The title of this post may have you asking yourself “What would a marketing company know about HR-related issues?” Although it’s not our primary focus, it is something that consistently surfaces when sitting down with business leaders to address their growth needs. The area of recruitment and retention, among so many others, is directly impacted by your marketing and communications efforts, whether purposeful or not.
A bit of context: Our engagement process is something unique. Not because you get a chance to chat with our stellar team who we just adore (have you seen how fabulous they are?), but because we never lead initial conversations talking about marketing.
When we engage with new clients, we get fully engrossed in all things said company. We call this phase Discovery and Research, which includes a variety of tactics designed to understand the client inside and out. We hold stakeholder interviews, perform competitor analysis, dive deep into the respective industry, and lastly, perform a thorough analysis of any current and past marketing efforts.
Stakeholder interviews (which are often with the employees) tend to yield the most surprises. These findings, although critical to understand the culture and desire to work there – also unearths particular challenges the employer may face without even knowing it. Oftentimes, these findings have a direct impact on the employer’s recruitment and retention efforts, among other things.
Companies might boast about their culture, pride themselves on competitive benefits, and showcase industry awards that help them stand out. However, what is actually unfolding (from the employees’ perspective) may be something that doesn’t hold true to those claims.
While it’s important to engage your employees and ask for their feedback, there’s an often overlooked element to consider: How are you communicating on behalf of your brand?
When potential employees are looking for a new place to call home, your business should stick out for the right reasons. Not a lot of companies understand just how to do that, whether it be through social media, employee giving, community/event sponsorships, or other means. However, these things help level up the brand across the board, and a lot of that can influence your ability to recruit – and retain – top talent.
If you’ve ever seen Ted Lasso (and if you haven’t, you must, so stop reading and go to Apple TV+ immediately), you know that you don’t have to be a soccer (or football) star to create a great team. In addition to some of the most wholesome programming available right now, it’s also a how-to guide for creating a successful, thriving organization. (Shout out to one of our local faves, Invariant Corporation, who leans on some of Ted Lasso’s management tactics to create a stellar culture).
One thing that we do know is that creating a good company culture is one of the keys to having a strong recruitment and retention strategy. Although they may not realize it, when clients come to us they’re looking to achieve goals that will ultimately end up impacting recruitment and retention. This includes creating opportunities for thought leadership, streamlining and refreshing their brand both internally and externally, purposefully developing an ongoing content strategy, and growing their business while maintaining a notable reputation as a highly regarded provider of solutions for their customers.
In addition, they want to be known for their purposeful and meaningful impact within their community and for their desire to be an employer of choice in attracting and retaining top talent.
Here’s how you can implement a few marketing strategies to influence recruitment and retention:
Who doesn’t love a good Venn Diagram? After talking to numerous companies, our findings could often fall into one of three categories: C-Suite, Marketing, or HR. As we evaluated the data, we found that the sweet spot for recruitment and retention sat right smack in the middle of these three areas.
What does this mean for your business? Here are 10 suggestions we’ve uncovered that will help you find that sweet spot to boost recruitment and retention within your workplace
Don’t just talk the talk, but walk the walk
If your business has a mission, vision, and the desired culture, are you following through on these claims, or are those just words on a conference room wall somewhere?
During stakeholder interviews, we’ve found that employees say things such as, ‘the company wants to say that they have this huge community focus, but we’re not asked to provide input on what kinds of organizations we want to support,’ or ‘they don’t ask for employees’ feedback when doing an employee outing,’ or even ‘we’re a tech company that strives for innovation, but our website hasn’t been updated in 5 years.’
For instance, a 401(k) might not be a high priority for everyone, but if it matters to the majority, that should be something that they consider. If mental health is on everyone’s mind (and spoiler alert: it is!) then focus on creating an open and safe environment where you can talk about it and offer services that can assist.
The more you grow, the harder it can become to execute a vision and maintain buy-in throughout your organization. However, by empowering key employees to help reinforce that vision, you can instill strong culture while gaining input from those that matter most.
Times are changing. Be sure to change with them or get left behind.
Is your company still relevant in today’s market? You might have the latest technology offering, but if your branding is from 1997, potential clients and even your employees might see your company as stale and outdated. If you want to be seen as an innovative, forward-thinking technology company, your website and branding need to represent that.
Things to consider: how often do you engage outside of the four walls of your office? Are you aware of what’s going on in your own community? What do others think of your brand and public persona?
If you think this may be an area for improvement, why not form an internal committee of stakeholders and have them perform an honest assessment? They’ll have a greater stake in the outcome and will appreciate the opportunity to contribute.
Create employee ambassadors
Are your employees your biggest ambassadors? If you can’t say with confidence that your employees would promote your business as a great place to work, then you’ve got some room for improvement.
