The Cost of Turnover

Hosted By Lauren Conaway

InnovateHER KC

See All Episodes With Lauren Conaway

Karen Hughey

Today's Guest: Karen Hughey

CEO and Founder - Nucleus Training Solutions

Kansas City, KS

Ep. #1047 - The Cost of Turnover

In today’s episode of Startup Hustle, the actual cost of turnover is revealed! Lauren Conaway speaks to Karen Hughey, founder and CEO of Nucleus Training Solutions, for her insights. Also, within this conversation, you can gather foresight on better team management and career development strategies.

Covered In This Episode

How can you ensure that training becomes effective? Is there a way to scale training videos accordingly? And what is the main problem to solve regarding human capital?

Discover all the answers and more in this Startup Hustle episode. Karen shares everything with Lauren about the cost of turnover, team management, and the value of career development.

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  • Karen Hughey’s journey (01:53)
  • Must-knows when tackling adult learning (08:32)
  • The problem with chunking the information for adults (09:58)
  • Youth versus adult: difference in learning (13:10)
  • Great uses for training videos (14:44)
  • Scalability of training videos (18:41)
  • The value of Nucleus Training Solutions’ work (21:11)
  • Eradicating toxic work cultures (23:30)
  • Your organization’s learning culture (25:40)
  • The costs of turnover (27:35)
  • Creating a good workplace (31:34)
  • The relevance of investing in career development (34:59)
  • Best practices to improve your culture (40:57)
  • Strategy to recognizing great work in a team (43:53)
  • Why is recognition important? (45:52)

Key Quotes

There’s just so much that you have to be cognizant of when you are trying to educate. Things like learning styles, things like messaging, things like consistency. And how do you determine that scaffold, learning that growth, starting from a base, and then building on to it?

– Lauren Conaway

It was a little tough, but we got it. We wanted to make it a good place to work. A place where a lot of feedback from people to communicate with. [We] gave them the tools and the learning and the training they needed to be able to thrive in their careers. And not everybody would stay, and we knew it. And that’s okay.

– Karen Hughey

In both worlds, the HR and the learning, as a business owner, as an employer, and as a leader. Whatever that looks like, your role is to make sure your team has a safe and comfortable work environment.

– Karen Hughey

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Rough Transcript

Following is an auto-generated text transcript of this episode. Apologies for any errors!

Lauren Conaway 00:01
And we are back. Thank you for joining us for yet another episode of the Startup Hustle podcast. I’m your host, Lauren Conaway, founder and CEO of InnovateHER KC. And, friends, I gotta tell you today’s episode of Startup Hustle is sponsored by Hiring software developers can be really, really difficult. I think we all know that at this point. Full Scale can help you build a software team quickly and affordably. And they have a platform, a whole platform, to help you manage that team. Visit to learn more. Now, today, friends, we’re going to be talking about one of my favorite things to talk about. I love talking about culture. And how to make your teams and your environments stronger by fostering and facilitating a strong culture. And so we’re going to be talking with Karen Hughey. Karen is the founder and CEO of Nucleus Training Solutions and KRHR. She’s an expert when it comes to creating a strong culture and putting systems and processes in place to support your human beings and in supporting your teams. And so I just want to give you a hearty welcome. Karen, thank you so much for taking the time to chat with us today.

Karen Hughey 01:13
You’re welcome. And thanks for that introduction, and welcome. It was nice.

Lauren Conaway 01:17
You got it. I just gave Karen finger guns for those of you listening at home. Well, Karen, I’m gonna go ahead and just kick us off. And I’m just going to say, tell us about your journey, friend.

Karen Hughey 01:29
Okay, I’m gonna try to give you the condensed version because it can get long.

Lauren Conaway 01:33
I believe in her. You can do this.

Karen Hughey 01:37
Right? Yeah, my background has been in human resources and learning and development. I got a master’s degree from Michigan State and human resource and labor relations with a focus on adult learning. So education, learning of all the areas in human resources that we can do. And I’ve done just about all of it. Learning and education are what I’ve always gravitated towards. So I started out after Michigan State working for some very large companies like Chrysler financial in the HR and onboarding area. A couple of iterations later, I was at OptumRx, which is a mail-order pharmacy. And that’s where I headed up the entire wealth flip. Most of what I’ve done later, in my career, I’ve started new departments in new groups from scratch, which has been in it Optim, we started the learning and development team that supported the pharmacy. So it’s the pharmacists, the technicians, and the actual fulfillment center. And if you’ve never seen an automated mail-order pharmacy, it’s amazing. It’s really amazing. But yeah, so there. And I’m gonna mention it because it comes into play later. And what we’re doing today is we started introducing training videos to deliver content because our training at the time was very long. It’s pretty boring. It was not engaging or effective. It was very expensive. And so we took you to know, our new hire firm is training from 12 weeks down to six. We can cut things in half, and using that video is very effective. A few iterations later, I had the opportunity to then go back and work for a smaller company. Setting up their entire HR department made sense because they bought and sold divisions. They didn’t need me anymore because it turned into a small company again.

Lauren Conaway 03:25
Did you manage yourself out of a job?

