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 choosing to embark on a relationship together – albeit a business one.
But what happens when the relationship goes pear-shaped 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 do to prevent employees from jumping ship for ‘greener pastures’? Here are five tips from recruiting and hiring pros for reducing churn and improving 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 sugar-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.”
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, suggests 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.”
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 San Francisco, 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 bad things about their organisation.
“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, make 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.”
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 organisation 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 imply backstabbing and conspiring for personal gain,” says Cole. “An organisation that tolerates that type of behaviour 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.”
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 his 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 came to the United States for several consecutive lawn mowing seasons to save as much money as possible to improve the lives of their families back home by building homes, ranches and cattle farms.
To fuel his team through the tough times, including the US economic recession of 2009, he rallied them around their ‘why’. At weekly meetings, they gave progress reports on projects back home and displayed 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 organisation 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.