40 Growth Hacks To Recruit And Retain Employees

Written by: Brady Drake

With estimates for job openings in the state of North Dakota as high as 30,000, it can be difficult for employers to find and keep quality employees. We at Fargo INC! think its a good idea to learn from the best so we reached out to some of the largest employers in our region to get their five tips on finding and keeping quality employees.

Sanford Health

Jocylen Wessels, Executive Director Of Human Resources
Jocylen Wessels, Executive Director Of Human Resources, Sanford Health
  1. Current employees are your best source of referrals.
    • Employees who are hired due to a personal referral perform better and stay longer. At Sanford Health, our employees are our best recruiters. They understand what we do, our culture, our patients and our expectations. Sanford has robust referral bonus programs for in-demand positions. We have an online site where employees can find what jobs are open and eligible for referral bonuses, and where they can easily submit referrals. We want to incentivize and reward employees for going the extra mile to recruit new hires they want to become their coworkers. One key to offering referral bonuses is to pay them quickly. This creates trust with our employees.
  2. Maximize your online presence. 
    • Have a strategic plan and consistent processes to maximize your online presence for recruitment. Using multiple platforms and channels is critical. In addition to a separate career website, we have created career-specific social media profiles to showcase positions and employee content. On our Sanford Health News public website, we also promote features about career development opportunities and stories about individual employees reaching dreams. Using this concierge approach creates a unique, individualized experience for candidates and builds relationships.
  3. Grow your own. 
    • With workforce shortages existing from entry-level through professional levels, developing ‘grow your own’ initiatives is critical to ensure a full talent pipeline. Sanford Health provides development opportunities for future doctors, nurses and other professionals who then have an affinity for our organization when the time comes to join the workforce. Sanford works with our local and regional universities to provide medical residencies and a wide variety of internships. These positive experiences not only impact those directly involved but also help us grow our reputation as an employer of choice as they share their experiences with friends, families and other students. Our partnerships with universities and businesses also reflect our commitment to growing and investing in our local communities and keeping great talent here.
  4. Hire employees who truly share your company’s values. 
    • We keep Sanford’s values front of mind when hiring to ensure we are finding the right talent for our organization and our culture. Understanding our values, priorities and expectations  also helps candidates to make the right choice about joining – and staying with us. At Sanford Health, all employees enter our organization learning about our mission, vision and values. We insist on a culture of service and believe that all of our employees are caregivers, no matter their position or location. We are all responsible for the care of our patients and their families, and our mission – dedication to the work of health and healing – is ingrained in the fabric of our organization. This common thread unites our employees, in all of our locations across the Midwest and beyond.
  5. Make recognition meaningful. 
    • Sanford has multiple ways we offer personal, consistent recognition that supports our culture of engagement. These efforts reinforce our reputation as a great place to work. Sanford promotes employee recognition and engagement through a variety of different methods, events and benefits. This includes traditional things such as service recognition events and gifts, as well as certificates for holiday food items and seasonal parties. But Sanford’s leaders believe in and emphasize a culture centered on acknowledging our employees and demonstrating our appreciation for them on a daily basis. Leaders hold “welcome to work” surprise events at different locations throughout the year, providing refreshments and treats to surprise and thank our employees. We also provide many ways for employees to recognize and thank each other. Employees can nominate coworkers for our monthly HERO awards that are given for representing each of our values. HERO awards ceremonies rotate amongst our three main campuses. Hundreds of people gather in the main lobby where the nominators read their winning submissions and winners receive gifts, public thanks and photos with leaders. Leaders and coworkers can also recognize employees via “shout outs” on our employee intranet site. 

