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A Recruiter's Dirty Secret: How I Steal Your Best Employee and What You Can Do to Stop Me

Updated: May 25, 2023

There is one magical phrase that I love to hear when interviewing passive candidates (aka people who did not submit a resume but fit my client's talent profile):

I really love working here, but there's just no place to go. I just don’t see the next step for me in this organization.

Passive candidates are gold — and here's why.

Sure, mediocre employees are sometimes already job-seeking due to pay or poor management (with some notable exceptions).

But often the amazing employees are ripe for picking and leaving because — gasp — they want to take on a bigger role in your organization!

So, how do you build an employee development plan that is so crafty that when I call, they say:

No Thank You. I love working here and am excited to grow with this company!?

It’s as easy as 1-2-3.

Here are the questions that every engaged employee in your organization should be able to answer to keep them firmly planted:

1. Where do I stand?

Like any relationship, we like to know where we stand!

The brutal truth: I see many employers giving 'ad-hoc' feedback and wimpy performance reviews. An employee should understand the path they're on and the future they have with the company.

One of my favorite tools for employers is the 9-box grid which rates employees on interest, performance, and POTENTIAL. This gives managers 9 'boxes' to put employees in from 'high potential' (we are ready to promote you) to 'pro in place' (we highly value you and you are excelling in your current role) to 'low potential' (it's not going too great here – go ahead and take Colleen’s call).

I recommend that employers do this at least annually. This adds the structure to allow managers to spot top talent for future promotion. But it doesn't need to be quite that complicated.

But even if you don't get to this, simply having regular discussions about employee potential and progress is what motivates them to continue the grind!

2. How do I get there?

Once you have agreed on the potential future for the employee, what's next? What is the Gap?

You can literally get out their current job description of where they are and compare it to the future desired role. What will the employee need to do in order to obtain this role?

Consider things like education, experience, and polishing up leadership skills. Also, discuss what factors are ambiguous or out of the control of the employee. Are we waiting for Mary to retire before the position will become available?

This isn't a promise or contract, it's merely a written road map on where a career at your company could potentially take them.

3. Where do I fit in?

Employees hear the annual stats, figures, and goals but do they know how they contribute to the bottom line? Employees should be able to directly trace their performance to the overall success of the business.

Everyone in your company should be working to achieve one area of critical importance. Achieving big hairy goals fosters engagement and commitment. Another part of 'fitting-in' is the embodiment of the company culture. Help the employees recognize what attributes made them hired in the first place and how they belong to your tribe more than anyone else's.

When these three things align, you have an employee who knows where she stands and where she is headed! This helps keep them engaged and prevents them from taking my calls. Otherwise - Mmmwwwaaaahahahaha!

Want to know how your culture stands-out from the crowd? Shoot me an email, I would love to discuss your unique HR related needs.

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