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Employee Retention is a Thing

Employee retention. Ever heard of it? It’s kind of a big deal. See, employers would rather hold on to the existing crop of workers than have to go back to the well year after year. Ever heard of the gaming industry? Yeah, it’s kind of a big deal too, and hold onto those employees are particularly tricky. Good thing we ran into Madeline Laurano, the founder and chief analyst of Aptitude Research, while we were in Paris at Unleash, because she actually gave a presentation on the topic and decided to hangout with your boys in the Textkernel booth for some knowledge droppin’.

Intro: Hide your kids. Lock the doors. You're listening to HR's most dangerous podcast. Chad Sowash and Joel Cheeseman are here to punch the recruiting industry, right where it hurts. Complete with breaking news, brash opinion and loads of snark, buckle up boys and girls, it's time for the Chad and Cheese podcast.

Joel: Oh yeah. What's up everybody? It's Emmanuel Macron's. Favorite podcast, AKA, the Chad and Cheese podcast. I'm your co-host...

Chad: Is that true?

Joel: Joel Cheeseman joined as always. The French to my fries, Chad Sowash is in the house and we are recording live from Unleashed World in the Textkernel booth and we are just giddy to welcome. Madeline Laurano, founder and chief analyst at Aptitude Research to the show. Madeline, welcome.

Madeline Laurano: Thanks Joel. Thanks Chad. I'm excited to be with you all in person.

Chad: Yes.

Joel: In person?

Chad: She's probably one of the people who can say that she gets the velvet robe for being on the show.

Joel: Have you been on Five Times?

Madeline Laurano: I think so. But this is my first with you, Joel. Like normally it's just me and Chad.

Joel: We really have to do this velvet thing, 'cause we're kind of talking ourselves into it. It's the old SNL.

Chad: I think it is. Oh yeah.

Joel: Once you've hosted Five Times.

Chad: Big Chad, Cheese heads on the back.

Madeline Laurano: Oh, I like it.

Chad: Velvet. It should be purple I think.

Madeline Laurano: I want a T-shirt though.

Joel: A nice pipe.

Madeline Laurano: I need a T-shirt.

Chad: You don't have a T-shirt yet?

Madeline Laurano: No.

Madeline Laurano: I want a T-shirt.

Chad: That's 'cause we don't have extra small, that's why.

Joel: Oh what a nice...

Madeline Laurano: Oh that's nice. I like that answer. That's like the best answer ever.

Joel: Okay, so a lot of our listeners know who you are, some do not, give us a Twitter bio. Tell us about Aptitude Research.

Madeline Laurano: Sure. I'm an analyst, so I study HR technology, give opinions and write research reports. So there's a lot of comments. I know you wanna say right now.

Joel: She's given that before quite a bit. So you presented here at the show?

Madeline Laurano: Yes.

Joel: Tell us what you presented, what maybe some of the feedback was. How hot was the topic?

Madeline Laurano: I really liked this topic. So it was not me presenting anything. It was me interviewing a company, Ubisoft, which is a big gaming company.

Chad: Yeah.

Joel: Uber stank? What?


Madeline Laurano: They have 20,000 employees and they, are using talent intelligence and Eightfold and Skills to be able to retain, that's their issue retention. So it was around retention, but retention in the gaming industry, which is really, really interesting.

Chad: Big names like Assassins Creed.

Madeline Laurano: Yes.

Chad: Far Cry, Tom. Oh my God. They've got some kick ass games. Who would not wanna work for them?

Madeline Laurano: So it's, and gaming is very insular. So it's people that get into the gaming industry stay in gaming. And typically before COVID retention wasn't an issue. Like you'd stay with the company because games take three to five years to develop and create. And then you wanna see your name on the credits. Like that's the big thing.

Chad: Is that like part of your resume?

Madeline Laurano: That's my new resume.

Chad: Is it? Okay.

Madeline Laurano: And then if you're young and you're coming out and your name is up there and you tell mom and dad and whoever else that you're on this game, It's awesome.

Chad: And Gotrude everybody.

Madeline Laurano: Yeah, exactly. Everybody.

Joel: I was young and coming out at one point. But that's a different podcast.

Chad: That was college.

Joel: Now acquisitions are a big deal in this space.

Madeline Laurano: Yes.

Joel: Obviously Microsoft and Activision, is in the headlines quite a bit. Is that from a retention tool? Is that when the rats scatter and go elsewhere? Talk about the acquisition and what that means to poaching. And these people working elsewhere.

