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  • Michael Sabbag

Six Reasons Organizations Rarely Get or Keep the Best People

Imagine that you’re interviewing for an executive level role in HR. The CEO starts by saying that he’s looking for someone who can really transform HR and implement best practices. He wants an original thinker, someone who’s a thought leader, and someone who creates HR processes so effective that publications write about them. Then, he looks at you and says, “tell me about a time when you had to find someone for a position that was really hard to fill.” This really happened to me and demonstrates that organizations often say they want one thing yet ask for something different. In the end, they get neither.

People who are truly high performers have capabilities in many areas. They continually seek new responsibilities so that they can be challenged and grow. They are good at self-assessing and incorporating feedback into better ways to do things. They get things done and, when they don’t know how, they figure it out. In their interactions, they work well with others and are able to lift the performance of the entire team.

Organizations say they want high performers. They want to only hire the best because “people are their greatest asset”. However, that’s a lie. In reality, organizations do an incredibly poor job of getting and keeping great people. If you think about the employment lifecycle, most companies stumble every step along the way and make the employee experience rather punishing. That’s why worldwide only 15% of employees are engaged1. There are examples of individual organizations that do an incredible job but most go wrong for six reasons.

  1. They have no idea what a great employee is and how to identify “fit”. Often, leaders and recruiters think they can determine it through interviews and personality tests but in reality all those questions just serve to collect basic information and alienate candidates. In the end, these leaders go with their gut (I like that candidate so let’s hire her).

  2. They take an incredibly long time to hire (an average of 43 days in the US2) losing the best people in the process. Their processes are too long with too many steps and not enough staff to really examine the qualifications and abilities of each candidate. They rely on applicant tracking systems to weed people out and end up with those who happen to have the most key words that match the job posting. Then, when they finally get people who appear to know how to do the job, a recruiter with no experience in that job interviews them and ends up weeding out people who don’t tick their box or with whom they just don’t "click".

  3. Organizations base their pay on market rates for the average person rather than paying for the value someone brings. Next time you’re trying to buy a car, try asking if you can pay the average price for a Kia when buying a Lexus. High performers know their value and are not average. The difference is that some organizations view compensation as an expense where others view it as an investment.

  4. Once they finally do hire someone, their onboarding process makes people wonder why they joined the organization. Support during this phase is critical for high performance. In onboarding, people are determining whether or not they made the right decision in choosing to work at the organization, what their work relationships will be like, what the culture is like, and if what they heard about the company is true. In fact, one third of employees know whether they will stay with their organization after their first week3.

  5. After people have been at the organization for a while, they see it and it’s culture and systems more accurately (40 percent of turnover is within six months4). Part of this may be due to the state of onboarding. Much of it is due to the culture and, specifically, leadership behaviors.

  6. Over the mid and long-term, politics, lack of advancement opportunities, lack of development, poor leadership, lack of flexibility, poor pay, and challenging working conditions cause most people to job hop (average turnover in 2016 was 20.3%5). So an organization with 1000 employees will have to hire 203 people a year just to break even.

As changes occur in all industries and great people become more difficult to find, it is more important than ever to make sure you are doing everything you can to hire, develop, and reward the best performers.






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