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Herding Cats: A Brief Guide to Recruitment and Retention

Joetta L. Wagner

Joetta L. Wagner

talent management can be like herding cats

talent management can be like herding catsRecruitment and retention and talent management are crucial yet difficult jobs HR departments are tasked with across all industries. Here’s a new way to think about these slippery concepts to improve your team and your company.

The 2000 Superbowl was a battle between the St.  Louis Rams and the Tennessee Titans (the Rams won, 23-16). One of the highlights of this game (aside from Kevin Dyson reaching in vain for the goal line on the last play) was the commercials. Audiences worldwide were enraptured by a commercial called “Cat Herders”  by Electronic Data Systems (which was acquired by HP in 2008). The spot was a visual play on an old management term, which equated aligning business teams and talents to a common goal. Cats are, by nature, independent. Just like people in a company.

You’re hard at work assembling and maintaining your company’s dream team by focusing on recruitment and retention. Combing through an endless series of resumes, you’ve finally narrowed the field to 25 potential hires for five positions. Your organization is part of a highly competitive industry, both in terms of the client pool and especially for possible job candidates.

Two of the biggest concerns you have are how to find the best employees and how to keep the talent you’ve already hired. Welcome to the world of talent management.

First Rule of Recruitment and Retention: Don’t Panic and Follow the Rules

video communications add authenticity to virtual meetingsTalent management is a term coined by McKinsey and Company in a 1997 research study. This isn’t entertainment-related talent. It refers to the recruitment and retention of the right people to reach the goals set up by an organization. The goals? Regardless of the industry, they are: revenue, customer satisfaction, quality, productivity, cost, cycle time and market capitalization.

There are four straightforward pillars of talent management (TM):

1. Recruitment – finding talent

2. Performance management – ensuring that the talent gets the job done and poor performances are addressed (see 3 for possible solutions)

3. Learning and development – teaching talent to improve their skills, whether they’re current or future employees

4. Retention – keeping talent happy

Each of these steps is familiar terrain in HR. Developing a business strategy to attract the best talent is paramount. And given the workforce predictions regarding millennials, developing the strategy needs to happen now.

Recruiting and Retaining Millennials

The millennial generation (born in 1981 through 1996) have already entered the workplace and are destined to be the biggest generation ever to go to work. And the statistics aren’t very good for them. The combination of the burst real estate bubble in 2008 and the dotcom bubble before it have been impacting millennials negatively for years. They’re shouldering much higher student-loan debt than their parents’ and grandparents’ generations. An Oracle blog notes three unhappy statistics shared by the millennial generation.

recruitment and retention

• only 33% of employees report being engaged at work

• 70% of employees say they’re dissatisfied with future career opportunities within their organization

• 93% of millennials left their employer the last time they changed roles

So what can HR do to address these dire recruitment and retention issues? Once again, come up with a strategy that helps herd cats.

Who’s Doing It Right?

There are always companies that excel at something. In this case, there are four organizations that are leaders in TM. In an article for Cornerstone, Chris Stewart names these companies. Each has a particular focus that fuels their talent fire.

Hitachi – The multinational company’s history of innovation led to the creation of “Hitachi University.” Hitachi determined that they lacked consistent performance tracking and reporting structures. Now, HU provides its employees with streamlined learning, development and performance programs.

Kohler – When the company looked at its hiring practices, it discovered its recruitment and retention policies needed to be revamped to ensure employees could have options across its business units.

VCA – As the largest veterinary hospital group in the United States and Canada—over 750 facilities—the organization aims to make all its employees feel like they’re part of a large, supportive family. To accomplish this, they developed an integrated suite of learning (“Woof University”), performance tracking (“Purrformance”) and employee collaboration (“Dog Park”), which have led to a strong company culture and greater client satisfaction.

United – In 2015, United decided to invest in unified talent management. They launched a mobile program, providing 45,000 devices so employees can focus on helping customers from multiple locations rather than only assisting from behind a counter.

You Know You Need It… What’s Next?

corporate communication feedback helps recruitment and retentionMcKinsey senior partners Scott Keller and Mary Meaney penned the book Leading Organizations. In it, they observe there are 10 “timeless truths” that organizational leaders face.

1. Both attracting and retaining talent

2. Developing in-house talent

3. Managing employees’ performances

4. Building leadership teams

5. Making strategy-positive decisions

6. Reorganizing the company quickly to add value

7. Reducing corporate overhead costs for the long haul, rather than immediately slashing the numbers, which can be self-defeating

8. Energizing the company culture to make it attractive to current and new employees

9. Leading and embracing change management

10. Promoting the development of new leadership roles

This is just a small overview of talent management. Consider it your introduction to cat herding. Meow.


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