Karen Hughey 03:27
Did I? Yeah, I did. That’s a fun gift. No, yeah. It was all good. It was a good transition, and it was good. It was good. But I then went on in, and I started working with an organization that wanted to build out an HR consulting firm. So at that point, I was working with small companies, not necessarily startups, but we’ll talk about those companies because typically, what happens with startups is going they get busy, they develop their software or their platform so that they can help other companies hire software developers, and then they go back later, and they put in their HR processes and infrastructure. But working in that small area, throughout this whole time, I’m still gravitating back toward that learning that education. I’ve been an adjunct college instructor at Johnson County Community College for over 21 years. I don’t know if I’d like to admit that or not.

Lauren Conaway 04:22
JC is here.

Karen Hughey 04:25
Giving my commercial plug for Johnson County right now.

Lauren Conaway 04:28
Excellent educational institution. Use Yeah, yeah. Certainly has excellent taste in professors.

Karen Hughey 04:38
Thank you, and I’m not getting paid by JCCC to plug them, but yeah, any community college is okay. So, Devon, we had the opportunity, and I had, you know, the HR consulting firm KRHR. Then I was really fortunate, and my son came to work with me. And so we always introduce ourselves. We like to clarify. Here’s my son and a funny story. We went to a meeting in person. And we all the way through the meeting and the gentleman we were meeting with, he looks at us he’s like, alright, well got asked, he said, I looked you up on LinkedIn and couldn’t quite tell if it is it mother, son, husband, wife, we busted up laughing. My son, I’m very blessed that I get to work with him. And we started a company that was a video-based online training company geared toward a different audience. So high school athletes, because he played college golf, had an unusual HR startup, a true startup, that hadn’t opened the doors yet. But they wanted their employee handbook, they wanted their interviewing processes, they wanted their checklist, and all of their HR infrastructure. So we put that in place. And they said, you know, you’ve created that training for the athletes in your other company. Can you make training videos for us? Because that’s the core of what we do, we support adults with disabilities. And we need a lot of training. We said, Yeah, I can create training videos on any topic you want between the corporate training we’ve created, you know, giving and receiving feedback and communications and interpersonal skills and pure functional job-specific training, we can do it. So 17 training videos later, there, folks are ready to go on being the ideal team member on how to provide great customer service, how to dress for success, how to make ice creams with, you know, with batch freezer, which is a piece of equipment to make ice cream, very process driven, they opened their doors, and we found out about some grant money, there was some Cures Act money out at the time. And so we cast a wide net and talked to all kinds of clients and said, we’ve got an opportunity. And, you know, a lot can get paid for developing training videos for you. And so we launched Nucleus Training Solutions in 2021, even though we’ve been developing this type of training, full design training, and specializing with those training videos. And doing that since like 2010, but the Nucleus training solution was starting in 2021. So a somewhat short version of the story could have been, it’s your life.

Lauren Conaway 07:14
So I mean, of course, you’re gonna take us on a whole journey, which you just did now. So I have a lot of questions about the Nucleus and KRHR. But first thing that I want to ask you because I find this really interesting. And this is really pure curiosity on my part. But you mentioned that you have a focus on adult learning. And so my question is, how do you differentiate between learning systems for adults versus learning systems for children? Like we talk a lot about K 12, education, things like that? What are some of the things that you have to be mindful of when you are training adults?

Karen Hughey 07:52
Okay, well, I’ll get technical on you. How do you educate children? So more of your K 12? timeframe? Yeah. And I’m an expert in that way. So I can’t tell you much about that. So andragogy is the study of how adults need to learn. And I haven’t really studied it. It was a while ago that I was in graduate school. But there are still some fundamental principles, but with adults, different philosophies, you know, with children, back in the day, and this is changing. So a lot of this has changed. Don’t quote me on being absolutely current on pedagogy. But it was more so you could just lecture to kids, you know, teaching by rote, it was a lot of memorization and periodic Tinder, right.

Lauren Conaway 08:34
Like, I think that we are seeing a general shift toward experiential hands-on education.

Karen Hughey 08:46
But that’s the way it’s always been for adults, adults, although I find it ironic, because I have a lot of colleagues at the college level, not necessarily JCCC, because I’ve been in a few other colleges, but they will prep for class, and they will write their lecture, and I just did the, you know, little hand quotes. You know, that’s typical in that setting. And they would create a PowerPoint and they would lecture and talk to the students. And think about Lauren, if I said the floor, would you like to sit down so I could give you a lecture? How do you feel about that?

Lauren Conaway 09:17
That sounds absolutely unappealing.

Karen Hughey 09:21
Exactly. Yeah. But that’s, that’s the approach we had at the college level. But with adults, we really need to make it very interactive, engaging. We do what in the industry called chunking the information, so give you a little bit of information. I’ll let you ask questions and talk about it. And if there’s other people there, if it’s a class, we have some discussion, and we’ll have breakout sessions, and you’ll practice it and you’ll get really good at that piece. And that’s more so if you’re learning by taking yoga classes, I have, okay, I’m glad you have.

Lauren Conaway 09:54
I’m not gonna go so far as to say that I’m any good at it.

Karen Hughey 10:02
But I have, don’t judge isn’t that what the point is.

