Attracting and retaining talent

Attracting and retaining key personnel has become a crucial management issue.
 
Despite the slump in the economy, which has seemingly redressed the balance between employers and employees, there is always competition for high calibre candidates. Most companies aim to hire the best talent, but to secure the services of these employees is no longer a question of money alone. In today’s world employees look beyond the compensation packages and benefits, desiring a positive work environment, where employees are recognised and rewarded for good performance.

What are the company’s needs?
In order to meet their staffing requirements companies should, on an ongoing basis, define their staffing needs and determine the skill sets their employees should have in order to implement the business strategy. In larger companies a gap analysis will highlight the skill sets that are already available and those that need to be developed or acquired.
 
On the basis of this analysis a human resources strategy can be developed to find the right mixture of training, promotion, job changes within the organisation and the hiring of new staff. In addition, the HR strategy will consider the cost of implementing the strategy as well as any trends in the labour market, for example the supply and demand in key positions.
Once the general HR strategy has been developed the recruitment process, targeting specific individuals, can begin.

Advertising or headhunting?
Mass advertising may be appropriate in order to attract candidates to certain positions and roles. However, more targeted efforts are required for skilled workers and executives.
 
“We run advertisements locally and sometimes overseas depending on the nature of the role.   We also contact local and overseas employment agencies for specific job vacancies,” says Christine Grizzel, HR manager at law firm Appleby.
 
The HR department of the Appleby Group has partnered with CV Mail, which is a UK based online central recruitment tool.  All job vacancies globally are managed through this software.  It provides applicants with a broad overview of which jurisdiction within the group might have a particular vacancy they are interested in, she explains.
 
KPMG has dedicated qualified recruitment executives, whose task it is to develop a pipeline for future talent, says KPMG Director of Human Resources Stacey VanDevelde.
 
“Each year this team develops and follows a recruitment strategy with clear goals and objectives, which are aligned to the current business need of our organisation.  Some of the actions this team often undertakes include recruitment ‘road trips’ to specific regions aimed at raising the profile of the Cayman Islands office of KPMG and networking. These road trips will include free recruitment conferences to prospective candidates followed by interviews and socials,” she says.
 
However, more recently due to the challenging economy, there is a need to be far more innovative and creative in the recruitment approach, she says, and the company has begun to leverage the benefits from online social and professional networks.
 
Phil Jackson, president of the Cayman Islands Society of HR Professionals highlights another important tool in the recruitment process. “You have to have various sources of recruitment, you use recruitment agencies, the Internet, the newspaper, but one of the greatest assets you have is your own employees and their ability to spread the word about your business,” he says.
 
KPMG has established such an employee referral programme, whereby employees are offered an incentive for referring to the firm suitably qualified staff that succeeds in the firm, states VanDevelde.

Interviewing and background screening
The first step in recruiting the right employee is to identify the company’s needs in terms of skill-set and personality that the right person for the job should possess. These attributes are then tested in interviews or aptitude tests.
 
“Some of the typical steps in our applicant screening process include a series of up to three interviews, background screening and verification of credentials, health screening, language testing as applicable and in some cases aptitude or psychometric testing,” says VanDevelde. “Above this, identifying a candidate’s fit involves asking the right questions and probing for information, which is relative to the firm’s vision and direction as well as the candidate career objectives.  If both the organisation and the individual are similar in mission, goals and overall vision then the success of retention is usually higher.”
 
“Our interview processes vary with the role,” says Huw Moses, managing partner at Appleby. “If we cannot find someone locally to fill the role, then we often conduct videoconferences with potential lawyers overseas and then bring the potential candidate out to our offices for another round of meetings and this also enables them to have a look around the Island.”  In addition, Appleby uses a testing programme that support staff is subject to, which tests typing speed and aptitude. 
 
Once a candidate has been successfully placed in a suitable role, there is a probationary period in which a review is conducted prior to the end, Moses says.
 
“This determines if the person has passed their probation or if there are issues that may require further training or explaining.  In these cases, whilst we try to assist in helping the employee meet our expectations, we may extend the probationary period.” This appraisal process is continued on an annual basis and if possible, throughout the year.”
 
