn new skills.
Dust off that DEIB initiative
The best employee retention strategies are ones that are formed through a DEIB lens. DEIB strategies can be innovative for employee retention, as they (should) focus on all the things that make everyone supported, safe, and valued in the workplace. DEIB is, after all, not about making special accommodations for marginalized people; it’s about making the workplace better for everyone.
Your best employee retention strategy is a strategic DEIB initiativeDEIB initiatives make apt springboards for a number of successful employee retention strategies by listening to talent, creating custom work environments, and making employees across identities feel valued. Focus your efforts on DEIB, and employee retention will be one of many positive outcomes. PowerToFly has expert DEIB consultants that can help you jump start your DEIB-informed employee retention plan.
💎 Want to thrive as a customer success manager? Watch the video to the end to get some advice on how to do it.
📼Every customer success team has to follow some steps to achieve efficiency. Play this video to get three top tips that every manager in the SaaS industry should keep in mind. You'll hear from Miki Lager, Director of Customer Success at Tackle, who shares her own experience and knowledge.
📼 Customer familiarity for success. Tip #1: Know your customer. Understand their business. There are three steps in knowing how to navigate that. First, don't make it so operational. Build a true relationship with the client. Understand who are their competitors, what are the challenges they're facing, what's their true mission at heart, and how are they hoping to achieve that. Next, truly understand who the core team is that you should be working with. And finally, make sure to understand their key strategic and revenue goals.
📼Achieve customer success by delegating. Tip #2: Co-manage your customer. Not one person owns the client relationship at your company. Lead with others. Make sure to bring other stakeholders in, so that you can make sure the customer is on their path to success and that they can scale with your business solution. Team up with sales. Build a really strong relationship with your support team. Partner with the product team. The customer needs to understand where your business is headed in the future quarters so that they can plan accordingly, but also for your product team to then understand where the customer's product roadmap is headed, so you can align on strategy and best practices for that customer.
Customer Roadmap To Success - Tip #3: Define A Customer Journey
Have a defined customer journey. If the customer doesn't know where they're heading, it's going to cause some problems. Give them a clear roadmap to success. You can always adjust milestones as needed, based on different goals and different initiatives that you're working on with them. Once you have the customer journey defined, you can figure out which milestones align with the growth strategy the customer has in mind.
📨 Are you interested in joining Tackle? They have open positions! To learn more, click here.
Get to Know Miki Lager
She’s passionate about building client success teams for rapidly growing SaaS organizations. She’s been a leader at small to medium-sized companies, supporting the life cycle of startups through acquisition, and integration. If you are interested in a career at Tackle, you can connect with Miki on LinkedIn. Don’t forget to mention this video!
More About Tackle
Tackle enables software companies to accelerate and operationalize the use of Cloud Marketplaces like AWS, Microsoft, Google Cloud, and Red Hat, without the need for significant engineering resources. Their platform and team come together to make it easier for customers to build, grow, and scale their Marketplace businesses. Tackle was born and built as a remote organization and welcomes others who believe remote companies are the way companies will be built into the future. They believe that everyone has an opportunity to learn and grow in their community.
Nestlé would like to invite you to their Supply Chain virtual recruiting info session on September 29th from 4-5PM EST. Sign up for this event with leaders from our Supply Chain team to get an insider’s view on what it’s like to work at one of Gartner’s top-ranked supply chains for 2022 and the world’s largest food and beverage organization!
To say that Nazanin (Nazy) Brown and her family lead active lives is a bit of an understatement.
“We've got four young children and all of them are in multiple sports throughout the school year, as well as the summer,” she explains. “My husband and I are both coaches, so a lot of our time goes from work to home, out to the field to coach or watch games, and then back home for showers, dinner, and bed.”
With an always-on-the-go home life, it was important to Nazy to have a career that is stimulating but also allows her to be present in the lives of her children.
We sat down with Nazy to learn how she has mastered work-life balance as a Contracting Officer within the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency while she keeps her busy household running smoothly.
From Crime TV Fan to Special Agent
At a young age, Nazy loved crime TV shows, which influenced her choice to study forensic psychology. She went on to earn a master’s degree in the subject, where she got some exposure to federal government agencies.
