Tips on Improving Employee Retention | Connector Team Recruiting.png

A little background on today’s job market before talking looking at retention.  It’s truly a competitive job market in 2019.  There are 7.3 million job openings according to the BLS and only 6.1MM unemployed persons based on the July Unemployment report fill those available jobs.  The reason most jobs go unfilled is due to the skills mismatch and or the earnings and education gaps.

I guess that means as a Recruiter I have job security.  Truth be told, recruiting and talent professionals are working harder than ever to uncover and source talent.


This is not complicated - more turnover simply hurts your brand. From where I sit, turnover is one big distraction and many times it’s 100% controllable. The Cost of Turnover  according to the (SHRM) the Society for Human Resource Management in a study conducted for hiring and replacing one employee is $4,127.00.

Many decision makers look at the front end or their P&L costs when developing their pay plan without any eye for what turnover will cost them in brand goodwill plus the cost of replacing an employee.  Many companies are starting to figure this out, and they are looking at key components that drive turnover.

Look at the job to determine the Value Proposition

Let’s look at a few of the JOB “VALUE PROPOSITION” that a company will typically offer.

Is the Job Title right, does the job provide interesting work?

Is the Job Title, right? This is relatively easy to look at and a little thing that not only makes the job sound better – but makes the person feel empowered if done the right way. 

Store Clerk vs Customer Specialist or…Guest Experience Leader once they have mastered the basics.  See how simple that was? Which title would you rather have?  Try it again – Driver vs Warehouse Delivery Expert.

 Schedule - Are the hours reasonable?

Could a reasonable person work those hours consistently and in a sustainable way without giving up a balanced family life? 

Are you adapting and evolving? Have you considered the demographic shift and the changing workforce based on the accelerating turnover in the baby boomer workforce? Many front-line jobs are retail and you must staff the power hours typically weekends.

Flexibility is key, can you rotate a weekend day off twice a month, or give one full weekend a month.  Provide extra PTO for working weekend power hours to be taken later.

CAREER PATHING – it’s what everyone is seeking!

When a candidate pursues a job at your organization, chances are they’re unhappy at their current company for several reasons, including a poor manager or a need for higher earning potential. However, a desire for upward mobility is the top motivation for a job search, according to 30% of candidates in a recent study the mrinetwork recruitment-trends-study

Some additional explanations for pursuing new opportunities include:

  • Seeking more compensation: 25%

  • Didn’t like their boss 19%

  • Contract assignment ended: 15%

  • Switched to a different industry or sector: 13%

It’s essential to anticipate this top job change motivator and to have prepared strategies in your interviewing and hiring processes that respond to this driver.

Nobody wants to feel stuck in dead-end jobs. If you value your workers, ask yourself when your most talented players last got promoted, or when they were given more responsibility on the job. If you can't remember, take it as a sign that you need to do a better job of helping your employees progress in their careers.

You can do so by taking the time to help your workers map out specific career paths and giving them the onsite tools and resources needed to be successful.

You can also offer education subsidies so that your employees can work on growing their skills outside the office. In the Furniture Industry that has trade shows, conferences and other education under way and interesting ways to challenge and develop your best and brightest. 

“Train your employees so that they can clearly answer questions about job advancement. “It’s essential to keeping star candidates interested and excited about your company.”

Ultimately, candidates want to know they’ll grow in their position at a new company or at least can tackle new challenges. Demonstrating evidence of this through employer branding can leave a lasting impression with potential new hires that makes them want to join a team that celebrates success.


Though money isn't the only thing that drives workers to seek new job opportunities, it's a big one. I usually see it come in #3 overall in terms of reasons for turnover.  Because it’s in the top tier it pays to do some salary and wage comparisons and see how well-compensated your employees are based on industry averages. If the salaries you pay leave much to be desired, you may need to rethink your compensation strategies and shift resources around to pay your workers what they're really worth.

