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The Great Boundary-Setting

The Great Boundary-Setting

CI to Eye with Tom O'Connor

This episode is hosted by Erik Gensler.

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In This Episode

In this episode, we explore themes of transition and turnover. From shifts away from old digital tools towards new ones to an honest exploration of the “Great Resignation” and its impact on the arts, it’s time to adapt, grow, and evolve.
Media Moment

Erik and Priya break down an episode of Adam Grant’s WorkLife podcast on “The Not-So-Great Resignation.”

Digital Download

CI team members Madelyn Frascella and Ally Duffey Cubilette share what you need to know about sunsetting two digital marketing tools: Expanded Text Ads for Search Marketing and Google’s Universal Analytics.

CI's Stance

CI’s Natalie Martinez and Rachel Purcell get real about the shift towards machine learning in digital as they break down Responsive Display Ads.

CI to Eye Interview

Priya sits down with Tom O’Connor, President of Tom O’Connor Consulting Group, to talk about the firm’s new policy around salary transparency, what’s really behind the “Great Resignation” within the arts industry, and how our work culture can adapt to be more sustainable for those with a passion for this field.

Erik Gensler: Hello and welcome to CI to Eye! I’m Erik Gensler…

Priya Iyer: And I’m Priya Iyer! The time has come to unveil our brand new podcast format!

Erik Gensler: That’s right! You’ll still get interviews with innovators and thinkers inside and outside of the arts, but we’ve added new segments in addition to our interviews to help you market smarter in an ever-changing digital landscape. And instead of just one host…

Priya Iyer: You get two! I’m so excited to be hosting the podcast with you, Erik. So, you just heard our new original theme music by whoisuzo, and you’ll be hearing more of their music throughout the episode. Check out the show notes for a link to their Bandcamp and social.

Erik Gensler: In addition to new music, we’ve got new segments and new voices. First, Priya and I will talk about a piece of media that we have been thinking about in our “Media Moment.” Then, in our “Digital Download” segment, you’ll hear from CI team members Madelyn Frascella and Ally Duffey Cubilette about two recent and significant shifts in search engine marketing and web analytics.

Priya Iyer: Then, we’re going to hear from CI’s Natalie Martinez and Rachel Purcell about Google’s shift to dynamic ad formats and what we’ve learned so far in a segment we’re calling “CI’s Stance.”

Erik Gensler: We hope to use these segments to share more of what we’re learning and experimenting with behind the scenes at CI. And you can tell our team loves to name things. Each segment offers a new naming opportunity and we’ve taken full advantage of that!

Priya Iyer: Absolutely we have! And once you’ve nerded out in the weeds in these segments, we will get back in the clouds with our more familiar segment, the interview. This week’s guest is someone we joke about as one of the most networked people in the arts industry, Tom O’Connor.

Erik Gensler: And that’s a good thing because he is a recruiter!

Priya Iyer: Exactly. Tom and I had a meaningful conversation about his perspective on hiring practices and company culture in the arts during what has been coined as, “The Great Resignation.”

Erik Gensler: We’ve got a jam-packed episode so let’s dive right in with our first new segment, our Media Moment! (Musical transition) Our pick this month is an episode from the podcast, WorkLife with Adam Grant. Adam, for those who don’t know him, is a super thoughtful organizational psychologist, author, and podcast host. Priya and I both often share and like his posts on Instagram about personal growth and work culture. In April, he released an episode called, “The Not-So-Great Resignation” that offers lots of nuance about the phenomenon, including why people were resigning, how some people regretted their resignations, and some case studies of how organizations are working to improve employee retention.

Priya Iyer: Super on-theme for the episode since I’ll be interviewing Tom about his perspective on this a bit later!

Erik Gensler: I think this was not an accident! In the pod, Adam interviewed Anthony Klotz, the researcher who’s credited with coining the term “Great Resignation.” I thought it was interesting that the pandemic didn’t create a new trend of quitting– it accelerated an existing trend. The Great Resignation isn’t actually as big of an outlier as it sounds. But still, the numbers were huge. In the US in 2021, over 47 million people quit their jobs. People early in their careers—in their teens and early 20s—were leaving at the highest rates, and the industries with the most turnover were retail and hospitality, those really on the front lines of having to be in person for work during the pandemic. So, Anthony, the researcher, outlined three factors contributing most strongly to this phenomenon. The first is unprecedented levels of burnout. Frontline workers were pushed past their limits. I think many people were pushed past their limits. People working from home exhausted from longer hours, parents struggling to juggle responsibilities between home and work. Drawing those boundaries was certainly tougher than ever. The second was mortality salience—just a word that rolls right off the tongue—butbasically, in the face of sickness and death from COVID people were asking themselves big questions like, “Is this what I want to be doing?” There was a lower tolerance for jobs that don’t bring people meaning or horrible bosses so many left in search of more meaningful work. And a third factor was that many got a taste of freedom through remote work and they wanted more. Remote work provides people with more autonomy than being in the office does. And so when it comes time to give back that autonomy many tended to not want to do so. So, all of that made perfect sense to me.

Priya Iyer: Yeah, three huge nuggets there. Adam also talked with a supervisor named Ursula who had a number of people on her team leave at once, which led to some changes she made in her approach with the remaining team to essentially help counter the shift. She shared how she now conducts “stay interviews” with her direct reports, where she checks in about what would make them happier at work and in their existing role. She even asks what it would take for them to be convinced to leave if they were to leave. In the episode, she emphasizes that “If you shy away from the difficult conversations, you’ve missed an opportunity.” I found this part fascinating because we hear a lot about exit interviews. It’s a very common thing and many companies conduct them, including ours, but at that point, you’re only getting part of the story from people who have decided to leave. This gives people who have chosen to stay the opportunity to be heard as well.