“During my master's degree, we had a lot of recruiters come to our program,” she recounts. “One of the recruiters from an intelligence agency told us that they often hired people from our program as special agents.”
Nazy is also fluent in Farsi, and in addition to her choice of master's program, this made her an ideal candidate for many agencies.
“I began interviewing for special agent roles based on my Farsi skills,” she reveals. “I got a few job offers, and I landed a job as an entry-level contract specialist in the private sector.”
Working for a government contractor, Nazy quickly advanced in her career and eventually became a Senior Contracting Negotiator for Lockheed Martin — and she was loving it.
“I just really liked it and thought it was a great field to be in,” she says.
And while her career advanced, so did her personal life. She became a young mother with increasing responsibilities at home, which led her to be more mindful of where she was dedicating her time.
“At that point, I was putting in so many hours — it's not a 40-hour work week,” she admits. “It wasn't uncommon for me to sometimes work weekends, especially during proposal season.”
As Nazy continued to pile on the overtime, she saw that she wasn’t able to be the mom she wanted to be.
“I wanted to be able to cut work off when I'm at home,” she recalls. “I didn't want to be that mom that comes home and is on her laptop. This was when I realized that having a job that is strictly limited to just 40 hours a week would be best for our family.”
A Parent-Compatible Workplace
Through friends, Nazy learned more about working in the public service and realized that not only would she not have to work overtime, but it would also allow her to work close to her children.
“Many agencies have onsite daycares,” she notes. “I knew that would help so much with commuting and my stress level, as well as the cost. That was my number one reason to jump into the federal government.”
So, Nazy applied for a role that looked interesting and soon found herself working as a Contract Specialist in the Defense Threat Reduction Agency. The onsite daycare took in her oldest, who was then a toddler, and promised a spot to her second child, who was on the way.
“Having my children onsite with me instead of having to drop them off in another part of the city before work every day pretty much changed my entire life,” she reflects.
With her childcare issues solved and a manageable number of working hours, Nazy was able to focus more on her career development and explore her options. It was her husband, who works in the Intelligence Community (IC), who convinced her to consider switching to intelligence.
“My husband told me that the IC is just a different animal, and he was right. The contracting is different. The mission is amazing. So I decided to look into the IC,” she says.
Applying for roles in the IC required her to rework her entire application package, but her preparation paid off when she landed a role as a Contracting Officer at the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA).
“Since I've come to the IC, I've been able to broaden my skills,'' remarks Nazy. “It's an entirely different contract writing system, and the IC’s mission and impact are far greater in size and scope, which has really expanded my knowledge. I've learned so much in the three years that I've been here,” she says.
The Secrets to Work-Life Balance for Working Parents
Over the past two and a half years, working from home became the norm for some parents. For Nazy, this was not an option because of the sensitive nature of the data she handles at NGA — and she actually prefers it this way.
“I like the fact that I can get my work done without interruptions from my kids. And when I go home, I take my lanyard off, hang it up, and I go right into mom mode,” she says.
For other parents looking to have this same work-life balance, Nazy offers the following tips:
- Look for jobs with short commutes. Commuting to work for an hour each way might not seem like a lot in the beginning, but over time it can take a toll”, Nazy warns. “Try to get everything set up in your local area as close as you can. In an online job search, set the parameters to five or ten miles from home, max.”
- Find an organization that offers practical support to working parents. “I don't think a lot of people realize that many government agencies offer onsite childcare,” she shares. “I've had four young children who all went through them and I have nothing but good things to say about them. So consider an employer that offers this, instead of the commercial child care centers, which are double the price.”
- Have food prep on point. Between work and her children’s sports activities, Nazy can’t cook something from scratch every night of the week. “I start the week on prepped meals. By Thursday, we're finishing everything that’s in the fridge, and then on Friday we order something or go out to eat,”
- Take advantage of employer wellness offerings. “You need to take care of yourself as a mom, '' she advises. “NGA gives us three hours a week for physical fitness training, pilates, or yoga classes, which are all provided at work. Taking advantage of that during the work day is so much easier than trying to work out at home.”