The Recruiter's Role in Boosting Employee Retention

June 30, 2015

Marina Shifrin was working as an editor for Next Media Animation, a company famous for creating cartoon satires of American news stories, when she reached her breaking point. Dealing with long hours and constant pressure to churn out content, she decided to jump ship in the most public possible way.

Camera in hand, Shifrin walked into the Next Media Animation newsroom and filmed an epic ‘I quit’ interpretive dance to Kanye West’s Gone. In the video, she outlined grievances that are far too common in today’s workforce—unrealistic goals, misalignment with bosses, and burnout. The video has generated more than 19M views since 2013.

While few people are willing to express their workplace frustrations in such a public way, the fact is that Shifrin isn’t alone. A recent Gallup poll found that worldwide, only 13 percent of workers consider themselves engaged at work. If you don’t keep them motivated, high performers will quit without thinking twice.

To stay competitive in attracting and retaining top talent, employers need to create happy and engaging workplace cultures. Even though retention is typically not considered to be a recruiter’s job, they can play a critical role in helping companies achieve this goal. Here’s how:

Educate business leaders about the cost of losing talent

Tip nominated by: Phil Hendrickson, Chief Talent Strategist at Qwalify

Recruiters may not be responsible for designing a company’s culture, but they do have a big stake in ensuring that candidates stick around for the long haul. Recruiters also have a great vantage point into best practices for employee retention.

In the last seven years, the economy has both shrunk and expanded. During the last recession, many companies cut back their teams to streamline expenses. In the last two years, however, the economy has begun to pick back up.

“Even still, companies have failed to hire or rehire employees,” says Phil Hendrickson, a strategic recruiting professional who has led talent acquisition for companies like Apple Retail and Starbucks.

“Many people find themselves doing one-and-a-half to two jobs. Their workloads have increased but their salaries have not. They don’t feel developed or that there is a career path for them. They just feel overworked.”

One way that talent leaders can emphasize the importance of hiring and cost of losing talent is to calculate a forecast for executive leaders, counterparts in finance, and hiring managers across teams. Recruiters can create an internal presentation, executive lunch & learn, or report—choose the medium that best resonates with (and gets buy-in from) your target audience. This infographic can help guide your projections and discussions.

In the U.S., for instance, average employee replacement costs are 1.5 times their annual salaries. Assuming a base income of $50K, LinkedIn benchmarks the average cost of preventable employee turnover—across 10,000 employees—to be $75M. And this figure is based on average employees. Hendrickson points out that top employees can cost up to four to five times their salaries to replace.

“You’re talking about hundreds of thousands to millions of dollars in costs associated with losing someone,” says Henrickson. “From a business standpoint, it makes sense to build a strong and fulfilled team.”

Encourage internal mobility—before the candidate is even hired

Tip nominated by: Amanda Ferris, Team Builder at Payoff

Top employees are hungry to learn and grow in their careers - recruiters and hiring managers should anticipate this need before they bring candidates on board.

Payoff, for instance, relies on cross-functional teams to interview candidates. The strategy has a twofold outcome: candidates have the opportunity to learn about multiple roles within the organization, and Payoff is able to better assess culture fit in its collaborative environment.

This ‘getting to know you’ process enables Payoff to help candidates grow in their roles from day 1 on the job.

“Once a new employee joins, we work to understand their career ambitions and try to get them exposure to areas where they can start to explore and grow in addition to their current, primary responsibilities,” says Ferris.

At the interview stage, recruiters are in an ideal position to assess candidates’ long-term goals. It’s important to ensure that these career aspirations align with the organization’s growth trajectory. Understand where candidates fit into your company both now and later.

Be an open book about your organization’s flaws

Tip nominated by: Adam Plachta, Lead Recruiter at Tidemark

Today’s employees are self-directed in their career searches and rely heavily on publicly available data when deciding where to work. Recruiters can step in by adding an extra layer of information. By giving candidates a realistic view of their companies - both pros and cons - recruiters can pre-screen for candidates who are likely to stick around.

“I am extremely honest about the challenges that we see, whether they are unique to us or ubiquitous amongst startups,” Plachta says.“The benefit of this is twofold: the first is that only the candidates who embrace the challenge of the startup world move forward, thus reducing churn, and the second is that transparency in the recruiting process increases our employer brand and helps us get the right type of applicants.”

No organization is perfect. Candidates understand that every career decision involves trade-offs. Don’t surprise candidates with hidden information down the road - tell them what they need to know to make an informed decision now.

Final thoughts

The key to boosting employee retention is an understanding of how each candidate fits into an organization’s long-term vision. Rather than waiting for prospective employees to join your team, understand their career goals before they’re hired. Give your candidates the resources that they need to make an educated decision.

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