Erik Gensler: And if you want to retain people, it’s critical to check in with them before they’ve shown any indication that they’re ready to leave. The book Radical Candor by Kim Scott that we were all into a few years back calls this ‘Career conversations.” Making sure you’re talking with your direct reports and your team members about what they want in their career and getting on the same page.

Priya Iyer: The episode also emphasized that it doesn’t serve companies to view employees as “disloyal” if they do decide to leave. They said something that really resonated with me: “When it comes to letting employees go, why not celebrate them on the way out?”

Erik Gensler: I love how he suggested for your top performers, keeping in touch after they leave and seeing how they’re doing and even leaving the door open to come back because so many people actually regret leaving. He shared a recent survey of thousands of employees that showed 7 out of 10 millennials and Gen Zs said they regretted quitting their jobs. Even though people left because they were dissatisfied, they actually became more dissatisfied in their new jobs for several years afterward. The grass often looks greener from afar, but not so much up close.

Priya Iyer: This is funny but…I feel like I’m a perfect example of that (laugh)! As you listeners may know and as we’ve discussed on this podcast, I left CI to pursue a different opportunity a couple of years ago, and I did feel celebrated when I left. And more than that, when you invited me to come back on as President, that’s probably why it felt like coming home. (Musical transition) Our next segment is Digital Download: The latest news in digital marketing to help you stay ahead of the curve.

Erik Gensler: You’ll hear from Madelyn Frascella about Google’s decision to sunset Expanded Text Ads—that rolls right off the tongue—Google made the decision to sunset those ads at the end of June 2022. If you are in charge of your organization’s Google Grant, listen up.

Priya Iyer: Next, you’ll hear from Ally Duffey Cubilette about a big change in web analytics— the sunsetting Universal Analytics. The time is now to make a plan for transitioning to Google Analytics 4 or GA4, and she’s got all the info you need. (Musical transition)

Madelyn Frascella: The big news in Search marketing this summer: Google is sunsetting the Expanded Text Ad format—or ETA for short—and making Responsive Search Ads, or RSAs, the only ad type for new campaigns. I’m Madelyn Frascella, a Senior Consultant in Search Marketing at CI, and I’m here to tell you what this means for you. First, what’s the difference between ETAs and RSAs? They both look the same on the front end of the search engine results page, but ETAs are static. That means the ad copy you write will appear the same way each time. RSAs are dynamic, meaning you’ll provide multiple options for each component of the search ad. Google will automatically serve the combination of headlines and descriptions that it thinks will perform best for a given search based on machine learning. This change might sound scary, but it’s not the first time this kind of thing has happened! ETAs replaced the older text ads in the same way. If you’re a practitioner who administers your SEM, it’s time to make sure you’ve got a plan in place—and if you’re working with a partner who runs your grant, they’ve probably already incorporated or transitioned over to RSAs, as Google’s algorithm prefers them. Here’s what you need to know: Starting on July 1, you won’t be able to create any new ETAs or edit existing ones. But, any existing ETAs you’ve already created will remain available, and you can pause and enable them at will—you just can’t edit any part of them, including the linked landing page. There’s no reason to stop running any ETAs you already have going, but don’t waste your time adding any new ones going forward, since you won’t be able to edit them past June 30. You can edit an existing ETA to make it slightly more evergreen in the meantime, such as changing “View 2022 Calendar” to “View Current Calendar”. But we only recommend making any changes that are really easy to do. For more information on RSAs, check out the CI blog post linked in the show notes! Over to you, Ally.

Ally Duffey Cubilette: Thanks, Madelyn. ETAs aren’t the only thing Google is changing…we’re seeing big shifts in web analytics, too! I’m Ally Duffey Cubilette, a Senior Consultant in Web Analytics and Digital Marketing at CI. I have to just start by saying that web analytics is so much more than just data and reports: it offers hidden business insights and a lens into untold user stories that are crucial to your modern marketing strategy. For nearly a decade, Google’s Universal Analytics has been the leading free platform for web analytics. You might have heard though that there’s also a new version of Google Analytics, called Google Analytics 4 (or GA4 for short). It’s been around for a while, but there hasn’t been a whole lot of urgency around making the switch from an existing Google Analytics setup in Universal Analytics. But recently, that changed. Google has announced that Universal Analytics is actually being sunset and will stop collecting data on July 1, 2023. I’m going to repeat that: Universal Analytics is going to stop collecting data on July 1, 2023, so now is the time to get on board with GA4! July 2023 might sound far off—but now’s the time to start planning! We recommend three steps. First: Make a plan for setting up GA4 tracking on your site. You’ll likely need professional support to get started because GA4 is really built for analysts and data scientists and implementing tracking does require some technical steps. The second thing to consider is building in time for GA4 training and becoming familiar with the GA4 interface. Even if you’re familiar with Universal Analytics, GA4 is pretty different, and I have to say I think it’s less intuitive, so it will definitely take time to learn how to navigate and put that data to use. Finally, you’ll want to make a plan for actually exporting your historical data from Universal Analytics. So far, Google has only promised to keep that data for you until the end of 2023! Think ahead about what historical data you need access to beyond that point. This is just the latest shift in the ever-evolving world of digital measurement. But with GA4, like with Universal Analytics before it, we’ll have really great data to learn more about users and help build excellent digital experiences. The shift to GA4 will take work, but we’re here to support you along the way! For more information about this transition, some of the differences you can expect between GA4 and Universal Analytics, and how CI can help you get started with GA4, check out the one-sheet linked in the show notes.

