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Les McKeown's Predictable Success Blog

  • February 6, 2007
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How To Find and Keep Top Performers 

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Finding and keeping good people is an absolute cornerstone of achieving Predictable Success. So why is it so hard to do successfully?

There are 10 specific steps to Predictable Success in ‘talent acquisition’ and retention, and they’re not what you think.

Finding and keeping good people is an absolute cornerstone of achieving Predictable Success. So why is it so hard to do successfully?

Here are the 10 steps to Predictable Success in ‘talent acquisition’ and retention:

1. Know the new rules

Too many organizations are losing good people simply because the senior management and/or the hiring managers are living in the past.

The rules of the game have changed – the time when new employees where looking for lifetime employment, and brought with them unwavering loyalty are long gone.

Learn the new rules before you begin. (See also the section below ‘Educate Your Managers’).

2. Set clear retention goals

It’s hard to hit something you haven’t defined. Set clear retention / turnover metrics, realistically based on attainable goals.

You probably should set different goals for each major employee group, and possibly for differing geographical areas, but the main thing is to get started with something realistic as your ‘north star’.

Later on, you can build a more complex ‘Retention Dashboard’.

3. Build hiring profiles

It’s a myth that the number one reason for turnover is poor managers (that’s actually the number 2 reason).

The #1 cause for poor retention is poor hiring.

"The reason most people leave, is because they shouldn’t have been hired in the first place" - Les McKeown, Founder and CEO, Predictable Success.

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Why were they hired? Because of poor (or more often, non-existent) hiring profiles.

You need to be absolutely clear on the exact hiring profile for each major job group you hire for.

This is a cross-functional, detailed exercise which needs commitment and time, but it will dramatically reduce your employee turnover.

4. Develop a pipeline of qualified candidates

There are two types of organizations – those who hire ‘reactively’ when a vacancy arises, and those who pro-actively build a pipeline of pre-qualified candidates.

Those organizations that see recruitment as an inconvenient disruption to their everyday activities, lose the retention war.

The organizations that win are those that see recruitment as an everyday activity, just as important as everything else the organization does.

5. Conduct panel interviews

If you want to guarantee retention problems, let your hiring managers (or ‘HR’) interview candidates on their own.

Or pass the candidates along from one unstructured, one-on-one interview to another.

High-quality hires are made by structured panel interviews attended by not just the hiring manager but the post’s internal customers (and possibly external customers also).

6. Use behaviorally-based questions

Hiring with your gut’, or ‘looking for that certain something’ in an interview is fine when the organization has a small number of employees, all ultimately reporting to the founder/owner(s).

Once the organization gets bigger than about 75 people, or has 2 or more levels of management, your gut gets stupid. It just can’t know the complexity of what’s required to succeed in any one job.

Do yourself a favor, and remove the guessing from interviews – use behaviorally-based questions that provide demonstrable evidence of competence in the ‘must-have’s for success in the job.

7. Build an orientation program

Don’t blow it on the first date.

90% of people who leave an organization within 24 months actually made up their minds to leave in the first 3 months of joining.

The rest of the time is spent in denial and resume-protection.

If you haven’t got a decent orientation program, get one. It doesn’t need to be a masterpiece – just something that makes your new employees feel at home.

8. Reward mentoring and coaching

If you have managers who wouldn’t recognize a coaching opportunity from a hole in the wall, or who think praise is a sign of weakness, you’ve got a retention problem.

Train your managers how to mentor and coach, and reward them for doing so.

Fire them if they don’t: mentoring and coaching isn’t the sign of a ‘good manager’ – the absence of mentoring and coaching is the sign of a poor manager.

9. Provide career development opportunities (larger organizations)

If you have more than 150 employees, you need to start thinking about providing career development opportunities for your key people.

If you have more than 250 employees, it ain’t optional – you must show employees (existing and potential) that you encourage sideways and up/down movement in the organization – and that means actually doing it, not just talking about it.

10. Educate your managers

Everything we’ve talked about so far will improve your employee retention and drive down unwanted turnover – but only if your managers get behind it.

If your managers either ignore or reject the implications on them to make this work, then everything else will fail.

They need to devote time and energy to building job profiles, helping with proactive hiring, sitting on interview panels, suppressing their ‘gut’, using behaviorally based questions, sending people to orientation (maybe even helping with the orientation training), mentoring, coaching and encouraging their best people to move around inside the organization.

This is a sea-change in many organizations and is you single biggest challenge in finding and keeping the key performers you need to achieve Predictable Success.

What about you? How can / are you implementing the Predictable Success Rules for Retention in your organization?

Let me know in the comments below!


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