Episode 349

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The market right now for attracting and retaining the best employees is insane. It feels like only three people on the planet are looking for work, and they all want $3 million, plus a signing bonus. Owners are in panic mode when they think about attracting and retaining the best employees. They’re struggling to find good candidates. Or, by the time they get a candidate through their 12-step process, they miss out because they accepted a different position.

So how in this environment should we be hiring? What should the process look like?

I invited Heenle Turner to join me for this episode of Build a Better Agency because she holds the golden ticket to your agency having a great rest of 2022.

She believes that not only should we all have a 5-star employee, but that we should have ALL 4- and 5-star employees in our agencies. She believes that this is absolutely possible and critical to our success.

A big thank you to our podcast’s presenting sponsor, White Label IQ. They’re an amazing resource for agencies who want to outsource their design, dev, or PPC work at wholesale prices. Check out their special offer (10 free hours!) for podcast listeners here.
Attracting and retaining the best employees

What You Will Learn in This Episode:

  • What does a 5-star employee look like, and why Heenle believes you can have an agency full of them
  • How you can level up your employees, especially in this market when it’s hard to find anyone to take a job
  • How you can find, hire, and keep 5-star employees
  • What are the five distinct qualities of a 5-star employee
  • What are the 11 universal qualities 5-star employees share
  • What questions should you ask during an interview to ferret out if someone is a 5-star candidate before you hire them
“5-star employees have five distinct qualities, and they all share 11 universal qualities.” @HeenleTurner Share on X “You should have a customized interview packet for each role with questions designed to drill down into each of the 11 universal qualities as they relate to your agency.” @HeenleTurner Share on X “The typical prep for someone conducting an interview is ‘Oh, I have an interview in five minutes, let me Google some questions, and then I'm going to talk about my agency to convince them they should want to work here.’” @HeenleTurner Share on X “The best advice I can give an agency owner is you’ve got to get comfortable with silence. Be comfortable with the silence and force the candidate to respond.” @HeenleTurner Share on X “There’s a common belief that it's going to cost you much more to attract and retain the best employees when the differential in the market is maybe 10 percent.” @HeenleTurner Share on X

Ways to contact Heenle:

Resources:

Speaker 1:

It doesn’t matter what kind of an agency you run, traditional, digital, media buying, web dev, PR, whatever your focus, you still need to run a profitable business. The Build a Better Agency podcast presented by White Label IQ will show you how to make more money and keep more of what you made. Let us help you build an agency that is sustainable, scalable, and if you want, down the road sellable, bringing his 25 plus years of experience as both an agency owner and agency consultant, please welcome your host, Drew McClellan.

Drew McLellan:

Hey, everybody. Drew McClellan here from Agency Management Institute. Thank you for joining us this week for the episode of Build a Better Agency. Happy to have you back. I am just fresh off the Summit. I am on a high in terms of just, it was just an amazing week of connection, sharing, learning, and so much hugging. It was good, good, good stuff. If you were with us, thanks for being with us. If you missed it, I sure hope you joined us for ’23, because honestly, it’s a blast.

Remarkable speakers, but the best part are the participants. These other agency owners that you get to hang out with, talk to, learn from, and teach, it really is spectacular. I’m on a high, so you might get a sense of that from my energy today, but I’m feeling good about the Summit, AMI, and all of you. I’m full of love today for everybody.

Before I let you know who we’re going to talk to in the topic, which is a really important one, I just want to remind you that we are getting ready to now release all of the workshops for 2023. They’ll be out very shortly. I know it seems like it’s only June, Drew, you’re crazy, but honestly that stuff catches up with us in a hurry. We are going to start doing the AE bootcamps and the advanced AE bootcamps twice a year, rather than once a year.

That’s, I think, good news for a lot of you who are like, “Yeah, I hired somebody. I don’t want to wait almost a year to send them to the bootcamps.” We’re going to do them in every six month increments. Every quarter they’ll be either be an AE bootcamp or an advanced AE bootcamp, but we’ve got some other good stuff coming for you. Watch for news about that in the newsletter and other places.

All right. Let me tell you a little bit about our guest. Heenle Turner is an HR expert. She believes, and I am going to dig into this, she believes that not only should we all have a five star employee, but that we should have all four and five star employees. She believes that is absolutely possible and critical to our business success. We’re going to find out, A, what a five star employee looks like, and B, how in the heck can we have an entire agency full of them?

