I was having a beer with my friend, John, the other day. I was consoling him as he, in his own words, 'Just can't keep a girlfriend'.
'I don't have a problem getting them, (blind dates and well meaning friends apparently) but I can't understand what happens', he added. 'We seem pretty well matched at the start, but it just fizzles out. Sometimes it's a month, sometimes it's two or three, but they all end up, well, ending up'.
The more I spoke to John, the more I realised that what he had wasn't a retention problem but it was in fact a recruitment one. He'd told the dating website that he likes the cinema, city breaks and the outdoors, but when faced with a lovely lass expecting arty films, Prague and the Cotswold Way, what he really meant was American Pie, a Bath Rugby away fixture and a pub garden on a nice day. John has a lot to offer, but only to the right girl.
It reminded me of a discussion I'd had the week beforehand with a prospective new client. They too felt they had a retention problem as staff attrition had risen from 15% two years ago, to close on 60% now. It's true that they could and should be doing more to induct, engage and develop their staff, but looking into the root cause of the problem revealed that the bigger issue was one of poor recruitment. There was no clear idea as to what the ideal candidate is and why, no view as to what the employee value proposition (EVP) might be to entice them beyond just a job you should be grateful for and no understanding of the type of person who'd succeed and stay in this environment.
The view was that if they're walking and warm they can come in. With 60% attrition, anyone will do and recruitment is seen as a gamble, even on a good day! At 15% attrition, hiring managers could make inaccurate promises, be lazy and inconsistent without being found out. But now that more and more staff are voting with their feet, usually within the first three months, it's killing the growth plans of the business. In fact, they're struggling to stand still, as you might imagine. As the employment market continues to become more and more competitive, doing nothing is not an option. Companies need to invest properly in a clear EVP and the tools for managers to deliver quality and consistency.
So a few weeks on, ‘What's happened?’, I hear you ask. Well, good news and bad news. The bad news is that the prospect we spoke to has done nothing to change its model and fix its broken recruitment process, but the good news is that John has a new girlfriend. He changed his dating profile to something more realistic and accurate; he's screening a little more effectively and I can tell you they are great together. He's got the recruitment bit right and the retention will take care of itself.
Author: John Tarrant
Date published: 27.05.2015