Erik Gensler: So much useful information. Thank you so much, Madelyn and Ally!

Priya Iyer: I’m loving having many CI voices on the podcast! And I’m ready for two more.

Erik Gensler: At CI, we have a learning culture and CI’s Stance is your chance to get the inside scoop on experimentation, exploration, and innovation behind the curtain at CI. The team is always experimenting with new campaign strategies and sharing resources and learnings internally. Now, we get to share more of those insights, both fully baked and in progress.

Erik Gensler: This month, Rachel Purcell and Natalie Martinez talk about Responsive Display Ads.

Priya Iyer: Our team’s enthusiasm on this topic is infectious, so let’s get into it. (Musical transition)

Rachel Purcell: The digital landscape ahead includes the shifts towards dynamic ad formats, like the Responsive Search Ads Madelyn mentioned in our Digital Download segment. It’s a trend we’re seeing across advertising channels. And you know what that means! It’s time to get on board with machine learning as you strategize for the season ahead. My name is Rachel Purcell and I’m here with Natalie Martinez to share our point of view on Google’s latest push toward one of these dynamic ad formats, Responsive Display Ads. Nat, can you explain what an RDA is?

Natalie Martinez: Sure! So, we’re all pretty accustomed to seeing static banner ads when we browse the internet. They’re kind of like digital billboards, but with better opportunities for targeting and measurement. Responsive Display Ads, or RDAs, are an alternative to static banner ads. Instead of designing one ad, you give Google a menu of options to choose from…like images, logos, videos, headlines, and descriptions…and then, Google’s machine learning will do the rest of the work for you. It optimizes towards the best combination of assets that you provided to best serve whatever goals you’ve set up your campaigns to drive.

Rachel Purcell: I hear they’ve been performing really well for CI’s clients who have tried them! Can you give us an example?

Natalie Martinez: Absolutely! I’m consistently running Responsive Display Ads alongside Static Banners for four of my clients: a performing arts center, two ballet companies, and an opera company. I pulled Display campaign data from all four of those clients going back to January of 2021, and what I’ve seen is that RDAs consistently spend the most and serve the most impressions. But not only that, but the Responsive Display Ad’s cost per click and cost per key page view trends less expensive, and RDA click-through rates trend higher. Responsive Display Ads also consistently account for the large majority of key page views attributed to these display campaigns, and they generally have more purchases attributed than the static banners.

Rachel Purcell: That’s incredible. So, you mentioned that when you’re running RDAs, you get to choose a variety of assets to include, but Google chooses what combination to serve them in. How does that impact the way an organization’s brand comes through in these ads?

Natalie Martinez: Great question! You don’t necessarily have control over the combination of assets, but you can be intentional about which assets Google works with. Choose images that really speak to your brand and the programming you’re trying to sell. With a bank of images to choose from, so much of the design lift is taken off your shoulders! The ads will serve with an open-source font, so copy and visual assets will be what shines. Plus, by giving Google’s machine learning the power to serve the combination of assets that will perform best, you’ll see better results than a static banner that serves the same way every time.

Rachel Purcell: I can see how machine learning makes arts marketers’ lives easier that way! What kind of assets do you need to run RDAs?

Natalie Martinez: You need a variety of images in different aspect ratios, but it’s actually easier than you think! Google can automatically scan your entire website or any page within your website and it can also scan your social media accounts to pull images from. You aren’t relinquishing total control with that feature. It’s just a way to kind of gather all of your assets and then you can choose the images that you think would fit the ads best. You can crop them right in Google Ads so they fit the required ratios so you don’t have to do that asset prep work ahead of time. You can also preview how they’ll look in different ad format. The glory about RDAs is they can fit so many sizes across the internet and we kind of lock ourselves into certain aspect ratios with static banner ads. And you can also see how these different placements will look before you set anything live.

Rachel Purcell: That does sound easy! What about the ad copy? Where are you drawing that from?

Natalie Martinez: I’ve found it easy to repurpose the copy we’ve already written for search ads! If you’re already drafting a few different headlines and descriptions for your search campaigns, it’s easy to adapt them to the length requirements for RDAs. And on top of that, it gives us the opportunity to create some symmetry between those two channels.

Rachel Purcell: Less work for busy marketers is always a plus! We’ve also had discussions about how RDAs are more optimizable than static banners. Can you speak a bit to that?

Natalie Martinez: Yes, easily adjusting creative makes optimizations on Display with RDAs so much easier! We can upload new image assets to keep the content fresh and that’s really what we’ve always preached at CI for our social campaigns. And as I mentioned with search ad copy, it gives us another opportunity to create some more symmetry across our campaigns. Or, if a certain headline isn’t serving very often, or resonating with audiences, you can easily swap out a new headline to see if it performs better!

Rachel Purcell: That’s way more flexible than the Display ads I’m used to working with! It feels like we’re seeing a push towards this kind of dynamic ad content across channels. Plus, the strategy behind running a display campaign using RDAs is pretty similar to running a search campaign using RSAs, right?

Natalie Martinez: Definitely. The strategy behind incorporating RDAs is very much akin to RSAs in that it gives us data on the different parts of the ad that are most successful, and we can iterate on that ad accordingly. Of course, as Madge talked about in the Digital Download segment, this shift is definitely also influenced by Google’s sunsetting of some of the more manual ad formats. In fact, we actually just found out that Google is now automatically creating search ad extensions on your behalf and will show them with your search ads alongside the manually-created ad extensions if those dynamic extension is predicted to improve performance. That’s something we’re still looking into and we’ll definitely be sharing more information about this in the near future!

