Val’s Bites: Getting and Holding On to Talent

Contingency and retained recruiters are unwittingly doing the job of employee retention for their clients and in the process, getting candidates some startling promotions.  Leadership is too lean, maxed out and overwhelmed.  Many people are realizing that they can do better: get the promotion, stretch their skills into a new area, have more flexible work hours, reduce their commute and increase their salary.

The Candidates

In defense of truly great candidates, I genuinely believe that most of them engage me with the intention to make a move and not just to leverage a deal to stay put. But, many get weak-kneed and remain with The Devil-they-know.  It’s just human nature.  The truth is, most people aren’t really unhappy.  In our current employment market, the best talent isn’t looking for more money.  They are looking for that “one thing” that they want to improve their lives.  Previously, when I secured candidates that “one thing” or even three things, things they never requested, I knew I could change a life.  That is the juice that has kept me in this  game all these years.  Not so much now.

Who’s Fault is it Anyway?

After the economic downturn of 2008-9, companies leaned up, it was a time to reconcile too many bloated and gluttonous years.  Companies had to switch things up, get nimble and creative again. Fast forward to today; now flush with cash, these companies have learned how to be lean and profitable, determined to go yet another quarter without additional headcount.  This was a pivotal moment, an important lesson.

Senior Managers have been overwhelmed, reaching the limit of being so deep in the weeds. They have done their part in rebuilding, shouldering the burdens to turn their shops around while sales increase. They need support.  So, let’s hire!  But wait… That 3-year Senior costs what?  $85-90K?   While you weren’t looking, the world changed. And your list of candidate “must-haves” have become expensive. You might have to cut that list down a bit or you could be waiting a long time to find that haystack needle. Hire someone smart and driven. They will learn quickly.  Grab that 2-out-of-3 while they are still on the market.  And if you want someone that doesn’t need any training or development, hire a highly-paid consultant to get you over a hump.

Supply and Demand

With available professional talent below 2%, candidates are king. Budget busters!  But it’s time to reallocate some of those dollars for essential hiring because here’s the real issue: parity. That affects the entire organization and stalls, even shuts down, the hiring process. HR and Comp professionals that’s where you come in!  Advise your leadership team of the massive shift that has taken place and the need to properly level out your teams. This is where the relationship with seasoned recruiters is most valuable. Professional recruiters live this every day. We see trends often before you do. Your salary surveys from last year when the budget was created are passé. The market for talent shifts monthly, almost weekly.


What does it cost to lose a solid employee who knows her job inside and out?  Plenty!  Lost productivity, morale, adding additional work to the team, training, loss of succession planning… Oops!  Should have been more proactive in engaging the workforce in their happiness quotient. Those counter offers you never made?  Now you do!  There have been some doozies, too. 30-40%, with fluffy new titles and retention bonuses.  And then there are those that aren’t so impressive but just acknowledging that an employee is needed is all it takes sometimes. The Devil-they-know.  Of course, the vast majority of these candidates will be back on the hunt within a year.  Statistics don’t lie.

Luring the Best Talent

The economy seems flush.  But is it?  Many are bracing for another downturn.  For now, many companies are growing and employees will continue coming and going.  So, how do you lure the best talent?  You don’t have to be trendy to attract great people.  Instead, have a great story about who you are, how you got there and where you are heading.  Be flexible with work hours and telecommuting. There is nothing more important to candidates than flexibility.

But, and this is a big but, if you are not prepared to bust that budget you set last year and make a truly jaw-dropping offer, don’t expect to see that candidate showing up on their new start date.  Their current employer will suddenly realize how much they are loved, bring out the violins, and that’s the end of that.  Low-balling is the death knell of the hiring marketplace. Take your recruiter’s sage advice!

So, here we are, in a unique time in the World of Work to address this crisis of employee retention.  Just how to do it?  Employee engagement.  One-on-one.  Frequently.  Don’t wait for the annual review.  That’s too late.  And give them support.  Employees need to be heard and maybe offered good food every now and then.  They don’t need many fancy perks at work — who really has time for that?  They just want to do challenging work, keep the Devil at bay, and get home to their real lives.

About the Author:

Valerie Rodriguez, Director of Consulting and Executive Search, Beacon Resources. Val specializes in guiding clients from startups to Fortune 1000 in growing their business and manages project initiatives through the acquisition/retention of top talent and identification of first class finance and accounting professionals in the Southern California region.