I am really anxious to pick her brain and to find out from her how we can level up our employees, especially in this market, when honest to Pete it is so hard to find anybody to take a job, let alone a five star person to take the job. Don’t want to waste anymore time. I’ll jump right in, so let’s do it. Heenle, welcome to the podcast. I am excited to talk about this. If there is one topic that has come up every day when I’m talking to agency owners, it is hiring and retaining staff. You hold the golden ticket to everyone having a great rest of 2022. No pressure, but in this next 45 minutes, you’re going to deliver the goods.

Heenle Turner:

Thank you for having me. I’m excited to be here.

Drew McLellan:

Give everybody a little sense of your background, how you came to have the expertise that you do in HR before I start picking your brain about how we can find, hire, and keep five star talent.

Heenle Turner:

Sure. Yeah. My background is primarily in the HR field. I started off working as an in-house HR manager for an organization and then for another organization. Then, I moved into a consultant to the consults arena. I’ve consulted with over 200-ish businesses and I’ve helped businesses from everything from hiring, retention, employer relations, managing their people. I moved from that consultant role into working with the all In company where we specialize in a perfect time, really, to help business owners and entrepreneurs learn how to recruit, hire, and retain their very own five star employees.

Drew McLellan:

Define what a five star employee looks like. How do I know if I have one?

Heenle Turner:

Yeah. It’s not your gut feeling. What it is, is your-

Drew McLellan:

Wait, wait, wait. HR is more than gut feelings?

Heenle Turner:

Yeah. It’s funny. That’s what I get every day. I had this gut feeling and I was like, look, if it’s not quantifiable, I don’t know that you should be using that to make a decision that’s so important, which is the people in your organization.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah. Right.

Heenle Turner:

With five star employees, what’s unique about them is the five star employee has, surprisingly, five distinct qualities. One is that they share the core values of the business owner. That means what’s important to the business owner is important to every person, every five star employee in their organization. For me, my core values will differ maybe from yours, but my employees core values should align with mine.

Drew McLellan:

Yep. Makes sense.

Heenle Turner:

Mm-hmm (affirmative) Second, five star employees, all of them, they all score a 70% or higher on what we’ve outlined as the 11 universal qualities of all five star employees. Five star employees, they meet or exceed your role specific skills and aptitudes necessary for the job. Every job you have, every role you have in your organization, in your agency, has a specific skillset requirement. Your five star employees meet or exceed what your expectations and really what your agency needs are with those specific skill sets.

Five star employees, they also, they’re successful. They meet your success metrics that you’ve outlined for that position. That means if you have a salesperson and that salesperson needs to close 10 sales a week, then your five star employee is meeting those or exceeding that metrics. They’re giving you that, lastly, the fifth star is that they’re giving you that three times or more better return on payroll because they’re elite performers. They’re generating money for you as they’re working for you as well.

Drew McLellan:

Okay. You mentioned the 11 characteristics of a five star employee. Can you tell us just a few of those?

Heenle Turner:

Sure. Five star employees, all of them have these 11, the shared universal 11 qualities. They are supportive. They are proactive, they’re flexible. Flexible a big, a big one. Someone who is not flexible, they’re more than likely not going to be a five star employee. Five star employees, they complete your tasks, they complete their task. They achieve the goals that you set out for them.

Going back to their value, they’re producing quantifiable results for you, results that you can tangibly see and really take back to something that’s going to impact your business positively. Another big one is that five star employees listen to fellow team members. It’s much more difficult to listen than it is to speak. A quality that we have that our five star employees have is they actively listen to each other.

Drew McLellan:

As I’m listening to you describe these magic employees and everybody listening probably has one or has had one and recognizes all of the qualities you said. I assume that there’s tricks to interviewing, to ferret out whether somebody has the capacity to be a five star employee before you hire them.

Heenle Turner:

Right. It kind of goes back to what is your interview process look like. Really, just to zoom out a little bit more is what does your recruitment process look like? What steps are you taking to make sure people who are not five star employees are filtered out in your own recruitment process? For instance, are you using assessments and to really test the skills of the people and the applicants before you bring them in for an interview? By using a filter such as that, you’re only going to be looking at candidates who you know have one of the stars because they’ve got the skillset that you’re looking for, for example. When you create this process, and it really needs to be an objective process.

When you create this process that’s going to bring somebody into an interview, then what are your interview questions? You really need to have a customized interview packet for each role. You can work with an expert. That’s going to be your best bet here, is to work with somebody who knows how to develop these questions for you, so that they can really be personalized to your organization. For example, we worked with a medical office and one of the qualities of the five star employees is that the person is supportive. We had a collaboration session with this member who’s in our community. We talked about really understanding what does supportive mean to you. By understanding what supportive means to the business owner, we’re able to design questions that drill down on that answer.

