Benefits and Compensation

15 Ideas in 15 Minutes—Attract, Engage, Retain

The original talk was called “30 Ideas in 30 Minutes,” but we’ve culled the best fifteen ideas for our readers. The panelists were:

  • Andrew Botwin, head of Human Resources for accounting firm Rothstein Kass
  • Kathy Brooks, VP of Employee Experience, Green Mountain Coffee Roasters
  • Michael Burchell, Vice President, Global Business Development, The Great Place to Work Institute
  • Rob McElory, General Manager, Daphne Utilities
  • Liz Wilson McKee, Internal Communications Manager at law firm Baker, Donelson PC

How to Attract the Best People

Here are the panelists’ ideas for attracting the best people to your organization:

Burchell: Set up your whole recruiting process to insure a clear and strong culture fit. Google gets 100,000 applicants per month because they are attracted to the culture. The CEO of Dreamworks makes a personal call to applicants to whom an offer has been extended, saying “I hope you’ll join us.”

Brooks: We offer a job tryout for production people, so they can see what it’s like on the line. Our hiring process is long, with four to five interviews, the last of which is with the people who would report to the applicant were he or she hired. Their voice counts, and it shows that we value collaboration and inclusion.

Botwin: We show tech applicants how they’ll have significant and immediate access to technical leaders in the industry.


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McElory: We don’t slavishly follow the job description. We’re interested in people who are sober and on time.

McKee: An important tactical move is to apply for “Best Company” awards. People will start calling—“Please let me know when you have a job.”

How to Engage Your People

Burchell: We find that employees have three basic questions:

Where am I? Answering that question means giving good feedback, and maybe spot rewards. These are best when they are matched to the person’s interests, For example, sports tickets to a sports fan, or concert tickets to a music lover.
Where am I going? Employees want to know what their future may hold.
Why does it matter? One company that makes heart pacemakers brought in some of the recipients of the devices to talk to employees about how the devices changed their lives.

Brooks: Our company offers 52 hours per year of paid time off to volunteer. Many of our employees (the company is Green Mountain Coffee Roasters) go to coffee-growing countries to do their volunteer work.

Botwin: We believe that it is important for employees to feel that they have a voice, and we start that during onboarding. We also have frequent focus groups where employees can contribute their ideas. We also try to have some social interaction regularly.

McElory: We let our people say when they want time off. If you have them come to the manager and ask, “May I take Friday off?” that becomes a burden for the manager; he or she has to figure out what problems might be caused if the person is off. We trust the employee to do that thinking. We also come together as a family when someone is in trouble. Someone will drop by with a care package, maybe a ham or whatever the family might need.


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McKee: Have fun!. Every office in our organization is mandated to have an event at least once a year. And we encourage people to talk, talk, talk. Face-to-face communication is important.

In tomorrow’s Advisor, the panel on how to retain employees, plus an introduction to a special HR guide written especially for smaller or even one-person HR departments.