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How to Recruit, Hire, Motivate, Retain, and Reward Your Talent


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By Joe Tagliente

The three most important drivers that will make a business successful or unsuccessful are growth of revenue, control of costs, and management of talent. But if you manage the talent really well, your revenue and costs will fall into place almost automatically. The great people that you hire, train, develop, and retain will make sure that those aspects of your business are taken care of.

At Credibly, we believe that building a strong business means attracting talented and committed people, and keeping them happy. That should always be a staple of your company culture. So how do you create that environment in your own organization?

How to Recruit and Hire the Best Talent

What I’ve found to be the most useful strategy is developing and nurturing talent from within. In my own company, we had some people who started working for us when they were teenagers in high school, and then we trained and developed them to become a part of our management team, and even part of our area supervisory team. Those people end up being the very best employees that you can possibly have, particularly if you’re in a multi-unit franchise organization.

If you need to attract talent from the outside, I’ve always had the best luck with referrals or word of mouth, particularly from people within my organization: “Joe, you need to meet this friend of mine, he works for this other company over here, but he’s fantastic. I worked with him before, and you’d be very happy with him. Would you at least take an interview with him?”

Restaurant franchises and hotels are time-oriented businesses, and speed of service is critical. If you’re staffing up a business like that, you want to find people who have experience working in that kind of high-intensity, high-pressure, high-volume environment. It’s important to know if they have the energy for it, and the ability to manage and adapt on the fly.

The hourly employees in a restaurant or hotel are incredibly valuable members of the staff, but the critical element for an operation — particularly a multi-unit operation — is the General Manager, who’s the brain of an individual location. Everything stems off their back, and their personality. The assistant managers respond according to their leadership, and the rest of the staff responds as well. So finding the right individuals for those positions, wrapping your arms around them, and then training them, developing them, keeping them, and compensating them, is absolutely essential.

One more thing: If you have a choice between hiring someone who’s a natural at the position but they’re not terribly fond of the business, or someone who isn’t a natural and has a lot to learn but they love the business, go with the latter. Even if a person has a ton of talent, their performance will never be exceptional if they don’t like the business, because they’ll be unhappy. On the other hand, an employee who loves the business will always want to learn and improve their skills.

How to Motivate, Retain, and Reward Your Talent

Once you’ve found the right talent, the next thing you have to do is compensate them at a level that’s fair, appropriate, and market-competitive. If you’re paying a manager $1,000-$1,200 a week, but all of your competitors are paying $1,400 or $1,500, you’re going to lose that person. The compensation you offer has to be not just on par with the market, but even better than the market.

In this day and age of affordable health care, you have to make sure that the benefits you’re offering on top of the money are really competitive as well. Offering health care can be very expensive and challenging to employers, but I know from my own experience that the folks in your company really appreciate it when they see that you’re making an extraordinary investment in them — not just as employees, but as human beings.

In my company, we always offered ongoing education. I’d send some of my staff to places like Babson College in Wellesley, Massachusetts, where they’d get executive training, or to the Hotel School at Cornell for executive training in their summer program, or to local places like Northeastern University around Boston, where they’d get additional training in management, marketing, and other skill-sets. The people that work for you get charged up because they’re learning all these additional skills that will help them professionally.

Great companies also elicit “buy in” from their employees by making them part and parcel of the big picture of the company. They ask members of the staff to participate in important things like long and short-term planning, research and development for new products and services, corporate policy and so on. They’ll also reward their employees monetarily and with recognition for the work that they have done, but in the end, the thing that really motivates the best talent is the sense of being in control of your destiny and having influence on the company as a whole.

Three Companies That Motivate and Reward Their Employees the Right Way

There are some organizations out there that keep their employees very happy, and it’s reflected in the performance of the businesses — not just from a sales and profitability standpoint, but from the customer experience standpoint as well. In particular, there are three franchises I advise everybody to take a look at, study, and try to model themselves after. If you can copy what these guys are doing, you’re going to do really, really well, because they have it down.

Starbucks: The beloved coffee chain offers ongoing compensation for education, health benefits, and a culture of promoting people from within, among many other incentives for their employees.

