Toronto Executive Search & Technology Recruiter Randy Quarin

By Randy Quarin

You’ve just signed a top tier employee to your team; you’ve interviewed and negotiated salary and checked references and completed the background check, so your work is done, right? Wrong. Once the employment agreement is signed, your work is not over. Retaining top employees is about career development and effective, ongoing communication. Following these 4 basic communication principles will help you create strong business relationships and ultimately retain your top talent.

1. Avoid Harmful Communication Styles

A Refresher on Assertiveness

Assertiveness lets you stand up for your basic human rights without violating the basic human rights of others. By using direct methods, it makes communication more clear.

An assertive person is honest, listens and hears, recognizes others’ input and their rights, is flexible, values their own opinion and rights, and is often courageous. Assertive behavior is a win-win as everyone’s rights are respected. As a result, cooperation, trust, and problem solving increase.

Emotions are the greatest barrier to effective communication. It can be incredibly difficult to communicate assertively in a business situation, particularly when the stakes are high, but this is also when remaining calm and assertive are particularly important. As a manager, try leading by example. If someone is approaching a business situation with one of the below harmful styles, respond assertively.


Hostile, stubborn, prejudges, inflexible, belligerent, antagonistic and destructive. The goal is domination, winning and forcing other people to lose. This style violates the rights of others.


Submissive, inactive, justified, overly flexible, overly cautious, and lifeless. Places little value on own opinion and rights. This style allows your rights to be restricted or violated, usually as a result of fear or rejections, or a lack of confidence.


Manipulative, lacks integrity and honesty, procrastinates, and plays emotional games. This style accepts no responsibility, and the goal is to win… underhandedly. It violates your own rights because you fail to act on your feelings, and violates the rights of others because you force their actions through manipulation. Example:

Employee: Sorry I wasn’t able to get this report in until now.
Manager: No problem, I’m glad I can finally get some sleep now.
Employee: What do you mean?
Manager: Oh, well I’ve been awake at night wondering when I’d get it from you… just kidding.

2. Perfect the Art of Listening

Really listening to your employees is the ultimate show of respect. As a headhunter I know firsthand what makes people stay or leave their current job, and it often has little to do with salary. When employees are valued and respected, they are more likely to work hard, feel satisfied, and be loyal. Remember that communication is a two-way street; it’s not all about what you’re saying, so listen up.


• Keep an open mind
• Pay attention & respond
• Listen for the whole message (even if it’s unpleasant) before evaluating it
• Paraphrase to make sure you understood


• Pre-judge based on the speaker
• Interrupt or finish the person’s sentences
• Lock into your own view and listen for disagreement
• Rehearse your response while the other person is speaking
• Let their style of delivery distract you

Headhunter Insights How to Communicate with Employees

3. Face Difficult Situations Head-On

When dealing with a difficult situation or challenge, be mindful of your communication, especially as a leader at work. The words you use can affect not only your attitude toward the issue but also how others perceive your ability to handle it. Remember to stay positive.

Negative vs. Positive

Problem > Challenge
Closure > New opportunity
Broken > Needs repair
Not > Not yet

When delivering bad news…

• Be honest
• Pick an appropriate place/time
• Be direct yet sensitive
• Be empathetic
• Focus on the issue not the person
• Communicate early and often

4. Improve Your Emails

In this day and age, communication through email is a huge part of our day. Written communication is just as important as face to face. I’m sure we’ve all sent and received aggressive, passive, and passive-aggressive emails at some point, and it can be incredibly damaging for work relationships. Here are some tips to remain assertive through writing, even if your emotions are guiding you in another direction.

Use simple and direct language: Don’t try to sound smarter by using big words, because people who do sometimes use them wrong. Also, it can come off as pompous and arrogant.

Spell it out: The acronyms that make sense to you don’t always make sense to the recipient. Save the guessing and spell it out.

Don’t use two words when one will do: Being too ‘wordy’ is ineffective. This is an easy tip to help you keep things simple. Examples:

          • Completely transform = change
          • Initiate immediately = begin
          • Look at that again = reconsider

Break long sentences in to shorter ones: An average sentence length of 8-10 words is the most readable and understandable. At 15 words, comprehension falls to about 62%. At 25 words, it drops to 9%. Aim for clarity.

Although not always easy, maintaining an assertive communication style is extremely important, especially as a manager. Focusing on direct communication, both written and verbal, will create better workplace relationships and ultimately help retain your top performers.

For more tips check out our other Headhunter Insights blog posts where common questions are answered by our Toronto and Vancouver headhunters.

IQ PARTNERS is a Recruitment Agency with offices in Toronto, Montreal & Vancouver, We help companies hire better, hire less & retain more. Our recruiters specialize in Marketing, Communications, Consumer Goods & Services, Retail, Sales, Technology, Finance & Accounting, Financial Services, Life Sciences, HR & Operations, and Construction, Property & Real Estate. IQ PARTNERS has its head office in Toronto and operates internationally via Aravati Global Search Network. Click here to view current job openings and to register with us.

Randy Quarin Executive Search

Randy Quarin

Randy co-founded IQ PARTNERS in 2001 and currently operates as a Senior Partner, focusing on business development within executive search, media, and sales recruitment. His accomplishments include building over a dozen digital media sales teams for digital start-ups, publishers, and mobile app developers. He has also helped launch an international smartphone manufacturer from the ground up, building its entire hardware, software, and sales teams.

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