Sept. 12, 2022

How to build and retain dynamic workplace teams

Arch Award-winner and Alumni All-Access keynote speaker Eric Termuende explains how employers can make their businesses more attractive places to work
Eric Termuende is the Keynote Speaker at Alumni All-Access 2022
Eric Termuende is keynote speaker at Alumni All-Access.

A few years ago, Eric Termuende was an ambitious soon-to-be-graduate from the Haskayne School of Business when he joined his peers in peppering the country with resumes, looking for that first career opportunity — but there were no offers.

It’s not that their expectations were too high. They would have been happy with any entry-level job in their field. And that was the dilemma that led Termuende and friend, Emerson Csorba, to their a-ha! moment.

“We started to realize that people were taking jobs out of necessity, not because it was something they were excited about," says Termuende, BComm’14. “Their resume and cover letter had somehow missed the mark the first 50 or 60 times and a job was needed quickly." 

Termuende and Csorba saw an opportunity.

If grads were looking for jobs in all the wrong places and companies were sharing job descriptions totalling 200 to 300 words, they thought they could help by working with companies to tell better stories that, in turn, would attract and retain the right people who would be working jobs they truly valued.

“The best attraction strategy is a good retention strategy,” Termuende says. “When people work on jobs and teams they want to be part of, retention soars.”

And that's how their first company, Gen Y Inc., was born.

Professional speaker Eric Termuende

Professional speaker Eric Termuende will deliver a lively talk Oct. 12.

Flash forward eight years, and the 2022 Arch Award-winner for Early Career Achievement is in high demand, criss-crossing the globe as a thought leader and influential international speaker on stages from TEDx to Cambridge University and for large companies such as Amazon, IBM and Coca-Cola.

Along the way, he even wrote a book titled, Rethink Work, Finding and Keeping the Right Talent. He'll be sharing his philosophy as a keynote speaker for UCalgary's Alumni All-Access on Oct. 12. 

What’s a one-degree shift?

Termuende's message to leaders navigating increasingly complex intergenerational workplace issues is how to build and retain dynamic teams. This is done by building trust, removing friction, and creating a workplace that is not afraid to experiment or have fun. Termuende’s framework for achieving this is what he calls the “one-degree shift.”

People, at their core, don’t like change, Termuende says. The one-degree shift, he says, “isolates where the friction is coming from and, in turn, makes small changes with less resistance and more collaboration.”

Eric in his home studio

Termuende in his home studio.

But, before you can achieve collaboration, you have to build trust, especially in a world where the future is so difficult to predict.

“It’s really easy to get derailed or anxious or uncertain about what tomorrow is going to bring,” Termuende says, adding his hope is that “we start worrying less about the uncertainty of tomorrow and have a framework in place that allows us to be more intentional about the time when we’re awake.”

The key is to truly understand who your people are outside of work.

“You really have to understand what they care about, what drives them, where they are feeling a sense of purpose,” Termuende says. “So the connection we build is not just a work connection, but a personal connection, as well.”

Termuende cites electronics retailer Best Buy as an example of how making human connections can foster success. In 2012, the company’s share prices were lower than they had been in years. CEO Hubert Joly wanted to know why. One store near Boston was bucking the trend, enjoying double-digit sales. Joly asked an associate there one question: “Do you love your work here and why?”

She replied, “I love the people, I get to be my full self… I get to be safe here.”

Before that store opened each day, supervisors asked each employee: “‘What is your dream and how are we at Best Buy here to help you make the dream come true?”

Termuende says people would respond with plans to take their families to Disneyland, save for college or pay for their kids’ college degree. Best Buy adopted the approach company-wide, and within a few years its stock price quadrupled.

“When they understood more what their team was working towards outside of work, they were more inclined to help them make those dreams come true,” he says. “That’s all it took.”

Termuende says all employers need to invest the time to have these types of conversations with their workers.

“The truth is it feels good,” he says. “I’ve found when we really invest in building better connections at work and making those one-degree shifts to remove the friction and some of the tension across our team, then truly great things can happen.”

Eric Termuende is this year’s recipient of the Arch Award for Early Career Achievement, which recognizes professional accomplishment or creative leadership in any field by recent graduates 30 or younger, and who has brought distinction to themselves and credit to UCalgary.  

Termuende will also deliver a keynote talk on Oct. 12 as part of Alumni All-Access, followed by a wine-and-cheese reception. Everyone is welcome; register for this event.