The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman partnered with consultants who studied the competencies, values and talents of the company’s best employees. Based on this research a methodology has been created “to aid in our selection, mindful of those competencies, values and talents needed to execute our high standards of service,” says Janette Goodman, the Ritz-Carlton director of human resources.  “This selection process is critical to our success.”
 
She adds that every leader must be trained and certified before they are able to interview and select new candidates.
 
“After selection, each new employee attends orientation and begins to learn our Gold Standards beginning with the Motto, Credo and Employee Promise. We continue to train and develop based upon these standards and competencies.”

Retaining talent
For any company to remain successful the main challenge is not only to attract top talent, but retain those already working within the business. The loss of key employees or a high turnover of staff is costly in terms of productivity, the time needed to train and develop staff, the overall atmosphere within the company and ultimately affects profit.
 
The overall retention of staff is only possible when a high level of job satisfaction can be created, both with regard to the actual work itself and concerning the general work environment. In terms of job satisfaction compensation is only a secondary factor and prerequisite that tends to be outweighed by criteria such as opportunities for development, recognition, communication between management and staff and corporate culture.
 
In this respect the factors that are important to attract talented staff are also the ones that are important to retain them.
 
CISHRP head Jackson conceptualises what companies should strive for in their HR efforts in three stages: satisfaction, commitment and engagement.
 
“What you want to achieve is a willingness to go the extra mile. You start with employee satisfaction, for example through fairness when it comes to pay and benefits. The next level is commitment where employees value the goals of the team and the organisation,” he explains.
 
“The final level of employee engagement where employees move from being satisfied, to being committed to being engaged, where employees go above and beyond what is really required, they speak very positively about the organisation and they actually become your biggest recruitment tool. They say this is a good place to work.”
 
What can you offer?
In order to achieve employee engagement on a wider scale, many things have to be done right and compensation is just the starting point. Businesses that want to be attractive to prospective employees need to offer more than just a good salary. Compensation includes in addition to salary, health and pension benefits as well as holiday. For highly skilled jobs businesses may have to offer other perks such as bonuses, cars or housing. Businesses want the right talent, but they also cannot afford to overpay as salaries are the highest cost factor in most service industry companies.
 
This means that companies must find out what the going rate is and at least match it.
 
“We continuously conduct research about our competitors both locally and in other jurisdictions regarding benchmarks for market rates for all positions and review the compensation packages that we offer,” says Moses.  
 
“In order to attract the best candidates it is important to remain competitive on island and in our other offices.  We typically perform salary surveys for the majority of our positions and try to keep abreast of what other firms are offering in terms of benefits and training,” he adds.
 
KPMG also maintains a comprehensive compensation plan with defined salary bands that is monitored against the marketplace through compensation surveys, consumer price indexes and an open dialogue with competitors, says VanDevelde.
 
Like the other companies the Ritz-Carlton monitors the markets to understand the compensation packages offered.
 
“We look at the entire compensation package beginning with wages, benefits (medical, dental and vision) but also look at the number of holidays, pension and other softer benefits such as tuition reimbursement, employee dining, etc,” says Goodman.

Soft benefits
Soft benefits are increasingly important to prospective and existing employees irrespective of whether it concerns the right work-life balance, a pleasant work environment or opportunities for professional development.
 
“Often other businesses cannot compete with the ability to travel and stay at employee rate in Ritz-Carlton hotels,” argues Goodman. “We offer uniforms, which we clean and maintain, complimentary lunch in our employee dining room, along with discounts in retail and our restaurants, in every Ritz-Carlton Hotel.”
 
In addition to vacation, pension and health benefits Appleby prides itself with the training it affords to staff, states Moses. “We have many staff members working towards degrees and qualifications that we are assisting financially,” he says.
 
VanDevelde also emphasises the soft benefits of training and professional development at KPMG in Cayman. “Given the financial services sector in which we operate most of our staff are afforded career enhancing opportunities they would not necessarily have access or exposure to in another jurisdiction,” she says. “This is supported through our learning and development framework and relevant learning opportunities and knowledge sharing mechanisms.”
 
