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for which they were chosen.
• There has been an excessive focus on eliminating employee weak-
nesses through coaching and training when it would be wiser in
many cases to put those employees into new roles where they can
better capitalize on their greatest strengths.
• Organizational values, structures, and policies have reinforced the
idea that the only way to grow professionally is to be promoted.
• Hires made from a limited talent pool have greatly limited the
chances of ¬nding an acceptable match.
• There has been a failure to delegate.

Companies with strong reputations for selecting the right talent and
keeping employees well matched with their jobs do seem to have certain
best practices in common. These practices fall into four main areas: select-
ing, engaging through job task assignment, on-going re-engagement as
needed, and job enrichment.

Best-Fit Selection Practices
Engagement Practice 9: Make a Strong Commitment to
the Continuous Upgrading of Talent
The best employers do not have a cavalier, seat-of-the-pants approach to
recruiting and interviewing. Instead they have a serious and resolute mind-
set about talent that begins with a fundamental belief that the organization™s
future depends on getting and keeping the right people in the right jobs.
This means they leave little to chance.
Most companies do not take such a determined and proactive approach
to the acquisition of talent. In fact, in a McKinsey survey of corporate
executives, only 8 percent agreed with the statement, ˜˜Our company is
always looking for talented people, even if we are not trying to ¬ll a speci¬c
position.™™5 In a war for talent, this is the mentality that is needed among all
managers and executives.
It usually begins with a CEO who is driven to create an intense focus
on strengthening talent levels across the organization. The CEO makes it
clear that this is the top priority of every manager and typically insists that
every manager not delegate hiring. This means that the hiring process is

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owned by the hiring managers, not by human resources, which operates as
a key resource and full partner to support the hiring managers.

The Hartford: Managers as Talent Scouts
Like most companies, The Hartford used to depend on classi¬ed ad-
vertising and headhunters to ¬ll positions. Gradually, they realized
they were spending too much valuable time and money screening
candidates. Vice president of human resources, John Madigan, had
been receiving referrals from managers for years, but the company
had not been making the most of the referral information.
Madigan hired a researcher to identify and evaluate each pre-
viously referred candidate as well as those that had been identi¬ed
through other sources. He then promised managers that all their refer-
rals would be thoroughly checked out and stored in a referral data-
base. When managers refer candidates, they are contacted and invited
in for an interview, after which their data is added to the database.
When an appropriate job becomes available, the right candidate can
be much more quickly identi¬ed.
As a result of creating the candidate tracking system, managers
feel better about putting their energies into scouting talent instead
of screening. The Hartford also lowered its recruiting expenses and
Madigan believes it has also increased retention. ˜˜These people have
been courted and there is a familiarity,™™ he said. ˜˜And since they
didn™t knock on the door to begin with, when they make the decision
it is because the ¬t is right.™™6

Engagement Practice 10: Follow a Consistent and
Thorough Talent Forecasting and Success-Factor Analysis
Before beginning the recruiting process, the best companies engage in a
talent forecasting process based on key business objectives. The business
objectives drive talent needs, with special attention focused on pivotal jobs
that will create the most value for the organization. For auto dealerships,
these are general managers, sales people, and ¬nance managers. For grocery
stores, these are store managers, department managers, and checkers. For
mutual fund companies, these are fund managers. Often, they are lower-
to mid-level workers who have the most direct customer contact. In some
service-driven organizations, 80 percent of the value (revenues) derives

The 7 Hidden Reasons Employees Leave

from the results generated by 20 percent of the jobs (talent) in the organiza-
The next phase of the preselection process involves understanding
what makes top performers successful in all positions, but especially those
that create the most value. Many companies validate a selection instrument
by having their top performers”the ones they would clone if they could”
take a battery of personality and ability assessments, then look for common
traits and capabilities. The more top performers who take the assessments,
the more valid the conclusions that can be made from them. Many organi-
zations ¬nd this process helpful, but it is fallible in one sense”not all suc-
cessful people use the same talents to succeed in the same job. Still, top
performers tend to share a select few critical characteristics that are worth
the effort to uncover.

Capital One:
A Semi-Automated Assessment and Screening Process
Many large companies, in an effort to screen thousands of applicants,
have created semiautomated hiring processes that help screen candi-
dates based on their suitability for various positions.
Capital One Financial Corporation, with a payroll of more than
15,000, screens candidates by having them take a battery of tests that
have already been validated by 1,600 top-performing employees,
from call center operators to executives. Employee test results are
fed into a database with detailed pro¬les of the tested workers™ job
performance. Capital One™s staff psychologists and statisticians then
analyze the results to design new tests that predict on-the-job success.
This highly ef¬cient process allows a call-center employee to be
screened, tested, tried out, and subjected to one face-to-face inter-
view, all in ¬ve hours™ time”a process that used to take twenty hours.
But does it result in a better matching of people with jobs? The
company believes so. Capital One™s attrition rate has dropped from
45 percent to 10 percent, also due partly to better pay and bene¬ts.7

The idea is to supplement an in-depth interviewing process by using
the same battery of assessment instruments to screen job candidates in
search of those whose pro¬les look most like the top performers.
Some companies add depth to the validation process by conducting
focus group interviews with top performers. One large hotel chain gath-

