By Russ Banham
It’s one thing for a company to recruit the best and the brightest, but what happens when those recruits leave within a couple years?
It’s a difficult question with which many businesses struggle. Several studies indicate a strong tendency in the Millennial generation to join an organization and, not long after, turn in their letters of resignations if the work experience is not what they expected.
This pattern results in near non-stop recruiting and a revolving door of people in and out of the company, which then kicks costs upwards at a time when budgets are thin. To solve this challenge, many businesses are reaching out to global RPO firms, which have developed cost-effective ways to stop the madcap sprint for the exits.
Several experts agree that the most important practice to ensure people stay on is to authentically convey to candidates the truth about the job they’re applying for. Unfortunately, the exact opposite often happens.
Open positions often are described in flattering terms that fail to align with the job and even the culture of the workforce. For example, The Acme Company might advertise an opening to join its “collaborative work atmosphere, where everyone is expected to freely express their opinions.” This may be exactly what the job applicant is looking for, but when the person joins the firm, they may have the stark realization that the organization favors a hierarchical, “command-andcontrol” structure.
Eight years ago when jobs were elusive, a new employee simply sighed and accepted the state of affairs. No longer is this the case. A person who feels duped by the recruitment messaging won’t hang around for long, and when the individual finds another job, others will be informed on social media about the disconnect between the advertised work culture and the real one.
Retaining Top Performers
This is especially true for younger people. “Millennials don’t share the values of previous generations when it comes to absolute commitment to a company for life,” says Jack Coapman, chief strategy officer at gr8 People. “If they don’t like their job, there are plenty of other jobs out there they may like better.”
With lots of job openings and lot of people hunting for them, the revolving door of recruiting keeps spinning. “If you look at the JOLT Report by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the volume of hiring is as high as it has ever been, but that’s because people are quitting and creating this massive number of job openings,” says John Wilson, CEO of WilsonHCG.
Retention is the tail wagging the dog with the dog, in this case, being recruitment. More people packing up their desks means more money spent on recruitment. This is not the case at all companies, of course. The more that employees love their work and feel their talents are productively employed, the less reason they have to look elsewhere for a job.
“Employers can’t control the risk of employees checking out other employers on social media or glassdoor.com, but they can create an authentic employment brand with genuine marketing messages and recruitment experiences that draw from this brand, which is really a truthful expression of the real workforce culture,” says Mike Drolet, executive vice president and global head of RPO at Pontoon.
How RPO Can Help
Any company can create an employment brand with inhouse resources, but many find this is one area where expert help is needed from outside the business to ensure a truly authentic brand and messaging.
RPO firms have the chops to do just that. Typically, they will launch a brand engagement with a new client by having its senior leaders and a wide cross section of its current employees anonymously answer questions about the work culture. One group without the other is halfbaked. Talking with senior leaders alone may indicate a culture that fails to jibe with how the work is defined by employees.
“Without acquiring a broad base of opinions, the company risks creating an inauthentic employer brand,” says Lori Hock, CEO, Americas, of Hudson Global Inc. “You will then attract the wrong people for your culture, which doesn’t help turnover and, in the end, is an expensive and wasted effort.”
She explained that the new employee will be swayed by an aspirational element in the recruitment message and only later learn that this message was inconsistent with the work experience. “Alternatively, the hiring organization thinks it needs a certain type of person, when in fact it actually needs a very different person,” Hock adds. “In both cases, the new hire is not likely to hang around.”
Once an employer’s authentic work culture has been defined, this is its de facto employment brand. In many ways, it is like the brand of a consumer product. If a maker of breakfast cereal advertises the product as “natural” when it is loaded with added sugars and chemicals, people may buy it the first time, but once they learn the truth, they’re not apt to buy it again. The same rule of thumb applies to recruitment.
Not enough businesses take this to heart. “It’s interesting that companies will put so much emphasis on customer satisfaction, then put less attention on the candidate and employee experience,” Hock says. “You need to treat employees and candidates as you would treat your customers.”
