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Not everyone loves hiring. Does anyone love hiring? Does anyone like hiring? Some parts of it can be fun: the excitement of bringing in new people and new ideas, imagining the possibilities, the hilarious typos on the resumes. But it can be a slog. Especially right now, many job postings will lead to a flood of resumes and applications. That’s a good thing, right? Well, not exactly. According to Barry Schwartz, the author of The Paradox of Choice, having too many options makes us humans pretty unhappy. We suffer from fear of missing out and agonize over the best choice. Of course, having too many choices as a hiring manager means a LOT more work. You want to do it because you want to find the best person for your sales team, but you also have other things to do. 

What if you didn’t have to start from zero every time you hire? What if -- instead of dealing with job postings, sifting through the virtual stacks of resumes, making the calls, and struggling with the anxiety – you just picked up the phone and made a call to the right person, and a couple of weeks later, they just started? 

There is a way. Creating a talent pipeline can save yourself a lot of work, uncertainty, and, yes, even unhappiness!

What is this magical time saver? 

According to HR (Human Resources) Technologist, A talent pipeline is defined as a ready pool of potential candidates who are qualified and prepared to step up and fill relevant key roles within the organization as soon as they fall vacant.” 

In other words, you have a waiting and willing list of people you can call on as soon as you have an opening. Ideally, they would be clamoring to join your team, they will have been moderately vetted in advance, and they have the skills, experience, or attitude (or all three!) you want.

Here are 5 steps to building your very own talent pipeline.

  1. Identify your needs. There are always surprises in staffing – someone moves to a new field, a spouse is transferred, a production manager decides to start his own artisanal sourdough bread company, the usual – but not all job vacancies are unexpected. You can take stock now of where the positions are going to be in the future. These might include: 
    • In areas where you are planning to expand (new initiatives, departments, or branches). 
    • Replacements for excellent contributors who are on a divergent educational path. You love them, they do excellent work, but they’re in the final year of their degree in Almond Husbandry. 
    • Positions where there is a lot of lateral and upward movement. These are the roles that prepare your employees to move up in the company. 
    • In areas where you are always willing to hire the right person (commission sales is usually at the top of this list for many companies), even if you’re fully staffed. You can make room for someone who is going to take your sales revenue to the next level. 
  2. Prepare to sell the benefits of working for your company. You know it’s a great place to work, but what is your plan for letting other people know? This should go beyond a dry list of HR benefits. What are the benefits of working there? Why would you recommend it? Consider creating a marketing packet for attracting talent the same way you would attract sales prospects. 
  3. Scope out your people. 
    • Start in your own in your backyard. You probably have a few stellar employees in mind for your sales team. These people are gold because you know their work ethics, skill levels, and reputations. Of course, moving someone over to sales will leave an opening elsewhere, but it is easier and less risky to fill an entry-level position than a high-level one. 
    • Talk to the people you trust most. Maybe you don’t have a great fit within your current ranks, but what about the people they know? Referrals from your best employees are as good as selecting the employees themselves. 
    • Scope out external business contacts. Chances are you’ve built relationships with bright, motivated people outside the company, contacts from vendors or services you use, for example. It can’t hurt to feel around and see if they are interested in a change. 
    • LinkedIn, Indeed, and social networking. LinkedIn is always a great place to start because of its well-defined keywords and the ability to review people’s resumes and histories. Indeed.com also allows you to search resumes, although you will have to buy a subscription. Also, check out industry-specific social networks, such as GitHub (for software) and Moz (marketing) or industry subreddits, to find people who really know their stuff. 
    • Local business networks. Virtual and (eventually) in-person networking events offer a great opportunity to meet reputable people in your area seeking new opportunities. 
  4. Make sure they are a good match. You may like everything about the person, but they must be more than likable; they must be well suited to the job. Remember, a great salesperson is not necessarily going to be a great accountant (and vice-versa). 
  5. Make and maintain a connection. Reach out and find out if there is interest. Be open and honest about the timeline. Remember, this is not a solid offer of a position; it offers a mutual future opportunity. Find out the best way to reach this person and keep in touch. Provide updates as the possibility of a role comes nearer. 

There are steps you can take to start building your talent pipeline right now. The sooner, the better. Because let’s be honest, a lot of people have baked a lot of sourdough bread these past few months. There are going to be some award winners out there.