Rachel Purcell: We haven’t touched on another piece of this that I’m particularly excited about—I think I heard you say you can include videos in RDAs?

Natalie Martinez: Yes! You can include videos, as long as they’re uploaded to YouTube. You can make them unlisted if you don’t want them to show up on your channel. We recommend keeping them under 30 seconds.

Rachel Purcell: All of those dynamic components really lend themselves to powerful storytelling. It’s awesome. Any final recommendations?

Natalie Martinez: Just give them a try, if you haven’t already! This is the direction digital advertising is moving. Change can be hard, it can be really scary, but we’re really seeing this dynamic ad format pay off, so jump in. If you’re not comfortable going head first and ditching static banner ads, that’s totally fine. I’m personally running both side by side and just seeing how the waters go.

Rachel Purcell: And that’s CI’s Stance on Responsive Display Ads! (Musical transition)

Erik Gensler: Thank you so much Natalie and Rachel. Let’s dive right into our next segment, Coming Up, where you’ll hear about events, resources, and content from Capacity Interactive to help you market smarter. (Musical transition)

Priya Iyer: First off, Boot Camp 2022 is on sale!

Erik Gensler: Woohoo! (Laughs) Keep this part in, I’m sorry. I get excited about Boot Camp!

Priya Iyer: (Laughing) I was like, what’s happening? This will be our 12th annual conference—it’s still 100% focused on digital marketing for the arts.

Erik Gensler: This year’s conference is November 3-4, and you can join us in person at the SVA Theatre in New York City, or right at home from your couch or conference room! There are only a limited number of in-person seats so if you want to join us in person, I suggest signing up sooner before they are all gone. But the good news is that everyone gets the same content, streaming live. And everyone who attends in person or online will have access to all session recordings through the end of the year.

Priya Iyer: And if you haven’t seen them yet, we’ve also recently released some new blog posts. The first is about living your values internally and externally, featuring the Alliance Theater, and the second is about offering more email preferences, such as allowing people to opt out of messaging down to the level of specific holiday messaging, like Mother’s Day and Father’s Day. We also released a post about renewing your focus on YouTube, and our marketing team shared some of their learnings from their work to make CI’s social media presence more accessible.

Erik Gensler: And that’s just the tip of content iceberg! It’s all available to you at – and be sure to follow us on social for even more content to help you market smarter. (Musical transition)

Priya Iyer: And now, we’ve come to our final segment, an interview with Tom O’Connor all about salary transparency, hiring practices, and other strategies for cultivating a great work culture to improve retention.

Erik Gensler: Tom O’Connor is the President of Tom O’Connor Consulting Group, a firm that helps arts and culture organizations build marketing and audience development capacity through consulting, recruiting, and coaching. He’s a “friend of the pod”, this is his third time as a guest, and I’m so excited to hear your conversation with him, Priya!

Priya Iyer: Let’s dive right in! (Musical transition) Tom, welcome to CI to Eye. Thank you so much for being here.
Tom: Thank you. Thank you. It’s great to be back.

Priya Iyer: Yeah. You were our first ever guest on CI to eye back in March of 2017. So it’s so exciting to have you back and to have you back for our first episode in this new refreshed format that we’re doing. I’m just so happy that you can be here for that. So this conversation between us today was sparked by the fact that your company, Tom O’Connor Consulting Group, just announced a new policy of working only with clients who offer salary transparency in their job descriptions and in their job listing. So, this is a super strong stance to take right now in the middle of what people are calling the Great Resignation. It’s really exciting. So I’m super eager to just have this bigger conversation with you about what’s been on your mind lately around hiring practices, our industry, retention, culture, all of these things. But I’d love to start with just this idea of salary transparency. So can you tell me more about why you feel salary transparency is just so important?

Tom O’Connor: Absolutely. And thanks for highlighting this Priya. I mean, I’m always, always happy to talk about this topic. And I should just say briefly that, you know, we are a pretty multifaceted firm in terms of the consulting work we do, in addition to the executive search work. And this was really a stance we wanted to take on the executive search side of our business to really make sure we were living in accordance with our values as a company in a way that I, that I could really, you know, frankly, face my staff about and make sure that we were feeling like we were putting our money where our mouth was. Yeah, but as far, and I’ll talk more about that later, but as far as you know, why it’s important I, you know, I think that we need to be very honest with ourselves about the fact as employers, as an industry, money is a huge factor in people’s lives. I don’t think, I don’t know that anybody can really deny that. And, and keeping candidates in the dark about a role’s salary is, you know, at, at best gamesmanship and at worst just deceptive, you know? And, and so we, we feel like, you know, if we, if we don’t want to be an industry made up of people for whom money is not a concern, and I think we’re all working for, you know, to be in a more diverse, more representative place. Yeah. That this is a really important way that we do that. So, you know, there’s, that’s the sort of, that’s the values-based, sort of philosophical answer. From an operation from an operational perspective, let me tell you as a person who does hiring every day for a wide range of roles, marketing, development, and executive leadership, all in arts organizations, we have a much better time hiring when we can have fully transparent conversations with, with candidates. They know what they’re getting into. They feel respected, they feel honored. And it’s just a smoother process with a whole lot less wasted time. So it’s, it, we’re grateful that we’ve been able to make this, this change. We’re proud of it and we’ve gotten a lot of great response to it, as well.

Priya Iyer: Yeah. I, two things that you said there that I wanna pull out. One, just this idea of acknowledging that money is a factor. I think oftentimes in our industry, there’s a, there’s a love for the industry that drives all of us, you know? But that doesn’t mean that money isn’t also a factor, right? And so I, I, I wanna pull that out. And the other thing that I, the other word I really enjoyed that you used is “honored.” That, that word, this idea that there’s a feeling of honor going through this process, having that information. That’s, that’s really interesting. And I like that framing and that, that perspective of what it could feel like to have the transparency and what that might do for, for somebody else going through it.

