It’s difficult to say which is a bigger challenge for employers: recruiting or retention. After all, hiring great people means nothing if they leave within their first year. And that happens — a lot. Companies with low turnover tend to provide employees with what I call the three “Characteristics of Retention,” which are culture/values recognition, community impact, and continuous learning. But just having those cultural attributes nailed isn’t enough.
You can’t expect 100% employee retention — no matter how much effort you put into your employee experience — but those departures may be less random than meets the eye. The trick is to pinpoint the traits they have in common so that the turnover can be predicted and corrected. To do this, you need to collect predictive data.
One CEO says you can attain 100% retention. He explains how in “Hire Well, Treat People Right and You Too Can Have 100% Retention.”
I’ve found that one of the best ways to collect predictive data is through continuous feedback loops. In plain terms, surveys. Now, before you shudder over this particular “S” word, hear me out: I’m not talking about the 20-question paper-and-pencil surveys of the past; the ones that get shoved into a folder and never looked at again. My firm, a search and executive recruitment and retention agency, systematically checks in with new hires collecting feedback.
New Hire Check-Ins
You might know that surveys have found that as many as 30% of new hires quit within their first month, and one important reason is poor onboarding. All too often, new hires who quit immediately felt duped into a fantasy job that doesn’t exist. So, during the first month, we check in weekly with new hires to ask questions about how the interview process went and how they’re settling in. We check to ensure they’ve met with their manager one-on-one, that policies and procedures were communicated effectively, that they have everything they need, and that the job so far meets their expectations. Then we check in monthly during the next two months, which is also considered the critical onboarding stage.
We consider the remaining 12-month period an engagement period. During this time, our new hire surveys turn into quarterly check-ins with questions that evolve to include long-term goal setting. Ongoing surveys like those that measure core value buy-in are also especially useful for employees at all stages of retention.
Acting on the Feedback
The feedback we receive on these check-ins helps us in two ways. First, it allows us to immediately identify and help correct problems that might cause the new hire to quit. A manager’s perception often differs from an employee’s perception and, sometimes, the only way to identify those discrepancies is to analyze the data.
Second, over time, the answers are compiled into predictive data points that can expose wider problems with onboarding, engagement, or even the overriding company culture. It can also inform the hiring process by identifying the types of employees who stay and those who are likely to leave.
Sometimes the data will show gaping holes where improvement is needed, but usually the problems are subtle. That’s one reason using a recruiting partner experienced in gathering and analyzing this type of data is critical. But recruiting partners can also help in another way: By offering comparative data for others in your industry or hiring in the same fields. The more data, the better when it comes to spotting trends and predicting behavior.
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Imagine how helpful it would be to get a general glimpse into the retention data of other companies like yours. What are they doing differently to get those numbers? Once those trends become apparent, you can correct course and recruit only those who are predicted to stick around for a while.
The idea is simple (ask questions, get answers, take action) but the process takes discipline. The results, however, are worth it. After all, if you’re going to recruit better, you might as well put at least the same effort into retaining better, too.