Drew McLellan:

Hmm. Makes sense. I find that for a lot of agency owners, the interview is basically the agency owner talking and kind of convincing the candidate that they want to work at the agency.

Heenle Turner:

Right. It’s funny because I don’t think your listeners are alone in that. I think most business owners and people who walk into an interview, this is the picture. It’s like, “Oh, I’ve got an interview in five minutes. Let me Google some questions and then I’m going to talk about my company.” Really, what you want to do is this needs to be, think of it as time where you’re learning about whether or not this person is qualified for your job and how are they going to fit into your organization and working with you.

I think the most difficult thing, and one of the best pieces of advice I can give an agency owner is you’ve got to get comfortable with the silence. If you can outline questions, what do you want to know? What’s going to help you assess whether this person is going to be successful with us? Outline the question that’s going to help you determine that and ask that question.

If someone doesn’t answer you right away, your job is not to fill in the gaps because you’re really not going to learn anything then. Be comfortable with that silence and force that person to respond. If that person is not responding, guess what? They probably are not a five star employee and you don’t want to settle for them anyway.

Drew McLellan:

Do you believe that a business can have all five star employees, everybody who works in my agency can and should be a five star employee?

Heenle Turner:

Yeah, I do. I do.

Drew McLellan:

I think that’s interesting because I was reading some of the stuff that you guys provided and I was on the website and it struck me that in most agencies, we think of, we have a couple superstars and then we have a lot of what I would call utility players. Like, they’re good. They’re a good B, B plus. Every once in a while they show up and they have a great game, but for the most part they’re just steady eddies. But, they’re probably never, I would never envision them as moving into a leadership role or something like that. I think we have the wrong standard.

Heenle Turner:

Yeah. You have to think of it too, as, I would say most organizations, most agencies, you’ve got to understand first what, starting with what your own core values are. Then, you’re going to be able to match yourself with the five star players. Again, if someone who’s a five star employee for me in doing what one thing is not going to be a five star employee in your organization doing something else. An organization can be really successful with a team of four and five star employees. It’s the one, two, and three star employees who you want to avoid. Oftentimes, two, three, one five star employee can do the work of two, three, four, one, two or three star employees.

Gosh, that’s a lot of numbers. Pretty much, you’re going to get more for your buck with a five star employee. One way I like to think about it is if I go to, because a lot of people are like, “Oh, well, it’s going to cost me so much more.” That’s another concern. It’s going to cost me so much more to find a five star employee. When really, I think the differential in market is maybe 10%.

Think about it like a cup of coffee. I can go to McDonald’s Starbucks, coffee being whatever it is where you live and a plain cup of coffee is going to cost a couple dollars wherever I go. They may taste just so much better to me. You’re not going to get there until you know exactly what you’re looking for. I think that’s where people struggle.

Drew McLellan:

Seems to me that in today’s market, when it’s really very employee driven, they are in the driver’s seat right now. They know that they’re scarce. They know that we’ll pay a premium for them. It kind of starts with actually being a place where they want to work. Are there characteristics of a workplace, a business, or a business owner that you think really attracts five star employees?

Heenle Turner:

Yeah, I think five star employees like the details. They want to be held accountable and celebrate those successes. A business owner needs to be really clear on what they’re looking for and what their expectations are. For instance, in something like a job posting, you want to include in your job posting exactly what that person is going to be expected to do. Then, that success metrics to identify what success looks like in the role. A five star candidate will look at that posting and be excited about the challenge and kind of, “Oh yeah, I can definitely do this.” Then, we’ll move forward and apply. Somebody who is a one, two, or three star or average employee will probably see that challenge and be turned off by it.

You want to be really clear in what you’re looking for. You also want to keep your focus on always building up your people and making sure that culture in your organization is always on point. When you have a team of five star employees, they want to work with like-minded people. They want to work with other superstars and it actually drags people, drags us down when you throw somebody in the mix who’s subpar is only, eh, okay.

That’s one of the big feedback we get from candidates is, “Oh, I was the only one pulling my weight. Nobody else on my team was accountable.” That tells you that the five star employees want to work with other five star employees. Just a step into retention really quick is you don’t want to lose a great five star employee because you stuck with somebody who is just meh.

Drew McLellan:

Well, and I think actually when I talk to agency owners and they try and talk themselves out of letting somebody go or whatever. That’s what I say to them is, “The greatest risk you have is that you keep the mediocre employee and your rockstar walks out the door because they’re tired of carrying somebody else’s weight.”