Tom O’Connor: And thanks, thanks for pulling that out. And I, and I mean, the honor piece is huge for me because I do think that we have, I’ve mentioned similar things to you about this in the past, but I do think we have in the past really relied as on in our organizations on what I have called sort of the “passion pay gap,” like where we just sort of expect people to, to do the work for less, cuz they love the artistic product, and I get where that comes from. It doesn’t come from a deceptive place, but it has turned into a serious pay inequity in our business, not just in relation to the, for-profit world, which I think we probably all kind of expect, but within, within role-to-role within organizations, you know, we need to just try to try to minimize that kind of inconsistency and make sure that there’s a level playing field, even within organizations.

Priya Iyer: Yeah, absolutely. That’s great. So, in your statement, one thing that I, I deeply appreciated is just the empathy that you presented for arts organizations and sort of where they are in this journey. I’m actually, I’m gonna, I’m gonna read part of this statement that you rolled out cause I think the words are really powerful. So you say, “We acknowledge that not all organizations are prepared for salary transparency at this moment for different reasons and we respect every organization where they are.” This is just such important perspective, the idea that this is not meant to be some sort of universal truth for every single person, every single organization, every single moment. But instead, that you made a decision that aligns, to your point, with your values, the values of your business in particular, in this moment in time. And so with that in mind, I’d love to just unpack that a little bit. Can you talk about some of the barriers that you’ve seen that you’ve observed that arts organizations might face in trying to make a similar change or trying to make a move in the same direction that you have?

Tom O’Connor: Well, I will, I will start with the fact that like most things, the barriers to this, I think, are often rooted in fear. And I, and I think that identifying where that fear lives in the organization is an important part of understanding the health of that organization. And I should say, too, that the work that we do goes well beyond hiring and we’re focused on organizational health in so many ways that I, I get to look at this from a variety of different vantage points, but the fear I think that people have is on a couple of levels. On the sort of most kind of virtuous level. I think it’s, you know, maybe that organization is in the midst of kind of recalibrating salaries and they feel like they’re, they’re sort of a little too early for them to be speaking publicly or acknowledging publicly what a salary for a role is because it’s gonna cause some sort of internal disparity to be inflamed before they’ve sort of leveled those things out, which is fully understandable. In some cases, I think organizations are just embarrassed by what they can afford. While yes, obviously I wish they could afford more and if they can afford more, I hope that they will put, give the money that, that, or dedicate the funds that that role is worth. But I understand that perspective and some organizations just need to be upfront about that. There might be either early-career person or somebody who’s transitioning careers that might be interested in something and could, could make that leap. But but that’s often the case, but I would say the sort of what I would refer to as the less virtuous barrier to it that we, we see with some regularity, not with our clients often, but, but sometimes, is folks just trying to pay as little as they possibly can, trying to pay as little as, as they can get away with, frankly, trying to improve bargaining power. You know, there is, as, as I said, in that statement on our website, you know, there is a really common refrain we hear that, “If we list the salary publicly, then everybody’s just gonna ask for the top of the range.” I’m here to categorically tell you that is false. That is, you know, recruit for a wide range of roles with a wide range of salaries in a lot of different geo geographic locations. And that is never the case. And also, you know, as I mentioned before, there are people who are in the process of recalibrating their internal pay scales to get parity. There are some organizations that want to just keep that where it is as long as they possibly can. And that I think is, is a really toxic long-term process or sister system to have in place when it comes to the long-term health of an organization. Over the last, you know, four or five years we’ve been, we’ve been advocating for this and there’s really been a sea change. I don’t think anybody will be surprised to hear it. There’s really been a sea change in the last couple of years. And I extend a lot of gratitude to the, to the activists in this work that are, you know, across a lot of different industries because we all know from, from reading articles and studies and whatnot that the downstream effects of, of this kind of lack of transparency, disproportionately affects women, people of color. And, and we wanna make sure that, you know, from, from an equity standpoint that this kind of work can, can really address all parts of the system and all, and all, all points of the system in terms of the different intersectional identities that we’re trying to represent in our workforce.

Priya Iyer: Yeah. there’s, there’s something that you said earlier, there could be an embarrassment for what for what’s actually possible. And I feel like the root of that is shame, just people feeling that shame for what actually is possible. And I also really like this point of parity or equity within our industry and what that means for, you know, not, not necessarily sitting here and comparing to what’s possible in for-profit side, this for-profit side of things or in other industries, but really being, being held accountable to what equity means within our space, within our industry and holding ourselves to that level.

Tom O’Connor: And just to say you know, parity does not necessarily mean everything has to be uniform across the board either. I mean, there’s so many variables by market, by role, by revenue responsibilities. I mean, all these kinds of things, depending on the organization. So, there’s still within that a lot of room for variation and I have no hesitation or embarrassment or reluctance to explain that to candidates who are looking at different roles in sizing them up, but we have to be able to do that with all of the facts on the table.

Priya Iyer:Yeah. Making an informed decision or having an informed conversation. That’s great. So you made this decision that again, aligns with the values of your business and, and where you are right now. So I’d love to shift to hear a little bit more about how you see this decision in the context of your business.

