What Children Can Teach Us About Winning and Retaining Employees

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Human Resource specialists frequently boast graduate degrees and specialized skill sets gained from attending professional seminars and career development courses.

However, sometimes the clearest lessons and best practices come from unexpected sources.

Children, for example, have a number of qualities that could serve HR professionals well in the struggle to win — and retain — valuable employees. Children also exhibit traits that could make the corporate world less intimidating and more inviting without sacrificing professionalism or profit.

These three recruiting lessons learned from children may surprise, but ultimately they broaden the abilities of HR professionals to find, hire, and retain dedicated employees.

1. Children have vivid imaginations

For a child, a stick becomes a sword, a broom a steady steed, and he or she is ready for a fairy tale conquest. A blanket thrown over a sofa becomes a tent in the darkest jungle. A little face paint transforms one into a glamorous movie star.

Certainly HR professionals must follow protocols to function capably, but throwing in imaginative thinking could freshen up tried-and-true HR industry standards, strategies that may have become too staid over time. Here are a few imaginative ideas:

  • Rather than using a tired list of qualifications to evaluate candidates, hiring managers could temporarily throw away the template and engage in a brainstorming session. Make a list of ideal employee traits, no matter how far out they may seem.
  • Consider hiring a fresh face, rather than hiring from within. Bring in someone truly excited to be part of the company, someone with fresh ideas who is willing–and eager–to learn and may envision opportunities that the company has overlooked.
  • Stop trying to determine the type of person you should hire and instead ask, “What if we hired someone with related, though not exactly matching, skills?” For example, if you are a college hiring a teacher, look at a writer or lawyer with real-world experience, even though he or she has limited teaching experience. By inviting someone with real-world experience into the academic environment, students benefit from someone who has specific knowledge coupled with a passion for learning and sharing that knowledge.

2. Children possess vision

When children envision the future, they do not see limits. They see possibilities. One day they can be kings, princesses, and superheroes.

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In today’s unsure economy, companies, universities, and entire industries are focused on the bottom line, streamlining, and downsizing. Resources are limited. However, by learning recruiting lessons from children, hiring policies can go beyond seeking employees on the basis of how much work they can produce for the lowest salary.

  • HR pros and corporate management could connect and develop more liberal hiring policies. Why overlook an older individual who brings experience and expertise, perhaps winning the company new clients and improving the overall reputation?
  • Carve out new positions, creatively dividing up employee duties and allowing everyone to devote more effort to their work, producing better long-term results through higher quality, fresher ideas, and better morale.

3. Children live in a state of wonder

Rainbows are magical paths to a land of dreams. An odd-shaped rock can be a coin from Blackbeard’s treasure chest. Ocean waves bring countless gifts to collect and cherish every time they crash onto the beach.

Even though the corporate world is grounded in practicality, can parameters be stretched? The late Steve Jobs, known for his work at Apple, Inc., Pixar, and NeXt, said: “Here’s to the crazy ones, the misfits … the round pegs in the square holes … because the people who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world, are the ones who do.”

Learning recruiting lessons from children may seem far-fetched, but the unspoiled, natural qualities children bring to life can freshen up a corporation’s hiring policies.


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