5 things you can do to identify and retain top talent

Identifying and retaining top talent has become increasingly complex as more and more companies enter the market.


That’s why HR specialists and companies in general have to do much more than ever before to provide employees with great working experiences. Here are 5 things we do at Bornfight to identify and retain talented people.

1. Have enough people in the HR department to cover both growth and proactivity

This one is the basis for all the other aspects I’ll cover later. It’s also one of the things I noticed that a lot of organizations still struggle with. By not having enough people in their HR departments, companies don’t have enough resources to focus both on hiring new employees and conducting activities that help retain top talent.

When it comes to HR departments, a lot of companies still follow those market trends that say a company needs to base the number of its HR specialists on the overall number of employed people. While there’s nothing wrong with following the market, I would argue that following your company’s growth strategy and needs is far more important. You see, at Bornfight we currently have 70 employees, and there are 4 of us in the HR department. Why? Because this number enables us to focus both on the expansion, as well as retaining talent.

If we had only 1 or 2 people in the HR, we would have to alternate between rapid growth and stabilisation periods. With 4 of us, we can do both equally well – 2 of us are focused on conducting job selections and employer branding activities, while the rest are focused on activities that will maximise retention, employee satisfaction and professional development. Some of those include creating action plans, developing internal processes, defining structures for internal communication, educating and building strong leaders, holding regular counseling sessions… The more activities you plan, the more people you need in the HR team.

To sum it all up. Don’t follow market trends when it comes to deciding on the optimal number of people in the HR department – follow your company’s needs, as that will determine the amount of people you need. Also, make sure to have enough people who can focus on conducting activities that lead to increased retention.

2. Put cultural fit before professional expertise

Although this recently started shifting more and more in favour of cultural fit, a majority of HR experts still value expertise above cultural fit, interests and motivation when it comes to hiring new talent.

Our experience shows us that putting the focus on cultural fit has better results in the long run, because you can teach people the skills they need to perform a certain job well, even exceptionally well. But you can’t change their core values, mindset, attitude and convictions.

Finding people with a match in values means they’ll fit in with the others more easily, and that will result in good cooperation and ultimately lead to the overall progress of the entire company. That’s why, during the selection process and job interviews, we always place an emphasis on candidate’s true values, interests and motivation. We trained ourselves to identify that, because we often face a situation when a candidate says they’re really eager to do something, but when you dig a little deeper, you see they don’t have a clear understanding of what that really means. People, especially younger people, like to experiment and try different things, and they’re not always aware of their true interests and motivations – that’s something we try to help them identify and define during the selection process. And the candidates really appreciate it, as they often tell us we asked them interesting questions they never thought about and which really made them think.

If you hire people who don’t match your culture, it might lead to tension, conflict and the overall decrease in productivity, work atmosphere and employee satisfaction. And it usually results in a split between the employee and the company. As I said, you can teach people the skills they need to perform a certain job, but you can’t change their values.

To conclude – culture is not having a ping-pong table in the office or staying for drinks after work, culture is all about how people cooperate with other people. That’s why it’s always good to put an emphasis on finding people who will fit your company culture and identifying their genuine interests and motivations. Also, make sure to hire people who share the same values with the rest of your employees, but not people who are exactly the same – that will enable you to build a strong company culture, while still growing each person’s unique personalities.

3. Have platforms that enable transparent internal communication and include employees in the decision making process

These two aspects are closely connected because you need to have a timely and transparent internal communication if you want to ensure all the people in the company have a chance to affect the decision making process.

I’d even say this aspect of timeliness is actually the most important one because decisions in a company are made on a daily basis and they usually involve a number of people. Due to a variety of people involved, communicating that crucial decisions can sometimes be prolonged – people hang out, people talk and that can lead to other employees getting the information around the watercooler. That’s never OK, because they usually don’t get complete information, and those bits and pieces make them draw conclusions. The goal is to have all the people in the company fully informed, without the need for them to try and figure out certain elements on their own – that’s the key element of good internal communication.

For example, if a team leader decides to leave the company, you don’t want to keep other members of the team in the dark, wondering what will happen to them. You want to keep them involved, show them the planned next steps and even enable them to come up with those next steps together with you. That is why you need a communications platform that will enable you to do it directly and as soon as possible – that platform can be an all-hands-on-deck company meeting, a Facebook group, an intranet. Anything that’s interactive, quick and that enables two-way communication. Always, always give people a chance to ask questions and comment back – that’s the easiest way to find out what they’re thinking, what they’re interested in and what worries them.

Additionally, try to keep all communication fully transparent. Anonymity may feel like a safer option, but transparent communication will help you get the context around every question you get from employees, it helps you determine if the answers you provide actually answered your employees’ questions or if it resulted in even more questions. Another thing that’s important – transparent communication enables all members of the company to join in, voice their opinions and help in solving problems at hand.

To make it brief – make sure to keep your internal communication direct and transparent, and that all employees get crucial info in a timely manner. To ensure that, open communication platforms that are interactive and allow for two-way communication. I know all of this takes effort and someone who’ll always make sure that important info is communicated to others, but the overall results, employee satisfaction and employee engagement is exponentially higher.

