3 Things More Valuable Than Pay

Reliable and skilled workers are at a premium this winter. Follow this trio of strategies to win the recruiting-and-retention talent war.

The unequivocal greatest challenge facing business leaders today is being able to recruit and retain enough of the right people. Managers and business leaders too often make the mistake of thinking the solution is found in the money. Today, I want to give you three things that are more valuable than pay when it comes to recruiting & retaining talent. Let’s explore.

Alright, three things more important than money when it comes to recruiting and retaining talent. First, let me get one thing out of the way, because I don’t want anyone’s head to explode. If you hear me out, I believe you’ll find that allowing one’s own cranium to actually blast apart would be a gross overreaction to what I’m saying here, and totally unnecessary. So, take a deep breath with me… I’m not telling you compensation doesn’t matter! I agree with you that it’s important. It’s very important. But it’s not the most important factor to establishing a successful and sustainable recruiting and retention program.

You need to pay good wages; compensate your people well; get the matter of money off the table. I talk about this in my book, Complain or Compete: Creating an Unfair Advantage in a Tough Labor Market. In an overwhelming majority of situations, businesses are not short-staffed because of pay rates. And they’re not experiencing high turnover because of pay rates. It can become easy for business leaders and managers to assume, think, or blame their not being able to hire enough people, and losing people, to some company somewhere that’s paying more money. This thinking can make leaders feel better about the situation, as if it’s somewhat or entirely out of their control, but it’s a limiting belief that gets in the way of strategy and solution thinking.

I always say recruiting is a sales-like function, not a management function. Similarly, employee retention should be treated more like a customer service (or customer experience)-like function and not a management one. How about we call it… employee service (or employee experience). Here’s three things more valuable than pay.

1. Feeling significant
Human beings have a need to feel significant. We want to feel like the things we do matter. We want to feel important. We want to make a difference, and not just in some feel-good philosophical way, but in actuality. People will gravitate towards jobs where they believe that what they do all day actually impacts the business, that they actually make a difference, and that their individual contributions are sufficiently significant. People will find significance, one way or another.

Business leaders must be able to get their people to see and believe their individual significance in the company. And then when recruiting, leaders must sell the significance these jobs actually have. Significance matters. If you want to recruit and retain great people, help them realize how much of a difference each and every person actually makes. Every single person who joins an organization, and every single person who leaves an organization, changes the culture of the company to some degree. Everyone is that important, and it’s the leaders of an organization’s job to help their people recognize that. And the bonus is, people who believe that they are significant, make significant contributions to the team.

2. Real advancement opportunities
I’ve had the pleasure of recruiting a lot of great people over the years. It’s true that a leader has no higher-impact-responsibility than recruiting. When I ask these people why they want to make a career change, I hear the same answer almost every single time. They feel like they’re stuck. They feel like they’re without the opportunity for real growth and advancement. They like what they’re doing. In most cases, they even like, respect, and otherwise enjoy their current place of employment. They are only actively looking or open to being recruited away because they want a greater opportunity for advancement. They want a real opportunity for advancement, not a theoretical, “they sky is the limit” type of sales pitch that never seems to happen.

This is one of the reasons growth is so important. With growth comes tremendous opportunity for an organization’s team members. You have to show your employees and job seekers alike that your company is growing and is creating real advancement opportunities for its people. Employees need to see other employees getting developed and promoted, or your claims will become little more than marketing propaganda really quickly. You need to have real success stories to share. Ambitious team members don’t want to wait for someone to get hit by a bus, get fired, or retire. Exciting growth creates opportunities for high performers, not totally dependent upon the tenure of those around them. You have to be able to sell it, and you have to be able to prove it. Job seekers and your existing team want to grow, advance, and achieve more.

3. A brand people want to be associated with
Reputation matters. Employees know they are associated with whom they work. Employees want to be part of a brand they can be proud to be associated. If your employees view your brand as irrelevant or having a negative reputation, you end up with unengaged employees, the “it’s just a job” mentality, and ultimately high turnover. Job seekers either already know your company’s reputation or will very quickly once their research begins. Not having much of a reputation is challenging. A bad reputation is worse. Your reputation in the community or world where you sell your product or service matters just as much as your reputation as an employer. A company’s reputation as an employer and their reputation as a service provider are rarely different.

Get serious about reputation management. Play an active role in your online reputation, your brand’s appearance, and how people perceive your brand. Creating a reputation that the leaders and employees can be proud of is paramount to being a highly desirable employer of choice. Don’t lose sight that reputation is a perception of how the leadership and the organization is seen. How a business leader sees their company doesn’t matter in terms of reputation. As a leader, it’s not what you see, it’s how you’re seen.

So, there you go, three things more important than pay for business leaders to focus on when trying to win the recruiting and retention talent war. Why should you care? Because there is no greater challenge facing business leaders today, than being able to recruit and retain enough of the right people. As a leader, there is nothing more important or higher impact than recruiting the absolute best people, putting them in the right seat on the bus, developing them, providing real advancement opportunities, and finally, making them excited to stay.

Employees need to feel significant, they want real advancement opportunities, and they want to be part of a brand they can be proud to be associated with. They value these three things even more than pay.

A regular Snow Magazine contributor, Mike Voories is the Chief Operating Officer at Brilar, a Detroit headquartered landscape maintenance and snow and ice management firm with locations across the Midwest and Great Lakes, servicing clients across the country. Mike is also an author, coach, and consultant to the service industries. Contact him at mvoories@brilar.net.
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