Talent ScoutSeveral leaders I’ve spoken with recently have complained about attrition in their companies. “Where’s the loyalty?” they ask, fretting about the mobility of today’s knowledge workers. In my view, if you are complaining after they leave, you’re about two decades too late. That’s how long it has been since the old labor-and-management paradigm gave way to the free agent nation. At this point even the most staid industry must adapt to the #NewNorm.

Don’t complain about the talent that leaves your employment—change the way you source, hire, onboard, and develop them to want to stay and contribute to a great outcome! I believe loyalty springs from great performance. Like theater, loyalty unfolds in three acts: it’s based on how your organization performs before the employee/employer relationship begins; during the employment process; and yes, after a person leaves the company.

In this and subsequent posts I’ll share with you my thoughts on how you can, through strategic action, increase your organization’s performance in earning relationship loyalty. Let’s begin at the beginning: before the hire.

Leaders Must Always Be Talent Scouts

DO NOT abdicate the key role of talent scout to your HR department. Attracting and developing human capital is fundamentally a leadership role. What are you doing, as a senior manager and leader, to stay open to meeting potential talent for your firm? Have you looked for people outside of your perceived best recruiting channels? Step outside and you might be surprised at the talent that’s out there. I’ve hired great employees who happened to be my waiter at a restaurant, because they showed me the right ingredients for fantastic customer service. I’ve hired great people from retail—they are fantastic at engaging other people.

Don’t send the HR team to do the scouting—they act on the instructions of hiring managers. That’s as it should be, but it’s not proactive. As a leader, you need to take the lead. Get yourself out to the places where you can meet top talent. University hiring fairs can be a bonanza, and yet too often I see companies sending the most junior manager or HR staffer to scan the candidates.

Your Can’t Train Intelligence

There’s a saying: “Pick an apple from the tree, not from the ground.” If you don’t want a rotten apple, don’t take it from the ground—pick it from where it is already healthy and growing. And while we’re working the apple metaphor, don’t pick the low hanging fruit, either. The apples at the top of the tree are closest to the sun; they’re getting the best nutrients. Wouldn’t you rather have an employee who’s receiving training and development from a current employer? You can be shameless about wooing talent from world-class organizations like Disney, Ritz Carlton, Four Seasons, and Nordstrom, widely recognized for the investment they make in their people.

Interview With a “WOW”

If performance that leads to loyalty begins before the hire, then the next logical act is making the interviewing process a top-notch experience. But let me take it one step further. What are you doing to create experiences BEFORE potential hires know they might want to join you? I love companies that offer regular facilities tours. Companies like Hershey’s Chocolate or Anheuser Busch offer fascinating experiences to the public! There’s a connection between the experiences you make possible for the public and the people who seek you out as an employer. A tour creates gravity that draws people to you as an employer.

Even if your plant doesn’t offer the entertainment value of Willy Wonka, you could still open your doors to your community occasionally. Offer career days to high schools and colleges in the communities you serve. Create product or process “demo days” of your unique value add out in the market. Get out of the “showroom” mentality and engage current and future customers at the edge of where they need your value!

Once you are engaged in the pre-employment process, how do you prepare? As you interview, do you also bear in mind that applicants are interviewing you? Your interview process should include a “wow” factor. Remember, you are selling here—asking others to invest in you as much as you will invest in them. A few tips:

  • Succinctly articulate your value proposition—what uniquely differentiates you from competitors in your industry, and in your employment catchment area. I believe a high degree of loyalty accompanies creating exceptional experiences; show the potential hire how different roles and functions contribute to customer experience.
  • Spread the interview around. Make it more than an hour of Q&A; include a day shadowing an employee. Don’t focus solely on job function; create chances to learn from others of similar demographics—age, gender, ethnicity. Imagine what both sides could ascertain in a day versus an hour.
  • Include opportunities to observe the soft assets on both sides—strategic relationships skills, empathy, emotional intelligence—call the behaviors what you will, it’s good to know whether someone has the “basic training” to, say, gracefully engage with a key client over lunch or step in to facilitate a high-stakes negotiation before they become your training responsibility.

Loyalty should be reciprocal. A good way to earn that quality of commitment is to start by being as candid as possible. Be the first to show transparency and authenticity, and you will establish a tone for the interview that reflects the topgrade culture you want for your organization.

If you desire loyal talent relationships, be a company that inspires loyalty. In my next post I’ll take the topic from “before” to “during”—how “topgrading” your employment strategy will build loyalty.

Nour Takeaways

  1. Senior leadership must take responsibility for talent sourcing and look outside expected channels.
  2. Hire top performers; don’t be shy about recruiting those happily employed elsewhere.
  3. Make every contact with your company a “wow” experience, starting even before the interview.
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