Lauren Conaway 10:05
You get out, you get active.

Karen Hughey 10:09
That’s how a yoga class goes, we do a little bit, you get pretty good at it, you add on a little more and a little more. That’s how we design the training. And we’d have knowledge checks along the way, make sure they understand, don’t just, you know, talk at them and blow through the information fast and hope they caught on because that’s never worked for adults. So well designed, training, learning and education. They have incorporated some of those aspects that I talked about. If somebody ever says, Well, you know, I’m gonna create some training, okay, I’ll create a slide deck, they’re not really creating training, do creating slide deck. So yeah, I’m a little biased. So yeah, it’s interesting.

Lauren Conaway 10:46
I was actually in a meeting. So sorry, I’m on a city wide Council kind of environment thing. And it was really interesting, because I made the mistake of using the term curriculum. And apparently, curriculum is like a super loaded word that has a lot of meaning attached to it. And really, what I wanted to say was scaffolded learning, like creating a path of least resistance to understanding. But you know, you there’s just so much that you have to be cognizant of when you are trying to educate, you know, things like learning styles, things like messaging, things like consistency, and how do you determine that that scaffolded, learning that growth, starting from a base and then building on to it? So I’m going to tell you, if you don’t mind, just indulge me for a moment, I’m going to tell you a little story. So in a previous workplace, I worked for an organization that did education, primarily with students, high school age, sometimes Middle School, on rare occasion, college students, and then we also did some work with educators, adults, adult learners. And it was really fascinating to me, because it was an innovation based program that was kind of centered around design thinking, and I would administer this program. And when we dealt with the students, we would get a set of students who were challenged to come up with solutions to a problem. And with the students, we would always get like these crazy, innovative moonshot thinking like, kind of solutions that we would talk about. But then we would talk to adults and work with adults and ask them to do the same thing. They would really struggle. And why do you think that is? Well, I have an idea.

Karen Hughey 12:33
From the reading I do, and I read like crazy, one of my colleagues said, Do you ever sleep because you’re so well read it too, with the yoga but, ya know, children? We have, especially younger children. We haven’t told them no, too many times. We’re, you know, all those things.

Lauren Conaway 12:54
Because you’re exactly right. Like, as soon as we have a problem with the adults, we would have them, they would immediately start thinking of the reasons behind the no, like, we don’t have a budget for it. We don’t have the people for it, we don’t have the time.

Karen Hughey 13:13
Whereas before it didn’t.

Lauren Conaway 13:17
I always found that super interesting. I’ve always been very, very attuned to the differences between learning in youth and learning and adults. So I did want to ask you that. Now, one of the things that I love about what you’ve done with Nucleus Training Solutions, in particular is you’ve created scalability in a very vital process that often doesn’t have much scalability. So by creating training videos, that means that you don’t have to individually administrate the delivery of said video, right? You can record it so people can have content on demand. It was that kind of thinking behind Nucleus Training Solutions, like creating that easy navigability for companies that wanted to offer training solutions.

Karen Hughey 14:04
Yes, there are a couple aspects to that. Lauren, you’re right. There are so many great uses for training videos. That’s why we love them because it can be used as pre-work so people can get an idea or overview ahead of time, you can use it during a session, instead of me talking too long, like I will in a large, you know, two hour session or whatever.

Lauren Conaway 14:25
It might be great so far, but I believe you.

Karen Hughey 14:30
It’s such a great reference afterwards as well. Yeah. However, my caveat is and there may be some people that disagree with me, and that’s okay. I haven’t found from my experience, you know, going back to Optum. Working in the classrooms when I do teach a live class at the community college or other universities or teach a workshop. Just the video itself oftentimes won’t achieve the objective based on the topics that I’m usually teaching interpersonal skills. You know, maybe a lengthy job specific training around, you know, I’ve got to, I’ve got to accomplish this task to do my job. Just to know itself. Now, YouTube videos, if I need to go learn how to fix the leaky faucet, it’s a pretty limited, you know, task that I have, they work really well, I use it all the time. But for the things that we’re teaching for jump skills and success in the workplace, you can get a little bit of that, but especially the interpersonal skills, you got to talk about why this will or will not work, when, when adults can exchange stories and examples, they start learning from each other. So my workshops are always Yeah, my training sessions are always very engaging. So they can talk and share because they learn that adults thrive on that, sometimes more so than the children that you asked about earlier. But then we need to have a little time to practice and go back and try again, have some assessment, get some feedback, some constructive feedback. And so that’s why oftentimes, just a training video won’t work, or just an eight hour lecture class, like we used to have, that didn’t work, people take it back, stick it on the shelf, or they watch the video, and it won’t work. So we need to combine more than all those different elements of learning, so that we can make sure that they’re successful, and, and be able to change the behavior and change the performance and the outcomes. And most of the time, it doesn’t just happen by watching a video or reading a book or going to a class, it takes time. So if we can design it that way, it works better. And I’m trying to do that succinctly now.

