Team Leader: Four mile markers in the race to hiring and retaining great employees

Hiring and retaining great employees is becoming more and more challenging in Utah. With exceptionally low unemployment rates nearly everywhere in Utah, and one of the lowest unemployment rates in the country, the state’s job market has become increasingly tighter. Companies need to use every competitive advantage strategy available to hire and keep quality employees.

After working in the business of human resources and talent acquisition for more than 20 years, and hiring thousands of employees, I’d like to share my philosophy for recruiting and keeping great talent. Being an avid cyclist, I see some similarities in preparing and participating in a bike race to recruiting and retaining good people. So here are my four mile markers for success:

Mile Marker One: Give them the right gear

Last year I participated in the 206-mile LOTOJA, an amateur bike race from Logan to Jackson Hole. One of the first things that anyone hoping to participate needs is a good bike and the proper gear to take him (or her) to the finish line. When hiring employees in business, it’s also important to make sure that team members have the right tools, training, equipment and skills to do their jobs effectively. Investing in your employees from the beginning by giving them tools to succeed increases their likelihood of being productive and staying with your organization.

 Mile Marker Two:  Experience

It’s the responsibility of race organizers to make sure that the race experience is an exceptional one, so cyclists will participate year after year. This same principle applies to the hiring process.

It’s crucial that organizations make sure that a job candidate’s exposure to the company is a good one from the moment they log on to your website, throughout the interview process and up to the job offer. Whether a candidate is hired or not, that treatment leaves a lasting impression. And in today’s world of social media, a negative experience can be posted just as easily as a positive one for many eyes to see in an instant.

Mile Marker Three: Recruitment, retention and operations ride tandem

Whether riding tandem or as relay partners, sometimes it takes a team to get you up over the hills, through the long stretches and to the finish line. And in business, it’s essential to make sure your recruiting, training, and operations teams or individuals (depending on the size of your company) are working together to retain employees.

Do this by first concentrating on new associates’ first 30 days with the company. Assess their skills, abilities and knowledge and what needs to be done to make their transition as a new employee successful. That might mean providing training, mentoring and the right tools to get them excited and prepared to succeed. After those first months, make it a company-wide effort to keep employees engaged and loving their work.

At Progrexion, we use creative tactics such as building comradery among associates through participation in community give-back programs, rewarding top performances with trips, and even creating what is called a “gaming environment” through friendly competitions. We’ve formed a “work hard, play hard” culture that also includes such perks as a relaxation room and regularly rewarding teams with lunch and dinner.

 Mile Marker Four: Use big data and learn from it

Cyclists who successfully tackle a 200-mile race take their training seriously, and they do it in measured increments, adding 25, 50 and 80 miles as the weeks go by. When you are recruiting hundreds of new people every year, it’s important to consistently create and track different metrics of employee satisfaction and success, starting with the skills and abilities a candidate first brings to the job. Then reassess performance in 30-, 60- and 90-day increments for new recruits. It’s also smart to track employee performance on an ongoing, consistent basis, not just annually as organizations often do. There’s so much to learn from people who are struggling or succeeding in their jobs, or who leave their jobs for various reasons.

Using these basic steps will get you on your way to hiring and retaining good people. And we all know how important that is in helping businesses compete and remain in business for many years to come.

Ryan Reeder, PHR, is the senior director of talent acquisition at Progrexion and has been in recruiting and talent acquisition for 20 years. 

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