Why Are We Obsessing Over Hiring and Not Retention?

We’ve all heard about the ‘Great Resignation’: a mass exodus of employees worldwide, caused by a rapidly changing working landscape and general pandemic fatigue. In the UK, almost a quarter of workers say that they are actively planning on quitting their jobs in the next few months, while job vacancies are at the highest level since records began.

Conversation around the job market crisis tends to focus on how to hire the best talent. After all, getting great people aboard is an employer’s first - and arguably most important - priority. However, the job doesn’t stop once the contract is signed. In fact, that is merely a starting point. If companies intend to survive this labour squeeze then they must bolster recruitment efforts with active plans for retaining their best talent and avoiding unnecessary churn.

In the workplace, ‘retention’ - the importance of keeping talented hires for an extended period of time, while supporting them to reach their full potential -  is often underestimated, despite how damaging unrelenting employee turnover is for any business. Not only does it require disruptive and time-consuming company restructuring, but the direct costs of having to re-hire and re-train can be astronomical. Excessive churn is also a surefire way to tarnish company reputation and puncture staff morale, so the ultimate aim should be to hire employees who will stay for several years, rather than months. 

Retention is not about trying to retain all staff at any cost. Rather, it is about being strategic with your workforce planning. Some people will inevitably leave your organisation, but there will be some individuals you simply cannot afford to lose. It’s possible to recognize this part of your workforce not by their CVs, but rather based on their attitudes and soft skills. It is these people that no matter what task that comes their way, they find a solution for it. And it is these people that you need to work hard to keep.  

There are a number of ways that organisations can predict and prevent employee turnover. Above all, employers should try to actively foresee why employees might quit in the first place. Whether it’s a more competitive salary, a healthier company culture, flexible working options or the chance of a more challenging and rewarding role - if another organisation can offer something better, even a fairly content employee might well jump ship. It’s important therefore for employers to find out not only how employees are experiencing their roles, but also what personal challenges they may be facing. Employee retention interviews are an effective way to accurately gauge which job components are enjoyable, tedious, stimulating or overwhelming. This can also provide an opportunity to address the individual employee’s needs and challenges. By encouraging an open dialogue with their staff, employers can preempt the factors that might drive a talented employee to quit, and find workable solutions.

Similarly, employers can harness the power of re-recruiting during this talent squeeze. Companies that show their willingness to promote talent from within - rather than just hiring from outside - can create a culture in which workers feel seen, motivated and valued. Providing existing employees with growth opportunities demonstrates to the workforce that their contribution is integral to company success and vision, and that their own personal growth is a priority. If talented employees feel a sense of stagnation, or lack of control, in their personal development or career advancement, they are far more likely to leave. 

Hollow perks that are recruitment, rather than retention, focused should also be reassessed. One example is the ‘unlimited holiday’ policy, often resulting in workers feeling pressured to take out as little annual leave as possible, in fear of being branded as slacking or selfish. Similarly, office bean bags, ping pong tournaments and Thursday night drinks might be fueled by good intentions, but they can never be considered a substitute for a competitive salary, a stimulating working environment or sufficient HR support. 

Above all else, businesses need to invest time and resources into finding candidates that are truly compatible with the job role, in order to predict a candidate’s job success and happiness once hired. This demands a pivot in traditional recruitment methods, shifting from hiring based on prior experience and knowledge, to potential and personality. It is not the long list of experience on a CV that will - at the end of the day - make a difference. Experience can be helpful, but it is nothing compared to personality and soft skills. In our rapidly changing working landscape, the skills needed today will be wholly different from those required in five years time, and how a person will act and work within your organisation trumps where they went to university in determining their role suitability. Always. This is where we find tools like Alva Labs can help, providing unbiased and objective data on the likelihood for success.

In the face of the ‘Great Resignation’, the cost of employers not actively prioritising their existing workforce will undoubtedly result in churn. Companies must realise the ever-growing importance of retaining their key talent, as well as hiring based on the right criteria, if they wish not just to survive - but thrive - in this global labour squeeze.