In today’s hyper-connected, data-driven world, there are many metrics available to recruiters and talent acquisition teams. While it’s great to have so many options, quality beats quantity when it comes to results — and if you’re going to measure a recruiting metric, you need to focus your efforts. But where – and more importantly, why? 

Obvious or not, in my view, there’s only one recruiting metric that really matters. No, it’s not the often-cited, albeit misguided, quality of hire that’s almost impossible to figure out. What about time to fill? It’s a good one to consider, though certainly not tops. Speed to productivity? Helpful enough. The issue with these metrics is that while they’re nice to know, they don’t actually move the needle forward. Instead, if you can only measure one recruiting metric, there’s no question about it: you want to look at the retention of top talent. If this surprises you, allow me to provide a little context... 

Go beyond recruiting

We often talk about the recruiting lifecycle as though it somehow ends at onboarding. That’s not entirely true, especially if we see this “cycle” as a continuous loop. . Of course, it would be naïve to assume that every hire you make will stay with the company forever, but the good ones will likely remain for a stretch. So what happens after they leave the recruiting portion of their experience? Answer: they enter into the employee side and become the responsibility of HR. 

This is when we can run into trouble, thanks to the differences in how HR and recruiting operate — and their understandings of one another. This common divide can prevent either side from grasping what the other is doing, which can have a long-term impact. Why? Because retaining top talent isn’t just about the value at hire — it’s the value of hire over the weeks, months and years that a candidate-turned-employee works for the organization. 

Solve the split  

Before we’re able to dig into the data, we need to try and close any potential gaps between recruiting and HR. We’re all in the business of people, after all! Still, we know that many recruiters may “lock up” when candidates pose HR-centric questions, such as “How will you help me develop as an employee?” Likewise, HR would probably struggle in the role of recruiter. We each have different perspectives, different strengths by the nature of the work we do Yet despite our differences, it seems possible to solve the split – the employers out there winning top talent are proof. 

Conquering the divide, we’re able to see each other as resources, working together on a collective mission that goes beyond putting butts in chairs to support our broader organizational objectives. Because at some point, technology will potentially take over the operational parts of our jobs, leaving HR and recruiters to focus more intently on building relationships— with candidates, employees and, hopefully, one another. 

Find the data 

By getting on the same page, we can turn our attention back to the metric at hand, which means figuring out how and why top performers stay with the company. Our thinking combines three key factors: recruiting, engagement and retention — in that order. We’re looking to find answers to questions like: why did they take the job? Why did they keep it? Was it culture? Compensation? Something else? Why did they leave? Where did they go? We’re looking to learn everything we can about what makes people tick and positions work, especially for critical roles. 

Approaching metrics this way, we’re able to make both sides care, reinforce the relationship between HR and recruiting, and make it possible to communicate value across the board. At the same time, knowing that everything we do boils down to retention, we can take our findings and start to build out programs with candidates and employees in mind.  

Making it all work 

The thing about the retention metric is that it speaks to some larger issues in HR and recruiting. As a result, making it work sometimes requires a little something extra on the part of the organization (that means an incentive!). That’s because retaining top talent requires continuous monitoring and analysis, not just surface-level metrics. When HR and recruiting work together, retention follows. Through this collaboration, both sides can look at the process beyond their own immediate involvement, bringing together other bits of information like source of hire and offer acceptance rates with performance management and compensation data to flesh out the bigger picture. 

Connecting these dots keeps HR and recruiting interested in and engaged with individual hires throughout the experience, and helps them stay connected and up-to-date on how employees are doing and what they’re interested in longer-term. Maybe that’s as simple as consistently communicating to everyone in the value chain; maybe it means something crafty like tying bonuses to employee performance reviews two years post-hire. That part is up to the employer. Measuring this metric, on the other hand, well, that’s on HR and recruiting.

William Tincup is the President of RecruitingDaily. At the intersection of HR and technology, he’s a writer, speaker, advisor, consultant, investor, storyteller & teacher. Find him on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and YouTube.

The views and opinions expressed in this post are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Indeed.