How do you retain top talent?
Retention rates are going down for most companies around the globe, especially with COVID-19 negatively affecting the workforce and with remote work opportunities. It has now become more challenging to retain top talent.
The Information Technology (IT) industry itself and the digital world is making it look more competitive because people can work remotely and take advantage of great compensation packages.
Most great hires out there are already employed for an obvious reason. Now, companies are the ones chasing after top talent and the sooner you adapt to the new hiring paradigms, the better equipped you will be to resolve employee retention problems among other challenges in recruitment.
If you want to make an effort to retain your top talent around longer, here is a list of ways that you can try out and incorporate into your company culture.
1. Evaluate Your Mission and Vision
Lots of businesses were founded back in the day for a specific purpose but they do not have mission or vision statements yet—or maybe they do—but they do not really pay a lot of attention to that.
Make sure that if you have a mission and vision for the company, you re-evaluate them and ensure that they are still as valid as you thought back in the day.
According to different studies, it is normal to revise and even slightly redo those statements every three years or so. If you do not have it, work on one now with this guide in my blog, or otherwise, just figure out if you are still living and breathing the ideas of mission and vision.
It is really integral because if you do not have the bigger picture for the business, well then nobody else does.
2. Assess the Mandatory Cultural Traits
Your people, or even those you need to hire or everyone that’s in the business, need to vibe on specific energy levels with the rest of the organization. If this doesn’t happen, conflicts arise a lot more often and people are going to drift away, which is going to lead to a mass decrease in your talent pool real soon.
In order to make that work better, you may need to reshape or shift some of your leaders at the time and just point them out in the right direction and make sure that every single new hire that you are bringing onboard has these mandatory cultural traits, which is the reason why you need to figure them out first and really prioritize what is crucial and integral for hires in your company.
These may be things such as outstanding work ethics and fast customer service and client support, or just being very friendly and polite. And if someone’s not friendly and polite, they do not fit in your culture and so on. You can’t list an endless set of great traits of course so you need to prioritize the most important ones that make your culture work.
3. Make Sure That Your Recruiters Memorize What Sticks
So based on those cultural values or those traits that you need people to have, you need to train your recruiters both internally and externally. You can work with external HR firms to vet these people.
If you hire someone who is a great expert in what they do but they don’t fit into the company culture, they’re most likely going to leave at some point in time or they are going to annoy a bunch of people who are happy with the business but can’t really stand that one specific individual.
People really count on one another. Some of the traits that you may look for are professionalism or just attention to detail and focus. Just don’t be too generic. They should be mostly personal traits, but it’s really important that those are the consistent traits across your culture so that every single team member, at least every department member, can share and feel they are a part of the same community.
4. Speak With Your Key Employees
First off, of course, you need to speak with them real often to keep them engaged and motivated and figure out if something’s wrong. But second, try to work with them to establish those cultural traits that we are talking about.
Your existing employees are the people and especially the other ones are the people who can tell you why they stick around in the company. What really makes them happy? What ‘sparks joy’ for them?
Now, if someone has spent three, four, five, seven years in your company, they are the best source of information as to why does the company provide the types of business opportunities that they need, which is why you can gather the intel from reliable sources who trusted you and the business in the first place.
5. Break Down Unique Selling Propositions Per Role
What do you mean here? Now, in order to retain people, you need to provide them career/business/jobs/product or whatever opportunities in the organization.
Now, this may be role-specific, such as marketing and tech, and majors have different goals and different reasons to stay around, and or this may be seniority related.
Juniors have a specific reason to stick around while seniors have other opportunities to develop themselves further. Analyze them carefully, break them down and make sure those are incorporated in your mission and vision statements too because this is really needed to retain people.
6. Ensure That You Have a Long-Term Career Path Ahead
Sometimes, you may be losing key talent because they are bored or they do not see growth opportunities in the organization.
That’s potentially really painful because in reality, you may have these opportunities or if you think for a bit, you may uncover the opportunities, but they are just not visible for the person.
And they feel that if they come to you and say, “Hey, I do not feel I’m progressing. You may actually look for replacements”. So, they decide to look for another job first. So in order to resolve that, make sure that you have career plans prepared for different roles and different growth charts and you communicate them properly throughout the different feedback cycles.
7. Prioritize Warm Candidates First
Again, hiring is an integral part of keeping your team afloat. If you are losing talent, you are probably hiring for new talent. You can’t retain everyone forever, unfortunately, which is why hiring needs to keep going. But in order to strengthen your current culture, what you need to do is prioritizing warm candidates first.
What do I mean by warm candidates? I’m talking about internal referrals, people you know, people recommended by other team members, people who know your business from events or even former clients, people who know what you are doing for a living.
