The 5 Rules to Recruit, Engage and Retain in a Post-Industrial World

The war for talent is ongoing, and the talent is winning. And the companies who don’t recognize this and significantly change the structures and processes they use to hire and retain staff will continue to lose. Not only will they lose employees, but they are also in danger of losing everything from market share to their status as a going concern.

How has talent won? Look at the demographics. There have simply not been enough people born over the last 20 to 30 years to take the place of those Baby Boomers who are now beginning to retire in significant numbers.

This fact, combined with technology and globalization, has created a skills shortage, culminating in a number of unfilled jobs predicted to reach millions to tens of millions (depending upon the country) by 2020.

So how can both talent and companies win? By joining the Post-Industrial Revolution Revolution.

No, that’s not a typo.

What is the Post-Industrial Revolution Revolution?

Time for a short history lesson: The Industrial Revolution brought about new ways of managing the labor force. Both blue- and white-collar workers carried out very specific, repetitive tasks in exchange for wages.

White-collar workers may then have traded brains for brawn to earn their paychecks, but the typical office was run much like the factory floor, with designated start and stop times, prescribed breaks, very detailed job descriptions and little room for creativity and innovation.

This worked well for 200 years. But the 1960s ushered in the Post-Industrial Revolution, an age characterized by non-tangible, yet valuable, services heavily reliant on technology and dependent on innovation and creativity.

Technology and globalization have automated or outsourced most mundane, repetitive tasks, freeing our staffs up to do the more innovative and strategic work required in the Post-Industrial Age–but unfortunately, the structures and processes that most companies use to manage their staffs still harken back to the Industrial era.

Do you see the disconnect?

And this is costing our companies millions of dollars per year, both in increased employee turnover and in lost productivity, due to up to 80% of our workforce becoming disengaged.

What is the solution? A Post-Industrial Revolution Revolution, of course!

How to Stage a Post-Industrial Revolution Revolution

It’s easy, if you can remember the five rules of a Post-Industrial Revolution workplace:

  • Hire correctly
  • Classify and manage appropriately
  • Compensate fairly
  • Use currencies of choice to structure a commercially autonomous work environment
  • Communicate with FOCUS

1. Hire Correctly
The key to hiring the right people is to base your decisions 80% on cultural fit and 20% on skills fit. Skills can be taught, but attitudes, work style and values cannot.

It’s also essential for hiring managers to learn how to interview effectively, in a way that gives you the information needed to make good hiring decisions. Because unlike the stock market, when it comes to potential job candidates, past performance is indicative of future results. Proper interview questions should be answered with past examples of how the candidate actually dealt with a scenario, which can later be reference checked.

2. Classify and manage appropriately
Who are your Critical People? The first step to managing your Critical People is to identify them. Critical People can be obvious–the real superstars who consistently underpromise and overdeliver. They can also be the not-so-obvious “sleepers”: those quiet achievers, or the ones who hold a great deal of corporate knowledge.

These are the people you should be spending 80% of your time with. Unfortunately, most managers spend that amount of time with their Squeaky Wheels, the underperformers and demotivators. Instead, deal with the latter quickly by training, motivating or moving them.

3. Compensate fairly
Remuneration and incentives can be tricky, but a number of studies conclude that they don’t have to be. Ultimately, employees need to feel as though they are paid fairly, consistently and in a manner they can rely on. Full stop.

4. Currencies of choice
Once someone feels they are being paid adequately, companies can then use the “currencies of choice” most valued by the workforce. Researcher Daniel Pink, the author of Drive, says these are:

  • Autonomy – the ability to direct your own work;
  • Mastery – the ability to master what you’re good at; and
  • Purpose – the opportunity to do meaningful work.

5. Communicate with FOCUS
FOCUS is an acronym that describes best practice leadership communication. It stands for Frequency, Job Objectives, Career Development, Underlying Motivators and Strengths.

Frequency. Most companies sit down formally with their staff only once or twice per year for the dreaded performance reviews. Increasing formal communication to at least once per month and informal communication to weekly, if not daily, will significantly increase employee engagement and company productivity.

But it’s not just the frequency of communication that’s important. It’s also the content.

Communication between staff and managers should revolve around the following:
Job objectives – what are they responsible for doing and how are they meeting their KPIs?
Career development – both a vertical career path and horizontal learning and development opportunities
Underlying motivators of autonomy, mastery and purpose
Strengths – the innate abilities that make them unique and good at what they do.

Structure communication around FOCUS and offer coaching, advice, assistance and resources for their career development and you will truly have an engaged and productive workforce.

Making it happen

The process of changing the way you hire and manage people may seem daunting at first, but experience shows that by taking this step by step, you can make significant changes within 6 to 12 months. The result will be a lifetime of more engaged, happier and more productive staff as well as more free time, less stress and better job satisfaction for you as a manager.

Adapted from “Viva La Revolution! The 5 C’s to Recruit, Engage and Retain in a Post Industrial World” by Kim Seeling Smith, a Sydney-based, international consultant on Employee Recruitment, Engagement and Retention. Visit for more.