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TSI’s Secret to Retaining Talent and Ending the Great Resignation

How do we fix the great resignation?

It’s the question major corporations everywhere are frantically trying to answer. One company at the top of their HR game is Tempur-Sealy International (TSI). In this episode, we chat with the Vice President of Human Resources, Drew Millar, about the mind shift in the workforce, what companies should be doing differently (hint: it’s not always compensation!) and the work being done at TSI to reframe how employees view the role of HR.

Millar is a labor and employment attorney-turned-HR professional who’s shifting the corporate landscape one great employee at a time. Watch or listen for tangible insights from a top industry insider!

FULL TRANSCRIPT

Mark Kinsley 

Drew Millar is on the show today. He’s the VP of human resources with Temper Sealy International –TSI. Let’s talk about the great resignation. Let’s talk about the secrets to finding and keeping talent and is HR the new COVID Police the DOS Marco show begins in 60 seconds.

Mark Quinn 

okay, Kinsley, you know, I’m a dork anyway, but I’m sitting in the temper Sealy national meeting my first one and, and so they’re like, oh, and I’d actually heard about drew our guest today dribble our VP human racist resources for 10 per se. And then oh, yeah, wait, there’s this HR guy. He’s an attorney. And he’s gonna come out and he’s like the MC. And he’s really good. And I’m like HR guy and attorney being really good. It just did not compute for me at all. Then here comes drew this goofy, lovable, dynamic guy on stage. And he was so good. And you know, me, I’m critical of that stuff anyway, but anyways, just came on stage. And he just had this great, funny way about him. And he carried the crowd incredibly well in anyway, so I’m watching and I’m like, he’s got to come on our show. And so he’s got a lot to talk about in the HR space, but that’s how I got in. He know what it is. And I told him this I got he channels Will Ferrell, like his delivery, his comedic style. He was onstage he never knew what to do with his hands. Exactly. So it was just very awkward for him. Anyway, he’s a riot. And I introduced myself and he’s like a podcast. Sure, why not? And so here he is a Drew. Thanks a lot for humouring. US and in, in trudging into this show with us. We appreciate you.

Drew Millar 

Being here appreciate your talking

Mark Kinsley 

man. You’re talking to a couple of guys have spent a fair amount of time in HR during their lives. So we are and we are here to dig in and learn a little bit about how to navigate that process.

Mark Quinn 

It’s always like Drew would be you’d be in I may end up having to cedar and now that I’m in the timber Seeley company, right. But if Drew calls you is like that, you haven’t gone to the principal’s office. You’re like, Oh, God, well, you know what I did? What did I do? Drew’s calling me so now maybe it’s because he’s wants to do another show. Maybe I don’t have to worry about it now. But, um, so Drew, how in the world. Okay, so talk to us about how you ended up at temper. Seeley? You said you’re an attorney and you’re not like the typical HR guy. So I want to hear about that. And then how the hell did they end up tagging you to be the emcee of the event? I love it. So it is with those answers.

Drew Millar 

Yeah, so um, so yeah, I’m an attorney by trade, went to law school at University of Kentucky and graduated a fair number of years ago but worked at a law firm here in Lexington, Kentucky for about 10 years before joining temper Seeley and I specialised in labour and employment law. I had a lot of people that didn’t believe that I was a lawyer you know when I tell them I’m a lawyer because of the Will Ferrell comparisons and things like that but but yeah, so that that was how I was into it. I enjoyed the job that I had. I was really enjoying that a law firm was Dinsmore and shohl It’s based out of Cincinnati but Lexington office and enjoyed what I was doing but then I bought a TempurPedic It was about seven years ago, that I bought a 10 per bed and I’ve got some joint problems. I’m a fairly big guy. And so I’ve had joint problems for years and bought a 10 per bed. And it changed my life. I, you know, I thought like, how could anybody ever spend that kind of money on a split King, you know, high end bed, and I bought it. And I now have temper beds in every room of my house, I absolutely love the product. And so they were looking to expand their legal department and needed somebody with my specific skill set. And so they gave me a call. And, and I was willing to listen, because I love the products. And so it’s been about five years now, I actually started in the legal department, and was supporting the HR team because of my labour and employment background. But then after a year in the legal department, I moved over to HR and, and started going up through HR and then became VP about two years ago. It’s been a fun ride. I, the way I got into the sales conference was I was supporting the Salesforce. So the person who was doing sales left the company, and so they asked me to pick it up. And I started supporting the Salesforce with Steve roofing and his team, and just got really kind of ingrained into their leadership team. They let me do a couple cameo appearance appearances in prior years. And then the last two years, I’ve kind of emceed the event, which has just been a blast for me, because I’m very bad at HR, most people will tell you in 10 persily so it’s good to have something that I feel a little more comfortable in and I’m better at, I think,

