In conversations over the past 15 years with human resource professionals and hiring managers in a variety of industries and disciplines the same question is often posed: Why is it so hard to attract and retain the very best people when our our compensation and benefits plans are competitive?
Yes, compensation is a part of the issue; however, when I ask if an exit interview was completed and if the honest “truth” was gathered regarding the reasons behind an employee leaving, ioften the answer is no. And even if this information was gathered, is it communicated to and acted upon by the organization? I am sure it is not.
Hiring managers and human resource professionals tell me they want to attract and retain the best performers for their organization. Intellectually, they know this is essential to the organization’s competitive edge, reputation, innnovation, productivity and overall success, but, do they know and understand how to identify the talent they need for the company and what will keep these individuals from “walking” out the door? I don’t think most of them do. And recruiting talented professionals requires far more than an on-line application process with a keyword search and a quick telephone screen — but that is for another article.
The conversations with departing employees are the real sources of actionable information on attracting, recruiting and retaining the best people. The exit interview is one of the most powerful agents of organizational and cultural change available to any leader. Those who interview exiting employees should have the knowledge and ability to ask probing questions, the talent to listen closely and the ccourage to communicate these findings to leadership.
The following points represent what I have been told by high performance candidates who are looking to make a change.
1. It is about the job. The biggest and most important reason why top performers want to look for other opportunities (or why they decline) is their love of the job. The “A” players love what they are doing. They want a job to be challenging and fulfilling, they want to be be organizationally impactful and they want to have a clear path to unlimited success. Work energizes them, they will take an ordinary job and turn it into an extraordinary job by taking on more responsibilites, tasks and roles within the organzation. They are people that don’t say, “It’s not my job.” They say, but rather “I can do that,” and are in a position in which they can.
2. It is about the people. Top talent will stay with a company if they feel they are surrounded by smart, knowledgeable, creative and committed people who will bring out the best in them. They need to feel a certain “espirit de corps” in the culture; they want to work in an environment in which everyone is looking out for one another and each is focusing on making the organization successful.
3. It is about the leadership. The best talent wants strong visionary leaders, not managers. They want their leaders to engage, mentor and appreciate them. They want them to provide overall strategic direction and be transparent, truthful and confident. They seek leadership with personal integrity.
4. Its about training and development. Top performers want personal performance goals and objectives and to receive formal feedback measuring their performance. They want continuing education and training to provide them with opportunites to learn new skills to increase their abilities, and positively impact the company and the industry.
Improving these four things could make a big difference in the level of talent that companies are able to attract and retain. There is no better time than now to work toward improvement to ensure you are positioned to attract and retain the best. Having and keeping the best talent will impact your organization’s bottom line, market share and shareholder equity.