The most successful organizations periodically audit and amend their business procedures for both compliance and effectiveness. By doing so, firms continuously improve their operations and retain a competitive edge. However, these audits often overlook one critical area: the interview and hiring process.

You might be thinking that your company’s interview and hiring process is perfectly fine -- that if it’s not broke, why fix it? However, best practices have changed over the years. Since your employees are the lifeblood of your organization, it’s a good idea to review what your hiring teams are doing -- and make any needed adjustments.

Let’s start by exploring the potential pitfalls of the traditional interview.

How the Traditional Interview Falls Short

Ineffective Questions

Interviews are a crucial component of the hiring process. However, if they’re not conducted strategically, they’re little more than a rehash of the candidate’s resume, with a few tired, ineffective questions peppered in. Questions like “what’s your greatest strength?” or “what’s your greatest weakness?” result in an answer that the candidate thinks you want to hear, yielding no useful insight into their projected performance.

Research shows that the best interview questions reveal how a prospective hire would handle a given situation based on how they’ve approached similar scenarios in the past. Implementing the behavioral interviewing technique, you ask the interviewee to recount specific stories from their work experience. Then, what they say reveals a lot about their personality and soft skills.

Some examples of behavioral-based interview questions include:

Inconsistent Questioning

To compare candidates effectively and fairly, you must put all of them through an identical interview and hiring process. That means interviewers need to ask each person the same questions in the initial interview and score their responses according to a predetermined standard. A scoring rubric can help interviewers provide a consistent and fair interview experience for all job candidates. 

Further reading: Need a little help refining your interview process? Check out our Resources Page for interview guides, interview question ideas, and more.

Interviewer Fatigue and Bias

Depending on your firm’s procedures, your interview process may be long and tedious, requiring extensive candidate research and interaction. So, even though hiring the right people is a worthwhile pursuit, it can be draining. And, when you’re fatigued, you’re not an effective interviewer. You may rush through interviews, fail to process what candidates tell you, and make hasty hiring decisions -- a disservice to the candidates and your company.

You’re biased. We all are. Your personal experience and upbringing have cultivated long-standing beliefs about people. Unfortunately, your biases could cause you to hire -- or decline -- a candidate based on a hunch. The key is recognizing this fact and actively nipping those biases in the bud when they creep in.

How Behavioral Assessments Improve the Hiring Process

So, how do you reduce fatigue, mitigate bias, and truly know your candidates so you can make informed, fair hiring decisions? That’s where a behavioral assessment comes in. The assessment takes an inventory of each candidate’s traits, compares it to your current high performers' benchmark data, and translates the findings into useful insight about the candidate’s predicted performance. If administered at the beginning of the hiring process, a behavioral assessment can help you:

How Omnia Can Help

Omnia offers an easy-to-implement behavioral assessment so you can get started right away. Results are instant, digestible, and actionable. If you want even more insight, our team can provide you with an in-depth analysis of your assessment data. Remember: we’re here to help you improve your hiring and interview process so that your company continues to thrive!

Final Thoughts

If you haven’t looked at your hiring or interview process in a while, chances are it could use some help. When implemented together, behavioral interviewing techniques and behavioral assessments provide you with more reliable and valid information than the standard interview. And, behavioral assessments reduce interviewer bias and fatigue. That means your hiring and interview process is more efficient, fairer, and results in better quality hire for your organization. Talk about a win-win-win!

Replacing skilled employees is a major challenge for any organization. In addition to the time and expense required to conduct a new search and hiring process to replace a departed employee, there’s also the lost productivity when remaining employees have to pick up the slack until a replacement is selected. That’s why having strong employee retention strategies in place is essential to building a resilient organization. When employees aren’t constantly looking for their next opportunity elsewhere, they are more engaged in their work and take a more active role in contributing to long term success.

6 Employee Retention Strategies for 2020

1. Focus on Development

There is no universal definition of employee development. Still, most companies understand it to mean a collaborative effort between an organization and its employees to improve their skills and knowledge. In most cases, this is accomplished by making learning resources available while also providing opportunities for employees to gain valuable experience. However, they’re implemented, these programs should be a central component of employee retention strategies.

