I’ve spent more years than I care to admit interviewing candidates for various operational positions, but I still get excited when I meet professionals who show an upward trajectory in their careers, take on larger assignments every two years, change companies every four years, and present themselves in an engaged, engaging way.
Media/information professionals who remain in jobs for a meaningful length of time are a win-win in the recruiting ecosystem. They’re easier for me to “sell” because they have more appeal to hiring managers than those who have had four jobs in six years, and clients benefit because it can be time consuming and costly to change out a management team every two years.
Hiring managers, there are certain things you can’t control: a consolidation in your industry suddenly makes your company’s future uncertain or your entire department must relocate from Chicago to Tulsa. But, there are many more things you can control. Here is a six-step plan to help you retain your top talent.
1. Set clear expectations. The conversation on aligned goals and expectations should start well before the start of employment. Often times I hear “The position was not as advertised” as the motivation for wanting change. People who are flexible when it comes to changing business models and strategic pivots are in high demand, but the odds of success greatly increase when they’re given basic information about the painful history of the position or company financial performance. So, the key word is transparency. The last thing you need to be bothered with, is replacing your go-to revenue person or content marketing guru four months after they’ve started because they signed up for a different job.
2. Foster the flow of information about key strategies, initiatives, and goals for the company. Once the hire is made, share the good news and the bad. The Number One reason candidates tell me they are considering a change is they feel uninformed about where the company is headed, and as a result, uncertain about where they’re headed. They come to feel detached from and not fully committed to the company and its goals. After all, we live in the information age.
3. Encourage your employees to gain greater exposure. Tight budgets may prevent them from attending high-priced conferences even once a quarter, but there are more economical ways, including cozier networking events, to help them become better known in the industry. And, if they are better known, then your company is better known, and that’s just plain good business. Candidates often tell me that they don’t have the time to engage in such activities, so it’s your job to explain the importance of doing so and that it’s part of their job. As a result, you will also be seen as someone who cares about their career development.
4. Internally, make yourself visible. Don’t hide behind email. An “open door” management style is fine, but why not initiate the contact? Legendary IDG Founder and CEO Pat McGovern was famous for personally handing out holiday cards and bonus checks to every employee he could find whether they were in Framingham or Hong Kong. An extreme example, but let that inspire you to get out of your chair. I hear from too many candidates who can’t remember the last time they laid eyes on their CEO or CRO. I’m sure your plate is full, but figure out a way to make time. Again, it’s all about making your employee feel connected; that they are part of a larger whole.
5. Connect on a human level, but don’t pry. I’ve learned through my conversations that people aren’t motivated to leave their companies because a manager doesn’t show enough interest in their personal lives or because there aren’t enough departmental outings for pizza and beer. Such devices may have an effect on morale—or they may not. But employees do like to feel like they’re valued as human beings, not just entities performing a job function. A one-on-one lunch once a quarter and regular stop-bys relating to a personal interest that an employee has can do the trick. When I place someone in a new role, the personality of the hiring manager is often my most persuasive recruiting tool, so connecting is important.
6. Discuss with your employees their future path, even if they don’t come to you first. There’s a saying at our firm, “It’s not about this job, it’s about the one that this job gets you.” That’s true most of the time. If there’s a glass ceiling in place, brainstorm with this person about how they can take on additional responsibilities. Maybe it’s serving on a company task force focusing on long-term planning, or serving as the point person for the introduction of a technology or platform. Just because a new title and set of responsibilities do not exist in the foreseeable future, that doesn’t mean a new stimulus can’t be found. In other words, find ways to challenge members of your team, especially the indispensable ones.
Hiring managers need to keep in mind that the molding of a revitalized employee is usually a gradual process, often defined by two steps forward and one step back, and requires the systematized approach I’ve laid out, as well as a healthy dose of patience.