Tom O’Connor: Well, I’m glad you, you really framed it around our values, cause that really is where it came from. And it’s something we’ve been thinking about for quite a while. I always say, and I always feel that values have very little to do with what we say and everything to do with what we tolerate. And I think that there is in, in this case, this is a very clear example of that, where there was a time when I was, you know, we were working very closely with clients to, to, to push them in this direction. And, and not always were not always successful. And, and the tone of that, the tone of those searches would change dramatically in terms of the kinds of conversations we were having with candidates in terms of the, the, the kind of inherent defensiveness that comes, that, that you have to sort of put up with candidates who, who do feel strongly about this particular point. And we agree with them and so how do we, as a, you know, from a values standpoint, have those conversations? Obviously, we’re professionals, we’re not going to speak all of our, of our clients, who again, are not always doing this out of some out of malice or anything like that. It’s just a policy. But there was more and more of a disconnect as we thought about it. And, you know, to really ask my team who have been, you know, working their tails off to find folks for these roles, we’re recruiting for, to do something that’s out of line with what our, what our company values are felt like we were just, we weren’t walking the talk and, and it just more and more felt like that was not something I could abide. But you know, make no mistake. You know, we’re not doing this just to feel good about ourselves. We will, we will lose money over this and you know, I’m positive about it, or, but, but I’m fine with that. You know, we are, we are, I mean, on a crass level, we’re fortunate enough to be in demand to the point that we can be selective about who we work with, but even when that’s no longer true someday, which happens to everybody, , I will be fine with this decision because it means we’re sticking to our values. It means we’re making for a better field. Otherwise, I don’t really see the point of doing this work. You know, all of us, no matter, no matter what our position is in the arts field, all of us, if we really wanted to, could be taking our skills to a more lucrative field, , you know, we are, we are doing this because we care about this, this work we care about this industry. And, and to me, that’s, that’s just more important.

Priya Iyer: Yeah. That’s really powerful. That’s not, there’s not every day that there are decisions that become roots like that, that, you know, weren’t there from the beginning. And just the clarity that you have in that is, is just so strong. And I, I really appreciate that.

Tom O’Connor: Thanks for saying so. And, and I also just wanna say, you know, I’m conscious of the fact that we exist in a different position in the field than a lot of the arts leaders who are running organizations where you know, who are hiring these roles. I mean, we’re working on their behalf, but they’re working, you know, in, within the organizations. I wonder, you know, if we have a particular vantage point on all of this, because we are very proactively reaching out to people and talking to them about these roles and, and trying to persuade them, frankly, to come work in these organizations, you know, we get that feedback in a very different way that you don’t, that is not necessarily evident in the sort of silence in a hiring inbox, in an HR office. You know, like, if people are not applying for a role, you don’t always know why. With us, with us, we almost always know why, because we’re having those conversations and we’re closer to the ground in terms of doing that kind of active outreach. And so we, we get that feedback directly. We, we have those human connections with people and, and it, it all just becomes very clear. So, you know, that’s that in a way, while it’s a function of our work is also a real benefit we have. So we are grateful to be able to pass that perspective on to the field at large.

Priya Iyer: Yeah. I’m, I’m glad that you mentioned that position, that you’re in, in terms of being able to receive feedback directly from clients who are looking to leave their companies. And I’d love to now shift our conversation a little bit to just some of the insights, some of the things that you’ve learned, the other factors that perhaps you’ve noticed contributing bigger-picture to this idea of the Great Resignation and this point that we’re in. You know, as you’re having conversations with these candidates, what are some other themes that you’re seeing contribute to people’s desire to leave, or just difficulties around retention?

Tom O’Connor:I will try not to deliver you an entirely new podcast episode with this topic (laughs). Cause I could, I could go in a lot of different directions to this, so I’m gonna, I’m gonna pick a few, but you know, I’m, I’m not going to try and summarize what economists who are much better educated than I am, would tell you about the sort of macroeconomic factors at play in our economy right now. But from my vantage point in the arts, you know, I, I would, I put the Great Resignation, so called, into a few, into a few different buckets. Realistically just the way that our, the way that our workforce works, the way that, the way that you know, advancement happens within our field and in a lot of fields, you know, people have to change jobs to advance. And there was a lot of fear about changing jobs during the pandemic. And people are now making the choice to say, “Okay, it’s time for me to make a move and, and get something better that gets better pay, that gets greater responsibility.” All of that, there’s that. There is also the bucket of what I would call—I’m I’m prone to alliteration. So please, and just, you know, you can just try to try to groan silently, but you know, you know, what I call sort of like the “exhale and exit effect” and what I mean by that is like, you know, I’ve worked in a lot of arts organizations before I started a consulting firm and I have worked in organizations that have opened new theaters, that have gone through major capital campaigns that have gone through really large projects that on the other side of them, the staff sort of can often stop and say like, “Okay, I climbed that mountain. I need to take a breath and find the next mountain and go do something else.” Or they just need a break and they wanna do something else. And so that is a phenomenon that we see in organizations quite often when they’re on the other side of a major capital project or things like that. The whole field has just gone through something like that in trying to get through COVID. I mean, the truly Herculean efforts of leaders at all levels of organizations at workers at all level of organizations to get through COVID in one piece is major. And so, you know, to, to be on the other to be, we’re not on the other side of it entirely, obviously, but anybody who’s seen the number of cancellations just in the past week knows that. But we are at a place where I think a lot of people are feeling like, okay, the “worst” of it has passed and it’s time to think about something new. But the last sort of bucket that I think about is to me most important, it may not be the biggest, it may not be the largest, but, but to me, it’s the most important, which is something that I’ve written a little bit about, about the way that I frame the Great Resignation is that I think of it as sort of the great boundary-setting that I think, and it kind of comes back to what we were talking about before with like the passion pay gap and all those kinds of things. But I think that a lot of folks are either finding another organization or leaving the business entirely because of the working conditions of the organization in which they work. And I think that that’s …and I’m not saying this is every organization by any means. I’ve worked in some wonderful organizations. And I work with a lot of wonderful organizations. However, I’m well aware that there are a lot of organizations in which the employee morale is incredibly low because of the conditions in which they work, not just during COVID, but because of bad behavior that’s tolerated, because of the way that you know, leadership treats them, because of, you know, complete lack of work-life balance, and needing to need to work constantly to sort of, you know, in support of the art at all costs. And they’re sort of just seen as a cog in a wheel. And I think that there are a lot of folks who are pretty tired of that. And during COVID, I’m not, I’m not by any means minimizing the incredible financial challenges that organizations had. I counseled CEOs and presidents of organizations through the whole pandemic. And there were a lot of really hard conversations to be had. But there are a lot of folks who, who looked and said, like, “I spent, I’ve spent the last many years, you know, serving this art form. And, and during this time of crisis, I, that was not enough to sort of, you know, keep me on board. I, I lost my, my salary. I was furloughed,” whatever. And again, to a lot of the times, those decisions were totally understandable and they were the right decision for that organization, but it just adjusts people’s priorities in a way that allows them and sort of forces them to reevaluate the boundaries of what they’re, what they’re willing to give to that organization. Yeah. So in any event, that’s, to me, the biggest one we need to grapple with as a field, particularly where it’s the, where it’s, you know, in the category of working conditions, and I think that’s a, a major thing we do have control over, we can tackle as a field.

