It’s not exactly a novel observation to point out that companies are only as successful as the quality of their employees. Everyone wants to hire and retain top talent, but attracting great people and keeping them around for the long haul doesn’t just happen. You can’t simply wish a great team into existence. It takes time, energy and strategic focus.
Everything from your hiring practices to the way you communicate and connect with your team has an impact on the quality of employees you are able to hire and retain.
The screen door
Assembling a team of great employees begins well before they even are employees, with some kind of rigorous and reliable pre-employment screening process. From basic background checks to more sophisticated testing and personality assessments, pre-employment screening can identify promising applicants out of a pool of qualified candidates and reveal potential conflicts and concerns that might otherwise go undetected in a standard interview process. Many decision makers use this process to zero in on specific traits or personality types that they have learned, through experience, are the best fit for their industry or their business.
Once a new employee comes on board, take the extra time to introduce them to the organization with a detailed and deliberate onboarding and orientation process. At Corporate Eagle, our version of this process includes providing each new hire with a comprehensive binder that covers everything from company policies and practices to expectations and brand education. We schedule meetings and review specific agenda items with each department head, each of whom takes the time to explain not just what we do, but also why we do it. The ultimate goal is to ensure that each and every member of the team fully buys in to what you are trying to do professionally: they live it and love it. Investing the time and resources to get it right on the front end with a thoughtful and deliberate vetting, screening, interviewing and orientation process dramatically improves your odds of finding and retaining a great fit that will be there for a long time.
Empower and engage
Connect your professional vision with your company values, and prioritize employees who demonstrate those characteristics. The single biggest thing I look for is honesty and integrity, as I’ve found that to be the most important piece of a strong foundation for professional growth. That honesty needs to flow both ways, however, and it is incumbent upon employers to be truthful and transparent with their team. You may choose to provide full financial reporting, for example, making it clear that your business is both literally and figuratively an open book. With trust comes greater autonomy, empowering your team to make the right decisions and shoulder the consequences.
Devil’s in the details
Even a well-oiled machine requires regular maintenance, and the most successful companies are no different. Make it a point to hold regular meetings–perhaps a monthly leadership meeting to review the business plan and report on progress and problems. Keep good notes at all times, with the understanding that detailed reporting is the key to monitoring performance and continuing to get better as an organization. For example, every one of our captains is responsible for drafting and filing a detailed flight summary report at the end of every trip. Those reports include all flight data and even the smallest details, including any and all passenger comments or feedback, as well as any issues (whether good and bad) that may have arisen. While each pilot is responsible, I make it a point to personally read each and every report. The trick is to balance independence and responsibility with accountability, and the best way to do that is to hold each other accountable.
Respect and accountability
You can hire the best team of professionals in your industry, but if you don’t focus on keeping those employees and helping them grow professionally, your retention will suffer. Understand that what motivates people to stay with an organization over the long haul is respect, (mutual) accountability and opportunity. Part of treating your team members with respect is to provide them with regular performance reviews and specific feedback and engagement. Younger employees tend to crave more feedback, and it is a good idea to conduct performance reviews every six months as opposed to annually. Be direct with your team, even blunt. In the long run, absolute honesty is the best way to ensure that expectations are clear and that a mutual and productive understanding permeates the organization from top to bottom.
Build a culture
Finally and most critically of all is the build and maintain a positive and supportive professional culture. Prioritize education, training and professional development, and give your employees plenty of room to grow and opportunities to better their professional circumstances. That loyalty goes both ways, and investing in your team will pay off. The message will get out, and, as your reputation grows, more and more qualified candidates will seek you out. Maintaining that culture and consistency also means being decisive and addressing your hiring mistakes promptly. Live your culture, even when you have to part ways with someone who turns out not to be a good fit: offer a generous severance package so both sides can move on with no hard feelings. If you maintain that culture and that people-first attitude, you’ll end up with a cohesive team of talented professionals who are fully bought in to what you are trying to do. Corporate Eagle’s four Vice Presidents have been here 14, 16, 19 and 20 years respectively, and that kind of retention doesn’t happen by accident. It takes work, and it takes focused, strategic and deliberate care to make it happen, but business leaders who stick to it will find that their team–and their results–will be truly exceptional.
Rick Nini is the president and CEO of Waterford, Mich.-based Corporate Eagle, Michigan’s largest and longest-serving provider of fractional and managed business aviation. Rick can be reached at email@example.com