Attracting, Hiring and Retaining Talent for the Long Term

December 14, 2016 at 12:00 PM by William Clarke

HiringForLongerTerm.pngThis is the third in a series of ten posts on hiring candidates for characteristics linked to high performance. Each post focuses on a key candidate trait, why it matters and how recruiters can develop processes to correctly and fairly evaluate for it.

Every time an experienced employee walks out the door they take a boatload of experience with them.
That experience is valuable and losing it hurts. Whether a manager or individual contributor, the longer good employees stay, the better it is for your organization, which is why hiring for longevity should always be near the top of a recruiter’s list of priorities.  

Eliminating attrition altogether is impossible, but creating structures to find, hire and support people disposed towards longevity has wide ranging benefits. After all, training and onboarding is time intensive and expensive, and institutional knowledge is valuable, which makes holding onto productive contributors an important aspect of growing and improving organizations.

According to the Harvard Business Review, “people leave their jobs because they don't like their boss, don't see opportunities for promotion or growth, or are offered a better gig (and often higher pay); these reasons have held steady for years.”

Recruiter’s can reduce attrition with a strategic hiring process that anticipates these issues and incentivizes candidates looking for opportunities to grow within a progressive role.

Align with hiring managers to create a compelling role

The most compelling jobs are those that offer stretch potential to candidates. Work with hiring managers to create a job description that you can sell. Within the scope of the position’s responsibilities, imagine how hires would progress from quarter to quarter, and year to year. Consider what it would take to keep an ambitious, proactive and talented employee both challenged and happy at each stage. Brainstorming with hiring managers allows you to figure out how to get the most out of each hire while giving hires the type of growth potential that keeps them around.

Calibrate compensation for the role

Folks won’t stick around if they aren’t paid fair market value. And you can’t hire good people if you aren’t paying at or above market value. Even more, the internet is now awash in information about employers, which means if you’re getting dinged on Glassdoor or your comp doesn’t match up to Payscale, you’re fighting an uphill battle. Even if you do hire people, they may not wait very long before looking for something better. The bottom line: pay people what the role deserves. Otherwise expect a revolving door.

Market the opportunity

Most people want two things out of their jobs: stability and growth. If you can offer both of those, you’re in good shape. But you need to emphasize that with candidates from start to finish. In everything from job descriptions to outreach, phone screens and interviews, make it clear that a longer, stronger commitment will drive their own growth and be rewarded. Provide examples when you can of others who started in similar roles before moving into leadership positions.

Show what success looks like

Don’t leave the first two years at your organization up to your candidate’s imagination. Instead paint a vivid picture for them of the things they’ll accomplish as part of a high-achieving team and how the initial responsibilities will escalate. Show them how much their work will impact the organization. The more integral they know they’ll be from the get-go, the more they’ll commit themselves to long-term goals of your organization and stick it out even when the going gets tough.

Deliver focused onboarding

One of the most predictive metrics for employee success and retention is a strong onboarding program. Without one, organizations are leaving value on the table and failing to set their employees up for success. To maximize value, design a focused, in-depth onboarding program to every employee. Show them everything from organizational values to high-level business goals and basic training with new software tools they may not know. Eliminating the sink or swim mentality and instead introducing new hires to the ins and outs of the company gives them a leg up as the ramp up, and shortens the time period between when they join an organization and when they start providing value.

Perform in-depth exit interviews

It may not seem like it, but every time an employee leaves you have an opportunity to learn more about the internal workings of your organization. That’s why exit interviews are so important. Why people leave is a question you need to know the answer to. Whether it was a clash of personalities, unrealistic expectations or an out of whack compensation structure, tracking what’s causing departures helps fix things before they become even bigger problems. Not every employee will want to do an actual interview, so digital questionnaires work too. The key is to get some explanation of why they left, and see if there’s anything the organization can do differently in the future.

Track and iterate

Tracking successful hires can seem counterintuitive for recruiters, since it means working with current employees more than recruiting future employees. Yet it’s crucial to look at who sticks around, who gets promoted, and who is happy plugging away at the same role for years on end. Comparing results to predictions and estimates gives recruiters valuable insight into the traits, characteristics, similarities and differences of candidates. Knowing what kind of candidates tend to turn into certain kinds of hires gives you a leg up when you’re recruiting new people.


Reducing the rate of turnover can have dramatic effects on an organization’s bottom line. More than that, it has positive second order effects like higher morale and greater efficiency. But keeping people happy is hard work and talent teams have to be aligned top to bottom to make sure that recruiting, talent management and other functions are asking the right questions to create a system that inspires and challenges different kinds of people in all the right ways. 

Other posts in this series (so far):
What the Science of First Impressions Can Tell Us About Recruiting
The Danger of Hiring Candidates Based on Personality

Related articles:
Why You Should Be Hiring For Culture Add, Not Culture Fit 
What Happens When You Standardize Your Interview Process
Implement Interview Load Balancing and Never Give a Candidate a Bad Interview Again 

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