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5 Ways To Identify And Retain Talent with Mallory Tesauro & Kage Spatz

HR Strategy Series, Real Human Resources

MSW (New Moms) Human Resources Hiring Strategies

When companies place value on building leaders, they are improving the overall quality of services that they’re offering to the community.

As a part of my HR Strategy Series, I’m talking to top experts in the field to teach prospects what hiring managers are actually looking for, while also supporting business leaders in their hiring and retention strategies. Today I had the pleasure of talking with Mallory Tesauro.

Mallory joined the Chicago-area nonprofit New Moms in 2019. With more than 10 years of experience in supervision and non-profit management, she has advanced training in employee recruitment, hiring, onboarding and performance improvement strategies. Mallory is passionate about employee retention and determining which factors play a role in increasing job satisfaction. In 2014–2015, Mallory completed a year-long research study that identified the leading factors impacting employee job satisfaction. The findings and recommendations in the study led to an 11 percent reduction in staff turnover for a Minnesota human services agency. Mallory believes that building strong supervisors and investing in their professional development directly impacts the turnover rates of front-line team members. Mallory received her B.S.W. from Trinity Christian College in Palos Heights, Illinois, and her M.S.W. from Augsburg University in Minneapolis.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

My background is in social work and non-profit administration. Supervision was always my favorite aspect of that work. Mentoring, coaching and assisting staff with their professional development was what I loved to do. With experience in program management and organizational change, I saw talent development as the best way to staff and grow high performance organizations. Human resources was a natural transition in my career and would allow me to make a larger impact in the areas of retention and professional development. Joining New Moms in 2019, I could see first-hand how strong systems and comprehensive onboarding would contribute to the tenure of employees. I was lucky to inherit the excellent systems and practices that New Moms had already put into place, and I am excited to build upon those strategies.

Can you share the most interesting or funny story that happened to you since you started this career? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

Throughout my career, I have had great supervisors who have pushed me and challenged me to take on more than I thought I could. When my first supervisor decided to move on for a new opportunity, she handed me an application and told me, confidently, that I would be the next person in her position. She knew she didn’t have control over the outcome of who was chosen, but she believed in me. I didn’t think I was ready for administration, but she saw strengths in me that I didn’t at the time and felt that I had something great to contribute. Her influence changed my story and my career path. I became more and more passionate about the positive impact a supervisor has on their supervisees. Since then, I’ve sought out opportunities where I could have the greatest impact on other professionals and have focused on ways to build upon their natural strengths. I became so interested in this topic, that in graduate school, I completed a research study that analyzed the leading factors contributing to high job satisfaction. Strong supervision was the leading factor. Building and equipping strong supervisors is one of the most important investments a company can make. It leads to increased employee satisfaction, decreased turnover, and is proven to increase program participant outcomes. When companies place value on building leaders, they are improving the overall quality of services that they’re offering to the community.

Are you working on any exciting new projects at your company? How is this helping people?

Right now, I’m working on reducing the number of software systems staff are using to track and analyze their work. New Moms has so many apps, usernames and passwords to keep track of and integrating as many systems as possible will allow staff (and the Human Resources department) to make better use of time and focus on our programs and impact. I’m, admittedly, a huge nerd, so this type of thing really excites me!

Nice to meet a fellow nerd! Let’s jump to the main focus of our series. Hiring can be very time consuming and difficult. Can you share 5 techniques that you use to identify the talent that would be best suited for the job you want to fill?

  1. Train and support hiring managers as they develop job postings. A well-written job description uses appropriate industry language, details major responsibilities and attracts a diverse candidate pool.
  2. Write job postings that highlight the most important skills and values to your organization.
  3. If you are serious about recruiting a diverse workforce, leverage resources like job boards, websites, and networks that connect you to diverse talent.
  4. As much as possible, recruit talent with lived experience. Some of your best candidates will have a mix of credentials, work history and a life that gives them invaluable insight and compassion for the people you want to connect to.
  5. Take the time to complete an intentional pre-screening process over the phone before inviting applicants to an in-person interview.