For this area along with benefits we recommend you check to see what salary surveys are available in your area within your SIC and area of focus.  You should shop your competitors by finding out what they pay too.  It’s not hard with the available resources listed on their websites and you can take that information and match it up with what former employees that work for your company know.  You can also research online resource aggregators such as Glass Door which can also contain information on company benefits based on employee surveys.  


Benefits must be competitive.  When benefit packages are competitive, it’s hard to recruit someone away from a company.  It’s one more building block to guard against turnover.  Ask yourself this key question. When was the last time you really looked at your competition and compared your benefits to what they are offering?  We all know that virtually every retailer and wholesale company shops their competition for pricing? It just makes sense to do the same with benefits and compensation.

When looking at your benefits look at these key areas:

401K Plans - take a fresh look at your 401K fees, typically some employers don’t even know how costly some of the 401K plans are with limited high cost fees.  Make sure to highlight and push your provider to allow for low management fee ETF’s provided by some of the best Investment companies. How does your match compare?

Health Plans – How does your health care plan stack up. Can you afford a higher subsidy for your workers' health insurance premiums or perhaps a contribution to an Health Savings Account (HSA). An HSA match or portion match is another great way to enhance your benefits plans.

 Other ideas:

We also see companies offering free lunches twice a week, onsite fitness classes, and time off for charity work.

Work at Home Flex time – this is an area that with the advance of technology there are some skill jobs Digital assistants (Web) and Customer call center associates and technology roles where it can be highly productive and it makes sense to have flexibility for workers to work from home. While you don’t want to be big brother there are tools to inspect what you expect in almost all of these rolls. 

Store hours - some companies are even looking at their store hours. This is an area and trend that appears to be trending.  Recently two smaller profile clients have chosen to close on Sunday as a strategic decision. Yes, I said that right they are closing on Sunday just like several large companies including; RC Willey and Chic-fil-A. These giants have built this into their business model and have never looked back.  Both are considered dominant power players in their categories.

Think of the benefits of Closing on Sunday:

  1. Work life balance

  2. Less scheduling and staffing issues because of the six-day

  3. Ability to offer better service to their consumer in the six days they are open with better overall staffing availability.

  4. Management retention

  5. Cost reduction in Utilities and other operating costs.

Company WOW factor

Your WOW factor comes from leadership and is important for the younger profile candidate that is looking to work for a company that has a standing in the marketplace and a great name in the community. 

As yourself this about all your new hires recently. Do they know the mission, your goal, your customer and what differentiates you from your competition?

Many CEO’s and leaders take it for granted that the employee has gotten the message and must have read their handbook and know their company. 

Here is a great example; I recently heard from an outgoing CEO of a large regional Furniture chain.  He was providing a reference to me for one of his General Managers that had worked for him. He shared with the story of the company’s long-term success which upon his retirement resulted in the successful sale of his company.  He provided two reasons including; first he made sure that everyone knew the fundamentals of giving exceptional service to their retail and B2B customer base. Second, he viewed his employees as his customers too.  In fact, to quote him, “I coached every leader in our company to manage upward on an inverted pyramid and to empower their people just like I empowered them to make decisions.” 

So naturally I asked him if that resulted in bad decisions over the years since we’re talking about big ticket purchases? His response was, “yes, he had seen a handful of bonehead decisions that created coaching moments.  In those coaching sessions he always started out by applauding them for making a decision for their customer before discussing other alternatives. 

One last recommendation that can help you reduce turnover:

Are you hiring and looking at all demographic channels? Have you tapped into the senior market?  According to a study by SHRM in 25 U.S. cities with a population of 200,000 or more, at least 20 percent of city residents over age 65 are still working—and that's a stat that is likely to grow. Studies have shown that older workers are more reliable and have less tendency towards turnover than other groups.  Many Employees Choose to Work Longer for several reasons with the most frequently cited as monetary quickly followed by wanting to stay active and engaged. If you want more information a study is available for SHRM members in a member-only toolkit for Employing Older workers.

