Recruitment and Retention Strategies

As we recently worked through The Importance of Employee Retention, we looked at just a few of the direct costs that have such a significant impact on an organization’s bottom line when voluntary turnover is high. Now let’s start digging into some critical steps we can take to make each of our organizations a place great team members rarely want to leave AND a place that the best people in our industries WANT to come to work!

Before we get rolling though, I need to make a few statements that I really hope aren’t at all necessary: Building this kind of reputation for any organization will take ongoing effort! This will take time and commitment. It will also be somewhat difficult to achieve but far easier to ruin. When we get it right though, the juice will absolutely be worth the squeeze!

I’ve already shared what John Maxwell says accounts for as much as 65% of all voluntary turnover, people leaving their managers, and we’ve looked at why leadership development is important when we’re working to resolve that issue. But if we want to build a reputation for being somewhere the best team members want to stay and great people want to become a part of, we can’t stop with only developing our current leaders. We need to create an atmosphere where every single individual has opportunities to develop themselves; their technical expertise and the soft skills that will be so critical as they have a bigger and bigger impact on the people around them.

One of the biggest concerns I’ve ever heard about providing opportunities for team members to grow has been that they might take those new skills the company just paid for and go to work for a competitor. My immediate response has ALWAYS been to emphasize that there’s only one thing worse than training someone and having them leave: not training them and having them STAY!!! Then you’re stuck with people that your competitors don’t want...

Seriously though, making the investment to grow our team members not only provides them with the skill development they need to progress in their career, it shows them that we see value in them as individuals and that we believe in them. More often than not, showing this kind of value yields far more results than just what they can apply from any particular training session; it creates a level of buy-in that’s rarely achieved when we’re not intentional about showing how much we value them. Then we just need to treat them with respect and make sure we reward them for their higher levels of performance. If we’re doing those things, it will be really tough for a competitor to lure them away!

Don’t get me wrong here, I’m not suggesting that we throw money at tools and training blindly with hopes of buying them off. Notice I always refer to training and development as an investment, not an expense or even a cost of doing business. The purpose of any investment is to gain a tangible return. Developing our team is no different. Not only should these investments have a measurable impact on our voluntary turnover rates, we should also be able to see a positive impact on productivity and overall profitability.

As we solidify this kind of reputation, and we’re able to develop and keep great team members, we’ll begin to see this impact our recruitment process in a few different ways.

One Way Employee Retention Impacts Recruiting...

In making the move from just focusing on the importance of employee retention to looking at practical recruitment and retention strategies, we can never really afford to take our eye off the ball with regards to creating the type of culture that keeps great people onboard and engaged! 

I’ve seen organizations be incredibly hesitant to invest time and resources into intentionally building up the individuals on their team and increasing their compensation accordingly, and having to fill entry level positions over and over and over again. I’ve also seen organizations that adhere to extremely stringent timelines and procedures before even considering a pay raise. Many times, the companies doing either (or both) of those things also struggle to attract solid candidates for the roles they need to fill. Sometimes a company may even offer crazy sign-on bonuses to reel candidates in, but the holes in their process for career growth keep those same candidates from ever becoming a real part of the team. Every now and then though, we see an organization that’s a true over-achiever; doing every single one of these things at the same time!

Several years ago as part of a LIVE2LEAD:Harrisonburg event that Cindy and I hosted, I heard Dave Ramsey refer to someone who had been on his sales team but struggled in the delivery by saying “they were catching them, they just couldn’t clean them.” Every time I think of that, I picture the scene from Office Space where the main character cleans a fish on his desk… I don’t think that was the picture Dave was trying to paint, but that’s where my mind went!

When it comes to recruiting talent, the best on the market or even a warm body to plug a hole, it’s really not that different from Ramsey’s issue with his salesman. Even if we’re consistently reeling in candidates that would be considered to be a great catch, things will start to stink if we can’t clean them; more specifically, if we don’t have a culture in place that they want to stay with more than just a short period of time. An amazing ad, a great recruiting pitch, or a big upfront bonus might get initial attention but none of those things carry much weight for long.

When we build a culture that our best team members appreciate and want to stick with over the long haul, we’ll also see it have a direct impact on our recruiting process! First and foremost, creating a good environment prevents a revolving door! That’s often as simple as providing fair wages, reasonable working conditions, and sharing a basic level of appreciation for the work that's being done. The best companies build on those things, but it all really begins there… When there’s no revolving door that’s spinning so fast that it’s throwing people out the other side, there’s far less pressure for heavy recruiting; the need for big sign-on bonuses goes away, the big bucks on ads eases up, and we just don’t need to promise the moon the fill a spot. 

With solid employee retention strategies, we just don’t need to fill as many open positions! This even allows us to be more selective with who we place in a role rather than just checking their pulse. And as we continue building a culture that keeps great people engaged, some of them even help in the recruiting process!

Another Way Employee Retention Impacts Recruiting... 

Once we’ve invested the time and energy into building a culture that our best team members are proud to be a part of and rarely choose to leave, the costs we incur in the recruiting process drop just because we’re not constantly chasing another warm body to fill a hole. But this is also when we start seeing something else that has a tremendous impact on the effort we have to put into our recruiting process...

When we’ve built a culture that team members buy into, we show them genuine appreciation for what they contribute, and we provide them with competitive wages for the service they deliver, they’re almost always excited to share that story with the best people they know. Think about it, how many times have you been with a friend you respect and heard them share some sort of frustration about the organization they’re working for? Isn’t it natural to want to help them out if we can, especially if we know they’re a good person with a strong work ethic who would be a good fit?