With so much noise and competition out there, what are your top ways to attract and engage the best talent in an industry when they haven’t already reached out to you?

  1. Social media presence: New Moms is doing fantastic work, and we want to connect others to that work. The more that people get to know who we are via our social media channels, the more they talk with others which naturally extends our recruiting network.
  2. Provide a comprehensive learning experience: Bring in new volunteer groups and interns who already have a natural pull to your organizational mission. In our experience, once a person has hands-on experience of what we do and who we are, they want to stick around. We have staff and even board members who started in a volunteer capacity and made the decision to join us long term.
  3. Encourage networking across the organization: Not only does networking strengthen their team, but it also allows team members to meet professionals in the industry who are looking for opportunities to grow and make an impact. A great professional connection can lead to a potential colleague in the future!

What are the 3 most effective strategies used to retain employees?

  1. Infusion of Diversity and Inclusion: Our employees are our greatest asset. They come from a wealth of diverse backgrounds and experiences. If we stopped the conversation at diversity and did not consider inclusion, we would not be making progress as an organization. Inclusion takes the next step of bringing our diverse team members into process, activities and decision making. We want staff to be able to participate in authentic ways and genuinely value their contributions. Creating avenues for all staff to contribute to change helps better our organization and allows them to invest long term. New Moms is very intentional about this.
  2. Robust Onboarding Model: We believe the onboarding process is key in helping new employees to feel a direct connection to the organization. If done right, new staff will not only feel equipped to do their job but feel they are part of something larger. As they complete a detailed 90-day orientation period, they’ll see how we build relationships and celebrate successes, milestones and anniversaries within our New Moms family. Intentionally integrating new staff into this culture helps them to connect to our shared vision.
  3. Celebrating our Intergenerational Organization: New Moms is an intergenerational organization that honors the unique perspectives of team members. From Baby Boomers to Gen Z, each person has their own strategies on how to communicate with one another and complete tasks. As we bring in new technology and change our systems, we incorporate staff in the process and assure that each person has the tools and training they need to complete their job. Every team member has a unique perspective on how to do their best work, and we celebrate those differences.

Thank you for that insight! In your experience, is it important for HR to keep up with the latest trends?

Yes, a human resources department must keep up with the latest trends. One way we’re doing this at New Moms is through our use of technology, which Human Resources is. Nonprofit organizations have a reputation of being “behind the times” when it comes to technology due to cost, and this doesn’t need to be the case. New Moms has made it a priority to implement systems that allow staff to have quick access to resources and procedures and complete their work more efficiently.

Can you give an example of a creative way to increase the value provided to employees without breaking the bank?

It seems like such a small thing, but team members feel a part of a family by the way we remember milestones like birthdays and anniversaries and care for one another. This might be an obnoxious “happy birthday” performance by supervisors and colleagues while plopping a cake down on somebody’s desk, balloons and decoration workspace invasions, or a lunch out. The bonds that staff has created show that we’re in community with one another and that we’re truly grateful for the work of each team member.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?

Companies can play an important role in financial literacy organization-wide. From checking accounts to strategic investments and long-term retirement plans, everyone can benefit from smart financial goals.

Great point. Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what helps build others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” (Ephesians 4:29)

This has been a favorite of mine since long before I started my career. If the words we’re sharing with others will not benefit them in some way, then what impact do we expect to make? Even when difficult conversations need to take place, there is room for speaking to an individual’s strengths and making sure they have the resources and support to build upon those strengths.

Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world whom you would love to have a private lunch with, and why?

Michelle Obama, let me take you out for lunch! The way she spreads kindness and compassion to others is a true reflection of the spirit we encourage at New Moms. I think she would love to walk onto our production floor and see the amazing energy of the young moms making candles for Bright Endeavors, our social enterprise. This work is in line with her passion for supporting children and families, and I’d love to show her the impact we’re making in the lives of others.

Thank you so much for these fantastic insights!

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