My research has dug out surprisingly few robust studies into the impact of communications on the attraction and retention of staff, potentially because it is something that is highly subjective and difficult to measure. However, more than twenty years of recruitment leaves me in no doubt that the way companies communicate both internally and externally has a huge impact on both how easy (aka costly / time consuming) it is to attract new talent and staff turnover.
The importance of communication to attract new staff
From the recruitment consultant’s perspective, communication significantly impacts how easy it is to get candidates to engage with an opportunity and then in the ongoing desire of candidates to pursue an opportunity.
Hearing a company’s name will automatically trigger a reaction in prospective candidates’ minds because of their past exposure to that brand from press coverage, word of mouth, advertising etc. This perception is known as the ‘employer brand’. A negative employer brand can make it hard to attract strong candidates to a role to the extent that recruiters will sometimes get the candidate as far through the process as possible before revealing the prospective employer’s name. Companies who nurture their employer brand and put it at the core of their communications typically find it comparatively easy to secure the interest of stronger candidates without paying a premium and recruiters will use the brand name to encourage candidates to engage if the brief allows it.
With candidates engaged, ongoing communication throughout the process becomes important. At the most basic level candidates need timely communication from prospective employers at every stage of the recruitment process. Not only do they need a clear brief about the role but they expect to be told in good time how many stages there will be, what dates interviews will be on, and what format they will take. They also expect timely and meaningful feedback after each interview, as well as ongoing communication until they start in the role if they are offered the position.
However, employers who repeatedly secure the better candidates go much further than this, often working alongside their recruiter(s) to do so. Proactively working on messaging that ‘sells’ both the company and each role to prospective employees can transform the quality of candidate you are able to secure and the compensation package needed to attract them. Think about the company’s strengths and weaknesses compared with competitors and ensure that the recruiter and/or interviewers are sharing how the company is moving forward on these. Listen to candidates’ concerns and ambitions and think about how the opportunity can fit with these.
The importance of communication to retain existing staff
Much of this communication addressing organisational strengths and weaknesses, and listening to employees ambitions and concerns around working life and career progression, is also key to retaining staff. Speak with a recruiter and they will explain that if a prospective candidate has issues or doubts with aspects of their current role and there is no conversation with their current employer then, even if they are not already proactively looking for a new role, the door is open for a further conversation. Where the employer is communicating well, a recruiter’s job is much harder.
But communicating well even internally is difficult. Employees are constantly receiving messages from multiple sources (corporate, line manager, the water cooler etc) and what works for or is important to one employee may be entirely unsatisfactory to another.
What is obvious to recruiters is that employees are more likely to be happy when there is a consistent vision that is clearly communicated in a timely manner; when communication is two-way so that employees know that their ideas and opinions are being listened to; and, arguably most importantly, when communication is personalised so individuals have a clear understanding of their role and potential within the organisation. Of course, ironically, the time it is most important to communicate clearly and regularly is when circumstances are challenging, uncertain and fast moving…
Although excellent internal communication doesn’t mean that employees can’t be tempted away, it does make the bar for getting them to consider opportunities elsewhere much higher and mean that they will be open to counter-offers from their existing employer.
So, if you want:
• to be attracting high quality candidates without paying a premium then think about your employer brand and help us to ‘sell’ both your company and the role.
• us to be helping you to grow your team rather than replace churn then communicate regularly, make sure the messages are clear and consistent, ensure communications are two-ways and think about when to communicate.