Tom Gimbel was never good enough. At least that’s what a past employer would have you believe.
“I’ve worked for a company (where) I sold over 50 percent of total sales,” he says. “No matter what I sold, I was always told, ‘Why aren’t you doing this? Why aren’t you doing more?’”
Instead of letting such negativity dampen his spirits, Gimbel turned his enthusiasm and business acumen toward his own enterprise, The LaSalle Network. Founded in 1998, the staffing and recruiting firm boasts 2007 revenue of $16.5 million and an 80-person staff of happy employees.
“I remember what it was like to not always be treated as a valuable employee,” LaSalle’s founder and CEO says. “I never want that to be the case [for my employees].”
Smart Business spoke with Gimbel about how to hire and retain the best employees and how to keep them happy.
Q. What are the keys to attracting the best employees?
First off, you have to retain the best employees. Good employees tend to be around good employees.
Another layer of that is how you communicate with them through the interview process. Step one is always selling us to the candidate. We want them to be excited about us before we go about trying to determine whether they’re right for us.
There’s a big difference there, and a lot of companies miss that boat. They have such an imperial view of how great their company is that they stop selling it to other people.
Then, we demonstrate career paths that we’ve shown. I had my marketing guy create bios and career progressions of the staff that we had showing that there was a way for people to advance and grow within a small- to medium-sized company.
That really played a role when people were doing research on us to say, ‘I heard about such-and-such’s career progression. That was really an attractive thing for me.’
Q. How do you retain your current employees?
Always have empathy for the employee. Think: What’s fun for them?
An example we do is, we celebrate what we call employees’ rebirthdays. That’s the anniversary of their start date with the company. ...
Every year on their rebirthday, we give them a gift. We’ve done iPods. We’ve done computers. We’ve done a new suit.
You’ve got all of these friends and families outside of the office that acknowledge your birthday, but how many people are going to acknowledge that you’ve worked really hard for a year?
When you see the look on somebody’s face when they come off of an elevator and they see all of the balloons, it really is fantastic.
Q. How do you justify the cost of such recognition?
I meet with CEOs and CFOs and VPs of HR, and I always say, ‘Whenever I look to hire somebody, the first question I ask myself is, ‘Am I ready to commit an additional $10,000 a year to training?’ If the answer’s no, then why am I hiring them?’
The question is, ‘Do you care about the people?’ If you do, you’ve got to recognize their efforts. When you do that, you create a loyalty that is stronger than any outside force can ever break.
Q. How do you gauge chemistry between a job candidate and the company?
You can’t be afraid to have the potential employee meet a lot of your existing staff.
It’s a value-added all around. The staff feels that they’re part of the process, and the potential employee feels that they’re meeting the people and not just the management team.
The first time, we’ll have them interview with at least one person. If that one person likes them, we’ll have them meet with a second person. The second person can be somebody within the department, somebody without. It can be anybody just to get two perspectives to brainstorm.
The second day, we bring them back. We want to have them interact with their direct manager who would be running the department.
One of the biggest things that can hold up the hiring process is delaying the momentum because of scheduling conflicts. What our research has shown us is that candidates would rather have continued momentum and interaction with the company, even if they’re meeting with people outside of their direct manager. Keep that process going.
Q. Why is hiring the right people so important?
The cost of turnover is much higher than people anticipate. Spending eight to 10 hours upfront and in an elongated interview, you are going to save yourself literally hundreds of man hours in recouping morale and personal time.
Pay for the right people. Every time I didn’t hire somebody because they were too expensive, I’ve always looked back and said, ‘What could have been?’
HOW TO REACH: The LaSalle Network, (312) 419-1700 or www.thelasallenetwork.com