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Hiring for Keeps: How to Reduce Churn and Retain Your Best Hires

If there’s anyone more hopeful than a new employee showing up to her first day on the job, it’s the hiring manager who offered it to her.

Call us hopeless romantics, but we think there’s something really special about a candidate and a company coming to an agreement and choosing to embark on a relationship together — albeit a business one.

But what happens when the relationship goes south and the employee decides to move on? There may not be actual tears, but it can still feel like heartbreak to the recruiter, hiring manager and leadership team that had high hopes for the future.

So, what can you when you’re tired of losing employees to “better offers”? Here’s what five recruiting and hiring pros recommend doing to reduce churn and improve employee engagement and retention.

1. Be Honest About the Downsides of a Position  


It makes sense to try to put your best foot forward in the first stages of the interview process. After all, that’s what job candidates are doing, too. But Chuck Solomon, Cofounder and COO of LineHire, says that it’s in the best interest of long-term employee retention to be upfront about what a job is really like without candy-coating the truth or trying to ignore potential challenges within a job.

“It may sound quaint, but I believe authenticity is key to reducing churn and increasing employee retention,” says Solomon. “Recruiters should be honest and accurate in describing both the pros and cons of the job — after all, once on board, the candidate is going to learn first-hand themselves. I’m not suggesting you should ‘air the company’s dirty laundry,’ but there are ways to tell a candidate that this is a challenging position. That way you’re only bringing in staff members that are up for the challenges.”

[Related: The 4 Cornerstones of Employee Retention]

2. Close the Loop on New Hire Data 


Find the best person, hire them and move on. Sound familiar? If that’s your approach to most of the positions you fill and you want to reduce churn, Mikaela Kiner, CEO and Founder of uniquelyHR, wants you to think about following up and tracking how your candidates work out in the role.

“Recruiters always believe we’ve found the absolute best candidate for the job,” says Kiner. “After all, that’s why we hired them! But too often, we don’t know what happens once that person joins the company. Did that person become a superstar, did they plateau or were they eventually let go for poor performance? If recruiters can work with HR and hiring managers to get data on the quality of the people they’ve hired, they can spot trends and then use that data to improve the screening and recruiting process.”

“For example, what skills and qualities are common to the most successful hires?” continues Kiner. “Failures are also a good source of learning because if you make a note of red flags during interviews of people who don’t succeed, you can be on the lookout for similar candidate qualities in the future.”

[Related: How to Ensure Hires Are Values-Compatible]

3. Listen to and Reward Employees Before There’s a Problem


Brianna Rooney, founder of software engineer recruiting company Techees, works in a high turnover industry placing software engineers at tech-focused companies in the Bay Area. In her line of work, it’s common for people to leave every year, and if someone has been with their company for three years, it’s a downright miracle. Why? Because most companies say they don’t have time to deal with employee retention or simply don’t want to know the bad things about their company.

“I can’t tell you how many times a company will try to give a raise or actually listen to an employee when it’s way too late,” says Rooney. “Everyone wants to save money. It’s hard to keep giving raises. Yet, think about how hard it is to find good people. People you trust to work hard, honestly and efficiently.”

“If you don’t have the budget for a salary increase, make sure they understand that,” Rooney continues. “Talk to employees, let them know how important they are. Don’t just wait for quarterly or yearly meetings. You need to care before you ‘have to,’ and it has to come naturally.”

[Related: Why Giving Merit Raises Matters]

4. Recruit Qualities That Make for Good Office Politics


Are office politics always a bad thing? No, says CEO and The Compass Alliance author Tim Cole. They can be good or bad for an organization depending on how they are directed. But if you’re in a position where you need to reduce churn, your politics are likely unproductive. It’s critical that you start screening candidates for qualities that are conducive to healthy office politics.

“Bad office politics implies backstabbing and conspiring for personal gain,” says Cole. “An organization that tolerates that type of behavior faces the long-term effects that always follow, like low engagement, loss of productivity and attrition.”

Cole adds: “Companies that recruit for collaboration skills and capacity for problem-solving can often direct office politics in a more positive direction and use them to streamline workflow with behind-the-scenes discussions and gain consensus on critical job decisions away from the boardroom.”

[Related: How to Recruit the Informed Candidate]

5. Rally Your Team Around a Common “Why”


Low employee retention and low engagement go hand in hand, so if you’re struggling with a need to reduce churn, you are likely struggling with employee engagement, too. Zach Hendrix, co-founder of the lawn service app GreenPal, grew one business from 1 to 100 using a simple but profound engagement strategy: rally employees around the central “why” of their jobs and the business as a whole.

In his first business, much of Hendrix’s operating core was comprised of Guatemalan immigrants who would come to the United States for several consecutive lawn mowing seasons and save as much money as they could to improve the lives of their families back home by building homes, ranches and setting up farms stocked with cattle.

To fuel his team through the tough times, including the economic recession of 2009, he rallied them around their “why.” At weekly meetings, they would give progress reports on how projects back home were coming along and display picture collages of homes, farms and businesses in Guatemala in the office and shop.

There’s nothing more frustrating that waving farewell to an employee you had hoped would stick around long-term. And while there are many reasons you’ll need to say goodbye to employees over the years — relocations, promotions and career changes among them — there’s a lot you can do to make sure that your company isn’t the reason employees leave. Consider how you can apply these tips to your recruiting and hiring process to reduce churn and help your candidates stick around.

 

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