Neels & Company - Strategic Business Communication
Trusted Advisor
Gretchen Neels
Gretchen Neels, President, Neels & Company

Dear Trusted Advisor

We ask our associates to attend networking events, which we hope will lead to more business for the firm. Most don’t like going and make excuses for not showing up. How can I help them get over their resistance to doing what is required to build a book of business?
J.J., Director of HR, New York, NY

Dear J.J.:
Most people resist networking when they view it as a sales pitch. Many are coached to pass out as many business cards as possible to anyone who will take one (sometimes they are told to give two or three to a person and ask them to pass them on… unbelievable!) and follow up with phone calls the next day. No wonder they hate it—it is an incredibly tedious and insincere, not to mention, ineffective, way to try to build business.

The best networking occurs after a relationship is established, so that’s the first step—your associates need to work on their relationship-building skills. In addition to establishing trust, you must “give before you get.” Meaning, before asking for a referral, introduction or piece of business, one must first give the other person something of value. This could be an article or book, an introduction or referral. As the relationship develops, the favor is reciprocated, and so on. The return on this kind of strategic, long-term investment is significant, but takes far more effort than passing out cards that eventually land in the recycle bin.

Consider the “Build the Networking B*R*I*D*G*E” reference card to help improve networking skills for yourself or your associates.

Next Issue:
Why Business Etiquette Matters Now More Than Ever

Note: If you are planning to attend the ALA Region 1 Educational Conference & Exhibition in Wilmington, Delaware, October 19-20, please visit our booth and enter our Deluxe Gift Card Drawing to win gift certificates from Tiffany & Co., Brooks Brothers, American Express and Starbucks.

Successful Recruiting and Retention: 5 Keys to Both

Now that recruiting season is winding down at your firm, no doubt you are knee-deep in strategy designed to make your firm’s offers the most compelling, targeting only the best and brightest for your summer internships and fall 2008 hires. But have you given much thought to keeping those whom you recruited so eagerly at this time last year?

As in love, often it’s the thrill of the pursuit that captivates us. Once commitment is secured, it’s easy to assume things will take care of themselves and we’re on to the next conquest, so to speak. Just as a successful relationship requires a certain level of care and feeding, love and attention, so does the new class of professionals you courted so passionately last year and brought onboard. The good news is that what you did during courtship to keep top recruits excited and enthusiastic about your firm, and accept your offers, are the same methods by which to retain these extraordinary people.

Below are five keys to successfully recruit and retain top talent:

Stay in touch. Keep your firm’s name in front of potential hires as much as possible by sharing press releases, newsletters and anything else you think will help them understand your organization better. Do the same for the newly hired. Don’t assume that when your firm makes the news they see it—keep them in the loop via intranet, email and IM.

Be sure they meet a big shot. Many firms make the mistake of having candidates interview with a handful of people, most from the junior ranks. Today’s candidates want an extensive interview experience, but truly wish to connect with high profile executives—the more senior, and inaccessible, the better. This is doubly true for new hires. Give them the opportunity to meet in person your firm’s founder, biggest rainmaker, innovator or “celebrity.”

Focus on specific projects, and what past interns/employees have done. Candidates want to know what types of projects they will work on, and the kinds of work your last round of interns did. In order to accept your offer over a competitor’s, a candidate will need to be sure her experience at your firm will put her ahead of her peers. The same holds true for new associates. When assigning a project, be sure they understand the big picture and why their contribution is needed. Help them see how their present task will prepare them for more complex and substantial ones in the future, and how senior people at your shop rose through the ranks by doing well on similar assignments.

Connect them to the boss. Nothing compares to getting a call from the managing partner, CEO, or other top executive. Nothing. In a recruiting situation, it’s often what makes firm A win out over firms B, C and D. For the newly hired, getting an email or personal note saying, “welcome aboard,” or “great job,” from the top dog can serve as a powerful catalyst to cement firm loyalty.

Connect with parents of Millennials. When recruiting those born after 1979, making contact with parents is essential. Millennials are extremely close to their parents and rely on them when making most decisions; Reach out to parents to connect with them in some way, via a page on your website, a letter when making their child an offer, or inviting parents to a recruiting event. When extending an invitation to a firm event for the newly hired, include “those who are important” to them, which might be a roommate, significant other, sibling or parents.

Remember that the same skills used for recruiting are also critical when it comes to retaining talent. Keep the love alive by continually nurturing the relationship and fostering enthusiasm, interest, engagement and the desire to do well.

© 2007 Neels & Company – All Rights Reserved

The following resources are recommended for more insight into successful recruiting and retention:

Recruit or Die, How Any Business Can Beat the Big Guys in the War for Young Talent, by Chris Resto, Ian Ybarra & Rammit Sethi

Love ’Em or Lose ’Em: Getting Good People to Stay, by Beverly Kaye and Sharon Jordan-Evans

We provide soft skills training and consulting to professional services firms covering all areas of business communication.

Neels & Company – Strategic Business Communication
P. O. Box 623, Boston, MA 02117
800-975-7031 ext. 701
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