14 February 2014

Building an engaged and productive team is fundamental to the success of any business. Learn seven steps to help you find and keep the right people.

As Manager of People and Culture at Ramsay Health Care, Gavin O’Meara is responsible for 25,000 people working in 68 facilities across Australia. While he may work on a very different scale from a small business owner, he faces the same challenge – finding and retaining the right people to drive success.

“Recruitment can be difficult for smaller providers, especially if they approach it in the wrong way,” he says. “It isn’t about putting an ad in the paper when someone leaves – it’s about planning. Of course there’ll always be the occasional, unexpected resignation but, if you have a good culture, you generally have an idea of your staff’s intentions. When you’re aware that a vacancy is likely to crop up in six or 12 months you can prepare for it.”

Preparation might mean training someone within your business to move up into the role. If there’s no one suitable, you’ll have time to look around, make contact with people and assess their level of interest. O’Meara also suggests asking people you trust for recommendations. “The more you know about a recruit the better,” he says.

Planning should also take your strategy for growth and any other potential changes into account. “This way you can stay on the front foot,” O’Meara continues. “When recruitment is a reactive process you’re limiting your choice to whoever happens to walk through the door.”

Building a skilled workforce

Another common misconception is that the recruitment process ends when you hire someone. “The only way to build an engaged, skilled and productive team is to have people who are committed to the business, so retaining quality staff is at least as important as finding them,” says O’Meara. “Conversely, high turnover is expensive, disruptive and very demoralising.”

An employee is more likely to leave in the early days of service than at any other time– statistics show that turnover in the first 12 to 18 months is typically three or four times higher than across the organisation as a whole. “Proper orientation is crucial, but so is continuing support,” O’Meara continues. “I recommend designating someone to keep an eye on new recruits and, for the first six months at least, making time to chat to them on a reasonably regular basis about how they’re going and whether anything is causing concern.”

A few years ago, Ramsay Health Care in Victoria had a problem with retaining graduate nurses. Of the 40 or so recruited each year, fewer than half were still there 12 months later. Today, they employ between 80 and 100 graduates a year and have a three-year retention rate of over 90 per cent.

“We did it by researching what graduates want from an employer and developing a structured and consistent recruitment program around that,” says O’Meara. “We now have far more applications than there are positions from very high quality graduates. The ultimate goal for any business owner is to create an environment where good people want to work.”

Seven steps to finding and keeping the right people

  1. Make recruitment a proactive, rather than a reactive, process.
  2. Know your staff so you are aware of their goals and intentions.
  3. Where possible, promote from within.
  4. Ask people you trust for recommendations.
  5. Establish a sound induction process.
  6. Follow up with continuing support.
  7. Respond to the needs of the people you want to employ.

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