North Dakota State University

Cindy Breyer, Recruitment Specialist, North Dakota State University
Cindy Breyer, Recruitment Specialist, North Dakota State University
  1. Use online recruitment – Recruit on company website, Indeed.com, professional publications, Job Service, social media, and encourage employee referrals. 
    • The places our applicants find our jobs, is the NDSU website – followed by Indeed.com, professional journals, various publications etc. The source used to advertise will depend on the type of position.  We have such a broad scope of career opportunities at NDSU – everything from dining services, custodial, office support, trades, technical, professional, managerial, executive and faculty.  All of our positions are posted with Indeed.com, Job Service ND, ND Chamber of Commerce and Higher Ed jobs.  Our faculty positions are posted on the Southern Region Board of Education site.  We encourage our search committees to share our postings with any list serves they participate in and any conference list serves/blogs and with colleagues.  We have created our own NDSU HR Facebook page and NDSU HR LinkedIn account – this often times reaches those passive job seekers.  Several of our departments also have their own social media accounts and share their positions this way. We keep the Job AD short and encourage connections, friends, and colleagues to also share the posts. 
  2. Attend Career Fairs – embrace diversity.
    • NDSU typically attends 3-4 career fairs per year.  We are open to all types of career fairs.  We are fortunate to have some name recognition, which helps in attracting job seekers at the events.
  3. Provide excellent benefits – and share that information with job seekers.
    • NDSU offers a generous and comprehensive benefits package – which includes the monthly healthcare premium 100 percent paid for employees and their families – this also includes a wellness program that gives employees the ability to earn up to $250 per year for participating in wellness activities. They may also receive health club reimbursement.  Other benefits include voluntary dental and vision plans available at a reasonable cost, a retirement plan with excellent company contributions, life insurance, sick leave, annual leave and holiday pay, an onsite childcare center, and a tuition assistance program – employees can take three courses per year with 100 percent of the tuition fees waived and 50 percent off tuition for family members.
  4. Offer flexibility as much as you can and create and offer a welcoming culture and environment that is positive and fun.  
    • Departments are encouraged to work with their employees on offering flexibility as they are able – including hours of 7:30 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. during summer months and during the academic year when school is not in session.  Every Friday is Bison Pride Friday – a casual day and where employees are encouraged to wear Bison gear.  The NDSU campus can be a bit overwhelming to someone new that hasn’t been on campus before – we are excited to launch an NDSU “virtual tour” in 2020 that will provide views of the buildings, locations, meeting rooms, important places a new employee will need to go and much more.
  5. Find out what motivates your employee and provide recognition and opportunities for career development and growth.
    • The University has many opportunities for professional growth with several academic departments offering trainings, workshops and seminars.  Our tuition assistance program is an excellent way for an employee to obtain their degree if they don’t already have one.  Staff Senate is an organization that NDSU employees can join and be a voice in for the university.  The activities sponsored by Staff Senate include Employee Recognition Week, the Scholarship Fund Awards for classified staff members and their families, staff development programs, Campus Kudos Awards, the annual Mary McCannel Gunkelman Recognition Award and NDSU Day of Honor. 

Cardinal Glass Industries

Kelsey Kasten, Employee Service Administrator, Cardinal Glass Industries
Kelsey Kasten, Employee Service Administrator, Cardinal Glass Industries
  1. Safety
    • Safety is our number one priority here at Cardinal. Our plant manager frequently tells our employees, “No piece of glass is more important to me than your safety.” He sets the example at the highest level in the facility. Our teammates are also provided with the required personal protective equipment necessary to safely perform the duties of their job, from cut-less tops, to gloves, safety glasses, and the appropriate steel-toed shoes. We are an Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) VPP Star certified site, in which we are recognized by OSHA as world-class in safety.
  2. Screening
    • Candidates are able to apply online or in-person at Cardinal. After an application is submitted, it’s “graded” to be sure applicants have the skills and experience we are looking for. This also allows us to match candidates with the position and shift they’re best suited for. After that, we do a phone screening with the passing applicants and bring them in to take our computer test. The computer test is a timed, basic math and safety assessment. Good screening is the most important step to having quality interviews. Our supervisors would much rather have one really good interview than multiple mediocre interviews.
  3. Appreciation
    • A simple ‘thank you’ goes a long way. Things like a year-end banquet or a summer picnic are nice ways to show employees you appreciate them, but they only happen once a year. Regularly letting your employees know you appreciate them and their hard work lets them know that you care and makes them feel valued. Having positive, uplifting connections with employees opens the door to communication.
  4. Flexibility
    • Flexibility goes both ways, we need to be flexible with our teammates, and they, in turn, need to be flexible with us. When able, we work with our teammates to keep them from having to leave Cardinal when things like child care or conflicting schedules happen. This could be anything from adjusting start/end times, granting personal leave, or allowing different break times. For example, when teammates have certain prayer times, we work with them to move breaks and accommodate. On the flip side, we request that our teammates be flexible when necessary as well. Our employees are cross-trained so they can help cover if the need ever arises.
  5. Communication/Listening 
    • Good communication starts with good listening. Don’t listen with the intent to reply, listen to understand. Actually listen to what your employee is saying before responding. Try to figure out what the employee wants as well, do they want your opinion or do they just need someone to vent to? If they are just venting, don’t respond with advice. Listening to your employees is a simple way to show them you respect them and will help create a trusting environment. It’s also important to remain transparent with your employees so they don’t feel left out or that they’re the center of gossip because of a mistake they made.