Priya Iyer: Yeah. I, this idea of, of work-life balance, I, I feel is, is such a, such a big one these days, just given what the past two years has looked like. In my opinion, in my life, it has always, that has always been a big factor. But I think especially now, this idea of the space and rest that we need to function as human beings, given what the past two years has looked like, I feel like the need for work-life balance, and just the consideration of how you spend the pie chart of your lifetime is just more prevalent than ever. And that, that just, that really resonates with me. One thing that I think is really interesting is that we just spent all of this time talking about salary and salary was not one of those big buckets that you just brought up. And I just, I wanna highlight that because I think that that’s really worth noting. It, it doesn’t that, that isn’t the trend necessarily that you are observing and, and that, it’s more about these other bigger picture ideas that are affecting our industry and just affecting us as human beings. So I just, I think that that’s really, really interesting and I think perhaps reinforces or perhaps could even take away some of the fear that we were talking about earlier. That’s not necessarily what it is that people are trying to run away from. It seems like there are some bigger picture things at play there.

Tom O’Connor: Yeah. I mean, it certainly may be a part of the larger economic forces in play, but I think that from the things that people will logically convey about what is influencing their decisions right now, the only time salary comes into play is when they’re, at least in my world, is when they’re looking to advance and they feel like it’s time for them to level up, you know, it’s not, it’s not, it’s not always, it’s not always the first thing,

Priya Iyer: You know. Yeah. Yeah. So one more thing that I’d love to talk about is hiring practices and how that plays into retention, plays into the perception of an employee of the culture of the organization that they work for. How do you see a company’s hiring practices playing into that for an existing employee when it comes to retention and culture?

Tom O’Connor: I mean, I think that there is a big difference between hiring people to complete tasks and hiring people who are also in alignment with a vision, you know? And I think that they obviously need to complete the tasks, you know, they have a job to do, but they need to align with a vision and to get to that there are no magical interview questions. It takes sort of, you know, intention. I mean, there are great interview questions and we use all of them, of course, of course , but it takes, but it takes the sort of intentional design of a process, you know, that where, you know, in terms of who that person gets to meet, who that, you know, how much that process, again, coming back to the word, the “honor” word, how the much that process honors, that person’s decision as much as the organization’s decision says a lot about that company. And so I, I want to also be intentional to say that I, I really try to refrain from talking about culture fit. I use the word culture a lot, but not culture fit because every company has a culture. But it should be a responsive one that welcomes and otherwise, all the diversity initiatives in the world are just an invitation to assimilate into this, into this, into this culture. And I think that, you know, hiring process says a lot to a person about the company’s real values in that area as well. And so that, and that tells you whether this is a place where I can, you know, not to rip off Brené Brown, but I will, because I do it every day. You know, is this a place where I’m going to belong or is it a place where I’m going to fit in sort to be forced into a, into a, into a box? And I think that that really says a lot to people. But yeah, I mean, since we’re all arts people, presumably all arts people listening to this, you know, I really liken sort of hiring and onboarding practices to that sort of first experience of attending an arts event or company or venue or whatever, you know, the show has to be really good for you to forget that you had a bad experience at the box office or with the ushers or all that kind of thing. And if you’re hiring process on the way in was, was treating you sort of like you were on an assembly line or that it wasn’t honoring your, your life decisions, the time that you need to make decisions, you know, what, what the information is, that’s going to be key to that decision making process. It says a lot about your value to that company.

Priya Iyer: Yeah. That one really resonates for me, especially when it comes to the time you need to make the decision. I talk to so many friends who are going through the process of interviews and trying to decide what their next job will be. And just this pressure, this urgency that I feel is, is put on that process oftentimes. And the, you know, when you, when you bring the word honor into it, it should be a no-brainer to, you know, be able to take the time that you need to make a decision. And of course there are the needs on both sides, right? The needs of course, of the organization you’re going to, and your needs as an individual. But I think oftentimes it’s easy to throw the individual needs out the door in order to completely bend over backwards for the needs of an organization. And that doesn’t resonate with the word honor. Yeah. So I, you know, that, that, yeah, that makes a lot of sense to me.

