Go Big, Go Home, Go Positive

The NTDA examined recent workplace studies in search of best practices and new opportunities. We discovered some counter-intuitive lessons.


In a tight labor market, recruiting and retaining the best people for the job can be tough. Here’s some useful advice:

  1. Move fast: Most companies take 41 days, on average, to fill a vacancy. Look for ways to streamline the hiring process so you don’t miss out on promising candidates.
  2. Learn things: Invest in your new employees. Find ways to upgrade their skills, allow them to unleash their creativity and leadership potential, and show them how they can have an influence on the company.
  3. Be social: According to Forbes, today’s job seekers, like nearly everyone else, live in a digital world. That means employers need a strong digital presence if they want to attract the best candidates. Not just a Web site, but a social media presence as well, all of which should convey the company’s “identity” — why your company does what it does, why it’s a great place to work, all the company accomplishes. Include thoughts from the CEO, managers and employees in your social media posts. Promote achievements, anniversaries and milestones. Encourage those on the outside looking in to want to be part of your business.


Human resources focus on recruiting and retention, with less attention paid to how to respond when a top employee decides to leave. According to Harvard Business Review, you should probably let them go:

When managers face this situation with humanity and empathy for the individual team member — prioritizing their needs and letting them go if that’s what’s best for them — the result can often be a more positive outcome for both the individual and the company.

 Too often, managers will offer the employee a raise, a title change, and/or something else within their possession, but this is often the wrong approach.

When an individual’s motivations for leaving are outside their manager’s control, using money or a promotion as incentive to stay becomes a short-term solution to a larger issue and just postpones the eventual financial costs associated with hiring and training their replacement.

And if they stay? Even with more money and a loftier title, research shows that if there are other issues, the retained employee’s productivity is likely to drop, as is their morale. This is bad for the team and bad for the company.

Remember, losing a top person doesn’t have to be bad. It requires you to look at internal issues and find out what’s motivating people to consider going elsewhere. Plus, it’s a great opportunity to bring in fresh ideas and energy from a new hire.


To improve staff abilities and internal processes, feedback is necessary. Right? Maybe not. Netflix is famous for its regular “intense and awkward” feedback sessions that have become a core part of the company’s culture. Each employee is subject to feedback from their boss, co-workers, and from those who report to them. Turns out, feedback may be overrated.

A recent business study reveals that most people are simply not very good at accepting criticism, no matter how thoughtful or well-meaning. The reason for this is somewhat surprising: It’s very hard to improve on things we’re not very good at. Rather, we get better at what we are already good at. That’s where feedback should focus, according to the study’s authors.

In fact, brain scans suggest that when delivering feedback to a person, what happens is the recipient’s brain goes into a “fight or flight” response. They become overly focused on their ‘bad’ traits. This inhibits self-improvement and keeps them from getting even better at what they are already good at.

Just don’t say anything?


Employees must be instructed on what is required of them, obviously. These “checklist” instructions are vital, and the employee must follow them. But with respect to “feedback,” where the goal is to improve performance and/or correct failings, what seems to work best is when a boss or manager notices something the employee did well, to tell them right away — and convey it from their own perspective. For example: “wow, the way you handled that customer’s complaint and then got them to increase their service package was awesome. You explained the situation to them, took ownership of the problem, then instructed them on what our other services can do for them. I was really impressed. That will definitely help us meet our sales goals.”

The authors relay the example of legendary Dallas Cowboys coach Tom Landry. When he and the team looked at film, they focused almost exclusively on what worked, not what didn’t. “We only replay your winning plays,” Landry said, because there are infinite ways of doing something wrong but only a very few ways of doing something right.

Positive reinforcement feedback, from the speaker’s perspective, and delivered as close to the event as possible, is what delivers maximum impact.