Employee training and staff development can take several forms. Online learning resource libraries allow employees to learn at their own pace and fit development into their schedules. One-on-one coaching programs pair people with experienced mentors who can offer guidance and suggestions on dealing with new situations and improving in other areas related to their job. Employee training and development programs can focus on hard skills directly related to tasks and soft skills necessary to work collaboratively with others and manage teams effectively.

Investing in staff development also aligns employee career goals with the organization’s long-term objectives. By providing the tools and resources employees need to improve their skills, companies demonstrate that they value professional and personal growth, which helps generate loyalty and improve commitment. It’s no coincidence that a 2018 LinkedIn study found that 93 percent of employees said they would stay with a company longer if it invested in their careers.

2. Improve Engagement

When employees feel ignored or undervalued, they can engage in various negative behaviors that are harmful to the organization. Whether it takes the form of declining work quality, poor attendance, or a negative attitude, employee disengagement can quickly contaminate the workplace to diminish productivity and performance. 

Providing new opportunities is one of the best ways of pushing back against disengagement. When employees are allowed to improve their skills and gain new experiences, they are more likely to feel valued. Engaged employees also tend to be more productive and efficient overall, which is why companies should spend time thinking about how to emphasize development if they want to get the most out of their workforce.

3. Provide Multiple Learning Resources

While today’s employees want development opportunities, they also want them on terms that work for their busy lives and schedules. For many years, companies required employees to attend lengthy seminars or workshops. But this “information dump” approach to learning often left people without a clear idea of implementing the lessons learned (if they even remembered them all after a marathon session). Furthermore, long-duration courses are often inconvenient, either cutting into employees' work productivity or personal time. While some companies have promoted “lunch and learn” or “remote learning” programs, these approaches can create the perception that an employer doesn’t respect personal boundaries.

For many employees, micro-learning resources offer an ideal solution. These programs offer developmental resources in small increments that can be digested quickly and easily during the day. Learning opportunities can also be incorporated into the employee experience more effectively. Providing people with the chance to work on new projects outside their usual responsibilities is just one example of how professional growth can be integrated into employee retention strategies.

4. Use Assessment Tools

It’s a lot easier to help employees understand where they need to improve and what they want to accomplish. Development assessments can provide actionable data detailing what motivates employees to learn, what gaps exist in their natural aptitudes, and what learning and coaching formats are most effective. This allows you to build a customized development strategy for every employee that sets them up for learning success.

Behavioral and cultural fit assessments are also valuable for telling you what environments and situations are the best matches for employees. This can be especially valuable when putting new teams together because it can head off potential conflict sources and help put people in the roles where they’re most likely to be successful. The ability to provide insightful information makes these assessments critical to successful employee retention strategies.

5. Talk (and Listen) to Employees

While assessment data is important, it’s also good to know what employees think about their career goals. If someone is happy in their existing role but would like to improve key skills associated with it, they will require a different approach than someone who has aspirations to move into a different role. This is especially important when it comes to preparing people for leadership positions. Not every employee wants to be a leader, but those who generally want to take consistent steps toward that goal. Understanding what each employee wants will make it easier to put the data gathered in their assessments into a meaningful context.

Of course, employees may also have a lot to tell you about the organization (and the people leading it). When soliciting feedback from employees, it’s important to listen carefully to what they have to say. While it isn’t always possible to take action on every point they raise, taking the time to listen and understand their concerns and opinions makes them feel valued and supported. In many cases, their insights can expose issues within an organization and contribute to positive solutions. 

6. Encourage Employees to Create a Professional Development Plan

One of the most valuable tools for organizations and employees alike is a professional development plan. This document identifies short, medium, and long-term goals the employee wants to accomplish throughout their career. Typically developed in cooperation with a manager or HR director, the employee development plan highlights any skills, competencies, experiences, and education required to achieve each goal. It also identifies potential resources, such as directed learning materials, potential mentors or employee development trainers, and training courses that could prove useful throughout their career journey. With a career development plan laying out a distinct path forward, it’s far easier for employees to see where they need to take steps to further their careers. The plan also helps employers get a sense of an employee’s plans and how they fit into a broader succession strategy.

