A NorthCoast 99 Fairytale

Chapter 1: The Great Quest Begins (a.k.a. Attracting Top Talent)

Once upon a time…in a faraway land (Northeast Ohio)…long, long ago (2015)…there lived 99 NorthCoast award winning employers. Applicants would flock from far and wide in search of a job with one of these NorthCoast 99 winners and their HR Departments were always on the look-out to add top performing employees to their teams. As they set out on their quest to attract and retain the best and the brightest to their organizations, these NorthCoast 99 winners knew that their efforts would be in vain without the help of their trusty best practices in recruitment and hiring.

So what do we know about how the 2015 NorthCoast 99 winners embark on this great quest of attracting top talent?

  • They are organized. 79% use applicant tracking software to track and/or measure their recruiting efforts. 90% provide interview training for those employees that interview and interact with job candidates.
  • They are thorough. Winners use an average of 17 different sources to target and recruit top performers; non-winners use an average of 11 such sources.
  • They know what they want. 70% have create a “success profile” against which job candidates are measured for fit with their organizations.
  • They go the extra mile – literally. 77% pay for relocation expenses and 66% provide other types of relocation assistance (i.e., a realtor or agency to help the employee or his or her family find a home or community).

These efforts set the tone and pay off immediately for both for the organization and the employees that they decide to hire. As one respondent to the New Hire Survey at a winning organization explained:

“…They really wanted to make sure that the position would not only be a good fit for me but that I would be a good fit for the company…I liked that they asked me from the start what my salary expectations were and stated that we were on the same page…On my final step in the interview process I met with the President so that he could explain the [workplace] philosophy of [Company]. I was very impressed to find out that the President in fact meets each and every employee before they are hired on! I appreciated that the company was very open with communication during the hiring process and always kept me up to date on my status and what the next steps would be.”

Chapter 2:  What Employees Want (a.k.a. Workplace Attributes)

Of course every classic tale needs a protagonist, one that the reader can really root for and get behind as they encounter struggles along their journey. In our story of attraction and retention, we would like to introduce our protagonist, the top performer. But we couldn’t pick just one top performer to tell you about. So, we summarized what all 8,729 top performers wanted from their dream company. Finding employment at a great workplace may not be as romantic as being swept off your feet by Prince Charming or kissing a frog, but it’s a close second.

The most common workplace attributes to receive a #1 ranking from top performing employees, along with noteworthy differences between demographic groups and some specific examples are listed below. Please note: these percentages include all 8,729 top performer surveys collected and are therefore reflective of the preferences of top-performing employees from both winners and non-winners.

#1 Challenging & meaningful work (18.5%) Participants with a graduate/professional degree (28.8%) found challenging & meaningful work most important, followed by those who obtained a bachelor’s degree (21.5%).

  • Example: “I feel that what I do here is important. I have had the opportunity to be involved in the development of new applications, provide end user training and customer support and process improvement. I always feel challenged and motivated to push myself and have always been supported by leadership to do more and learn more.”

#2 Compensation (16.7%) Milleninials and Gen-Xers found a competitive wage or salary to be the most important job characteristic, 18.9% and 18.8% respectively.

  • Example: “The [Company] has been very fair to me in the ways that it has awarded me for my accomplishments whether it's been increased exposure to different projects or through compensation.”

#3 Job Security (11.0%) Individuals in the Construction & Maintenance businesses (22.5%) placed job security at the top of their list in terms of required job characteristics.

  • Example: “The [Company] is a stable and reliable organization where I know I will continue to have a job and good benefits as long as I do my job well. There is a strong sense of job security.”

#4 Work/Life Benefits (10.6%) Work/life benefits, such as flexible schedules and paid time off, were more important to females (12.6% versus 9.4% of males).

  • Example: “The overall flexibility offered working at [Company] is hard to match. Associates have the opportunity to work from home if their position meets the requirements. Managers in general do not play 'big brother' with their direct reports and are more concerned with the quality of the work being done than the hours it took to do it.”

Chapter 3:  The Making of a Top Performer (a.k.a. Career Development)

Now this might sound like a fairy tale, but top performers and great workplaces don’t just magically appear. Developing top talent requires a treasure chest of sorts - one full of time, resources, sustained employee engagement, and lots of hard work from both sides along the way. To find out what Northcoast 99 winners are doing to cultivate top talent and keep top performing employees engaged, let’s take a look at their efforts in the area of “Career Advancement & Development”.

  • Identify the high-potential employees. It may sound obvious, but simply identifying who these individuals are is critical. Methods of identification such as manager feedback, performance reviews, and one-on-one meetings with employees are all used by more than 90% of 2015 Northcoast 99 winners. Once these individuals have been identified, employers can better focus their efforts at retaining these employees.
  • Making opportunities known. 98% of 2015 Northcoast 99 winners met with their top performing non-management employees in 2014 to discuss career advancement opportunities. Keeping employees in the loop about possible career advancement internally keeps employees interested in the bigger picture, engaged in their current job duties, and driven to do their best.
  • Investing in the right training. 78% of winners conduct formal training needs assessments to determine what topics should be pursued and by whom. The next step is then to get them through the training. The median number of topics across which winners delivered, paid for, or reimbursed employees who participated in professional development training was 13. In contrast, non-winners offered a median of 6 topics.

Winners Report Statistics

Chapter 4: The Perfect Match (a.k.a. Top Performer Retention)

The talented employees have been recruited, the employees told us what they want in an employer, and the employers have developed their high-potential employees into top-performers that are looking to pursue the next step in their career paths. As this phase of the journey comes to an end, only one question remains. Clearly the employer wants to have these employees take the next step at their organization, but will they - will they retain these employees? The answer, it appears, was here all the time and goes directly back to what the employees wanted when they arrived on day one. But this time, we look at the employer’s side of the equation as well to make sure we’ve really found the perfect match.

  • Providing challenging & meaningful work. Top performers are provided numerous opportunities to work in a variety of jobs and roles with each of the following being provided at over 90% of winning organizations: encourage internal cross-functional committees, mentoring – either formal or informal, cross-training, developmental or stretch assignments.
  • Competitive, transparent compensation. A “Total Compensation Statement” is provided by 62% of NC99 winners to their employees. The statement outlines the different types of compensation and benefits an employee receives, including salary, bonuses, profit sharing, equity compensation, health benefits, and transportation benefits, etc., and also often applies a monetary value to non-cash items.
  • A strong sense of job security. Slightly less concrete than the other job attributes, a sense of job security can be instilled in employees at the individual level using performance reviews – 98% have a formal, written review process and form. Organizationally, security and stability can be communicated using financial statements, a practice that ranges from 96% providing monthly financial statements to executives down to 24% that provide monthly financial statements to their non-exempt individual contributors. 
  • Offering work/life benefits. Balance. Flexibility. Family oriented. All of these words point to the need for a healthy combination or work life and personal life. At 84% of NC99 winning organizations, this is supported by an “unlimited” paid time off policy that allows certain groups of employees to take as much time as they need to strike this balance.

Understanding what job characteristics top performers value most can help employers not only recruit these individuals at the outset, but also respond effectively to the wants and needs of their most valued employees throughout their tenure with their organization. Ultimately, it is this responsiveness that helps drive up both employee engagement and employee retention.

And they lived happily ever after (with very low voluntary turnover rates).

The end.