The numbers are pretty amazing: Gen X-ers are expected to last at their current companies for five years. Millennials, only two. Even as they grow older and attain more experienced roles, it is expected that they will be the first to jump ship.
So the long-term question on any smart talent manager’s mind has to be: Where do loyal employees come from? What is the wellspring of a staff that stays for longer than the average would suggest?
This isn’t an article on how to keep employees longer, or what factors are most likely to encourage people to stay. There are libraries of books written on the subject already, and I will direct you to Amazon to take a look at your leisure. What I’m really wondering is: If you have two candidates you could potentially give a job offer to, and they are similar in experience, age, maturity, and education, is there some factor that would suggest that one candidate is more likely to stay longer than the other?
I think there is. And it’s not what you think.
If you take a look at all the books about how to retain employees, you’ll see that most ideas break down into two groups: external motivations and internal motivations.
External motivations are things that the company gives to keep people happy: free lunches, office treats, high-end computers and chairs, phones, stipends for parking or laundry services. And yes, higher salaries.
Internal motivations are a little fuzzier. These are things that make the employee feel like their work is used, that their presence matters, that they have value and the company appreciates their engagement.
The word engagement in that last sentence is not an accident. Employees who engage with you, and feel that engagement valued and appreciated stay a long time. Why would they leave? Sure, factors like needing to change geography, change one’s family situation, or even needing a complete change can still cause an engaged employee to leave, but those are the staff members you can count on to not only bring their focus, energy and passion to the job, but to stay longer than the statistics would predict.
So the question shifts: Where do engaged employees come from? They come, naturally enough, from engaged applicants.
To some, this sounds natural. If an employee is deeply engaged with the process of learning about and then interviewing with the company, wouldn’t it stand to reason that this employee is lit from within, so to speak, that she or he has found within themselves the reason to spend a lot of time with you?
Candidates who are engaged aren’t just looking for another job, one they will be looking to run away from in a few years. They are looking to find a place where they fit, not just on an organizational chart, but within the emotional framework of the company. They want to know that this company suits their eager, passionate nature, or their team-focused drive, or their humor, or their lifestyle, or whatever it is that makes them… them.
These candidates are engaged because they see something of who they are in who you are. That’s the nature of engagement. It’s not about cheerleading or bribing – it’s the reflection the candidates see of themselves in the job.
So it’s solved! Loyal employees come from engaged employees, who come from engaged applicants. If this was a standardized test, you would have successfully completed the logic portion and be chewing on your pencil fretting about analogies in the next section.
But it’s not that easy. How can you expect to engage your potential applicants with that pitiful website you first published when people still wondered who would bring sexy back? You wouldn’t expect someone to give a good review of a restaurant they never dined at. Nor would you ask someone to rave about a book they’ve not read. So how can you hope to select engaged candidates when there’s nothing out there to engage with?
If you want to select engaged candidates, you’ve got a role to play. You need to tell your story in a way that resonates with your applicants. You need to let them read the book and dine on the tasting menu before you can expect them to feel anything for the experience. And without that, what exactly are they engaging with or about?
When you have no content on your website, you are saying that you don’t want people to learn about you and find a reason to engage and apply. You’re saying you’re content with collecting more resumes from the great mass of application button mashers, those who believe that if they could only apply to more jobs faster, they could find a new job. Doesn’t this group sound exactly like the people who will be heading for the exits as soon as their “welcome to the company!” social event is over?
If you went on a date with someone and never said more than a word at a time, what are the odds that your date will feel compelled to ask for a second date? You can’t become engaged with someone who doesn’t engage back.
So the source of loyal employees, who stay longer to keep tribal knowledge and experience in-house, who grow to take on more experienced positions, and who are ultimately more cost-effective, is to build content on your website that truly engages with employees. That content gives your prospects a way of accurately seeing themselves in your company and within that role. And when they see themselves fit, they will show you how engaged they can be – today and long after the job offer has been accepted.
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