The war for talent is over and talent has won. Technology and globalization have dramatically changed the way we work over the last 20 to 30 years. However, very little has changed in how we hire and manage staff, which has led to low employee engagement and productivity and high employee turnover.

Instead of doing the routine, tactical, and predicable work of yesteryear, the Social Age requires us to be more strategic, creative, and innovative — more solutions oriented. Yet, for the most part we are still hiring for skills and experience and using the same levers we have used for decades (if not centuries) to motivate and manage staff.

We must evolve our business practices to remain competitive in our digitally connected, globally oriented economy.

With any evolutionary process, a guide or roadmap proves invaluable. When your operation decides to take the leap and join the Social Age, there are five Cs to adhere to so you can maximize employment efficiency and effectiveness, retain your staff, and ensure that your employees are fully engaged on a daily basis:

• Correct hiring

• Classify and manage appropriately

• Compensate fairly

• Currencies of choice

• Communicate with focus


We must start this evolution with hiring the right people. Without them, efforts to engage and retain staff become moot. The Industrial Age paradigm emphasized hiring for skills and experience. But skills can be taught and in today’s rapidly changing world, experience is far less important than agility and the ability to learn and adapt.

To not only survive, but also thrive in the Social Age, companies need to hire for both culture fit and competencies, those innate abilities that can’t be taught but will make candidates successful in the job.

Proper interviewing technique is essential to guaranteeing you get the right hire. Unlike the stock market, when it comes to potential job candidates, past performance is indicative of future results. The majority of interview questions have to be answered with past examples of how the candidate actually dealt with real-world scenarios.

Do not fall into the old trap of believing what a candidate would do is what they did do, or more importantly, will do.


Even when you do everything right during the hiring process, you may still be surprised once the employee comes on board. Team dynamics or changing personal circumstances can affect individual behavior and performance.

You must continually keep your finger on the pulse of your staff — a daunting task to many managers who either try to devote equal time and energy across the board or who spend time with the wrong people.

Employees typically come in three “flavors:” critical people, squeaky wheels, and the fat middle. Most managers end up spending most of their time trying to grease their squeaky wheels, which perpetuates poor performance or behavior. Counter intuitively, by devoting most of your attention to your critical people, you will bolster the productivity of the whole team. Squeaky wheels? Train, motivate, or move them on. Quickly.


Many companies diligently strive to create attractive incentive programs in an effort to engage and retain staff. Unfortunately, these efforts actually may be counter-productive to accomplishing these goals.

Studies have suggested that rewards can narrow our focus, innovation, creativity, strategic thinking, and problem solving — the very things needed from a Social Age workforce. Higher pay does not necessarily equal higher productivity. Managers should set their salary benchmark at or a little above market rate for individual functions. Even more importantly, managers should ensure that employees feel they are being adequately compensated for the work they do, and this can only be accomplished by speaking to them directly.


Once your staff feels well paid, real productivity and engagement can be unlocked by tapping into your their internal motivators or currencies of choice. What your staff really needs to be fulfilled and to “go the extra mile” is to:

• Work for someone they trust and respect in a company they support

• Be appreciated and have their voice and opinions respected

• Have a firm career path that allows them to grow and develop

• Realize their underlying motivators

• Be able to do what they do best every day

By understanding and acknowledging your team’s individual currencies of choice, you can help to keep them engaged and decrease turnover.

How do you recognize which currencies of choice will motivate your staff? By talking to them. Unfortunately, many managers don’t talk to their staff enough, don’t know what to talk about, or how to structure their conversations.


FOCUS is an acronym that describes the best practices in leadership communication. Communication between staff and managers should revolve around:

• Feedback: Ensure your team is updated on company information, initiatives, and new hires. Give praise when it is due, and maintain an open door for their questions, concerns, or comments.

• Objectives: The heart of sterling performance management is structuring specific and measurable job objectives and holding staff accountable for achieving them.

• Career Development: Many studies list career development as a main factor that employees gauge to determine whether to stay with their current employer or seek a new position elsewhere.

• Underlying Motivators: What does your staff need to go the extra mile, and how do they respond to motivational techniques and rewards?

• Strengths: According to The Gallup Organization, those innate abilities that make employees unique and good at what they do are the number one predictor of success.


The process of changing the way you hire and manage your staff may appear daunting at first, but experience shows that by taking it step-by-step, you can make significant changes quickly. The result will be a lifetime of more engaged, happier, and more productive staff, as well as more free time, less stress, and higher job satisfaction for yourself and your team.

Are you up for the challenge?

Kim Seeling Smith is an international human resources expert and author of the forthcoming book, Mind Reading for Managers: 5 FOCUSed Conversations for Greater Employee Engagement and Productivity. Kim helps companies build healthy work environments and increase employee engagement and productivity in our digitally connected, globally oriented world. For more information, please visit