We have said it before and will undoubtedly say it again; recruitment and retention are two sides of the same coin. If you are looking to improve your retention, first review your recruitment process. We have compiled a list of 9 ways to improve your in-house recruitment process.
This is a matter both of having an appropriate job specification and making sure you’ve a clear understanding of what is appropriate for your business at this stage in your evolution. The job spec itself should clearly reference the ideal candidate’s technical skills, character and potential for development. You need to offer a salary appropriate to the market. If the salary you are offering is not competitive, consider what you are prepared to compromise on in the candidate, such as where your internal capacity is to train and develop a candidate.
Top talent isn’t the same for every business. A small growing company needs entirely different people to a large and more stable one and different types of people are needed throughout a company’s evolution. When it is small and growing, a company needs people who will take on different tasks, pick up skills quickly, work well in a disparate team, do their own tasks and someone else’s without objecting, and most importantly will share the vision for the company’s growth. As a company grows its needs change and often the people that are needed are entirely different. Responsiveness gives way to processes and procedures which can make “small company” people feel restricted.
Advertising is critical as it attracts people who are actively looking for a new challenge, but proactive methods are increasingly important to create links with people who are not actively on the market. It is a generalisation, but one that usually bears out – these are the people who are most likely to be the movers and shakers. They are too busy doing a great job to be on the job market. They are also less likely to turn down your offer in favour of another and they are more likely to recommend your role to other people if it isn’t right for them. Social Media can play a very important role in finding both active and passive candidates, dependent on the type and level of the position, although this is a large enough subject to leave for a future post!
Employer branding is critical and behind employer branding is the employee value proposition, or EVP. How you design and present your EVP, and business to the market has a very real impact on whether candidates want to work for you. We have worked with an extremely well-known e-tailer whose working practices and environment are stressful, to say the least, and which systematically fails to reward its employees adequately, both in financial and non-financial terms. People moan and groan about how hard their lives are, but their affinity with the brand is such that it remains a magnet for potential employees. No matter how badly they are treated during the interview process, people at all levels of seniority still accept jobs with the business. At the other end of the spectrum are small businesses with very little employer branding, such as management consultancies, who continually struggle to hire good people because no-one knows who they are, despite excellent working conditions and pay. It is one of life’s unfair equations.
Creating your own talent warehouse can provide the key to reducing your recruitment costs by a significant margin. Think of all of those great people that you met who weren’t quite right for your business when you first came across them. They may have been a bit too junior or had a slightly different technical focus, but from a character fit perspective they were absolutely right. Keep in touch with them, check in every now and again and make them feel part of your business. They will accept a role with you much more quickly the next time you have a vacancy that would fit them.
We work with a wide range of hiring managers with an equally wide range of interviewing skills. Sometimes less experienced hiring managers ask us to interview alongside them and help them to improve their interviewing skills. Often, though, we hear the words that we dread… “I make a decision based on my gut reaction.” After fifteen years of interviewing candidates from the most junior logistics assistants to seasoned CEOs running FTSE 30 companies, I listen to my gut, but I certainly don’t decide who will make a shortlist on that basis alone. It might inform my judgement as character fit is so critical to an appointment, but even then I make sure I understand what my instinct is telling me and why. Having a list of competency-based questions is not necessarily the answer, but knowing what you want the person to deliver in the role and what core skills the candidate needs to have should form the bedrock of an interview. After that is satisfied, take your time to get to know the candidate. Aspirations, ambitions, how they relax, working style, management style and so on are all a key part of how people will behave and get along with the rest of the team.
A close friend was recently contacted by a previous client to consider a position with their business. This is a board level role, one that attracts a serious salary and that will have a significant impact on the strategic direction of the business. He received the offer, which was generous, after two interviews, one with the hiring manager and the other with the MD. He was no wiser about whether he wanted the job, though, as neither interviewer had told him much about the role, his influence in the business or what the company’s strategic objectives were. I advised him to request a further meeting so that he could understand more about the role, the company and how he could contribute. After that meeting my friend was extremely excited about his future with the business and took the role without hesitation. It is really easy to forget that candidates are buying as well as selling, and there needs to be a reason for them to join you.
The first step in talent retention is making sure that when a new employee joins your business they are excited about doing so and remain excited at the end of their first week. This means getting contracts out promptly, talking to them after they have resigned (a stressful process in itself), making sure that they don’t have any second thoughts, keeping in touch throughout their notice period. It also means getting their desk ready and briefing their team and/or colleagues on their background so that when they arrive they are welcomed. The first few months are critical. Pay attention to them. Are they settling in well? Do they have everything they need to be productive? Is there a plan for their future development? Look after your new recruits and you will develop a stable, happy, productive workforce that becomes much more than the sum of its parts.
Ensuring that a new employee’s potential skills are maximised is really important, but don’t forget that new employees are a wealth of information about other people who might be a great fit for the business as it expands. Talk to new hires about their network. You might find the next business leader, technical champion or process guru who will set the platform for another phase in your own development.
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