Too many candidates saying, “No, thanks!”? It’s time to adapt your hiring strategy

Without question, employee turnover is one of the most expensive, vexing problems facing organizations today.

But another expensive problem that many companies may not track is candidate turnover – having too many people say “no thanks” after receiving your job offer. Finding good candidates, encouraging them to apply, interviewing them for fit, then having them turn you down takes a toll on the HR budget … and the emotional state of recruiters and operational managers.

Multiple issues affect any individual employee’s level of satisfaction in his/her job. But at the heart of the problem of employee turnover within most companies is the extent to which staff feel a meaningful sense of connection to the organization, their manager, and customers. Following are four important connections prospective and current employees need to feel to continue saying “yes” to your organization.

Connecting to Purpose

“When Work Has Meaning” proclaimed the cover story of the July/August, 2018, issue of the Harvard Business Review. This article turns long-standing business principles and theories on their head, pointing out that the traditional “principle-agent economic model” precludes the notion of a fully engaged workforce. In other words, it’s not just about the money.

“People who find meaning in their work don’t hoard their energy and dedication,” the authors emphasize. “They give freely, defying conventional economic assumptions about self-interest. They do more – and they do it better.”

Connecting to Community

In her seminal research on organizational burnout, Dr. Christina Maslach, professor emerita of psychology at UC Berkeley, found that a lack of community among a work team causes more than just disengagement; it is one of the root causes of burnout and employee turnover.

In its Q12 survey of employee engagement, Gallup includes the question, “My supervisor or someone at work cares about me as a person.” Strong organizations that attract and then retain great employees go beyond just appreciating individuals as employees; they value them as human beings who bring unique talents, skills, and passions to the work. They seek to understand them and how they can contribute successfully to the company.

Connecting to Responsibility

Perhaps one of the most powerful connections created between human beings is a sense of responsibility and commitment. The same idea is true for individuals and organizations. When employees feel valued and sincerely believe that their colleagues and customers are counting on them, they may think twice about leaving an organization. Of course, underlying this assumption is employees’ confidence that the work they are doing truly is making a difference in the lives of others – and that it is appreciated.

Connecting to Their Future

In another recent Gallup survey on today’s evolving workplace culture, 87% of millennials said that professional growth and development opportunities are their top priorities. Yes, they expect to be paid competitively. But millennials – and increasingly their older colleagues – are interested in whether or not a company can and will provide a path for future development and personal growth.

Implementing Human Capital Strategies for Today’s Workforce

Understanding and supporting the concept of building stronger, enduring connections with your workforce is a necessary but insufficient first step in adapting to the new realities of the labor market. Here are three specific strategies that will help achieve that vision.

Make interviews about more than just selection

Traditionally, candidates did all the selling in interviews to convince you to hire them. Sales strategies, if they existed at all, didn’t kick in until the offer was made and salary negotiations started. Today, that’s too late. While one component of an initial interview should be evaluation, hiring managers have to become better salespeople. Like any good salesman knows, that means more than just promoting your product. Listening to promising candidates share their priorities and how they hope to contribute to your team shows immediately that you are interested in them and their professional goals.

Make interviewing and retention a team sport

Smart leaders talk with their teams about the priority they place on retention and on ways that each member of the team plays a role. Prospective candidates pick up on how well employees treat and respect one another through the words they use and their body language. When prospective candidates and newer employees pick up on any signs of a toxic team culture, “No thanks!” is often going to be their reaction. That leads to more candidate and current employee turnover.

Give employees and prospective candidates voice

Another one of the root causes of burnout identified by Dr. Maslach is lack of voice or control over day-to-day work. Most staff members want to contribute to their team’s success. They have meaningful ideas about ways to improve results – if you ask them. Their very first interview should be an opportunity for them to share how they hope to help the team. That contributes to both individual and collective success.

The power in the traditional hiring and retention process has shifted dramatically toward employees in the past couple of years. Smart organizations acknowledge that shift and are adapting their human capital strategies accordingly. Understanding why staff leave – or don’t say yes in the first place – provides important insights. These insights help strengthen meaningful connections, commitment, and contentment in today’s new labor market.