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How To Identify and Retain Fantastic Talent With Bonnie Scherry Of G&A Partners

HR Strategy Series, Real Human Resources

Those little extras you can do for people because you’ve taken the time to get to know them, that’s what people remember.

As a part of my HR Strategy Series, I’m talking to top experts in the field to teach prospects what hiring managers are actually looking for, while also supporting business leaders in their hiring and retention strategies. Today I had the pleasure of talking with Bonnie Scherry.

Bonnie Scherry is the Director of Corporate HR at G&A Partners and is a certified Senior Professional in Human Resources (SPHR) with more than 20 years of experience in the HR field. Her ability to assess employees’ needs at every level of the corporate ladder has helped create a thriving and productive office culture at G&A Partners.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! First, please tell us what brought you to this specific career path?

I have an accounting degree and accounting work became monotonous really quickly. My whole career path has been in small, privately-owned companies, and all of these owners would ask me these questions about employment law because I was doing payroll and they didn’t have an HR person. After looking into these topics for them, I decided HR was much more interesting and made the switch.

Can you share the most interesting or funny story that happened to you since you started this career and what lesson you learned from that?

When I was the office manager beer and wine distributor, I worked in a warehouse environment. One day, one of the truck drivers called me to talk about his overtime and started using some “choice words.” I don’t appreciate foul language, so I hung up on him. He called me back, using the same sort of language, and so I hung up on him again.

He called me a third time, and before he said anything else, he said, “Please don’t hang up on me! This is my last quarter.” (This was before cellphones, obviously.) So I told him not to curse at me, and we managed to resolve the situation. The incident actually became a bit of a running joke between the two of us, and I always kept a quarter at my desk in case he needed it again.

This experience taught me that you have to figure out how to get along and communicate with employees, and that that may be different for different people. Once you do that, you’re really able to start building that relationship.

Wonderful. Now let’s jump into the main focus of our series. Hiring can be very time consuming and difficult. Can you share 5 techniques that you use to identify the talent that would be best suited for the job you want to fill?

1. Employee referrals. No one knows our culture, our business, and the pace of how we do things here. They also know what personalities would do well here, so they’re the best source for recruiting new employees.

2. Basic networking — and not just at professional events. I’ve learned to always keep my recruiting hat on when I’m out and about, because you never know where you’d meet someone who could be a good fit.

3. Relevant knowledge. While candidate that also has the right education would tend to offer more of a complete package, that doesn’t mean someone with significant experience (20+ years) can’t be a very good fit. In fact, experience may be more relevant for mid-senior positions where someone who is happy with where they are in their career or are sunsetting (looking to retire in a few years) might be a better fit.

4. Assessments. We’ve constructed our assessment metrics based on results from current high-performing employees, so we’re able to compare candidates’ results against those benchmarks.

5. Established KPIs. We have KPIs for each position, and having these available while we’re searching for a candidate allows us to look for those who specifically have had success meeting similar KPIs elsewhere.

With so much noise and competition out there, what are your top ways to attract and engage the best talent in an industry when they haven’t already reached out to you?

1. Always keep your eyes (and ears) open because you can find good people in unexpected places. I frequently give out my card to waitstaff and people in other roles who I see providing excellent customer service because those are the kinds of people we want working for us.

2. Make sure the opportunity is as good a match for the candidate as he or she may be for your company. Would taking your position make sense for where they are in their career path? For a successful match, it has to be a win-win for both the candidate and the employer.

3. Treating them like people and being honest. If there is a reason why the process is taking longer than usual — like, that the hiring manager is out on PTO or focused on a big event at the moment, let the candidate know what that reason is so they don’t feel like they’re being strung along. Everyone’s time is valuable to them, and you never want a candidate to feel like your company has wasted theirs.

What are the 3 most effective strategies you use to retain employees?

1. Show appreciation and value your employees. While that encompasses many things, the most important are paying them fairly and offering benefits that they value.

2. Listen to your employees. When you listen to people, it shows that you care about them.

3. Do the little things. Let your employees have fun at work — however they define fun. You’re at work far too long to not have fun while you’re there.

In your experience, is it important for HR to keep up with the latest trends? If so, please share an example of what this might look like.

Absolutely! Take, for example, that we’re right now at full employment. This is both a trend and a fact, and it will affect how you recruit and retain employees. For our company, specifically, it’s very important for our HR teams to know about trends that affect the workplace from a compliance perspective (things like marijuana legalization, sick leave, overtime, etc.) so we can advise our clients on how to respond. A successful HR professional needs to view these types of trends with a proactive lens so they can help their companies understand how they might affect their organizations and make a plan to respond to them.

What are some creative ways to increase the value provided to employees without breaking the bank?

I have so many, but my favorites are handwritten notes, acknowledging new employees and employee anniversaries on social media, and walking the floor to say thank you to employees about any accomplishments you hear about in meetings. Really, it all comes back to treating employees like people first and showing that you care about them as individuals.

If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?

For people to have honest conversations at work! We shortchange people when we don’t tell them the truth. Everyone wants to avoid confrontation but it’s important to give that feedback — positive and negative, and most employees really do want to know how they can improve.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote” and how that was relevant to you in your life?

“Little things mean a lot.” Most people are good at doing the big things, but often it’s the little things that mean so much more. Those little extras you can do for people because you’ve taken the time to get to know them, that’s what people remember.

Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world whom you would love to have a private lunch with, and why?

Sir Richard Branson. He’s just so inspiring and truly understands the value of his employees. He’s also not afraid to make mistakes and doesn’t shy away from owning up to them. I really respect that.

Thank you so much for these fantastic insights!

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