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I’m struggling to hire and retain top talent

The interview goes well and you feel like you’ve made a good hire. But within a few weeks, you realise they just aren’t going to work out. At the same time, some of your best people are being poached by competitors. What can you do to hire great people who stick around?   


Some new recruits bring great skills but lack the chemistry to work well on a team. Others feel like a great fit because of their temperament, but that doesn’t make up for their inability to get results. Accurately assessing prospects through an interview is both art and science – but mostly, it’s a skill that can be learned and honed with experience.  

Here are a few suggestions for effective interviews: 

  • Be careful of confirmation bias – you like them, so you look for evidence to reinforce your connection with them. Consider co-interviewing with another manager so you’ll have a balanced perspective. 
  • If possible, have them do a simple work process related to the position so you can watch how they perform. 
  • Prepare questions that directly relate to the position for which they’re applying. Maybe they don’t have the most charisma in the way they interview, but that might not be important for a remote position where they’re analysing data.   
  • When exploring the accomplishments they’ve listed on their resume, explore the details: Who else was involved in that success? What steps did they take? What obstacles did they encounter and how did they overcome them? It’s rare for great accomplishments to happen in a vacuum, so explore the circumstances and fact check carefully. 
  • You might feel like they’re too different from the team they’ll be on, but don’t dismiss them just for that reason. They might be exactly what the team needs to bring new perspective and innovation to a group that has been thinking in the same direction for a long time. (In this case, chemistry will be important to consider; they’ll need to work well with the team for new ideas to be considered.) 


One of the biggest barriers to retention is managers assuming they know what’s important to their people. Without interaction with them, it’s easy to provide things that don’t really matter – and overlook the things that do. 

One study of 118 organisations compiled revealing data

The top 5 things managers assume their people are motivated by: 

  1. Opportunities for growth and advancement (actually ranked #7 by employees);
  2. Quality of compensation package (actually ranked #6 by employees);
  3. Amount of job stress (actually ranked #18 by employees);
  4. Quality of the relationship with manager/supervisor (actually ranked #1 by employees); and
  5. Ability to balance work life and home life (actually ranked #2 by employees).

The top 5 things team members said are actually the most important to them (that leads to retention): 

  1. Quality of the relationship with line manager/supervisor;
  2. Ability to balance work life and home life;
  3. Amount of meaningful work;
  4. Level of co-operation with co-workers; and
  5. Level of trust in the workplace.

Revealing, right? Everyone is motivated by different things, but you’ll never know what they are unless you ask them. It’s also revealing that the top five in the study are things a manager can influence. 

Maybe it’s time for a new conversation.