Organizations that neglect employee retention strategies often discover far too late that they’re actively pushing their best people out the door to seek opportunities elsewhere. When companies implement employee training programs that help people build new skills and become effective leaders, they can significantly improve retention and engagement levels. The combination of development assessments and professional development plans encourages employees to see a future for themselves within the organization.

If you enjoy reality shows in which competitors are charged with completing demanding assignments against extremely tight deadlines, you may recognize that the most serious mistakes are made right at the beginning.

Because there is so little time, teams rush into the work too quickly. They shortchange the planning step. They fail to collect enough information to proceed intelligently. They cut certain team members out of the discussion or dive in with insufficient consensus on how to function effectively.

Sometimes the workload is unevenly distributed. At other times, some members may not understand their assignment or do not receive even minimal instructions on contributing to the effort. While some participants may function effectively, the team as a whole does not function effectively or efficiently because it has unwisely rushed the decision process and failed to prioritize tasks.

The problem is similar when we work independently. We’re tempted to rush ahead without clearly identifying the goal we want to accomplish or considering what resources we’ll need along the way.

Where to Start?

Having a solid foundation in place is necessary for getting through the days—or even weeks—when everything is a top priority. While asking, “What should we do first?” may sound like a moment of panic, it’s actually the best place to start when considering how to prioritize

Unless a client is knocking at your office door asking for a deliverable you’ve promised them, the most immediate priority should be developing a plan to manage the situation. Make a quick inventory of pressing tasks and list out everything that must be done soon, so nothing falls between the cracks. Then pause for a moment and take a deep breath before reviewing the competing projects.

Once your head is clear, and your nerves are settled, it’s time to make the most of your prioritizing skills.

How to Prioritize: 6 Essential Questions to Get Started

1. Which Assigned Deadline is First? 

All things being equal, typical task prioritization means projects with the earliest due dates get moved to the front of the line. If several projects appear to have the same or similar deadlines, take a moment to do some additional research to determine if those deadlines are either firm or accurate. In some cases, hard deadlines are the result of a valid process and cannot be moved. Sometimes, though, deadlines are assigned arbitrarily on the assumption that the work could be handed in late. In these cases, it might be possible to push a project back to a later time or date to accommodate more pressing needs.

2. What Does Your Supervisor Think is the Most Pressing Work? 

Identifying which tasks are most important isn’t always obvious to every employee. This is especially true in teams operating in an agile workflow or scrum system where some team members can’t even begin certain tasks until other people complete theirs. Asking a supervisor or manager to clarify what absolutely needs to be done for the rest of the team to move forward can eliminate a great deal of uncertainty on a busy day. Although some managers might view such questions as attempts to avoid responsibility and delegate upwards, most of them will quite willingly discuss task prioritization with you. So ask if possible.

3. What is the Most Important Work Today? 

As General George Patton famously remarked, “A good plan, violently executed now, is better than a perfect plan next week.” Urgency counts for a lot in any organization, even when the work doesn’t necessarily impact major, long-range projects. Simply clearing essential, “must-do” items off the list can clear up the bandwidth a team needs to refocus its attention on long-term strategic goals that will drive business results. If something is “on fire,” use your prioritization skills to put it out!

4. What is the Most Important Work in the Long Run? 

Speaking of the big picture, it’s important to recognize which tasks fit into an organization’s broader strategy. Constantly pushing tasks that aren’t immediate concerns to the backburner might make sense in the heat of the moment, but putting them off repeatedly could endanger the company’s future or possibly undermine your career. While it’s unlikely that you’ll be able to complete these objectives immediately (that’s why they’re long-term goals!), setting aside time to make progress on them can help keep the strategy moving forward even as you’re prioritizing short-term objectives.

5. Can You Delegate Any of the Work? 

Instead of digging in and doing it all, why not ask a fellow team member to help? Even if it takes a few minutes to explain the task, delegating simple tasks can still free up hours of your own time for other responsibilities and more high-value work. Delegating responsibilities also sends an important signal that you trust other people to be accountable and deliver results. It also opens the door for future collaboration. By empowering the rest of the team to achieve key objectives, you will position yourself as a leader instead of a martyr who insists on doing it all on their own.

