3 steps to recruiting and retaining top talent

Want your company to win an unfair share of talented individuals? Commit to these steps, Des-Case's Tony Espinosa says.

By Tony Espinosa, vice president of human resources and administration, Des-Case Corp.

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With the proliferation of advanced technologies in manufacturing plants over the last several decades, many plant leaders were tempted to believe that the need for highly talented employees would decrease. The reality could not be further from the truth. Today's greatest companies today are staffed with their respective industries' top talent. Accolades for employees as an organization’s “most important asset” still rings true. Apple’s Tim Cook, quoted earlier this year in Fortune magazine, said it well: “(T)he most important data points are people.”

My employer, Des-Case, takes pride in being not only a "great place to work” but also a "place where great people work." Both strategic recruiting processes and thoughtful engagement practices are reasons why. Having said that, one could make a strong argument that if an organization chooses to zero in on executing stellar hiring practices, engagement levels can only increase while attrition declines. Why? Because talent attracts talent. Talented individuals want to be on winning teams. And top performers stay longer on teams when their talents are embraced and leveraged for organizational success.   

Recruiting and retaining your unfair share of top talent is the result work of three critical steps: managers hiring right, leaders leading right and new workplace entrants contributing right. Each of these three is fundamental to attracting and retaining an unfair share of talented individuals capable of driving organizational success. 

Step 1: Managers hiring right
Ensure that hiring managers recognize the significant roles they play as company ambassadors and gatekeepers of the hiring pipeline. 

First and foremost, there is only one opportunity to make a first and lasting impression with a candidate. This special role is typically reserved for the recruiter. It is important to remember that the hiring event is stressful for candidates because an individual is contemplating one of the biggest decisions s/he will make in life: “Where will I work?”  Social psychologists have stated that one’s workplace lands close to the center of the radar as one of the biggest contributors to personal morale.   

Why does this matter to an organization? Clearly, morale is significant because it matters to our people, and this should be enough to warrant care about it. But organizational success is highly reliant upon the “human resource” that brings complementary and/or missing skills needed to fill organizational gaps. A new employee’s performance will be directly correlated to the all-important factor of personal happiness. When we hire wrong, both the business and the candidate pay the price. When we hire right, both the business and one’s morale trend the right way on all performance charts. The gatekeepers, in one sense, are bringing together two parties into a mutually edifying relationship.        

To be clear, this type of morale is not a product of an occasional ice-cream social or annual social gathering. Meaningful morale for top talent is realized only in the event of true job fulfillment, day in and day out. The genesis of such fulfillment typically begins via a hiring manager who is skilled enough to ensure alignment of knowledge, skills and abilities (KSAs) relative to the organizational culture and specific roles. Hiring requires precision when it comes to skills assessments and interpersonal evaluations. Talent acquisition is highly strategic and will forever be the leading value-add that HR activities bring to an organization.

To ensure positive morale among your workforce, gatekeepers managing your talent pipeline should consider the following action items: 

• Don't relegate first interviews to the status of a “not-as-important-as-it-should-be” screen interview. All interactions with top talent count. The first interview may be the only shot an organization has to engage a talented candidate who is testing the market. Unbeknownst to many are the number of candidates testing the market at any given time.  Even more surprising is the number of exceptional candidates lost because of weak recruiter ambassadorship and/or poor interviewing technique.      

• Perform due diligence on your initial interview protocol to ensure the approach makes sense when seeking top talent. Losing a great candidate in hiring often stems from poor technique. For example, do the hiring managers responsible for facilitating first interviews understand that patterned (or structured) interviews allow for some flexibility and a lot of creativity when it comes to speaking with candidates of all experience sets? Yes, an initial interview is mostly scripted, but it still requires a high level of interpersonal finesse, especially for top candidates.     

• Ensure recruiters are hiring with a sense of precision in relationship to KSAs – talented candidates are counting on it! When a position is meticulously aligned with the interests, knowledge, skills and abilities of the right candidate, the role not only contributes positively to one’s work and personal life, but also the organization benefits. This sense of precision must be exercised throughout the entire interview process. 

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