Madeline Laurano: I think acquisitions change the culture, it's like the company culture changes, people have more opportunities and they look to go elsewhere. For this company, the interesting thing was a lot of times people leave 'cause of compensation, especially if you're young. You're like, you're gonna make more money, you could double your salary. And if you're in your 20s, that's like life changing. So for them it wasn't compensation, it was internal mobility.

Chad: Ah, okay.

Madeline Laurano: So they wanted to like gamers wanna know they have career development opportunities.

Chad: Doesn't everybody though?

Madeline Laurano: I think so. I think so.

Chad: I think aren't we seeing that more?

Madeline Laurano: More and more.

Chad: And one of the reasons why attrition is like exploding in many of these big brands. Is because they just don't know where the hell they're gonna go next.

Madeline Laurano: They don't know where they're gonna go next and they wanna feel like there's some investment in their careers from their employer. It's so funny 'cause I think about like when I started interviewing at companies when I was in my 20s, I would never have asked that question. Like, what are my... They would ask me that question. Where do you see yourself in three years? You wouldn't ask the employer. And now that's shifted. People are asking that in interviews.

Chad: Which is great.

Madeline Laurano: It is great.

Joel: I think another thing that we didn't have. Coming up in the work world was the option to work from home. And I would think that these are highly intelligent individuals that like working at a computer, and programming and coding. What is the typical outlook at gaming companies when it comes to hybrid, remote all the time? Get your ass back in the office and how is it impacting retention?

Madeline Laurano: Oh. This is such a good question 'cause this came up and I would've thought exactly that. I would've thought it's work from home is what they would want. A lot of them might seem like introverts, but they found the productivity was going down so much with a work from home. So the games, the cycle for the games to come out. Was taking and is taking generally longer in this industry, in the gaming industry than it ever has before. And they think they're attributing that to work from home. So hybrid is definitely where they're at finding that balance between letting people have the flexibility but they need people in person collaborating, brainstorming together, face-to-face.

Chad: Is that because they're so young at this point?

Madeline Laurano: Possibly.

Chad: Because at that point, when you've matured, you understand you gotta get shit done or you might not have a job. And you've got a house and kids and all that stuff. But when you're young, you're just kind of flying all over the place and you're not, you really don't have the discipline to work from home.

Madeline Laurano: Yes.

Chad: So is the demographic for their workforce fairly young?

Madeline Laurano: Yeah.

Madeline Laurano: It's younger. They definitely have senior roles and they're balancing like how do they balance both? But yeah, I think that that's a big part of the work from home conversation. The other interesting they said about the generational piece is like generative AI can replace so much of what happens in the gaming industry, but they don't wanna replace entry-level roles. And that's what a lot of people are talking about. But they can't do that because you have to grow in this industry for the company. And they have to have the entry level roles.

Chad: Your pipeline, your senior pipeline for five years from now.

Joel: That's fascinating. I assume that's part of the messaging. That grow your career here, you're not gonna be automated out of a job, and you'll eventually be that person that can't be replaced. That seems like a fantastic recruiting message, [laughter] but I'm sure Ubisoft and everyone else is doing. Any recommendations around that or tips?

Chad: I can stick behind it. Yeah.

Madeline Laurano: I Know. They're using technology for that internal mobility. So it's basically matching them with opportunities as they continue in their career.

Joel: How do you pitch that story to investors? Because they're looking to cut costs, they're looking to be more automated.

Madeline Laurano: Yep.

Joel: I assume those are diverging viewpoints. How does a company talk to their investors?

Madeline Laurano: They are. Yeah. And I think it's enhancing the role instead of replacing it. It's kind of satisfying both. Like telling your investors this makes them do their job better. Productivity is enhanced. Ultimately could the games come out every two years and not three to five years versus we're replacing. But it is, it's balancing what your employees need versus what your investors want to hear.

Chad: Is that what we're looking at.

Madeline Laurano: I think so.

Chad: I think in the near future, in the future is really just the balance.

Madeline Laurano: Yeah.

Chad: Because you made a big, big point. You can't have senior people on the team if you don't have junior people on the team to be able... And if they don't... If it's not transparent to know what the actual path is to get to the senior positions. And for years there was no transparency.

Madeline Laurano: Yeah.

Chad: There was no transparency. You weren't sure where you were gonna go and so people were just ejecting. Being an analyst, you see a shit ton of technologies. What technologies are you seeing that are making those pathways more transparent and making it easier for companies to retain? Because we all know attrition costs more to a company. Because obviously the hiring and whatnot. So what are you seeing? What kind of platforms.

Madeline Laurano: And it's all industries. Everyone's impacted right now by this attrition conversation.

Chad: Exactly.

