How to attract top talent and keep employees happy long term

A lot has been written on contemporary HR methods, recruitment and employee motivation. There are nearly as many philosophies as there are companies. Here at ysura, there are several things that we do to help keep our staff interested, motivated and dedicated for the long term. Today I would like to focus on only one of them which is as simple as it is powerful: our performance review and salary adjustment process.

Perhaps atypical for a small company, we have a clear salary table in place with 28 rankings. In fact, we have more ranks than we have employees at this stage. From “Associate A” to “Executive G”, our ranks run the gamut from university graduates in their first job to our best performing sales people.

When we hire people, we consider how they compare to current staff and we rank them accordingly. We don’t always get this right, but that doesn’t matter too much. In the following performance review cycle, their salary will be adjusted to come closer to their true worth.

The performance review process takes place every six months. The upper management (currently 3 people) manage the process. Each employee is given a 360 degree review. That means we talk to their peers, their project managers and other people working in their team. We also talk to people outside of their immediate team. For those people who have business contact outside the company, we talk to their customers, partners or other external contacts. As it’s impossible to talk to everyone, we select four reviewers for every employee. I am hesitant to say that we include the “boss” or “direct reports” because we don’t have a hierarchy of this sort. The reviewers give honest but sometimes critical feedback. Our culture – through regular standups and retrospectives – is one of openness so people are not afraid to say what they think. Of course any criticism is always constructive and remains anonymous towards the person being reviewed. During this process, each employee will likely be asked to review three or four other employees.

Management collates this information and completes a form where they rate the employees in 20 different areas from communication, teamwork, coding skills, learning speed, innovation, spirit and more. The free-text part of the form is even more important. Here management inserts a selection of relevant quotes and statements from the reviewers. Then, management schedules a one-to-one meeting with the employee and presents and discusses the findings. The employee is also encouraged to respond to the feedback and management can change the form if required.

As a final step, management compares and calibrates the review forms. In this phase, management compares employees in terms of how much they contribute overall to the company’s success. Based on this, employees move up the ladder. Sometimes one, sometimes two and occasionally three ranks.

Having followed this consistently for some time now, the employees know what to expect and consider the system fair and non-biased. Many have benefited financially.

I would not argue that this is the very best system to use. There are many other systems which also have their merits. However, the most important aspect is to have a clearly defined performance review system in the first place. We make it clear to our employees during the job interviews – even before they become employees.

We think we’re doing a good job, too. Very few people have ever left the company and employee satisfaction is quite high.

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