Leading With Change + Innovation

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“If you really want to know about business, you should refer to Scott Steinberg.” -Sir Richard Branson, Virgin Group

How to Attract and Retain Top Talent

Throwing money at a problem rarely works as a long-term solution and couldn’t be truer than when it comes to attracting and retaining top talent. Not only are younger generations motivated more by their ability to learn, grow, and expand their professional horizons than a paycheck. They’re also increasingly drawn to companies with an eye towards innovation and making an impact in the community – in other words, those organizations who empower and enable tomorrow’s leaders to drive positive change on every level.

By the year 2020, America and Europe will have an estimated shortage of 18 million high-skilled workers, and top performers will have even greater expectations when it comes to deciding which employer they choose. Acquiring the right talent is more crucial than ever, too: A McKinsey-cited survey found that high-performers are 400 percent more productive than their peers. Noting this, finding the right talent to help shape a successful future for your enterprise will be increasingly challenging going forward – as will keeping that talent on-board. As a result, when looking to attract and retain top talent, don’t just create the most favorable benefits package for them going forward – create the absolute most welcoming, generous, and forward-thinking environment if you want to attract those working professionals who are most skilled at their trade, and the best fit for your organizational strategy and mission.

A simple way to create compelling offers for prospective hires? Analyze your ideal candidate’s needs and then shape benefits around them, as opposed to the typical one-size-fits-all solution. For example, Starbucks founder Howard Schultz made a point to advocate for and secure health insurance for employees working 25 or more hours weekly – making their lives’ happier and healthier in the process. Some employees were even offered the option to have their full tuition paid if they attended Arizona State University. This act of generosity wasn’t random, either: Evidence shows that Starbucks employees skew heavily towards college age – which means they are an audience that’s often strongly-interested in finding ways to pay for college and health insurance coverage once they become more independent in their mid-20s.

Another company, the health business NutraClick, used to offer free food and energy drinks to potential and current workers – a common business tactic. The practice didn’t fit the business or the mission, though, so the company not only pivoted to providing workers with healthier snacks, but also brought in a personal trainer and corporate wellness health coach who could work with employees – who were often individuals with an interest in health and fitness themselves. Noticing that mental health was a growing concern for many modern families and working professionals, it also hired a life coach to help employees as well. The business has seen significant growth in its ability to hire and retain top talent by making changes that appeal to both current and prospective workers.

Likewise, if you’re looking to bring strong talent on-board, it pays to shift your focus away from a mindset that focuses on fixed operating hours and schedules to one that puts a greater emphasis on output. Hawke Media COO Tony Delmercado argues that top performers love their jobs, love to work, and don’t really care how many hours they put on the clock – if they’re capable of staying productive and moving the bottom line, you should be capable of providing them with greater flexibility, greater latitude in geographic location, and more teleworking opportunities.

When interviewing potential hires, experts also recommend emphasizing the type of results you expect from hires – not necessarily fixed job roles or responsibilities, as individuals may be able to contribute in many areas of the business. Wharton’s Peter Cappelli also warns against downplaying any challenging or unique aspect of a given job you’re hiring for. These challenges or opportunities may scare top talent less than attract them, especially for those individuals looking to grow and expand their horizons or career. For instance, the exercise of a job skill that may be part of the role, but not yet present on their resume, may represent an area in which candidates wish to grow, and may be able to bring fresh perspectives and approaches to the table. Keep in mind as well: If you undersell or hide a required talent or skill that’s required for success in the role, then you run a greater risk of talent departing after they’re hired and get a truer picture of what’s necessary to get actually ahead in the workplace.

Similarly, software should never trump personal instinct. Automated the process of reviewing candidates is tempting, especially for high-profile positions for which huge volumes of resumes and applications may be submitted. But there are often excellent candidates who may fill a role that don’t stand out right away on paper, and automatically get chucked into the trash bin in a rush to sort through submissions. A mix of both art and science can help you better fight the right fit.

In addition, when you have narrowed down the search and have some candidates in mind, make a point to highlight aspects of the role that will resonate with your ideal candidate – including where there are opportunities to grow and advance with the organization. As one expert put it, pulling in long-term talent means making sure there is room for them to grow and progress in their career, as many working professionals today now make a priority to seek out routine opportunities for learning and advancement.

You’ll also want to make a point to court prospective talent as much as you would a potential customer. According to McKinsey, attracting the right talent operates according to a similar cycle as selling a product, service, or solution: Creating awareness of your company amongst possible hires; prompting consideration of if they want to work there;  aligning candidates’ personal preferences with job specifications; and successfully hiring into the position. Retention techniques often operate similarly to strategies for maintaining customer loyalty, e.g. the need to emphasize engagement of the new worker, build loyalty for the organization, and promote advocacy amongst this audience, which can help you recruit others to join the enterprise. It’s a model worth considering, as the vast majority of firms have little confidence in their ability to receuit: A whopping 82 percent of companies do not believe they recruit highly-talented people, and only 7 percent feel that their organization has the capacity to keep them.

Lastly, it’s also important to remember that top performers may come and go, and recognize that this is part of the normal employment cycle. The best workers are often eager to be challenged and expand their professional horizons, or pick up skills in new areas and industries. If they desire to part ways, don’t hesitate to extend an offer to keep them around – but also don’t be afraid to let them go. These same candidates may well return back to your company at a later date, armed with greater knowledge and insight.

In short, finding more ways to work with peak performers – not just have them work for you – provides a means to more effectively help you attract and retain top talent. The more you create win-win scenarios, and empower leading talent, the bright the future becomes for both the individual and the organization.

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