The reason this is so crucial is, first of all, you can get a better idea of a person if they come through a reference or any other common contact. And second, it is more apparent for the individual applying what sort of work they are going to do at work.
Some hires are leaving way too soon because they are not prepared for what type of work you need to do, the type of projects, the type of products, the internal communication. So the better the candidate knows you or has common contacts within the organization, they feel comfortable with, the more likely it is they are going to vibe on the same frequency.
8. Work On Detailed Culture Pages
In order to improve recruitment, you need to provide this very same information in the best possible manner through your website and across your job boards.
This means that you must incorporate your values in your mission and vision page, the team page, jobs page, careers page, or any other page related to hiring or portraying your company as best as possible.
This way, you have the opportunities to portray what you offer, what you fight for, and what makes you unique to attract the right types of people who see things the same way you do.
9. Vet Applicants for Driving Motivation
I have a favorite quote from a famous Netflix series called “Lucifer”, which is the main character’s hero: “What is it that you truly desire?”
The reason I think this is so powerful is that this is a true superpower. So if you can establish what people need and what they really cherish, it really makes it easier for you to retain them if they are already employed or decide on whether you should hire them or not.
For existing people, back in the day, back when we started over a decade ago, I used to create lists of the top three things I believe a candidate is around for in the organization, which is the reason why our four first hires that started with us back in the day are still with us and I’m really thankful for that. But for new hires, it is harder to make that stick.
So when they are joining in kind of an established business, you need to figure out what sticks and what motivates them to be joining the organization. The better you define that, the more likely it is for them to stick around if your company provides the same values and same opportunities that the candidate needs aside from, for example, a brand name or a good paycheck for the time being.
10. Check the Job, Industry, Size, and Brand
This algorithm is a four-step vetting cycle that is used during interviews to assess whether we are hiring the right talent and how likely it is for them to stick with us in the long run.
The first step is figuring out if this job is what they are really looking for. There are two possibilities here. they are either coming for a job they haven’t practiced before but they really dreamed of such as management or a tech lead, for example, or they have been employed for a while but there is a possibility that they are already tired on the job or they do not really want to work this job or anything along those lines. So the job filter is the first one we use to find out whether the job is right.
The second one is industry. Is this the industry the applicant wants to work in? There are a lot of different industries out there and if we are convinced that we are in the same industry the applicant feels comfortable with then there is a match.
The third one is size. That’s extremely important. If an applicant comes with a corporate background and you are hiring for a small startup, it is really important to find out why they are making the switch? Is this a real switch? Is it just a necessity to get hired?
Or they are actually tired of a corporate environment and the other way around. If they are coming from a small business, why are they making the transition? Are they dreaming of just working with a big household name, but unaware of all the logistics and processes and over-communication and meetings happening in the enterprise, or this may potentially be a bottleneck and them leaving in three months from now. So, ensuring that the size is right and your company’s organization is of the right size is also crucial.
And last, but most importantly, your brand in your company, even if the applicant wants to work this job in this industry in similar company size, what would keep them around? What would prevent them to hop on to a different opportunity if a recruiter calls them from any other company with this job opportunity, size, and industry?
Now, this is a great way to vet how much they know about the company or whether their values are aligned with yours. So feel free to use this framework during the interview process to make sure that you are definitely hiring for traits.
11. Consider Investing In Training Juniors
If you are having a hard time hiring for certain roles, consider creating training programs for junior people.
We’ve tried different training programs for all sorts of roles, including management, by introducing project coordinator roles or creating different assistant roles that can be promoted further, which is a long-term investment but it also supports a different idea that we already discussed, which is number six, ensuring that we have a long-term career path ahead.
So, having this opportunity allows us to provide a new career/job opportunity to people who haven’t had this opportunity yet, they haven’t had the chance, they haven’t worked this yet. So they feel more grateful and they are more passionate and they are more excited and this helps us retain them in the long run because it gives them an opportunity and they are working in an exciting environment and they push harder and they fit into the rest of the culture.
12. Create a Stellar Onboarding Process
According to different statistics, for more senior roles, replacing a candidate may be a six-figure investment. This includes hiring fees, onboarding fees, training, and the first few salaries and the hiccups before changing people and changing roles, and so on, which is the very reason we are talking about retaining top talent in the first place.
But what you really want to make sure is that your onboarding process is great and it is well communicated with the applicant ahead of time. Unless that happens, it is likely that the applicant may leave in the first one or two months, which is going to get you back to square one.
So, making sure that the culture is right and the applicant is right for the first one or two or three months of getting on the job is really important so that you are on the same page and you have the very same expectations.
13. Schedule Regular Feedback Sessions
Now to retain top talent, you need to find out if there is a problem you need to indicate, positive traits, you need to communicate the next steps to career advancement and everything like this.