Heenle Turner:

Yeah. It is exhausting. It’s very exhausting when you don’t feel like everybody supports each other and you don’t feel like they’re listening, you don’t feel like they’re communicating their thoughts. Nobody wants to work somewhere where it’s uncomfortable. Especially, I think the agency owner as well. If you can take a second and think about the person who’s the stone in your shoe. Who makes you cringe when you walk into the door? I can guarantee you, if you email me, if you reach out to me and we do a quick assessment on who your five star employees are, I bet you that person won’t be one.

Drew McLellan:

Right. That’s right.

Heenle Turner:

Yeah. It’s so easy because as soon as you get rid of somebody who is… Oh gosh, that sounded harsh. As soon as you know-

Drew McLellan:

No, but you’re right.

Heenle Turner:

Yeah. As soon as that one, two, or three star employee leaves the organization, everybody else has this sense of relief.

Drew McLellan:

Well, I think a couple things. Number one, I think we all know who that person is. What I say [inaudible 00:20:08] is I guarantee there’s somebody in your shop that you know you should have let go. Because they have a technical skill, or it’s hard to find someone else who has that skill or whatever, or you like their mother or whatever it is. You have a reason for not letting them go, but you know that you should. All the other employees are waiting and watching.

The day and the day you let them go, you’re going to start hearing the stories. They’re going to come in and go, “Oh my gosh, thank God you let Babette go. Did you know that she does this or she didn’t do this? The owners always call me and they go, “Two things. One, how did you know? And, two, why didn’t they tell me?” I’m like, “Because they think you know.”

Heenle Turner:

Yeah.

Drew McLellan:

If they see it, surely the boss must see it.

Heenle Turner:

Yeah. It’s interesting that you say that because that’s exactly what I’ve heard time and time again. The reality is your agency owners, you’re the mom. You’re the mom. You’ve got to suck it up. You’ve got to recognize when someone’s out of line and parent your kids, parent your organization. If somebody is out of line, it does suck. No one-

Drew McLellan:

Nobody’s excited about doing it.

Heenle Turner:

No one’s excited but someone’s got to do it and it’s got to be you.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah. Right. I agreed. Okay. I want to take a quick break. When we come back, I want to talk a little bit about in this environment, it feels like we have to hire faster because the candidates have five job offers in a heartbeat. I want to talk a little bit about the hiring process, but then I want to talk about what should we be doing to protect and retain the five star employees that we already have. Let’s take a quick break and then we’ll come back and start with the hiring process and then go to retention. Okay?

Heenle Turner:

Sure.

Drew McLellan:

Awesome. Hey, there just a quick interruption. I want to make sure that you are aware that you are cordially invited, not just invited, but cordially invited to join our Facebook group, our private Facebook group. All you have to do is go to Facebook and search for Build a Better Agency and you’ll find the Facebook group. You have to answer three quick questions. You have to put in the agency URL. You have to talk about what you want to learn from the group, you have to promise to behave yourself, and that’s it.

Then, we’ll let you in and you can jump into the conversation with over 1,000 other agency owners and leaders. There’s a robust conversation happening every day. People are sharing resources, best practices and discussing everything from work from home policies to maternity and paternity policies to biz dev strategies. Come join us and jump into the conversation. Speaking of conversations, let’s head back.

All right, we’re back and we are talking all things hiring, finding, and keeping those five star employees. I hope what one of the messages you got from the front half of the show is that we actually could and probably should have all underline the word all four and five star employees. I know for a fact that you do not have that today. I want to talk a little bit about hiring and then we’re going to talk about retaining the good ones that you have. All right. The job market right now is insane. It feels like only three people on the planet are looking for work. They all want $3 million plus a signing bonus.

Everyone’s in panic mode to try and hire. Business is good for a lot of agencies. They have lots of opportunities. Not only are they replacing mediocre employees, but they’re filling new positions as well. They’re struggling to find good candidates or they find a candidate and by the time they get them through their 12 step process, the candidates taken themselves out of the mix, because they’ve already accepted a job. In this environment, how should we be hiring? What does the process look like?

Heenle Turner:

Yeah, that’s a great question. You’re absolutely right. It’s the employees who are choosing. It’s the workforce out there that is choosing where they want to work. Yeah. What I’m even finding, and I don’t know if, and I’m sure I guarantee that some of your agency owners here have had this happen is they find a candidate and, “Okay, let’s schedule an interview.” They don’t even, the candidate doesn’t show up. I’ve had people share candidates not showing up to interviews, either the Zoom, the phone call, in person. I’ve had people who are successfully hired and then they still don’t even show up for the first day after completing.

Drew McLellan:

Or they’re there three days and then they give notice because they got a better of