Reducing turnover starts with the hiring process

John Hildebrand

High employee turnover is expensive and frustrating.   The cost of finding and training new employees to the point in which they actually make you money is staggering. On average, new employees don’t begin to make you money until their productivity reaches about three times wages. In many cases, that might not happen for nearly a year. 

Consequently, making good hiring decisions and investing in good training are critical. As an employer, the faster a new worker gets up to speed and becomes productive, the better off you’ll be. The first step in this process of successfully finding and retaining the right people involves hiring.

Here are some helpful hints.

Responsibilities and tasks: Make a list of the responsibilities or tasks your new hire will be required to perform. Be specific. Sit down with current experienced employees and ask them what the job description should include. As business owners, we can get disconnected with the everyday tasks our people handle. This will become your job description and define your expectations. Employees who know what’s expected of them are much happier than those who don’t.

Interviews: When you conduct interviews, ask the same questions to fairly compare candidates. Consider doing so with two interviewers. My wife and I conduct interviews together. We both see the world differently and interpret people differently. We pick up cues and make observations in different ways. I think men and women typically see the world from different perspectives, and that’s valuable. We work from a standard set of questions and take time to write down the answers. One observes while the other asks questions and writes responses, then we switch. After we conduct an interview, we take five to 10 minutes to “debrief” and share our observations while they’re still fresh. This method has been very successful for us. 

Ask open-ended questions during interviews rather than questions that can be answered with a yes or no. The idea is to draw out information, attitudes, perspectives, world views, strengths and weaknesses out of the applicant’s mind. Open ended questions begin with an invitation to share: “Tell me about …,” “How would you respond if …,” “What would you do if … .” Write out and practice asking good questions. You might only get one chance to do this. 

Skills and aptitude testing: In our experience, lots of applicants overstate their qualifications. In some cases, they just flat out lie. Over the years, we’ve found that certain tests are key to getting the right folks on board. This will be different for every industry, and you’ll need to experiment to find out what skills are critical for you. With a little research, you’ll find firms whose business is testing. There are specialists for sales assessment, computer aptitude and more. They can be expensive, but hiring the wrong person is much more expensive.

Background screening: We encourage all of our clients to conduct criminal background screening on all new hires. Criminals don’t wear signs to announce their intentions. Education is one of the most frequently lied about topics on resumes, so check that out as well for critical positions. Conduct credit checks on employees who’ll handle money or have access to money.  Understand that normally good people are more likely to do bad things when they’re under extreme financial pressure. 

If you hire a new receptionist for your real estate office, law office or doctor’s office and don’t conduct background screening, you could be putting your clients’ privacy or even finances at risk.

If your employees “touch” the public — that is, go into your clients’ homes or offices — and you don’t conduct a sex offender screening on new hires, you’ve failed in your due diligence. If that employee commits a crime, you could be implicated because you didn’t do what you could have to protect your clients. 

Hiring well is the first key to reducing employee turnover.  If you put the right people in the right seats in your business, you’ll be much happier — and so will your customers.

One last thing: Treat your people well, invest in them, treat them with respect and give them the opportunity to grow and earn more money. If you do, you’ll help yourself to prosper along the way.