By Harrell Kerkhoff, Maintenance Sales News Editor
Good employees are hard to find. Keeping them on staff for an extended period is also a challenge. No matter the industry, and despite the global pandemic, many companies still have serious problems maintaining and enlarging a solid workforce.
Sharing advice on the subject during a recent webinar was Kelly Anderson, president of the Kelly Anderson Group, Inc. (kellyandersongroup.com), which works with companies within the transportation industry to find, recruit, train, manage and retain quality employees. His message translates to every type of business in need of good people to hire and develop.
Anderson provided several tips on how those people in charge of recruiting can make their companies more welcoming to potential hires. That is critical in an overall job market where available jobs often seem to outnumber good candidates.
“It’s important to realize, when somebody is applying for a job, he/she would rather be doing five other things than talking to a recruiter — eat, sleep, be with family, play games and even work,” Anderson said. “When recruiting for new hires, every time you answer the phone, you have to give the caller a reason to go back to doing one of those five things — and stop calling other companies for employment.”
He noted that recruiters often place candidates in three categories:
■ Cream of the crop, people who can be recruited immediately;
■ Pretty good, people who can be recruited after they gain more experience, receive necessary certifications, etc.; and,
■ Not in this lifetime, which is self-explanatory.
Anderson added that many recruiters make the mistake of not properly following up on candidates who fit the second category, allowing many good future hires to fall through the cracks.
When jobs are many and good candidates few, Anderson stressed the importance of urgency and a short recruiting cycle.
“Although it may seem counterintuitive, I have found the longer the recruiting cycle, the lower the quality of candidates getting hired,” he said. “For me, the definition of the recruiting cycle is from the time a candidate says ‘hello’ until a contingent offer has been made.”
It’s important to glean enough information from a candidate during the first inquiry to help gauge whether or not he/she would make a good and immediate hire, Anderson added. For those who are determined to be good candidates, the recruiter should immediately start the hiring process. That includes a discussion on a possible start date. The objective is to give the candidate a reason to stop contacting other companies for employment.
Other tips Anderson shared included:
■ Immediately answer calls and online leads — “I have found that 50 percent of people looking for work will hang up if they receive a voice mail or automated attendant. I recommend that a company’s recruiting line be manned by ‘live people,’” he said. “I have had clients who have created ‘hunt groups,’ which means if a call is sent to one person, and he/she is not available, that call ‘hunts’ until a live person answers. It’s important to remember, with a good candidate, you may only have one shot. A live voice is best.”
With internet leads, Anderson recommends having an online landing page that includes a microapp, where people looking for employment can easily submit their name and contact information. He added that testimonials from current employees are also great to place on a company’s landing page.
Anderson reiterated the importance of getting back to applicants as soon as possible. Nothing is gained by waiting.
“Unfortunately, many online job applications are sent to a computer’s inbox and not responded to in a timely manner. Folks, if you let those applications go for a full day, or even a few hours, your chance of recruiting those people exponentially decreases. After a couple of days, those applications are ‘pretty well cooked,’” Anderson said. “If applications are not properly processed as soon as possible, that is wasted money and opportunity.”
Anderson also recommended that company officials look into online pay-per-click marketing opportunities when seeking quality applicants. This can be directed to specific demographics, geographies and occupations.
■ Empower recruiters with clearly defined hiring criteria and parameters — “A company’s recruiter(s) should be empowered to make decisions,” Anderson said. “One problem I often see is when a recruiter is allowed to talk with the applicant, get important information from that person, spend time getting everything verified and then have to pass the candidate off to somebody else to move the hiring process forward. That last step can kill results.
“I’m all about empowering recruiters with clearly defined hiring criteria and parameters. There should still be oversight, but recruiters can play a key role in getting an action plan set in motion — one that leads to good candidates becoming hired.”RECRUITING TECHNIQUES
Anderson outlined several recruiting techniques that help companies find, and hire, quality people. They are:
■ Have a conversation, not an interrogation — Interrogating applicants does not work, according to Anderson. Unfortunately, that form of recruiting is very pervasive, and Anderson understands why. He explained that applicants are not always truthful when it comes to credentials, education, work history, etc. Recruiters, meanwhile, want to identify each applicant’s qualifications as quickly as possible. The end result is often the development of an interrogation approach, when seeking information from applicants.
However, Anderson said, a recruiter can be more successful by having positive conversations with applicants.
“It’s important to treat each applicant independently, not based on what somebody else has done,” he said. “When I answer the phone during a recruiting process, I ask the candidate, ‘Tell me a little bit about yourself. Where have you been working? What have you been doing?’ Those open-ended questions allow me to gauge how much experience that caller has, or if he/she is wanting to enter the industry.”
During the conversation process, a good recruiter will find what is truly important to the applicant, such as working hours, pay, benefits, etc. That allows the recruiter to highlight what the company has to offer within those areas of interest.
Anderson also emphasized the importance of asking for the applicant’s name at the start of the conversation.
