What we can learn from Talia Jane’s open letter to Yelp CEO

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Not too long ago, former Yelp employee, Talia Jane, penned an open letter to CEO, Jeremy Stoppleman, regarding her struggle to live on her income. That letter was the shot heard ‘round the world,’ furthering the conversation of income disparity, educational attainment, and high cost of living in major cities. Highly controversial, Ms. Jane’s letter generated many responses– some blame and some praise. Whether you agree with Talia or not, there are several items that leaders can take away from this public snafu.

Keep your frontline engaged

Young workers starting out in the workforce know they won’t be raking in 6-figure salaries their first year out of college. They do, however, desire to make positive contributions to their workplace. It’s key that employers take care to tap into that good will. Entry-level positions may not exactly be glamorous, but leaders can encourage workforce newbies to get involved in the operations. If they have ideas, be careful to listen and not sound dismissive. Successful organizations achieve their accolades through the competency of their employees. The fact that these workers want to contribute to their organizations is a positive thing– so don’t squander their enthusiasm.

Keep room for growth on the table

The primary issues in Talia’s letter were income and advancement. Up and coming workers typically join organizations with aspirations to move up within the ranks. Consider this,  the average student loan debt at $35,000, recent college grads are feeling the ball and chain of their higher education pursuits. Add in the fact that the median salary range for entry-level jobs is $48,707, workforce newbies begin their professional lives with the cards stacked against them. In short, Gen Y employees do not want to stay in entry-level positions for too long. While a year in a role is reasonable, if the employee is not given a roadmap of the advancement process, it can seem like an eternity. Check in with your aspiring workers about promotion opportunities. Develop their skill sets so they can attain those positions. Young workers will stand behind a company that is truly promoting from within.

Keep lines of communication open

As we’ve previously discussed, no company culture is without the occasional conflict. Employees should feel free to voice concerns and communicate with their leaders. Judging from Talia’s letter, that didn’t happen. If your employees feel as though they cannot go to leadership with concerns in the workplace, they will seek a solution elsewhere– which could spell trouble for your organization’s reputation. This is where emotionally intelligent leaders are especially needed. As a leader, you set the climate for interactions at work. Maintaining a culture of collaboration and communication ensures that your people feel valued and in turn, will align their goals with that of the company’s.

Bottom line

In this digital age, leaders have to make sure their ‘houses’ are in order. It’s not only about looking bad publicly, but more so keeping your employees engaged and content. Your people are there to advance your organization, so treat them well. Nurture their ambition, give them opportunities to advance, and most importantly, listen to your workforce. In doing so, you and your team are on the same page, leading to a better workplace overall.

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