Liz Warren - It's all about the people
Liz Warren
Executive VP of Human Resources

It’s All About the People:There is no magic wand
Part 2:  Becoming an Employer of Choice

The recruiting strategies discussed in Part I of this two-part series have made a significant impact in the workplaces of our clients. For example, a mid-size company that had concerns attracting candidates asked for assistance. They also had a corresponding high turnover rate. They were a sales organization, who in the past primarily searched for people with previous sales experience in their industry.

The HR Consultant (HRC) began by interviewing a number of their highest performing employees and their lowest achievers. They were asked questions about their educational background, work experience, style dealing with prospects and how they tracked sales. The HRC discovered that the most successful employees did not have previous sales or industry related experience. However, they had customer service related responsibilities in their past employment. This changed the recruitment sources the organization utilized. In addition, HRC also redesigned the onboarding and training programs to include the characteristics that the most successful employees exhibited. Subsequently, ‘time to fill’ was reduced from 45 days to 25 days and turnover was reduced by 50% within six months. The client estimated that this saved $350,000 over a six month time period.


Being an Employer of Choice

Any business can apply these, regardless of size or budget. In addition to ensuring you are utilizing best recruitment practices, in order to attract the best talent, you need to create an employer brand to establish yourself as an employer of choice (EOC). Here, an EOC is not necessarily on the lists or awards developed by magazines or groups nationally, regionally or even locally; but companies that have good reputations in their area, receive numerous resumes, and generally are thought of as great places to work.

To be an EOC, first you must offer competitive wages and benefits. Not to say you need to be the market leader, but you do need to be competitive. I believe the most important factor is the culture you develop for your company. The leader sets the culture from the top down. What do you want outsiders, both customers and prospective employees, to think and say about your company?   The fun place to be, the place where continuous learning opportunities are available, or the social media savvy company? There is no right or wrong answer, except not focusing on it at all. If this seems like the path you are currently on, you may be ignoring your greatest possible competitive advantage—your people.


Culture and Employee Engagement

One of the mistakes some leaders make is not connecting culture and employee engagement to customers’ happiness and loyalty, which in turn would lead to bottom line profit increases. This really is the secret to finding the best and the brightest talent—having an environment that is challenging and rewards top performers. Zappos is one of the companies that I have great respect and admiration for and use as an example of how culture and values can give you a competitive advantage. They embody values and culture that businesses of all sizes can apply. Most call centers give employees scripts to follow. They train and evaluate performance by how quickly employees can get callers off the phone. Zappos believes and encourages the exact opposite. Their culture stresses that time spent interacting with a customer will develop long-term relationships and loyal customers.


Engaged Employees Deliver Superior Results

Engaged employees deliver superior results as compared to their non-engaged counterparts and they also account for the lion’s share of profit. An example that comes to mind involves Zappos and its highly engaged workforce. They empower employees to make decisions that will create customer happiness. For example, a customer’s soccer cleats order was lost and when the customer called to inquire, she discovered that the cleats were out of stock in the size needed. John B., the Zappos employee, sent an email to the customer with links to two competitors who had the cleats in stock. He pledged to credit the customer for overnight shipping. To further delight the customer, John offered her VIP status for life (free overnight shipping). He then sent a handwritten card wishing the customer’s daughter good luck in her soccer season!


When we speak about recruitment, it is so much more than simply posting an opening and hoping to find the best people to join your organization. Keep in mind the brand you project, the values you embrace, the environment and culture you create all contribute to your talent acquisition function. Ultimately, investing in strategic HR principles upfront will pay off in the long run by helping you develop an engaged workforce and a high performing company and delivers exceptional bottom line results.


Liz Warren is executive vice president of HR at Employer Service Corporation, based in Amherst, New York