6. Can You Put in Extra Time? 

The answer depends on many factors. One factor is your employment status and whether you must be paid overtime. Salaried employees often feel pressured to work late or over the weekends to get everything done. While having to put in a little extra work now and then is understandable, doing so regularly can actually be detrimental to an organization because it masks the reality that the company doesn’t have enough resources to complete work effectively efficiently. If everyone is consistently working extra hours, it may be time to add a new team member to ensure that quality isn’t sacrificed. 

When your workload becomes overwhelming, it’s important to focus on potential solutions rather than muddling through without a plan. Developing a strategy for prioritizing tasks can reduce the team’s overall stress level and make it easier for everyone to put their work in the proper perspective. Taking a moment to ask questions and identify what qualifies as urgent can mean the difference between keeping the team on track and letting critical tasks unfinished.

The Great Recession threw many workers for a big loop, but folks are feeling confident again, and turnover remains on the rise.

For sure, not all turnover is bad turnover. Organizations the world over have employees that “the powers that be” wish would leave already.

However, this article isn’t about those employees. This article is about the employees you don’t want to leave but who are nonetheless at high risk of turnover. What are some effective retention strategies to keep these employees from fleeing? Keep reading to find out.

Common Retention Tactics

Competitive wages, health, other group benefits, flexible schedules, paid leave, and free coffee and snacks are standard retention tactics. Companies taking things up a notch add tuition reimbursement, student loan repayment, onsite gyms, onsite daycare, and onsite medical facilities into the mix.

All of that is great for sure. In fact, if a company doesn’t get the basics of retention down, nothing else will matter. For instance, regardless of how much your employee enjoys the work, if they are underpaid and financially stressed, a move toward the Exit Door is inevitable. The same can be said for the employee who’s finding it extremely difficult to meet their responsibilities outside of work – as either a spouse, partner, parent, adult caregiver, etc. – because of unmanageable work demands. At some point, that employee will seek relief. If your organization can provide relief, fantastic. If not, the employee will have no choice but to tender their resignation, even if regretfully.

So again, the best companies take care to get the basics right. However, they do something else that all the other companies only talk about. These companies invest in management. They do so consistently and unreservedly because they know that there’s a lot of truth to the saying that people leave managers and not companies.

The Most Uncommon Retention Strategy that Works Every Time

As another saying goes, all good things must come to an end. This is as true for employment relationships as it is for love affairs. At some point, everyone leaves.

That said, smart employers know that the goal is to get as much benefit from the relationship as possible within the time available and to ensure that when an employee is ready to hightail it, the cause isn’t a poor reflection on the company.

One excellent way to meet this goal is to put resources behind people management. When a company is willing to put its resources behind the development of its people managers, everyone wins. Employees receive the attention and guidance they need to produce their very best, and the company gets engaged, satisfied workers, and its actual work goals met.

Unfortunately, many companies think they’re investing in management when they really aren’t. These companies may have a slew of people managers on the payroll, but the managers aren’t held accountable for their ability to get work done through other people or for their ability to move individuals forward in their careers. Instead, they get graded on their own To-Do lists, and that’s a huge missed opportunity.

Every effective retention strategy aligns with the needs and desires of critical talent, but there’s no cause to overthink things when it comes to people management. Every employee does better with a good manager than with a poor one. That’s just common sense!

So, okay, great management is the best retention strategy ever. How do you get there, and what does it look like?

Your A, B, C Guide to Building Awesome Managers

Acquire Well.  The consensus may be that almost anyone can improve their managerial skills, but let’s be honest, people have to give you something to work with. No matter how talented at developing other managers, no one can take someone with no patience, hardly any empathy, very little self-control, zero self-insight, and a ton of arrogance and craft him or her into a stellar people manager. Ain’t gonna happen. You have to start with the right stuff. One way to test your potential manager’s “stuff” is through pre-hire or pre-promotion assessments that reveal behavioral tendencies as well as behavioral preferences.

Be Consistent. Human beings are wired to repeat actions that get them what they want and avoid actions that prevent them from getting what they want. If what you want is for your managers to do certain things again and again (e.g., delegate effectively, share power, not be shy about initiating difficult conversations, provide regular feedback to staff, etc.), you’ll have to be deliberate in consistently recognizing and praising those behaviors.

