Hiring for retention. Hiring for purpose.
Employment buzzwords like “Tech Layoffs,” “The Great Resignation,” and “Quiet Quitting” are seemingly everywhere right now. It may be tempting to dismiss them as new labels for the age-old negotiations between employer and employee, but we argue they are valuable signals on how employees and organizations are striving to build a greater sense of purpose at work.
Employee resignations in Q1 2023 were a staggering 3-times higher than layoffs in the US. Now, more than ever, organizations have a strategic need to find and retain employees that mesh with their values. Hiring for purpose can help build a stronger internal culture, improve retention, and support organizations’ missions. Pairing this lens of purpose with a systematic approach to hiring will bring even more benefits for employers and employees alike.
On Hiring for Purpose
At NuWave, hiring for purpose is the cornerstone of how we help clients. Specifically, we help impact-oriented organizations match with passionate, purpose-driven talent.
It may seem more efficient to limit a talent search to candidates with the best technical abilities, but employers may better meet their long term goals by searching for mission-alignment as well. Multiple studies have found that people who find their jobs purposeful are more satisfied at work and accomplish more in less time. That’s a definite win for team productivity, retention, and humanizing the workplace.
Thanks to more than twenty combined years in talent acquisition, our team at NuWave has outlined a three step process organizations can take when hiring for retention and purpose.
Step 1: Think Strategically About Hiring Needs
First of all, it’s vital to get a clear picture of what type of talent your organization needs to grow strategically. Preferably, you’ll map out potential growth scenarios and how they relate to your hiring needs and the current talent market. It’s important to ask, “What key objectives does our organization need support for now? What skills and values best support these objectives? Can we use upskilling to evolve talent for long term growth?”
Focus on the Big Picture
NuWave’s CEO Greg Kunsman notes, “There’s always a bigger vision [an organization] is trying to get to” so it’s vital to understand what your organization needs in the moment versus in the future. There may be tradeoffs between timeliness and finding a candidate who fits your job description perfectly. If filling a position now supports strategic growth, making some adjustments may very well be worth it.
Something similar could be said for hiring a candidate based on their passionate alignment with your mission, rather than all the fine details in the job requirements. If your organization is looking for an employee who wants to grow with you, then candidates should be assessed on their values and growth potential, not their current fulfillment of static requirements.
Plan for Change
Additionally, while it may be tempting to hire one person to tackle numerous goals at once, assigning employees duties planfully should pay off in the long run by preventing employee burnout. Once new talent is trained and contributing to the most pressing organizational goals, additional hiring or employee upskilling can build on this success.
Planning to upskill or reskill employees who are a good fit can be a valuable part of your hiring and business strategies. From reducing turnover costs to increasing talent engagement, supporting an adaptable, growth-minded workforce is a win-win. According to a McKinsey study, upskilling and reskilling, “ increase[s] worker productivity by 6-12 percent…it also increases employee loyalty and satisfaction, reducing their likelihood of leaving,” and, most importantly, it helps employees who have found a shared sense of purpose with your organization stay on through company or personal changes.
Step 2: Establish a Comprehensive, Scalable Vetting Process
Developing a scalable process for vetting talent is key in supporting strategic hiring plans. Ideally this process should be comprehensive–assessing candidates for skills, interests, and values–with a focus on continued employee engagement and productivity.
Taking this longview can be a boon to employers. A study by Gallup shows that engaged teams benefit their companies with “the behaviors of highly engaged business units result[ing] in a 23% difference in profitability.” The same report noted that treating talent as “stakeholders of their own future,” “promoting positive coworker relationships,” and empowering people to do their jobs and develop professionally all contributed to higher engagement.
Take a Personal Approach
We consider values alignment key to these types of engagement efforts. Tasheyia Thomas, Co-founder and Head of People and Culture, describes NuWave’s process, “We have this holistic approach to the way we present candidates. Yes, we can call out hard skills and why they’re relevant for a job, but we always like to include other things outside of that… here are the things this person is passionate about or are working towards.”
NuWave’s methods often start with personal conversations with talent about their goals and passions inside and outside of their current professional role. Often it takes going beyond a candidate’s resume to hire for purpose. For example, we explore things like candidates’ hobbies and volunteer experience, their long term goals, and why they were drawn to their particular field.
Focus on Values and Strengths
This personal approach can be supplemented with tools that support work at scale. To quantify signals about candidates’ values and personalities we turn to assessments like Myers Briggs, Deeper Signals, and CliftonStrengths (formerly known as StrengthFinder). While these tests cannot fully capture the richness of a person’s personality, they are still useful for efficiently comparing certain traits across candidates.
Creating a comprehensive system for vetting talent also requires maintaining an inventory of which skills and tools have crossover with each other. For example, there are often trends in which particular design or project management platforms are requested on job descriptions. After years in the industry, we are familiar with many of the shared functions of these platforms and can identify when a candidate’s proficiency in one tool will translate to another.
Step 3: Create Systems to Attract and Support Diverse Talent
Lastly, when hiring for retention and purpose, it’s vital to create systems that attract and support diverse talent. Implementing these systems can be challenging but incredibly worthwhile. From avoiding attrition to enriching teams to fulfilling organizational and individual values, a genuine, integrated commitment to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) benefits organizations and the people who work at them.
The Importance of Diversity and Inclusion
While awareness of DEI programs has grown in recent years, it can be helpful to revisit why it’s important. First of all, diverse teams simply perform better. McKinsey & Co. describes DEI programs as a pathway to “the competitive advantage we can create.” Studies have shown that diverse teams are both more factually-oriented and more innovative.
Another reason to invest in supporting diverse talent is that it supports a positive corporate culture. A negative environment is the top reason employees leave, even overshadowing pay. Unsurprisingly, employees value environments where they experience belonging and psychological safety. Hiring diverse talent is not enough– organizations need to support all their employees.
Greg Kunsman notes, “I think a lot of companies want to bring in diverse talent now and one of the things we really are careful of is [verifying] that company has the right systems in place to make sure that once the talent is hired, they are properly supported and set up for success.” For example we admire the system one of NuWave's clients has established. The organization supports their diverse hires by pairing them with both a mentor and an advocate. Mentors are charged with supporting career development while executive-level advocates share employees' needs and perspectives with the rest of leadership.
Ways to Get Started
If your organization does not have a system like this in place yet, there are steps you can take. Hiring a DEI consultant to help set up an internal program is ideal. They can assess your organization’s strengths and opportunities for improvement in promoting a better sense of belonging for your employees. If that step is currently out of reach, supporting employee resource groups (ERGs) is another option that, when done thoughtfully, can help everyone feel included.
Implementing these three steps requires diligence and care. For some organizations, devoting resources to this degree may be a challenge. In such cases, partnership with talent acquisition specialists can be transformative. Talent acquisition agencies have their own vetting processes in place and an understanding of what other organizations are doing for these issues.
At NuWave, we are combining these industry insights and systematized vetting processes with a holistic approach and expertise in helping clients create support systems for diverse, engaged talent. You can learn more about it here.
NuWave’s co-founders each come from diverse backgrounds and have lived experience navigating these experiences in organizations. They have experience advising organizations on these issues. Let’s talk.