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Retention begins with good recruitment

May 21, 2017

By Dan Van Slambrook, courtesy of SBAM Approved Partner ASE

There is an old recruiting joke that describes a man who passes away, and as he arrives at the “pearly gates,” is given the option of touring both Heaven and Hell before he decides where to spend all eternity. To his surprise, in Hell he is greeted by the jubilant sounds of celebration, with everyone laughing and appearing to have a grand time.  By contrast, Heaven, with its harp music and gently floating angels, seems bland and boring.  The next day he professes his desire to spend eternity in the more lively and entertaining underworld. Upon being ushered inside, however, he is greeted not with laughter but fire, unbearable heat and miserable inhabitants.  When he asks what happened to the Hell he’d seen just the day before, the devil replies with a smirk, “Yesterday we were recruiting you.  Today, you’re on staff.”

This joke humorously depicts the experience many employees have had with enthusiastically beginning a new job, only to have their high expectations shattered when reality sets in.  Unlike the man in the joke, however, employees don’t have to spend an eternity working for an employer.  They can begin looking for another job on day one of a new position, if so inclined.   

Retention is a critical component of any talent strategy.  By some estimates, replacing a departing employee can cost the organization between 25% and 400% of that employee’s salary, when items like re-recruitment, training, lost production, lost knowledge, damaged client relationships and drains on existing personnel are factored in. In a highly competitive labor market such as we’re in currently, the cost is often intensified as employers struggle to find and afford qualified replacements.  As the saying goes, “it’s cheaper to retain than replace.”  

While most employers recognize the importance of retaining existing employees, it’s typically viewed as an initiative set in motion after a hire has taken place.  Yet in waiting until a new hire begins on-boarding, employers neglect one of the most important phases that impact retention:  recruitment.  A thorough approach to recruiting helps ensure alignment between a potential employee, the job he or she is being hired for, and the employer.  Specifically, the extent to which a candidate’s skills, abilities, personality and professional interests correspond with what the job entails and what the workplace culture holds will have a major impact on the employee’s longevity.  

To maximize the impact recruitment has on retention, focus on the following:

  • Understand the job vacancy.  Any successful hiring endeavor begins with a thorough understanding of the position.  What knowledge, skills, abilities and other characteristics are necessary to be successful in the role?  When recruiters have an accurate picture of what qualities are important, they can screen (and inform) candidates more effectively, better ensuring that new hires come to the table equipped to perform well.  Employees who feel capable and who are meeting/exceeding expectations are likely to have greater job satisfaction, leading to strong retention. 
  • Partner with hiring departments.  Recruiters need to understand the personality of not only the hiring manager, but of the department.  The better a recruiter knows the group in which a new hire will be placed, the better equipped he or she will be to identify candidates who will mesh well, and reinforce employee satisfaction.  
  • Establish what’s important to the candidate.  Ensuring that a candidate is qualified for a position is only half of the “right fit” equation.  It’s critical to learn what a candidate is seeking in a job and employer, or his/her primary motivating factors.  These factors encompass the items held most important by the job seeker and have perhaps the most profound correlation to retention.  They can vary widely among individuals, and include things such as target compensation, desired commute, promotional opportunities or work/life balance.  Understanding them on a per-candidate basis is critical to hiring someone who is most likely to stay on the job.  Inquiring in the interview about why the candidate has left previous employers, and asking him or her to rate the top three of four things that are important to them in a job are ways to uncover primary motivating factors.  
  • Provide a realistic picture to candidates.  No organization is perfect.  Yet, many employers go to lengths to give that impression, concerned that they may scare off potential talent if challenge areas are revealed.  It is important for job seekers to have a realistic preview of the job, the department, and the organization.  Providing relevant details to the candidate, and affording him or her the opportunity to ask questions and receive candid answers will lead to a more valid acceptance of a job offer – and to greater longevity with the organization.

There is no “silver bullet” that can guarantee a new hire will stay long-term.  Establishing alignment with a candidate’s capabilities and interests, however, and approaching the hiring process as a two-way street between employer and potential employee can help ensure that candidates who are brought into the organization are well-positioned for performance, job satisfaction, and ultimately, retention.   

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