17 September 2019

Fixing the Employee Turnover Problem: Start with hiring the right people.

Employee Turnover: How it all starts

We’ve all heard the centuries-old saying “prevention is better than cure”, yet we all seem to forget about it when it comes to talent.

There’s more than a few heads being scratched trying to figure out how to reduce employee turnover. Employee sentiment analysis and flight-risk predictive models go a long way in keeping the good, talented employees from leaving. Big multinational companies can leverage on the power of People Analytics and utilise all the millions of data points collected in the past decades to whip up and implement effective solutions.

I don’t want to diminish this approach and its results – far from it. In fact, I’m a strong advocate of a more analytical and data-driven approach to all things HR as a means to add value not only to employees but to the business as well.

There are two problems with this, however. The first one being that only companies with 3,000 employees or more and with decades of historical data can really reap the benefits of People Analytics. Where does this leave all of the start-ups, scale-ups, and SMEs?

The second issue is that, despite People Analytics playing an important role in fixing employee turnover in larger corporations, wouldn’t it be better not to have a problem to fix in the first place?

This leads us to our beloved, albeit forsaken, prevention. Retaining your talent boils down to hiring the right people for the job in the first place. Hiring the right people means hiring talent that will be significantly more inclined to stay longer at your company compared to the candidates that might seem like a good match on paper but aren’t quite so. But how do you know who are the right people? First of all, forget resumes. Despite its ubiquity in the requirements of job openings around the world, previous work experience is one of the weakest and poorest predictors of future job success. If we want to find a real solution, we can’t rely on something that is part of the problem. What can we rely on, then?

Cultural fit and job-specific fit: What they are and why they matter

There are two overall factors that ultimately make a candidate the right candidate for your company: cultural fit and job-specific skills and potential. Employees that are a match both in terms of company culture and mentality, and whose cognitive and personality traits fit the daily job description tend to stick around much longer (and perform better, too).

Cultural fit might sound a little too vague to some of you, but when you break it down you’ll see that it’s about very concrete and tangible aspects of everyday work. Is the candidate intrinsically motivated or does she need external motivation to get the job done? Is he going to be comfortable with your company’s culture of speaking out and participate in idea-generating sessions, or does he prefer to quietly get on with his work? Are the new hires going to match the working ethics of the rest of the company, as well as live by its values?

Hiring candidates that identify with your company’s culture and that will make it their own will increase your employee retention immensely.

Now, hiring for cultural fit is a critical part of retaining your talent, but it’s not enough.  You need to hire a candidate that has the skills or the potential to perform well in a specific role. If you’re hiring a Sales Representative you will want someone with a very different skill set than, say, a Customer Success Specialist. Does the role you’re hiring for require a high degree of autonomy, multitasking skills, and prioritizing abilities? Or is it more suited for candidates that need a clear structure and set of guidelines? Does succeeding in this role demand taking some risks, or rather avoid them? Are logical reasoning and critical thinking key to achieve success in this role, or are skills such as agility and flexibility more important?

Hiring a candidate whose skills don’t match those required by a specific job means that she will soon feel undervalued and faceless, which, in turn, means a significantly higher chance that she will leave your company early on.

Keep this in mind for all your future hires

To sum up, if you really want to see a sharp decrease in the number of employees leaving your company, there’s no better way than making sure that you’re welcoming the right people in the first place.

Remember to hire for cultural fit and for job-specific skills and potential. How do you assess cultural and job-specific fit, you ask? The answer to that requires a whole separate article, but if you’d like to give it a try, you can do so here.

Cheers, Raul