Be More Podcast: Proactive Retention With Julie Turney

Today, organizations worry about the Great Resignation. We talk with Julie Turney, an HR coach who works with businesses around the world to help them to tackle this challenge.

Audio also available on Apple PodcastsSpotify, and Google Podcasts.

Be More is a podcast about how everyone can thrive in the new world of work, hosted by Workday's Patrick Cournoyer. 

What do your employees want and need? And, what are the challenges of retaining talent, and how do you overcome them? Today, organizations worry about the Great Resignation, as well as acquiring and retaining new talent. Our next guest works with many businesses around the world helping them to tackle this challenge.

Julie Turney is a human resources (HR) coach and public speaker who helps the HR community develop resilience, agility, find their HR voice, and prioritize self-care. She has worked in HR for more than 16 years. Julie started HR@Heart out of a passion for her profession and a desire to see her colleagues succeed in their roles. 

Find out more about proactive retention by listening to the episode podcast or reading our key takeaways and transcript.

Key Takeaways:

What Is Proactive Retention? 

For Turney, proactive retention means that a business focuses on making an effort to keep its talent. The executive leaders take a proactive approach to talent management and talent development, whether that means improving services, processes, or any other quality initiatives.

The Role of Stay Interviews in Proactive Retention

The process of proactive retention involves organizations reflecting on past experiences where they lost talent. The executives and managers should focus on keeping their employees engaged, satisfied, motivated, and feeling like they belong. 

Stay interviews play a significant role in this process. First, organizations need to question whom they want to keep. Once they figure that out, they can start doing regular one-on-one interviews with these employees to discuss their goals, any issues they may have, and how they see things going inside the organization. 

Turney says this face-to-face interaction increases your ability to build trust, belonging, and psychological safety, which can lead to people opening up about their problems. 

The Negative Side of Resiliency and Agility

The COVID-19 pandemic made organizations understand their authentic self. This led to many employees realizing how they feel about their organization's culture.

Turney believes that to become more resilient and agile, some organizations dehumanize the process of proactive retention. They use words like compassion, care, and resilience, but they don't mean it. Employees don't feel all of these values, which results in businesses losing many people.

Organizations should be serious when using words like “resilient, agile, and compassion,” Turney advises. Otherwise, people will leave.

Dealing With Burnout

Turney admits that HR is doing well from a business perspective. But from a self-care viewpoint, HR specialists feel exhausted and frustrated. Recent surveys show that this past year has been the most demanding year for most HR professionals. They’ve experienced burnout, their self-care has suffered, and something needs to be done about it.

You can find Julie on LinkedInTwitter, listen in to her Podcast, and visit her website.

“My passion is to help people live their best life, take care of themselves, and recognize the importance of prioritizing themselves as HR professionals.”

Julie Turney Founder and Chief Executive Officer HR@Heart Consulting


Patrick Cournoyer: Welcome to Be More. This is where everyone at an organization can hear different and meaningful perspectives on how we can all thrive in this ever-changing and constantly evolving world of work. I'm your host, Patrick Cournoyer. Julie Turney is joining the conversation today, and she is a powerhouse when it comes to HR. She is a 15-year professional working in human resources, she is a people champion with a focus on human centricity, she's a keynote speaker, a public speaker. She has her own podcast called HR Sound Off Podcast Show, and she's really passionate about building resilience and agility, which we're going to talk about today.

Julie shares with us that she had two rounds of just being burned out in HR, but had so much passion around the role and the ability of HR to influence an organization that she got back at it, founded her own consulting group called HR@Heart. Today [she] is going to talk with us about how to retain talent within an organization and some of her perspective on the state of HR today, and what we can do to focus on a smooth future. Julie, thank you so much for joining the conversation today.

Julie Turney: Thank you so much for having me, Patrick. It's great to be here.

Cournoyer: Yes, we are an international recording right now. You are located in a very beautiful tropical spot. Tell the world where you are, Julie.

Turney: I am in Barbados.

Cournoyer: Beautiful Barbados. [laugh] Beautiful. I'm in the U.S. on the West Coast, so it is very good to spend some time with you today. Julie and I were just talking a little bit before we hit record, and as we're talking through this season around understanding what employees really want, what they need, how to retain talent within an organization, every organization right now is really nervous about this idea of this Great Resignation, and really wanting to retain their talent.

