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Wednesday, April 14, 2021

C-Suite Lifestyle

The People Factor: What Every Entrepreneur Should Know About Attracting & Retaining Today’s Talent

I remember back in the late 1990s and early 2000s – as a young woman in the tech space in a predominantly male-dominated industry – companies attracted top talent with game rooms, catered happy hours with champagne, and even new car signing bonuses. With that exuberance is long gone, there is a new crop of talent that would gladly trade in a foosball table for a child care education fund, or even a Flexible Spending Account (FSA) account to help pay for family support services such as a mom with dementia. Entrepreneurs and company leaders must be sensitive to the fact that families support services are the top two requirements for talent in order to succeed, especially in an era where women are projected to make up 60 % of the workforce in the next five years, and when the next generation of talent is ready to take the reigns of our future organizations – the Gen Y’s and the Gen Z’s. This new generation of talent understands how imperative family support services are.

I call this the “people factor.” Every company I’ve ever been with has had a giant wall with my favorite quote: “People do business with people – with people they like and people they trust.” You have to develop trust with your staff and what better way to show them by offering benefits such as child care. When you treat them like people instead of assets, productivity and morale go way up.

By nurturing your company culture, you help your employees flourish because they feel supported and valued. In order to succeed as an entrepreneur, you need to start your business on the premises of, how do I add value and how am I different and why should anybody believe in what I’m doing? Differentiating yourself is key to success. And that starts with taking care of your people with attractive benefits. Stop and think, what is important and how can I attract good talent looking for a unique opportunity?

Alessandra Lezama, CEO, TOOTRiS

I started five businesses from the ground up, and I can tell you the quality of talent that I was able to recruit early on made all the difference in whether I succeeded or staggered. Like many of my colleagues, I am part of the “sandwich generation,” who not only have children but also have elderly parents to take care of. But we are also soon approaching the Gen Y and Gen Z generations in the workforce and they are interested in talent-driven organizations that appreciate people. The mindset of these gifted individuals has completely changed the priorities of companies.

Entrepreneurs need to understand in order to be successful they need to attract unique talent in the early stage of their company; they won’t be successful if they are not sensitive to the fact that today’s talent needs and deserves quality child care.

This need has been exacerbated by COVID-19. Just think about the millions of mothers who have lost or left their jobs due to childcare burdens caused by the pandemic. When child care isn’t readily available, parents and the organizations that employ them are impacted. The availability of paid child care plays a key role in allowing parents with children to remain in the labor force.

As entrepreneurs and company leaders, we can and should incorporate a child care allowance in benefits packages to help attract and retain high valued employees. This not only boosts productivity, but it also enables gender equality and a more diverse workforce. Even before the global health emergency, our nation faced an immense crisis, leaving millions of families without affordable, accessible and quality childcare options.

In fact, in each year from 2016 to 2018, more than 2 million parents of children age 5 and younger had to quit a job, not take a job, or change their job because of child care challenges – disproportionately affecting women. American businesses, meanwhile, lose an estimated $12.7 billion annually because of their employees’ child care challenges. Nationally, the cost of lost earnings, productivity, and revenue due to the child care crisis is estimated at $57 billion each year. The bottom line: As entrepreneurs, we need to build cultures in our organizations that support work-life balance, including child care as a benefit. Our workforce of today and tomorrow demand it, and our success depends on it.


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Alessandra Lezama
Alessandra Lezama is driven by a deep rooted social purpose. That’s why she founded TOOTRiS, the first ever on-demand child care platform that connects parents, employers, childcare providers, and family support and subsidy services. Lezama was named “Businesswomen of the Year” by the San Diego Business Journal, and won the “Connect Women of Influence Emerging Woman-Owned Business Award” in 2020 for her work with TOOTRiS.

Passionate about technology, Lezama has enjoyed an illustrious career of taking underperforming tech companies and turning them into scalable, high-performance powerhouses. Prior to founding TOOTRiS, she was the CEO for multiple technology companies, including AbacusNext, a San Diego-based company she stepped into with 29 employees and, in less than four years, transformed into a disruptive global technology organization with more than 500 employees across San Diego, Canada and the United Kingdom.

She currently serves on the Board and Management Council of the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce, is a member of the California Preschool Business Council and the San Diego County Child Care and Development Planning Council, where alongside other Child Care stakeholders she passionately advocates for quality early childhood education. Lezama is also an angel investor, and an advocate for women pursuing careers in tech and other STEM fields.

Alessandra Lezama is an opinion columnist for the CEOWORLD magazine. You can follow her on LinkedIn.
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