The Challenge of Recruiting and Retaining Top Talent

by Steven Branstetter, Crawford Thomas

Good help is hard to find. This is a saying that we have all heard before and most likely will all agree with. This problem is magnified when it comes to finding great employees in any technology-based business. The IT world is constantly evolving and there are always new companies on the rise, just waiting to steal away your top talent.

With the ever-growing number of competitors in the marketplace, what are you doing to attract and keep great employees? This is a battle that you have to fight on three fronts, and if you don’t it will destroy your organization. Not only do you need to learn how to attract the top graduates entering the workforce, but you also need to attract the seasoned veterans, while simultaneously maintaining your current staff.  So let’s attack this three-headed monster together, by first learning to attract the younger generation.

Hooking the rising stars

There have been countless studies on how to connect with Generation Y, or millennials, in recent years. These studies talk about how this generation needs to be challenged, how they crave recognition, and how everything needs to be faster. I recently had a personal experience that relates to this perfectly. I was working with a recent graduate who was looking to get her start with an entry-level sales position in Houston. The only sales experience she had was working as a waitress in college. Nevertheless, she flew through the interview process and in less than a week she had an offer with a Fortune 1000 company with all the perks. Surprisingly, she turned down the job because she thought she could do better. She had no other jobs lined up and this position would have tripled her income from last year, but she was above the position due to how easily it came to her. 

The lesson for the company doing the hiring? When trying to attract young professionals to your organization, be sure to challenge them and make them earn it. You will weed out the weaker candidates, and the best will rise to the top. Once you hire them be sure to recognize their achievements as well. They will always down play it on the surface but inside it will drive them to new heights. 

Perhaps the biggest trouble with the younger generation is fighting the ADHD they all seem to have been diagnosed with. The easiest method I have found for getting past this hurdle is to overload them. They are already accustomed to cramming for their college finals, working a part-time job, and keeping up with the social scene. By overloading them you are ensuring that they will not get bored, and you will have their undivided attention. Just ensure them that they have your trust and support to prevent them from getting discouraged.

Now that you have been able to attract and retain your new employees, they can begin to have an immediate impact and become leaders in your organization. However, once they have had some success they are also the most vulnerable to leaving your company. They may feel that they have outgrown your company or simply wish for a new adventure. This is the biggest mystery to me personally. I cannot tell you how many times I have talked with someone in an IT sales position with more than 10 years of industry experience who wants to change industries. They are willing to throw it all away to get into medical or oil and gas sales, but why? We both know the answer to this question. Sex sells. They have heard of some friend who made it big in that industry and are willing to go after the big catch. When I am faced with this problem I’ve found it doesn’t matter how many statistics or stories I tell them about failed careers in these industries, they are still curious about what could be. 

So how do we combat the desire to go after that elusive position in a new industry? I have known many companies that have leaderboards to talk about various great achievements within an organization, but one in particular that I think more companies should use was a leaderboard that showed the top grossing paychecks the company has issued. The numbers never lie, and when you truly show your employees what they could be earning I think you will find a lot more of them sticking around.

Reeling in the experts

Let’s play a little offense now. Let’s talk about how you attract the big fish — industry-leading experts. This is the type of scenario that I love to see played out, and find it fascinating to study. What makes someone with 20 years of industry experience move to a competitor or another company? Oftentimes it is not money or the title that drives these great performers to make the move. After I send one of these candidates on an interview, I always ask them what they thought about the company and the answer, when positive, is always the same: They like the intangibles. They tell me they deeply connect to either the company’s mission statement, the management style, or the sales philosophy. Why do these things matter the most to some candidates? It is because they have made this into their career and their career is how they define themselves. 

Winning is all about the preparation, so what can you do to prepare yourself for a win when it comes to hunting for these great candidates? You have to continue to grow and develop yourself professionally. Read leadership books, attend seminars, subscribe to trade magazines; anything to keep your mind and company sharp. Next time you interview a great candidate you will be able to connect with them like no other manager can.

Retaining value

Finally, it’s important that you retain your top employees, whether they’re millennials looking for the next big thing or veterans looking for an environment with a better fit. One of the things I always tell candidates is, “It’s not always where you work, but who you work for.” When given the choice, most people would rather work with a boss they like and respect versus one they dislike. You can do your part by staying connected with your employees and noticing and heading off problems before they become unmanageable. If you want better employees you need to be better. If you want your employees to stay with your company you need to invest in their future. If you want to attract the greats in your industry you’d better be the greatest manager in your industry. In the end it is important to remember the famous Zig Ziglar quote: “Help enough people get what they want and you will automatically get what you want.” Great employees build a great company — now get out there and build your team. 

Contact Steven Branstetter at www.crawfordthomas.com

This article originally appeared in the July 2014 issue of The Imaging Channel.

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