Lauren Conaway 16:33
So as I said, you’re doing great in it. And I love the intentionality that that is put behind what sounds like it’s put behind your process anyway. I mean, the fact is, like, in order to retain information, like people can read stuff, they can watch stuff. But in order to retain, you have to have context, you have to have repetition, you have to have, you have to be able to like go back to the content, and figure out how it aligns in your life, like your professional life, your personal life, whatever it is. So there are all kinds of factors that go into a person’s ability to learn, right? And often, like, as you said, you know, often people aren’t, they’re not going to learn if you just like, throw them a talk here or there like and you have to fully integrate knowledge into someone’s experience for them to not just not just retain it, but also implement, right, figure out what that means for them. So that’s super cool.

Karen Hughey 17:31
Didn’t we go back to I didn’t quite answer your question about the videos and being scalable. So we ran into prospective clients, where they were a client, now we’re talking to them about the training, and we were talking to their lead trainer. And this is not the first time we’ve had this conversation. We have it all the time. So we’re talking to a trainer, he said, Would it be very helpful to you if you didn’t have to deliver this content, demonstrating and talking through how to do these tasks to operate this piece of equipment? Would that be better if they could watch that in a video and then you can jump into the questions, here’s the discussion. And they can start and demonstrate like oh my gosh, that would be great. Because he has to do that over and over and over. And then what happens is, people tend to forget what they said, or they changed the story or so forth on the job training. That can be a little bit difficult because I change the story each time I do it based on what we asked him to talk about. So that scalability, as you talked about with the videos, is so key, because it shortens the time that it takes to deliver content and information and demonstrate how to do something and show it, it makes it consistent, it is the same every single time. And then the trainers or the leads, or the managers or whoever’s delivering training, especially if it’s with an organization that does a lot of hiring. And they have to do it over and over and over again, that starts to really engage those folks. Because they look like wow, this is great. I don’t have to say that same thing over and over and over again, that’s a relief. And now my company cares, you know, they’re developing a different way to go about this to give me some better tools. Because I really want this new hire to be successful, or my colleague who’s moving into a new job. And now I’ve got better tools to help them with that so that the videos can be used in so many different ways, relieves the trainer. It’s consistent, it’s the same and shortens it up. So that’s where the scalability really comes into play, as well as the engagement for all the folks.

Lauren Conaway 19:29
Well, and speaking of tools that can help you do your job better. I want to talk to you a little bit about software development friends, I know. Software it notes, nobody likes talking about building a tech team. Like it’s hard. It’s constant recruitment, you don’t have to do any of that. I’m here to tell you that finding expert software developers doesn’t have to be difficult, especially when you visit where you can build a software team quickly and affordably as we like to say Use the Full Scale platform to define your technical needs, and then see what available developers, testers and leaders are ready to join your team. Visit to learn more. Now that we have that out of the way, we are here with Karen Huey, founder and CEO of KR, HR and Nucleus Training Solutions. And Karen, I want to take a step back with you just a little bit. And then we’re going to look at the 10,000 foot view. And I’m going to ask you, why is the work you do important?

Karen Hughey 20:31
Well, I’m passionate about that question, I appreciate you asking. It’s interesting. I have this conversation quite often, in talking with other consultants talking with business owners, and I’m in the people business, I’ve always been in the people business. My passion is making sure that people have the tools, the knowledge, the skills and the abilities to do their jobs. Well, yeah. And oftentimes, I mean, we’ve got a real focus on lean manufacturing ISO from back in my manufacturing days, six sigma, process improvement, those are all different ways, in different approaches to go in and make our business more efficient and more effective. And we’re going to take waste out of our process, so it doesn’t take so long and then we’re looking at our expenses, and how much does the equipment cost? And could a new piece of equipment make our jobs better? And, and we look at all these things, and the finances and so forth, we put all this in place? Yet, it seems like we forget about who are the folks that are going to actually make all this happen we’re making these changes to make your business better. It’s our people and, and that’s where it kind of stops, you know, there’s process mapping companies out there and make a whole process map and learn. I wish we did have the visual right now as my process map is behind my desk. Oh, man. I find it interesting that we then stop and we don’t know, how do we teach the folks these new skills, I mean, especially for changing something in our organization, even know that the change is for the better. It’s a change, and you talk about culture, people, most people don’t like change, even though they know it’s really good to be better. You’re still changing, I knew how to do that software I was using before and now it’s new software, whatever it might be. So what am I you know, my passions, and my mission is to help business owners and leaders and directors of operations. So you’ve got to focus on the people part of it, because your folks are your most valuable and your most expensive asset and your entire company. Yeah, they’re the ones we’re gonna make it happen, they’re gonna make it or break it. And let’s have more focus on that, because that’s what we focus on giving them the tools in the learning that they have. So they can be successful. And it’s often forgotten. And I find it bizarre.

