A car with a flat or missing tire won't get very far. Like any machine with missing or ineffective parts, it simply won't operate properly. And the same is true of organizations. Organizations are only as successful as their employees are, so attracting and retaining top talent is vital to success. These five things will help you  get and keep your best employees.

1. Create a great place to work.

It's simple law of attraction: fantastically talented people want to work at fantastic places. So, companies that create a great place to work often have a much easier time convincing people to come and stay there. Here's what we've found works well:

  • Be deliberate about culture: Having worked for organizations where less-than-stellar company cultures developed, my business partner and I outlined our company culture right from the start. We created company values, hired employees who shared the values, and measured all our actions against those values. The result has been that we've been able to maintain a rewarding and enjoyable company culture.
  • Understand the depth of work's impact: The amount of stress, career fulfillment, and time spent with family and friends are deeply and directly impacted by work environments -- for good or bad. Great workplaces take these deep impacts into consideration and help employees create balanced, enjoyable lives. For instance, we choose benefits like paid vacation expenses and 40-hour work weeks as opposed to free lunch or ping-pong tables. These benefits have a deeper impact and help us create our great workplace.

Deliberate culture planning and careful consideration of the impact (good or bad) your organization is having on employees will help you improve your workplace. And when your organization is a great place to be, people will come and stay.

2. Consider candidate and employee experience from the start.

We haven't always been so thoughtful about employee experience. In fact, in our early days, a new employee ended up bringing her own trash can from home because we forgot to give her one. (Not one of my proudest moments.) Since then, we've learned we only get one chance to kick-off candidate and employee experiences. Here's how we've improved those experiences:

  • Be proactive: We try proactively to anticipate candidate and employee needs, because when needs are met, people feel more at ease. For instance, we start parts of onboarding -- like sending information about teams and getting paperwork signed -- before the first day to help calm new hire nerves (plus, starting onboarding before day one reduces the number of no-shows).
  • Communicate clearly: Whether it's a job description or work evaluation, your candidates and employees need clear direction. Lack of clear communication results in frustration and misunderstandings, and when you frustrate people, they typically avoid interacting with (or working for) you.
  • Be structured: We try not to leave anyone wondering. We're clear about interviewing and onboarding timelines, so everyone knows what to expect and when. This clarity establishes your organization as responsible and accountable. Plus, employees who have a well-structured onboarding are  69 percent more likely to remain at an organization up to three years.

Employee and candidate experience might seem like a hiring afterthought, but they actually have a huge impact on whether or not you're able to hire and keep highly-talented employees. When people enjoy the time they spend with your organization, it will be easier for them to sign your offer letter or resist the advances of other recruiters.

3. Develop meaningful relationships.

Meaningful relationships always matter. It's important during the recruiting process because you want top-notch candidates to feel a connection with your organization that they don't experience with any of the other recruiters. But it's even more important to develop meaningful relationships with employees because meaningful relationships are often more important to employees than just about any other career aspect. Some tips for developing those relationships:

  • Get personal: I've found that taking the first few minutes of any meeting or interview to simply ask "How are you?" or "What's new?" or "How was Hawaii?" is a great way to get to know employees on a personal level.
  • Be thoughtful: In personal relationships, you lend extra support during tough times, celebrate together, and do thoughtful things for each other just because. Work relationships shouldn't be any different.
  • Be fair: Do you have any friendships that started off by lowballing your friend for their services? Or berating them in a meeting? Probably not. Meaningful relationships don't develop without trust. And when you treat employees unfairly, they won't trust you.

People want to work with people they like -- no big surprise there. So, if you want employees to come to your organization and stay, work on your relationships and encourage others to do the same.

4. Give and take frequent feedback.

No person or process is ever perfect. That's why getting and giving feedback is so vital! Employees and candidates should get feedback so they can grow and give feedback so organizations can improve. We give and get a couple of types of feedback:

  • Informal feedback: We ask candidates for it after their interview process. We encourage employees to share their opinions with anyone in the company. And all that informal, in-the-moment feedback helps us consistently improve.
  • Formal feedback: We do quarterly reviews where employees give and get 360-degree feedback, and employees meet with their managers at least monthly to discuss how things are going. This helps the organization and employees benchmark their performance and make goals.

Advancement is the number one thing that employees want in their jobs, and frequent feedback helps make that growth possible. And when you ask for and encourage feedback, it lets employees and candidates know your organization is open, which will make them like you even more.

5. Find other leaders who also do these things.

For the first few years of our business, I loved meeting one-on-one with all potential and current employees, getting feedback from them, and checking in with them frequently. But it became impossible with hundreds of employees and even more candidates. Instead, I've had to trust other leaders to execute. When all leaders are doing these things, employees get more individualized attention from their direct managers, and I can get a general report. Even if you are small enough to still do all this yourself, you can set the groundwork for growth:

  • Hire and promote good leaders: Look for leaders who naturally pay attention to employee experience, relationships, and feedback. It'll be easier to trust that those things will continue to happen as you grow.
  • Meet with other leaders frequently: You'll want to keep a general pulse on the organization and the state of retention and recruiting -- even if you don't know specific numbers around retention rate or time-to-fill. Meeting frequently will help.
  • Train leaders: No one ever completely nails strategies for attracting and retaining -- it's a constant work in progress. When you do get together with other leaders, hold trainings. Or simply discuss what's going well and what isn't. Just make sure you're constantly learning and adapting so you can continue to improve.

Perhaps you will be able to continue having these interactions with every single employee and job candidate. But even so, you'll want to be able to count on other leaders within your organization to help attract and keep talented employees, too. When you're all working toward that goal together, you'll be much more effective.

 

If you want to succeed as an organization, you have to hire and retain successful employees. You can do this by creating a great workplace, paying careful attention to employee and candidate experience, developing relationships with employees, creating a feedback loop, and then finding other leaders who will do the same.

 

Published on: Aug 1, 2016
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.