Julie, you work a lot in this world around helping organizations tackle many of these challenges. We're going to jump into a bunch of those today, but I always like to start with the audience understanding a bit about you, your personal journey, and how you've gotten to where you are today and what passion has driven that journey. In a couple of minutes, tell us about your personal journey.

Turney: Okay, so I'll give you a snapshot. [chuckle] I've been in the human resources profession for just a little over 16 years now. I got into HR essentially out of experience that I had in the workplace as an employee, that I was very unhappy with, and it just made me want to do better and be better and give people opportunities to have a better experience with human resources, because based on the experiences that I had, it just made me question whether or not this is what HR really is, and what does it mean to be a human resources professional.

When I got into HR, it was almost like a baptism of fire. I was exposed to a lot of things as a generalist, and through that time, I just realized that I started to get this love-hate relationship with HR. I started to burn out a lot, because I realized I was giving a lot; I also started to feel a lot of anger and resentment for a lot of reasons. I said to myself, "Well, look, this can't be the case." It made me do a checklist of, what do I like about HR and what don't I like about HR?

In doing that, it brought me to this point of what I really want is to help the people in my space heal. I want to help them develop and grow their careers, because just as much as we do it for organizations, there's a lot lacking in how we do it for ourselves. That's how I built my business. I do work with organizations and help their HR professionals to build their resilience, find their HR voice, but I also work with leaders as well, and I coach them as well. My passion really is to just help people live their best life, and take care of themselves and recognize the importance of prioritizing themselves as HR professionals, particularly, because they're my main clients.

Cournoyer: It's so relevant, and what you bring to the work that you do is incredibly personable because, or I should say the element that you bring to the work that you do is incredibly personal, because you had two rounds of getting just burned out working in HR, but loved it so much [chuckle] and knew the importance of it, and had the passion for it and knew how much difference that you could make starting your own company, building your own brand and your own experience with focusing on the areas that are important in so many ways, and not only important to you, but important to really successful HR teams that you jumped in it again, built your company, and now are helping organizations, which is amazing.

Turney: Thank you.

Cournoyer: As you said, you have 15 years’ experience, 16 years’ experience working in HR, you're a coach, you've built this consulting business focused on HR for HR coaching, which I'm curious about. We'll talk a bit about that. There's a couple of things that stand out that I think are very, very relevant today for people to think about. One is this idea of really being a champion, a people champion, with this concept of human-centric approach and putting people at the core of what we do, and we'll talk a bit about growth, development, and how important those things are.

The other thing is talking about resilient agility and this idea about building resilient agility. Those two things particularly stood out when we were talking and looking at your passion areas and the things that you focus on, particularly because right now, proactive retention in the workplace, it's such a hot topic. Everybody is thinking about it; it is a need. First, let's talk about proactive retention. How would you describe proactive retention? What does that mean to you? When you hear somebody say that, how does that resonate with you?

Turney: When I first hear someone talk about proactive retention, I get excited because it means that as a business, you are more focused on making an effort to keep your talent before they resign. You're taking a proactive approach to talent management and talent development. That's what proactive retention means to me, and whether you want to improve your services, your processes, or any quality initiatives in your organization, taking that proactive approach really is something that I get excited about. That's the company that I want to work closely with.

Cournoyer: How does an effective proactive retention process policy initiative—What does that look like? We talk a lot about stay interviews, and we can dive into stay interviews because that has become, again, incredibly important and popular, quite frankly, with many organizations. I do think many companies are scrambling a bit to try to figure out how to do a stay interview and maybe are not doing it the most effective way. You have experience with stay interviews. First let's talk about what does a process look like to be really good at proactive retention, how do stay interviews play into that, and what do you think about a really effective stay interview?

Turney: To answer all of that, because that's a loaded question— [chuckles]

Cournoyer: It is.

Turney:—again, it's about looking at past experiences, right? A company who retrospects on those moments where you've lost really good talent, and you think about why, a lot of times when you do those exit interviews, things come to the fore as to what an employee is dissatisfied about. Whether it's that the company doesn't pay enough, or they're not feeling motivated, they don't think they're stretched in their role, they're bored. They don't think that they're getting recognition the way that they should, and they don't think there's any room for growth.