Lauren Conaway 22:50
But it’s interesting, I was thinking about this like so before, you know, we hit the record button. We do some pre show prep, we talk to the guests, but we go through our setlist and I was thinking about one of them. I was actually thinking about the way in which we refer to our teams and our employees. And often we hear this phrase human capital. And I kind of hate that phrase, because I’m like, these are people this is like, we can talk about assets and liabilities. And we can talk about P&I. But when we’re talking about people, like let’s do people the courtesy of actually referring to them as you know, humans, and have respect for that designation. But you’re absolutely right, like folks who are engaged folks who have success trajectories, which often includes professional development, ongoing training, you know, these are the kinds of people that are successful for organizations. And we know the data empirically shows time and time again that turnover and toxic work environments are a cancer, they are a hindrance and may hurt your business. And so anytime we talk to founders who are working to address that, that kind of human capital attitude or mentality like I love that you’re humanizing something that has historically been very dehumanizing, you know, you’re a number you punch your clock you go home, and that I don’t feel like that’s really the case anymore. And so, again, we’re kind of just seeing these societal shifts but you have created a mechanism to eradicate or at the very least support the removal of toxic workplace culture, or at least a piece of it in what you’re doing. Do you agree with that?

Karen Hughey 24:45
Yes, I like so she said a piece of it is that what we do won’t solve everything short of a lot of things.

Lauren Conaway 24:51
Sir, there’s no one stop shop solution here. Yeah, multi pronged attack for sure.

Karen Hughey 25:00
multipronged all the time. Yeah, it really, um, you know, when you, when you look at the culture, one of the things that we, and we, you know, talk with, with leaders and I love talking to them all the time, like, you know, what is your learning culture? Do you have a focus on that, and I was, I was blessed twice in my career to have really strong leadership when I was when I was working for companies once at Chrysler financial, and once at OptumRx, where I had senior leaders at both places that truly understood the value of investing in their folks. Because it’s hard, because you can’t quantify it quite so much. You know, if you put in the new self check scanning machine in the grocery store, which is all over the place now. You know, you can see, okay, now I need that many fewer checkout people. And you know, you can do the math and figure out how that happens. With learning, we can do a lot of analysis. I mentioned earlier, we took our pharmacists training, we cut it in half, so we can reduce training time and cost. I can easily go into a company and say, we can reduce that training time that training costs by 50%. And we can do the math, and I can show savings. But some of it like turnover, that’s a little bit harder, because when somebody leaves a company, and for whatever reason, you know, there’s a lot of reasons why they leave some of them, leaders and owners have some control over and don’t realize that always but when they leave, they don’t the business doesn’t write a check for that. So they don’t feel the impact of writing the check for 50 to 200% of that employee’s yearly salary. Or as Sherm said most recently, you know, six to nine months or so that’s, you know, 50 to 75%, somewhere in there. It’s a significant number. If somebody’s making 100,000 per year, you know, one of your key leaders and they depart. Probably 75% $75,000 just came off your bottom line, but they don’t read the checks. They don’t feel it.

Lauren Conaway 26:50
Right. It’s hidden costs that yeah, so mindful.

Karen Hughey 26:55
Yeah, yeah. And I will oftentimes, I’ll talk to leaders, I’ll be at a group, whatever the setting is, and I’ll ask them, Do you know how much it costs you when you have turnover? And I’m amazed at how many very successful business people oftentimes don’t know that.

Lauren Conaway 27:11
So when I think about, like, the far reaching implications, like anytime you lose a team member, and that can be like, they decided proactively to go to greener pastures, or maybe they got fired, or, you know, whatever it is, like, you’re, you’re losing a lot, you’re not just losing money, you’re losing institutional knowledge, you’re losing pieces of culture, because the individuals contribute to culture as a whole, you’re losing a lot, potentially. So anything that we can do to work on that retention piece, not just the attraction of talent, but the retention of talent, that’s going to be so key for startup founders, particularly like those early stage founders, you like, you’ve got three employees working for you if you lose one, man, that’s, that’s tough. So I love that you said something that I found really, really interesting, and I’d love to hear your thoughts on this. But you mentioned that you had been very blessed to work for two leaders and within two environments where you felt that cultural support, what did that look like and feel like to you?

Karen Hughey 28:20
Oh, it was great. I mean, I can remember it like it was yesterday. It was a while ago, I was with Chrysler financial. We had three senior VPs, just the way organizationally it was structured and I won’t go into all that matter. And they said, you know, these call centers that we have are where the whole career starts. So we’ve got to make this a great experience. Well, I do have to tell you, it’s kind of funny to come to town, we had a call center. So cars are financial, they finance automobiles, and in the call center, you would call people if they were past you in car payments. We hired collectors, it was the first job to start your career with the company. And we hired folks with college degrees.

Lauren Conaway 29:13
So recent grads, and we hired these college graduates to come in and work second shift as a collector calling people on their path to car payments, not the career most college grads want to have sound like a lot of fun when he was good at that second shift turned actually turned into a benefit because our second shift was 2pm to 10pm.

Karen Hughey 29:17
Well, what did college students do at 10pm? They go out and then the next morning after being out late they sleep in so I thought it was a big detriment. It turned into one of the biggest selling features.

Lauren Conaway 29:38
I barely remember those days now. It’s like 10 o’clock. Time for bed.

