Just like there’s more than one way to skin a cat, there several top tips to attract and retain talent, and build inspiring workplaces with the tried and tested find, grow, keep approach. This approach has been successful for Aussie firms ranging from 10-100 or more employees across different industries, and is a recipe for businesses to snag talent, improve workplace culture and engagement, enable lower employee turnover and higher productivity.
In my book “Great People Great Business,” I wrote: “Research consistently shows that if you develop a workplace culture that engages your teams, you will enjoy higher customer satisfaction, loyalty, productivity and profitability, and lower employee turnover. People are the competitive difference.” This particular approach comprises three key areas:
- Find great people: create a compelling employer brand and employment offer, sell your business more effectively, attract candidates even when you aren’t advertising.
- Grow great people: Personal development is consistently shown to rate as a top benefit for employees and a reason they stay longer. Having a process in place builds teams of high performers.
- Keep great people: Learn how to have great people who are motivated, engaged and productive. Meaning the business owner can unstick themselves from the day-to-day and focus on growing their business.
How to snag top talent
The great part about putting in HR frameworks for your workplace culture is that they are scalable with your business. What works for a fifteen-employee business will work for 100. You may have more resources as you get larger, but the HR structure will grow with you. At Amplify HR, we help firms build workplaces that inspire so your business can scale up. Within these three areas, there are nuts and bolts to provide detailed steps. Here are the top tips:
Understand factors impacting your business and plan tactics
- External factors: leaps in technology, employee expectations (such as flexibility – with 4-day work weeks gaining traction internationally), generational differences (for the first time, five generations in the workforce), and unforeseen disruption.
- Internal factors: being stuck in the day to day (managers unable to let go, leaders not having the right people to delegate to), employee turnover and the pain of great people leaving (SME’s should aim for 10-20%), and compliance (lack of can occur with resource shortages or legislation changes).
Consider the culture you want to build
The four overriding workplace cultures are purpose – existing for a greater good, such as charity or education, performance – centred around clear performance measures with rewards, such as professional services, innovation – operating in rapid-change industries, characterised by flat matrix-style structures, such as tech and pharmacy, and customer – characterised by the philosophy of the customer’s always right, often B2C businesses.
Talent Matrix your team and include staffing in Strategic Planning
A Talent Matrix categorises employees’ performance and is a great process to do once a year and review quarterly – useful to consider job roles plus cross training and development.
As part of Strategic Planning, examine triggers for taking on new staff and create an action plan, to hire when you reach a certain: percentage of revenue; number of clients, profit level, or number of products being sent out. Don’t overstretch your team – no one should have over seven direct reports or, where there are multiple people in a role, no more than fifteen.
Recruiting is marketing
Recruitment is the most impactful way to change culture. A hire can quickly foster or infect a team. Using a marketing lens can help: Create an offer describing the job plus business culture; Research and testing – if your business has a ‘great culture’ how do you prove this?
Conduct research with current employees and include feedback in your ad; Advertising – consider the ad copy and best channels to reach the people you want; Selling – develop your employer brand and sell your organisation as a great place to work.
Onboarding starts with the job offer
When you find great people for your organisation, make sure both their head and heart are engaged. In that regard, prevent ‘buyer’s remorse’ through a personal job offer, sincere congratulations and welcoming communications – what actions you take, or don’t, in an employee’s first few days and months will stay with them throughout their career.
Benefits of structured onboarding include: 70% improvement in productivity; 54% higher employee engagement; 97% increase in productivity from employees assigned a ‘buddy’.
Cement your Leadership Charter
Leadership is of paramount importance, but consistency across managers can be difficult. Bring your leadership team together to determine qualities leaders in your firm should have.
Cut this down to 5-8 statements on ‘what leadership looks like at our organisation’. Have leaders create action plans: ‘encourage personal growth’ may be supported by ‘encourage others to gain external mentors and bring development ideas to team meetings.’
Empower employees to set their own SMART goals
There are five key principles to consider when goal setting in an organisation: commitment, clarity, challenge, complexity, and feedback. Combining these with the SMART approach (Specific, Measured by, Attainable, Realistic, Timeframe) is the recipe to empower employees to set their own goals. Feedback commences right from goalsetting and should be a regular and continuous process, not held back for a quarterly or annual performance review.
Growth and Development, plus Rewards and Recognition are key
Retaining and developing employees is key to growing a business – especially for small to medium enteprises. Growth and development are priorities when it comes to keeping great people: 94% of employees would stay at a firm longer if it invested in career development. Even in small business there are simple growth and development strategies: Structured development plans; Guidance on simple development ideas; Program of workshops.
Recognition motivates people: Approximately 80% of employees who quit their jobs say lack of appreciation was a key reason for throwing in the towel. The most effective recognition is: Focussed and specific; Timely; Differentiated; Personal, Larger Purpose. Work out how each employee prefers to be appreciated, and a system offering different levels of recognition: shout outs, small gifts, larger gifts, team celebrations, formal rewards and benefits.
Communicate, communicate, communicate
Communication is usually one of the lowest scoring areas when conducting engagement surveys. Lack of clear communication is also one of the most common complaints by employees. Not everyone listens intently or understands what it means for them the first time something is announced, and communication must always be two-way.
In very SMEs, lines of communication can be clear and simple, however the more employees, the more complex – even at fifteen people there are 106 possible lines of communication.
An internal communications plan fosters open communication, cross collaboration and prevents silos. Start with communication milestones – manager one-to-ones; monthly team meetings; lunch and learn workshops; quarterly all-staff meetings; half-yearly team planning sessions; end of year celebration – and develop your strategy around these.
Listen, Measure, Build Momentum and Look to the Future
Establish regular processes to obtain feedback – a first impression survey for new staff; a yearly engagement and satisfaction survey for all, exit interviews/survey, as well as return feedback in reviews. Make surveys mostly multiple choice and ask for honest responses. Listen, consider, and create feedback loops communicating back what you are hearing.
Measure results, including people and business metrics, and continually review your programs and strategies with a future focus. We have assisted many Australian businesses to employ this methodology. Often, a year on, owners will reflect on the energy their business now has, how everyone seems to be moving in one direction and they are able to just get stuff done.
Karen Kirton is the founder of Amplify HR and author of Great People Great. Great People Great Business by Karen Kirton is an Amazon Bestseller and finalist in 2022 Australian Business Book Awards.