That's just a snapshot of a list of reasons that employees give for why they want to exit or end their relationship with a company: They're not satisfied, they're not engaged. Therefore, when we think about creating a process where we do retention, where we're proactive about retention, sorry, then we're thinking about how do we keep our employees engaged? How do we make sure that they're feeling satisfied? How do we make sure that they feel like they belong? We talk a lot about belonging when we talk about diversity, equity, and inclusion, but belonging is a very huge factor to what makes people stay with an organization.

Staying interviewed is a part of that process. You think about who you want to stay with? If you already have a succession plan in place for various parts of your organization, the different departments that you are working with, then you're going to be able to go to your managers and say, "Well, let's look at those succession plans and let's see how those people that we have in the pipeline to move along are feeling about our organization. Let's start to ask them questions about how they feel."

Ultimately, stay interviews should be for everyone. You should want everyone to stay. If you don't want everyone to stay, then you should be thinking about who do you want to go, and how do you help them exit? We're talking about being proactive and getting people to stay. Once you've figured out who the people that you want to stay are, then you want to make sure that you're taking progressive steps to create a process that includes stay interviews.

Some organizations have the stay interview process already within their continuous improvement plan. When we talk about doing regular one-on-ones with our employees, those 15-, 30-minute interviews that we do with employees to see how they're feeling about the goals that you've set for a quarter, if they feel like they're still on track. If they don't feel like they're on track, what can you do to close those gaps? Then a lot of times some managers may include stay interview questions in that meeting. Some organizations may also keep those interviews separate and may decide to do separate 30- to 45-minute stay interviews, at least once a month, just to see how people are feeling.

When you are doing this face-to-face interaction, it increases that ability to build trust. It increases that ability to build belonging and psychological safety, that people feel okay to be able to tell you what's wrong, what's not working, what is working within an organization. When you're doing that, then it means that people are at a point where they feel like, "Okay, I can answer these questions openly and honestly."

Then you start to ask questions like, "What's keeping you here, Patrick? How do you like to be recognized? How can I support you better? What are we getting wrong? What should we stop doing? What should we start doing? What should we continue doing? Do you feel satisfied in your role? Do you feel like you're stretched in your role? If you don't, where do you see yourself sitting that would give you that fulfillment within the organization?" Asking those kinds of questions automatically makes people feel like, "Wow, you really care about me. You really want to see if you can keep me and sustain our relationship." That's what proactive retention is all about.

Cournoyer: How do you combine—or do you combine, I guess, this idea around building resilience and agility into looking at the retention of employees? There's a question behind the question. I have felt that the past 18 months that we've all been going through, we have had to be incredibly resilient as individuals, but also organizations have had to—have been really pushed on their level of resiliency and how they're going to navigate incredibly unknown waters. Quite frankly, the entire future is still incredibly unknown.

While we feel like some parts may be coming back to some normalcy, there is still a significant new world ahead of us. We think about hybrid work and all the different—just as an example. The other thing that the past 18 months has really pushed is our ability to be agile, our ability to course-correct at a much faster pace than many organizations ever have. It's forced people to be much more agile than they ever have in the past. Not only is it that they have been—I use the word “forced” because it really was a forcing function. We had no choice but to become very resilient very quickly if we were not already and also to become very agile, if we were not already, very quickly.

There are two areas that can be very uncomfortable for a lot of people. They can be incredibly uncomfortable for an organization, but here we are, and we had to do it. Do you think that that has had a negative or potentially a negative impact on employees and culture and the way how people work? How do you look at helping to build more confidence, more comfort in this concept of resilience and agility so that it is a positive as opposed to potentially a challenge or even a negative?

Turney: That's a really good question, Patrick. I think, ultimately, COVID-19 or this pandemic that we've gone through as well as social injustice that we've been dealing with as well, I think there's a compound effect of everything that's happened in the last 18 to 20 months. It's even made organizations more human, or it's made organizations less human. It's also given us, as employees, the opportunity to look at our organizations and say, "I like the culture that they're trying to build." Or, "I don't like how these people have treated me. Therefore, I've made a decision. I don't want to work for them anymore."