Madeline Laurano: So I think you're gonna love this answer is the skills, the talent intelligence. I do think if you're using...

Chad: Did you just say talent intelligence?

Madeline Laurano: I did [laughter] I knew I was gonna...

Joel: She's leading the witness Chad.

Madeline Laurano: I knew I'm leading the witness. But if you're using a skills-based approach, you're seeing the individual for the full picture and the complete picture, not just experiences that you find on a resume. And not just what you find in an employee profile. So everyone's got an opportunity to kind of own their own career.

Chad: Looking at those, there are plenty of assessments that are out there. And we've seen so many pseudoscience, there's just so much that's happening and it's so hard for HR and TA to look out there. And every I/O psych person that is on staff or what have you, how do they cut through all of that to find out what is actually working for them? Or say for instance, competitors or other people in the market. How... Where do they go? Where's the bible for that?

Madeline Laurano: It's so hard. There was a session recently at a conference where it was Spectrum and they were talking, they had their I/O and their head of talent acquisition who are both amazing and the work that they have done to get insights into that retention piece is incredible. But a lot of it's manual, so they're doing it all on their own and it's mind blowing...

Chad: Oh.

Madeline Laurano: But if you don't have the expertise on your team, how do you do that work? And I think what we're seeing with a lot of the tech providers now is, you can get those insights, whether it's assessment providers, whether it's talent intelligence platforms to be able to get a better understanding of your workforce without having to do all of it manually.

Chad: Well, 'cause you have to... You can't scale that.

Madeline Laurano: No.

Chad: That's just...

Madeline Laurano: And it's constant, you have to consistently stay on top of it.

Chad: Yeah.

Madeline Laurano: And you just need dedicated roles to do that. It's a lot of work.

Chad: So did they do that just because there were so many variables from company to company to company, from client to client to client. And they felt like the only way to do it was manually?

Madeline Laurano: Through tech. Or through Spectrum?

Chad: Yeah.

Madeline Laurano: Yeah. And they have a lot of brands that they were bringing together. And retention's a big issue for them too, so yeah. They were... And they have the skills to do it. They have Laura Fields is their I/O and she's brilliant. You should have her on the podcast. She's really good.

Joel: Hey, this is our show. [laughter] We'll decide who's on this show. We'll decide. Get your own podcast.

Chad: I'm gonna look her up right now.

Madeline Laurano: Yeah.


Joel: How important is... Google made 20% time popular. They've since gone away from that, from what I understand. But it seems to me like gaming would be prime for free time experiment. Throw stuff at the wall and that leads to greater retention. Talk about that and other companies doing it well.

Madeline Laurano: Yeah I think it's such a good point because gaming especially, it's that combination of creativity and tech. Well you don't see that in a lot of other industries. It's like both things.

Chad: Yeah.

Madeline Laurano: It's really unique skill sets, but it's exactly that. And this didn't come up in the session, but I do wonder how much of that is free playtime on your own, at your own time. Two in the morning, whatever that might be...

Chad: That's creative. Yeah.

Madeline Laurano: That's creative versus set nine to five work from home conference meeting. And at what point is there burnout with that too? If you're balancing both things. If you're making everyone come to the office in meetings all day nine to six and then they've gotta do creative time at home on their own.

Joel: Yeah.

Chad: Do we just go back and we've been talking about this hybrid is the answer possibly. But it feels like there's been such a huge push to push everybody back into the office. It's hurting attrition. You've got... It's hurting retention. But it's also hurting something that I don't think we think enough about, the individuals with disabilities...

Madeline Laurano: Yes.

Chad: Actually have the highest rate of work right now.

Madeline Laurano: Yeah.

Chad: That hurts that community in a very, very big way. Not to mention it also hurts diversity programs.

Madeline Laurano: Absolutely.

Chad: So why are we not hearing more about that?

Madeline Laurano: I don't know.

Chad: Because I think that would almost shatter a lot of these big brands. Saying that it's literally just an attack on their diversity efforts.

Madeline Laurano: Absolutely. Even you saw it with the schools too, for a lot of kids that needed some extra support or where diversity, equity, inclusion was part of those school programs. The home environment was actually better for them. And then you're just forcing all the kids back into the school system where it doesn't always work for everyone. And we're doing the same thing in the office. And we're not thinking about that. I don't know if you're seeing this too, but I feel like there's been this trend where we're talking less about diversity, equity, and inclusion...

Chad: Oh yes.

Madeline Laurano: Than two years ago. And...

Chad: Easily.

Madeline Laurano: You've got this whole work from home thing happening and this hybrid forcing everyone back into the office and yet we're not talking enough about diversity, equity, and inclusion. Yeah. I think it's such a good point. Why isn't this not a main topic?

