Hire and retain top talent

How To Retain Top Talent (and Hire Them!)

The war for talent is very real. If you want to be the best, and beat the competition, you need the best team. But how do you attract top talent to your organization? Once you’ve done that, how do you keep them happy and wanting to work there?

In this post, I’ll try to answer these questions, and give you some tips on how to first identify, then hire, and finally retain top talent.

How To Identify Talent

Identifying talent is actually pretty easy, if you look for the right things. The three things I personally look for are:

  • Passion
  • Initiative
  • Culture fit.

Depending on what your organization does, when identifying top talent, look for passion.

For example, if you’re a software company, find out who is contributing to open source projects. Whatever industry you’re in, find people that are passionate about it.

I’ve always hired for software companies, so I can only speak about the software industry, but I was never able to find anyone great using traditional methods like posting a job on Indeed or Linkedin. My best results always came from seeking out top talent myself using things like Github’s advanced search to filter for users in a certain location, or on Meetup.com in a local developer community.

Of course there are different original ways to view a candidate’s profile. I personally really like using Twitter to search for developers that have certain keywords in their bio. If you’re looking inside your organization for talent, remember that everyone has talent, you just need to set the right environment for them to explore and cultivate it.

Let them work on side projects, let them come up with ideas and initiatives on their own. They probably have great insight into what you could be doing better. Sometimes, all you have to do is ask.

How To Hire Superstars

Hiring is an incredibly important, but very tricky part of the process. Do not take this part lightly, as hiring the wrong person will be disastrous, and hiring the right person will be amazing for you. Max Levchin, who built out the initial engineering team at PayPal said:

There are some legendary-ish tales of me not hiring people because they used the wrong word in an interview

While that might seem a bit extreme, it shows how seriously he took hiring. Zappos makes new hires what they call “the offer”. When Zappos hires new employees, it puts them through an serious 4-week training program, immersing them in the company’s culture and strategy.

Then, about one week in, Zappos makes what it calls “The Offer”, telling newbies:

If you quit today, we will pay you for the amount of time you have worked, plus a $2,000 bonus.

This is a very bold move, but again shows how seriously they take their hiring. They only want the best people on staff so they incentivize the really passionate ones.

If at all possible, I would suggest hiring remote workers. If you limit yourself to the geographic area of your business, you’re not really taking advantage of all of the top talent out there.

Elance has a premium product they call the Private Talent Cloud, which is a very interesting product. Not many people know this, but it’s a different platform than the regular Elance you might be used to. It was designed specifically to be focused around remote working.

You can hire talent for just about anything on Elance, not only software developers. For software developers, one of my favorite websites is Toptal. This is where you will find the best talent in the software industry. You have to really try your best not to get this step wrong, because bad hires can have a really negative, compounding effect on the company culture. Tony Hsieh, Zappos CEO says that bad hires have cost his company over $100 Million!

How To Retain Top Talent

This is for sure the hardest part of the equation. Now that you’ve somehow managed to attract and hire amazing talent to your organization, how do you keep them happy? How do you make sure they want to stay with you forever? In my opinion, it comes down to 2 core things.

  • your company’s culture,
  • the vision or mission of the company.

Top talent knows that they’re in demand, so they can afford to be picky.

Focus on Employee Motivation

The first piece of advice I would give you, is to properly motivate those employees. It’s so easy to destroy their motivation at work that you have to be extremely careful here. It’s also important to understand the difference between intrinsic motivators, and extrinsic motivators.

I really recommend watching this video. At the last company I worked at, this video was mandatory for all new employees to watch.

Perks can help (just don’t overdo it)

The second piece of advice, and this one is honestly easier said than done, is to offer perks to excite them. I read a very interesting article the other day, written by Aaron Swartz, that talks about how the secret to Google’s retention success is that they treat their employees like kids.

I recommend everyone read it, even though it’s from a few years ago. When you stop and think about it, it makes total sense. He writes:

Give them free food, do their laundry, let them sit on bouncy brightly-colored balls. Do everything so that they never have to grow up and learn how to live life on their own.

If you’re looking for inspiration, we’ve written about awesome employee perks.

Use the right tools to boost employee engagement

But not every company has the luxury to treat their employees the way Google does, even if they wanted to. There are many other inexpensive ways to engage employees.

For example, use an employee engagement platform that encourages team building at work, offer lunch and learns, give honest feedback frequently, be transparent, and ask for ideas. Bottom line, invest in your company culture. It will be the best long-term investment you make for your business.

What are your thoughts?

Share some tips that you’ve used to hire and retain top talent! Let me know your thoughts on twitter @JacobShriar or @Officevibe.

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