Toronto Headhunter Mark Rouse
By Mark Rouse

As a Hiring Manager, you already know that top talent is scarce, especially digital talent. And you likely know that demographics are going to make this progressively worse. (The statistics that support this assertion are easily found online.) What this means is that you must focus on retaining your existing top talent.

You don’t need a headhunter to teach you about retention strategies. What we can share with you is the unique insight we have into why people want to leave, or stay with, their current companies. We know because we’ve spoken to them. Chances are we’ve spoken with someone from your company too.

Here are some key tips for retaining today’s top digital talent.

Key 12 develop and retain employees

1.   Hire the right people. Easy to say, hard to do. We can of course help, but that is an entirely different blog post.

2.   Fire the wrong people. Poor performers need to get fired fast. Even when talent is scarce. They have a far greater negative impact than just their own poor productivity. They drag down group morale and drive out the top performers you do have. “I’m sick of working hard and watching others coast. My co-worker does half the work and gets paid the same as me.”

3.   Get to know them. And say something nice. Praise & recognition provide greater employee satisfaction than compensation. An investment of 5 minutes with each employee every month comes at a much lower cost than replacing just one of them. Employees say, “My boss doesn’t give me feedback. And I’m not sure his boss even knows who I am.”

4.   Commit to everyone’s career path. Every employee should have a career plan, which includes goals, timing and progression steps. It isn’t like we don’t know when we hire them that one day they will want a promotion. Have the plan in place during the hiring process and implement it the day they start. “I don’t know if I can realize my career goals at this company.”

5.   Regularly review performance & expectations. Uncertainty is the number one cause of employee dissatisfaction – in all industries, at all levels. Not money. Not bad bosses or bad clients. Not work/life balance. Uncertainty about: daily tasks, overall delivery expectations, current performance, future career path, & how much the company values their contribution.

6.   Keep people challenged. Stable employees often say “I like the intellectual challenge of the job, and I’m learning a ton.”

7.   Invest in training. Managers share their fears that if they invest in training their staff they may just lose them to another company. Perhaps that is true, but what if you don’t train them, and they stay? You then have unqualified senior staff.

8.   Break down the barriers to integration. Most companies are far less integrated than their leaders believe them to be. Many employees say “I spend half of my time fighting for digital spend with the traditional agency, instead of selling to the client.”

9.   Create community. Community = Engagement = Retention. Employees are very reluctant to leave a workplace where they feel they have friends, but digital professionals are not known for their social skills. A $5000 social budget could save you a number of $20K recruiter fees. Think of it as a play date for socially awkward kids.

10.   Give them a cause – engage them in the social good. “I don’t feel like I’m doing anything meaningful. I want to contribute to the social good.” Employees place great value on making a positive difference in the world – often great enough to offset higher compensation offered elsewhere.

11.   Activate their social networks when you are hiring; and reward them for successful referrals.  I’ve never understood why companies will pay a recruiter $20K but object to paying $1000 for an employee referral. Quality people know quality people. We use that fact extensively in recruiting. We often hear, “I’ve recommended a bunch of people that we could hire and they haven’t met a single one of them.”

Please notice that we rarely hear “I’m getting paid way too much to consider leaving.”

While paying your employees fairly is important, there are many other factors to help you retain your digital staff. Consider using these tips as a checklist to help you retain your top digital talent. You’re going to need them.

Mark Rouse is a Toronto based recruiter and has been responsible for hiring, developing, and retaining top talent in Marketing Services; specializing in the Agency environment for Account & Project Management, Media, and Creative. IQ PARTNERS is Canada’s leading Executive Search & Recruitment firm. Helping companies hire better, hire less and retain more. Specializing in Marketing, Communications, Consumer Goods & Services, Retail, Sales, Technology, Finance, HR & Operations and operate at the mid-to-senior management level.

Mark Rouse Marketing Recruiter

Mark Rouse

Mark leads Canada’s largest Marketing Communications & Media recruitment practice. Leveraging close to two decades of industry experience in the Marketing Services and Agency businesses, he has been responsible for hiring, developing, and retaining top talent as Vice-President with companies such as Young & Rubicam, Wunderman, and J. Walter Thompson.

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