Opeyemi Sofoluke knows there’s not one single word or aspect of her life that defines her.
“Black is not a monolith, or being a woman is not a monolith. There are so many dimensions to who we are as people,” says Opeyemi.
In her own life, she has embraced those dimensions, combining career growth and personal growth by pursuing her interests at work and beyond.
That’s what led to the book that she co-authored with her husband—and in which she explores how to create space for Black talent to thrive by tracing the stories of 40 entrepreneurs and professionals.
Twice as Hard was written in four months during the pandemic, while Opeyemi was working and also raising her two young children along with her husband. But she didn’t see the project as something that took time away from her roles at work and at home, but rather that added to both.
“I'm lucky to be in an organization where I don't have to hide the things that I'm passionate about. And actually, a lot of what I'm passionate about aligns with my day job,” she says.
We sat down with Opeyemi to ask how she balances her impactful work at Meta with her personal passions beyond tech—and what advice she has for other people looking to do the same.
A passion to create change
Opeyemi isn’t new to the whole juggling-two-or-more-interests thing. She was interested in both business and politics while at university, so did a combined honors degree in both subjects.
“It comes from a passion and desire to create positive change in spaces where I find myself,” says Opeyemi of what drives her to take on more.
The first space she found herself in after university was banking, because she wanted to build her career in a strong industry with lots of learning opportunities. But she had trouble feeling like she was making an impact.
“Being a change agent, creating spaces for people to be themselves—I wasn’t doing that in my day-to-day,” she says.
So Opeyemi started volunteering and joining employee resource groups, which is how she found an opportunity with her firm’s social responsibility arm using the company’s technologists to support NGOs and charity organizations.
Working with the mostly-white, mostly-male tech world inspired Opeyemi to pursue DEI work. She’s particularly excited about the challenges of her field compared to others: “There is still so much opportunity to change the face and technology, and make it more diverse and representative of the world and the actual global majority that we see today.”
She was ready for her next challenge when she heard about the job at Meta. Now, as their DEI International Program Manager, Opeyemi’s days are spent working with Meta’s nine employee resource groups across the three regions—Asia Pacific, Europe / Middle East / Africa, and Latin America—that she supports.
That can include things like supporting the Meta employee resource groups in building out their strategy, determining key priorities to activate against and amplifying community concerns to senior leadership, or supporting the planning and programming of community Heritage Months across the regions such as International Women’s Day or Black History Month in all its forms: in October in the UK, in November in Brazil, in May in other parts of Europe, and in February in the U.S and Germany.
Opeyemi is cognizant of her own various identities, passions, and interests, and knows that the Meta community as a whole has the same diversity of experiences.
“We want to make sure that the programming is truly intersectional,” she says. “So for Black History Month, for example, we want to make sure you’re seeing programming that is relevant to someone who may be Black and disabled, or Black and a mother.”
Making time for growth outside of work
Opeyemi didn’t set out to write a book. But in 2019, her husband, who is the founder of the UK Black Business Show and UK Black Business Week, had an idea about writing a book that would be relevant for Black professionals and entrepreneurs.
“We were really intentional about addressing topics that would’ve been helpful for us when we started our career. What are some key areas that would’ve been important to address?” she says. They came up with a chapter list featuring everything from building a personal brand, to how to network and relationships to how to navigate white spaces, and got to writing. They also came up with a list of professional sources to interview.
“When people think about successful Black people, they often think about sports or entertainment. But the reality is we can be successful wherever we find ourselves, and we should not put ourselves in a box,” she says. That’s why Twice as Hard includes stories from people such as Matthew Knowles, who managed his daughters’ careers, and Pamela Hutchinson, Global Head of D&I at Bloomberg.
Opeyemi sees her book as having two messages.
The first is for the Black community, and it’s one of hope and inspiration.
“It was important to demonstrate that the struggle has been around for a long time, and even though it still exists, people are doing excellent things,” she says. “We idolize people that have made it, and we don’t see their journey. Imagine a portrait in a gallery. You don’t see the nights where the artist sat there saying, ‘How should I paint this picture?’ We just see the end result. But it’s important to highlight the work that people have put into their careers, the challenges that people have faced, because those challenges are not necessarily unique. They’re all things we can identify with.”
The second message is for people outside of the Black community, including allies.
“We’re giving you that insight into our world,” says Opeyemi. “Hopefully, then you’re more informed on our experiences and can therefore be a better, a more active, a more intentional ally, because you know what to look out for.”
4 tips for balancing passions
The process of writing, publishing, and promoting the book is something that Opeyemi has balanced with her day job, though her passion to support her community and her work to do the same are clearly aligned.
For others looking to do the same, whether with complementary interests or not, Opeyemi suggests:
- Figure out what balance looks like to you. Opeyemi considers herself an “intrapreneur”—someone who is able to deliver on new ideas in a working environment, but doesn’t have to set out on their own to do it. “If someone else wants to go off and be an entrepreneur, that’s great. You just have to set yourself up to actually get there, so you can make sure that financially you are secure,” she says. But it’s also entirely possible to follow her path and keep a full-time job while pursuing extracurricular growth, she says.
- Remind yourself that you deserve the investment. Working on a passion project often requires an investment of money, time and effort. “Whether that’s on your weekends or in the evenings, it’s about finding ways to make the time for you to deliver on that passion,” she says. Stay disciplined and motivated by reminding yourself that the investment will be worth it in the end and you deserve to work on and invest in projects that bring you joy.
- Share your work with your team. Support is a major factor when creating a product or project on your own. Don’t be afraid to showcase what you’re working on to others. You might get that extra support you need, or even gain a connection to someone who can help. “Imagine if I kept it quiet that I’ve got this book coming,” she says. “You don’t want to hide away a gift or a talent.”
- Recognize the impact that your work will have on your broader communities. “Often when you are passionate about something or when you’re creating something, it’s not just for yourself,” says Opeyemi. “When you think about a creator, they’re creating for a community.”
To hear more from Opeyemi and other women at Meta about balancing their impact at work and in their communities, check out this Beyond Women’s History Month event video!
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.”