Kayla Linn, Vice President of People and Culture, Eventide
Kayla Linn, Vice President of People and Culture, Eventide
  1. Appreciate your employees!
    • Sometimes it’s a simple thank you that can mean the most to staff that work hard each and every day. Happy employees are more productive and engaged in their work, resulting in better services provided to our customers (the residents!). At Eventide, we have an internal recognition program called “BeBOLD Moments,” where staff can recognize a co-worker for all the “bold” moments they create for other employees or residents. We also celebrate the special moments with our employees, like their birthdays or work anniversary, and provide them with a free meal that month!
  2. Listen and communicate to your employees.
    • Everyone wants to have input and contribute to the work that they do. Provide your staff the ability to give their opinions and thoughts on how to grow as an organization and they will become invested in the work they are doing. If you say you’re going to follow up on something, follow up and then let the employee know what you did so they feel that the company takes action on feedback. At Eventide, we complete annual engagement surveys where employees can provide feedback. Once we have the results, we have representatives from all departments on our “Culture Teams” to help provide solutions and ideas to improve the work environment. We will also do simple surveys or ask staff about their preferences before making changes that directly impact their work environment.
  3. Provide opportunities for professional growth and development.
    • If employees don’t have an opportunity to grow or develop in their positions, they become disengaged and will eventually leave. Continue to develop your staff in ways to keep them excited about work and growth opportunities in their future. At Eventide, we offer employees scholarships and loan repayment options if they want to continue their education. During our employee touchpoints, whether that’s a two week, 30 day, 60 day, annual or 1:1, we discuss what professional goals our employees have and how we can best help them achieve those goals. Eventide provides paid Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) training to both internal employees and external candidates that want to become a CNA in senior living! We pay for the cost of the class as well as the exam and pay them while in the class! We also provide an internal Certified Medication Aid I training program.
  4. Create a culture where people WANT to work!
    • If your company has a positive and welcoming culture, perspective employees will chose to come work for your organization and stay committed to the organization’s vision. At Eventide, it’s the people that make us who we are, the employees, the residents, and their families. The work that our employees do every single day provides an environment where our residents can THRIVE!
  5. Be present in the community.
    • When searching for candidates, you want them to think of your organization without hesitation, so how are you building your mission in the community? Are you present at high schools and colleges to highlight the job opportunities in your organization? Is your organization giving back to the local community in other ways? Eventide is! Eventide connects with our local high schools and colleges to build relationships early. For several years, Eventide Fargo has hosted the MSUM Scrubs Camp for a day, where 80+ high school age individuals are exposed to the world of senior living. Several of the “campers” from this event ended up volunteering or working with us after. We attend all of the career fairs in the area to build connections with the students and offer them flexible schedules while they are completing their educations. Eventide encourages staff to become involved in the local chamber and other service organizations. We also are involved in the fun things in our communities, whether that’s the West Fest Parade or other area parades, United Way’s Day of Caring, team building volunteer events, and more.

