As hiring becomes increasingly expensive and competitive, a minor reduction in employee turnover can make a significant cost-savings impact. This is true whether you're hiring executives or minimum wage workers.

When tackling retention, companies often think about the employees they already have, and the various paths and perks that would reduce restlessness after a few months or a few years on the job. And they absolutely should think about those things. Even (or especially) the most grizzled long-term employee should feel excited about future growth and opportunity - or eating free BBQ in a massage chair, or whatever you're bringing to the benefits table. But the path toward retention begins way before a quarterly or annual review; it even begins before the first day on the job.

Here are several ways that your hiring process today can directly affect your retention rates down the road.

Clean up your job descriptions

The best job listings provide all of the essential information like wage details, benefits information, typical working hours expected, and the tasks associated with the position. Beyond that, though, a job description is an opportunity to sell candidates on your company and your culture, and demonstrate how they will make an impact.

Be direct about what will be expected, and how success will be measured. This will reduce the likelihood of any unhappy surprises or misunderstandings once your new employee gets acclimated.

You want to be straightforward with your basics. This is especially important for your job title, which should be direct and searchable, even if you like the sound of Clean Plate Ninja better than Dishwasher. But you also have room in your job description to show a little of your personality. To apply a personal touch, you may even consider showcasing a few of the candidate's prospective teammates.

Reward referrals

Your company probably already loves referrals. Referred candidates are already vetted, and they've in turn had an opportunity to learn about you from someone they (presumably) trust. But the long-term value of referrals may be surprising. Not only are referred employees likely to stay with your company longer than the average employee, but your referrers are also more likely to stick around. Given the costs associated with hiring, especially repeatedly filling the same position, you may find that an employee referral program winds up as a cost-savings in the end.

One interesting twist to consider: data suggests that your best employees will refer the best candidates. OK, that part isn't surprising; that's essentially how sports championships are won. But your worst employees are also valuable referrers; it's the employees in the middle who generally tend to refer sub-par candidates.

Consider the logistics

Workpop's 2016 study found that applicants living within three miles of the workplace were more likely to be contacted by the employer, and 50% more likely to be hired. An awful commute, of course, can have a negative impact on retention, and hiring managers are right to be on guard - although drawing a decisive line in the sand will dilute the talent pool. Instead, think about ways to mitigate these potential obstacles (e.g. offer telecommuting days to that great candidate who lives 45 minutes away). Establish open communication and try to help proactively address any logistical hurdles that will sap a new hire's enthusiasm.

"Cultural fit" is a must-have

Showcasing your culture isn't only about selling your company to a top candidate; it should be a two-way conversation that lets candidates articulate what's important to them, too. A poor or awkward cultural fit will make itself known sooner than later, and will almost certainly influence the employee's eventual exit. What's more, a poor cultural fit can impact your other employees, too, thus amplifying the overall impact on productivity and the bottom line.

"I'd argue that culture fit is the most important aspect of retaining great employees above anything else," wrote Brent Gleeson.

Filling a single position can sometimes seem to be an interminable process. Other times, though, an urgent need or a rapid period of growth may accelerate your pace. Even in those periods, it's critical to pay attention to not just qualifications but values.

By thinking about retention during the hiring process, you'll potentially build a stronger team while cutting your hiring costs in the quarters and years ahead.

Published on: Jul 12, 2017