The focus on staff development keeps employees motivated and committed. In addition the mentoring and training programmes should extend to giving key employees a perspective for their career development.
 
It is recognised that good people will stay with an organisation if there is a plan for them, says VanDevelde. “It is therefore important to establish career development plans for your top talent.” 
 
She adds that KPMG also has an active firm funded Social Committee, which allows staff to celebrate successes through a number of firm-wide social events in addition to various sponsored sports events and teams.
 
Wellness and quality of life are also important aspects and KPMG provides employees and their family members with access to a wellness centre. The company also provides in-house wellness checks, including blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol checks. The firm supports a Corporate Social Responsibility programme with an environmental focus that gives employees paid time off each month to commit toward a volunteer programme.

How to foster a positive work environment and corporate culture?
The right atmosphere within a company will first and foremost depend on hiring the right people, but it does not stop there. For instance, nobody wants to work in an overly bureaucratic or anonymous organisation. Removing barriers and having clear and established open communication channels throughout a company is therefore important. People want to feel valued and recognised and this recognition must come from colleagues and management. Businesses should encourage knowledge sharing and reward creativity. Team building around common interests and objectives also supports a corporate culture that employees value.
 
“Retention is critical and has changed over the decades,” says Goodman. “The life-long single-employer philosophy has been replaced by a highly motivated generation who are looking for changing experiences, growth and relationships.  Our industry offers this and more.  No two days are alike.”
 
Law firm Appleby aims to retain talent by making the Cayman office a place that people enjoy coming to every day, says Moses. Establishing an appealing corporate culture is central to retaining employees. “The Cayman office has recently re-obtained the Investor in People standard,” says Grizzel. “Both Appleby and Appleby Trust (Cayman) Ltd have just gone through an assessment to keep the IiP standard.  We have created a culture reflecting what the standard dictates; it is our people who are our greatest asset and that providing them with the right training, mentoring and open communication creates the foundation of what we are trying to achieve,” she adds.
 
VanDevelde highlights in this context KPMG’s ‘People First’ programme, designed to ensure the retention of exceptionally performing people in the region.  “In support of this we demand a high performance culture, ongoing commitment to recognition and reward measures; [we] actively engage in and act on employer of choice initiatives and maintain of our active community programme,” she says.

Communication is key
Communication in general is very important to modern employees who want to know how their own work fits into the overall organisation. They want to be updated on plans and new developments and appreciate regular meetings that provide the opportunity to address their questions and concerns. Organisations that genuinely ask for feedback – and where necessary act on it – are likely to create higher commitment and engagement from staff.
 
Finally, personal recognition and reminding employees of the role and the value they have within organisation is a major motivator.
 
Jackson identifies communication as a key element for employee retention. Management needs to act as they say and have to be perceived as fair, he says. This includes recognition and rewards. “People want to hear and receive feed-back that they are doing a good job,” he says.
 
Being open and honest about your organisation and the requirements or reality of the role starts during the interviewing process and can also aid in retention, says VanDevelde.
 
Keeping the lines of communication open between all levels of staff is important for the retention of employees, agrees Moses.  “We pride ourselves on an open door policy and our training programme which empowers staff to obtain their goals,” adds Grizzel.
 
VanDevelde also emphasises the importance of open communication: “From a communication standpoint we are also very fortunate to have very strong and accessible leadership on local levels who operate on a first name open door basis and who are genuinely committed to the well being of our people.” 
 
The main tool for communicating and learning about individual expectations is the performance review process. The periodic feedback gives employees a better notion of how they are performing and the types of training and development measures they can and should pursue.
 
Generally employees are satisfied and motivated by achieving what is expected from them. In some businesses daily meetings therefore help to define expectations and establish clear objectives and working processes.  
 
“Our services values, credo and motto are discussed every day in our line-ups,” states Goodman. “In every hotel, in every department and every shift we review a commitment to quality, which focuses us all on the values of our culture.  A deep understanding of our service values defines our expectations which helps keep our employees engaged in their work and empowered, a sense of ownership,” she adds. “Strong leadership and a daily focus on these values keep our culture alive.”