Strategic recruiting – the revolving door stop

It's no secret that in agency life, staff members usually stick around just long enough to get one more notch in their belts before moving on to their next conquest. In order to successfully ride out the current economic downturn and come out on top, effectively identifying, recruiting, and retaining top talent is more important now than ever. Understanding the micro and macro factors that link and drive these issues will help to uncover some valuable solutions.

It’s no secret that in agency life, staff members usually stick around just long enough to get one more notch in their belts before moving on to their next conquest. In order to successfully ride out the current economic downturn and come out on top, effectively identifying, recruiting, and retaining top talent is more important now than ever. Understanding the micro and macro factors that link and drive these issues will help to uncover some valuable solutions.

So what’s keeping the revolving door spinning?

With the softening economy, clients are trimming marketing budgets and some agencies are being forced to cut staff. However, there are broader economic factors that need to be considered in order to understand current and future employee tendencies.

First, the rate at which employees are switching jobs is at an all-time high. According to a 1998 McKinsey & Co. report, ‘The War for Talent,’ the number of companies an executive will work for in a career jumped from three in 1988 to five in 1998 — by the year 2008 that number will be seven.

Second, recessionary layoffs in the ’80s and ’90s resulted in a new employee attitude — ‘What’s in it for me?’ Company loyalty has since taken a back seat to personal career development and achieving success on one’s own terms.

Third, the Internet has introduced a valuable job search ally for employees.

Moving forward, survival will be determined by an agency’s ability to build and maintain highly qualified teams.

Furthermore, it’s not enough to consider these issues as static. The problem is about to get a lot worse: Seasoned leaders are leaving the business and the supply of appropriate replacement prospects is about to drop dramatically.

The news today is full of references to the Baby Boomer generation approaching retirement. Hundreds of thousands of Canadian jobs have gone unfilled over the past several years and the next 20 years doesn’t look any brighter. There may be a temptation for agencies, when replacing management, to compromise standards by prematurely promoting under-experienced mid-level staff. Such moves could have lethal effects on the long-term growth of a company. The wiser choice would be to invest more heavily today in the training and development of young talent so that they are better prepared to fill the shoes of their current leaders when the time comes.

But wait… there’s more.

Regardless of the pending talent shortage, agencies are in the business of client service. Delivering valuable, long-term client service requires consistency. Frequent team turnover is wasteful and frustrating for clients, who are forced to build confidence in new players, invest time to bring them up to speed and sacrifice key industry relationships developed by previous team members.

Bottom line, replacing employees is not only disruptive, it’s extremely costly. A study by Development Dimensions International estimates the cost of replacing management employees at approximately 46 per cent of the person’s salary. Worse still, agencies with high turnover often experience employee morale issues and damaged market perception, both of which are financially detrimental in the long run.

What can be done?

Good news – this is one challenge that has a manageable solution.

By prioritizing retention as a proactive strategy, agencies can slow the revolving door syndrome and in turn, build a stronger team with high morale and satisfied clients.

That means more than just placing the right ad. A strategic recruiting program includes: planning your recruiting priorities and budget, while clearly articulating the desired profile for each position; determining sourcing options that best meet your hiring needs and budget; screening out candidates with unrealistic expectations; assessing candidates based on past performance; closing the deal with a compelling offer; and activating a long-term integration program as soon as the offer is accepted.

If you haven’t already, you and your team need to start thinking about your strategic recruitment program as a precursor to effective retention.

Mike Boydell is president of HotJobs.ca, a leading Internet-based recruiting solutions company and is featured regularly on Citytv’s all news station CP24 as an expert in recruiting and retention. He invites you to forward any questions you’d like him to address in the future on strategic recruitment and retention to mboydell@hotjobs.com.