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Recruiting To Retain: The Talent Story

Over the last two years, employers across the country have been challenged with navigating the “Great Resignation.” Across most industries, including parking, employers are scrambling to quickly solve a complex retention issue. While successful employee retention is the culmination of a myriad of touch points throughout employment, employers incorrectly believe that the retention success formula begins on the first day of the job. The first day of the job doesn’t mark the true beginning of the retention formula; it starts during the recruiting phase. You may think that recruitment and turnover are two completely different things, but they are actually the beginning and end to the same journey. Some talent remains loyal and committed for decades, while others quit within a few months of starting. So why does this happen?

The first interaction candidates have with a prospective employer is through the hiring process. If you take shortcuts through the recruitment process, the result is an unsteady foundation, which is often unable to withstand the test of time for retaining an employee. So what is a retention-grounded approach to recruiting? And is recruiting to retain in the parking industry even possible, given all the uncertainty we have seen since the pandemic?

Recruiting To Retain: The Candidate and Employee Experience

The first step for building a strong recruiting to retain strategy is to focus on the experience. When I say the “Experience” I am referring to both the candidate experience and the employee experience. Believe it or not these have a symbiotic relationship, a strong impact on the company’s future and even impact the effectiveness of attracting and keeping new hires. The candidate experience is all about the hiring process. This includes everything from the moment a candidate submits their application until the company's final decision such as:

  • How quickly applicants receive a response to their resume submissions, questions and follow-up.

  • How personable the management is during the interview process.

  • The logistics and efficiency for how interviews are conducted.

Each and every interaction and piece, no matter how trivial, has a major impact. The candidate experience is the sum of the candidates’ thoughts, notions, and opinions about your organization, procedures, and the people they’ve talked to, even before they are hired. A CareerBuilder study found that only 32% of candidates label most of their experiences with the recruitment processes as positive. In fact, most job seekers and candidates are frustrated by the whole process and the steps they’re obligated to take.

On the other hand, the employee experience includes what an employee learns, sees, and hears in the company after they are hired. The experience takes place from their first company interaction through to their last goodbye. It's the memories they create, bonds they form, interactions they have, etc. With unemployment so low right now, the power is in the employees’ court. They can, and will, make use of this opportunity to pick and choose where they will be most satisfied. There are a variety of factors that may tempt your employees to go somewhere else and the candidate and employee experience can be a differentiating factor in their decision-making process. Most companies will point to cultural fit as a key retention or attraction strategy, but is pointing to a mere “Feeling” a measurable strategy?

Recruiting To Retain: Hiring For Culture Fit vs. A Fit-First Approach

Cultural fit can mean many different things. It can mean a gauge for your organization’s essential values, or might simply mean, “Is this person someone you want to have a beer with after work?” The traditional use of the term “culture fit” can be exclusive, perhaps even a new unconscious form of discrimination without even realizing it. It is an incredibly vague term, and it’s a vague term often based on gut instinct. More often than not, companies can’t tell you what aspect of the culture they are worried about, just that “It’s not a good fit.” This is where a “Fit First” approach to recruitment can transform your talent attraction and retention strategy.

“Fit First” refers to an organization filling in the gaps of their current workforce or team instead of hiring for sameness. It’s about harnessing the power of diverse teams to achieve better outcomes, less groupthink, more innovative solutions and overall more profitability. A team of people who excel at seeing "the big picture," for instance, may fail because they lack the individuals who focus on details. So, they overlook key factors and fall prey to groupthink. If you want your business to stretch into new markets, areas or industries, it’s going to take new and novel perspectives to get there. Instead of hiring for culture fit, hire to inject new energy and ideas into your business using the “fit-first” approach and look beyond just hiring people who share the same perspectives, strengths and weaknesses.

First, adapt your overall hiring and retention strategy to be competitive and stand out amongst other employers. Just as the business strategy of organizations in the parking industry must adapt and shift to remain competitive in the post covid world, so must organizations adapt to attract and retain top talent. Offering remote work allows employers to increase their talent pool, potentially lowering labor costs and opening up positions to a greater number of workers. But remote work isn’t the only recruiting and retention strategy employers can adapt to their unique situation and needs. For example if your organization really needs their employees to be on site for their work, they can still offer flexible work options such as compressed workweeks or summer Fridays.