Tom O’Connor: And I, and I’m sympathetic to folks who have that sense of urgency, although learn, you know, learning to counter it with, with, with another, another thought in your own mind will go a long way because you know, that I’m, I mean, I’m an employer, I have a team and I’ve, and I always, I’m always in a place where, you know, it’d be nice for the person to start when they need to start, but I know that an employee is a long term investment. They’re not a tool they’re, they’re, they’re a long-term investment in a person. And, and if the time that it takes for that person to make that decision or to start, or any of those kinds of things is what it takes and that’s gonna, that’s gonna start them off on the right foot. It’s worth it, you know? Yeah. And it’s the same reason why, you know, I encourage every employee that’s joining my team to take a week off between their, their old job and this job because yeah. We want them to, we want them to know that that’s a, a part of our values for them to, to be, to be fresh. It doesn’t mean they’re not gonna work hard and sometimes too hard for brief periods of time. Yeah, but it’s, but it’s, but it’s about how you set that tone from the outset.

Priya Iyer: Yeah. Yeah, absolutely. The responsibility on both sides, not just on the individual. We’re coming to the end of our time together as sad as I am, because I feel like I could talk to you for hours about several offshoots from this conversation.

Tom O’Connor: but I was gonna say, I feel like I’ve had, I’ve had, I’ve been on your podcast a few times and I’ve talked about completely different things every time. And it’s kinda fun to come back and talk about this.

Priya Iyer: I know, I know, perhaps I’ll, I’ll make you stay with me here off the air and continue to talk. But for our listeners we are now at our CI to Eye moment. So if you could broadcast one piece of advice to the leadership teams, staff, and boards of thousands of arts organizations, what would you want them to know right now?

Tom O’Connor: I think I would first want to zoom out and talk about what we’re really talking about when we’re talking about these topics. And that is basically our focus as a firm, which is organizational health for the arts Organizations that really care about their communities and do so authentically, I think, need to acknowledge that the people within their organization are the core of their community, not the servants of their community. And so, you know, the health of our field and the health of our organizations are directly tied to the health of our people that work with us and for us and our teams. So we started, we started this conversation talking about salary transparency, and that is sort of one tactic on a long list of ways. We can honor the lived experience of these people who work in this field and give so much to it. I hope that we can keep going and not stop there because I think that on the, on the other side of what we’re going through right now with COVID and all the massive disruption in our field and in our world that is what is gonna see us through, you know, the, the people that are, that are quote still here and the people that are, that, that come here.

Priya Iyer: Thank you, Tom. This has been such an inspiring conversation.

Tom O’Connor: It is my pleasure always Priya. Thank you. (Musical transition)

Erik Gensler: Thank you for listening to CI to Eye! We’re your hosts, Erik Gensler…

Priya Iyer: …and Priya Iyer! CI to Eye is edited and produced by MP and co-written by MP and Krisi Packer. Stephanie Medina and Jess Berube are CI to Eye’s designers and video editors, and all four work together to create CI’s digital content.

Erik Gensler: This week, you heard from Madelyn Frascella, Ally Duffey Cubilette, Natalie Martinez, Rachel Purcell, and Tom O’Connor.

Priya Iyer: Our music is by whoisuzo. Special thanks to Sam Kindler, Christopher Williams, and the whole CI team.

Erik Gensler: Follow us on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Twitter for regular content to help you market smarter and if you haven’t already, please click the subscribe button wherever you get your podcasts.

Priya Iyer: And sign up for our newsletter at so you never miss an update or new content.

Erik Gensler: Until next time, thank you for listening!

About Our Guests
Ally Duffey Cubilette
Ally Duffey Cubilette
Principal Consultant, Capacity Interactive

Ally Duffey Cubilette joined Capacity Interactive after receiving an M.B.A. with a concentration in arts administration from the Bolz Center for Arts Administration at the Wisconsin School of Business. Before that, she worked in marketing and fundraising for non-profit performing arts organizations, including the Cunningham Dance Foundation, Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet, Pilobolus, and Overture Center for the Arts.

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Madelyn Frascella
Madelyn Frascella
Senior Consultant, Capacity Interactive

Madelyn Frascella is a Senior Consultant at Capacity Interactive specializing in search marketing. She works across teams and heads up search campaigns for clients as well as supports professional development internally. Prior to CI, she spent many years working at a music PR firm representing award-winning musicians. Madelyn earned a BA from NYU and currently lives in Brooklyn. Outside of work, she is a devoted cat parent, a community theater performer, and an amateur seamstress.

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Natalie Martinez
Natalie Martinez
Consultant, Capacity Interactive

Natalie Martinez is a Digital Marketing Consultant and TikTok Specialist at Capacity Interactive. She joined the team after graduating from Fordham University & completing the Capacity Interactive internship program. Natalie spends the majority of her time working across Meta, GoogleAds & Datorama, but she also serves as a trusted resource to her CI colleagues for all things TikTok. Outside of work, you can find her playing volleyball, listening to show tunes, training her dog, and taking on DIY projects!

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Rachel Purcell
Rachel Purcell
Senior Consultant, Capacity Interactive

Rachel Purcell is a Senior Consultant at CI. She serves as a Facebook Platform Specialist in addition to her client work. She is a bona fide theater kid who enjoys long walks with her pup.

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Tom O'Connor
Tom O'Connor
President, Tom O'Connor Consulting Group

Tom O’Connor is the President of Tom O’Connor Consulting Group, providing arts and culture organizations with strategic leadership toward organizational health. TOCG offers a mix of organizational development, marketing strategy, executive search, and coaching services. Tom is also on the faculty of the Yale Theater Management program and a licensed social worker.

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