In today’s highly competitive job market, a major trend that has emerged is the growing involvement of CEOs in recruiting and retention. For HR executives and CEOs alike, human capital, recruiting and retention are major areas of focus and conversation, regardless of the industry. They are big issues for everyone right now.

Early in my career I viewed recruiting as an HR function, but that is no longer the case. CEOs are involved in recruiting and retention out of necessity from a bottom-line standpoint because they recognize the high cost of employee turnover. Today, there are more opportunities for qualified prospects than ever, and companies are focused on what they can do to attract and retain talent.

There's a shift in what's important

Generationally, the workforce is changing, and what recruits are seeking is different from 10-15 years ago. In the past, companies typically had the mindset that qualified people would be available when needed, and that they could simply pay more money for a particular job to get the person they wanted.

With the strong economy and generational shift, that’s not necessarily the case anymore. Today, the candidate pools tend to be more short-term than long-term focused. It’s about today; it’s about right now. Employees want to know what you can do for them and how they can be part of what you’re doing.

Prospective employees tend to be more concerned about immediate compensation and benefits. They also are looking for learning and development opportunities, as well as perks. They’re interested in what the company is doing from a community and charitable standpoint, and how they would fit into the culture. Those factors seem to have more value than discussions about where the employer sees the candidate three years or more into his or her career with the company.

As a result, companies are becoming more aware of the need to refocus and be better in tune with who their audience is when recruiting, because today they sell candidates on multiple considerations. It used to be “here are the benefits we have,” but these other intangible aspects are more important to candidates now, so companies are spending more time showcasing who they are and their corporate values.

Community involvement

Opportunities outside of the organization to be involved in the community can be very appealing to prospects. In Chattanooga, where I live and work, outdoor activities are a big attraction for a certain segment of the workforce. There is some big city culture with a small town feel here. When recruiting, companies can pitch that in addition to working for a great organization, Chattanooga is a great place to live. Employers that have their brands associated with events and activities going on around Chattanooga turn that involvement into a selling point to recruits because it communicates, “The city of Chattanooga has a lot to offer, and we’re part of the action.”

Culture and relationships are key

The CEO sets the culture within an organization, and that culture is one of the most valuable recruiting tools employers have. I see CEOs putting more time and energy into defining their company’s culture and evaluating how to display it and live by it. This strategy is not only effective for recruiting, but also very helpful for retaining employees.

 CEOs can benefit from getting to know their employees personally, remembering their names and have an idea what’s going on in their lives. When CEOs take the time to establish and maintain relationships, employees are less likely to leave for another opportunity.

CEOs thinking out of the box in talent retention

The demand for talent retention is resulting in some proactive approaches to ensure employee engagement. One client graded employees as A, B and C in terms of where they fit in the organization, with the A’s being part of the core team. The A employees really make a difference in the way the company moves forward, and the company would be hurt if they were to leave. The A’s were given a proactive salary increase as a way of communicating to them, “You are important to what we’re doing here, and we want you to stay.”

The fact that this company was willing to spend some money upfront to avoid the cost of having to replace its key employees not only demonstrates the competitiveness of the current market, but also acknowledges that replacement costs can be extremely high.

At LBMC, we have been very intentional about enhancing our employee engagement efforts including creation of a weekly internal newsletter and installing TV’s across all offices as a vehicle to communicating key internal news, awards, profiles, company business updates, new perks, etc. Our CEO, Jeff Drummonds, has developed ways to become more accessible to each employee, including his annual state of the firm road show presentations across the company. In these sessions, he personally shares business performance and future goals and finds they lead to some great conversations and idea generation.

Going outside the walls

CEOs also are looking outside their walls to create strategic partnerships with various entities. Whether it’s a community college providing specific technical training for people they need, or the electrical workers union where the company is contributing to apprentices and the educational process, companies are forming partnerships to open up a recruiting pipeline.

One of the more interesting conversations I hear at the business leadership and political level is about the necessity of going to college. There’s a lot of push back from larger employers who need skilled labor positions as much as someone with a degree. For example, in the manufacturing industry, some of the hardest positions for employers to fill are machinists, welders, etc. They really don’t need people with college degrees, but they have career paths for people with technical skills that can lead to good long-term opportunities. As a result, companies are increasingly offering apprentice programs.

Recruiting and retention is no longer a role for solely for HR Divisions. Happy employees at every level become brand ambassadors and are key to talent success in 2020. This starts at the top with an involved CEO setting the tone that talent recruitment and development is key to driving success and ensuring future company growth.

Mark Neighbors, CPA is a LBMC Shareholder in the Audit and Advisory space. He also serves as a practice leader in the firm’s manufacturing and distribution segment and is the office leader for the employee benefit audit practice. For more information, feel free to email him at or give him a call at (423) 755-0762.

Advice to CEOs

  1. Don’t underestimate the value of the culture/brand associated with your company.
  2. Value relationships and get to know your employees personally.
  3. Be creative in improving your recruiting odds by looking at what can you do that’s out of the box with financial incentives, corporate culture, partnerships outside the company and community involvement.
  4. Tailor incentives to your workforce, especially if you have hard-to-fill jobs, with the goal of making them want to stay.
  5. Identify your core team and see how you can incentivize them, show appreciation to them and give them learning and development opportunities, so they stay engaged enhancing your chances of retaining these core team players.