Get More by Giving More: Developing a Culture of Learning and Loyalty

 

 

In today's fast-paced business world, companies are constantly trying to compete by restructuring business processes to be better, faster, and cheaper. As the primary recruiter at Interact Marketing, I have constantly tried to optimize our interview, selection, and on-boarding process to maximize talent, and minimize attrition. Candidate selection was typically based on hard skills first, and then on "softer" indicators like personality type and extracurricular activities. We targeted those who would require the least training, who were immediately available, and who could "hit the ground running" with minimal up-time. This traditional method worked fairly well, until it didn't. By not focusing on other indicators—and more importantly by not continuing a two-way career conversation—we ended up with a team of great talent that turned over 85% to attrition every 24-36 months.

 

Top people would often leave during a critical time of growth, forcing us to fill gaps, hire replacements quickly, and cover the same ground of growth several times. Though we never relented on customer service, existing staff and management would often "pay the toll" of the attrition by having to work longer hours, and take on new responsibilities until we could get "back over the hump" on right-sizing the team. During exit interviews, which we were smart enough to execute, we discovered those that left were often not dissatisfied, but more had a feeling of lacking upward mobility and challenge. We were in fact very good at hiring A players, we were just not that great at keeping them for the long haul.

 

We began to research more heavily what other companies were doing. The more we looked, the more we discovered that our style of "hire fast" on skill alone, was somewhat archaic. We needed to remodel.

 

Through our association with the Entrepreneur’s Organization in New York, we were introduced to the Top Grading® Methodology, who claims to have developed the most effective hiring methodology on the planet. We learned principles that we had not considered such as "Always Be Recruiting", even when positions were not immediately open. We also discovered that we may need to speak to four or five times the number of candidates in order to really find those with not only skills, but other key traits that may indicate longer successful careers with our company.

 

We learned that communication starts with asking better questions of accountability around the recruiting process, combined with an ongoing measurement of goal setting and achievement with employees. This includes not just having a formal review process, but having real, meaningful, one-to-one conversations with employees over time to help develop their career—and not relying on them telling you when they are disappointed, unchallenged, or considering moving on.

 

Reading Case Studies

 

We read dozens of recruiting methodologies, and focused on the more cutting-edge procedures that seemed to create winning results. Companies like Facebook, Zappos, and The Container Store were having wild success with absurdly upside-down approaches. The Container Store, for example, has a foundation principal the "1 Great Person = 3 Good People, in terms of business productivity". Their website boasts, "because we’re getting three times the productivity, we can also afford to do a lot of training—first year, full-time employees receive more than 200 hours of formal training compared to the industry average of 8 hours.

 

"We truly love our employees and we’re committed to caring for their whole being— not just as workers...And these GREAT people stick around—we have an average 10% turnover rate in an industry where many full-time employees don’t even stay a year.”

 

Interviewing Peers and Thought Leaders

 

Through my writings on business development, we often develop new relationships that magnetize to our philosophies, or who have mirrored many of these similar processes. Recently, I had the pleasure of meeting with and interviewing Rachel Bullock, COO of Los Angeles-based digital media company, Render Media. Rachel was the first female employee, and has since completely transformed the company, growing it from 5 employees to 50. Under her leadership and direction, Render Media has achieved over 400 million monthly video views across their publications and over 50 million unique monthly visitors to their websites. During our chat, Rachel revealed some of her secrets to success, and gave us even more ideas on how a more radical approach is a necessity to secure loyalty and minimize attrition with today's younger workforce.

 

Rachel instituted  several programs to support  professional education within her organization by formalizing processes to ensure all new hires get a minimum of eight hours of peer-to-peer training with each departmental manager. They conduct weekly one-on-one feedback sessions, in addition to 90-day quarterly reviews.

 

"We provide money towards outside professional development training on a 'your time, our dime' philosophy, allowing those who are eager to hone their skills and learn new ones a chance to grow into leadership positions,” said Rachel. "We treat interns as potential future leaders, not grunt workers, and we've hired top talent from this pool that makes up about 20% of our current employee base. Empowering your employees by supporting them to grow in their career will not only benefit individual employees and teams, but will also have a hugely positive effect on the company as a whole.. We are constantly increasing the value proposition for our team, and they can see this level of care and commitment on our part. This is what earns and drives relentless loyalty.”

 

Results

 

Since adjusting our recruiting, hiring, on-boarding, and career development processes we have decreased annual attrition of key staff by over 60%. Employee satisfaction is up, and we know this because we poll weekly, and even have the best employee software we know of in place (15Five) to make sure this communication is constant and ongoing. We continue to speak with industry trendsetters and experts like Rachel to continuously challenge our own model, and tweak what is likely the most important aspect of stability in our company—our great people, whom we would not exist without.

 

What improvements could you deploy in short order that could make a great impact in the quality and consistency of your team for the long term?  How could an investment in your people pay back tenfold in the long-term costs of managing attrition, rehire, rebuild cycles?  What impact could this increased stability of your most important asset—your people—have on your growth trajectory?  

 

I think you will be rather pleased, and perhaps even surprised by the results you can drive.

 

 

 

 

By:Joe Beccalori

 

Joe  is a 22-year digital marketing veteran and web security expert and is the CEO of Interact Marketing.