Recruitment, Retention, and Engagement – Part 3

Jefferson Hunting Supplies had been in existence for 52 years and established itself as a niche producer of hunting supplies. The founder, Homer Jefferson, had recently passed away and his daughter Anne had taken over. A woman running a hunting supply company did not sit well with many of the employees. And then the COVID pandemic swept the nation.

Many of the older employees took early retirements. Since hunting wasn’t that affected by COVID, sales remained strong, but with fewer employees it was a challenge to keep up with sales. Anne decided that she wouldn’t hire one-to-one replacements. She wanted to be careful in hiring employees with the right attitude and mind set.

As a founder of a very successful dance academy, Anne knew something about attitudes and prima-donnas, and she didn’t want that with any new hires. She also knew how difficult it was to keep people engaged in their work as time went on. For her, employee engagement was the key.

Her first initiative was to start Change Day for all newer employees. Every newer employee was allowed to bring together colleagues each quarter to propose one change they would like to see with their jobs. After initial skepticism, the Change Day events became very successful and had a tremendous increase in productivity.

Then she gave every employee a mental health day each quarter where they could take off work to refresh their energy and spirits. Since many of the senior employees had resigned, the mental health days were paid for with reduced vacation pay costs. But an unexpected benefit of the mental health days was that younger employees were able to broaden their experience and see where they might go in the company. This resulted from spending a day on another person’s job.

Anne also changed the benefits plan from a one-size-fits-all plan to a cafeteria plan. This allowed employees who were married to mix-and-match their benefits with their spouses for the greatest possible coverage. This plan was especially helpful for younger employees who were just starting families.

One thing that Anne learned from her dancers was that they needed to be challenged to go beyond their comfort zones. She employed that same insight at Jefferson. For some of the challenge was to find better ways to do their jobs, for others it was improvements in quality. In other cases, she asked senior employees to “adopt” new hires. While the work performance increased, Anne was surprised by the new energy she saw as employees came to work.

One year into her tenure, Anne received a report from their trade association

  • Sales/Employee – ranked #3
  • Retention – Ranked #1 (initial resignations didn’t count)
  • Quality ratings – Ranked #2


In every category Jefferson had improved. As Anne reflected on her first year, she was pleased but began to think of what more she could do to increase engagement.

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“Engaging the hearts, minds, and hands of talent is the most sustainable source of competitive advantage.” – Greg Harris (Storyteller)

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