I think, a couple examples, when I think about the HR colleagues that I've spoken to, where they've had that situation, and they've had to furlough employees or let employees go, and then they say, "Okay, well, we want you to come back and work for us." People are actually saying, "You know what, I'd rather stay on government funding than come back and work for you people because I wouldn't touch you with a 9-foot pole." That's a huge realization. That's a very big thing for people that I've met. That they'd rather stay either government-funded or not have money at all and look for something else than come and work for you. That speaks volumes.

I think that sometimes in an effort for an organization to become more resilient and agile, they need to humanize the process. I think that's a very big problem. You use those words like “resilience and agile,” “empathetic and compassionate” as a crutch. You use them because those are the words that need to be used right now, but at your core, you really don't mean it.

What is your authentic self as an organization? People are just not having it anymore, which is leading to that feeling of, "We are either on the verge of or we are experiencing a great resignation." I remember a couple of months back, someone put it to me very well when they said, "People generally go through a migration period." Every year people sit back and they take stock of their life, they take stock of their jobs, and they go, "Do I still want to be here? Do I still like being here?" We're already human beings doing that within ourselves. Then that causes us to make a decision about whether we're going to leave or not.

Then once we've done that, and that's the state that we're in right now. People couldn't do anything during lockdown. They couldn't resign. Now, where there's a little more ease, people can do that. I think that organizations really need to be careful about how they throw those words around, “resilient and agile,” “compassionate and empathetic,” and actually live those things so that people will take them more seriously and feel like they are being intentional about it. Otherwise, they will lose their people.

Cournoyer: My favorite quote that you just said is, What is your authentic self as an organization? That is so powerful because if we think about that, we talk a lot about focusing on our authentic self as individuals. Being able to come into the workplace and be our full authentic selves. I love that. I have been passionate about that for 20 years. I truly believe when somebody is able to come in and be themselves and their authentic self, then they will thrive. That is a very, very good perspective for people to think about is, What is your organization's authentic self? It definitely has one.

To your point, I think a lot of companies, you know what, maybe your authentic self is not what you're proud of, is not what you want it to be, is not what you would go out and shout to the world. This is what we are. What an opportunity we all have as organizations to say, "You know what, our authentic self is not what we want it to be. We're not the most proud of it, but we have the opportunity to change that, we have the opportunity to focus in the right areas, and we have the opportunity to become what we are capable of and what we want to be."

I really, really like that. Julie, thank you for sharing that because—

Turney: You're welcome.

Cournoyer: —we always think about our authentic selves from an individual perspective, but I love that.

Turney: If an organization has a culture, it does have some measure of authenticity to it, right?

Cournoyer: Yes. For sure, and a sense of self. I think about all the companies that I have worked for. One of the reasons why I have worked with them and stayed working with them for years, multiple years, and built my career, is because I connect with that culture. I connect with that self within an organization. It inspires me, it drives me. I feel protected by it. I feel inspired by it.

That's the same thing with a co-worker that brings their authentic self to work. Why do you love working with Joy? I love working with Joy because she is authentic, she inspires me, she is creative, and she challenges me to be better, and when I have a bad day, I see her and I smile. Those are the things that I fully, fully believe that an organization, the core of an organization's culture, absolutely has an authentic self.

You have gotten me very excited about this idea, Julie.


Cournoyer: I've got to run with it, but—

Turney: So far—

Cournoyer: So good. We are coming close to the time, but I do want to talk about this idea of HR and HR teams within an organization. You've worked with so many HR teams and you've been an HR practitioner, an HR leader, and I appreciate the fact that you are honest and open about the fact that you've gone through two burnout periods within HR. I've also had a similar burnout working in HR.

I have been a HR practitioner for many years as well, and it is easy. It is easy to burn out. It is a full on role. It is demanding. It's incredibly personal; you're connecting with so many people, and it is so easy, so easy to get burned out in HR. How are you seeing HR teams today? We are 18, 20 months into the pandemic. I'm not going to say past the pandemic because we're still in it.

Turney: We're still in it.