Second, turn uncertainty and chaos in today’s economy into opportunity by embracing digital transformation. Gen Z which makes up the latest wave of young professionals entering the workforce grew up with tech in their hands and information at their fingertips. Gen Z expects everything - work tasks included - to be advanced, accessible and automated. To retain top talent today, you must create a highly efficient workplace that streamlines processes, automates manual tasks and relentlessly seeks efficiencies. There are endless examples of ways organizations can adopt technologies that will not only attract workers but also retain them. From automating tasks to enabling collaboration and knowledge sharing, your organization’s ability to embrace digital transformation will directly impact your recruiting and retention efforts.

Third, instead of seeing difference as a weakness, it encourages seeing the value. Culture Add is asking “What can this person bring to the table?” as opposed to “Does this person fit the mold?”. Culture Add breaks the cycle of hiring more of the same, advocating the benefit of new experiences, new insights, and new ways of thinking. So when you're hiring for “Fit First”, consider the individual. How their experience, relevant or otherwise, can be advantageous. Interview people that see the world differently, and who have lived differently. Seek out positive deviance and new ideas. Evaluate each person on what they can add to the company. This creates more opportunity and in return challenges employees in new and different ways.

Fourth, In the same way that businesses do it for products, a gap analysis can also be performed on your people and talent. In what areas are your teams lacking? This could be a lack of big picture thinkers, those who obsess about the details or not enough creative thinkers. An analysis will indicate where your gaps are. By solving for and understanding these gaps you can either upskill existing team members or recruit individuals with complementary skill sets to complete the team.

Fifth, be prepared to be flexible. Consider being more flexible in your approach to open up a more varied talent pool. By giving employees the tools to live their lives outside of work, means you are more likely to attract and retain top-performing talent that adds to your business’ culture, not just those that conform to it.

The transition from hiring for culture ‘fit’ to hiring for ‘fit first’ will take time, and you will face resistance. The key is recognizing that the world is constantly changing and you need employees that understand the changing world in order to ensure your clients and customers’ needs are met. The approach that got to where you are today won’t get you to where you want to be.

Keeping Talent Engaged

Employee turnover has been a major issue for companies over the past year. Despite the fact that talent mobility can improve retention, a recent report found that just 28% of companies say they have a defined program in place to encourage it. Hiring professionals rank compensation as the top priority for job seekers, but candidates say they’re even more interested in opportunities for career advancement.

Talent across all industries including the parking industry, are overwhelmingly open to new opportunities. They are looking for remote work, higher compensation, more flexible working environments, etc. While some employers are eager to bring everyone back in the office, you might want to reconsider this. There’s a solid chance your company has done a great job keeping your workers happy and feeling valued - but employers can’t rest on their laurels. So if you want to truly recruit and retain top talent, you need build a workplace people want to be at which includes:

  • Providing growth opportunities

  • Have the right tech

  • Empowering and trusting your employees

  • Be flexible on work arrangements

  • Offer amazing perks

  • Bring career advancement to the table through upskilling and training.

Successfully building a talent strategy for tomorrow relies on ensuring that your recruitment partner can effectively engage and grow with you, and that candidates are effectively committed to your organization throughout the recruitment process. Today, and in the future of recruitment, the onus will be on so much more than the job alone. People want to know about the benefits, the culture, career development, diversity and inclusion rather than just a job description and salary. Organizations need to move past the mind-set of merely increasing salaries, and broaden their perspective to actionably consider how they can create the right working environment for employees, and the right candidate process for their prospective new hires.

About The Author

Kathleen Laney is the founder of Laney Solutions, the preferred solution for recruitment within the parking industry. Her goal in establishing Laney Solutions was to provide high-quality executive recruitment to an under-served industry. And by having a narrow focus, she has developed exceptional parking industry expertise in a short period of time. Over the past seven years, she has earned trusted advisor status with parking leaders around the world through careful relationship building, superior client and candidate service, and relentless dedication to results. Today, Kathleen is a leading industry voice on the future of the parking professional, and has spoken and written extensively on the topic through industry associations and publications. In 2016, she was recognized with NPA's Top 40 Under 40 award and is a former Board Member of the Women in Parking Association.

Contact Kathleen at


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