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Recruiting and Retention

Posted by Bianca Strzelczyk  October 14, 2008 09:15 AM

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Changing established rites of passage

Q: We are trying to improve our ability to retain new talent. It seems an old “rite of passage” is in place that company old timers put new recruits through and it is impacting our retaining efforts. Many of our new recruits do not appreciate this “rite of passage." Often, when a new employee comes to the organization, they go through a test by the old entrenched employees until they integrate and prove themselves. It can be difficult and sometimes employees leave from the discomfort. What is the best way to keep these new employees engaged? And, how can we break down this rite of passage that the old timers give new employees?

A: You need to determine if leadership at all levels supports and agrees with this “rite of passage." If there is not a consistent, aligned, and fully agreed position, it will not be addressed or resolved. It may be possible some leaders believe that part or all of this “rite of passage” is ok — they went through it themselves and it is reasonable for others to follow.

Key questions in determining what steps to take: How is this “rite of passage” a reflection of the values, principles and ideals your company stands for and believes in? Does it reflect the organization’s culture — how decisions are made and how people are treated? Are the values and culture of the firm clearly and concisely articulated and communicated to all employees? What is your employee brand — how you position what it means to be an employee at your firm, why you would want to join the firm, and what career opportunities are be available to you? Is your employee brand clear and concisely stated, demonstrating what is unique about working at your firm, including your value proposition and competitive advantages? Can this “rite of passage” be called an informal employee on-boarding/orientation process? Is it OK if talent hired go through this “rite of passage” leave the firm because they do not agree with it? Is this a screening process that determines if a new hire will fit or not fit in the organization’s culture?

You may consider forming a team of employees to address these questions and to determine if this rite of passage should be informal or formalized, and what the specific outcomes and deliverables should be. I would suggest including a representation of the company’s “old timers” so they are involved and in the process. This prevents them from being alienated if told they have to change or stop what they are currently doing, and engages them in a solution that the company feels good about.

It is not unusual for an organization to have an informal or formal “prove yourself” in the first 30 to 90 days. What is critical is if it is seen as an appropriate, fair and consistent assessment, evaluation and acclimation process, internally and externally, reflecting the best of what your organization wants to represent.

Just as significant is how you wish to value retention of talent. Research has shown that if you do not implement some type of accountability to leaders for their ability to retain talent, you will most likely not see a significant change.


Creative recruiting strategies

Q: I was wondering if you could suggest some creative recruiting strategies we might try to implement. We are having a hard time finding talent in the New England area and we are interested in learning what some of the new, creative recruiting tactics are we could implement.

A: There are several strategies you can use in finding and hiring talent in a market that you are new to:

1. A very robust employee referral program (for the short term) — some of your best referrals are your current employees.

2. Posting openings on internet networking sites such as LinkedIn, Facebook, MySpace, Plaxo, ZoomInfo, Naymz, Spoke, etc.

3. You can use these networking sites and regional websites such as to post an open house job fair to be held at your company’s location. You brand/position this as a fun event/reception, having the opportunity to meet with hiring managers, and interview with them. Highlight the positions you are looking to fill and have members of your executive team provide a brief presentation on the exciting things happening with your firm, and why someone would want to work their.

4. Establishing blogs reflecting topics of expertise of your firm, your services/products, and trends in the marketplace can attract those who are interested in exchanging ideas, and possible interests of employment.

5. Contacting colleges/universities that have undergraduate and graduate programs of skills and degrees you hire are an effective way of establishing partnerships and collaborations for current and future hiring needs of recent graduates and alumni.

6. If you have segments you are trying to attract and hire — part-timers, students, etc. — target organizations that reflect the segment. For example, you may want to hire staff for an unorthodox or part-time schedule, targeting semi-retired or a mature population (Operation ABLE is an excellent organization for mature workers), or an at-home parent, is an effective approach.


Using Blogs as recruiting tools

Q: We are wondering if there is an increase in local employers utilizing their corporate blog for job postings? Also, how successful a tool is this and how do you compare it to more traditional strategies?