What your employees say about you when you’re not around is HUGE. Think about the importance behind a customer testimonial–your employees should be just as important.
The saying ‘It’s not what you say, but how you make people feel is so true and important in one’s work/life balance. Your team needs to know you have their back, regardless of what life may bring, and know that they’re in a trusting environment.
Your current employees deserve – and need – to be invested in the outcome
This is where employee engagement comes into play.
Recent Gallup data shows that only 33% of all workers in the U.S. are actually engaged in the workplace. This raises a few questions: do these employees feel as though their opinions are respected? Do they feel as though they have a seat at the table, and whether they actually understand what’s going on? What opportunities do they have to contribute feedback, and what’s being done to address it?
During some of our stakeholder interviews, we’ve heard things such as ‘the way I find out what’s going on in the business is by seeing the updates on LinkedIn or Facebook.’
Your employees should not be learning things from your business’s Facebook page or Reddit posts–the team should know everything before anybody else. If they feel out of the loop, they’re not going to feel vested in the long-term outcome of the company.
Communication is critical–what’s your strategy?
Good communication across the board is key. While it’s certainly important for businesses to communicate externally with the public, investors, and clients, it’s even more important to communicate clearly and effectively within the organization itself.
Think about an organizational chart with 10 people sitting at the top, all with similar levels of power. While there may be a lot of people within the company who understand certain things very well, if they’re not all on the same page with each other, there’s no way everyone beneath them can be.
One lesson we’ve learned from the pandemic is that the lack of face-to-face communication can throw a monkey wrench into the way we share information. A recent study found that businesses with approximately 100 employees spend an average of 17 hours per week clarifying unclear messages. This translates to an annual cost of approximately $525,000 in lost productivity!
Additionally, a recent Workforce poll reported that approximately 60% of companies do not have a long-term strategy for their internal communications.
At every level, you need to make sure that you have proper communications established – and it should be reinforced in multiple ways. For example, if you’re presenting key topics at a quarterly All Hands, reinforce it during your monthly staff department meetings and then again during your 1:1s with key employees. Perhaps also distribute a video message on key milestone updates, where applicable, and also post on the internal Sharepoint site.
During our stakeholder meetings, we ask about communication strategies and how employees feel about their effectiveness. For instance, the president of that company may lean on a company email every other Friday, which is great. But how long is it? How do you measure the effectiveness of those emails? How do you know whether people are actually reading it? What type of information is going into those emails? It gets even worse if, in addition to those Friday emails, the president is also sending out emails every other day…which can cause those important messages to get lost in one’s inbox.
Communication is one of the biggest things that a lot of businesses struggle with as it relates to ensuring that everyone understands the intent. Our advice: don’t just tell employees the what, tell them the so what. For example, your business might be acquiring a company in South America. Great, but why, and what is that going to mean for your employees? If they only know bits and pieces, they may imagine the worst-case scenario based on information pulled out of context.
If used properly, the internal employee survey can also be a valuable communication tool. While this sounds like a very straightforward, easy way to make employees feel like their opinions are valued, employees need to feel like their input is actually being heard and used to enact changes or to make decisions rather than just going through the motions for the sake of optics.
Communication comes into play again with employee evaluations. Companies are beginning to reconsider the traditional business practice of annual employee evaluations. If an employee is struggling or excelling during month 3, why wait until the end of the year to do anything about it?
In the world of education, there are two different kinds of assessment: formative and summative. While a summative assessment could be a term paper or final exam, a formative assessment consists of anything from pop quizzes to just a quick check to make sure students understand the content and to ensure there will be no surprises when it’s time for the exam. Although we’re not suggesting deploying pop quizzes each week, we are suggesting providing effective communication often, and in different ways.
With frequent communication between employees and management, there won’t be surprises. For a small, agile company, frequent feedback can ensure that problems are dealt with before they cause challenges for other employees. And, if that employee is doing a great job, they’re recognized for it in real-time.
Are you an employer of choice?
This is a big one. Wanting to be an employer of choice is a topic that consistently surfaces during our discovery and research calls. The key here is your employee value proposition (EVP): the benefits of working at your organization, financial or otherwise. What makes your company a place people WANT to work for, regardless of how much money they make?
At Flourish, we really enjoy the clients that we get to work with. We’re good community stewards of our resources and want to give back. We do pro bono efforts. We win awards. We have a lot of fun. We want to do the right thing. We want to have good quality work, but we also want to attract the best people that we can possibly attract to work here. Someone who’s OK with just a level six out of a 10 isn’t a good fit for us, so making sure that we create an environment that high-quality team members want to be a part of is critical and is communicated from the very beginning.
