“I always tell you how I don’t need you but please, please, don’t leave me.”Pink

Being in a corporate recruiting community, we expend lots of energy to find, coerce, and close talent for our clients — only to have them leave based on bad choices from our management teams, or head offices wanting a bigger bonus or higher profits.

The better you are, the more expendable the people seem to be for them. They stare with mindless eyes when a swath of very non-expendable people up and leave to take other roles because they feel unappreciated or undervalued.

Why is that?

This is not a race thing, a woman vs. man thing, or even an old vs. young thing. No, it is a survival of the ordinary thing, and something that needs examining. Hell, we need a lot of reconsidering in this world.

Here’s why retention levels are so bad

Middle management is killing us, and the brilliant minds that run great companies do not see it or are sadly ignoring it, so it’s no wonder that the retention levels are so bad (like 30 percent).

Say what you will about Millennials, but I get their frustration when it comes to getting an opportunity and being hired. Too many companies these days are asking for people with “experience” instead of hiring the smart, hungry, and young, who, straddled with debt, need a career starter. These are educated people with skills that just need some seasoning.

Companies who do hire young, vibrant minds seem to do nothing or resist pushing programs to retain the people we worked so hard to get for them. They want to move on to another company after a year or two, and no one is asking the big question — WHY?

Is it they can make more money? Yes, some of the larger firms will increase salaries based on the fact that a 3 percent raise and a holiday party once a year does not really earn their loyalty. It seems that everyone is feeding off the same table and just stealing from each other than doing legitimate training programs and then, oh I don’t know, maybe promoting them? Or, perhaps giving them better raises by sharing the wealth a little bit since they were the ones that were driving billables for their organization?

Ways to motivate and retain employees

I know many companies, some of whom I worked for, that have so-called “management training programs,” but in reality, they all are smoke-and-mirrors. People work diligently toward a Golden Carrot that is always just out of reach until they burn out, realizing that traveling 48 weeks a year is not as glamorous as they thought.

Three years in and they’re still doing the grind, while their pals that went to that “other company” are making more than they are and actually in a healthy relationship (and not with an airline company).

People have choices, and they have the right to do what they want. But many make the choices you don’t want them to and they just leave, causing a revolving door effect, and it’s partially your fault.

Is this really your problem?

Now, I know you are asking yourself, “How in the hell is this my problem? It’s not my place to call this out to my company! Besides, this is job security, right? This is why they need us.”

Oh my friend, but it is your problem, and here’s why: You are on the front lines every day, and if you’re good, you know both the ones that are going to bolt the organization within six months and the ones that are going to stay, because you, more than anyone, are aware of the company culture.

That’s because you eat it and breathe it every day. Your “C” level types, on the other hand, are in an ivory tower dealing with high-level issues and have little idea what happens down at your level on a day-to-day basis.

So, you need to educate them. Yes, you. OK, I know this is now to the point where you’re not sure about reading further, but please indulge me here.

Believe it or not, upper management is going to be impressed and befuddled yet interested in your opinion if you bring facts and figures with you. The “C” level types base most of their decisions on simple metrics and numbers, so make sure to have some of your own. You have that fancy ATS that shoots out reports, so shoot out a few and show them the cost per hire and the time it takes to make that money back.

Numbers don’t lie, and believe me, there are more frustrated people then there are those who are copacetic in most companies, and if that is not the case with your firm, maybe now is the time to dust off your resume and call me.

Helping to turn the company the right way

But back to the point: Get your facts together, show them the people who have left, and call the VP’s and COO for a meeting to inform them that the mid-level Joe’s and Jane’s you keep losing are mucking up the system and causing the company to lose money. This is high-risk move but can turn into a Jerry Maguire-like moment if you play it right!

CFO’s and CEO’s — hell, any C level person in a company — have an incentive to make their bonus. It’s a fact kid, and they need this type of information because many times they are being treated like mushrooms (you know — kept in the dark and fed manure?) What they know can and will help them make the right choices, but it also will begin to shape and turn the company into the correct direction it needs to go in.

Look at you, superstar; you have put together accurate data and informed your business superiors where they are going wrong.

The next step is to give them a plan of action:

  • Start promoting the good employees. Give them raises and teams to lead.
  • Also, give them performance bonuses sooner rather than later, and maybe even spot bonuses for doing good work.
  • And, have some pizza parties for jobs well done, or, take everyone to a sporting event, or something!

Also, have some real life work balance; don’t just talk about it. This is not rocket science. While HR is sitting around trying to make sure the company is compliant they have lost sight of one of the core roles of the job — being there for the employee as well for management. I have seen this in action before, and when people were cool with coming to work, and happy, the teamwork flowed with goodness.

A solution to your problem

Here’s the bottom line: When this happened, people stayed.

I believe we can be more than just sourcers and recruiters; we can effectively change the culture in a positive way instead of just complaining about it.

I have always lived by this statement: “If you come to me with a problem, and no solution, then you are just complaining.” Well, I’m offering you a solution to a problem we have now and will continue to have unless we start stepping up.


Derek Zeller

Derek Zeller draws from over 20 years in the recruiting industry, and he currently is the Director of Recruiting Solutions and Channels with Engage Talent. The last 16 years he has been involved with federal government recruiting specializing within the cleared IT space under OFCCP compliancy. He has experience with both third party agency and in-house recruiting for multiple disciplines. Using out-of-the-box tactics and strategies to identify and engage talent, he has had significant experience in building referral and social media programs, the implementation of Applicant Tracking Systems, technology evaluation, and the development of sourcing, employment branding, and military and college recruiting strategies. Derek currently lives in the Portland, Oregon area. Follow Derek on Twitter @Derdiver or connect with him on LinkedIn.