How do you know if someone is going to stick around? Well, you don’t. Your company’s number one asset is also its most unpredictable. But fear not! Here are a few ways you can take as much of the volatility out of your hiring as possible.
1.) Ask the right questions.
Your first glimpse into a candidates’ penchant for retention occurs when you first look at their resumes. Regardless of someone’s credentials, if he or she has made an unusually high number of career moves, you can probably consider this to be a red flag. So get to the bottom of it! The question, “Why did you leave your last job(s)?” is probably asked in every interview, and it should be. By asking this question, you’ll find out about your candidates’ motivators and on-the-job performance. Don’t fall in love with candidates who tell you they left an employer for reasons that also exist at your company – maybe they’re Scrum enthusiasts and you’re a Kanban shop – as this is a clear indicator that they won’t be happy in your environment.
Candidates don’t want to talk forever about why they left jobs, so be sure to lighten the mood, too. It’s just as important to learn why your candidates stayed with their employers as long as they did. What did they love about those companies? Is your company prepared to offer those things and more?
For most positions, especially early hires and people who will be key decision-makers, you need to find out whether or not your candidates agree with and support your vision. If their vision differs, do they have compelling reasons, and are you willing to incorporate their ideas? If not, you’re setting both parties up for eventual disappointment. Discuss long-term vision and strategy in the interview to avoid a difficult situation post-hire.
2.) Face the facts.
If your candidates want to be inventors and innovators, and you just need someone to keep the lights on, you’re swimming in the wrong candidate pool. Don’t go after people who won’t be challenged and satisfied with the nature of the work you need to finish. It takes people of all levels, and with a variety of skill sets, to keep a company afloat. Evaluate your open positions as closely as you evaluate your candidates, and target the right people for the jobs.
3.) Have an airtight interview process.
And don’t make exceptions! Involve multiple trained interviewers who understand the position that needs to be filled, and ensure that each interviewer is assessing each candidate in a consistent, clearly-defined manner. Interviewers should avoid talking to each other about the candidate until their feedback is on the record and their hiring suggestion has been made. If each interviewer is confident in the decision to hire the candidate, you can feel more assured that the decision is a good one.
4.) Clean up any messes.
Of course, even the best hires won’t stick if the problem is your company’s, not theirs. Do some benchmarking. Does your company have a high turnover rate compared to other employers? Is there a particular position or team that struggles to keep employees? If so, take a close look at all the factors. An ineffective manager, an impossible task/workload, or a poorly-defined position plan are just a few of the areas in which a company should continuously self-examine and improve. You wouldn’t invite someone to your home if you hadn’t cleaned it in months, so make sure your workplace is in tip-top condition before trying to introduce someone new.
Are you conducting exit interviews? If not, start immediately! Often, employers don’t know there’s a problem because employees are too timid or intimidated to say something. Employees who are exiting an organization have little to fear, however. You might discover some interesting and actionable problems that can be solved relatively simply. Exit interviews should be conducted by a neutral, trustworthy party (HR or an office manager), and not by the exiting employee’s direct manager.
Like most things involving your staff, there’s no silver bullet; some people are always going to wonder if the grass is greener on the other side of the fence, and you’re bound to lose a few good employees. But by adopting these techniques, and by creating an environment in which you would like to work, you’re more likely to retain an engaged, high-performing team.
Joe Humphries is the Senior Recruiter at Stack Exchange