Terminal Value

Retaining People in the Great Resignation with Nick Cavuoto

Doug Utberg

Business Growth Authority | Technology Strategy & Resourcing | Cost Optimization Expert | Business Process Architect | Financial Strategist | Founder - Terminal Value Podcast

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We have Nick Cavuoto with us today. And what we’re going to be talking about is actually trying to retain people in the midst of the great resignation. This is one of the many topics that that Nica’s experience with. But there’s actually an article that I read recently, which is that one in four people who surveyed are planning on quitting their job in 2022, which is when this is being recorded. So if you think about that, that means there’s going to be an unreal amount of turnover. And I think the biggest thing, especially that if you’re talking about as a decision maker or leader, is to think about, okay, how do you make sure to retain the people that you have? Because the labor market is so tight that trying to go out and find more people is really tough. Now, if you’re interested in doing that, there’s lots of people, myself included, who can help you with that. But from a continuity perspective, you probably want to make sure to retain those people to begin with. With that said, Nick, don’t let me talk the whole time. Introduce yourself.

Hey, guys, what’s going on? My name’s Nick Cavuoto. Thank you so much, Doug, for having me here. I appreciate it. I’m so grateful. And this is such a wonderful topic because I spent my early parts of my career in startups. In Fortune 500, I was managing over a billion dollars worth of products. At 26, I’m now 34, just to give some context, and I experienced this exact issue. I’m a classic Maverick inside of organizations. I’m not the smartest kid in the room type of attitude. But what I do know is that I put in the time, put in the work. I have a level of practitioner ability that my leaders didn’t. And so we’re going to talk about that today around just that big idea. And people want to work. The challenge is what happens when they don’t want to work for you. That’s what we got to have a conversation about right now.

Well, I think that’s actually kind of interesting because, of course, where I’m at, I’m at the kale tail end of the Gen Xers. Right. I’m one of the very first Gen X or actually one of the very last Gen Xers. And of course, the traditional kind of Gen X baby Boomer thing is, okay, well, this generation, they don’t want to work. And it’s like, well, no, it’s not. They don’t want to work. They don’t want to work for you. There’s a big difference there.

Yeah, 100%. I think that’s the number one challenge that a lot of people face is that and that’s what I faced in the start up world. In corporate America, my level of growth and competency was growing so quickly that the organization couldn’t keep up. It’s like having Sonic the Hedgehog on the Titanic, like you only can do so many laps before you’re like, I went off this ride, and that’s what happens with people who have crazy high confidence, who are true Mavericks, people who are going to actually be the ones to create the game changing opportunities within your organization. Those people are running tired. They want off the ride because they are not getting what it is that they want. And that’s the primary part of the conversation. Whenever I’m chatting through this with people, it has to come down to like, have you asked them yet what they want? And it’s unbelievable. The answer is usually no.

Why would I have to ask them what they want?

Yes. No, they work for me. Why would I have to ask them what they want?

Yeah, I thought about what they want. They work for me. Why would I ask that?

And you wonder why 25 million people in this next year will quit their jobs.


And I think the interesting thing, Doug, is there’s kind of two options, and we can kind of kick this can down the road here for a second. You have the option for them to go all in on themselves. So let’s call it classically entrepreneur. You kind of the solo practitioner, if you will, or they’re going somewhere, they’re going to take their competency somewhere else because there’s a supply and demand issue. People are leaving. They know that other people want people. And just the other day, for the sake of research, I was looking into this, and I’m in Denver, Colorado, at North Face, they were hiring a cheap brand strategist for $350,000 a year. You couldn’t have got that job a year and a half ago for that compensation level.

Yeah. Not even close.

Yeah. Not even in the same stratosphere. So the concept is you’re going to pay more for the next person or you can keep the person you have currently, which I know you know a lot about those two subjects even certainly more than I do. But that’s I think the tension that people are managing, and it’s kind of like when your kids get caught, if they’re doing something they’re not supposed to be doing, it could be an awkward conversation with them. But so as long as there’s emotional safety for the other party, they’ll be honest. They’ll be unbelievably honest and have the proper intent to not twist their arm into staying. But to truly actually giving a crap, which I believe is the

best marketing strategy you can ever have, is to actually care, so be it. If you got to resell the person on the idea to stay in your organization, show up with intent that actually doesn’t only come out of your mouth that says that you care, but they can feel it in your actual being that they truly want you to stay. And I think that that’s the conversation.