Interns and High School and College recruiting

I often point to the reason I’m a recruiter today.  You see the national company I worked for tapped me at a young age to develop our college grad intern program – 13 weeks with graduation into a management slot.  We recognized that we needed to bring in and develop outstanding people to fill the bench as we grew our store count.  I’ve watched a number of these early hires continue in the industry today. It’s great to know that I had small part in introducing them to the Furniture industry that I love.

 Blog Post by: Bill O’Malley, Chief Recruiting Officer at Connector Team Recruiting.  Connector Team is recognized by leaders and leading consultants as the premier search firm in the Furniture | Electronics and Sleep vertical space. Connector Team is an affiliate office of MRINETWORK recently ranked in 2019 as a Top Recruitment Firm by Forbes Magazine.


How to Create a Great Employee Referral Program | Connector Team Recruiting.png

From my seat as an Executive Recruiter, companies in this tight labor market are looking for creative ways to enhance their talent pipeline.  Referral programs are not a new concept at all; however, they work well with execution and attention. Your best brand ambassadors are your top employees.  Using them as  part of your HR recruitment plan is just smart business.

A great employee referral program can help you promote your employer brand and it’s no secret: Employee referral programs can greatly help your organization find and hire top talent. After all, where best to find potential new employees than by tapping into current workers, who share your firm’s values and who are already helping you run a successful business? “Employee referral programs can be an effective way to hire talented people, and they can also be invaluable in the current talent acquisition environment, in which open jobs outnumber qualified candidates,” according to SHRM. However, securing talent through a strong employee referral program doesn’t just help you hire strong new employees. It can also be a powerful tool to help you promote your employer brand.

 “These types of initiatives are extremely powerful tools that can help you promote your employer brand and attract strong talent into the recruiting process,” says Kathryn Budd, director of human resources for MRINetwork. “When applied consistently, employee referral programs can also be a great retention tool that translates into huge costs savings on recruitment and investment in employees over time.”

What does an effective employee program entail and how can you start one at your company?

SHRM notes there are several things you can do, including:

1. Give employees the tools they need to refer:

This can mean putting together a positive culture around employee referrals and being able to track these efficiently in an HR portal so that you can effectively review the entire referral workflow.

 2. Set expectations and guidelines:

Additionally, SHRM recommends that you should “make sure employees understand the referral program's guidelines and expectations, including who is eligible to participate in the program and receive rewards for referrals.” Also be sure to include EEOC language to make it clear that the referral program is not discriminatory in any way. 

3. Provide incentives:

To help boost employee support in referring all-star talent, you should ideally put into place monetary inducements (if someone gets hired and stays for a set period). Make sure these incentives are paid in a predictable, timely and public manner and. To facilitate this, HR staff should set up automated payments in their HR information system.

 Other guidelines to follow include holding leaders accountable and being transparent throughout the process with employees, providing feedback, and, importantly, marketing the program far and wide. This last guideline means investing in the marketing and communication plans to boost how many employees at your organization participate.

 This is extremely important when trying to promote your employer brand. But, how is the term defined? According to SHRM, employer branding “is an important part of the employee value proposition and is essentially what the organization communicates as its identity to both potential and current employees.”

Moreover, it includes many things about the company, including the “organization’s mission, values, culture and personality,” according to SHRM. “A positive employer brand communicates that the organization is a good employer and a great place to work.” Notably, the article also states that an employer brand greatly affects the “recruitment of new employees, retention and engagement of current employees, and the overall perception of the organization in the market.”

So, what are the specific ways referral programs can help?

First, a strong referral program, as noted above, includes clear expectations, guidelines and a powerful marketing plan of action. As a result of this communications push, employees will know in-depth how to speak with former co-workers and friends who they want to refer. This strong professionalism instantly makes your company look like a worthy organization and one that many will want to join because of this, leading to increased interest.

Second, your company should be investing heavily in communications and online content in order to promote your employer brand on your website, social media platforms, public relations and through other promotional materials. As a result, people will covet the chance to be referred and interviewed because they’ll know even more about the company.

