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Five steps to recruit the talent you already employ

This column is part of Globe Careers' Leadership Lab series, where executives and experts share their views and advice about leadership and management. Follow us at @Globe_Careers. Find all Leadership Lab stories at tgam.ca/leadershiplab

Did you know the majority of your employees would take a new job if it was offered to them tomorrow?

We all say that employees are our most valuable resource but few business leaders have a handle on what makes their employees tick.

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It's also easy to rush to fill empty seats at the expense of protecting those already filled. But prioritizing recruitment over retention can leave you with a leaky bucket.

Fast-growing companies spend big bucks to attract talent. According to Bersin by Deloitte, the "recruitment process outsourcing market" has grown to $72 billion in the United States alone, with companies spending $3,300 per hire. This doesn't include onboarding, training costs and compensation.

By comparison, $1.5 billion is spent annually on traditional approaches to talent retention – a vast discrepancy since 80 per cent of an organization's value exists in its current talent. Keep in mind that it's also more than three times more costly to replace an employee than it is to retain one.

Despite the buzz around talent shortages and the race to recruit the next wave propelling your business to new heights, executives would be remiss if they disregard the importance of retention.

Here are five ways to recruit the talent you already have:

Acquire Employee Data

The appetite for big, real-time data is growing among organizations hungry for a competitive edge. Executives need to know where to invest their time and money to engage and retain employees, while fostering a desirable culture. Data such as engagement and employee net promoter scores provide an unfiltered perspective of how things are going in the organization and identifies pockets of the organization doing well or needing improvement.

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Keep a Finger on the Pulse

So you do an annual engagement survey. That's great, as long as it's the first chapter in what becomes consistent dialogue with employees about culture and career path. A recent trend has been the use of continuous "pulse" surveys – short audits administered regularly, often weekly. Bethany Francis, HR manager at SharpSchool, uses a continuous approach to ensure the change she's making is having the desired impact. "As an example, our employees told us that communication was an issue," says Francis. "We instituted a town hall series, led by our CEO, where we share high-level information about what we've accomplished over the past month, what we're working on and what we're all driving towards. Months later, we went back out to employees to measure progress."

Know Why People Stay

Everyone is familiar with exit interviews. But have you considered conducting stay interviews? While it's important to understand why a person is leaving, knowing why people choose to stay can be more valuable. Discussing what motivates them and why they stay provides useful information to create an appealing work environment. Most importantly, it shows that you appreciate their loyalty.

Recognize Your Employees

Nothing spurs people to greater heights than being recognized for their effort and accomplishments. Karey Stanley-Boyd, senior manager of global recognition programs at TD Bank says, "Our president and CEO Tim Hockey was concerned that, while the heroic stories were important, what's really important is the little things that people do every day that enable them to connect emotionally with customers. And those are the things we wanted to share with each other." When done right, it can drive productivity and engagement, create institutional memory and reinforce corporate culture. If you believe your efforts matter, you will be less inclined to leave.

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Foster Employee Ambassadors

Here's a secret: the best way to engage your employees is to involve them. There's no better example of this than RBC. When RBC launched its Blue Water Project, there was a small but significant social business component. Employees could gather at the "Blue Water Cooler" on their intranet and discuss the importance of preserving freshwater resources. What began as a way to educate and inform employees transformed into a thriving community, rich with employees eager to roll up their sleeves and build something new in their neighbourhoods. In fact, this year more than 24,000 employees participated by adopting one of the funded projects and sharing it with their networks, multiplying the reach of the message by more than 130 times.

Everyone knows that we shouldn't take people for granted. That's what our parents taught us. This principle is not only wise and kind, but profitable, too, in the workplace.

David Bator is vice-president of client strategy at TemboSocial (@TemboSocial), a social software company that provides a suite of intranet solutions to drive employee recognition, engagement and performance.

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