Let's Talk recruitment & Retention.
By Dr. Rick Johnson ~ CEO Strategist, LLC
Sunday, 15th November 2009
Recruitment consists of knowing exactly what you are looking for, determining how to know when you've found it and making employment offers that get accepted.

The first step is determining exactly what level of competency you are looking for:


In order to determine the kinds of people you are looking for, it sometimes helps to start with a picture of the "ideal candidate." This person would possess the competencies and exhibit the behaviors that generate ideal results.

What would happen if someone:
  • Negotiated the best deal every time you placed an order?
  • Romanced the Reps that call on you?
  • Aggressively worked on getting the right new lines?
  • Placed literature orders weekly?
  • Used every order to get a favor?
  • Really planned and prepared for sales meetings?
  • Kept a leash on salespeople giving away margin?
  • Assured that you had enough accurate competitive price information?
  • Stayed awake at night worrying about dead inventory?
  • Made sure that buddy calls and product training was effective?
  • Stayed on top of cycle counts to make sure the inventory was accurate?
  • Actually matched up your order backlog with vendors and your sales forecast?
  • Changed inventory mix to account for lost sales?
The list could go on and on but you get the idea. Look at each independent job opening on the basis of competency required.
  • Work with Human Resources to complete a functional job analysis.
  • Do not wait for a crisis in manpower before you start a proactive recruitment program.
  • Create a job search specification outlining exactly what you are looking for.
The following is an example of a Proactive Sales Recruitment Program.


To upgrade the performance of our field sales, sales support and service organizations by proactively managing the recruiting function as an ongoing process in areas where weaknesses exist.


Phase I – Philosophy of Retaining Vs. Replacing

Upgrading of skill levels, experience and leadership development. This includes product knowledge, education, business acumen and coaching and mentoring skills.

It is understood that it is a manager's responsibility to retain quality employees through proper training, mentoring and counseling. However, a program of proactively recruiting is necessary in order to ensure that we have the best person in each position. Marginal employees should be replaced with exceptional employees. This program is being developed to achieve this objective.

Phase II - Upgrading
  • Names of under performers to be given to human resource to initiate recruiting process
  • De-emphasize the perception that sales hires must have industry experience
  • Emphasize to managers that the hiring process is a high priority
  • Hold all management level employees accountable for recruitment
Phase III – Recruiting Process
  • Continue to post all jobs internally
  • Use new employee referral bonus program when possible
  • Develop an internal skills bank to readily identify individuals with basic skills to match open positions
  • Ad placement in key target areas
  • Manager generated leads (including competition)
  • Networking
  • Internet (internal and external sources)
  • Use search firms when the job and skill levels justify the investment
Phase IV – Improved Hiring Process
  • Managers are trained  on  the interview process
  • Hiring managers interview and accept/reject replacement candidates' resumes in an expeditious timeframe (3-5 days)
  • Phone interview to be conducted by Human Resources on candidates chosen
  • Interview to be scheduled in timely manner (within 1 week after phone interview) with appropriate manager
Phase V – Continued Growth and Skill Building - Training
  • Internal training and development programs
  • Managed on the job development (develop training program for new employee)
  • External training and development opportunities (seminars, supplier training, management courses)
  • Create selective leadership intern programs

Employee retention is heavily dependent upon two key factors:

1. Leadership skills of management
2. Human Resource Strategy

No matter how wonderful your company is, people won't stay if their front line supervisor is an "untrained jerk" with poor people skills. Of course, if you have a definitive Human Resource strategy, the "untrained jerks" will no longer be managing your employees. In fact, they will probably be working for someone else.

Things to Remember
  • Managers are allowed to hold employees accountable through discipline and provide constructive feedback, but never at the same time.
  • Managers should never ask why an employee does anything. Responding to the word "why" requires justification and evokes defensiveness. Try instead, "I would like to understand your reasons for. . . ."
  • In making constructive feedback, managers should encourage employees to listen to the substance of the discussion and avoid becoming defensive. Delivering constructive feedback well should be a key management skill.
  • Managers should never try constructive feedback in a situation unless they can actually suggest behavioral alternatives.
  • If an employee fails in a situation, the manager should recognize his/her failure to train, develop, support or communicate.
  • Both sides should recognize the difficulties inherent in constructive feedback and recognize its importance in transmitting the experience required for growth.
  • The employee should always confirm his/her understanding of the feedback by restating it in the form, "If I understand you correctly, you are saying. . . . Is that correct?"
  • If either party feels uncomfortable after a constructive feedback discussion, they should say so:
- Boss, I feel like I've just been punished because you. . .
- Joe, I feel that you became defensive because you. . .

  • When the system works, you have a Win-Win situation because you both have the same objectives. It works better if you try to help each other.
Regardless of your company size and number of employees, if you are committed to becoming an employer that employees want to work for you must educate your management staff. All your managers, from warehouse supervisors up to the President, should receive specific leadership and people skills training.

Expecting your managers to create the right culture without training them in these skills is like asking Michael Jordan to play in the World Series. He's a superb athlete but he just doesn't have the skill set to play major league baseball. Provide the opportunity for your management staff to acquire the skill set necessary to promote retention.

As managers, we must continuously look for ways to uncover potential new employees who have the attitude and the skill set to perform up to our expectations. But, no matter how much we prepare or are committed, our ultimate desirability as an employer comes down to culture. Solid preparation, testing and demonstrating the qualities of being a "Chosen Employer" increases our odds for success but it does not guarantee it. Obviously skill sets come first and they are identifiable and measurable.

But, beyond these tangible, measurable factors lies the true immeasurable, cultural factors that separate the winners from the losers. Those factors include:
  • Positive attitude
  • Willingness
  • Inner strength
  • Self-motivation
  • Competitive drive
If these factors are missing the odds against the employee living up to expectations are enormous regardless of their skills sets. The most talented "A" players in the industry are competitive to the point where they are actually driven to achieve at a level even beyond their talents. Add sell-discipline, self-motivation and attitude and you have a winner worth keeping. Treat them well!

Rick Johnson, expert speaker, wholesale distribution's "Leadership Strategist", founder of CEO Strategist, LLC a firm that helps clients create and maintain competitive advantage. Need a speaker for your next event, E-mail rick@ceostrategist.com 

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