Karen Hughey 29:43
That whole New Year’s Eve thing. Yeah, it’s still Yeah, yeah. Little squirrel or a squirrel down. Yeah. But yeah, but we had the senior leaders who said, you know, it’s tough to recruit folks for this and we expect a lot of them and move most of them. We’ve got to make this a good opportunity so they can grow their career because we want them to stick around. So we hired a consulting company who helped us create a one year onboarding program. And then after one year, they graduated into what it called navigate, where they could chart their own course. And I still have borrowed some aspects of that, that I share with clients today. So there’s a big company approach that, you know, I can share with not so big companies, but they really were committed to that. And then they said, when we come in, we want our culture to be such that people enjoy their jobs, they’re doing a good job. It’s a tough job. And sometimes it’s, it’s, it’s not glamorous or exciting. And so when the senior VP said, when I come into the call center, I want to see a skip and everybody is stuck. It was like a joke, because senior leaders, they’re like, Okay, what does that look like to you, Paul, he said, I don’t know. But I’ll know it when I see it. Now go make it happen.

Lauren Conaway 30:54
I appreciate the sentiment, but there’s not a lot of guidance in there.

Karen Hughey 31:00
It was a little tough, but we got it. I mean, we wanted to make it a good place to work, a place where a lot of feedback from people to communicate with people gave them the tools and the learning and the training they needed to then be able to thrive in their careers. And not everybody would stay and we knew it. And that’s okay. Because there’s only so many places you can go. But they were committed to it. And they would come in and they would listen to presentations from our new hires after six months and, and the senior leaders demonstrated walk the talk, the interest, the commitment and the passion they had for their folks. And it made a difference. Huge difference.

Lauren Conaway 31:38
I love that. So what I’m hearing because there’s not, I don’t know that there’s like any one particular roadmap, I mean, like I said, there’s there’s not one thing that you can do to impact your company’s culture, there are a million little things that you have to do and that, but what I’m hearing, I’m hearing intentionality coming out, like, you know, the, the tactics are gonna vary from organization to organization, and it’s gonna, you know, there are all kinds of variables in there. But the fact is, like, as long as you are intentional about creating your culture before your culture is created for you, because it will be. But as long as you are mindful, you know, that’s really important. What I did not hear from Karen, I didn’t hear anything about beer pong Fridays, I didn’t hear anything about foosball tables. That’s not culture. Right.

Karen Hughey 32:32
And I think the good news is a lot that has gone out of style. So not so much anymore, thank goodness.

Lauren Conaway 32:37
And I’m super glad to hear that. But like I do know founders to this day, who they’re like, they are very confident that if we give out the swag, and we do all the cool, fun, funky stuff, people are gonna stick around. And the fact is, like, people don’t stick around for that kind of stuff. They stick around for opportunity, they stick around for, you know, a clear career trajectory, like a success path, they stick around for managers that support them. And I want to talk to you about psychological safety. Because training videos and in all of the consulting that you do, really, you know, you’re it comes back to that feeling of psychological safety. Are you in an environment where you feel like you have the opportunity to learn to take on new skills and new responsibilities? Are you in an environment where you feel comfortable expressing dissatisfaction or, you know, pointing out areas for improvement? Are you working with people who are invested in your success? I mean, there are a lot of factors. I want to talk to you a little bit about psychological safety. And what that means specifically, with as we’re talking about things like turnover and retention, you know, how important do you think psychological safety is to work to that retention piece?

Karen Hughey 34:02
Oh, it’s critical, you know, employees, they are team members, associates, whatever we want to call them, they need to know that they’re going to have opportunities. I’ve got a statistic for you.

Lauren Conaway 34:17
So I told you that all these two sticks, bring them on.

Karen Hughey 34:19
LinkedIn found that 94% of employees would stay at a company longer if it invested in their career development. Yeah, and so people want to know, okay, you have a plan. I can grow. It’s really important. Even more so today, the old adage where people would come into a company, they would pay their dues, they would, you know, go through the grind so they can move up in the company. Employees today, that’s not okay for them. So, leaders, the leaders who can adapt and change for what employees need are more successful. Now. I give that a little bit. Have you heard I am quite certain that the veteran generation Yeah, we’ve got the veterans and the baby boomers and Generation X Generation Y generation Z. I’m quite certain the veteran said the same thing about the baby boomers that, oh my gosh, you know, what are these boomers doing? And they, you know, they don’t have a work ethic, and they do things so differently, and they don’t do it. Right. Yeah. But it was interesting, in this environment, where it’s been very difficult for employers to attract and retain top talent. And, you know, for quite a while it’s been across the board, and we’re seeing some changes in their, you know, high tech software, you know, we’re seeing some layoffs at very large companies, but there’s still pockets that are always gonna continue to have a hard time hiring. But we were having a roundtable discussion with a group and, you know, one of the leaders and he was a seasoned leader, he had been around for a while with his company, he’s like, you know, this is the way I operate. And this is the way I want to do this. And I don’t understand why when people are, you know, applying for a job they want to communicate by text and, and you know, they’re doing all these different things. And I didn’t have to say it, another one of the leaders, very successful business owners and we have to change with the times, that’s how they communicate best, we need to meet them where they are. And the first one kind of looked at him kind of funny, but I’ve seen that time and time again. Again, it’s that change and it’s different. But if you want to be successful as a leader in it, we were talking about it whatever stage company is in whether it is a startup this is you know, Startup Hustle or you know a company that’s been around for a long time you have to understand your employees you need to understand their needs what’s going on with them unfortunately the days of work was work home was home never show the to meet those days are long gone. Home Life is impacting us now. And employers need to be open to that not saying just give it a free for all and willy-nilly and whenever you want to come to work right do it and you know, do whatever you want. But employers who do care who do let me wrap a bow around this because I just got long winded who showed they care about their employees, their employees well being inside and outside of work as well as their development and growth in their contribution to doing something important in their company whatever that is that you’re doing it’s important when they can show that their employees are gonna get on board and they will be with them 100% of the way if they don’t employees just gonna look for the next best thing like you said or the grass is greener on the other side. So it’s a simple approach to think about but it’s really hard to execute for leaders because I get it they get busy and yeah that’s what I found.