“An employee referral program is a win-win situation for you and your organization,” says Budd. “You’ll create both a powerful commitment to hiring the best people as well as an employer brand that truly shines.” This will also signal to your firm’s clients and other external stakeholders that your organization has robust systems for attracting the talent that will drive performance, further establishing confidence in your products and services, and ultimately a more successful business.

Aubrey Wiete, talent management consultant for Cincinnati Children's Hospital, who offered tips for improving employee referral programs at the 2019 Society for Human Resource Management Talent Conference & Exposition.

Wiete, along with Jenna Filipkowski, Ph.D., director of research at Human Capital Institute (HCI) in Cincinnati, shared six guidelines for crafting effective employee referral programs:

6 Tips for Effective Employee Referral Programs:

Wiete, along with Jenna Filipkowski, Ph.D., director of research at Human Capital Institute (HCI) in Cincinnati, shared six guidelines for crafting effective employee referral programs: 

1. Use your employees to promote the company brand.

Using employees to promote your company brand can be helpful when done right. "The first step is acknowledging that, if you want to build a referral program that really works, you need to have a referral-worthy culture," Wiete said.

Lululemon, an athletic apparel company headquartered in Vancouver, Canada, treats every employee as a brand ambassador and provides all employees with the information and tools they need to fill that role.

"We ask all new hires to provide us with a list of 10 names from their personal network," said conference attendee Marissa Davenport, a talent advisor and recruiter at Neighborly, a global service-based franchise company in Waco, Texas. When the company has open positions, hiring managers review these contacts. If there's a potential match, managers ask the referring employee to introduce the potential applicant to both the company and the employment opportunity.

2. Set clear guidelines and expectations.

Make sure employees understand the referral program's guidelines and expectations, including who is eligible to participate in the program and receive rewards for referrals.

According to HCI research, of the companies it surveyed:

  • 78 percent provide the same reward for a referral whether the open position is executive level or entry level. 

  • 60 percent allow all company employees to participate in the referral program.

  • 58 percent give preference to candidates who are referred by current employees.

  • 55 percent accept referrals from nonemployees, such as customers or clients.

3. Offer incentives that motivate.

HCI research indicates that 74 percent of employers offer referral incentives. Of those, 92 percent offer cash, with a median award of $1,000. Awards of $500 are the most common.

Consider the timing of the reward as well. Most employers hinge payment on a referred hire's staying employed with the company for a set period. Only 27 percent of employers offer a full reward immediately upon a referral's hire.

Aim for parity in these rewards so that a referral for an executive job doesn't pay substantially more than a referral for a lower-level job.

"We don't want the perception that one job is more important than another," said Davenport, whose company recently revised the amount of its incentive payouts for referrals to help achieve parity between departments.

4. Market the program.

Filipkowski recommended treating the employee referral program like an ongoing marketing campaign. Investing in marketing and communication plans for the program can increase the likelihood that employees will participate.

Groupon, a worldwide e-commerce marketplace based in Chicago, has a unique marketing approach for its employee referral program: Referred candidates get a coveted green Adidas track-style jacket after working for one year at the company. The jackets remind everyone that employee referrals have an impact.

5. Hold leaders and HR accountable.

One common complaint about referral programs is that HR sometimes fails to communicate with the referring employee and the candidate about the job status. To avoid frustration, share information with both parties, and keep them updated about the hiring process. Consider responding to every candidate referral within a set time, such as 10 days.

Senior leaders need to believe in the program and be a part of the design. To get this buy-in and find a program champion, give leaders data and feedback on the program's outcomes. Make sure executives understand the current competition for talent and the need to capitalize on employee networks. "The stakes are so high, and there is not enough talent to go around. How do we get these people in our door?" Wiete said.

6. Provide feedback on outcomes.

"Measure that [the referral program] is working or not working, and make adjustments as needed," Filipkowski said. Common metrics to capture include:

  • The number of employees hired through referrals, compared to other methods.

  • The number of qualified candidates obtained through referrals, compared to other sources.