It’s the table. It’s the transformational table. Right. It’s the pull up a chair. Let’s have a conversation. Not at my desk, but let’s go grab a drink or let’s go grab something to eat and just have a human conversation. It’s shocking to me how much that does not happen.

Well. And I remember one of the things that I used to say to the people who worked on my team was I said, hey, look, I just want to do cards on the table. I want to have a really, basically just transparent, constructive relationship. So if you’re looking, tell me. And if moving on is really the right thing, I will do everything I can to help you find the right spot. Because I knew that even if I lose someone, if they’re engaged while I have them versus trying to look on the fly, I would rather make sure that I have them fully engaged. And hidden benefit is that if somebody has been around for more than a few years, they’ll know working for somebody who actually cares about you that much is comparatively rare. There’s not that many out there. And so a lot of people, oddly enough, we’re kind of hesitant to leave that, even though I made it very clear that if they felt like it was the right call, that I do everything I could to help them. I don’t know that that’s the answer, but I think that’s part of it, which is

just really have that honest, transparent conversation and then help create that engagement by being willing to help them find their next step, as opposed to feeling like they have a set of iron links around their feet and they’re chained to working with you.

Yeah, dude. No, you’re 100% correct. Just to talk about the elephant in the room, let me just tell you exactly what people want. Because it wasn’t that long ago that I was in the same position trying to get what I wanted, and I couldn’t get it. Right now the tables have turned. It’s kind of interesting. Like, I get pinged all the time from head hunters trying to hire me for organizations. So here’s the deal. Number one, they want more money. That’s the bottom line. People will save for money. Why? Because it’s the consequence of doing what you love. Well, so you’re honoring the great work they’ve done. In addition, you’re making an investment in them that they can’t deny. And people work for money. That’s the bottom line. Some genius came up with the concept of paying people hourly. They were able to literally put a dollar amount on something that’s infinitely priceless. So whoever did that, you’re a genius. But it certainly has caused some interesting complications as the human experiences continue to evolve. But the number one thing is money. The number two thing is freedom. Time, freedom. Location, freedom. They want to do what they want to do when they want to do it. And I promise you, people who are in the millennial kind of circuit like I am, they will literally rather be homeless than live by your terms, doing what you want them to do when you want them to do it. It’s just simply not the way that they see their friends or other people their age doing life. Because now there’s this discrepancy. And listen, I grew up in Rochester, New York. This is the home of Xerox and Kodak, where the mindset of that community is. You get a job at a big business and you work there for 40 years and you never leave.

Oh, yeah, I was going to say, yeah, that’s how I grew up. That’s what everybody was supposed to do. That’s how you prove your responsible adult. I’ll put another level on this. You’re supposed to get a job in a big business now buy a house and then buy a bigger house and then have a kid and buy a bigger house. Have another kid and buy a bigger house. And where I was at when I had my situation where new CIO came in, laid off all the old guys inner circle, I was the first one on the list. And I’m like, okay, I’ve got this big mortgage and I have two kids going to private school. What am I going to do?

Really, man? That’s the whole game, right? It’s like at the end of the day, that’s where people arrive to that situation. And I think people are starting to realize now that maybe I don’t need the bigger house, maybe I don’t need the bigger car. Maybe there’s a way because this expansion of freedom money is required, like gas and a car. No point owning a car if you can’t afford to put gas in it, right? So it’s just gas. So no one really gives a crap about the gas, but you got to have enough to do what you want to do. So it’s this kind of wanderlust is a big attraction. I mean, I’m watching people who are in their early 50s do the same thing. I’ve been doing this for this long and I just want to do something different finally. This is the gift that the experience of a global pandemic has given us. People had an external problem that changed the conversation of the internal reality because they had to actually check themselves at the door and go like, do I really want to keep doing this? Or they spent the last year and a half with their kids at home and now you want them to drive back to the office and sit in 3 hours of traffic again every day? Good freaking luck. It’s never going to happen. So if you are in a position of where you want to retain the talent that you have and or the other opportunity you want to attract the best talent that’s available, you need to understand that it’s like the buyer, seller market and housing. You are on the opposite side of the table and they are in control the consumer be the employee is in control now. And you better listen very keenly on what they want. And organizations need to even improve and diversify what their strategies are, specifically around retention, because it’s going to take more money than they’ve ever spent before. Ever.



