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How to Hire and Retain Rockstar Employees for your Government Contract: Keys to Retention Success

February 15, 2023 | Business Development, Government

If you ever watched Seinfeld, you may be familiar with this scene at a car rental dealership: Jerry is told the car he rented is unavailable, and he says to the agent, “you know how to take the reservation. You just don’t know how to hold the reservation.And that’s REALLY the most important part of the reservation, the holding.”

The same is true when it comes to your employees. Hiring them is important, but keeping them is perhaps even more important. This is easier said than done, of course, so in this third of a five-part series on employee recruitment and retention, I’ll discuss some keys to success that can help your company compete.

Assign a mentor

One of the primary reasons employees leave is relationships–or lack thereof. That’s why it’s good practice to provide new team members with a mentor aside from their boss. The mentor should be someone who is great at their job, is an overall great employee, and who knows the job being filled by the new hire. The reason you should look beyond the supervisor is that he or she may be less available than other employees, and the new hire may be reluctant to ask questions of their boss, especially about something that may be elementary or that was already covered with them. 

30-60-90 Day Meetings

At the 30, 60 and 90-day points the immediate supervisor should have formal meetings with the new team member to provide feedback regarding work performance. This time should be used to answer any questions about job duties, discuss any suggestions about how to improve upon processes or procedures, and identify any employees who have been especially helpful. It is best to ask for suggestions while the team member is still new to the company and has fresh eyes. As time goes on they will become ingrained in the current system, and less likely to identify anomalies–good or bad.

Rounding/Connecting

Rounding is a process developed by the Studer Group, a healthcare consulting company. The process involves individual meetings between the immediate supervisor and his or her team members. 

I prefer calling them “connecting” sessions because of the connection that develops between the team member and their supervisor. Regardless of what you call them, they should last between 30-45 minutes and be scheduled quarterly. Each meeting should start informally to break the ice and create a relaxed setting. Then, the following questions should be asked during each session:

  • What is working well?
  • What is not working well, and what can we do to fix it?
  • How can we improve communication?
  • Is there anyone I should recognize for providing excellent service? 
  • How can I help you advance your career?

These questions aren’t etched in stone, but they have worked well for me. It is always good to hear what is working well, and it starts the meeting on a positive note. When discussing what is not working well, the expectation is that suggestions for improvement must also be offered, or it will turn into a complaint session. The question about improving communication should lead to suggestions for improvement. 

The last question identified above is interesting because it shows an interest in the employee’s long-term growth. It is extremely rare for employees to work at one job, or even one company, for their entire career. Take some time to identify your team members’ aspirations and what they need to do to get there. In the past, I’ve identified good leaders based on how many of their team members had been developed and promoted to other positions. Leaders develop other leaders, and you should nurture those relationships.

Two additional thoughts about connecting sessions:

  • Do NOT start connecting sessions if you can’t follow through with the process. That will likely cause more harm than good.
  • Employee recognition is extremely important. This is why I emphasize asking new hires which employees have been helpful. Follow up by recognizing those who are mentioned with a hand-written thank you note. This includes new employees who get off to a strong start, and longstanding employees who help new hires get acclimated.

Stoplight Report

After each quarterly connecting sessions is completed, the supervisor must create a Stoplight Report, which compiles answers to the questions “What is not working well?” and “How do we improve communication?” As its name implies, it includes green, yellow, and red sections, as follows:

  • The green section identifies all the items that have been addressed and completed
  • The yellow section contains items that require continued work
  • The red section identifies items that can’t be addressed and explains why

The Stoplight Report should be shared with the entire team within a month of completing the connecting sessions. When the team sees the results, they will be more willing to share their ideas. On the other hand, if nothing happens after the Connecting sessions and change never occurs, the team will become disheartened, lose hope, and will think the company does not care. It’s worth repeating, then, to only go through this process if you can follow through.

Expect Pushback

When I share this process with companies, I often get pushback about the perceived time it will take. My response is to ask them what they are working on. Inevitably, a good portion of their time is spent managing employee issues and interviewing and onboarding new personnel. The goal with this retention plan is to be proactive as opposed to reactive, meaning that if it is executed well, less time will need to be allocated to performance issues and hiring and onboarding new staff. That’s not to say that it’s easy, but the investment of time in your employees will pay off in the long run.

I’m looking forward to sharing the fourth post in this series next week. In the meantime, if you have any questions about employee recruitment and retention, please contact me on LinkedIn or at [email protected]


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MYTH: Government agencies only do business with large businesses.

FACT: Each government agency sets goals each year on how much money they will spend with small business concerns (traditional small business, woman owned small business, minority owned small business, veteran owned small business, hubzone etc). Some agencies have set their goal to award 30% of their dollars spent to some type of small business concern.

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