  • The rate of employee participation.

  • The retention of referred hires compared to other sources.

  • The performance of referred hires compared to other sources.

So, there you have it, some great tips for creating an effective referral plan.  If you have a plan and or tips and tricks on making your program work, send me a note and I’ll spread the word in my next blog.

Blog Post by: Bill O’Malley, Chief Recruiting Officer at Connector Team Recruiting.  Connector Team is recognized by leaders and leading consultants as the premier search firm in the Furniture | Electronics and Sleep vertical space. Connector Team is an affiliate office of MRINETWORK recently ranked in 2019 as a Top Recruitment Firm by Forbes Magazine. Content credit First Friday Preview.


Create a winning LinkedIn profile  _ Connector Team Recruiting.png

Build Your Personal Brand

Earlier this year I wrote about how the job market had become a truly candidate driven marketplace. We continue to see strong hiring and a real talent shortage in the Retail Home Furnishings sector. This is being driven by this month’s continued low Unemployment rate of (3.7%) and this means the white-collar worker segment is nearing full employment.  The accelerating level of changing demographics from retirements of baby boomers to the rise of the millennials in the workforce is changing the number of qualified candidates in the Retail Labor market.

As a Candidate you should focus on refreshing your resume and your LinkedIn profile to make sure that your profile stands out.  Here are some tips to make sure that you stand out from the crowd.


Being on LinkedIn is a must for every executive job seeker.  In fact, 9 out of 10 employers and recruiters will want to see your LinkedIn profile before they will invite you for a job interview. Therefore, having a compelling LinkedIn profile is a smart thing to do.


LinkedIn profiles have the components of your ‘regular’ resume such as a summary, education, experience and special skills.  The way you present these determines how companies will perceive you as a potential hire.  Employers can see LinkedIn profiles 24/7, and if the descriptions are minimal (as frankly most LinkedIn descriptions are), they may not be impressed.

As with resumes, average candidates with superior profiles often get better offers than superior candidates with second-rate profiles. It may be impressive that well-known companies employed you or that you have prestigious job titles. However, by themselves, these factors are not enough.


A solid LinkedIn profile has substance and sophistication. It shows not only where you have worked and for how long, but also gives a persuasive synopsis of what you accomplished, implicitly suggesting how your experience can help potential employers achieve their goals. Great LinkedIn profiles articulately communicate one’s signature value and strengths that positively differentiate a particular executive from other leaders.

Strong LinkedIn profiles also have an abundance of relevant keywords. When employers look for candidates, they usually seek definite talents and skills. Having a profile rich with contemporary industry terms and expressions gives you a competitive advantage and demonstrates that you are a proficient candidate.

Keep in mind Recruiters use Boolean search strings to find relevant candidates and all are based on the industry specific keywords.  This is discussed in item #2 below.

HOW TO Build Your personal brand with a Superior PROFILE:

The easiest and most logical way to prepare a compelling LinkedIn profile is to first prepare an outstanding ‘regular’ resume. Then, you can effortlessly paste the key elements of your resume into your LinkedIn profile.  As a result, you’ll have the best of both worlds – a powerful regular and an online executive resume.

After you paste your resume information on LinkedIn, you can add other personal components such as a photo, memberships, and connections. It’s really straightforward.

In fact, LinkedIn has a wonderful Learning section available to you with experts and thought leaders giving out advice just like this to help users with their online profiles.

Bear in mind that content quality and relevance are the most important parts of your profile, so always revisit and keep it up to date when you update your resume.


1.     Invest in getting a professional photo taken

According to a recent LinkedIn Survey, your profile is 2.1 times more likely to be viewed if you have a photo in your profile.  

a.    Here are some tips: If you can afford a professional head shot find a local photography studio and tell them you are doing a Linked in profile head shot.  The photography studios in malls or chain stores are all set up for taking Linked in head shots. They can typically do a great job and at an affordable rate. Have someone accompany you…that special someone that can make you laugh, feel natural and give you sincere feedback.

b.    Do wear the appropriate business outfit, however, make sure that it represents you as a person. The more comfortable you are in your attire, the better the result.  

c.    We do not recommend including anyone else in your picture including spouse, significant other, pets or anyone else in your business head shot.  From my seat and POV this is not Instagram or Facebook…this is your business image.

