What to Do to Gain AND Retain Employees

In the pre-COVID world, job candidates would apply for a job, hopefully, land an interview, then sweat, wish, hope, and pray that they would be selected for the position.

With today’s tight labor market, job applicants and employees are firmly in the driver’s seat. No longer are they merely hoping to be picked or settling for what they have. It’s companies, not candidates, that are hoping to be selected.

The Great Redefining

In the 2022 labor market, what started in the pandemic with the Great Resignation (4 million-plus employees leaving the workforce) has now transitioned to the Great Redefining. Employees are returning to work, and they are redefining what they want and will accept from their employment.

This new breed of employee expects a different outcome from their work experience. They have a different mindset. They are reimagining what work can be for them. Many people who may have never considered changing careers, industries, or leaving their job before, are now saying, “Maybe I should at least consider it.” And while some aren’t willing to change jobs, they do want to change the job they still have. 

The fact is that the way companies have always approached employee selection and retention may not be the right way to do it any longer. 

So what can you, as a leader in your organization, do to gain and retain employees?

#1 Gain

Understand all of the benefits your organization offers, and make sure you communicate them to job candidates.

Right now, many organizations are trying to sell job seekers on a wage or salary alone. For example, $30 an hour or $85,000 a year. But does that figure represent the full benefit? 

Organizations often fail to share with candidates the full list of benefits available. These added perks can amount to 30% or more in additional monetary value. And marketing that can make your company more attractive.

#2 Retain 

Outline benefit packages — with monetary value — and share them with current employees.

Many companies do this — is yours? Organizations give a formal document to each employee that outlines their entire package — all of the benefits they get. They put a dollar amount to all of those benefits, so they’re reminded how green the grass really is here.

#3 Empathize

In our leadership development training, we focus a lot on “empathy.” Not sympathy, or feeling bad for someone. Not compassion, or talking about caring. We’re talking about empathy — being able to think like someone else. 

When you can understand someone well enough to think like them, you should be able to communicate with them better. 

For example, on benefits, if you have someone who can’t afford to put 3% in their 401k, and you say, “Hey, we match what you put in,” then that benefit is not going to matter to them. Or if you tell an employee, “we offer men six weeks off when their wife has a baby.” For someone who’s not planning to have kids, or who has aged out, that could be pointless for them.

To attract potential employees and retain current employees, you have to know what is important to them. And to know what’s important to them, you’ve got to know the right questions to ask. 

  • Why do you want to work here? 
  • What are your long-term goals, and objectives? 
  • What would you consider to be a successful experience with your next employer? 
  • Where do you want to go from here? 
  • In the next three to five years, the next 18 months, what would you like to learn? 

The more we talk to job candidates and current employees about what is important to them — the more we connect. And connectedness itself is an attractive, intangible benefit!

#4 Engage

One of the best questions leaders can ask to gain and retain employees is this:

“How do we make money the least important thing you ever get from this organization?” 

That question elevates an employee’s well-being, growth and development, and job satisfaction, over money. So, even though it’s important, money will pale in comparison to who they become, what they learn, and what they achieve. It also sets a high standard. But before you ask that question, make sure that money isn’t a pain point.

Go talk with your people, and ask them why they stay. Richard Finnegan’s book,  The Stay Interview is a great resource and can be critically important to revealing clear answers on exactly how to remain competitive, and how to gain and retain employees in any job market!

The employee marketplace is changing. Are you ready for it? If not, you’re risking attracting the best candidates…and even LOSING your best employees!

For more thoughts on how interviewing today’s employees is changing, listen to this conversation with me (Alyson) and Phil Van Hooser. We welcome your comments and questions anytime!

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photo credit by cottonbro

Alyson Van Hooser

Alyson Van Hooser, Pres & CEO, Van Hooser Leadership. With the grit that only comes from tough experiences, Alyson has learned a thing or two about personal and professional success. From her management experience with Walmart, as an elected city council member, bank manager — all before the age of 30 — Alyson has wisdom well beyond her years! Her podcast, Stake: The Leadership Podcast, offers a fresh perspective on leadership and helps multiple generations successfully work together! Connect with Alyson on LinkedIn.


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