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HR Hot Topic #1 - Recruitment and Retention

The fact that qualified people are harder to come by is now affecting the growth opportunities of many businesses.  In many cases the infrastructure cannot keep up with increased demands. The unemployment rate jumped a little last month and may relieve some of the pressure to find qualified employees.  However, the increase in the unemployment rate is primarily due to the seasonal affect of new college graduates looking for a job.  While a good source of employees, new college graduates will take longer to get up to speed than others with experience in the field.  So what is a business person to do?

Recruitment and retention are business matters.  This is the first thing that should become clear to all employees of the firm and especially the management team.  The human resources department should take a leadership role, but ultimately, it is a team effort to attract good employees.  People take jobs because of the experience they have during the interview, the challenges the new job will offer them and how they feel about their potential boss.  People stay in a job because they like their boss, not because they like the company. 

Use college sports recruitment techniques.  College football recruiters scour the country trying to find the best talent for their institution.  Then they try to lure the best talent to sign with their university.  Have you ever seen a college place an ad in the Sunday paper and wait for someone to respond?  This tactic may have worked when there were plenty of people looking for jobs, but it doesn’t work anymore.

Is your recruitment process effective?  Is your recruitment strategy attracting qualified candidates?  Once candidates are attracted to your company, how long does your recruitment process take?  Is it easy and quick or are your processes long and drawn out?  The longer the process takes, the more likely you are to lose the best candidates. 

Get creative.  Get more creative in your recruitment efforts and move away from traditional recruitment sources.  Institute and promote an employee referral program in which current employees are given a bonus for referring people to the firm.  Many companies have an employee referral program that has gotten lost in the employee handbook and is never brought up again.  Promote it.  How about having an open house in which the family and friends of your employees can come to your facility for some food and soft drinks.  People are attracted by free food, and if done correctly, you may find a few good people.  Brainstorm other ideas. 

Stop over-qualifying applicants.  Often times, organizations place so many qualifications on jobs that nobody is qualified for it.  While technical specifications are necessary in certain fields, each specification in a job description narrows the field of qualified applicants. Take another look at the “must haves” for each position and make sure they aren’t just “nice to haves.”  Think about looking outside of your industry if possible.  Too often companies are too focused on finding candidates from their own industry that they disqualify individuals who could be a refreshing change with new ideas. 

Hire for cultural fit.  Each company has a culture.  The trick is to find the people who would thrive in your environment.  Too often when looking for all of the given qualifications, the cultural fit is not considered.  When the person with the most technical skills does not work out after a number of months on the job because no one in the company can stand working with him, everyone loses.  If you find a candidate with less skills who is a better fit to the organization and  willing to learn, it is a winning situation for all.

Never get desperate.  You have been looking for the right person for months and the job is not getting done. So you hire someone to fill the slot and hope that the person will do a reasonably good job.  You soon find out that your new hire is disliked by co-workers, has upset a number of customers and is now coming in late with less than stellar performance.  Making a bad hiring decision is worse than having no one at all.  Keep looking until the right person is found. 

Quickly fix mistakes.  Everyone makes errors in judgment. If you realize you made a bad hire, fix it quickly.  Use your 90-day introductory period to assess the progress of the new employee.  If it becomes apparent that the employee will not cut it, cut them loose.  It is better for everyone involved.

Involve your entire team in the solution.  If recruitment is becoming a problem at your company, get all of the members of the management team involved.  Brainstorm ways in which you can recruit talent.  Once recruited, how will you get them to stay?  Remember, this is important for the whole company and not just the responsibility of one department or person. 

Special recognition to Chuck Day who has a big issue with the overused word, “issue.” Chuck, it was tough not using the “issue” word in this article, but I think I refrained. 

Here’s a comment from Janice Gendreau.
“Pet peeve... confusing and crafty job descriptions that have no similarity to the function. Even within the organization the job description may be 'buzz worded up' to the point that who in the world knows what it means.  I think companies should be clear and thorough in defining the function and be done with trying to 'out fancy' with words that ramp up the recruitment numbers and bring in people who say ‘that's not what I was hired to do.’” Now this is an HR commentary for you.

Tanya Wasson’s response,My pet peeve word would be accountable, Accountability. What happened to being held responsible, now you are held accountable?  It drives me nuts!”  

Robin Wadell thinks terms such as “level playing field - new level - raise the bar – diversity” have been overused to the point of having no meaning.  I agree with Robin, but I have been known to say, “raise the bar” on a number of occasions.  The lesson here is we all have our own clichés and may want to watch out for their overuse. 

Lynn Clute writes, “I like this one, Bob. I’m feeling much more emotionally intelligent now after reading your article.”  I’m glad to have made your day, Lynn.

If anyone has a new and creative way for recruitment or retention, let me know and we’ll pass it along to our other readers. 

The big three hot topics in HR are recruitment and retention, controlling benefit costs and immigration.  Next month, some ways to control benefits costs.  October’s issue will be dedicated to immigration.   Let me know if there is a hot topic at your place of work that you would like covered in future mailers. Write us at

Bob McKenzie, President, McKenzieHR


August 2007 -
HR Hot Topic #1 Recruitment and Retention
June 2007 -
Strategic Human Resources is Not an Oxymoron
May 2007 -
Is It Really a Hostile Work Environment?
April 2007 -
What happens after a new employee is hired?
March 2007 -
February 2007 -
January 2007 -
Discrimination & Harassment
December 2006 -
October 2006 -
The Why Label Generation Y?
September 2006 -
The World of Recruitment Has Changed
August 2006 -
Keep Your "A" Players
July 2006 -
Traits of a High Performance Workplace
June 2006 -
Is a Mediocre Employee Better Than No Employee?
May 2006 -
The Compliance Vultures are Circling – Are You Prepared?
April 2006 -
Is Administrivia Keeping HR from Getting a Seat at the Table?
March 2006 -
Agreeing to Disagree or Avoiding the Subject
February 2006 -
Happy Valentine's Day
January 2006 -
Be a Talent Magnet and a Talent Utilizer