Discovery Benefits a WEX Company

Dann Keller, Talent Acquisition Specialist, Discovery Benefits.
Dann Keller, Talent Acquisition Specialist, Discovery Benefits.
  1. Understand your culture and share the vision.
    • At Discovery Benefits, a WEX Company, employee culture has been crucial to enhancing our profile in the community, creating an engaged workforce and facilitating a second-to-none client experience. Culture is people, so when it comes to staffing, it is just as important to consider temperament, personality, and soft-skills as it is to consider relative experience and career accomplishments. Hire the candidates that will contribute positively to your culture, and don’t stop there. Offer a generous referral bonus to your employees and give them incentive to spread the word to family and friends that share the core values you seek.
  2. Invest in your employees as people.
    • Embrace the idea that work shouldn’t always be the most important thing to your employees, and offer benefits and policies that not only facilitate personal time, but enhance it. Perks such as a comprehensive wellness program, flexible work hours, paid parental leave, work from home opportunities, and substantial PTO, you send the message that you support and value your employees’ personal endeavors. In our experience, when you show your employees that you are there for them, they often show that they are there for you.
  3. Create the employees that you need, and offer them career growth.
    • One surefire way to keep good employees is to promote them, so put yourself in a position that makes it easy to do so. Recognize people’s results in big and little ways to nurture strong relationships and trust. Build career pathing, continuous learning and a culture of opportunity into your company structure. Give special focus to internal hiring practices that are fair and inclusive, and offer additional training and job shadowing to spread awareness. At Discovery Benefits, we train our supervisors to help prepare their direct reports for job interviews as needed. We encourage the interviewing of all internal job candidates as a chance to provide honest feedback and improve the interview skills of our workforce. We celebrate the team members who are promoted, and we help the ones that are not to learn and improve from the experience.
  4. Offer transparency and communicate openly.
    • Being transparent with your workforce perpetuates loyalty and helps employees manage change more effectively. Not only is it important for employees to keep an open and ongoing dialogue with their leaders and teammates, but also to see open communication happening throughout the organization, at all managerial levels. At our company, important messages come from senior leadership, and employees are given the opportunity to discuss big changes in open forums like town hall meetings, roundtable discussions and Q&As. When change is looming, sending updates and action plans consistently will assure everyone is on the same page, and make your workforce feel like they have an active role in the company’s prosperity and growth.
  5. Provide a gateway to your community, and get involved.
    • Job candidates want to know what your company does to set itself apart as a community advocate, so show them with pride. An employer’s involvement in their community says a lot about their values and priorities, and there are many ways that companies can engage. Offering paid time for volunteerism, showcasing local non-profits, and organizing charity drives are ways to help employees have a positive impact directly. Sponsoring local community and sporting events is another great way to get your name into the community, demonstrate your values, and provide your employees with a sense of pride while they have fun outside the office. 

North Dakota State College of Science

Sandi Gilbertson, Executive Director of Human Resources, NDSCS.
Sandi Gilbertson, Executive Director of Human Resources, NDSCS.
  1. Create a hiring committee
    • To find quality employees, we engage employees from different areas of the college that are going to be working with the new hire to be on the hiring committee.  We have a hiring manager that serves as the lead person on the committee to guide the process for the committee.
  2. Hiring Process
    • To find quality employees, we ensure the committee has an effective process, understands hiring practice/policy, is well organized and prepared to have a productive interview where the candidate has a good experience. The committee creates interview questions and develops screening criteria based on qualifications for the position. The committee then meets to determine which candidates they will interview. There is a screening process that is completed as a team. Once that is determined they work with human resources to set up interview times. The invites are sent to those being interviewed by human resources.
  3. Onboarding
    • To keep quality employees, it is important to have a good onboarding experience that doesn’t end after the first few days. For us, onboarding is a long-term process that begins prior to an employee’s hire date and continues for at least six months (through the probationary period). It helps the new hire to feel welcome and prepared in their new position. Supervisors and employees are encouraged to use our New Employee Onboarding Checklist to guide the process. Additionally, new employees are encouraged to review the information available on our Human Resources website. The guide listed above has a process that supervisors follow for:
      • Pre-arrival
      • First day of work
      • Within the first week
      • On a regular basis
      • Six months         
    • Onboarding is facilitated by the supervisor, human resources, the department and the NDSCS community. NDSCS electronically sends the prework to the employee to fill out all necessary information for them to be entered into the system. We then create an orientation schedule for them where they are welcomed by the department and have two days of immersion of the institution within HR, with the department, a meeting with the Vice President or President of the division, setting up IT information, policy and benefits orientation.
  4. Make employees feel welcome.
    • To keep quality employees, they need to feel like they belong. We do this by immersing them in the NDSCS culture and providing ongoing support. We set culture by making new employees feel welcomed. We have different teams at NDSCS that employees are welcome to join where they can provide input and help to create positive outcomes. We encourage involvement and participation in college events and activities.
  5. Value employees.
    • To keep quality employees, they need to feel valued. We have a reward and recognition program, provide great benefits, have a holistic wellness program, have an active diversity and equity team and we encourage our supervisors to acknowledge employees for the work they do. The wellness team has brown bag luncheons to help inform the college community on wellness information and updates. We have motivation Mondays, maintain don’t gain, Go Red event, walk at lunch day, walking wellness. We also promote the Dakota Wellness program and we partner with the culinary arts department for a fruit and veggie challenge and community programs that help promote wellness.