Mark Quinn 

well, you’re clearly not that bad at it. But anyway, so that’s funny. So Will Ferrell, you said people make comparisons like this about that. Like, have you ever done open mic stuff? Have you ever tried? I mean?

Drew Millar 

So yeah, I’ve done I did some stuff like in high school in college, where it wasn’t anything big, but I would just do I would host events and things like that, just because people realise like, Hey, he’s kind of good at this. And I like doing it. And so I would do some of that periodically, but I’ve only done one true comedy club, I performed at the Improv club in Louisville. And it was a lawyer only event. So they invited a bunch of lawyers to come and perform. And, and I actually won, but it was because of the quality of the competence now because of the quality of my routine, but I’m gonna ask

Mark Quinn 

you one more question, then I’ll shut up and like Kinsley jumpin. So what is you when you were doing that? What was your favourite little bit? Like, you know, you look at things like and you’re like, Oh, my God, that is so ironic. And like, that would be good on stage. Like, what was your favourite little bit that you did?

Drew Millar 

Yeah, so so a little bit about me. I actually I was homeschooled until eighth grade. So I was homeschooled. And I grew up in a rural town in Utah, where we didn’t have a stoplight until I was in high school. And so it was it was this kind of, you know, country kid from Utah, that grew up in a very sheltered environment, being a lawyer that dealt with the nitty gritty underbelly of companies. And so, you know, I talked about being in depositions and talking about things where it was just stuff that we were never supposed to talk about, you know, like, my parents didn’t talk about it. But it was like what I did day in and day out sexual harassment and things like that. So it was a lot of fun, but it always made me uncomfortable. So I would like instead of saying words, I would spell words. And it always caused confusion with people like, What the heck is this guy saying? Because I didn’t want to say the bad words that my mom always told me growing up, you’re not supposed to say. So that that was a lot of the basis for my comedy routine. But, but a little bit about my

Mark Quinn 

ex.

Mark Kinsley 

Yes, kids. There’s harassment going on in here. And we all need to be aware of it. Right? Hey, well, you know, I came across a like, sometimes I come across these lists of books, you know, the best book for whatever subject it is. So I’m gonna, I’m gonna put this one into play. And do my best here, Drew. Okay. The improv handbook. There you go. So clearly, I haven’t cracked into this yet. Because I’m not landing any big right hooks here. But okay, that’s on my list. Well, you maybe you could do the HR friendly improv handbook. That would be a little down version

Drew Millar 

there. Yeah, it is. Although I get I get more often than not like you’re our HR vice president. Like, you know, I host the company holiday parties and stuff. And there are vendors that come in, are always like, you’re the HR guy. So, so yeah, I don’t necessarily embody Okay,

Mark Kinsley 

so I have an HR question for you just I’m gonna, I’m gonna highlight a scenario that could happen at a holiday party, and you tell me appropriate or inappropriate. Okay, this is a true story from a friend of mine. I’m not going to name any names. But he works for a rather large company in the industry. And he told me a wide ranging story about being in a pool hall in Colorado and getting to know one of the local gals. And there was drinking going on. And toward the end of the night, they had all these wild, funny, crazy interactions. And she lifted up her shirt but not all the way just to show her what he said is her tummy and so they saw each other across the room after having many, many drinks. And he also lifted up his shirt to show her his tummy. And they ran at each other. And they did a tummy bump. Whatever that is, I never heard of it. And so I told him, I said, at some point, I’m going to see you across the room in front of everybody. I’m going to raise up my shirt, and I expect you to do the same thing and run. And we do a tummy bump. appropriate or inappropriate at holiday party.

Drew Millar 

Yeah, I would go with inappropriate at the holiday party. I would probably laugh at it, but then we would have a conversation, right?

