So, one of the downsides of working at an agency with a strong rep for having talented people is the sheer amount of recruiters who have their sights on your team. They call, network, message them all the time, trying to get get my team interested in other opportunities.
As a manager this should keep you up at night, but you can take one of two approaches…you can either worry about it (and worrying has never solved anything) or you can decide to proactively do everything you can to retain your team, so if someone gets plucked or leaves, you know damn well you did everything you could to give them a home they would enjoy with good opportunities.
I know recruiters have to be in touch with at least 3-4 SEER people a week, and we have yet to have anyone leave who we didn’t want to let go (that streak will some day come to an end, but 6 years and 50+ hires isn’t a bad run) and I make it part of my work everyday to keep that streak. So here are my tips on how to best “recruiter-proof” your company:
- Say Thank You - Change your mindset from one of “you should feel lucky to work here” to one of “we’re lucky to have you”. Making this mind shift alone will be a BIG driver in how you look at your relationship with your team mates. When’s the last time you wrote a thank you note to an employee? Go do it now.
- Fire bad clients & Bad Employees - Sounds easy, but I know its hard. If you want to retain your team members, you have a responsibility to take on projects with people who will treat them well, I know I don’t want to work with people who don’t treat me well, so why would you allow your team to work with clients who don’t? Why would they stick with your company if they could just go somewhere else? Same goes for sucky co-workers, they are a cancer and you have to treat them just as you would bad clients.
- Share in the success of the company w/ the team - SEER shares with the team our quarterly expenses & revenues, by business line. These figures help them to see if we are above/below budget and then that dictates bonuses, so they definitely can see our performance and be a part of making this company successful.
- Don’t skimp on raises - assuming your company is doing well (and if you share the numbers with your team they will know how you are doing) you should be sharing in the success with those who help create it. Don’t be greedy, if you are self interested trying to maximize your bank account while giving the smallest raises possible, then why do you think someone would be loyal to you when someone comes along and offers them 5% more? You reap what you sow.
- Grow - give people new opportunities to run with things, run with events, new business divisions, etc - I think that after about 3-5 years in any job, if you are good, you’ll start to master the day to day, and seek out new challenges. If you want to retain your team, give them an opportunity to run with things…at SEER I want as few managers as possible, I want to maximize the number of people to own “processes” not people who are there to watch other people. See, if people own processes, then at different times they are the boss. If someone is trying to fix a process at SEER and they need training, tools, or my time…at that moment they are my boss and I have to follow them to help get something done that is for the good for the company. I want people to feel ownership over things (not people). As we grow and I can’t do it all, I start shedding responsibilities, giving others a chance to make 10-20% of their job something new - constantly providing your team with the ability to grow within the company is key. Types of areas people can own and show leadership in are: training, process improvement, social media management, training internal staffers, speaking engagements, project analysis, finances, operations, client reporting, new business lines, reviewing and presenting new software, video production, etc.
- Give people a platform to grow - Conferences, speaking gigs, write to your blog - When you work at SEER right off the bat you learn quickly that no one is going to proof your blog posts, no one is going to “approve” them, we want you to write and share YOUR thoughts, not your thoughts with my or anyone else’s influence. We are giving people a platform with a couple thousand readers from day 1. People want to know that their company is investing in their ongoing pursuit of knowledge - additionally building a STRONG blog / social platform gives your team an immediate audience for them to share their thoughts with.
- Have a bigger mission than just make a lot of money - to me this is key, the type of people we want are drawn to the job by more than just the money, I like working with people who like to help other people. As a result I think we end up avoiding people who are just looking for money and will jump at any opportunity for another 3-4%. It also gives people the opportunity to be part of something bigger than themselves - which is my next point…
- Surround each indiviual with a ton of smart people - honestly, being the smartest guy doling out all the directions sucks - I always want to work with people I can learn from (this is part of the reason why we don’t offshore). I think most people want to be part of a team, they want to be a part of doing something amazing with an amazing group of people. When people realize that they are working with several other talented folks its easy to see that the sum of the parts is greater thanwhat each of you can do individually.
- Have a set of beliefs - stick to them, and in tough times your team will realize that you are a person with integrity, not someone looking to make the quick buck, that will show them how you are going to treat them when tough decisions arise.
- Read 1001 ways to reward employees…every 3 months - and give it to anyone in your organization who rewards (or should be rewarding employees). Tip: Highlight the hell out of this book and every moth open up something and pick someone(s) in your company to share your appreciation with.
- Give them the tools they need for success - this is one of my rules… if you have an idea, run with it, own it, the company will pay for you to test the idea, and the company (within reason) will give you every tool you need to be successful - people like knowing that if they can make a logical argument for something (and the company is in good financial standing) that the company will support their endeavors, and that if they fail, the company has a big safety net for them, our safety net is LARGE!
- Know why they are coming to work for YOU - Learn what makes people tick, take the time to invest in finding out who they are as people and what their dreams are long term and at every corner find a way to use the company to help support those goals and give them exposure to those goals.
- Believe in individuals - SEER will be announcing a new office in a new location in the upcoming months, why? We have someone who is amazing and needs to move, and while we have always been adamant about having our team under one roof, when faced with losing someone amazing b/c of distance or keeping them and challenging ourselves to learn to work with people remote, I’m up for the challenge, bumps and bruises. When a certain someone who put in real years at SEER told me something they wanted to do, I took that and ran with it…we are launching a new division because of something they wanted to do, and after 4 years of proving themselves, we’re willing to give it a shot!
I dunno if this post is MORE about just how to be good to people you work with, which in turn helps them to want to bring their skills and talents to you or what, but either way its been our roadmap to retaining talent.