Coach, Coach, and Coach Again. Managing is hard work. Every leader struggles with giving honest feedback, addressing and correcting underperformance or poor performance, confronting bad behavior, or “simply” deciding priorities when everything seems equally important. If your organization is committed to developing leadership talent, coaching resources, whether internal or external, are a must.

All turnover can be disruptive to organizations, but bad turnover is preventable and especially troubling to responsible employers. Fortunately, the best retention strategy – good management – is well within the reach of motivated companies!

Close your eyes, and think back to when you were a toddler, back to when toys weren’t just for fun but were also there to teach you important lessons and help with your development.

For me, one of those toys was a shape sorter.  Pretty much everyone who manufactures toys for children has at least one of them. They have different names and shapes, but the toy's principle is the same: there is a central structure (a ball or a box) with holes of different shapes, and you put the matching shape pieces into those holes.

Mine was a red and blue ball with bright yellow shape pieces.  Apparently, I used to play with it quite a bit, trying to figure out its mysteries and continuing to practice so that I could not only solve it once but continue to solve it every time.

Of course, there was trial and error. That's part of learning any new thing - trying to put a triangle into a rectangle slot and not understanding why it won't fit. Eventually, you figure it out and move on to bigger lessons. But those early toys, and what they teach you, are foundations for everything to come.

The adage “You can’t fit a square peg into a round hole” is literally part of that foundational lesson. It teaches kids to recognize different shapes and start to reason out basic problem-solving.

Those problem-solving skills are necessary for our adult life, too.

Close your eyes again, and think about where you are now in your organization.

Think about your corporate culture, those central ideas, and values you want to instill in every person who walks through those doors to represent your company. Sometimes, that culture is painstakingly crafted, while for others, it develops over time by your choices of who is hired and what they bring to the table. Part of figuring out where you are going is taking a moment to see where you are and who you are as a company.

Knowing who you are as a company and developing your corporate culture can be extremely useful in figuring out what kind of people you want to bring on your team in the future.

But much like with the shape sorters, there is a learning curve with an important lesson - a lesson that can often get overlooked: “You can’t fit a square peg into a round hole.”

Let’s say you’re hiring for a sales position. Sales are king, and the people you want in those seats will aggressively seek new opportunities and aren’t going to take rejection personally. They pick themselves up, dust themselves off, and get right back to the next chance to close. For those kinds of positions, you want someone driven by the need to compete and maybe looks for a commission-based pay structure.

Your corporate culture may be focused on what your salespeople are doing, and everything revolves around making sure that sales happen. Your reward systems are focused on driving revenue totals and celebrating those who excel. That person's shape is easy to recognize and a good fit in the box you've created.

Yet, you don’t want those traits in someone you would hire for a job in your accounting department. In this case, you need someone who wants to be a part of a cooperative team, who likes stability and dealing with things at a slower pace. You want someone with an eye for detail who will take their time to pour over every line to make sure everything adds up properly.

Similarly, you don’t want to place someone who needs more structure in a job where there is a lot to “figure out as you go” or someone who needs to be multitasking in a position with repetitive work.

These people will need to be motivated and celebrated in different ways than your business development staff. They're an important part of the team, but how do you make sure they all feel like a good fit and that you find the right candidates for any given position?

All of these different types of people can exist within the same culture. Each department in your company and every position within that department has unique responsibilities that call for different strengths. They have their own subcultures and their own requirements. You can’t force a peg to go into a hole of a different shape, no matter how badly you want it to. This means, when you are hiring, it is the job itself that should be the focus rather than the overall corporate culture.

This is where an assessment tool, like the Omnia Profile, comes in handy. With this tool, you'll be able to discuss the needs of your open positions, how they fit into the culture and set up a benchmark for your ideal candidate.

The Omnia Profile is your work resource shape sorter. It is a tool that helps you learn about your potential candidates, getting the most out of your current employees and organization, and about yourself. It helps you match the shapes to their proper fit.

Matching those candidates' inherent strengths to your needs is crucial for finding someone perfect for your company and retaining them. Understanding who they are and how they fit also gives you the tools you need to help them grow in their roles and the company as a whole.

Now, keep your eyes open. You have all the tools in front of you to practice those good decision-making skills. Pick up your shape sorter, and find the people who fit just right for your company with the Omnia Profile!

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