4. Give people different ways to grow and advance within the company

Here’s the deal – if you look at IT companies, more and more are leaving the traditional corporate ladder structure that enables only vertical advancement, and are embracing the corporate matrix which enables employees to move both vertically and horizontally. Millennials, who are now a large part of the workforce, want to experiment and change careers – and we need to enable them to do so if we want to retain them.

Our experience shows us that, in order to be satisfied at work, employees need to have the ability to try out different things and really find what interests them. As I said, millennials want to experiment – they are keen on learning different things, receiving feedback on their work, developing their careers in different aspects. And they want the flexibility within the company to do so.

At Bornfight, we noticed that fairly early and created a setup that enables almost uninhibited internal mobility – whenever we’re looking for a new person, we first conduct an internal selection to see if there are people who would like to change positions and teams. And we have that enabled on all positions – from interns to heads of departments. By doing that, we’re actually sending them a clear message that they’re valued and that we’ll do everything we can to keep them.

Another aspect of this growth and advancement revolves around enabling all employees to take part in affecting the company strategy and the organizational structure. This aspect gives all people the chance to talk to the CEO and other heads of departments about the way the company performs and how it could grow in the future. At Bornfight, a lot of departments and teams were created because we had this option – employees presented their plans and visions to the management, both sides identified the need for that and then the people who proposed the idea got the opportunity to create it within Bornfight. That proved extremely beneficial as it allowed the employees to work on something they’re truly passionate about and it was a boost for the company as it resulted in better productivity, profitability, quality, overall satisfaction or any combination of these elements.

But changing the organizational structure is not the only thing you can enable your employees to do. We also had great success by implementing psychological counseling sessions and a structured onboarding program – this not only enabled our employees to teach others, but it also allowed them to develop their own skills.

To finish this part – professional development has long ceased to be the case of ‘here’s more money and here’s a promotion you wanted’. Now it’s all about really showing your employees you want to keep them by being flexible and giving them opportunities to change career paths, try out different things and explore possibilities that are not directly connected to their work – all within your company.

5. Build strong leaders

At one of the HR conferences I attended, I heard an interesting quote: ‘a high-quality HR is the one employees are not even aware it exists’. Now, when I heard that, I couldn’t really come to terms with what that really meant, but as I started digging more into it, I found one thing that could explain it – and it’s fully connected to building a strong leadership structure.

You see, when you have great leaders in your company, in terms of leading people well, being able to address all issues, managing employee satisfaction, having clear and transparent communication – then employees don’t need to speak with the members of the HR team. I know this may sound a bit extreme, but when I compare what I’m doing now, and what I used to do some 3 years ago, the difference is huge. Back then, people used to come to me with almost all of their problems, when they were dissatisfied with something, whenever they had any challenge no matter how big or small. Now, that’s only a small fraction of what it used to be.

This showed me that the key to having and retaining top-quality talent is to build an efficient leadership team that knows what their roles are, how they should develop people in their teams, what are some good practices and what should be avoided. The goal is to set a standard for leading people, so that the quality is high across the board. One of the clearest examples of this standardisation are our structured biannual meetings about professional development between team leaders and employees – we created a set of educations about it where all of our team leaders learn how to conduct them, what is the goal of each question, how should answers be interpreted, how to write the follow-up and the output…

This approach to building leaders within the company resulted in creating a much tighter bond and more trust between employees and leaders. And that means employees can now resolve a large majority of the problems with their team leads, instead of talking to the members of the HR department.

The thing is, and a lot of research shows it and our experience proved – people don’t quit their jobs, they quit their bosses. That’s especially true when it comes to employee engagement. If there are problems between employees and leaders, the risk of frustrations and, ultimately, split is much higher. That’s why you really need to create a standardized process of building new leaders and constantly improving current ones.

At Bornfight, all leaders go through 4 sets of internal educations, and an additional set that’s conducted with a specialized external team. The first set of internal educations all our leaders go through is about the hiring process and conducting job interviews. The second set teaches them about the roles and responsibilities of leaders – primarily the business aspect of leading a team and a growth aspect of developing members within the team. This set is all about matching their expectations with company expectations.

The third set of educations focuses on conducting one on one meetings with employees – it’s all about learning why are these meetings conducted, what’s the process behind them, how to actively listen, how to ask good questions, how to reflect and paraphrase…

The final set of educations covers the topic of giving and receiving feedback, where they learn more about communication and resolving conflicts, as well as different principles of giving feedback. They also have practices where giving and receiving feedback is simulated to show them different aspects and situations they might find themselves in.

In addition to all these internal sets of educations, we also connect our leaders with specialized external educators – the goal of this set is to teach them about authentic leadership. With these workshops and educations, our leaders identify their strengths (one of the tools that are used is the Gallup Strengths Finder) and uncover their own unique ways to successfully lead people. After they get to know themselves, their strengths and their own personalized ways to effectively lead, they are then taught a specialized set of both hard and soft skills that maximize their strengths.