Bell Bank

Julie Peterson Klein, EVP/Chief Culture Officer, Bell Bank.
Julie Peterson Klein, EVP/Chief Culture Officer, Bell Bank.
  1. When you succeed, pay it forward – to your employees and others.
    • You’ve probably heard of Bell Bank’s unique Pay It Forward initiative, which has empowered more than $15 million in employee charitable giving since 2007. What many people don’t know is that we also work to hire and retain people who are not only high-performing, but also lead with “pay it forward hearts” and add value to the world.
  2. Focus on hiring people who fit your overall culture.
    • We’ve created a great environment for people to come to, based on a simple bottom line: “Happy Employees! Happy Customers!” Engaged team members who are proud of where they work and what they do will provide great service to your customers.
  3. Host special company events where people can get to know their co-workers and meet their families.
    • We have amazing events for employees and their families, such as a RedHawks baseball night, Trollwood picnic and play, and our big Bell Christmas Party (the one time we get all our employees, from every division and location, under one roof). But, it’s also the little things our team members do for each other that make the “Bell family.”
  4. Recognize the support of friends and family.
    • We have a Pay It Forward: Friends & Family program, in which employees receive a gift card and an additional day off every year, with the stipulation that they spend their money and the day with friends or family members. It’s a way of acknowledging how important these people are in supporting the Bell family.
  5. Promote volunteerism.
    • Supporting volunteerism communicates support for building stronger  communities and doing work that is “more than a paycheck.” Bell employees have 16 hours of paid volunteer time each year.

TrueNorth Steel

Lenhart, Talent Acquisition Coordinator, TrueNorth Steel
Lenhart, Talent Acquisition Coordinator, TrueNorth Steel
Kellie Fritz, Vice President of Human Resources, TrueNorth Steel
Kellie Fritz, Vice President of Human Resources, TrueNorth Steel
  1. Employee Referral Program
    • We have found that employee referrals are one of the most successful ways to attract top talent. Our employee referral program allows employees to make candidate referrals. If the referral is hired and successfully meets the program requirements, a payment of $500 will be made after six months of continuous employment and an additional $500 will be paid after the referred employee has completed one year of service, providing the referring and referred employee is actively employed with the company.
  2. Culture & Value Fit
    • When pre-screening candidates, TrueNorth Steel seeks to find the right employee who will fit into our company culture and align with our company values. At TrueNorth Steel, we are game-changers! What does that mean to us? A game-changer is a committed, positive, outcome-focused individual who is personally responsible for doing whatever it takes to empower their team to succeed. They build trust in themselves and others through dedicated teamwork and self-improvement.
  3. Game Changer Program
    • TrueNorth employees are selected every year by their respective supervisors to participate in a Game Changer two-day-in-depth training program. The Game Changer Program is a two-day course that is focused on developing the whole person and teaches transformational skills that allow individuals to communicate more effectively, accept responsibility for their choices and actions, and uncover their hidden potential. Participants leave the training with their own specific outcomes that will set them apart from the spectators still sitting on the sidelines. TrueNorth Steel employees benefit from this training by learning to disrupt the status quo and take personal responsibility for their lives.
  4. Celebrating Our People
    • Each year, TrueNorth Steel celebrates our Game Changer of the month, quarter, and year. We hold annual employee forums at each of our locations that let our employees openly engage with our leadership team, including the President and Owner. We have recognition awards, company picnics, site celebrations – Christmas parties at our locations, and parties for goals being met. We have recognition awards based on years of service. Also, TrueNorth Steel has an upcoming 75th anniversary in May of 2020 that will be held at the Scheels Arena with all TNS employees and their families invited to enjoy music by a Grammy award-winning band to celebrate this company milestone.
  5. Survey Employees
    • TrueNorth Steel takes part in an annual employee engagement survey that assesses the overall health of our workforce. Employee feedback is anonymous. The TNS Leadership team then breaks down responses and comes up with a strategic plan to implement improvements where most needed.
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Brady is the Editorial Director at Spotlight Media in Fargo, ND.