In order to make that happen, you should create feedback sessions, which are as frequent as possible. Some companies do not have feedback sessions, some have annual feedback sessions, some have biennial feedback sessions, some try to have that more frequently, but my suggestion would be to have a form of feedback sessions twice a year, if possible.
And additionally include different feedback sessions as possible, like just one-on-ones and team managers having one-on-ones kind of on a weekly basis. And if you notice a problem, definitely just set up a one-on-one immediately. And for new hires, set up multiple feedback sessions like every second month or so during the first year, just to make sure they are adopting properly and they are feeling the culture and feeling comfortable before it is too late.
14. Always Strive for Great Employment Terms
Now there are different reasons why people are going to leave. Some are going to leave because of stress or just joining an environment that is more easygoing with less work or more money or better career opportunities or a bigger brand name. You can’t really solve all these problems.
However, you still need to keep striving for better terms at all times. This means that you need to figure out what are the main reasons why people may be leaving or what are the main areas where your business isn’t as competitive as your competitors and trying to gradually on a regular basis, provide those through bonuses and raises or team buildings or maybe adding some extra paid leaves or remote or anything else, which is an added worth for your talent.
Once again, the more welcoming the environment is, the more competitive it is, the more likely it is you are going to retain people which is going to increase retention rates, reduce churn for your clients as well and essentially make you a more effective team at the end too.
15. Celebrate Anniversaries
When someone hits a year or two or three at the company, definitely make sure you celebrate that. What we do is we celebrate it on slack.
We do have some parties every now and then, but essentially, you need to reward people for sticking around and believing in you and believing in the culture.
Celebrating those victories means that you are putting an emphasis on retention and this is something that you care about. Doing so also acknowledges your people in the company that some people are progressing and essentially, the company is doing well instead of replacing people all the time.
16. Keep the Culture Energy Strong at All Times
In a similar fashion, once you know what your culture looks like and what makes you unique, be the police officer that monitors that at all times.
This is a never-ending adventure and you always need to police that to make sure that everyone feels welcome, and every single person is a good culture fit, nobody is feeling isolated, and you are treating more introverted colleagues well, and your boarding processes best and a lot of other things that you need to take care of.
But since it is a recurring endeavor, if you stop doing that, it is likely that you are going to miss on certain personal problems that people are having that are maybe escalating and you may be losing an important team member instead.
17. Regularly Train Leaders and Managers on Cultural Values
You cannot single-handedly solve all problems, which means that you need to delegate all those opportunities and everything that you need to do internally to your managers, team leaders, supervisors, and everyone else in charge of other people.
So you need to have ongoing or rather regular sessions with them continuously explaining and reminding them what is important for the culture. What are the traits you want to nurture? What are the opportunities that we provide employees?
It may be annoying, but repetition is really the key to making sure that everything is running smoothly, that this stays top of mind for your leaders and everyone is following the same traits accordingly.
This will also ensure that people that you do not have direct conversations with are going to feel more welcome and are going to still draw from the same pool of inspiration that you have created or you are nurturing with your other co-founders or other senior managers.
18. Make Sure You Promote Exemplary Hires
it is a bad idea to give promotions to people who are not a great culture fit or are not the best culture fit for the role.
Now, there may be certain reasons why you do not promote your best talent because they are great at what they do, but make sure your promotion pool essentially goes in the direction of promoting the people who fit in the culture the best and who portray the best traits that you want everyone to possess ideally.
So, again, whenever promotion times come, definitely do this evaluation, and make sure you are promoting the right people because you always have to give a good example to the rest of the members of the organization who deserves a promotion.
19. Fire Toxic Hires ASAP
Toxic hires are the worst thing ever and sometimes you may miss them out because you are not working with them directly or because they are extremely valuable at some point in time.
Certain leaders such as Gary V often say, hire your best salesman, because one person can not really compensate for the rest of your organization and if they are really behaving badly, they are going to essentially single-handedly hire a bunch of people in your company.
So if you have toxic hires, get rid of them as soon as possible. Of course, you may have one or two conversations, which is always ideal, just warning them that they are misbehaving but if you see that decision to trade that’s solvable, just part ways as early as possible.
Toxic hires may be the most poisonous and contagious thing for an organization as a whole. So you want to keep your culture clean at all times as best as possible.
20. Always Set the Right Example
Put your money where your mouth is and always try to set the best example.
As a leader, you are setting the path forward. Follow through on what you say as your cultural values. It may be different for every organization, but things such as transparency, proper behavior, or avoiding a toxic culture are definitely some of the staples.
Remember: If you act against your own guidelines, nobody is going to have faith in you, which is going to lead to a lot of trustworthy people leaving. So, always try to set the right example. Always try to be your best.
Always try to showcase yourself as the leader that your team deserves if you want to keep them around.
For more strategies on employee retention and recruitment, check out my recruitment guide.