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Cupcake Moments

During an employee engagement event, a senior executive received a notification for what she thought was an urgent matter. Putting everything aside, including the new employee conversations underway, she stepped outside the conference room to be greeted by a long-time employee who launched into a complaint about how the organization was coddling and catering to new employees by providing benefits that were not offered when she started at the organization many years ago. The tenured employee found out that a special event for new hires was being held and she wanted to share her disagreement and disappointment.


This executive now calls this conversation her “cupcake moment” after reflecting on what was viewed as extra attention and included time with executive leadership and an offering of cupcakes and fruit punch for the new employees to enjoy.

The primary purpose was to connect with a high turnover population--newer employees--and find ways to engage with them, find out how things were going, and provide some much-needed facetime with senior leaders.


So, what can this “cupcake moment” teach leaders struggling with a similar concern that they are offering special attention to new or younger employees?

As leaders, we are often faced with similar dilemmas, where we are moving the organization forward yet met with questions and even ridicule from others. Moving recruitment and retention strategies forward in a challenging labor market is more challenging than ever before. While it might have been easy for the executive to walk away from the “cupcake moment” frustrated, her efforts to explain the engagement outreach are beneficial to all parties. Here are some steps leaders can take:


All employees should feel valued, respected, and heard. If engagement efforts seem to be focused on new employees, leaders should make every effort to ensure that all voices are heard. Organizations can offer similar facetime with tenured employees, town halls, discussion groups, or other ways to engage all levels of employees. Organizational leaders should recognize and appreciate the real or perceived imbalance of attention.


Everyone needs an awareness of the challenges. Recruitment and retention issues impact everyone, not only human resource professionals and organizational leaders. Organizations should offer training or learning sessions and company updates focused on the current labor market challenges and how they impact the organization.


Provide the why to all team members. Instead of becoming frustrated with questions about current efforts to recruit and retain, leaders should recognize the importance of an ownership mindset. Sharing the why behind recruitment and retention efforts is important and shows that you value employees as organizational partners and problem solvers. When everyone knows why something is being done, ownership in the matter will increase.


Promote personal leadership and the need for new strategies. Organizations should invite all employees to lead through the recruitment and retention issues. Once informed, all team members should be invited to embrace new strategies to solve new workplace challenges that likely did not exist when they entered the workforce. All employees should be well informed and prepared to apply personal leadership to support organizational strategies.


Leaders will face all sorts of “cupcake moments” across their careers. Instead of avoiding difficult discussions or becoming frustrated, leaders should lean into conversations about current issues and ways to address them. Doing so will increase the likelihood of problems being solved.




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