I could have voted on that. Come on, man.

Mark Kinsley 

We but it’s just a little bit of skin. It’s not like you’re showing any in the parts that you have to spell. Tommy,

Mark Quinn 

Drew, is that the line? If you have to spell it, then it’s probably wrong. Okay,

Drew Millar 

right, right. That’s usually Yeah, that’s usually the dividing line. There’s, if I have to spell the word, then you went to

Mark Kinsley 

back in the day, okay. inappropriate or appropriate for the modern world. Back in the day. There are the games that happen at parties and holiday parties. One of them was the the passing of the orange underneath the chin. Right. So it’s kind of like you turn sideways, when you pass the orange, the next person tucks it appropriate, inappropriate.

Drew Millar 

Right. You know, I think it’s, and this is where things are certainly evolving over time. And this is where my legal background comes into play, is that there’s a lot of that sort of stuff that I think is harmless and fun. And then somebody felt uncomfortable with it, right? I mean, almost every sexual harassment case I was ever involved in, involves somebody later on, claiming that they were uncomfortable with something and everybody else said, These people were great with it. You know, I mean, everybody was laughing, everybody was having a good time. But in hindsight, somebody said, they were uncomfortable, and trying to prove that they were comfortable. Good luck, you know what I mean? And so that’s where, you know, I think a lot of times what I have seen now, being more inside a company, is it’s important to nip the little things in the bud. Like when you see little things like that you provide kind of on the spot coaching, and say, hey, that’s probably not appropriate for this environment. Because otherwise you let stuff go, because it’s not that big of a deal. And then over time it grows, and then you got stuff going on, that clearly is a bigger deal. Drew’s got to spell it out, you know, at some later investigation or something. And then we’ve got a bigger problem. So that’s where, you know, I think nowadays, we’ve got to be more and more cautious of just addressing it in the moment. It doesn’t have to be like you did that you’re fired. You know what I mean? Like, no, that probably wasn’t appropriate. Let’s learn from that. Not do it in the future. But I think so often it was, and I’ve seen this in company cultures, especially my legal background that like, you don’t go to HR because that’s when people get fired. Now, HR should be there to just help folks stay out of the first level of trouble, you know, before they get all the way to the end. And that’s still something that we have to combat. If people feel like it’s something we’re going to HR people are going to get fired. It’s really not the case we’re there to just Yes, ruin.

Mark Kinsley 

Yeah, just tamp them down a little bit. Okay, so final scenario. Yeah, just just put a wet blanket on that fun. Just a little bit. final scenario here. Nobody reports feeling uncomfortable. Okay. But Mark Quinn, has gained a bit of a reputation for sloth unbuttoning two to three buttons on his shirt and showing his new tattoo on his chest appropriate, inappropriate.

Drew Millar 

Inappropriate, wildly inappropriate, but it’s specific to mark. So other

Mark Quinn 

people, it would be disgusting to look at that we want to draw the line there.

Mark Kinsley 

Well, the part of the story that was told was he started asking people to touch it. And then the real evolution of the story was, whenever he unbuttoned his shirt, there, there seemed to be some sort of designs shaved into his chest hair, one could argue that it was an arrow pointing down.

Mark Quinn 

No one would definitely not argue that and I don’t think asking someone to trace the letters with their finger is necessarily inappropriate, or just don’t

Mark Kinsley 

if you’re blowing in their ear it is I agree to disagree by blowing in their ear. Gently, okay, that’s inappropriate. I even I even know.

Mark Quinn 

You know, I mean, I could bring up the fact that Mark constantly refers to me as sugar britches, which I think is inappropriate, like in the workplace. So anyway, alright, your nickname

Drew Millar 

you guys may need you guys may need HR

Mark Quinn 

effort. So we’re unrated. And there’s like four people that listen to it, so we’re fine. No, unfortunately, unfortunately, now cancelled. We’ve got a much larger audience these days. But anyway, so true. Tell us something before we bounce out of here. Let’s give actual value to this audience. So you are in a space that’s A very dynamic one right now. I mean, a lot of people are having trouble hiring employees, right? That’s a big piece of this. So can you give just like there’s a lot of retailers, and even manufacturers out there, give a little bit on that, like, what are you reading about or seeing out there that is actually helping people, bring people back into the workforce, and be engaged and excited about their job again?