Lauren Conaway 39:45
Right I don’t hear you anymore, Karen. Okay, so Karen, I forewarned you that I was going to do this and I’m going to ask you to give away a little bit of your treasure. I know that you’re a consultant and of course we’re going to encourage all of our listeners. If you have quite Students are if you want to engage with Karen and if you want to talk about training solutions, and HR practices and all that good stuff, certainly do that we’re gonna put links to Nucleus learning, and we’re gonna, I’m sorry, KRHR and Nucleus Training Solutions, we’re going to put those in the show notes. But for the folks playing at home, what are some best practices, tips and tricks you can give folks that they can implement today to improve their culture, improve their retention, improve those numbers, while at the same time helping out their teams and placing priority on our team’s apps.

Karen Hughey 40:37
Absolutely. And one thing that I had a lot of clients find to be very helpful is to conduct a culture survey, there’s all kinds of them out there, some are very expensive, and some are not so expensive. Some are very simple, some are very complex. I’m always an advocate of less expensive and less complex, but a culture survey that can help you find out what your folks are thinking because they’re anonymous. So people are oftentimes more comfortable, really expressing their feelings, their thoughts or suggestions. So that’s one thing that a lot of companies will find very helpful. Now the key is, then you have to communicate your findings, and you have to take action on that as well. There’s nothing worse than having a survey where you don’t tell anybody everything, so be committed to it. If somebody doesn’t have, you know, maybe the budget or the wherewithal to conduct a culture survey, start creating some types of regular communication cadence with your folks. And I’m gonna give you some different ideas, because that can look very different. Like, like you said, Lauren, the tactics can be different. But there are still some basics that every organization needs. And what that includes is regular communication, if you did a culture survey, they always come back and they say, We want more communication. So that can be one on one meetings with your staff, you know, whoever your direct reports are, carve out some time. And you can ask them, what do they need and how often and what’s important to them for that amount of time. You can have team meetings, and I’m an advocate of you kind of flex those, change them for the needs of the team when I was at OptumRx and our team was new. It was growing, we were adding people every other week, you know, we went from one person to 39, in a short amount of time, we had what we called Lightning Rounds, or stand up meetings. And so we were small, we’re about 10 people at the time, we all stood there, we got a minute I timed this. And people could talk about what they’re working on and what they needed help with. And then you know, Joe, and Susan would say, Oh, good, you know, since I can help you with that job, we’ll take it offline. And so we would do that. So everybody knew what was going on. And then eventually, we didn’t need them anymore. And we stopped having the meetings. Maybe an employer has a town hall meeting, you bring everybody together on a regular basis. You know, whatever works for an organization, you can have a combination. Yeah. Another thing I would do is recognition. People are doing a good job.

Lauren Conaway 43:10
Right, my favorites. Yeah.

Karen Hughey 43:13
But here’s my caveat for that one. Make sure you are providing recognition in a way that’s comfortable for your team. Yeah, what I mean by that is, I had a business owner, an awesome business owner dedicated to the business, his team doing the right things. And they had Friday meetings, and he would, you know, announce various kudos and good jobs and all sorts of things. And he would announce, you know, this in front of everybody and say Bob did this, or Harold did that. Or Jane did this? And said, What are you sure, Bob and Jane are comfortable with you congratulating them in front of everybody? You said, Well, yeah, everybody likes to be congratulated in front of everybody. Not everybody does. Some people are mortified by that.

Lauren Conaway 43:58
So think about the folks who are on your team who like when you go out to dinner on your birthday. Like they don’t want people to be clapping and singing my happy birthday song because too much attention. And so.

Karen Hughey 44:09
Yeah. The advice I give to people all the time is if you’re not sure about something you’re not sure how to communicate or you’re not sure how to recognize, and there’s lots of ways to recognize them. It’s so simple. Just ask them one. Lauren, how do you prefer you know if it’s your birthday? Do you want to celebrate your birthday? I want balloons and everything right?

Lauren Conaway 44:31
I mean, I do love words of affirmation, particularly of the public variety. But that being said, like I am one person and yeah, like I know, I used to work with a bunch of developers and like developers are not known for being the most outgoing. Like as a general group, it was like, Well, let’s not make them uncomfortable. Can’t call them out publicly. But you know, just that pride, even that private moment like pulling you aside. Hey, just like you know you do a great job, thank you. Exactly, yeah. We’re gonna, we’re talking about meeting people at their level meeting people. Yeah, I love that. Oh, sorry, go ahead.

