How to attract talent and keep them forever

This is what Ruth Cornish, founder and managing director of Cotswold HR consultancy Amelore, is asked most often by CEOs of the fast-growing businesses she works with.

Recruitment is a constant and time-consuming activity. People join a business with high expectations, which sometimes aren’t met, a frustrating cycle in an increasingly competitive market. So we asked Ruth what Cotswold companies can do to attract and retail talented people. And here’s what she told us.

CREATE AN ENVIRONMENT WHERE TALENT CAN FLOURISH

Companies can focus harder on introducing talented people than making sure exsting staff are delivering what’s needed. Tolerating mediocrity and ignoring under performance or unacceptable behaviour will make it hard, or impossible, to attract and retain strong careerists. Create an environment that nurtures talent. There must be clear consequences for those that deliver and those that do not.

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THE EMPLOYEE JOURNEY

I’m sometimes shocked by some companies’ recruitment processes: Multiple interviews, no co-ordination of questions or feedback between interviewers, no attempt to make the process 2way or to understand personality or personal values. Generation Y want to work with companies whose values align. So what are yours? Be honest. Many companies claim values like Excellence, Integrity and Honesty – then demonstrate during the recruitment and induction process that they are just words. Candidates judge you on the quality of the process, the feedback, the courtesy shown. Operating in an unprofessional manner and not thinking about the candidate experience will damage your brand and ultimately waste your time.

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SUNNY SIDE UP ISN’T ALWAYS BEST

Many companies talk only of a job’s positives and the potential. Of course they’re important, but so are the negatives. Whatever they maybe. If you don’t  invest in training and development, be honest about why (or urgently review  – see Point 5). If you aren’t doing as well as you want to, share that but also your plans for moving forward. People value and respect honesty and it will y make you stand out. If people join with their eyes fully open, they are more likely to stay when things are busy or tough.

INDUCT PEOPLE PROPERLY

It can take 20+ weeks for a professional to become productive and at least 26+ week for a senior manager. A good well thought through and managed induction, is powerful in getting people productive quickly. Don’t delegate induction to an administrator. Even putting in half the effort you did for recruitment will be worthwhile.

REVIEW YOUR BENEFITS PACKAGE

A recent survey by the CIPD (Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development) revealed that the top incentive to retain people was increasing salary. But it was also the least effective. Salary aside, when was the last time you had an expert review your benefits package and suggest some financial and non financial options? People value perks, however quirky, and many companies haven’t made changes to their package for years. In particular companies still reward long service over talent (i.e. holiday that comes with length of service). One thing valued over everything else (aside from money) is time. Can your staff work more flexibly that they do? Think about what you are rewarding and why.

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STOP APPRAISING AND START MANAGING 

Everyone wants to know their purpose and what is expected of them. Setting clear goals and giving staff regular feedback is important. But elaborate appraisal systems are expensive and time consuming to run with little obvious benefit.  The workforce now is used to instant response via social media and an annual meeting doesn’t cut it. Many companies spend nothing on developing staff but run expensive, ineffective appraisal systems.

Work with your talent pool to manage their careers. No-one leaves a job if they feel they are progressing and there is a plan. Become a destination employer.

BRING YOUR BRAND IN-HOUSE

When we start working with new companies that have issues around recruitment and retention we look closely at their external brand and customer experience and then how that translates for their employees. Often it is night and day. Many years ago I attended an interview at Harrods. Walking through the plush luxury store to get to the Personnel department hidden on the top floor it was like stepping into a Workhouse. Desks with bricks propping up a wobbly leg, Dirty curtains, peeling walls. A late and rude interviewer, I ran screaming out the door. An extreme example, but having a company that feels as good on the inside as it looks on the outside really works when attracting and retaining talent.

Notonthehighstreet.com have a very strong brand and I can tell you that working there is like stepping into Alice in Wonderland. Every room and employee experience beautifully curated and thought through.

TIMES HAVE CHANGED

Too often we hear senior people (in their 50’s and 60’s) say things must be as they were when they entered the workplace: Working hard and being blindly loyal for years before the word promotion was mentioned. This together with a feeling that the current workforce is in someway inferior because they are digital and do things differently. Times have changed and if you want to recruit and retain talented people to take your business forward, so must you. Too often we find that the CEO that brought us in to fix the big retention problem, is largely the cause of it. The staff often have the answers and can see what needs to be done but don’t feel they have the voice. Just facilitating those conversations starts to unblock things and get some movement.

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LOVE YOUR ALUMNI

Don’t treat someone like they have been caught with their hands in the till, just because they have gone elsewhere to get some experience. Smart companies that career plan with their staff will have anticipated this move, maybe even facilitated it and remain in contact. Happy ex employees not only direct other talent back at you but often return in a more senior role: a powerful story for when you are next hiring.

TAKE A LEAF OUT OF MARY POPPINS

Much as you may like to keep people forever (no one likes recruitment, induction and training people) the reality is you need them as long as they are actively contributing and happy. Mary Poppins stayed until the wind changed and actually accepting and embracing some turnover as a way to keep things fresh is healthy. Your most loyal and long serving employees may not always be your best.

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Ruth Cornish, FCIPD, is the Managing Director of Amelore, an HR and Coaching consultancy that work with fast growing businesses by providing a fresh and modern perspective on people issues. Catch up with her at Innovation Rocks on June 10, South Gloucestershire

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