News From Terre Haute, Indiana

June 16, 2013

Business Cents: Interview process key to attracting and retaining skilled, talented workers

Heather Strohm
Special to the Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — As our economy continues to grow, there are challenges with identifying a skilled and talented workforce in the Wabash Valley. With employers having to be more selective in the candidates they attract and hire, it is imperative that interviews are conducted correctly so that turnover and expenses are reduced for the company.

The average cost to recruit, attract, and select an employee can range from $1,500 to $5,000 depending on the position and skill level needed. With each employee that does not work out for the company, the company must begin the process anew and invest another $1,500 or more into identifying another employee. You can see how easily this will add up expenses for a business.

What can be done to help with the selection and retention process? The answer begins in the interview portion of the human resources process.

Be careful of making snap judgments during the interview. Managers are often guilty, as we all are, of making hasty judgments on a candidate’s abilities and skills. We tend to make judgments much quicker about people than we do about things. Be sure you take your time and think things through prior to making a decision. Weigh the pros/cons and consider the impact the candidate can have on your company.

Another thing that managers can do in the interview process is have a plan and structure. Try to prevent the candidate from just “telling their story.” As a first step in the interview, plan questions around the skill set and responsibilities of the position. This will aid you in determining if the candidate can handle the position and ensure success for the company.

Interviews take time to plan and prepare for, not just for the candidate, but managers should also take time to prepare as well.

Managers should have a list of questions to reflect the core job description and how well the person matches the criteria. In addition, keep in mind that experience in a position is not everything but skills and the ability to accept new challenges is also important.

If a candidate has a transferable skill set, drive and motivation, then they will most likely perform well in the position.

Once you attract your staff, how can you retain them? There are four steps to take to create a positive and enriching work environment.

1. Provide a positive work environment: Managers should understand their employees and provide opportunities for engagement within the company.

2. Recognize behavior: Good behavior should be recognized, reinforced and rewarded. The right behavior can be rewarded in a variety of ways. Sometimes it’s not all about the money. A $300 bonus might be appreciated, but the employee will not remember it as much as if you let the employee have your parking spot for a week or have lunch catered in for a week.

Being creative with rewards has a lasting impression on employees. I know of a company that when the team meets their goals, the owner takes them to a baseball game or out for a nice dinner and they can invite their spouse.

This often means more since it shows you care and want to spend time with the employee.

3. Develop skills: No one wants to be stagnant at work and feel unfulfilled and not challenged. Provide employees opportunities to grow their knowledge and skill base as well as to have a level of empowerment and be involved in some of the decision-making process, even if at a small level.

4. Evaluate and measure.

n Provide employees a chance to give feedback about their level of satisfaction with the company. Be sure to do something with it though; if you just get their feedback and don’t act on it in some capacity they will feel like what they say and do don’t matter to the manager/owner.

n Do entering and exiting interviews. Why do they come to your company and why are they leaving?

n As generations in the workplace change and Baby Boomers retire, it is important for employers to provide a healthy balance between working parents and flexible arrangements. This will ultimately increase productivity. Provide flexible work arrangements for working parents and older workers.

n Ensure managers take responsibility for their departments and retention within it.

n How much does turnover cost the company?

n Do you have an employee orientation program? If not, it is important that employees understand their role with the company and what is expected of them and what they can expect from the company.

Implementing some of these steps will help you identify qualified candidates as well as retain them when they are selected. By no means does this eliminate the workforce gap we experience locally, but it does provide you some tools to navigate through it.

Heather (Penney) Strohm is the regional director for Indiana State University’s Indiana Small Business Development Center.