Retaining Your Top Talent Starts before They’re Hired

When you’re recruiting your next employee, you’re making first impressions and discovering prior experience to find out if they are a match for a role. How long they’ll stay at your company before moving on is probably not something you’re giving much thought to.

You should. We’re not trying to be pessimistic here, but hiring a good worker only to see them leave after a few months or a year is costly in so many ways. That’s why a best in class employer needs to take this into account and begin taking concrete steps to build commitment to the company before that employee ever walks in the door. Longer tenure means lower organization churn and more long-term value provided to the business by the new hire.

So, what does this look like in practice? Here are three powerful, yet simple, actions your company can start taking right away to retain your new hires.

1. Selling the “WHY”

You’ve built a company from the ground up, poured blood (hopefully not), sweat, and tears into making it a success. So the best employees are the ones that will buy into the importance of your mission and the “why” of your venture. Before you even begin interviewing, establish the messaging and make sure you dig out whether it’s something the person wants to get onboard with.

Once you’ve found your new hire, ensure that the message is continuously reinforced. Whether that’s sending out your company values, quotes from executive leaders, company history, etc. It’s a great way to begin the fundamental relationship between the employee and your mission before they even start.

2. Ensuring the candidate wants the job, not the idea of it

One of the most important steps when looking for long-term employees is making sure you spell out exactly what the job is. You may have done a great job of getting the candidate behind your company’s mission, but realistically, they won’t stay long if they don’t like their actual job.

So what’s the best way to do this? Find out what they’re looking for in a job, not just what you’re looking for in your next employee. Often times we forget that interviewing and hiring should be a mutual agreement. If the candidate is interested in your company, but might not be too excited by the actual day-to-day duties of the job, that’s a red flag. If they are coming from a position with greater responsibilities or more challenges, they won’t last long if they are settling for less. Or maybe the candidate is a job hopper, with flashy companies on the resume, but they rarely stayed long. This should be a red flag suggesting they are drawn to the idea of the job or company, but they don’t commit.

We don’t want to create wariness of your candidates, but these are just things to remember when searching for that long-term hire. You want to build a team of dedicated individuals who will excel in their job, not always be looking for the next one.

Once you’ve hired them, this is your opportunity to set realistic expectations starting from day zero. They should know exactly what their job is going to look like before it starts! Message these expectations and check in with them throughout the onboarding process.

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3. The importance of stay interviews

If you’re in the people department, you’ve probably heard of or conducted stay interviews. But it doesn’t always have to happen with HR. Stay interviews are a great way to find out how your employees are feeling about their job and ensure that it is still a great fit. Managers should certainly be having these conversations at the very minimum on a monthly basis. If you’re waiting until the employee is already on their way out the door, it’s too late to find out what the issues are and try to fix them.

Conduct these stay interviews casually, over coffee or lunch. Ask the right questions to gain insight into what it is that the employee enjoys about their work; what’s keeping them there; and, what the company can do to help. (Here’s a list of questions to consider.) You may discover issues early enough to resolve them easily or learn of ways to improve your team members’ experience at work. Truly a win-win for both of you if it means they are happier, more productive, and feel supported at work.

In our opinion, retention starts before you even hire your next employee. It starts with branding, and messaging your company’s mission on all fronts. Then, you vet candidates to ensure that they will be happy in their day-to-day role. And lastly, you continue being involved in their experience at work keeping an open line of communication.

Jason Elkin

Jason Elkin is the founder and chief people officer of WERKLABS, a talent acquisition-as-a-service venture that primarily focuses on startups in California.

With over 15+ years of experience developing lean & scalable solutions for some of the most recognizable names in tech, Jason brings a unique lens to the talent paradigms of today’s hiring challenges. In 2009 Jason pioneered the “Lean Organic Talent Acquisition” method for early/mid-stage startups. This method was a fist to incorporate Lean-Agile principles with Behavioral Neuroscience. This method blended a streamlined hiring process with a superior candidate experience to accelerate candidate acquisition. By integrating Lean Organic Talent Acquisition principles into the hiring culture of startups, Jason has been able to build best-in-class organizations for many companies.

Jason holds a BA from Tel-Aviv University and is currently working on his first book for millennial job seekers who are pursuing a career in the startup world.