Ignoring difficult topics doesn’t make them go away
Life happens. Sensitive topics are hard to address at work and can often lead to blurred lines if not done properly. However, just because you don’t talk about them doesn’t make them go away. They’re still going to be there and they’re still something your employees care about. These can include:
- Mental health
- Opioid and substance abuse
- LGBTQ+ issues
- Divorce/custody issues
- Financial stress
Chances are, some of your employees are being challenged by things going on in their personal lives that they don’t feel comfortable discussing at work. It’s important not to be tone-deaf to the environment that your employees are in. For instance, if a team member is making insensitive, offensive, or inappropriate remarks during meetings and as an employer, you’re allowing that to happen, you’re sending a clear message that your company is disconnected from the world we’re currently operating within and that some people aren’t as valued as others.
“I shall assume that your silence gives consent”- Plato
Empathy and understanding are important in the creation of a good culture in which employees want to stay because they feel safe, supported, and accepted. Be mindful that your employees may be struggling – this is another area where employee surveys can be useful, allowing you to ask questions such as “What are some of the nonwork-related things that keep you up at night?”
Also, ask open-ended questions that are not related to their job role. You care about them – so why not act like it? If you recognize that a large number of employees are struggling in certain areas, address it. Happier employees make a happier company, and if everyone is more successful and knows they’re supported by their employer, it’s a win-win across the board.
Offer benefits that truly matter
In today’s changing business climate, traditional benefits may not have the same value that they once did for your employees – the benefits package you offer to a new employee may not be something they need 10 years down the line.
Your business may promote perks like free childcare at the local daycare center, but if only 4% of your employees have kids who can actually use it, that’s not something you should put a lot of equity into. Some employees may take full advantage of three weeks of PTO a year, while others don’t take time off and would prefer something else such as additional sick days or an increase in their 401(k) contribution. Everyone is incentivized differently – understanding what your employees are really looking for is key to making sure that you’re not just making an assumption based on the corporate standard.
In other words, offering benefits based on what you think employees want rather than asking what they truly want is important.
Returning yet again to the topic of employee surveys, we’ve gotten a lot of feedback during our stakeholder interviews where employees report that their company sends out surveys all the time asking what employees want, but they don’t do anything with the information. If you’re going to survey and ask for feedback, make sure that you put someone in charge to measure the effectiveness of those changes, and make sure you have a plan in place to see them through.
Offer referral and incentive programs
What a great recruiting tool! You will not get better talent than those that come from employee referrals (If your employees wouldn’t recommend your company as a place to work, it’s time to reexamine your business!). In addition, your employees won’t recommend people they don’t want to work with and that they don’t think will do a good job.
An added benefit: it keeps your current employees interested in and excited about what you’re doing. They’ll be talking about your business and keeping track of what you do.
Keep in mind that employees will likely be incentivized differently. Some people may want a $500 referral bonus, while others may want money donated to their charity of choice or a gift card to their favorite restaurant or retailer. Make sure that you’re asking those questions and that you have a good process in place to receive referrals.
Lastly, why not get feedback from your teams on the ideal candidate and what makes the best fit for the role you’re seeking? HR may have outdated job requirements, so who better to provide input on what’s needed than the people who will be on the same team?
Adjust to new work environments
As we know all too well, the pandemic had a huge impact on the way we worked. During our stakeholder interviews, we heard a lot of similar stories.
Everything was closed for the first two weeks and we realized it wasn’t going anywhere. All of a sudden we were hybrid and we got through the bumps and barriers of what a hybrid environment, or working from home, would look like. Now that the pandemic’s over, a lot of folks are in a hybrid environment where they can go to the office, but they don’t necessarily have to.
The rise of remote working has changed everything. Since employees are no longer tied to a specific location, it opens up new opportunities, for better or worse.
For organizations, that means there’s a bigger talent pool to choose from. But the other side of the coin is that there’s also more competition for the best candidates, putting them firmly in the driver’s seat.
In our stakeholder meetings, we also heard from employees who really benefited from the hybrid environment; a lot of people who weren’t really active in corporate meetings became way more active when they were actually at home in their own environment. Introverts who didn’t feel comfortable speaking up in a big conference room felt more comfortable speaking out from the comfort of their laptop and there were different people taking part in conversations where they weren’t before.
On the flip side, extroverts who were used to being very visual and wanting to see other people felt less engaged because they were either sidetracked or it just wasn’t the best environment for them. The dynamic became very different.
The workdays began to look very different as well. Instead of a predictable workday with morning meetings, a lunch break, and afternoon meetings, for instance, it may have turned into nonstop Zoom meetings with a rushed lunch (and maybe even dinner) at the desk. The lines blurred and it became difficult to separate work life from personal life.
Making sure that you’re creating a hybrid work environment with clear parameters. This will help to create stability and, in the end, may ultimately help with the retention of employees.
Recruitment and retention are much more than an HR role. In order for it to be successful, there has to be buy-in from all angles to ensure you’re creating the best environment possible – and hitting that sweet spot along the way.