Drew Millar 

Yeah, so So I think, you know, one thing we’re noticing is just a big shift in kind of the whole picture, right? That even a couple years ago, 510 years ago, especially, like, it’s all about the hourly wage, right? Or the the salary, like that’s what drove behaviour. And nowadays, we started to see this shift, even pre COVID, where like, vacation means more to folks than extra salary. And so they’re starting to look at the full package of what does the company do for me, like the total rewards, the company offers, not just the baseline compensation. And so I think we’ve always got to be thinking of that. And a lot of those things don’t cost us money. Right? It’s not some of the things like vacation, okay, there may be cost to that. But there’s other things that we can do just from a work environment perspective that people are considering, because that and all the stats that you read, people are leaving jobs, and they don’t have other ones lined up, because they’re just fed up. Right? They don’t like the environment that they’re in. So I think really assessing, what can we do that’s maybe free, that provides that kind of environment that people just want to be a part of, it’s not so much we got to raise wages, that’s been a lot of companies responding is raise wages, you really don’t have to, you got to, you know, take that reflective look and saying, What is our work environment like? Because it means a lot more to people than just the wages? That’s certainly what we’ve seen as you can raise wages. It doesn’t necessarily impact turnover, it’s, and I wish there was a silver bullet. But it’s really a lot of the small things, do you recognise your employees that they feel respected and appreciated? That’s what matters the most. And I will say this, you know, having looked at the great resignation, it’s much easier to keep a current employee than to hire a good one out in the market. There’s just not buckets and buckets of employees out there that we can go hire. So making sure that we engage and retain our current people is more meaningful. Now. It’s the small

Mark Kinsley 

stuff you say, it’s the how do we recognise people consistently? How do we create a culture where we’re promoting people and promoting their their interest, not just promoting like up the corporate ladder, but just, you know, highlighting and recognising people? What are some give us some specific things that a business owner can do right now? Is it kind of like crystallising that and making it part of the process and making it like putting something somebody in charge of doing that quarterly or whatever it is?

Drew Millar 

Yeah, so I think it’s actually what I’ve seen is more the opposite, that the natural inclination is, let’s do you know, lunches, like, Let’s do events, let’s plan things to carry out. And what we’ve tried to focus more on is what I call micro experiences, right? It’s the day in and day out the little things that happen, that like the boss knows my name. We always encourage folks, like if you’re a supervisor, people know every single one of their names, whether you have six, or whether you have 40, right, you’re on a plant floor, or you’re in a retail establishment know their names. That means a lot to people. And when they have that one event that’s either good or bad, that doesn’t usually determine whether or not they’re going to stay with the organisation. Like, hey, we had a lunch today. Yeah, that was nice. But if your boss doesn’t know your name, you’re probably not going to stick around very long. And so it’s those little things just day in and day out. Like we encourage folks engage with every employee every day and say their name during that interaction, that just that little micro experience causes them to feel much more connected to their workplace than the birthday lunches are some of that that that some of us do. But we want to do those big events, we want to do the big recognitions. Yeah, those things matter. But it doesn’t matter as much as those day to day things. So that’s a lot of what we stress. And, you know, it’s harder to measure, you know, you can ask him, like, hey, check the boxes every day to do engage with every employee. But that’s what we see people want those just little experiences where they go home saying something that’s like

Mark Kinsley 

an absentee father that comes around, you know, once every three or four months in brings you, you know, a bicycle or when you turn 16 buys you a new car, the relationships gonna suffer, but the father who’s around and cares and shows genuine, you know, empathy and interest in your life. That’s what’s going to compound and add up over time. And like you said, it’s going to mitigate any type of accidents that could happen because of a major incident, which those things are going to pop up. I mean, even going back to the beginning of the show, I mean, if you’re dealing with the mark Quinn’s and the mark Kinsley, of the world, like, you’re gonna have some dynamic people in your environment, and their lives are gonna take twists and turns and there could be, you know, tell me about an incident with Mark when or a tattoo tracing incident.

