The Secret to Attaining and Retaining Top Employees

Your company is looking to grow and instead of feeling like a time of excitement, finding the right people has become a HUGE frustration.


You’re inundated with resumes that don’t fit the bill – you wonder, did anyone even read the job post?  You’re back and forth with HR and it now feels that there is some internal battle brewing – they have their favorites and you’re not happy with anyone.


The success or failure of a new hire often begins with their first point of contact during the hiring process.  All points of contact are vital since they showcase your company’s core values and are a strong indicator of what’s in store.


Sadly, many leaders and employees don’t know the core values of their organization.  However, leaders of successful companies do.  At Zappos, founder Tony Hsieh talks about their culture of delivering WOW through customer service.  New employees are offered $2,000 to quit after the first week of training if they decide the job isn’t for them.  Similarly, REI’s mission is to equip both customers and employees for the outdoors, not just to have fun but also in promoting stewardship of the environment.  Their values are represented in all aspects of day to day activities.


Successful companies understand the values that are core to their culture. And they consistently hire people who will practice these values and project that image effortlessly. Think about your company.  Do you know the values that are core to your organization? Do you screen applicants to ensure that those values are also important to them?


Remember: Winning teams are aligned around a shared vision of success.

1.    Be the place that people want to work

Does your work environment exude positive energy and passion or do you feel negative energy and low morale hanging like gray clouds throughout your office?  What do your employees say about your leadership, culture and the work environment?  Is this an organization that you would recommend to your friends and family to work?  Are employees passionate about what they do and know why they do it?  Do they go the extra mile or are they just there to collect a paycheck?


For most of us, a great place to work will include things like: working with smart colleagues that share ideas openly, value transparency and are aligned around a common vision; a place where individuals are recognized for their contributions and have opportunities for growth and promotion and are compensated fairly; where people have fun and where victories are celebrated.


It’s usually pretty easy to tell which end of the spectrum your company is on, so I’m often surprised when leaders share that they think they have created a great environment when it clearly is toxic.  Additionally, perception drives reality and its imperative to be managing your organization’s online reputation (from your staff as well as customers).  See what is said on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram and Glass Door.   There are many tools you can use to easily do this.   If you have your head in the sand and don’t know what your employees are saying about your organization online, you may be in for a very big shock.


2.    Hire for cultural fit as well as functional fit

Today many companies use to hiring platforms and tools to scan through resumes searching for key words to match a job description.  Yet your employees are so much more than a resume. Yes, skills and experience are very important, but so is culture fit and character – things that the resume bots can’t pick up.


The concept of “cultural fit” isn’t always easy to define, especially if your organization doesn’t really focus on creating a winning culture.  If you can’t clearly articulate to a candidate the vision and core values that are important to your organization, you’re not going to create a team that can support that.


Too often I’ve seen hiring managers easily impressed with prestigious schools or companies on a resume.  But when they meet the candidate, they find him/her to be rude, aggressive, completely introverted or not a team player.  Their intuition tells them something is not right, but they are concerned about passing up a Harvard grad or a McKinsey consultant.
Don’t hire from a place of fear, hire from a place of passion!  


More and more organizations now add a layer of questioning to evaluate how a candidate fits their culture. When evaluating an applicant for culture fit, companies think about these questions:


•    What type of culture do you thrive in? (Does the response reflect your organizational culture?)
•    What values are you drawn to and what’s your ideal workplace?
•    Why do you want to work here?
•    How would you describe our culture based on what you’ve seen? Is this something that works for you?
•    What best practices would you bring with you from another organization? Do you see yourself being able to implement these best practices in our environment?
•    Tell me about a time when you worked with/for an organization where you felt you were not a strong culture fit. Why was it a bad fit?


Know what type of people thrive in your company.  If you don’t hire for cultural fit, the new hire will be miserable and so will you and your team.


3.    Onboarding

Employee turnover can cost an organization between 300-150% of the person’s annual salary, according to the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM). At every departure, morale and productivity suffer. That’s why it’s vital that all organizations are able to retain the great employees they hire.  The best way to start is by providing a well-designed onboarding process to educate new employees about the vision, core values, mission and goals and culture of the organization.


A study by the Aberdeen Group found that 86% of respondents felt that a new hire’s decision to stay with an organization long-term is made within the first six months of employment. That requires a great first impression!  A powerful onboarding process can do that. Relying on a one-day HR orientation, a series of unrelated administrative tasks, and filling out a folder of forms doesn’t work. Especially with the new generation of workers who expect speed and automation.


Surprisingly, many firms treat onboarding like a chore, a necessary evil like laundry - something that just gets done before an employee becomes productive. For most organizations, onboarding is a matter of shutting the new recruit in a room by himself or with other new hires, reviewing and filling out mountains of paperwork, and maybe if they’re lucky, handed an employee handbook or provided some links to the company’s intranet and other communication tools.


The fact is, effective onboarding is key to engaging new hires. An effective onboarding enables new hires to grasp the firm’s culture, history, customer base, performance expectations, job requirements, communication expectations, and more. The best onboarding programs are well planned out in advance, with special attention given to “what” (the mountains of paperwork that must be completed), the “how” (the environment and handling of the onboarding process), and the “who” (the team with whom the new hire will be working) and the “why” (why this company exists and how it best serves its customers and employees.

Like anything new, creating and customizing these activities to reflect the culture and values of your organization will take time and energy.  Yet, without these, your organization will never achieve its potential.  In this competitive environment, hiring great employees who share your vision and values is paramount!  Don’t waste your time hiring employees who are a poor cultural fit or hiring employees who are a good fit, but not setting them up for success and losing them quickly.   Either way no one wins.