Drolet shares this perspective. “Just take the word ‘consumer’ and replace it with ‘candidate,’” he says
“Companies understand the importance of marketing an authentic brand to consumers. Well, they need to ensure the job candidate’s experience is as genuine as the consumer’s experience.”
Extending the BrandEmployee referrals, the creation of talent communities, and providing stretch assignments to employees are other ways to reduce turnover. Assuming the current workforce is fully engaged in their tasks, they can cultivate new recruits who are equally engaged. “Employers that have a high percentage of new workers coming from their employee referral programs experience lower turnover,” says Angela Hills, executive vice president at Cielo Inc.
One reason is that a high-performing employee who is eager to refer a friend or family member to a recruiter is validating the positive work culture of the organization and making it a business people want to work for. “Studies affirm that employee referrals are not just a successful way to generate a greater volume of job candidates, but also higher quality job candidates,” Coapman says.
Hock points out that employees are unlikely to refer an inferior person for a job. “They’re not going to reach out to someone who is challenging to work with or a mediocre employee since that would be a poor reflection on them,” she explains.
Nevertheless, there are some caveats to consider. Drolet warns against employee referral programs that provide money as an incentive for the volume of referrals placed with the company. “If you offer someone $500 for referring five candidates, it can obviously backfire,” he explains. “I’m not against rewards programs, but it’s best to make them tie into the company’s culture, like an extra day off from work to participate in a community service project.”
Talent communities are another smart way to nurture interest in working for a particular organization. A candidate that falls just below the grade for a specific job opening may be the right person for another post in future. “By staying in touch with these individuals and regularly sending them information that might be of interest to them, they’ll continue to have a good opinion of the company,” Wilson says. “That’s your talent pipeline when you need it.”
Once an employee aligned with a company’s brand and culture is hired, employers must ensure their expectations are met. “Companies must continually stretch the new employee’s capabilities and learning potential by engaging them in different and exciting opportunities with others in the organization,” says Hock. “These networking and professional development experiences are invaluable.”
Lower Recruitment ExpensesThese experiences also slow down the revolving door of recruitment and help to curb expenses. When added to a well-defined brand that conveys an authentic work culture, employee referral programs, talent communities and stretch assignments become cost-effective ways for businesses to find the skill sets and behaviors they need and hold onto them.
Hills from Cielo says that the firm has helped its client partners save an average 40 percent of their recruitment spend. “This is our focus and our business,” she says. “We’ve invested in automation and predictive analytics to ensure the recruitment of high-performing employees that fit our clients’ culture. Others in the RPO space have done the same.”
“It’s the value of outsourcing,” says Drolet. “To do this right in a company is hard. Most don’t have the resources or the people focused on branding, social media outlets, talent pool creation, and referral programs, in addition to all the high-touch technology underneath these things, to do it well.”
Wilson shares this view. “Providers know how to do the little things that don’t cost much or anything at all, yet have a profound impact on retention rates,” he says. “We can drive genuine brands and brand awareness so that organizations actually end up spending less on hiring.”
He adds, “With RPO, the CEO is not spending money on recruitment—the CEO is investing in human capital.”
Hock points to video as a specific cost-saving concept that yields big benefits for her firm’s clients. ”Don’t be afraid to create employee testimonial videos using a smartphone camera, as long as the sound is clear and the picture is good,” she says. “In-house videos are often more authentic and feel less `produced’ than very expensive ones.”
It’s that word again—“authentic.” Millennials came of age during a financial crisis perpetrated by people hawking dangerous financial products that they deemed safe. Then, their parents’ world collapsed. Unlike previous generations, they want assurance they’re making the best and right decisions. They won’t be fooled.
Russ Banham is a Pulitzer-nominated business journalist and corporate history author who writes frequently about workforce quality.
75% Of job seekers consider a company’s employer brand before even applying to a job.
60% Of workers chose “a reputation as a great place to work” as the most important factoring in considering a new job.