Outback Steakhouse: They’re one of the first companies to come up with a general manager proprietor program. Let’s say you’re working at Outback, and you wanted to be the General Manager of one of their restaurants. They’d say, “Congratulations, you’re going to be a GM — and you need pay us $25,000.” For that $25,000 investment, you’d have a five-year contract to be the General Manager of that restaurant, but you’d also receive 5% of its net operating profits.

The average Outback Steakhouse GM might be making a base salary of $65,000 or $70,000 a year, but when you throw in the bonus that they get for being a proprietor to the restaurant, they end up making $140,000 or more in annual compensation, and they’re very happy with it.

In-N-Out Burger: As much of a cult following as they have with their customers, they draw the same amount of passion from their employees. In-N-Out is very open about how they universally develop talent from within. They don’t hire any outside management people; all the people who run their stores have started at the very bottom and worked their way up. They have a system of payment and promotions that’s very open, very honest, and very straightforward, with clearly defined levels of compensation and responsibilities. At level one, you’re an entry-level employee making $10 or $11 an hour and this is what you’re supposed to be doing, then when you move to level two, you’re making this much an hour and this is what you’re supposed to be doing — all the way up the ladder until you become a manager of one of their restaurants, and you get compensated at a very high level. There’s no backroom dealing on compensation, and it creates a very positive culture.

How To Attract Top Talent?

For any small business, smart and engaged employees are the most important investment, but these employees can be hard to find — and the war for talent is fierce. So how should a small business that isn’t widely known attract and hire a top-notch workforce?

Here are six tips to help you reach the right talent and convince them to join your team:

1. Give Your Company Extraordinary Appeal With a Branded Careers Site

To attract the best talent on the market, you need to put your best foot forward. The easiest way to make your brand more attractive to potential talent is by designing a branded careers site within your company’s website.

Having a mobile-responsive careers site with high-quality original photos of your employees, engaging videos that project a great company culture and interactive job descriptions that offer work-life balance will leave a lasting impression on your prospective candidates and compel them to consider you over your larger competitors.

2. Speed Up the Selection Process with Automation

Recruiting software offers all the resume evaluation and management help you need — from uploading resumes in a snap and converting every format into a standard profile for faster scanning, to filtering relevant candidates using specific keywords and short-listing the ones that best suit your business requirements.

3. Offer a Flexible Opportunity and Attractive Rewards

Small businesses offering an enjoyable work culture along with a challenging and fulfilling job role have a competitive advantage.

Small businesses stand out when they can offer performance perks, flexible work schedules, and free meals. An ambitious candidate who seeks autonomy, flexibility, and growth will definitely see the value in your offering and consider your company.

4. Use Social Media for Small Business Hiring

When you have to fill an open position, don’t just list your job requirements and post it to different social platforms. To differentiate your brand from your competitors and leave your best impression on potential talent, use social media channels and employer review sites to identify the pain points and recurring complaints of job seekers.

5. Offer a Meaningful Career Ladder

Everyone wants a job that offers scope for growth, so if you want a high-performing workforce make your offer attractive by including skills training and educational programs. Know the aspirations of your potential employees, tailor your courses accordingly, and be sure to show your potential talent the value of these courses in terms of career growth.

6. Leverage the Benefits of Being a Small Business

Unlike a big company where every employee is just a small standardized part of a big monolithic organization, in a startup, every employee gets the opportunity to wear quite a few hats, rotate jobs, and play multiple roles.

Every small business owner needs to convey the advantage of learning multiple new skills in a fast growing business, versus being siloed into a specific business area in a big firm where your skills remain limited to a certain job. Top candidates seek a challenging job where there is autonomy, freedom to innovate and the scope to grow.

Final Thoughts
Finding and keeping the right talent is half science and half art, but it’s really about forming relationships. The best companies have a genuine appreciation for their talent, and a genuine understanding of the importance of their talent to the business’s operation and growth.

Every single CEO that you talk to will say, “This company runs on our people. Our people are our most important asset, our most important resource.” But the fact of the matter is, the best companies don’t just say it — they reflect it in their actions, their culture, and their company policies, in order to keep their talent motivated, happy, and prepared.

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