How to Make Better Hires and Transform Employee Retention Rates

By Jason Swenk on December 7, 2022

Want to make better hires? Looking to improve your agency’s employee retention? Many times, a high turnover rate is a consequence of a flawed hiring process. You need to understand what you’re looking for and how each person will contribute not only to the agency’s effectiveness but also to its culture. Today’s guest has developed a system that took his agency’s employee retention from 30% to 80% by just adjusting the way they assess new hire candidates.

Shannon Hansen is the owner of Lightfoot Media, a full-service agency focused on helping companies maximize their ROI. He started his first business at age 21 and learned lessons as some of those ended in bankruptcy. In 2012 he ended up in the digital industry figuring out how to make money online with mortgage lead generation. Over the years, the business expanded as he figured things out. He has experienced both great successes and great failures that led him to regroup.

For Shannon, being on such a good path and then having everything go south was an opportunity to stop and wonder: what happened? He learned lessons and figured out how to move forward after picking up the pieces and starting over once again. Starting over led him to what he describes as the most fulfilling stage he has ever reached in business. He hopes it can help others too.

In this interview, we’ll discuss:

  • What are you doing wrong in your agency’s hiring process?
  • The six-step framework to transform your agency hiring process.
  • Understanding what drives your agency employees.

Sponsors and Resources

E2M Solutions: Today’s episode of the Smart Agency Masterclass is sponsored by E2M Solutions, a web design and development agency that has provided white-label services for the past 10 years to agencies all over the world. Check out and get 10% off for the first three months of service.


Apple | Spotify | iHeart Radio | Stitcher | Radio FM

Podcast Takeover!!

Get to know your Smart Agency Guest Host:  Dr. Jeremy Weisz is the co-founder of Rise25, an agency that helps companies launch and run podcasts profitably. He followed Jason’s podcast and eventually joined the mastermind and has been a guest on the podcast before. Today, he’s helping Jason bring something new to the Smart Agency podcast audience by interviewing a special guest and bringing a new perspective to the show.

What Are You Doing Wrong in Your Agency Hiring Process?

CPRMPPS is the roadmap Shannon now uses in many business areas. However, this winning formula actually started with his staff. In a span of six months, his agency lost four senior-level employees. It was a big blow for his agency and he admits they were not equipped to fill these positions internally. Shannon and his partner didn’t understand how they ended up in the position; they weren’t all bad apples. After much reflection, it all came back to the hiring and employee selection process.

So how could they improve their hiring process? What should they do to avoid similar situations in the future? This is how they came up with a system consisting of 6 steps (abbreviated CPRMPS) to their new hiring process. Basically, these steps serve as a guide to quickly tell whether a person is a good fit for the agency or not.

According to Shannon, hiring individuals that fit with this model has increased their employee retention rate from 30% to 80%. It really marks a before and after in terms of the agency’s culture. As a team, they are now much more effective and the atmosphere is incredibly positive.

With this process, Shannon and his team score candidates in each of the following categories from 1 to 10. No person who scores lower than 7 in any of these areas is considered to be a good fit for his agency.

Online Training for Digital Agencies

6-Step System to Transform Agency Employee Retention Rates

  1. Coachable: There are two main things you should be looking for in this area while interviewing: 1.) Do they ask questions? 2.) Do they take feedback? It’s pretty straightforward, yet very few people ask questions even if they’re encouraged to. This can typically indicate they’re not coachable. Of course, it could also mean the person is shy about asking questions, but this can also be tested in the next step.
  2. Problem-solving: The team tests candidates on the skillset needed for their role. The team takes this opportunity to test the person with a particularly difficult problem to solve. They are once again encouraged to ask questions. If they are not willing to ask questions when facing something very difficult, then they’re definitely not coachable. It’s safe to assume that, if hired, they would face very difficult situations on the job. It’s a bad sign if they’re not capable of asking for help.
  3. Reliable: When looking at a candidate’s resume, Shannon considers 3+ years at a particular job as a sign of reliability. It’s not necessarily a game-changer, especially if they’re really young. However, they also test reliability based on when they show up for the interview. Early or on time is great, however late by 15 minutes or more, is an instant deal breaker.
  4. Motivation: This is the central piece of this hiring system. What drives a person to do what they do? It’s normal for people to have more than one motive but the primary is what you’re looking for. Identifying the candidate’s motivation is key because it can either be really great for the agency or really distracting. Some common motives include helping, creativity, and growth. There are also no-go ones like power and control, which are red flags for poor candidates.
  5. Personability: This step is all about considering how much time would you be willing to spend with this person. Will they vibe with your team on a personal level? Would you ask them for dinner at your house? It’s really important for culture and the team members judging this usually give very similar scores.
  6. Superpowers: This final step is optional but consider, what are they really best at and is it something your team is missing. There are plenty of people on Shannon’s team who don’t have a superpower and are great team members. However, there are people who can make a huge difference with their potential to drive the agency forward in one particular area. This will influence the person’s future role in the agency.

Understanding What Really Drives Your Employees

For Shannon, learning to discern motivation was by far the hardest part of mastering the hiring system. It’s not as straightforward as just asking them. It requires practice and intentional listening to discern their true motivation.

Like anything – with time, the team learned about different motives or drivers and why some are good fits for the agency and others aren’t. Some are not adequate for different reasons, whether they go against the agency’s core values or simply don’t fit within the culture. Ultimately, understanding them helps Shannon see how the wrong hire could damage the agency’s growth.

Once you really understand a candidate’s true motivation and how they change the way you can work with a person, you also start thinking about how people with different motives can work together. You get the best work out of a person once you understand what drives them.

Want the Support of Amazing Digital Agency Owners?

If you want to be around amazing agency owners that can see you may not be able to see and help you grow your agency, go to the Digital Agency Elite to learn all about our exclusive mastermind.

Would You Like To Get Access To A Proven Agency Framework For Growing Your Agency?