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My thoughts on hiring and retention

A question to motivate : 

Which of the below candidate do you prefer? 

  1. A candidate who stayed in a company for good deal of years but has left it leaving a gaping hole in the knowledge. 
  2. A candidate who made it a point to share his/her knowledge by way of usable documentation and uplifting his team-members making him/her irrelevant to the company before leaving.
If your choice is option 1, then I would love to learn your though process around that decision of yours and what is your take on mine that I have put forth in this blog post. If your choice is option 2, I am go glad about your choice and would ask what did you do to ensure that your company as well embraces it in its hiring process.

How I approach the hiring side of things?
One of the key things I do working with the Talent Acquisition team is to set the basic value system is set right and that we are all aligned to it, so that we can spot the right candidates that others miss. Having said that, I admit this is not an easy thing to do. One thing that worked for me is to have frequent conversations with stakeholders concerned around the following questions (I often trigger the conversation asking one/some of them):
  • Do you look for an individual's stickiness (duration of his stay) to a company in his career?
  • What is your metric of measuring stability?
  • How do you measure productivity and professionalism of an individual against his/her stickiness to a company?
  • How do you measure experience -- number in experience or experience in number?
  • What specific positive/negative traits do you look for in a candidate? 
During my conversation (aka interview) with the potential hires, I ensure that not only are the candidates treated as people (instead of resources) but are well respected as a courtesy. This sets the stage for me understand the candidate better and that the candidate as well gets a fair insight in the job, the workplace, the company and me as a person. Two things I really care for in any candidate, irrespective of their experience or role are their teaching-ability and learning-ability. I do my homework to ensure I get a decent hunch on these attributes during my time with the candidate.

How I approach the retention side of things?

Retention is yet another hard-ball game. I would bet any day in making the workplace atmosphere more transparent, safe, productive, and guaranteed learnings from solving problems as a team. With this in mind, I start looking out for opportunities for improvement and go about executing them. This approach is multi-dimensional requiring help from many stakeholders in solving the problem and unfortunately this is often over-looked; take for instance if an outgoing employee cites any of the following reasons for leaving the company in your personal 1-to-1 conversation, what can you do about it:
  • pay-scale disparity (you can't drill down on this one in your conversation)
  • concerns of discriminations (you really got to win the trust of the person to hear this one out but often isn't something within your control)
  • lack of opportunities to pick up better work (you must tactfully drill down on this one to get a hang of ground-zero reality) when they see some of their peers get to work on niche areas
  • lack of learning opportunities (you got to drill down to the specifics) when they end up taking too much of support work or see some of their peers getting special privileges of say, certification reimbursements and they feel so left out.
  • work-life balance going for a toss because of recurrent production issues, time-crunched deadlines, unplanned works etc. hurting their weekends and holidays. 
Not all the above problems might be in your direct control to bring about change. Not all the above problems can be tackled directly or immediately. Some of the measures that I have taken to improve the workplace atmosphere are below:
  • Encourage the habits of documenting key knowledge in business, technology and practices. 
  • Encourage more and more work related conversations to happen. It is important that there are conflicting opinions for the teams to get better in what they do. Unfortunately, conflicting opinions are discouraged in most workplaces.
  • Encourage brownbag or lunch-hour sessions within teams, within horizontals and slowly stretching it to the outside world as talks in meetups and conferences.
  • Encourage pairing not just within roles but across roles.
  • Make it a point to reach out to individual team members to understand their aspirations and look for opportunities to accommodate and nurture it as part of their goals. 
  • Encourage team work by breaking silos.
  • Discourage gossip against person by encouraging open discussions on work subject.
Measure what matters. Loyalty trumps stability; for in my world, retention is not just about how long one stays in a company, but how safe and productive (s)he is at work. Measure an individual's contribution towards work and towards talent development of other team members. I look not for how long one stayed in a company but how one helped the company, and the team grow during their tenure.