Cournoyer: We have a long road ahead of us. How are you seeing in the organizations you're working with, the teams, the people, your colleagues, the community, you have a big, broad community. We're going to talk about your HR podcast in a minute. You talk a lot—you have a lot of knowledge about the HR world. What is your perspective on the level of burnout today within HR? Is it a problem? If it is a problem, what actions do we need to take now to make sure that this is not a dire situation in 6 months, 12 months?

Turney: I think we're already there though, Patrick. The situation with HR is that HR is not well. HR is not doing good at all. From a business perspective, HR is doing great. I think at the end of the day as HR professionals, we've learned a lot through this pandemic. If there's any team that is resilient in an organization, that is the example of resilience, it would be HR.

They've learned a lot about the business, they've learned about how to pivot and get people home safe, they've learned how to be more business driven. From a business perspective, I think that leadership has seen a new side of HR that they haven't seen before, and they love it and they want more of it. As a result of all of that, HR is tired. They're exhausted. They are burning out.

I think if you look at the surveys that are done, whether it's Gallup or McKinsey or Deloitte, you'll see that all the leaders that they survey in HR, I think the last number I looked at was 86% of HR roles were feeling burned out, were saying that 2020, 2021 have been the most difficult times in their HR career ever. I think that from that perspective, we can clearly see every single person that I've talked to in the HR space, every single interaction I have with an HR professional on LinkedIn, they're tired, they're exhausted, they're frustrated, they just have to keep going, but they're recognizing that their self care is either suffering and they need to do something about it. That's the state of HR right now, Patrick. That's where we are at. 

Cournoyer: Yes. For everyone listening, there are many HR practitioners listening that I'm sure are shaking their heads right now and saying, "I'm feeling that way." There are many executive leaders that probably within the people world, HR world, that are probably feeling very similar, and then also they have a team that they're responsible for, and I think it's a good time to say, “Let's just take a pause and focus on our HR teams, because if we want to retain talent and we want to really look at programs, policies, initiatives within our organizations, to truly support people and the people initiatives and keeping talent, we depend on HR to help us with that, but we first need to focus on our teams in HR.” I appreciate your honesty and your perspective on that.

Turney: You're welcome. I think at the end of the day, organizations need to recognize that the great resignation does not just impact some employees, it impacts all employees, and the HR professionals in your organization are employees. We are part of the people. If we're getting up and we're moving on or we're leaving without plan Bs because we just have had enough of you, then that's something you need to think about, need to take stock of when your HR is getting up and saying, "Okay, enough. Bye."

Cournoyer: Very true. Julie, we are at the end of the time but first off, amazing perspectives. I'm so glad we finally got to meet and spend some time together. You are a fellow podcaster, as I said earlier, you talk with many HR leaders, have these amazing conversations. How do people find—what's the name of your podcast, and how do people find your podcast?

Turney: My podcast is called The HR Sound Off Podcast Show. You can find it on most podcast platforms. I'm on Spotify, I'm on Apple Podcasts, Google, you can find me anywhere; I'm anywhere, everywhere.

Cournoyer: Perfect. If the audience wants to know a little bit about you and your organization, your consulting work, how can people find you?

Turney: I live on LinkedIn.

Cournoyer: Yes, you do.

Turney: I live on LinkedIn. If you go check me out on LinkedIn, that's the fastest place to get me to respond to anything, and then my website is

Cournoyer: Julie's one of the very tech-savvy people that has a really cool video. When you go onto her page, there's a little video intro. I have not yet done that, and I always love when I go to a page and I see people all of a sudden start talking to you. It's such a great way to make a personal connection. Definitely check out Julie's LinkedIn page because it is impressive. You definitely utilize all the functionality very well.

Turney: Gamification is there, might as well use it.

Cournoyer: It's good. You learned so much about you, you learned about your passions and what you focus on about your organization, so it's a great place to check out more about you. We will link your LinkedIn profile to this blog as well.

Turney: Thank you.

Cournoyer: Julie, a pleasure to have you as part of the conversation. Thank you again for spending some time with us and just be well.

Turney: Thank you.

Cournoyer: That was Be More, a podcast by Peakon. Be sure to search for Be More in Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, and Spotify, or anywhere else that you get your podcasts from, and go ahead and subscribe so that you don't miss out on any future conversations. On behalf of the team here at Peakon, thanks for listening.

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