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How to Find and Keep Valued Employees

Alberta Government

Small or large, for profit or not-for-profit, staffing is one of the biggest challenges for all organizations. So those employers who are able to find and keep valued employees gain the upper hand in today’s increasingly competitive labour market.

A wise employer manages staffing in a thoughtful way. That means time and effort spent on planning before beginning the formal process of recruitment, careful selection and an ongoing commitment to the employment needs of your staff after they have been hired.

This tip sheet highlights positive practices you can use to find and keep valued employees.

Attraction: How to make them want you

Are you an employer of choice? If you are, job applicants seek you out. They call you first when starting a job search because they have heard your organization is a great place to work. What’s the secret? As an employer of choice, your organization likely offers some or all of the following:

- training and development opportunities
- a safe working environment
- a healthy working environment
- responsive scheduling
- positive employee–supervisor relationships
- reasonable job demands
- competitive pay and benefits
- employee communication and influence
- personally rewarding work
- job security
- thoughtful job design.

Recruitment: Find the talent you need

Good recruitment begins with good planning. As you get started, describe your organization’s values, goals, policies and practices. What is your organization’s vision and mission? What do you have to offer employees? Why would someone want to work in your organization? Becoming knowledgeable about the following points will make the hiring process more efficient and effective:

Know your hiring needs. Identify the changes that might create a need for new employees, skills or qualities.

Know the work. Assess the skills of your current employees and consider training, work reorganization or job redesign to meet future skills needs.

Know what you already have. Identify the main tasks, key responsibilities, knowledge, skills and attitudes required, as well as essential and special skills or qualifications.

Know the labour market. Be aware of competing organizations, skills in short supply and competitive salary for the work.

Know your talent sources. Consider candidates such as Aboriginal people, immigrants, older workers, persons with disabilities, visible minorities, youth and women.

Know your options. Implement recruitment strategies that suit your corporate culture and that your staff would support. Provide the resources needed to support each option.

Selection: Make a good match

Taking some time to plan ahead will help you find someone whose skills and talents will be an asset to your organization. Beginning with a current job description, ask yourself what the “must haves” of the job are as opposed to the “nice-to-haves.” You have to decide if the applicant has these skills or traits and what tools will be used to make your decision (e.g. application forms, behavioural interview questions). As you conduct interviews, be sure to:

- Prepare thoroughly for the interview. Develop an accurate and concise job description, establish selection criteria, decide on the type of interview and plan the interview process.

- Follow through after the interview. Verify the facts and conduct thorough reference checks.

Retention: Keep valued employees

Why invest the time and effort to keep your employees? Because employee turnover is expensive. The total cost of replacing an employee, counting direct and indirect costs, is in the range of 70 to 200 per cent of their salary.

Good retention doesn’t just happen. It’s the result of planning and careful attention to what matters most to the people who work for you. Consider the following points when building your retention plan:

- Know why they came (or not!). Interviews and surveys of new hires may provide you with rich information about what draws people to your organization—things you can highlight and build upon. It can also tell you areas for improvement.

- Know why they stay. Informal conversations, formal interviews and staff satisfaction surveys are a good way to find out what is working well and what isn’t. Be sure to respond to any feedback with action or an explanation of why the organization can’t respond.

- Know why they leave. Keep records about turnover and look for patterns. Use the results to help you formulate goals and targets for your retention plan, assign accountabilities and evaluate your progress.

- Anticipate turnover triggers. Turnover “triggers” might be companywide (e.g. mergers, restructuring, changes in technology or location) or personal (a good friend left the company, negative incident with a supervisor, poor performance appraisal). As you plan and review changes in your workplace, consider who might be negatively affected and take steps to ensure these events don’t become trigger points for your employees.

- Know your options. Develop a mix of strategies in consultation with your employees based on their ideas, insights and suggestions, consult with business colleagues or gather information on human resource practices.

Measure and evaluate. Include steps to evaluate whether or not your strategies are working. Then put measures in place to collect the information you need, establish accountabilities and timelines, and collect and analyze the data.

By carefully analyzing your organization’s needs, hiring employees who are a good fit and working hard to maintain a constructive workplace environment, you can be successful in finding and keeping valued employees.


Finding Candidates

Interviewing Basics

Interviewing Best Practices

Laws & Documentation

Line Manager / Recruiting Partnership


Pre-Planning & Retention

Reading the Candidate

Recruiting Basics

Recruiting Best Practices

Useful Links