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Building a Recruitment and Retention Plan

Define the Problem

Some of the following materials are adapted from the Decision Process Guide, published by the U.S. Department of the Interior, Bureau of Reclamation.


Several assignments are available to help define the problem and make a decision about the focus of your recruitment or retention plan. Although any of the following assignments or related worksheets can be used independently, they are most effective when used as supportive pieces to the entire step. Since our focus is recruitment or retention, these steps will ultimately identify one or more job positions in your organization that require a plan of action. Once the suggested focus is determined, future steps within the “Building a Recruitment and Retention Plan” Chapter will help you analyze the selected job position and write an accurate job description. Information gathered during these assignments may assist in completing these steps. These steps can also be used to resolve other issues not related to recruitment or retention. The wording or terms used in this task can be changed to meet your needs. They are utilized in this fashion to provide a foundation for the decision-making process.

Assignments include:
If you have used the resources available in Step 1 of the “Building a Recruitment and Retention Plan” Chapter, you may have identified a number of problems related to recruitment or retention of staff through turnover and vacancy data, exit and satisfaction surveys, and organizational history.

This process will identify the problems that require resources that are not available or are not a priority, and will not be the main focus of your plan. After completing this process, you will be able to identify the main focus of your Recruitment and Retention Plan.

Assignment 1: Define the problem and make a decision [2.1.3.a.3]
This assignment is intended to help you start identifying the problem. It provides reflective questions concerning who the problem affects, how it impacts the organization, when it happens, and where it surfaces.

Benefits of defining the problem:

  • Constructing a simple, clear definition of the problem:
  • Will allow others to respond to something concrete and provide early input;
  • Will initiate the process of determining what objectives, measures, effort, and resources that will be required;
  • Highlight significance, future impacts, and potential benefits; and
  • Help to redefine the problem more completely when issues and concerns have been identified.

How to do it:

The following is a series of questions that can help to define the problem or situation and the underlying causes. First, describe the problem or situation. Then, ask yourself these questions:
1. How does the problem manifest itself?
2. Why is there a problem? Where is the problem or part of the problem coming from? How did the problem come to be? For example:
  • Is the problem related to lack of staff?
    • - Vacancies
    • - Over-extended staff
    • - New hires who leave
    • - Other related vacancy issues
  • Is the problem related to existing staff?
    • - Knowledge or experience levels
    • - Skills
    • - Capacity
    • - Performance
    • - Co-workers do not get along
    • - Morale problems
    • - Other related staff issues
  • Is the problem related to location?
    • - Proximity to labor force
    • - Needed labor force vs. available labor force
    • - Cultural, demographic, or regional issues
    • - Needs of a special or new client population
    • - Other related location issues
  • Is the problem related to the organization?
    • - Culture or climate
    • - Career development
    • - Service delivery
    • - Reputation
    • - Staff do not thrive under supervision or management
    • - Training does not produce the desired results
    • - Lack of training
    • - Equipment or computerization needs
    • - Other related internal issues
  • Is the problem coming from the recruitment process?
    • - Design of recruitment strategies
    • - Implementation
    • - Wrong hires
    • - Trouble finding workers
    • - Other related recruitment issues
  • Is there an external source of the problem?
    • - Change in rules/policies
    • - Credentialing/licensure
    • - Needs of a special or new client population
    • - Competition
    • - Other related external issues
  • When is the problem most evident?
    • - Is it seasonal?
    • - Is there a cycle?
    • - Specific time of the year?
    • - Before or after a certain event?
  • What does this problem mean? What is the impact?
    • - How does it impact staff?
    • - How does it impact services?
    • - How does it impact customers?
    • - How does it impact the organization?
    • - How does it impact funders?
    • - What demands on resources does it affect?
  • Who does the problem impact?
    • - Who pays the highest price for the problem?
    • - Who is impacted secondarily?
    • - What group is associated with the related issues?
    • - Who does the problem not impact? (This is key to identifying potential barriers to the plan.)
    • - What effort or resources are devoted to it?
    • - Who may be part of the problem itself?
    • - What group or person can help define or clarify the problem?
    • - Who can be part of the solution?
3. What would happen if nothing was done?
4. How does this recruitment or retention problem relate to other problems?
5. How does this problem relate to the organizational mission, values, and goals?
6. Describe and list the problems again and as many of the causes that you have identified.

Resources to use:

CATWOE is a simple checklist to stimulate thinking about the problem and/or implementing the solution. It includes elements to identify the people, processes, and environment that contribute to a situation, issue, or problem that needs to be analyzed.

This Problem Statements Exercise can be used to define a problem by getting a clear definition of what you want. It also helps people to focus their ideas in the same area and can be used as a discussion point to understand what is needed.

Other resources are available at Tools to Help with Making Decisions [2.1.3.b.1.].
See Identify needs [2.1.3.a.4] for the next assignment.

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