“How in the world can we ask people to trust us with their livelihoods and their ability to provide for their families when we don’t even know their names?” Anderson said. “I coined a phrase to address that need: ‘No name, no relationship; no relationship, no trust; no trust, no hire.’”
■ Identify symptoms before writing prescriptions — Just as a medical doctor would never write a prescription before understanding what is wrong with a patient, Anderson said it’s best to first identify the “symptoms” of a job applicant.
“As a recruiter, you may have all kinds of company perks and benefits to offer, but it’s best to first find out what is truly important to the candidate,” he said.
That can be done through proper interaction, allowing the recruiter to find solutions for a candidate’s specific needs. It also helps if a recruiter can include appreciation, humor and, if necessary, an expert from another company department during the recruiting process.
“For example, with candidates who have served in the military, thank them for their service. Humor can be powerful as well, especially if you can get them to laugh with you,” Anderson said. “Also, if a candidate asks a question you do not know the answer to, do your best to immediately connect with a co-worker who you feel will know the answer. Unfortunately, many recruiters will tell candidates that they will find out those answers and get back to them — and then never do. How are you, as the recruiter, going to get people to agree to target dates, if they still have unanswered questions?”
Anderson has also observed many instances where a recruiter never asked a good candidate if he/she actually wanted the job at hand.
“When I hear ‘buying’ signals from a candidate (meaning he/she is interested in the job), that is the time to ask when the person can start. Instead, many recruiters just keep selling. There is an old saying is sales, ‘The reason most people don’t get the business is that they never ask for it.’ There is a time to quit selling and start closing.”
■ Be the first to show acceptance — “If you are recruiting a candidate and everything looks good, be the first to show acceptance,” Anderson said. “As a recruiter, you may say, ‘Larry, based on what I’m seeing here, I don’t see any reason why we can’t take this to the next step. As a matter of fact, it sounds like you need to make a change pretty quickly, and we have job orientation every week. Would you want to start that orientation next week?’”
■ Create an action plan — Stagnation is no friend to finding good hires. In fact, the opposite is true.
“If an action plan is not put into place when trying to hire a good candidate, everything becomes ambiguous,” Anderson said.
There is also a surprisingly high number of qualified applicants who simply never hear back from companies after their applications have been sent.
“These are people who fill out a microapp or full application and nobody responds. Nobody calls them back,” Anderson said.
To stop that practice, he recommends recruiters use a color-coded spreadsheet to better keep track of which applications have been processed, and who has been contacted.
■ Have managers call newly-hired people prior to employee orientation — Anderson pointed out that new hires often feel anxious about their new jobs. They may ask themselves, “Is this job everything I have been told? Who is my manager? Will I like that person?”
Anderson recommends managers call on new hires prior to employee orientation, allowing for stronger relationships to be built at an earlier stage, while also easing apprehensions.
Once hired, the key question across all industries is: “How do we keep good people from leaving?”
According to Gallup, Inc., “The cost of replacing an individual employee can range from one-half to two times the employee’s annual salary.” Low unemployment rates in many fields exacerbate the problem.
Anderson provided tips on how to improve the rate of retention. They are:
■ Get to know employees and define mutual expectations — Every employee has a backstory, one that includes family and important anniversary dates. Managers should converse with new hires, seek relevant information and take notes. Then, when an important event is nearing, such as an employee’s wedding anniversary, the manager can see in advance if that person wants the day off. Such efforts, Anderson said, shows employees that the company they are working for really cares.
Setting the tone for mutual expectations between employee and employer is also essential. It must be understood what the employer expects from the employee and vice versa.
He noted that there are employees who will “walk through fire” for a company, and there are employees who would love to “set the company on fire.”
“The question is, how do you get the former and not the latter?” Anderson asked.
The answer, he added, often involves proper relationship building.
■ Show specific and genuine appreciation — Demonstrating “respect” and “appreciation” goes a long way in keeping good people at a business.
“I recommend that a manager show specific and genuine respect and appreciation to at least one employee per day, for something that person did yesterday,” Anderson said.
He added the employees will likely remember such recognition for a long time, and will more likely “walk through fire” for the company moving forward. Managers should also take ownership, responsibility and accountability for the employees under their watch.
According to Anderson, a high percentage of employee turnover occurs within the first 90 days of employment. Therefore, it’s critical that managers proactively identify issues before they get out of hand.
He outlined key “strategic touch points” company departments can help with in an effort to build solid relationships with new hires.
“For example, have a representative from payroll contact new employees to see if they have any questions about their paychecks,” Anderson said. “It would also be good if the person in charge of recruiting called new employees, asking if everything that was promised about the company has been delivered.
“When representatives of different departments contact new hires, it helps create a solid connection across the company for those people. It also helps identify any issues before they become major problems, resulting in less turnover.”
When possible, Anderson also recommended that companies cross-train employees, allowing them to experience what takes place within different departments.
“Doing so can increase productivity, profitability and employee commitment,” he said.