Talent Acquisition and Retention
Finding the right fit when hiring for an open position is a challenge. However, there are approaches that are objective and are continuously proven to be highly successful.
This term means different things in different industries. For our purposes, it means understanding who you have on your team from a personality, capacity, and performance perspective and then determining what the characteristics make a profile which defines the ideal candidate in our search and selection process. This is a somewhat simplistic approach, as there are many factors involved in creating an ideal candidate profile.
Benchmarking also includes looking at who you compete with for talent. What do other organizations pulling from the same candidate pool offer? What is the going compensation range for candidates you would be interested in?
Note: Many organizations set their salary/compensation range based on what they think they can afford (or want to afford). It is understandable that in the nonprofit world there are budgetary constraints. I would caution setting compensation rates low based on what they have always been, or trying to hold these expenses to the minimum. It sets you and your organization up to consistently look at the “bottom of the barrel” when it comes to the talent pool. Producing positions should be considered as self-funding positions. With a well-designed strategy, the KPIs that will drive performance, and regular performance evaluation/coaching sessions, producing positions should be paying for themselves.
There is great benefit in assessing your team to determine each individual’s uniqueness. Have you ever said, “I wish I could combine Dave’s (characteristic) with Sally’s (characteristic)?” This is very common. If you better understood the components of those characteristics through an assessment process, you then could start to build an ideal candidate profile that would assist in your search and selection process.
This is how you manage your hiring process. This can include screening processes, interview procedures, assessments, background checks, reference checks, etc. Creating an effective selection model is very important for many reasons. It keeps the process objective. It meets your organizations hiring policies. It meets state and federal regulations. Most importantly, it drives the process forward to a successful conclusion.
Note: There is a secret I have learned over the years that is foundational to a successful hiring process. Start with a clear set of criteria that is customized to your organizational, positional and cultural needs. Then gaining consensus of all decision makers on those criteria. This outline truly enhances the effectiveness of the process!
Selecting the Right Assessment Tools
There is much confusion and debate surrounding assessments: their effectiveness, which ones to use, are they legal in a hiring process, etc. The simple facts are these:
- Assessments are legal (and extremely helpful), if used correctly. As someone who uses assessments on a regular basis, I highly recommend working with a professional who has specialized education using these tools. If you choose to use assessments without the support of a professional, understand that you are incurring potential liability on yourself and your organization if you use them incorrectly.
- Professionals will only use well validated assessments that are proven to be a true enhancement to the selection or developmental process.
- Assessments are not a magic bullet. They should never be used as a single source for deciding about a person.
- They are highly valuable in providing better information to assist in making better decisions, and building a best-in-class team. 90% of best-in-class for profit companies use assessments.
- Selecting the right assessment package (multiple assessment tools) is critical to achieving your desired results and should be customized to your specific needs. This should never be a cookie cutter approach.
Important: Using a single assessment tool does not provide the multiple data points you need to provide a necessary correlation, and as a professional in the field, I never recommend a single test as it could lead to potential liability.
- Finally, if the use of the assessment reports stops after the hiring process, a huge opportunity is lost for a more rapid onboarding of the new hire, and the long-term development of the new team member. Assessment data can be used in a variety of ways to help an individual, team, and organization. With some assessments, the same data used for the selection process can be used to give direction in creating a personal/professional development plan for the individual. Tying this development plan to their KPIs accelerates the success for an individual and team.
Once you have designed your hiring process, with the help of your HR team and potentially outside professionals like consultants, it is time to implement your process. It is important to build in appropriate timelines for each step of the process, setting realistic goals for how long each step should take. Remember that it takes time to build a candidate pool, perform interviews, have assessments sent out and returned, etc. However, that does not mean it should take forever to complete the process. This is where a strong HR partner can be a huge help.
Note: The reason so many hiring managers dread hiring is that they do not have an objective, well planned search and selection process. The implementation of a process like this creates the “liberating structure” described earlier. Having clear criteria agreed upon by all parties in the decision-making process, a structured and objective approach to screening and interviewing candidates, a customized assessment process that provides critical insight into getting the right fit, and a selection model that moves the process forward in an expeditious manner will significantly enhance the success of your effort and will reduce the stress often experienced when trying to hire for open positions. Remember, each hiring event is an opportunity to move your team and your organization forward, to achieve your preferred future.