A: Corporate Blogs have become much more common in recent years (nationally more than 70 percent of large companies have a corporate Blog). As you may know, there are essentially three types of Blogs that each serve a slightly different purpose. The Internal Blog is typically accessed through the company’s Intranet and can be viewed and/or posted on by any employee. These are especially effective in large organizations and/or ones that have multiple locations. The External Blog is publicly available and is used by internal spokespersons, employees, etc., to express views, discuss hot topics, get product feedback and/or react to public issues (i.e in lieu of a press release). Finally, the CEO Blog — less mainstream but gaining more popularity — allows people to get up close and personal with the leader of an organization by posting questions which in turn he/she answers.

While all Blogs are designed to open the lines of communication, whether internally, externally or both, I found very few that were explicit about the intent to use it as a recruiting tool. I would argue however that the Blog is an effective vehicle to drive people to your website, which in turn gives you the opportunity to portray your organization as an interesting and/or great place to work. Local companies like EMC are getting a lot of attention for their extensive use of Blogs. The Blog becomes a window into the company’s values and culture as well as a place you can showcase your internal expertise. Drawing attention to the organization may naturally lead people to explore other parts of your website including job postings.

Blogging can also help present an image of your organization that may draw more attention from potential candidates. For example, if you are looking for a specific skill set, you may deliberately post a Blog on a topic that you think someone possessing that skill may be interested in. Passive candidates may find themselves Blogging on a topic and may come to realize that the company seems to have a culture and/or values that line up with theirs nicely.

I do not have any comparative data to share. However, with the popularity of the concepts like LinkdIn, Facebook, and locally owned BzzAgent, corporate Blogs present a unique opportunity for people to connect with an organization on an individual level/word of mouth level, before they hit “apply here."


Attracting a variety of generations

Q: We are a rather large company and often recruit candidates from multiple generations, i.e. Baby Boomers, Gen Xers, Millennials, etc. We understand we should approach each generation differently but it seems like an impossible task. Any suggestions?

A: The way I see it, there is very little difference between recruiting and sales and marketing. If you want to know how to sell your product to a certain demographic, you need to know what makes them tick. Spend ten minutes watching a Red Sox game and you’ll undoubtedly see a Sam Adams commercial; turn the channel to Grey’s Anatomy you’ll be convinced to buy Dove foam facial wash. The approach to recruiting need not be that much different.

Recruiting multiple generations can be challenging. The key is to remember that a “one size fits all” approach to will not work. That doesn’t mean you need to customize every aspect of your recruitment strategy, but I suggest starting by recognizing the key characteristics of each generation. Chances are you have at least three generations within your organization right now, each of which has a distinct set of needs, wants, and desires.

Bruce Tulgan, who in my opinion is a bona fide guru when it comes to this issue, has written dozens of books on the topic of generational mix, including “Recruiting the Workforce of the Future," Jaico Publishing House (April 2005). His organization, Rainmaker Thinking, has done extensive research on what is important to each generation, and how to manage and get the most out of them. These same concepts can and should be used to attract them.

For example, if you know that Baby Boomers are about “peace, love, and freedom," market your organization as a family-friendly workplace. The Gen Xers want to keep their options open and acquire skills that are broadly marketable. If you’re recruiting an Xer, tout your training and career development opportunities. If it’s a Gen Yer or Millenial, highlight cutting edge technology, social responsibility, and continuous learning.

After you’ve laid out the key things that each generation is looking for in an employer, find the common threads, such as work/life balance and community involvement. Make these the key themes in any recruitment strategy and customize your approach depending on the type of person you want to attract. This will save time, energy, and resources as you go out to attract talent and will also ensure that once you’ve hire these individuals that you have built an organization that respects the differences and capitalizes on the similarities. Lastly, make sure that your recruitment strategy is closely aligned with the reality of your organization so your new employees don’t experience buyer’s remorse.


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