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Employee Retention: Don’t Put the Cart before the Horse

The Bureau of Labor Statistics has predicted the need for service workers (jobs that require person-to-person interaction) will grow faster than any other job sector over the next several years and, given this scenario, no employer can afford to lose even one good employee. In fact, many are offering previously unheard of incentives to keep their best people on board. Unfortunately, we’re not really going to make much progress this way because it’s putting the cart before the horse.

Best practice studies show that the employers who successfully retain their best people have one thing in common – they hire right in the first place. They know retention starts in the hiring process and then becomes an on-going activity for as long they have that employee – no matter what the labor market is like.

Hiring right starts with recruiting right, and I don’t mean putting out the “Now Hiring” sign and taking the best of whoever shows up. Instead, we need to identify our ideal can-didates by answering some fundamental recruiting questions.

Ask yourself what kinds of people work for you now, which ones are the best and why? Why do they work for you and what do they want from their jobs? Where do these kinds of people congregate? What do they read? Why do you lose some of the good ones? Who is your competition for employees? What does your competition offer that you don’t? What can you offer that they don’t? Ask your best people these questions. You have a much better chance of recruiting the kind of people you want when you know exactly what you’re looking for.

Once you’ve identified your ideal candidates, tailor your recruiting message to appeal to them and broadcast it where they’re most likely to see it. Like all advertising, your re-cruiting campaign must have a strong benefit message. You have to tell them why they want to work for you.

Next, you have to make it easy for them to apply. Most of the good people who want to work are already working. How you could make it easier for the people you want to at-tract to apply? Could you install a 24-hour job hotline?

Once you attract the right kinds of people and make it easy for them to apply, you need to hire tough. Each step of the hiring process should be viewed as a test and each test should be progressively more difficult. If you need someone to work a shift that starts at 5:00 a.m., schedule the interview for 5:00 a.m. If they don’t show or show on time, count yourself lucky. You just avoided hiring a problem you didn’t need.

Whenever and wherever possible, make it a rule to hire for attitude and train for skills. While anyone with the right mental and physical capacities can be trained to operate most any kind of equipment and do most any task, it’s nearly impossible to train a person with the wrong attitudes to smile or be honest or dependable.

Always test for whatever it takes to be successful on the job – be it intelligence, strength or stamina, skills, or attitudes. Testing is proven to be a far more reliable predictor of success than interviewing, references, education, or experience. You can devise your own tests or use one of the validated, cost-effective, and time-efficient tools available on the market.

Take these steps and you’ll be pleasantly surprised to discover that the more difficult you make the job to get, the more the good people will really want it.

Employee retention is not something you only work on when the labor market gets tight. Retention starts with recruiting and hiring right and, long-term, hiring right is what sepa-rates the success stories from the also-rans.

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Certified Speaking Professional Mel Kleiman is an internationally recognized consultant, author and speaker/trainer on strategies for finding and keeping the best hourly employees. He is the president of Humetrics, a leading developer of systems, training processes, and tools for recruiting, selecting and retaining the best hourly workforce. Kleiman is the author of five books, including the best-selling "Hire Tough, Manage Easy." For more information, visit www.humetrics.com or call (713) 771-4401.

Mel Kleiman Founder, Humetrics
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