Joel: We're here at Unleash World, you talk to everybody, company-wise. What companies here are you excited about? What startups are you peaking your interest? And most importantly, can you describe to Chad and I what Eightfold does.

Chad: Oh God.

Madeline Laurano: We'll start there.

Chad: Dude wait. We need a full podcast for that one. I think.

Joel: I think Madeline can do it. I think she can break it down for us.

Madeline Laurano: I'm going to do a sentence summary.

Chad: Okay.

Madeline Laurano: And then we can do a follow-up podcast on this. I do love Eightfold.

Joel: She wants that jacket, doesn't she?

Madeline Laurano: I do want. I want a t-shirt. A Chad Cheese t-shirt. And I'm going to wear an Eightfold sweatshirt with it.

Joel: The t-shirt's easy. Just go to

Chad: Yeah.

Joel: For your free t-shirt.

Madeline Laurano: Oh really? Oh my goodness. I'm gonna do that.

Chad: We're going to have to order a special though.

Madeline Laurano: So if you have a system of record, like your ATS or whatever that might be, that's collecting data. A talent intelligence platform or a system of intelligence draws insights from that data. It takes the data from the system of record, but it's also feeding the insights back into that system of record.

Joel: So I can tell by your voice, you're excited about Eightfold and...

Madeline Laurano: I like Eightfold. Yes.

Joel: What they're doing.

Madeline Laurano: What else?

Joel: What are some other companies that you're excited about?

Madeline Laurano: Well, I always love Paradox. Every time I hear more Paradox examples, I get excited. I just talked to GM today at this conference.

Chad: Yeah.

Madeline Laurano: And they had this great example of an interview schedule that they had to do.

Chad: Oh yeah.

Madeline Laurano: And the candidate was French. And they just had a little blurb in their resume or their profile or whatever it was about how their first language is French. And that recruiter would never pick that up. It was a tiny little thing.

Chad: Yeah.

Madeline Laurano: But the scheduling tool picked that up and it started to communicate with this candidate in French. And it was such a good feeling for this candidate...

Chad: Wow.

Madeline Laurano: And so much personalization. So I loved hearing that story today from Cyril George. And I will admit, I have not visited the startup...

Chad: Pavilion.

Madeline Laurano: Pavilion yet.

Joel: Startup Pavilion.

Madeline Laurano: And I need to do that. That's what I want to do. That's what I get excited about. And I haven't done that.

Joel: Are there any you want to make sure that you touch base with that you know is here?

Madeline Laurano: No, what recommendations do you guys have for me?

Chad: I say go there in every corner and then just keep your distance 'cause you will get attacked.

Madeline Laurano: Okay.

Chad: So keep your distance, read the cards and then whatever excites you, then go into those. Be pointed.

Madeline Laurano: Okay.

Chad: But yeah.

Joel: I can tell you, poetry.

Madeline Laurano: I have to very care... Oh poetry.

Joel: Is the best dressed.

Madeline Laurano: I haven't seen adam.

Joel: Is the best dressed kiosk that's out there.

Madeline Laurano: Adam is always the best dressed of every thing.

Joel: The Spider-Man kilt looks pretty traditional.

Madeline Laurano: Is he doing that.

Chad: And the puffy jacket.

Joel: And the puffy, yeah.

Madeline Laurano: Oh, I love Adam. I just am excited for poetry.

Joel: Lots of good stuff. Lots of good stuff.

Madeline Laurano: That's my favorite in the startup Pavilion.

Joel: Madeline, thank you for sitting down with us. We know you're a busy, busy woman. For our listeners who want to know more about you or connect, where do you send them?

Madeline Laurano: So you can go to We have lots of free research and no t-shirts, but I wish we did. And I'm on LinkedIn and Twitter and all that fun stuff.

Joel: I know a guy for t-shirts if you want to talk later.

Madeline Laurano: Oh good yes hook me up.

Joel: Chad, that is another one in the can. The velvet jackets are on order.

Chad: We out.

Outro: Wow, look at you. You made it through an entire episode of the Chad and Chase podcast, or maybe you cheated and fast forwarded to the end. Either way, there's no doubt you wish you had that time back, valuable time you could have used to buy a nutritious meal at Taco Bell, enjoy a pour of your favorite whiskey, or just watch big booty Latinas and bug fights on TikTok. No, you hung out with these two chuckleheads instead. Now, go take a shower and wash off all the guilt, but save some soap because you'll be back. Like an awful train wreck, you can't look away. And like Chad's favorite Western, you can't quit them either. We out.


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