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August 1, 2006

Your Employees Are Just Not That into You

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An interesting article from DMNews talks about the revolving door at most SEM/ SEO companies.

“You’ve spent 2 months sifting through resumes for just the right candidate. She aces the interview process, and you agree to her salary demands, which are a bit above what you wanted to spend. You were even generous with the start date, one month from now. Oh yes, and she wants to work from home 2 days a week. “Whatever it takes,” you say, “now I can sit back and relax.”

Not so fast says DMNews. The hard part isn’t finding the perfect candidate; it’s keeping them longer than just a few months. Over recent years many SEM/ SEO firms have developed the habit of hiring new grads, and why not — they’re eager to work hard and, as the article states, the average 22 year-old-old has almost 16 years of Internet marketing experience (hee!). The problem is these newbies aren’t as green as employers think and are often out the door and being recruited just a few months after being brought on board. Out the door with them: All the money you spent training them.

But are the young 22-year-olds at fault?

Not according to the article. The articles blames search marketing and their “mad rush to grow, grow, grown” for their inability to keep young talent. In their hurry for expansion, search marketers have created a vicious cycle where they purposely steal their competition’s talent right from under them. The bucking 22-year-olds have simply learned to play the SEMs game, negotiating themselves some pretty impressive salaries in the process.

It’s not too surprising that if your perfect-on-paper candidate has worked four jobs in the past year, they might not stick with you too long. As it turns out, finding your next SEM star is pretty similar to finding a boyfriend in high school. If he’s willing to cheat on his current partner for you, you shouldn’t act too surprised when he’s cheating on you with someone else in three months.

How can you help keep your perfectly picked staff in place? First, don’t be too quick to hire. Your company is growing, but you’re not looking for bodies to fill office chairs, you’re looking for new team members. Finding quality takes time. There is a purpose to the interview process. Use that time to get to know individuals as personally as you can. How many jobs have they had in the past year? Do you have enough fingers to even count them all?

When you’re recruiting new members, try and avoid stealing them from your competitors just three months after they started working there. There’s a difference between recruiting and sabotage. Karma is a funny thing. If you were able to get them to cut their loyalties so soon, it’s likely someone else will return the favor.

Once you do commit to a new team member, make sure they have room to be creative. One of the reasons people are attracted to Google is they encourage creativity. We’re not suggesting you let them use 20 percent of their work week to save the world, but a little breathing room goes a long way.

Lastly, do yourself a favor and take a good look at your staff today (but don’t stare, you don’t need any lawsuits). Do they look content? Are their eyes glazed over? If they are, you might want to talk to them about how they’re doing. See if they need to be challenged more. Or if the thirty pounds they lost is due to work exhaustion and not diet and exercise.

It’s important to know these things. Refilling the same position multiple times a year is expensive. It’s better to take a few months to find the right person for a position, than to play trial and error with four different people. And once you do hire someone, stay observant. If your most prized pupil is considering leaving you for your biggest competitor, you want to notice the change in attitude before they decide to leave. It’s important to have the padlock and chains ready.

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