Note: Have you ever heard the saying “A hires A, B hires C”? This is a simple but profound statement. It means that “A players” are not afraid to hire people who are also top performers. That is the key. Don’t be afraid to hire what may be star performers. Surround yourself with top performers and see what happens. You will look like a genius!
In my experience, there is something I call the “15% rule”. No matter how good an organization’s mission is or how great the people are, at a 15% or higher increase in compensation, even the most devoted team member will start to consider other opportunities. If you want to retain good talent -especially top performers – ensure that your compensation package is competitive. It doesn’t have to be the best, but it does need to be within that reasonably competitive range. Otherwise, you may become known as “a great place to be from”. If you find you have a revolving door, where turnover is high and ROI (return on investment) is not what you would like it to be, then take a hard look at your competitiveness in compensation. If you are one of the fortunate ones whose organization compensates well, take advantage of that and be selective about the people you bring on board.
The most important factor in retention is culture fit. Many people will not agree with that statement, but I have observed this as a constant over the years. Have you ever caught yourself thinking, “They just don’t fit?” I think we all have. Rarely is that an experience or hard skills issue. The clear majority of the time, it is culture fit. I had a mentor who described it as “a long-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs.” Funny but very true. To make it practical, if your organization is in higher education, then people you bring on your team should relate well to that environment. If it is a faith based organization, then seek out team members who can thrive in that environment. The adage of trying to fit a square peg into a round whole (no matter the size of the hammer you are using) is very true. Good performance tends to follow a good fit to the culture where someone can fully engage and thrive in the organization.
Tip: In consulting with organizations, I use the term “passionate engagement”. When looking to bring someone into your organization. Can they become passionate about your core values, vision, and mission – and the way you do things? Can they fully engage with the positional responsibilities? If the answer to these two questions is yes, then you have the potential for a very good fit and a long-term team member.
Another important yet often overlooked factor in retaining team members is recognition. While this may mean monetary recognition, studies show that recognizing someone’s good performance through monetary reward is low on the list of effective, impactful recognition. Many times, team members value the opportunity to be recognized for their contributions through greater visibility in the organization or through having senior leadership spend time with them to listen to their ideas. This has a multiplicity of benefits for recognition, team building, and retention.
A critical element in building and retaining a best-in-class team is an enjoyable team environment. Not to be mistaken for a “fun” place to work, an enjoyable team environment is one where there is clarity of purpose, shared goals, a true spirit of cooperation, well defined structure and process, and a genuine desire by everyone to succeed. People need to have a roadmap to success and need to be able to see their progress on that journey.
Building a best-in-class producing team is a goal worthy of your organization’s mission. It starts with a realistic understanding of where you are today. Core values, vision, and mission should be your driving force. From there, you can design a strategy that sets the goals and objectives you want to accomplish. From your strategy comes structure. Then align your people with your culture. That may seem backward. The truth is, without setting the stage with the proper strategy and structure, you’ll always struggle with the people side. People need that roadmap to success that includes all the mile markers we discussed. This is what good leadership is all about, getting the right people in the right places doing the right things and leading by example.
The transformation process is not easy. If it were, everyone would have already done it. However, it can be done, and the benefits far outweigh the effort. The keys to a successful transformation to a best-in-class team are:
- A complete commitment to making the transformation happen from you and your leadership.
- A well-designed plan, with all the necessary resources.
- A willingness to be open to new ideas and approaches.
- The courage to lead the change process.
- An understanding that change takes time and will not happen overnight.
Having said that, implementing any of the steps discussed will significantly enhance the potential for successful hires, leading to improved productivity and better outcomes. Moving toward a best-in-class team is a process, and like any process, it is developed one step at a time.
As you think about building and keeping your dream team, put yourself in their shoes. When I am consulting with leaders, I always ask the WIIFM (What’s In It For Me) question as if I were a prospective team member. Have a good answer for this. Don’t let it just be about compensation, especially when talking to millennials! People want to belong to something bigger than themselves, something that has meaning and purpose. This goes back to your “deep why”. If you have not clearly defined that yet, you really need to. It is the inspirational force behind your effort.
Finally, the entire point to all of this is to reach the future you and your organization would like to achieve, and to reach that preferred future in a way that leaves a lasting legacy of professionalism, leadership, and performance. Oh, and have some fun along the way! The journey is just as important as the destination.