7 Ways Leaders Can Attract and Retain Top Talent

When assessing prospective talent there are certain words we should never say.

Posted Nov 01, 2018

Slidebot/used with permission
Source: Slidebot/used with permission

The role of business leaders and senior executives in the talent acquisition process is often under emphasized as a success criterion. Many leaders unwittingly relinquish their vast power in aiding organizational recruiting and retention efforts. Employee longevity starts long before the prospective employee crosses the front door to start work. Loyalty to the leader and the organization begins with initial contact and matures as the recruiting process evolves.

Leaders have the capacity (vast knowledge of the company), the responsibility (championing the organization) and the incentive (decreasing open positions and minimizing recruiting costs) to assist in identifying and evaluating the best talent possible. From the recruits perspective, leaders embody the organizational climate and culture. Expectations communicated during the initial interview influence company tenure and can be a strong catalyst for normative behavior for years to come.

Although many primary factors that attract employees to organizations such as career development and reward systems are usually beyond the direct control of one individual, there are many things a leader can communicate during the recruiting process. Some of the easiest to implement recruiting and retention strategies include:

Setting realistic expectations – leaders should pay special attention to “visions of reality” when speaking with potential employees. Setting unrealistic expectations, such as achieving a three-level promotion within a year are inappropriate for just about anyone. Lofty and unrealistic goals by candidates that are seemingly endorsed by leadership can cause frustration when timetables are not met, eventually resulting in employee turnover. Instead of overselling, communicate realism during an interview and leave the hyperbole to the marketing department.

Slidebot/used with permission
Source: Slidebot/used with permission

Giving full disclosure – if the company is experiencing economic issues that might influence employee growth or satisfaction, it is far better to discuss those with a candidate up front. Most individuals will make decisions based upon the totality of the information they receive. Decisions made on selective information can create surprises after employment. The surprises may lead to feelings of mistrust and uncertainty, which can be a catalyst to moving on. Don’t make predictions that may be beyond organizational control.

Emphasizing developmental opportunity – encourage candidates to articulate their own career development plan with time frames during the interview process. This information from the candidate will allow the organization to integrate the candidate’s expectations with the reality of career development in the firm. In addition, discuss the salary structure not just the rate – tell employees what is important for success within the organization. By disclosing the full process of reward to candidates they will understand not only what is necessary to achieve success but also how the process works. With the correct information they will not become impatient with the company’s reward procedures because they were disclosed prior to the employment decision.

Slidebot/used with permission
Source: Slidebot/used with permission

Explaining how things get done – talk to candidates about how the workflow and decision-making process operates in your company. Contingent upon prior experience some candidates may not have the willingness or tolerance to deal with bureaucracy, consensus opinion building, autocracy or whatever style is most prevalent in your firm. It is important for the new employee to understand what the organization considers normative behavior, so they don’t appear to be resisting the typical company culture.

Knowing your internal candidate pool – get involved in organizational development. The most frequent reason for employee turnover is lack of promotional opportunity. By becoming involved in organizational succession planning and review, leaders can be more in tune with internal talent. Positions can be filled at lower cost and with the increased satisfaction of internal growth. Realistic promises of upward growth cannot be communicated if the leader is clueless about the front-line organizational structure.

Using behavioral interview tactics – leaders should strive toward detecting employee unrest at previous jobs. Ask questions like: “Why did you take that headhunter phone call when you prior position was so satisfying?” or “How do you think people act differently at work when they are looking for a new job?” Responses to these types of questions will illustrate how prospective employees may respond to situations of organizational frustration and change. Leaders focusing upon compatibility, personal tolerance, and reasons for leaving during the assessment process can decipher keys to incompatibility and premature departure.

Slidebot/used with permission
Source: Slidebot/used with permission

The long-term success of the employee relationship is based upon many factors besides basic compensation. Clear expectations with candidates are the true catalyst to open communication. By conducting an in-depth disclosure during the interview process leaders can be instrumental in enhancing long-term candidate retention and add even more value to their companies.  Finally, put yourself in the shoes of the candidate.  Ask yourself “what  impressions will the candidate have after spending a half-hour with me?” If the answer is unclear or unrealistic, consider making changes to avoid contributing to turnover in today’s highly competitive job market.