Detroit Regional Chamber > Chamber > Detroit Economic Club: “Is the Talent War Reshaping Business?”

Detroit Economic Club: “Is the Talent War Reshaping Business?”

November 22, 2022

On Thursday, Nov. 17, the Detroit Economic Club (DEC) hosted Mark Hoplamazian, President and Chief Executive Officer of Hyatt Hotels Corporation, and Mark Mendola, Vice Chairman – U.S. Managing Partner of PwC, for a fireside chat as part of its Future of Work series to discuss how the war for talent is reshaping business.

Changing Business Landscape

Steve Grigorian, President and Chief Executive Officer of the DEC, opened the conversation by bringing up the return to office debate and how companies are handling the situation. Mendola emphasized that “it’s a mistake for companies or organizations to mandate anything” as companies need to listen to the needs of their workforce and that the flex model is “the only way for organizations to see long-term success at the headquarter space.” Hoplamazian agreed with Mendola, adding the importance of “listening to understand instead of listening to respond” and mentioning that it’s possible to accommodate flexible schedules even in the hospitality industry.

Commenting on how business travel has evolved, Hoplamazian shared that transient travel has transformed into group travel. Mendola added that work teams want to get together for conferences, and meeting in person for events is “important to sustain and drive our culture.”

Impacts on Productivity

Grigorian steered the conversation towards productivity levels in the workplace and noted that companies are reporting record levels of productivity but that it comes with a cost, citing high levels of attrition and a decline in engagement and innovation.

When asked about how he feels about productivity and innovation in his organization, Mendola shared that PwC maintained its productivity levels due to an obligation to its clients but that the cost was “pretty significant.” PwC saw a high turnover rate, losing around 30% of its workforce in various parts of the business. Since then, PwC has cut down on turnover rates by creating an entire new business model for its workers that is centered around individual choice, allowing employees to choose how they work, when they work, and where they work.

“I do believe those organizations that do not embrace the broader me versus just a worker but a purpose-led, inclusion-led, leveraging technology for your own individual path…I think that they are going to lose employees of the future, and we’re trying to get ahead of that,” said Mendola.

Hoplamazian added that Hyatt Hotels Corporation is running more and more of its business in “agile form” and that has been the “anecdote to the creativity and innovation issue that can develop” in the workplace.


DEC meeting

Photo courtesy of the Detroit Economic Club.

Building Culture and Collaboration in Hybrid Workplaces

Both Mendola and Hoplamazian agreed that there are no absolutes with Generation Z in terms of returning to the office and emphasized the importance of asking fully remote workers to get together in the evenings.

“The workplace is one of many different options, but I think it’s not an option not to get people together because you cannot generate and develop proximity…intimacy…if you don’t spend time with them in person,” said Hoplamazian.

Commenting on what workers want, Mendola discussed how employees want to be engaged by the firm outside of work and how individual learning paths are key. Hoplamazian added that people still want to feel connected to something they can believe in. Both speakers agreed that how employees are rewarded nowadays is focused on the impact made versus how many hours one dedicates to the company.

Opportunities and Challenges Ahead in the War for Talent

Peter Quigley, President and Chief Executive Office of Kelly Services, joined the conversation to pose audience-submitted questions, beginning with how you attract talent nowadays and how it is different from 20 years ago.

“First and foremost, I would say it’s mindset for me…I spend more time talking about the importance of our culture and our purpose than I do talking about the PnL and our future prospects,” said Hoplamazian.

Mendola highlighted how PwC is hiring individuals with diverse levels of experience that may not always be considered “traditional”, citing that the firm is hiring people right out of community college and out of high school with certifications. He further explained he’s concerned about the future of higher education and how its curriculum is outdated.

Ending the conversation, both Mendola and Hoplamazian emphasized how it’s a community effort to tackle the challenges the education sector faces and provide opportunities for youth.

“There’s also a war for talent and if we’re able to take a leading position in attracting, retaining, and developing our people, we’re going to continue to be a world-renowned firm,” said Mendola.