Now think about this from a recruiting perspective… The hiring process is tough! Anyone who says otherwise would likely lie to us about other things too. The time we have to make a decision as to whether or not a candidate has the skill set we need and would be a good fit for our culture is pretty limited. And even then, there will be cases where the person we hire doesn’t even resemble the person we interviewed.

When we’re fortunate enough to get a solid referral from a current employee who’s already earned our trust, how much more confidence do we typically have as we go through the hiring process with the candidate they referred? Yep, that’s absolutely rhetorical… A referral takes quite a bit of stress out of the process!

But a referral brings something else too… Think of a time where a friend has introduced you to a new business contact. Out of appreciation for our friend sticking their neck out on our behalf, don’t we usually go out of our way to make sure we honor that introduction? When our best team members refer candidates they know and trust, those candidates (almost always) want to do right by their friend. It’s kinda like peer pressure but in a good way!!!

A solid referral pipeline can have some challenges too, like having more great candidates than we have open positions, but that’s usually easier to deal with than struggling to find someone with a pulse who may or may not pass a drug test. The one real issue we need to be alert to when we have a great referral process is maintaining the kind of diversity we need to have to be a world class organization. I realize diversity and inclusion are hot media topics today. I’m not talking about checking boxes; I’m talking about the kind of diversity that truly drives continuous improvement and best-in-class thinking. (We cover this in detail in the third lesson of our Recruitment, Retention, & Culture course in a way that most people have never considered!)

When great people want to stay with us AND they actively recruit the best people they know to join our team, we start to see a third thing impacting our recruitment process! We’ll look at that next… But first, let me stress one final thing: notice I didn’t mention ANYTHING about referral bonuses. While I’m not suggesting those are completely evil, I truly believe that building a culture that people are proud to be part of and refer their friends to provides them far more value than throwing a few bucks at them for talking someone into applying...

A Good Name is Better Than...

As we’ve worked through some recruitment and retention strategies, we’ve really dug into the importance of creating an atmosphere the best people rarely choose to leave and we’ve looked at how that has a direct impact on getting them engaged in the recruitment process. When we do that over a long enough period of time, momentum begins to kick in! By that time, someone on the outside looking in could easily believe the entire cycle simply fell into place…

In reality though, being intentional about investing the proper time, energy, and resources into developing our existing team members and building up the new ones that come onboard, all while showing genuine appreciation for what each individual contributes, can be incredibly hard! While I could certainly argue that doing this requires significantly less cumulative effort and yields vastly better results than continuously filling a revolving door with candidates, each single action is always more difficult than not taking the action to begin with…

Eventually though, each of those intentional investments into building a great culture within the organization will get some attention outside the organization as well. And it’s amazing to see how a company’s reputation impacts the way great candidates respond!

In the mid 90s, I submitted an application to work at a local manufacturing facility. I knew next to nothing about what I would do there but I did know a bunch of folks who had been there longer than I had been alive and I knew the company rarely had open positions. I worked there several years before my age was finally equal to the average seniority in the facility! For a long time, employee referrals played a large role in the candidate pipeline. There had always been stretches of significant overtime required. The place ALWAYS got extremely hot through the summer months. And you could count on a healthy dose or rumors on any given day. But for the first 16 years I worked in that facility, the majority of the management team worked at leading effectively; most of them expressed appreciation and genuinely cared about the team members working for them. When several new managers took over though, things changed quickly. Relationships didn’t seem to matter; if appreciation was there, no one felt it; and the pipeline of employee referrals nearly dried up.

Benjamin Franklin said, “It takes many good deeds to build a good reputation, and only one bad one to lose it.” That facility had a 35 year history of being a good place to earn a living when I was hired. That reputation remained largely intact for the next decade and a half. But it took less than six months for all that to change internally, and it wasn’t long after that until I started hearing it from people around the community any time I wore a shirt or coat with the company logo.

Proverbs 22:1 says “A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches.” When it comes to recruitment and retention strategies, I believe that an organization will spend great riches to find and keep employees if those in leadership roles aren’t willing to build a culture that yields a good name. All too often, recruitment and retention is viewed as the sole responsibility of the human resource department. I call BS! Each person with leadership responsibility within the organization carries some of that weight, whether they realize it or not. We built our lesson on How Top Leaders Set the Tone for Recruitment & Retention to shine a light on just that! Then we build on that in each of the three lessons of our Recruitment, Retention, & Culture course… If you’re not familiar with either, I recommend checking to see if the next time we offer that complimentary webinar fits your schedule...

Do You Need to Attract & Keep Top Talent for Your Organization?

Regardless of what the economy is doing at any given time, some organizations always have a pipeline of the best candidates just waiting to come on board. More often than not, this is a result of those companies having a strong leadership culture that people want to be a part of.

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This lesson has been approved for Continuing Education credit through SHRM and HRCI. All continuing education codes will be provided to the participants once they've complete the assessment that will be detailed at the end of the webinar. Contact [email protected] with any questions.

Participants in this complimentary session will also get access to an exclusive offer on our new digital course on Recruitment, Retention, & Culture, which has been approved for continuing education credit through SHRM, HRCI, and the National Association of Long Term Care Administrator Boards (NAB/NCERS).

Learn How Top Leaders Set the Tone for Recruitment & Retention!

Not only does strong leadership attract great talent, it keeps that talent on the team and engaged! This complimentary webinar looks at why people join organizations as well as why they leave, and provides key steps top leaders can take to build this into all levels of their organization and have a direct impact on recruitment & retention.

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This lesson is for educational use only. You alone are responsible for implementing the steps necessary to become an effective leader at each new level in your career. While we will share things that we've seen make an amazing impact in numerous organizations, we can't take action for you. By registering for this or any of our courses, you accept complete and total responsibility for taking action to apply what we share in your own role and for making a positive impact on each individual you lead!