Yeah. Because I think there’s one thing you said that I kind of want to unpack a little bit, which is that because in my current role, a part of the reason why I selected kind of the I refer to my life as a combination of hustles. Right. I have one set of hustle doing this podcast, which is what we’re doing right now. There’s another set, which is where I work on. I partner with a company that does IT headcount resourcing and managed services to business development for them. And then another one. I also do business development on expense reduction, consulting business. Part of the reason why I selected this combination of events is because of time flexibility, because I really view wealth as more discretionary time than an amount of money. For example, if I get paid for $500,000 and the company owns me and I have to do exactly what they say. When they say go where they say, when they say that’s not desirable, I go, okay, yeah. You’ll accumulate a whole bunch of zeros in the bank account. But if you don’t have control of what you’re able to do, then what good is it?

It’s like being in prison with a passive income business. What good is it?

Yeah, exactly what good is it? To me, it’s really about being able to gain control of your time and activities. And the thing is, if you don’t have a lot of financial obligations, if you’re not locked into a mortgage, if you don’t yet, you have a family, you can do that per surprisingly low amount of income. It doesn’t take all that much to live if it’s just you. And so you can be really picky about where you decide you want to live.

Absolutely. I mean, you look at the boom in Southeast Asia, and that’s just going to continue happening, and

people are just creating life on their own terms. That’s the bottom line. We had an external crisis. It completely impacted the internal and philosophical problems that people face. And it’s going to take like turning the Titanic around and doing the U-turn. That’s how long it’s going to take for corporate to catch up, and it’s going to be too late.

So for the folks who are listening to this, who can have an edge on it. I left corporate about eight years ago. And so for me, that decision was because when I was presented with an opportunity, I said, hey, here’s the deal. I want to go do something different. In the first three months, I was able to triple every single area of the business I was responsible for that’s added, I don’t even God knows how much money to your bottom line? I want more challenge. I want more opportunity. I want more money. I want more freedom. And what they weren’t able to meet in my equation was money, freedom or challenge. That’s what they call a major loss. They literally did nothing. Now here’s the funny thing. I was still there when they reposted the position. They reposted for $40,000 more than what I was making. Do you see what I’m saying? But this is the standard operating system of how this stuff goes down. So then I see that. What did that do? High levels of lack of trust. Now I work as a consultant and I work inside people’s business all the time. But it’s on my terms. This is how this is going to go down. If you want my brain, you’re going to deal with the way that this relationship is going to work. And I’m also just because I have my brain and I have boundaries, and I think that’s the missing link is like our boundaries are fractured around the time spent, not the result produced. So therefore, there’s again, a discrepancy. Because if I could do the job faster and more efficiently and more effectively, then why should I be compensated less for that? It just makes no sense. The bottom line is this.

Give people what they want. If you want them to stay, you better throw them the most banger party ever and give them what it is that they want. And you’ve got to ask the question, what do you want? How can we help you? What is your life plan? What’s the next year? Two years, three years have a freaking human conversation, not an HR conversation, because nobody trusts HR.

We all know that. Have a human conversation and be very clear. And if you can’t get what you need to keep your people, you should quit too.

Oh, I was going to say there’s lots of chew on there, because that’s actually one of the things that I keep thinking about, because it’s like you said a lot of times, in order to refill a role, you’ll have to post it at a higher compensation. It just perplexes me why so many companies are so reluctant to try to review their internal comp structure because a lot of them have fallen behind. For example, if somebody can leave and get 2030 40% more with less than a month of search, you should really be amazed if you’re able to retain them at all.

Oh, yeah. I mean, I went from making a small six figures, just kind of entry level six figures at the company. They reposted for about $40,000 more. And the job that I got was for $300,000 a year. So they would have to pay me about 200 grand to make up the difference. But isn’t that funny that I got headhunted by an executive from HubSpot Competitor Salesforce on a new venture that they were going on because of a case study with the company previously that I had done service for. That was the first startup I ever worked for. So they came and found me. And guess what they said? Just tell us what you want.


