We’ve seen a seismic shift in the job market from where it was a couple years ago, when job candidates commanded most of the power. A tighter macroeconomic climate means fewer jobs to go around—but also, more pressure than ever to make impactful hires.
Your people are quite literally the lifeblood of your company. A great hiring process, with well-defined standards, goals, and retention methods, is the hallmark of a company set up for long-term success.
How do you find great employees? And once they’re in, how do you keep them engaged, and prevent their eyes wandering to other opportunities? In this article, I break down the fundamentals of recognizing and retaining great talent.
How to find great talent
1. Recognize that hiring starts long before jobs are posted. Whether it’s talent, customers, or clients, the single most compelling thing a company can offer is a brand. People want to associate themselves with brands that match their lifestyle and values. Thus, cultivating a strong brand—on social media, on workplace review sites, at public events, and more—is the most powerful first step in any hiring process.
Additionally, building a database of candidates is something you can do before you formally begin hiring people. It will give you some momentum for when recruiting officially begins, and it will help you refine your concept of ideal talent.
2. Offer referral bonuses. Referral bonuses are a great way of getting your existing employees to tap into their networks. And in reality, personal connections are the most reliable way to recruit; they eliminate many of the potentially costly unknowns involved with hiring people new to the company’s network.
3. Don’t underestimate new job seekers. By default, you’re probably looking for people whose past experience promises a good fit. But there are numerous benefits to hiring people with more potential than relevant experience.
For starters, they’ll probably cost less, because there is some risk in hiring someone new to a skill or space. But they also bring in fresh perspectives and skill sets uncommon in your company. Never underestimate the power of fresh eyes and an intelligent mind.
4. Look within. Always consider the possibility of promoting existing employees. Entrusting your people with new responsibilities—which I’ll talk about more in the retention section—is a great way to build loyalty and stronger brand ambassadors.
How to keep great talent
1. Drive a sense of ownership. People work hardest for things that they feel like they own—objectives intertwined with their identity and purpose. Leaders should always find ways to drive a sense of ownership among their employees.
An obvious way to do this is to give equity grants to as many employees as possible. There are also ways to tie overall company performance to individual compensation. On the non-financial side, giving employees some power to define their responsibilities also helps drive a sense of ownership.
2. Show appreciation—financially and otherwise. In the face of pressing business objectives, companies often fail to prioritize employee appreciation—much to their detriment. Employees who feel disrespected or unappreciated are much more likely to churn.
Employee appreciation comes in many forms. Small but substantial financial rewards are an obvious one, but also consider company retreats, public recognitions, happy hours, dinners, and swag giveaways. Plus, services like Kudos that offer employee-to-employee recognition can go a long way in driving a respectful culture.
3. Give trust. People who are new to leadership positions may have the instinct to control and monitor their employees’ work as much as possible. After all, your performance depends on their performance, so you have an incentive to help them perform at a high level.
But the best way to do this is to trust them to fulfill the tasks and responsibilities you give them without micromanaging them. Trust is a powerful device; when they receive it, good workers tend to run with it—and reward those who give it with loyalty.
4. Offer flexibility. There are as many opinions about remote/hybrid working arrangements as there are employers. But the fact is, flexibility has a positive effect on retention. It helps employees control their quality of life, stay connected to the people they love, and feel a sense of ownership over their work lives.
There’s no one-size-fits-all model for workplace flexibility. But offering generous time off policies and day-to-day scheduling flexibility is a great place to start.
Talent acquisition and retention is a never-ending process. It’s especially pressing for early-stage companies, but later-stage companies have the same challenge—just a different flavor of it. Most of all, recognize both acquisition and retention are happening all the time; every choice you make as a leader has some impact on both.