Get a step up on employee retention

Part 1 of a series: It starts with the hire.

Hiring the right employees is the most important ingredient in business success. Your people are your most valuable asset. And their departure can be costly, both in terms of lost revenue and in recruiting and training the new members of your team.

As the economy has begun to improve, and with the emergence of more millennial workers in the job market, holding on to valuable employees has become one of the issues about which business owners and managers are most concerned. You may be surprised by the factors that employees consider when they think about leaving, but there is a great deal you can do to minimize those departures and their impact on your company.

woman succeeding in job interviewIt all starts with hiring the right employees. Good hires are a combination of innate talent, ability and intelligence as well as “fit” with the company’s goals, values and culture. Remember that people can be trained to perform certain functions, but their personality and match to the rest of your team cannot be taught. That’s why many employers devote a great deal more time to screening for interpersonal skills, adaptability, personal values and work ethic.

To help assess a potential employee’s “fit,” involve current employees in the interviewing and hiring process. While you may reserve the final decision for yourself, the opinions of your current team members can be invaluable. They may pick up on something about the candidate that you miss. And, if employees have some input into the decision, if something does go awry, it can be an educational experience for them since they gave input for the final selection. Likewise, if you end up hiring a super star employee, they can take joint credit for the decision, something that is good for morale.

Human resources professionals stress the importance of “behavior-based interviewing,” which involves asking candidates to react to various professional situations and explain how they would deal with it. Behavioral interview questions might include something like: “Please tell us about a time when you were under pressure to meet a deadline. How did you handle it?” or “Tell us about a time you had to work with a coworker you did not particularly like.” In responding to these types of inquiries, candidates will reveal a great deal to you about their interpersonal habits, their emotions and their coping skills — all good qualities to understand before offering someone a position.

We mentioned hiring millennials earlier. Interviewing someone in the millennial generation is very different from interviewing an older candidate. Young job seekers assess employment opportunities very differently, and their expectations are unique to their generation. It’s best to keep in mind the following tips:

  • Millennial workers are very concerned about personal style, so it may be prudent to ask about their ability to be flexible based on the position they seek. Ask them if they have ever had to wear a uniform, dress a certain way or cover a tattoo. How did they feel about it?
  • Feel free to share the downsides of the job. It’s best to let them know up front that there may be some aspects of the work they may find difficult or distasteful. Millennials can be outspoken and easily dissatisfied with the conditions of a particular situation. If, after hearing what some of the more unsavory aspects of the job might be, they are still willing to be considered, they may be worth your deeper consideration.
  • Millennials have been conditioned to expect an award or reward for nearly everything. They didn’t have to win to be recognized; all they had to do was participate. So you might ask a candidate if they have ever been passed over for some recognition, and then inquire about how they handled it. Likewise, you might ask how the candidate prefers to receive feedback. Younger job seekers are often terrified of making the wrong decision and may not have learned the resilience needed to bounce back from a mistake.
  • Another good question has to do with the kind of relationship a millennial candidate might expect to have with a supervisor. Considering that millennials often have little job experience, a work relationship with a boss may be the first time that a relationship was less friendly and more businesslike. What is the candidate’s reaction liable to be to an authority figure?
  • Compared to earlier generations, millennials spend a great deal of time being stationary. Because they have grown up being tied to computers and other devices, they are not accustomed to getting up and moving around during the day. It’s good to explore this with your candidate so he can get a feel for the rhythms of the job.
  • In addition, few millennials have had the opportunity to interact with people in person, accustomed as they are to texting, calling and instant messaging. If your open position involves working closely with people — staff or customers — you will want to question thoroughly regarding interpersonal skills.
  • One admirable quality of the millennial generation is that they are very interested in performing community service and giving back. You might ask your candidate what she would do with time off to do something in the community.
  • Finally, because you are interested in retention, and millennials have become notorious for changing jobs frequently, you should ask candidates what they want to accomplish with this job and how it fits into their longer term goals. Test their staying power by laying out what their future could be with your company and how you want to develop and coach them into a long-term employee. See how they react.

Here are the other parts of these HR installments: