Recruitment and retention strategies for high-performance

Implementing robust recruitment and retention strategies for high-performance are crucial for organisations that want to become market leaders.

Research shows that high performers are 400% more productive than the average employee (Shelley 2020).

But how do you find and retain top talent, particularly as research by the World Economic Forum (2023) states that top performers make up less than 20 percent of the average workforce?

The ability to attract, identify, and onboard top talent can make a significant difference in an organisation’s success, but you need to learn how to manage the whole process carefully.

In this article, we will explore various strategies and techniques that can help you optimise your recruitment and retention processes and explain how to create a high-performance culture within your organisation.

Strategies for attracting and retaining top talent

Although there are numerous benefits to having high-performing employees, it is important to ask yourself how to attract them and keep them happy afterwards. Recruiting and retaining top performers starts well before the first job advert is scheduled.

The role of the employer brand

Attracting top talent starts with a well-defined employer brand – it not only helps you stand out in a competitive job market but also resonates with potential candidates who align with your organisation’s mission and vision. It serves as a magnet for talented individuals who are not only qualified but also enthusiastic about contributing to your company’s success (CIPD 2023). Therefore, investing time and effort into crafting and communicating a compelling employer brand can significantly enhance your ability to attract and retain top-tier talent.

Crafting the right job description

It is important that all stakeholders agree on job expectations, which should reflect your company’s culture, and you should list the required skills and expectations in the job advert. Don’t go for a generic job description that your company has used in the past, or something you searched for on Google. You must tailor your advert to make sure that you clarify what the job entails and you need to know the kind of employee you need to be successful at the role (Shelley 2020).

Ensure that you avoid listing every aspirational skill or desirable qualification that isn’t essential for the role. Doing so could deter top-tier candidates and instead draw in applicants whose expertise is broad, but shallow, lacking depth in any particular area.

Culture, values and perks

Your organisation’s values, culture, and perks should be clearly communicated in the job description, but also through various channels such as your company website and social media.

Before individuals decide to apply for jobs, they seek to gain insights into the employees’ experiences, their reasons for enjoying their work, and an understanding of the company culture and work-life balance. And who better to showcase this than your current employees? Incentivising employees to promote your brand on their personal social media accounts, as well as leaving positive reviews online, has a wide range of commercial benefits, but it also assists the recruitment of new exceptional talent.

Potential candidates nowadays will often check your LinkedIn profile as well as any reviews on websites such as Glassdoor, Google Reviews, or other similar platforms that show what the company is all about from an employees’ perspective before they apply for the role.

Leveraging employee referrals can be an effective way to attract high-performing candidates. Encouraging your current employees to refer qualified professionals can tap into their networks and indirectly help in vetting potential candidates.

Unique selling points

Highlighting your organisation’s unique selling points and offering competitive compensation packages can help attract talented individuals.

Research by Harvard Business Review (2014) found that high performers are typically attracted and retained by higher base salaries, competitive bonus schemes tied to individual performance, retirement plans, and learning and development programmes, such as mentoring or an allocation of budget for personalised, self-directed training in their area of interest.

Learning and development

The 2019 L&D report from states that 72% of market leaders use talent development as a recruitment strategy. Demonstrating a commitment to employee growth and skill enhancement not only attracts skilled professionals, but also helps retain them in the long run. By offering personalised career progression paths, organisations can showcase their dedication to fostering a culture of learning and development, which is highly appealing to top-tier candidates.

Think about the candidate’s overall experience

Furthermore, creating a positive candidate experience throughout the recruitment process is crucial in attracting top talent. This includes streamlining the application process, providing timely feedback to candidates, and ensuring clear communication at every stage. A seamless and transparent recruitment experience not only leaves a positive impression on candidates, but also reflects well on your organisation’s professionalism and commitment to employee satisfaction and engagement.

Diversity and inclusion in high-performance recruiting

Diversity and inclusion are key factors in high-performance recruiting.

Research by Lord Shinkwin and the Institute of Directors (2022) has found that equitable, accessible, and inclusive recruitment practices are needed to ensure the workforce becomes more diverse and that applications don’t face any barriers based upon their ethnicity, disability, sexual orientation, gender, or any other protected characteristic.

Organisations that embrace diversity in their workforce benefit from a broader range of perspectives, experiences, and ideas, as well as higher levels of employee engagement and performance. When individuals from different backgrounds come together, they bring unique insights and approaches to the table, sparking creativity and driving organisational success. Research has shown that diverse teams are more likely to outperform homogenous ones, as they are better equipped to tackle complex challenges and adapt to changing environments (Rock and Grant 2016).

Implementing inclusive hiring practices, such as blind resume screening and diverse interview panels, can help mitigate bias and ensure a fair evaluation of candidates. It is also important to consider who is sourcing, interviewing, and selecting your candidates internally, as that might lead to unconscious bias.

Furthermore, a commitment to diversity and inclusion can enhance employer branding and attract a wider pool of top talent. Candidates are increasingly seeking workplaces that prioritise diversity and offer equal opportunities for growth and development. By showcasing a strong commitment to diversity in recruitment efforts, organisations can position themselves as attractive employers of choice in today’s competitive job market.

Leveraging technology in recruitment for high-performance

Technology can significantly streamline the recruitment process and help in identifying high-performing candidates.

A recent CIPD survey (2023) highlighted that a high proportion of respondents state that their use of technology has improved candidate experiences and sped up the recruitment process. But getting the balance wrong between technology and human interaction can have the opposite effect – 48% of respondents said this can reduce accessibility for some groups of candidates and three-fifths said it can result in a more impersonal candidate experience (CIPD 2021).

Applicant tracking systems (ATS) can automate various tasks such as resume screening, candidate communication, and interview scheduling. This can save time and enable recruiters to focus on evaluating potential candidates more effectively.

In addition to ATS, leveraging data analytics can provide insights into candidate sourcing channels, recruitment metrics, and hiring trends. By analysing this data, recruiters can make data-driven decisions to improve the overall recruitment process and optimise their efforts in attracting high-performing candidates.

Moreover, the use of artificial intelligence (AI) in recruitment is gaining popularity. AI-powered tools can analyse candidate responses, assess their skills, and even conduct initial interviews. This not only speeds up the screening process, but also ensures a more objective evaluation of candidates based on predetermined criteria (CIPD 2021).

Furthermore, social media platforms have become a valuable tool for recruiters to reach a wider pool of candidates. Platforms like LinkedIn offer targeted recruitment advertising options, allowing recruiters to connect with passive candidates who may not be actively seeking new opportunities. Engaging with potential candidates through social media can also provide insights into their interests, values, and professional networks, helping recruiters to tailor their approach and attract top talent.

Interview techniques and questions to identify high performers

Conducting effective interviews is crucial in identifying high-performing candidates. Apart from asking behavioural and situational questions, incorporating competency-based interviews can provide valuable insights into a candidate’s skills and abilities. These interviews focus on assessing specific competencies required for success in the role.

Using a structured interview process, including standardised assessment criteria and a scoring matrix, can ensure consistency and fairness in evaluating candidates. Additionally, incorporating panel interviews and involving key stakeholders can provide diverse perspectives and help in making informed hiring decisions.

Furthermore, it is essential for interviewers to create a comfortable and welcoming environment for candidates to encourage open and honest communication. This can be achieved by starting the interview with some small talk to break the ice and make the candidate feel at ease. Building rapport early on can help candidates relax and showcase their true potential.

Moreover, incorporating role-specific tasks or simulations during the interview process can provide a hands-on assessment of a candidate’s capabilities. This approach allows interviewers to observe how candidates perform tasks relevant to the job in real-time, giving a more accurate representation of their skills and suitability for the role.

Potential interview questions to ask:

  1. Could you provide insight into what your former manager might say regarding your performance? I’m interested in hearing about both your strengths and areas where you sought improvement.
  2. What prompted your departure from previous roles? I’m particularly interested in any issues that you describe as “mutual.”
  3. Can you discuss a project you led to success? How did you contribute value or ensure its positive outcome?
  4. Reflecting on past experiences, could you share a mistake you made and the lessons you gleaned from it?
  5. What steps are you presently taking to enhance your professional knowledge and expertise?

Creating a high-performance culture in your business

Creating a high-performance culture is essential for maximising the potential of your workforce. This starts with setting clear performance expectations and aligning them with the organisation’s goals. Regularly communicating these expectations and providing feedback and recognition can motivate employees to strive for excellence.

Furthermore, fostering a supportive and collaborative work environment can enhance employee engagement and productivity. Encouraging cross-functional teams, promoting knowledge sharing, and providing opportunities for skill development and growth can contribute to a high-performance culture. Additionally, don’t undervalue the simple act of telling people how they will benefit from doing a task or assignment as it can motivate people to stay (Willyerd 2014).

One key aspect of building a high-performance culture is leadership (IoD 2024). Strong and effective leadership plays a crucial role in shaping organisational culture and driving performance. Leaders who lead by example, communicate effectively, and empower their teams can inspire employees to perform at their best.

Moreover, investing in employee well-being is another important factor in creating a high-performance culture. Providing resources for mental health support, promoting work-life balance, and recognising the importance of employee wellness can lead to increased job satisfaction and overall performance (UKIM 2023).

Onboarding practices to ensure high-performance from day one

After you’ve selected your dream candidate, it’s really crucial to ensure a smooth onboarding process happens and the new hire is supported from day one, helping them integrate into the organisation.

A comprehensive onboarding programme should provide new employees with a clear understanding of their roles, responsibilities, and performance expectations. Assigning a mentor or a ‘buddy’ who can provide guidance, answer questions, and offer support during the initial weeks can accelerate the onboarding process and foster a sense of belonging.

Also, it is important to provide practical information about organisational procedures such as building orientation, health and safety protocols, and inclusion initiatives, to ensure that new hires have the necessary knowledge to navigate their physical and social environment effectively (CIPD 2023).

Furthermore, incorporating interactive training sessions and workshops into the onboarding process can enhance new employees’ learning experience. Hands-on activities, role-playing scenarios, and group discussions can help new hires grasp key concepts more effectively and apply them in real-world situations. By engaging new employees in interactive learning opportunities, organisations can boost the retention of information and skills.

Another important aspect of successful onboarding is providing new hires with access to resources and tools that facilitate their transition into the company. This includes access to training materials, software systems, and internal communication platforms. By equipping new employees with the necessary resources from the start, organisations can streamline the onboarding process and empower new hires to contribute to the team more quickly.

Some of the benefits from effective induction for an employer are reduced employee turnover, absenteeism and improved employer brand (CIPD 2023).


In conclusion, recruiting for high-performance requires a strategic and thoughtful approach. By implementing strategies to attract top talent, creating a high-performance culture, leveraging technology, using effective interview techniques, ensuring a robust onboarding process, and prioritising diversity and inclusion, organisations can optimise their recruitment process and build a talented and high-performing workforce.

This is a guest blog which contains the views of the author and does not necessarily represent the views of the IoD.

About the author

Kerry Chown,

Director at Cobalt HR

Kerry is an HR professional with over 25 years of experience in the public, private, and third sectors. She is a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development and holds a Master’s degree in Human Resource Management.

She is passionate about helping businesses improve their performance by maximising employee engagement and performance. She has a proven track record of success in developing and implementing HR strategies that drive business results.

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