Why Creativity is the Key to Your HR Team's Recruiting and Retention Strategy

HR professional thinking while standing in office about creative recruiting and retention solutions

What does it take to stand out amongst other businesses in the recruiting and retention race? I can already hear your sighs through the computer screen and can understand why you’re probably sick of hearing about this topic. But the thing is like my colleague Julie Develin mentioned in her article last week, whenever we’re out on the road and ask “how many of you are hiring?” every – and I mean every – hand goes up.

It’s interesting because the response to my follow up question of “how many of you are struggling with retention?” seems to be more mixed. Some companies are doing really well with retention, but many are facing challenges. In fact, just last night I was talking with a business that has people that just up and leave with no notice or discussion as to why. This leads me to the reason I’m writing this blog. As the return to the workplace continues to accelerate, we’re learning more and more about what it takes to stand out in the recruiting and retention race, and the answer is really one word – creativity.

Let's check out some focus areas where we can start injecting that creative spark into our HR processes:


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Culture matters

It’s no longer about waiting for people to walk through your doors. That ship has sailed. I genuinely believe that all those times prior to the pandemic when HR told business leaders “we need a culture strategy” and weren’t listened to are now coming back to bite those organizations.

The bottom line is that to stand out, no matter your company’s size, culture matters. Merriam Webster defines culture as “the arts and other manifestations of human intellectual achievement regarded collectively.” The critical element of this definition is that regarded collectively part. That means to get it right we have to take a step back and listen to employees' wants, needs, and desires for the workplace.

Start building a strong culture by finding the commonalities your employees have and base your strategy around this. This includes your people’s perspectives on inclusiveness and belonging. To get to answers here, make sure to reach out to employees directly through multiple channels like surveys, focus groups, and manager meetings and have a clear way of measuring and evaluating the responses you get. The right HR systems are smart enough to help in a big way here, and can assess the emotions and sentiment behind what your people say about your culture so you can be sure you get to all the facts you need.

So why is this process important? Well, it turns out that when employees are included in decision making, they feel heard and are more likely to be motivated to contribute. According to the Workforce Institute at UKG, “The vast majority (86 percent) of employees feel people at their organization are not heard fairly or equally.” That’s a huge problem. Culture can only be built from listening and trust, so you have to get a firm foundation in place here if you want to keep who you have and hire who you want.

Growth is a priority

A lot of professionals I work with forget that just 18 short months ago in the US, we went from our lowest unemployment rate to our highest in a matter of just days. That kind of shift has a profound impact on the people affected by it. If you’ve never been laid off or let go from a position, the feeling of insecurity that comes from it is incredibly harmful. And more people than ever before have experienced that hit to their confidence over the past year and a half. So how can HR teams help conquer that obstacle and ensure people know your organization has bigger plans for them?

Beyond building trust through getting genuine feedback and acting on it like we just discussed, HR leadership must go above and beyond in helping applicants, new hires, and veteran employees alike see that they don’t just have a job at your organization, they have a career. As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, how many organizations focus on hiring an individual for their 2nd or 3rd job within that organization? Having that clear of a vision for advancement will be a huge differentiator for you in times like these when the market is competitive.

However, it’s not just about promotion or career pathing – it’s also about strengthening soft and hard skills. It’s about training and development. You need to provide individuals with opportunities to learn about multiple areas of the business, not just the initial path you have planned around their position. Communicate this flexibility everywhere from the job requisition to the interview to any of the key points in the lifecycle of your employees’ careers. And don’t just communicate it – follow through with HR technology that gives your people anytime, anywhere access to learning resources, options for experiencing other roles, and paths for building new skills.

Flexibility and intrapreneurship create stand-out work environments

We’ve witnessed what true flexibility really looks like as we’ve seen the vast majority of businesses go remote or move to alternative models of in-person work. This has led to employees managing their home life, becoming teachers, dealing with mental health struggles, and experiencing isolation all while working. Now with return to office protocols being enforced in many organizations, people are hesitant because of the flexibility remote work provided. This is one of the many contributing factors to the Great Resignation that we’ve spoken about several times in recent articles.

For your organization, my suggestion is to provide employees flexible, self-service scheduling options paired with a hybrid work model to allow employees to feel that they have some control. In fact, in some industries like manufacturing, the number one reason employees cite for why they stay with companies is their schedule. Focusing on that has even helped some organizations in this sector to avoid the same levels of turnover many others are seeing. 

This leads me to my next point around something called intrapreneurship. As companies are rethinking their hiring strategies, places like Google, Hilton, Apple, and others have also removed degree requirements. And due to the massive amount of layoffs, we’ve watched the gig economy thrive and seen people tap into their entrepreneurial side to survive. Unexpected change has shown us that we need to rethink who is qualified to work in what capacities at our organizations and change how we think about job requirements.

Why not inspire and incentivize employees to find ways to support the business with all the new ideas they’re having by providing a sandbox fund or innovation time that lets them try out new approaches to processes you’ve been struggling with? Why not consider someone without a college degree who has a clear passion for their area of expertise and if needed help them find educational opportunities? Why not automatically take into account people’s personal needs and preferences when scheduling shifts? All of these are ways you demonstrate the flexibility and adaptability the modern workforce is demanding.

A strong foundation of technology is critical

Organizations drive productive and innovative recruiting and retention strategies with smart HR technology choices. Working for a tech company makes it easy for me to say this, I get it.  However, it’s not just your human capital management technology that makes a difference, it’s your collaboration tools, data security, virtual connectivity, and internal messaging platforms beyond email. When it comes to recruiting and retention, applicants and employees alike don’t want to step back in time with technology. This is an underlying critical piece that companies need to focus on and perfect.

You also need to think through how all these tech solutions connect together. The smartest solutions in the world won’t get you very far if they’re all isolated from one another or hard for people to access. Think about how to bring key resources together, such as by consolidating your company info, announcements, and other informational items into a single company hub format so your employees have one stop for all the organization-level updates you need them to track.

Questions I like to often ask include how long does it take from the time a position opens to receiving an applicant?  Generally speaking, if it’s longer than 30 minutes from a process efficiency perspective, it’s too long. Here are some other tech questions to get you started:

  • How can you tell if an employee is a flight risk or is on the verge of burnout?
  • How do you know if an employee feels psychologically and physically safe?
  • What is the perception or sentiment of your workforce as change happens? What about if change doesn’t happen?
  • Are employees capable of shift swapping or managing their own schedules?
  • How many locations do employees have to go to if they want to gather all the resources needed for their role?

All of these decisions play a factor in engagement, productivity, and retention. Identifying the gaps of where are employees may be suffering can be quickly met with technology recommendations so we can help employees feel secure and that we care about their wellbeing.

Conclusion: Creativity goes both ways

Creativity is something many organizations ask their employees to bring to the table every day, so why wouldn’t you try to walk the walk when it comes to your HR processes and strategies? Take a step outside the box of your past ways of doing things. If our experiences during the pandemic have taught us anything, it’s that we need to embrace change and lead the way proactively into the future. If you need help gathering the tools required to do that, check out our HCM Buyer’s Guide and get more practical insights into how to set yourself up with future-ready HR technology.

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