Finding talented people to work for your company and retaining them has become a challenge in a highly competitive world. What usually happens is that one finds a specialist, trains them in your company’s working style and culture and, by the time they reach maximum output and efficiency, they are on their way out because some other firm has offered them better pay or career growth. If you’re a business manager, you must have experienced this.
When I was working on an ed-tech related startup, which is now a successful company, I encountered similar problems. I struggled initially – retaining talent was a particularly tough challenge, but was able to deal with the problem in a sustainable manner. In hindsight, I can say that there are certain things that employers can do to attract and retain specialists in a highly competitive environment. Let me talk about them one by one.
A company is as good as the people who run it. Or, as Marc Benioff, entrepreneur and the Chief Executive Officer of Salesforce, says, “Acquiring the right talent is the most important key to growth. Hiring was – and still is – the most important thing we do.”
1) Know what you’re looking for
When you’re looking to acquire new talent for your company, you must know what you want in terms of the skill set. Many people argue that making the requirement broader helps. But based on my experience and what I have heard, narrowing down the search is a better option. It helps you or your human resource manager, whoever is in charge of the hiring process, reduce the scope of the search. Based on the skills you need, you can reach out to the people with the same skills already in your company or the wider industry for recommendations. And if you’re going the hiring agency route, having a list of required skill set will allow them to run more targeted advertisements for the job opportunity.
2) Revamp recruitment and onboarding
Some very simple changes can help you make big differences in recruiting.
One, after receiving the first responses, you may have to rewrite your ad based on the first results. It is best if you use language that an applicant can understand easily. You must also not make the job description very technical as that may scare applicants away.
Two, while the recommendation route remains one of the best ways to find talented recruits and specialists, use large talent polls if you are going the advertisement route. Hiretual, Entelo, and Talent Bin (part of Monster.com) are some of the affordable ones. Social media, too, is an option for those looking for a large talent pool and organic reach.
“Social media allows you to make your jobs more human. Tell talent about the people behind your products. Trust your recruiters to be your digital warriors. Don’t second guess it,” says – Celinda Appleby, Director of Global Talent Attraction at Visa.
Three, whenever you have a vacancy, start searching for a specialist within your own network in the industry. You may actually find someone who is already aware of your company and/or knows about the work culture and ethics. That will boost the chances of them joining your firm. You can also look at the option of creating an employee referral program.
Four, make the recruitment and onboarding process less taxing and don’t let it drag on for weeks or months. If you have a lengthy recruitment process, people will start dropping out in the middle or joining other firms when you reach the end of your process. Remember, there are ample opportunities out there for the most talented specialists to choose from.
Five, if you want to hire from campus, you must organize competitions and familiarization trips for students. This will make the students aware of what exactly you do and how your company functions. In the process, your HR managers can scout for the brightest of the minds as they interact with students and engage with them.
Six, you just look at the possibility of making your requirements flexible. For example, shorter working hours or a liberal leave policy. Experts have argued that changes like these, including removing quotas and targets, can also make jobs attractive for specialists.
Even Bill Gates, the founder of Microsoft, has argued in favor of this change.
“The competition to hire the best will increase in the years ahead. Companies that give extra flexibility to their employees will have the edge in this area,” Gates has said.
3) Build a safe and positive culture
All of your existing employees should feel valued and respected, not only for their work but also in general. How does this help attract specialists, you ask? When your existing employees report about the company’s respectful culture and the safe and positive atmosphere in their peer groups and elsewhere, it will present a good image of the company and its HR policies. When people contemplating joining your company inquire about its culture from others, they will get good reviews. Those working in companies with a toxic corporate culture will want to pursue openings at your office. It will go a long way in attracting new talent.
Even if hiring a new specialist is tougher, retaining an existing employee is not easy. However, it is critical for the company’s growth as it provides stability.
“In technology, it’s about the people–getting the best people, retaining them, nurturing a creative environment, and helping to find a way to innovate,” American investor Marissa Mayer, who has formerly served as the president and chief executive officer of Yahoo!, says.
The importance of retention is now widely understood across sectors, and a recent Harvard Business Review piece recommends having a full-fledged retention strategy.
1) Smoothen the onboarding process
Yes, the process of retaining employees starts right after they have been hired. As the first impression is important, you must ensure that the process of onboarding is as smooth as possible. If the job involves a training process, the talent must be put under the care of a senior employee, preferably one who has a higher rank in the organization. That way, the specialist you’ve hired will get a sense of the work culture. When a new person joins your firm, the aim should not be limited to making the new member a part of your team but also incorporating them into your social circle so that they feel at home.
2) Be a leader and create many more
As the head of the firm or a senior manager, you are the leader of the team or the department that you head. It is your responsibility to guide the talent that is hired, help them find a place in the company, guide them through the difficult phase in the initial days and, most importantly, be responsive to their aspirations of career growth. If your company is able to provide the new talent a vision and give them the stable platform that they need to emerge as industry leaders of the future, they are more likely to remain with you.
“People want guidance, not rhetoric. They need to know what the plan of action is and how it will be implemented. They want to be given responsibility to help solve the problem and the authority to act on it,” Howard Schultz, former head of Starbucks Coffee Company, says.
3) Tell them they matter
No member of your team should feel that they are dispensable. As a leader, it is your duty to make them feel wanted in the company, a part of the decision-making process, and someone who has a voice and influence. In short, you must make them feel empowered. That not only helps to instil confidence in them but also gives them a sense of satisfaction about being in a place where they are important. They must not be made to feel like a cog in the machine.
As Larry Page, one of the co-founders of Google says, a leader’s job is to “make sure that everybody in the company has great opportunities and that they feel they’re having a meaningful impact to the good of the society.”
4) Money matters
Yes, money matters. For some, it is only a necessity for survival. For most, it is a reason to work hard. Whatever it may be, you have to make sure that this aspect of your relationship with your employee or new talent remains smooth. That can only be achieved by having a clear conversation with them from time to time. Meeting the expectations of the specialists you hire makes it easier to retain them. You can ensure this with frequent engagement and discussing their expectations on a regular basis, preferably every few months or at least once annually.
If you’re offering the best perks in the industry, your employees will remain right where they are. But if you are unable to offer them the best perks, give them competitive benefits and make up for the shortfall by offering strong leadership, a stable platform and a constructive environment that has the promise to guide them and turn them into leaders of the future.
To conclude this blog, let me quote Gary Hamel, one of the world’s most influential and iconoclastic business thinkers: “An enterprise that is constantly exploring new horizons is likely to have a competitive advantage in attracting and retaining talent.”