 2.    Craft a more strategic headline.

Your Linkedln headline is important for two reasons: It creates the first impression of you and the keywords you select for it are the words that help recruiters find you.  A nice feature is that your headline can change on demand.  You can go into your account settings and you can use up to 120 characters to craft your headline. 

To craft a strong headline:

a.    Be specific about who you are and what you do. For example, instead of using a generic title like "Distribution Manager," use Distribution and Logistics Executive/Warehousing and Final Mile expertise

b.    Incorporate relevant keywords. To find the most impactful ones, look at job descriptions for positions you'd love and check out your most relevant Linkedln groups to find industry appropriate terminology.

c.     Avoid using "unemployed" in your headline. Instead, use strategic keywords that convey your value statement. For example; titles such as Business Development Leader/Hunter, Sales Generation Expert, Top Performing District Sales Leader, or Highly Engaged Sales Coach and Servant Leader demonstrate what you could bring to a company.

3.    Ask for Linkedln recommendations.

Getting them from your Linkedln network, as well as Featured Skills/Endorsements (that's No. 4), lets others sing your praises and keeps you from appearing boastful.

a.    For optimal results, ask for a recommendation immediately after the successful completion of a project or when you receive an important accolade or award. Make your request in person or by phone, if possible. It's more personal than email and gives you an opportunity to talk about specifics for the recommendation. 

4.    Manage your featured skills and endorsements.

You know those annoying messages that pop up on Linkedln asking if you'd like to endorse your contacts for a variety of skills? I've always considered that feature worthless. After all, I've had people endorse me for public speaking who've never heard me speak and received endorsements for career coaching from people I've never met.

a.    According to a recent Linkedln study, users who display five or more skills are messaged 31 times more and viewed 17 times more than those who do not! So as meaningless as endorsements seem, they do attract more eyeballs to your page.

 5.    Incorporate  photos and video.

When it comes to building a powerful Linkedln profile, remember  the old adage: A picture is worth a thousand words. You can now easily post photos and videos to your Linkedln profile under the Experience, Education or Summary sections.

a.    You can also use images in the background banner of your personal profile, where you can feature a logo, photo or image that colorfully enhances your brand. For example, a realtor might display a photo of the city skyline or an executive might use a photo of a conference she recently organized.

b.    Remember, it's far more effective to post a speaking clip that demonstrates how engaging you are than to simply state, "I am a strong public speaker." 

6.    Show off your expertise with SlideShare.

Linkedln recently bought the SlideShare presentation platform and now integrates it within your account. This way, you and your work can be easily discovered through a specific SlideShare search or through Google. It's another dynamic and interesting way to display your thought leadership and draw traffic to your profile. 

7.    Blog with Linkedln Publisher.

Finally, consider posting blogs on Linkedln to build your personal brand as a thought leader. The posts you write will be displayed on your Linkedln profile and as your connections like and comment on them, they'll be seen by your wider second- and third-level networks as well as through Google searches.

Final Tips and ongoing Brand update and Maintenance Tip for Executives…

Look at your personal profile on Linkedln

•       Compare it to the seven tips in this article and to your competition

•       Spend five minutes a day on Linkedln by sharing, liking or posting to increase your presence and profile.

 Bill O’Malley is President of Connector Team Recruiting a firm headquartered in Charlottesville, Virginia specializing in the Furniture | Appliance and Sleep verticals. Connector Team is an affiliate office of MRINETWORK, Philadelphia, PA.  Connector Team is a full service Search Firm offering permanent placement recruiting solutions and also contract staffing solutions.

For comments or to reach Bill contact him at

Reference and credit to: MRI Learning and Talent Development - Personal Branding