Recruiters are Key to Boosting Employee Retention: Q&A with Matt Charney

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From offering career concierge support to seeking internal candidates first, Matt Charney argues that recruiters should play a bigger role in employee retention.

Matt Charney, executive editor and recruiting industry influencer.
(Courtesy: Matt Charney)

Matt Charney is the executive editor of Recruiting Daily and a well-recognized influencer, speaker, advisor, and consultant in the recruiting space. With over a decade of industry experience, he has worked with brands including The Walt Disney Company, Warner Bros., Adobe, and Amgen Inc.

Matt believes that recruiters need to get more involved in employee retention. We got on the phone to discuss why employees leave companies, how the typical hiring process stifles internal mobility, and what talent acquisition can do to help people advance their careers without changing employers.

“It creates a no–win situation for the employee. I’ve seen this again, and again, and again.”

Why don’t talent acquisition leaders pay more attention to retention?

Generally, retention is considered an HR initiative. Right there, you have an acute issue: once a hire happens, they functionally move from the purview of talent acquisition to the purview of HR.

HR’s playbook looks at retention from the perspective of employee satisfaction and traditional engagement metrics – not so much delivering long-term value. Recruiting would take a different approach: Upward mobility, career advancement, and the sort of aspirational, “it’s not just a job, it’s a career” things that get written into job descriptions would be the focus.

So instead of a forward-looking approach, it’s a historical approach. And the result for larger, multinational organizations is that the application process actually preempts a lot of employees from advancing within the company. It pushes them out.

Pushes them out! How?

I’ll give you an example based on a company I worked with:

Let’s say an existing employee learned about an opening at the company, and decided, “oh, this is a good fit, I’m going to apply for it.” When talent acquisition received the application, they couldn’t just act on it – that would be considered poaching. They were required to call the employee’s HR business partner and confirm that she or he had been with the company for one year and remained in good standing. And then they had to go and get a form from the employee’s manager, authorizing her or him to be considered for the role. All of this would happen before the internal applicant even became a candidate!

These processes are put in place to standardize and codify how internal transfers happen, but they actually drive people out. You apply for a job and don’t get it, but now your manager knows you want to leave their team and find something else. It creates a no–win situation for the employee. I’ve seen this again, and again, and again.

So is internal mobility how you retain people?

There are a lot of ways to retain people. Compensation and benefits used to be the number one reason people would stay or leave a job. That’s changed over the last five to seven years. Now, the number one motivators are growth, learning, and development opportunities. People don’t mind making a lateral move if it means picking up new skills or gaining new experience. But if you do not give an employee a career path to what’s next, or those opportunities don’t exist, then you’re going to lose them.

So yeah, internal mobility is definitely a way to not only improve retention but also employee satisfaction and productivity.

If retention is typically HR’s responsibility, what should recruiting’s role be?

Recruiting can gather forward-looking competitive intelligence.

Really, that’s just recruiters continuing the relationship with their hires and hiring managers. It is surprisingly easy to do because, in a large organization, employees have no idea who their HR person or VP is. When they think about jobs, they think of the recruiter who hired them. So, recruiters can get the information straight from the source, figure out who the flight risks are, where they want to move, and use that ahead-of-the-curve intel to make it win–win for everyone.

Because, if you’re the person filling requisitions, it should be your responsibility to make sure that the internal candidate interested in making a move not only gets considered for one opening but for other opportunities as well. This rarely happens, because normally an applicant applies for one job, and one job only.

Talent acquisition acting as a “career concierge” will not only build retention, it will also build referrals. If you’re hands-on with internal candidates, support them, and help them make a move, there’s a good chance they’ll help you find the backfill. That’s a win–win for everyone, and easy to put into effect.

“If you don’t start your searches by looking inside first, then half the time you’re really just reinventing the wheel.”

Can you offer an example of a company taking this “career concierge” approach?

One company that does this well is Warner Bros. They have two dedicated career-concierge staff members. One concentrates on exempt employees and the other one on nonexempt employees. Employees can make an appointment with them at any time and get help with their resume, talk through open positions, and discuss where they need to go to get to the next level.

If you look at direct-sourcing hires versus internal hires as a percentage of the overall market, it’s a no-brainer that career concierge-type positions are way more important and way more cost-effective than somebody who’s constantly filling up a pipeline. Advancements in technology and are making it not really that hard to find candidates. What is hard, though, is to be that point person who knows who your employees are, what their skills and interests are, how they fit in, and be able to guide them through what’s often a complicated internal hiring process.

What’s the first thing talent acquisition should do to start moving on retention?

It’s really simple. We talk all the time about this concept of talent communities, right? Well, your org chart, or company directory, functionally serves as a talent community. So if you need to find all the marketing people with consumer product experience in your organization, you can easily do that using the most rudimentary human capital management (HCM) system.

When a job opens up, instead of going straight to publicly posting it to job boards and searching external resume databases for potential candidates, go into your HCM. A lot of these systems list skills, biographical information, and all sorts of other details you can use to deduce if someone would be a fit for the opening and if the move would be good for them. Start building relationships with those candidates. If it doesn’t work out this time, next time you have an opening, you’ve already put in all of the hard work.

If you don’t start your searches by looking inside first, then half the time you’re really just reinventing the wheel.

Read Matt’s previous Q&A, “Inbound Marketing for Recruiters.”

Christian De Pape, Recruiting Social’s Head of Marketing and Content
About the author

Christian De Pape is the head of brand experience at Recruiting Social. Connect with him on LinkedIn.

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