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How to attract and retain the best employees

June 11, 2014

There are a few certainties in life; death, taxes and skills shortages. However you’ll notice that some companies suffer more than others when it comes to hiring and keeping great employees.

So, how can you be one of the smug employers that attracts and retains great people when everyone else is struggling? And how can you keep the down costs of recruiting staff?

Many businesses think that salary is the number one thing that will attract and retain good employees. It isn’t!

In fact, there are some very significant downsides for businesses who focus too much on salary. If that’s all you offer then you will only attract a certain type of person, who will leave as soon as they get a better offer.

The dangers of relying on high salaries to attract staff

For the same reason, I always advise against poaching staff with just the lure of high salary offers. These tactics lead to a high turnover of staff that benefits no one and drives up salaries across the industry.

A good way to determine the right salary is to check what your competitors are paying, but do ensure that you compare like with like. The salary you offer has to be competitive for the job, the industry and the region you’re in but it should also be tailored to the experience of the individual.

It is worth paying more for someone who brings additional skills and experience (to those advertised) to your company if they will be valued by you or your customers or will help others in the team improve. You will be able to offer less to someone who needs development in some areas.

Ensure you pay staff gaining new skills a competitive rate

You then need to ensure that your salary levels stay competitive and reward skills and experience gained whilst with you, or others will poach your best employees.

Good staff get approached all the time, on LinkedIn and elsewhere. They have their pick of employers and, just as you will look beyond CVs when recruiting, they will check you out to see just what sort of employer you’re likely to be and what impact you’re likely to have on their career.

The best candidates are intelligent enough to realise that it is worth accepting a job at a competitive or even lower rate of pay if it’s with the ‘right’ company and they will actively look for one with a good brand.

Potential recruits will research your company

Candidates often start their research by looking you up online. What will they find when they Google you? Are you thought leaders or are you anonymous? Which company do you think ambitious candidates prefer to work for?

Even worse; will they find negative things about the company or its directors? Sometimes the media can be very unfair, but if you do nothing to manage your reputation, those misrepresentations will be the first thing that good candidates will discover about you and it will act as a huge deterrent from them even considering you as an employer.

Just as recruiters now review social media, good candidates will too. Is yours formal and lacking in personality, or interesting and engaging? Do you use it to best effect or do you try and ignore it? What does your LinkedIn page say about your company?

What type of company culture and benefits do you offer employees

In both these searches candidates will also be looking for clues about your company culture. Is yours old fashioned or progressive, perhaps including things like flexible working? Do you have any unusual ways of engaging staff and keeping your team motivated? If so, it is worth ensuring that candidates know about them.

If you don’t, you should consider introducing them as you will be competing for good candidates with employers who do offer these things.

Remember, all staff now have a right to request flexible working. Read this guide for the details;

Salary sacrifice schemes can also be a valuable benefit for staff, as well as offering a tax benefit to the business.

Ensure your premises impress and inspire

One of the things that will tell potential employees most about your culture and attitude to employees is your office. Is the office environment drab and poorly decorated or is it smart, with break-out areas and inspiring items, such as awards, on display?

Have a look around with fresh eyes; what would your office tell an intelligent, ambitious new recruit about you? Why would they choose to work in your office? Why would someone want to stay working in your office?

Make sure your employees feel valued

The key to retaining good people is to ensure that they feel valued, not just by paying them a fair salary, but by how they are treated. It is dangerous to make assumptions, so you need to have a regular dialogue with employees.

Things such as creating the right working environment and ensuring that your people fully understand their contribution to the company, is key to getting this right.

Keep staff skills up to date with training

The most expensive mistake you can make is not to train your employees. Good employees will be keen to develop their skills, if they can’t with you they’ll go elsewhere, or worse they’ll stay with you and their skills will go out of date.

An effective training strategy requires a regular review process that identifies developmental needs and how they’ll be met.

It is also worth bringing in skills through recruitment. The companies that only promote from within don’t benefit from any challenges to their culture. They don’t get the chance to learn how others do things and they only have the experience of their own work. A recruit from a company with a prestigious brand will also bring with them some of that reflected glory.

I advise all our clients to pay as much attention to attracting and retaining high quality people as they do to attracting customers. It is not something that happens by accident, but even weak and non-existent brands can transform very quickly. Companies that get this right create high performing teams that will drive the success of the business.

As a start-up, I’d argue that this is the most important thing for you to get right.

More on ByteStart

You can find more help on hiring, motivating and rewarding staff in some of ByteStart’s other guides;

About the author

This article is written for ByteStart by Simon Conington – MD of recruitment specialists BPS and Chair of the Engineering and Technical Group at REC.