Drew Millar 

No, and I think, and that’s where, you know, we talked to about like, transactionally experiences that doesn’t keep people right that the more you make things about transactional experiences, like, here’s your wages, right? That everything is all about a transaction, you’re giving us your labour, and I’m giving you your wages. People don’t stay at companies because of transactional experiences. They want that holistic thing, right? They want to feel appreciated. So I think kind of, to your point, mark there of making sure that you appreciate people in the moment people love to be recognised for good work. Even it’s as simple as hey, you know, you made a couple sales today, great work on that. That probably means more to them than the commission they’re seeing on their check. Like when they think about staying at this employer. Yes, the check matters. I’m not saying the transactional things don’t matter. But those little things that I think we overlook, because to your point about like the absentee father, you know, sometimes they come in, and it’s only bad news, right, you only get the attention when you’re in trouble. And employees don’t like that being recognised in the moment for something that you did. And that’s where it’s just a lot of those soft things day in and day out that matter. We had

Mark Kinsley 

a friend of ours named his name Javan McCormick, new friend of ours, on the show a while back in his, this is a true story. His mother was an orphan. His father was an actual pimp, and had 26 children. And he said, When my dad came around, it was like an eclipse. It didn’t happen very often. But it was a major major event hit you as the boss. And you as the leadership team should not be like an eclipse, it should not be in a major event when you come around. It should be micro momentary, like you said, those consistent interactions that happen to create, you know, the compounding effect of culture, you know, and culture doesn’t happen with big broad sweeps, I think.

Drew Millar 

No, I would agree. And I think identifying in your organisation to who are the culture drivers, right that if you’re a small establishment, you’re one retail store, like is it your store manager is that the owner? Is it some somebody that’s driving that culture that people are drawn to and you’ve got those in every organisation, we have a temper Sealy that people there’s big personalities that engage really well with people. And don’t be afraid to put those people out front, you know, I like to think or like to hope that I’m one of those at 10 per CLE. But that’s part of why I love being engaged with a national sales conference and stuff is I like engaging with the people. And I think that helps driving culture, but not just me being on stage. But knowing the salespeople, knowing their names, being them being able to reach out to me, that sort of things helps. And not everybody is that way. And that’s okay, we need different skills in organisations, but making sure you have some of those culture drivers, and you keep putting them up front. You know what I mean to drive that?

Mark Quinn 

I think that temper seal is really lucky to have you because number one, you’re a cheap MC, I assume that they’re not paying you above scale, for your personal appearances, right. But you’re, you’re a bright light, man. We’re seeing you on stage and the way you handled that in the fun you bring in your personality. You’re very affable. And I mean for someone in the HR space, to be that kind of person that can help really drive that feeling into culture. That’s a really cool thing. And so I think that anyone listening to this can take that from it. Also, HR doesn’t have to be the wet blanket. You’re you are a fun guy that likes to throw cautionary tales into the mix of what is necessary, right? But anyway, you’re you’re they’re lucky to have you, man. And we’re really grateful that you gave us some of your time today.

Drew Millar 

You bet. No, thank you. And I appreciate it. It’s, it’s a lot of fun. And that’s where I think if work isn’t fun, that’s always my perspective, that we’re not doing it right. And that should be for HR to that we got to do things. There’s certain parts of our job that we just got to carry out that aren’t always that much fun. But it needs to be fun.

Mark Kinsley 

I always say if you’ve if you haven’t fun, you’ve already won. Your days add up to become your life. So you should spend it with people you enjoy being around and you just have a lot of fun along the way within the bumpers and the guardrails of what’s appropriate and inappropriate. And Drew, you helped us understand that today. I think you this may have been an insurance policy for Quinn

Mark Quinn 

Are you saying in case I get in trouble now I’ve got built a bridge to Drew. So like I might get some extra like consideration. Is that what you’re saying?

Mark Kinsley 

I like that. Yes, absolutely. Right. Well, I drew Drew,

Mark Quinn 

you’re gonna Dr. Seuss is there Kinsley if you’re having fun you’ve already won now the day has just begun if you think so well. Yeah,

Mark Kinsley 

yeah, they’re having fun you’ve already won. And now this podcast is officially done

Mark Quinn 

All right, everybody if you’re listening to this go and rate us where you listen to your podcast five stars only give them all for Drew Milllar with Tempur Sealy, VP of HR and legal!

Drew Millar

Your awesome thanks, guys.

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