What a contrast, brother. Here, we’re going to give you peanuts. It’s an empty suit, lack of practitioner ability. I literally doubled three different lines of business. Most people had one, I had three. I did it in 90 days. And then it’s like, yeah, no, we have nothing left for you. There’s no skill improvement. There’s no extra money. There’s no extra freedom. We will literally not reward you. Oh, I forgot. They did give me something for my year incentive. They gave me $5,000 that would vest over the next five years. And I told him to shove it. I ripped up the piece of paper, I threw it out. Thank God. My boss was remote and I sent her an email and I said, this is kind and generous simply because I know that you fought for this for me and I quit. It was unbelievably clear to me that they were in it for themselves and not for me, because the table has turned. That’s the bottom freaking line. The table is flipped. Yeah, absolutely.

Let’s kind of dig into that a little more. Okay. I’m thinking, let’s say that you are a kind of value human, action oriented manager and you’re inside one of these corporate structures. Okay? So raising someone’s comp by 40%, you’re probably not going to get approval to do that because you’re going to have to go through management and HR chains. But comp, of course, is something you can’t ignore it, but it’s not everything in your experience. What is it that people can do if they don’t have that money lever that they can work with or if they’re having to jump through the Hoops to try to get the money lever addressed?

Yeah, I mean, that’s a great question, man. I think the first thing is this. People who are very driven to do something really great and who are rather uncomfortable with the status quo are probably going to leave anyway. Okay. So it’s just COVID has given them a reason why. Because they’ve had to do too much internal seeking and understanding of what do I want, where am I at? Too many conversations at home, around what should we do? Because when they thought they were going to lose their job, they may as well have lost it. So their gears in their mind that we’re turning them now. What do I want to do? Or what should I do? Immediately, their portal of I’m going to go get a different job. It’s almost like if the CEO made a moral failure of a big company and they’re like, this is going to sync the ship. It’s that level of seeking and looking. So it’s already too late because there’s new information. That new data is going to cause their minds to shift as far as what those variables and equations and outcomes will be. So if they’re super highly driven, if they’re a really strong go getter. And at least at that time I only had one kid, so I didn’t have that many. I have four now. So it was a different circumstance of what let’s call it safety looked like. But let’s just apply to Maslow’s. If they have safety and they can get something that they want somewhere else and they’re not going down, they’re going to want to ascend meaning going higher. So if you’re a hiring manager that has a Maverick inside your organization, I call them. There’s three things. There’s Mavericks, there’s magicians, and there’s marketers. Because in my world, that’s the people that I talk to mostly. So those three prototypes and you can insert marketer with it professional, or you could call it sea level, whatever. It’s just whatever the industry type is. You kind of have like, just your worker be person who’s been there for 25 years and they might be like, well, maybe I’ll just retire. That’s a different conversation than somebody who’s in the first ten years of their career wanting to do something freaking incredible. And you have to look at it from an ROI perspective. I would go to bat with HR or the powers to be based on that individual contributors attachment to the bottom line. Most companies, at least that I’ve talked to in the sectors that I’ve worked with, are typically looking for about a four X ROI on an individual salary. So if you go in that thesis for me, I was managing a billion dollars worth of products making $100,000 a year. This equation was really screwed up. There was too much going on that didn’t make sense. So you kind of extrapolate and pull that backwards and go like, okay, what can I do for this person? And the best thing you might be able to do for them is tell them you can do nothing.

Do not possess onto people so hard that you cannot have an open hand, because that’s not your role.

That’s what we call the universe or God. That’s their role. And you don’t want someone to say who it doesn’t want to or B, it’s not part of their destiny, it’s not part of their unique divine life and you don’t want to force your hand into that. But I think it’s simple.

“Make the math work. If the math doesn’t work, let them go and help them be a freaking human being. Help them. If you got connections in the industry, help them do something. We are an existential crisis for a lot of people. Do you know how many divorces are going on right now?

I’m sure there’s quite a few shattering.