Karen Hughey 45:12
I was just saying, we always talk about, you know, in both worlds, HR and learning. As a business owner, as an employer, as a leader, whatever that looks like, your role is to make sure your team has a safe and comfortable work environment. And so make sure that you’re asking, and you’re ensuring that that environment is good, but recognizing them is so important. People need to hear that they’re doing a good job. And then you’ve got one other thing.

Lauren Conaway 45:40
You’re given away all the tests, more and more.

Karen Hughey 45:43
Again, this is all great. Like when we have, you know, training classes, we’ll practice this stuff. And we’ll do it like that. It works really great here. Now you have to go implement it, it’s easier said than done. But I’m hoping to get some nuggets in people’s heads. If you can just take one and go start working on it. That’s great. But giving constructive feedback. And what I would ask you to do is take the word criticism out of your vocabulary. Do not ever do that, because I’m going to ask you again, learn like I did earlier. Lauren, do you want to have a constructive criticism discussion?

Lauren Conaway 46:12
Oh, my God, that sounds terrible.

Karen Hughey 46:14
Right? How about, I would like to have a feedback discussion with you. You’ve been doing some really great work on the podcast and the speakers you’ve been bringing on. And I think we can make it even better with a couple of ideas I have for you. Would you like to have a discussion about that?

Lauren Conaway 46:29
Or I would love to have that discussion? Okay, great. I think I think most people inherently want to improve and want to get better. But here it’s in human nature to get defensive, or either to be resistant to that kind of confrontational style. Like nobody likes hearing, they’re hearing that they’re not doing a perfect job or what have you. But when it’s couched right, it becomes an opportunity rather than a, you know, something that can hurt you to your soul.

Karen Hughey 47:00
Right? Yes, yes, absolutely. I don’t recommend the old sandwich techniques, and people used to teach that, Lauren today. Really, you know, make sure that when it’s a longer duration, or whatever it may be, and I look forward to the next time meeting with you. We remember the first thing that somebody says, and in the end we don’t remember things in the middle. And that’s the meat of what we need to change. So don’t see my recommendation.

Lauren Conaway 47:28
All right, no, compliment sandwich don’t that sandwich? No, let’s not do that. So let me ask you this, I’m going to ask you a human question. And you said that you said that you read a lot. So I want to explore that with you a little bit. Because I love readers. For those of you who haven’t seen this, Karen got to see a little bit of it. i My office is just like, packed with books. I love books. I love reading. So talk to us about some of the things that you’re reading right now. What are you interested in?

Karen Hughey 48:00
Oh, it runs the gamut. If I don’t want to think too hard, I like some good nonfiction novels. I’ve found some, some new authors. That’s unfortunate. I can read really fast. So over one of the long weekends we had I read two novels, but you know, I just kind of blew through them. But I also read a lot of books like Patrick Lencioni. I think he has fabulous leadership books. Yeah, so you know, book-wise, I read a lot of periodicals. Wall Street Journal Pew Research gallop Gallop I love because they do so much research around engagement, and, you know, retention, and so forth. And of course, you know, you have to go with your association. So SHRM, Society for Human Resource Management, and ATD is the Association for Training and Development because I always have to keep current on, you know, what you’re doing in your vocation. But yeah, so I just don’t. I’m always either reading it or I’m listening to it. You know, a lot of them now record it with the computer, but it’s okay, so I get on the elliptical at the gym, and I listen to The Wall Street Journal.

Lauren Conaway 49:07
Well, that is very cool. You know, I gotta tell you, Karen, I, it has been a blast having you on the show. Thanks for taking the time to chat with us and for sharing so much of your wisdom. Like I, I look, I always look forward to thinking about our guests listening to these episodes, and like, you know, learning all kinds of cool stuff and hearing about new founders. And so this was a really good one. But thank you for taking the time. We really appreciate it.

Karen Hughey 49:33
You’re welcome. And I also thank you for inviting me to the show, which I enjoyed tremendously.

Lauren Conaway 49:39
Oh, I’m so glad. Well, and something else that we enjoy, friends. We enjoy Full Scale. I know you know that they have my heart. And speaking of retention, I always find this really interesting. But whenever I talk to Matt DeCoursey about Full Scale, one of the things that he always mentions is the fact that they have an excuse for remote employee retention at their location. Because Matt, you know, treats their teams well. And they had, like, they have people who want to stay with them. So if you need to hire software engineers, testers, or leaders, Full Scale can help. They have the people and the platform to help you build and manage a team of experts. When you visit, all you need to do is answer a few questions and then let the platform match you up with fully vetted, highly experienced software engineers, testers, and leaders. At Full Scale, they specialize in building long-term teams that work only for you. Learn more when you visit And, of course, my friends, I would be remiss if I did not point you to our online communities. You know, one of the things that I talk about a lot we do Startup Hustle for you. You know, all of the hosts are founders. We all have our own founder journeys. But we want to hear your thoughts. So connect with us. We have a chat group on Facebook. We have a LinkedIn page, and we have a YouTube channel. But, you know, feel free to reach out to us and let us know what you want to hear and the founders you want to hear from. We love those suggestions because it helps us do our job better. So definitely do that. And please keep on coming back. We love that you listen to us week after week. We will catch you next time.