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Sunday, 23 March 2014

Are Your Good People Being Poached? You Need to Make Them Want to Stay!

An excellent and entertaining presentation at my Vistage CEO group this week from Adrian Furnham, Professor of Psychology at University College, London whose topic was Assessing People at Work led me to look more closely at the topic of good employee retention especially in an environment where the economy is growing and good people are hard to find. 

It has been said that an unsuccessful appointment costs, by rule of thumb, double the salary of the appointee and I would think that this can be on the low side. 

When we consider all the factors which apply such as management time, disruption, reduction in performance, the need for training of the new incumbent and much more, then the cost can be horrendous especially at a senior level in the business. 

The fact is that the whole recruitment subject is full of traps and side issues none of which really contribute to the success of the appointment and the conventional interview is probably the least effective. 

It usually consists of the two parties telling lies to each other in the vain hope that neither will be found out.  Add to that the elegantly and usually inaccurately crafted CV in reply to an advertisement which has little or no relevance to reality and you can see how successful the appointment is likely to be. 

Kenneth and Will Hopper in their grate book, The Puritan Gift, suggest strongly that promotion from inside the business is usually far more effective than parachuting someone into the business from outside with all the consequent potential issues. 

These can include lack of domain knowledge about the business, lack of existing relationships in the business and, worst of all, some hidden baggage which wasn’t made apparent at the interview. 

We all know that some people are exceptionally able interviewees and subsequently poor employees which is not normally the desired outcome. 

Oddly the downturn in the economy over the past few years has thrown up a scheme which can go a long way to mitigating this problem and it is that of the appointment of interns.  Add to that the growth or in fact the rebirth of apprenticeship schemes and many recruitment problems dissipate. 

I started my business career as an engineering apprentice in the aircraft industry at the princely sum of £1.2s.6d a week (£1.125p) although that was increased within three months to £1.5s so I must have been doing something right. 

It was an excellent scheme starting with six months of formal training in the apprentice school and then experience in most significant departments of the business for the next four years finishing with a period in the department of choice for the future. In addition we were expected to expand our learning by day release throughout the five years.

The success of the system is demonstrated by the fact that a majority of the apprentices reached high positions in technical, commercial and management roles.  Indeed I can’t recall may people at all joining the company from outside. 

Trialling the on-the-job abilities of potential employees is by far the best way forward and both the intern who is generally unpaid apart from expenses, and the apprentice, which is a paid position, give the employer time to get to know the abilities and the drive to succeed in each case. 

Ideally management should instigate a regular examination of the talent in the business and given some courage on the part of the leadership, promotion of the really competent people irrespective of their current role and the grade of the new appointment. 

There is always hidden talent in a business. Take time to seek it out, cherish it, develop it, and promote it so that the dance of death at the interview can be a thing of the past.
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