The best workers do the best (and often the most) work. But many companies do an awful job of finding and keeping them.
“Failure to attract and retain top talent” was the number-one issue in the Conference Board’s 2016 survey of global CEOs.
They say money makes the world go round, but for top talent, salary isn’t the only factor considered. It’s likely not even the most important.
Internet recruitment platforms cast the usual net and bring back people who meet all your “bullet point requirements”. These run-of-the-mill job postings find you people who possess the right skills, but likely won’t bring in long-term talent.
Why Top Talent Matters
Just because your cousin is always on her phone, and your nephew knows how to use a filter doesn’t make them social media managers. It’s not enough to just find someone who has the skills to fit the job description. Top talent is much more than a resume bullet list.
A recent study of more than 600,000 researchers, entertainers, politicians, and athletes found that high performers are 400 percent more productive than average employees. In highly complex occupations (i.e. managers, software developers, etc.) high performers are an astounding 800 percent more productive.
The late Steve Jobs of Apple summed up talent’s importance with this advice: “Go after the cream of the cream. A small team of A+ players can run circles around a giant team of B and C players.” Management guru Jim Collins concurred, “The single biggest constraint on the success of my organization is the ability to get and to hang on to enough of the right people.”
Top talent simply outperforms everyone else. They take a job and make it more than you even thought possible. They are the ones you want in your corner, the teammate you want on your side, the best of the best. And they know it.
What Jobs Matter Most?
The key is to focus on the 5 percent who deliver 95 percent of the value.
If you asked people who is the most highly paid player on a football team, they would correctly say the quarterback. Wrong. The highest paid player is the relatively unnoticed left tackle, who protects the quarterback.
It’s important to know which of your employees disproportionately create or protect value, and that is not always obvious. The U.S. Navy should have the best and brightest people commanding their fleets. However, it is the IT-outage engineer who truly prevents catastrophes. In an operating room, the highest paid doctor is not the surgeon, it’s likely the anesthesiologist. They keep the patient sedated and protected so the surgeon can perform the work.
When resources are constrained, you must focus your efforts on the few critical areas where you need the very best people. Start with roles, not processes. Once you can understand the true economics of value creation, you’ve developed the secret weapon in the war for talent.
Company Seekers vs. Job Seekers
It doesn’t take long for top talent to realize they’re in high demand. Chances are, you won’t find top talent with the usual online job posting. Why? Because that’s not where top talent hangs out. They don’t have to post their resume online. Instead, they are researching YOU first. They are seeking a company fit; somewhere they want to spend their time. It is up to you to make an effort to find and connect with those that fit your company culture.
There are three things that will make or break your ability to hire the very best in the business.
Know Your Core Values
Today’s top talent want to make a difference, feel valued, and find a company that will support their growth. It’s no coincidence that companies with legendary cultures—that applicants line up to work at—have unmistakable, authentic core values.
Core values that are authentic and valued are a huge determining factor in finding a match between candidates and managers. This is not something you can imitate or create on the spot. If you haven’t already, take the time to discover and spell out your company’s core values. Plenty of organizations have a list of values, but unless those values have real action, you’re sunk before you can even begin.
Show Your Employer Brand
According to Brad Lande, CEO of Live in the Grey, employer branding is key: “Once you’re able to articulate the identity of the organization in a way that feels unique and authentic, it becomes a filtering mechanism in and of itself…you’ll attract people with a similar set or complimentary values that are aligned with the organization.”
Your employer brand is about how you’re portrayed online, what former employees would say about your company, and what type of reputation you have. It’s about the applicant choosing you rather than you choosing them. Remember that applicants will seek out your website, third-party sites like The Muse and Glassdoor, and social channels to get a sense what it’d be like to work there. Video can be a hugely helpful tool to get your message out, spread your social media presence and allow candidates to assess the fit for themselves.
Liane Hornsey, former VP of Global People Operations at Google has one #1 rule: “Never ever compromise a hire.” She once left a role vacant for 18 months, because while she didn’t find a candidate truly aligned with the company’s core values.
The most successful managers would agree, choosing a culture fit with slightly weaker skills is better than choosing the hard skills who you would never want to have dinner with. Technical skills can change, but values will always matter most.
Claude Silver, Chief Heart Officer at VaynerMedia relies on the classic airport test. Would you want to be stuck in an airport with this person? It’s not easy to turn down an applicant with a perfect resume, but filling the position with someone against the grain only means no one will be happy long term, and you’ll be back to hiring for the role (yet again).
In a crowded marketplace, you need strategies that can help you find the best talent. In years past, popular perks were in three categories: retirement programs, stock options, and allowances for vehicle or mortgage payments. Today, these seem like old news.
The best talent is looking for something more. Having the right culture for the right talent could include opportunities for flexible working, customized benefits, a level of autonomy given to employees or providing unique perks they can’t find anywhere else.
To attract top talent, you need the traits of a top company. Don’t rely on “tricks” of the trade and neglect your core values. Your reputation will attract the best candidates all on its own if you treat people well and you are proud of the company you are building.