The best time to retain your staff is when you recruit them

Published on: 28 Feb 2016

We are constantly hearing about skills shortages.  There are many different areas – IT/computing, engineering, construction and others – where there is no obvious end in sight to the paucity of expertise necessary to fill key jobs that are vital for the future prosperity of the companies concerned, to say nothing of the economy as a whole. Other than the obvious solutions of trying to improve the numbers studying the relevant subjects in secondary and tertiary education, I’m not sure what can be done about this.  Certainly, governments of various stripes have not got it right, but businesses don’t help themselves.  In particular, there is one area where I believe too many directors take a short-term view of the human talent at their disposal and their businesses suffer as a consequence.

If your firm operates in a sphere where there is a recognised shortage of talent, it is more important than ever that you do what you can to hang on to what you have got. Unfortunately, recruitment continues to be a distress purchase; not so much shutting the stable door after the horse has bolted but just rushing out and buying the next horse that shows an interest.  To continue with this metaphor, it would be a lot better if the stable was sufficiently swish that no horses try to make a bid for freedom…

I wrote in another blog here about the importance of work-life balance, and it’s clear that this, plus improved staff retention via better career planning and more, relevant training are some of the obvious remedies. Yet there is more to hanging on to your good staff than these, important though they are.

Every business complains about its costs.  The cost of recruitment is no exception, especially when it’s the aforementioned distress purchase.  Yet it ought not to be beyond the wit of man or woman to treat staff fairly, engage with them honestly and consequently not have to spend so much money/time going back out to the market every six months for a new CIO/CFO/CEO etc.

Many companies think the answer lies in what they do internally and how this is communicated externally, aka ‘the employer brand’.  Yes, your employer brand – the combination of personal social, professional and psychological elements that make people want to work for you – really does matter (I’ll have more to say about this in a future blog), but if you really want to reduce staff turnover then you need to start at the very beginning – when you next have to recruit.

This is any area where your recruitment adviser really can make a difference. While they can’t influence directly what goes on inside your business, a great recruiter should be brave enough (not enough are) to point out when a client is losing talent too often and question why this is happening.  The great recruiter should also do everything possible to ensure that any new person put into that client’s business must be the best possible match, personally, socially, professionally and psychologically, to reduce the chances of a repeat recruitment campaign in six months’ time.  Matching candidates to the employer brand should be a no-brainer, but does your recruitment adviser do this?  The next time you have to go to the market for some rare talent, make sure they do!

James Dunne, exec-appointments