Earth shattering. The stats from what’s going on in people’s lives right now, when we see that in 510, 15 years will blow people’s minds because it’s not a conversation people are willing to have right now.

Well, and the one that I’m really wondering about because from all the kids who spent that year at home, and fortunately, my kids, they’re both at a private school. They’re expensive private school. But I digress. I’m pretty thankful that they’re able to go, but they had a very good virtual experience, very engaged teachers. I know there were a number of kids who were in some of the public programs not trying to bag on public schools here, but they had a much less engaged experience. Like where I’m at in Oregon, I think in 2020, they had no evaluation at all, no grades for the 2020 school year. And it’s like, how do you expect them to have an engaged experience? They’re not being evaluated. What I’m wondering is that combined anxiety for this whole generation of kids that were going through school during all this, what’s it going to look like 10, 20 years from now?

Well, I look at energy as really the telling line, kids are resilient. That’s one of the things I’m grateful for because I do have four kids between zero and six. And I’ve watched our daughter we’re in Denver and private schools in Denver. They didn’t miss a day of school, not one. That’s just our county. That’s just how it ran. And so our kids had a wonderful experience. And on the onset, we had two families that are in our neighborhood, and we’re like, hey, let’s all hang out. Don’t hang out with anybody else. It’s too late. We found out about this too late, and we’ve already been doing it. So let’s just all stay together. And that was our pact of, like, trying to not allow constricting anxiety and fear be our reality. It doesn’t mean there weren’t scary things happening. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not like I’m living in some delusional reality or some conspiracy theory. I’m going like, what is best for my kids right now? How can I make the best real time decision for them? And I felt like global constriction energy that is constricting, that’s pulling in based off of fear and off of illness will not be my North Star. I made a decision very simply to go like, okay, the best thing that we can do right now is to take each day as it’s own and to do the best that we know how to do with our kids and with our family. And we just chose to do that. And I think the byproduct of kids that were not able to have an experience or were not evaluated. Think about this. There’s homes where there’s abusing parents, parents who are abusive and alcoholics. These kids school is their outlet. And now they were trapped inside the house with a monster. There’s going to be so much that’s happening. But this is why I’m saying

work and life are a mirror to one another. All you’re seeing is people going through massive uncertainty. If we focus on the six human needs, massive uncertainty, they’re going to find a way to find certainty for themselves.

When the corporation used to give it to them, the kids are doing the same thing. they’re looking at what is my certainty? What can I count on? How can I? Parents are anxious and there’s all these things going on. I just said we got to keep an open hand and not a closed fist. Closed fist is for finding, open hand is for an invitation. And so it also gives you the ability to give freely without expectation of return. Dude, that’s what we chose to do, man. So what is it going to look like? It’s going to be a complete crap show. We’ll say that it’s going to be a very interesting thing. My hope is that people do not overlook the power of cognitive brain therapy, of working through things through dictation, talking through things, having conversations at home, not being afraid of the monster in the room. Because at the end of the day, I think for a lot of kids, drama in our lives today showed up from when we were younger simply because it was trapped emotions. We never got a chance to talk and process it. So pull up chair. Like I’m telling the corporate guys who are listening, who need to keep their talent to pull up the chair of their employees, please do the same thing with your family and have the conversation and have the honest, truth thing of, like, what’s best for all of us right now and keep it freaking simple.

Yeah. Well, okay. Normally at the end of the end of these interviews, I asked for, like, one last really great piece of wisdom, but I don’t think we can talk that let’s do this. Let everybody know where they can find out more about your website so people can get some more Nick.

Absolutely. Well, I’ll just kind of restate this general idea about me. I’m a people catalyst for the biggest brands in the world. I spend my time around C suite executive offices and also spending time with entrepreneurs. And so I have an interesting reality of being on both sides of the field. Like I played baseball and basketball together and I’m a pro at each, so it’s a lot of fun. But yeah, Nickcavuoto.com, nickcavuoto.com. And yeah, You can hit me up on social media @NickCavuoto, wherever their social I’m here so feel free to say, hey.

Outstanding. Well, hey, Nick. I really appreciate you taking the time today. And everybody listen. Hope You Have An Awesome Rest Of Your Day.

Good Luck, everybody. Much love. We’ll see you.

Alll right.

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