Expert Advice: Per Wickstrom Explains How to Recruit and Retain Top Talent

Business.com / Hiring / Last Modified: February 22, 2017

Learn why startup founders need to focus on the human element for talent recruitment and retention, and how to execute.

Starting your own business is a downright overwhelming and exhausting experience.

Everything from startup capital to business models and to launch timing can impact your ability to succeed.

The biggest and most overlooked factor in your success? Teams and talent.

Yes, financial capital can quite literally make or break your business. But with investor confidence remaining strong and alternative funding options exploding, securing viable funding streams is getting easier.

It’s the human capital that’s tricky. Recruiting and retaining the top talent you need to take your team to the next level is where things really get tough.

Hiring for a startup is much different than hiring for a well-established company. The people on the ground floor of your business are the ones who are driving innovation.

If your new hires fail, you fail. Nearly half of all startup hires (46 percent) fail within the first 18 months. It’s not just enough to source top talent. You need to retain this talent, too.

Recently, I sat down with successful entrepreneur Per Wickstrom to glean his insights into startup hiring. As the founder and owner of several drug rehab centers who work with business executives, Wickstrom brings a unique perspective to the hiring process.

He’s been on both sides of the equation: striving to recruit and retain top talent for his team, as well as listening to executives and entrepreneurs talk about their experiences in the workplace as part of the therapy sessions at his centers.

Here’s what Wickstrom had to say about putting the human element back in talent recruitment and retention:

Big names aren’t everything. It’s easy to be wowed by big names like Facebook or Google when interviewing. Don’t fall for the superficial. Dig deeper to understand how the potential candidate will benefit your company. Look for grit that unique blend of passion and perseverance that will push your team to the top.

Related Article: Recruiting the Best Talent: Tips and Tricks for Finding "The One"

“When I made my first hires, I interviewed job candidates who had worked at big name recovery centers,” says Wickstrom. “Ultimately, I realized I had to ignore the big names and instead focus on the experience, assets, and skills these candidates could bring to our treatment centers. A big name on the resume does not always equal expertise.”

Recruit for “Intrapreneurship.” An “intrapreneur” is someone with an entrepreneurial spirit who instead of founding his own company, channels his ideas into making your business a better place. When hiring, Wickstrom says he seeks out individuals with an intrapreneurial attitude.

“I always ask prospective hires, ‘What would you do differently here?’ I’m looking for candidates who are eager to share their vision and can offer specific, actionable plans for company improvement.”

Empower your team for success. Whether you run a small business or a huge corporation, successful delegation is a must. It’s not enough to simply hire talent who takes the initiative to implement creative ideas and innovative solutions. Once they’re hired, you need to empower your talent with the autonomy to succeed.

At his facility, A Forever Recovery in Manistee, MI, Wickstrom and his staff work daily to empower program participants to be all that they can be regardless of how they are perceived by others. However, Wickstrom says, “Wouldn’t it be better if, as bosses, we could recognize the wealth we have in our employees? This would give them one less reason to feel unappreciated and of course, one less excuse to use when they fall off the wagon.”

Related Article:Super Sneaky Recruiting Tips You've Never Considered

People Are the Foundation Upon Which Your Business Is Built

Business owners and directors need to see that people are the foundation upon which their business is built. Without people, there would be no product to sell and without people, there would be no one to buy your products or utilize your services. All that you do comes from people, for people and that’s why it is vital never to forget the human element when growing a business.

Per Wickstrom also calls to mind another area that seems to be lacking throughout all types of businesses everywhere in current times. “Customer service just isn’t what it used to be. I have been thinking that perhaps our employees treat customers with the lack of respect they deserve because this behavior is being modeled from the top down. Do you appreciate your employees? If so, chances are you express this to them, and you will notice they are the ones who perform well.”

Related Article:The Small Business Guide to Recruiting and Hiring #DreamSmallBiz

Bottom Line

Growing a business takes a lot of hard work but with the help of a loyal team, the load can be a lot less. While never an excuse for abusing substances, one of the leading causes of addiction is a feeling of being unloved or unworthy. Not only can you better serve your business by accounting for the human element but you can be helping society as well. As the old saying goes, ‘people will be people,’ and on that, there is only one thing left to say. If people will be people, then they deserve to be treated as such. Want to grow your business? Empower your people!

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