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Advice from An Expert: Hiring and Developing Your Talent Pool

Attracting great talent to join your organization’s roster is always a hot topic of conversation for an HR manager, but how does your organization approach the subject of retention? Losing an employee can cost an organization valuable time as well as money. Moreover, organizations can lose valuable institutional knowledge once an employee moves on. For this month’s edition of Ask an Expert, we spoke with Waajida Small, the Director of Human Resources at Trinity Church in New York City. Waajida gives us some valuable insights into how to create a sustainable work culture to reduce turnover and retain high performing employees.

Being a Great Hiring Manager

Hiring managers are usually the first interaction a potential employee has with an organization. This makes the role of a hiring manager paramount to cultivating and retaining a successful workforce.

“People are very complex, so…trying to assess the knowledge, skills and abilities of another takes great skill in and of itself. As a hiring manager myself, what I have found to be the most valuable skills for me that have helped in not only creating teams, but keeping them are great communication skills, good customer service orientation, and coaching skills.”

Organizations can help bolster these efforts by providing hiring managers with training and development to make sure they can be “stewards in attracting and developing talent.”

Advice for New Managers

Great managers lead to high performing employees. Like all professional skills, becoming a great manager isn’t learned overnight. It’s important within an organization to provide resources to new managers to help them feel confident in their role.

“There is often this misconception that good process or project management automatically translates into good people or performance management. This is false. Managing people requires a completely different set of skills. In order for an organization to prepare those they are promoting into roles that require them to manage people, they have to provide them with three things: (1) training (2) coaching (3) mentoring.”

These resources are crucial to new managers as they navigate how to support employees while managing their own responsibilities.

Moreover, even if one may have had previous management experience, no two direct reports are the same. One piece of advice Waajida recommends to managers meeting their staff person for the first time is to frame the meeting as a conversation rather than an interrogation. This can help build trust which, in turn, fosters open communication.

“My best advice would be to go into the conversation ready to listen. And it should be just that — a conversation — especially if it is the first time you are meeting formally. Try to make it as informal as possible. You want your staff person to be as comfortable as possible so that they can be open and honest about their experiences so far. In this session, you are building a rapport and trying to establish a relationship.”

Managers will be able to work more effectively by creating an atmosphere of trust and demonstrating dedication to being a resource to their staff. In turn, employees will feel supported in their roles, reducing turnover rates.


Trusting Your Peers

Whether it be through training resources provided by the organization or creating a culture of collaboration between different departments, the most successful organizations have internal systems where employees can find various sources of support. Creating transparency within your organization can help this system develop naturally, but Waajida also recommends formalizing this process in order to build a solid foundation of open communication.

“It is a good idea for organizations to establish formal programs that are led by mentors. This can be a community of practice that is an established safe space for managers to communicate, share experiences, and insights with one another. They can also create guidelines and practices as well as collect information amongst themselves that they can then share with leaders who are a level up as feedback to improve their experiences.”

Leveraging peers as an additional source of support for your fellow employees is an effective and efficient way to ensure that staff are able to find all the resources they need to feel successful.

Employees are an organization’s most valuable resource, so people development is essential to developing successful, thriving organizations. Does your organization employ any strategies not listed here? Do you have a question for an HR expert? Get in touch:!


Waajida L. Small, Ph.D. is a senior HR Leader who has worked in public and non-profit organization for over a decade. Waajida is a Certified Purpose Leader (CPL), Certified Human Capital Strategist (HCS) and certified professional coach (CPC) with specialties in career, executive, and spiritual coaching. She has held several HR leadership roles in both large and small public and nonprofit organizations with missions raging from conservation to social justice. 

Waajida’s public services is vast and includes the areas of women’s leadership development, youth development, and addressing global women’s and human rights issues. She has served on the Board of Directors for the United Nations Association Southern NY State Division Young Professionals and was its Director of Membership. She has also served as the inaugural Chair of the Board for the IMPACT Leadership 21 Emerging Global Leaders Circle, a network that brought together young professional women with a passion for global human rights.

Waajida is currently an advisory board member for Rutgers University’s Center for Innovation. She serves on the leadership team for the Black Doctoral Network (BDN) as Director of Diversity and Inclusion and is a member of the National Association of Professional Women and Black Women of Influence. She has also been a content contributor for Idealist Careers, a platform which helps mission and purpose driven individuals to find, keep, and love jobs that have a social impact.

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