Q: My entry-level employees keep getting poached. We’re on a tight budget — is the only way to retain talent by paying higher salaries? — Jessica M., Philadelphia
Jessica, we feel your pain. We had a similar situation at one of our previous companies, where we kept losing employees after only five or six months. The time and money involved in recruitment and training — not to mention the effect the constant turnover had on our business and clients — made us take a hard look at our practices to understand what we could do better to build a long-lasting team.
We started with research. Money isn’t everything, but it’s probably the first factor candidates and employees consider when comparing opportunities. Make sure that your compensation is at least market rate — don’t let a dollar or two an hour be the thing that sabotages your hiring. There are several websites that supply compensation data, and sites like Glassdoor allow current and past employees to self-report pay and can be an eye-opening resource.
From there, be strategic about benefits. If you’re hiring entry-level employees, you’re probably hiring younger people who might value, say, workplace flexibility over a really robust healthcare package — especially if they’re under 26 and still eligible to ride on their parents’ insurance. Our younger team has responded enthusiastically to additional paid time off, extra company holidays and a solid 401(k) plan that helps them lay the groundwork for a successful future.
And speaking of a successful future: Set expectations early. At the beginning of our hiring process, we talk about the job as a two-year opportunity — a role that a candidate should expect and want to be in for two years. We explain throughout the screening, interview and onboarding process that at the end of two years, we will either promote them or help them secure their next role outside the company, providing resume assistance, time off to job hunt, a solid reference and access to our connections within the community. Letting employees know that you’re invested in their future — at your company or elsewhere — will create loyalty and an eagerness to be a part of your professional network.
Once we make a hire, we design a personal development plan for that employee, the ultimate goal of which is to prepare them for their next role. Employees meet with their manager and human resources on a quarterly basis to review the plan and make sure the employee feels supported by the company culture. Mentoring, special assignments, even outside education can be folded in as the employee evolves or the end goal shifts. But regular communication is key — the minute an employee starts second-guessing where they stand within an organization is the moment they start thinking about what outside opportunities might look like.
One last reminder: It’s OK to walk away from a candidate who seems too good to be true. It’s tempting to hire the overqualified individual, but we have been burned enough to know this rarely works out. The overqualified candidate always has great reasons why they want to take a step backward, but these reasons never seem to sustain them for long. We are sure there is an exception to the rule — we just haven’t found it yet.
As you attempt to attract and retain great employees, remember that open, honest communication is the first step to any successful relationship. Personal development, competitive compensation and thoughtful benefits will go a long way in finding talent that wants to build a career with your company, putting an end to your turnover troubles.