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ered eight of its best housekeepers from around the world into a room to
¬nd out what they had in common. They described how they try to see
the rooms through the eyes of the hotel guests (empathy), and put on a
show for the guests by doing things like arranging children™s toys and
stuffed animals on the bed to make it look like they were interacting (desire
to please and delight).8
Other companies may go one step further and conduct one-on-one
˜˜behavioral event™™ interviews with ˜˜water-walkers™™ in key jobs, in which
they are asked to tell detailed stories about exactly how they achieved a
previous successful outcome for a customer or client. Interviewers listen
carefully, probe with clarifying questions, and take notes about the talents
the worker was using in each achievement. Still others use consultants to
observe successful workers while they go about their daily business, taking
notes and questioning as appropriate to gain a deeper understanding of why
the workers do what they do.
Whatever combination of methods is used, the desired outcome is a
short list of critical success factors for each job, no matter how low it is in
the organization™s hierarchy. The mistake most companies make here is
that they invite too many people to help construct a list of skills, talents,
and traits they would like the ideal candidate to possess. By the time the
employment requisition and job ad are written, there are so many job
requirements that not even Superman could meet them all. As a result,
many perfectly quali¬ed candidates are screened out, and the job goes un-
¬lled for weeks or months.
Finally, it is a cardinal rule that no outdated job descriptions will be
used as the basis for constructing employment ads and interview questions.
In an ideal world, every job description would be updated every time a
new person is hired, re¬‚ecting the particular needs of the organizational
unit at that moment in time.

What Qualities to Look for and Why
Hire and promote ¬rst on the basis of integrity; second, motivation;
third, capacity; fourth, understanding; ¬fth, knowledge; and last and
least, experience. Without integrity, motivation is dangerous; without
motivation, capacity is impotent; without capacity, understanding is
limited; without understanding, knowledge is meaningless; without
knowledge, experience is blind. Experience is easy to provide and
quickly put to use by people with all the other qualities.
”Dee Hock9

The 7 Hidden Reasons Employees Leave

Engagement Practice 11: Cast a Wide Recruiting Net to
Expand the Universe of Best-Fit Candidates
The logic is simple”the larger the selection, the greater your chances of
¬nding the right ¬t. There are three ways to expand your labor pool: ¬rst,
by not imposing too many restrictions in terms of your job requirements;
second, by changing the job itself; and third, by creatively considering new
sources of talent that you have never before tapped. Here are guidelines for
each of these:

1. Loosening Job Restrictions: As mentioned previously, many organiza-
tions create job descriptions with too many requirements, many of
which are optional but not really essential. This means you may
need to challenge many of the technical requirements that often
appear on the long laundry lists that circulate prior to beginning the
recruiting process. This is especially important when the labor mar-
ket is tight or when the supply of talent for the position to be ¬lled
is limited.
2. Changing the Job Itself: Every time you ¬ll a job you have the oppor-
tunity to take a second look at the way the job is done. ˜˜Because
we™ve always done it that way™™ is not the answer you are looking
for. The next time a position opens up, don™t just rush to ¬ll it.
Instead, start with a clean slate by asking yourself, ˜˜What is the
work that needs to get done?™™ and take a fresh look at the needs
behind the job, not just the job description.
It may be that doing the job in a new way will actually result in
increasing the availability of applicants. United Parcel Service, for
example, was experiencing excessively high turnover with its driv-
ers. When they asked drivers why they were leaving, the over-
whelming response was that they hated having to load and unload
the delivery trucks. UPS decided to eliminate loading and unload-
ing as a job requirement for drivers, and to create a whole new job
category”loader. Their reasoning made perfect sense”the supply
of drivers is less than the supply of potential loaders, so why unnec-
essarily restrict that supply? As it turned out, the rate of turnover
among loaders was also high, but they were easier to replace than
drivers, so the solution was a good one.
3. Creatively Considering New Sources of Talent. In my previous book,
Keeping the People Who Keep You in Business, there is a list of 54
creative sources for expanding the talent pool. One of the most

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overlooked is the pool of internal candidates. Many hiring managers
can actually become victims of their own limited perceptions. Fail-
ing to consider administrative assistants for management positions
because of having stereotyped them as second-class workers is a
common one.

Another self-imposed way of restricting our own talent supply is to
persist in keeping a job requirement that has become outdated, such as
continuing to demand speci¬c programming knowledge when today™s soft-
ware packages have made it easier for more internal workers to learn the
software and be redeployed into those jobs. The same holds true for job
restrictions related to heavy lifting and words-per-minute requirements for
word processors, which may no longer be needed. Another example is
loosening dress code restrictions in call centers that may have previously
screened out workers who prefer a more informal way of dressing.
According to John Sullivan, former chief talent of¬cer at Agilent Tech-
nologies and recruiting guru to many forward-thinking employers, ˜˜only
10 percent of the recruiters in business today are using innovative methods
to help their companies attract and retain talent. The other 90 percent of
companies are still using old tools.™™ Here are some of the newer practices
that Sullivan recommends more companies consider:

• Host open houses by invitation, by asking current employees to bring
in friends they believe would be good employees.
• Build a Web site that puts prospects into e-mail contact with current
satis¬ed employees. Put streaming video on the Web site showing
the work environment.
• Make your Web site more interactive, offering applicants the oppor-
tunity to list their ideal job criteria, then showing jobs that most
closely match, and linking them to current openings.
• Train all hiring managers to be more proactive as talent scouts, by
coaching them on where to look for new recruits and how to sell
them on the company and the job.
• Build a contact database of the best talent in your industry and reach
out to build relationships with them through e-newsletters or by
phone so they will think of coming to work with your company
when they are ready to make a job change.
• Make every employee a recruiter by creating or revitalizing em-
ployee referral programs, as this method remains by far the most ef-
fective method of attracting talent that stays.10

The 7 Hidden Reasons Employees Leave

Engagement Practice 12:
Follow a Purposeful and Rigorous Interview Process
Most companies with excellent track records for keeping a high percentage
of the people they hire use a highly focused and systematic interviewing
process and have trained all hiring managers to follow the process reli-


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