Written by Alex Keighley
Despite the relentless rise of technology disrupting aspects of business, and artificial intelligence becoming ever more intelligent, people are as crucial to success as ever. Look at any list of challenges facing business today and there’s one thing you won’t find missing in any of them. Against the backdrop of political instability, the unpredictable cycle of macro-economics or keeping up with the relentless charge of globalisation, how to recruit and retain highly capable, engaged and diverse talent is ever-present. People are almost inevitably a business’s most important but least stable asset; yet no matter how many CEO’s espouse the importance of their employees, levels of employee engagement are frighteningly low.
For many businesses, particularly in service sectors, attracting and developing high quality people is the critical limiting factor affecting growth. This makes hiring one of the important actions any business undertakes. Building and maintaining the perfect workforce requires as much if not more attention than any other asset the business holds, unfortunately unlike most others it is not simply a case of buying what you need, salaries only go so far.
There’s no debate the world of work is changing, individuals are taking control of their working lives, and they view employment differently. To be successful, businesses must do the same.
Hiring starts long before there’s a vacancy to fill. Your business needs to be somewhere people want to work. Through social media and comparison sites like LinkedIn and Glassdoor, employees have greater access than ever before to information on what your employees really think of you. So connect to people and understand what they really want.
Hiring is a sales process, treat it like one.
When the time comes to bring someone into the business, focus on what you’re trying to achieve. What does the organisation want to do and what does an individual have to bring to make this happen. Be open-minded, only focus on experience if it is absolutely impossible to achieve these outputs without it. The truisms ‘there’s a first time for everything’ and ‘it’s easier to teach skills than attitude’ are truisms for a reason. If you want to do what’s never been done before, you can’t hire someone with experience!
Recruiting people can be time consuming, but it can’t be allowed to become a laborious administrative process, at the risk of frustrating both you and potential candidates. To attract the most passionate employees, you have to inspire them. When you’re trying to communicate your brand and vision to a client you don’t do it through a list of boxes they need to tick, so why use it when looking for people who can embody that brand and vision themselves.
Every interview is a sales pitch, both sides should be showing the best of who they are. Employers: you can only choose from the people willing to work for you.
Too many interviewers think an aggressive grilling is the way forward, but this is unlikely to attract true talent, and in some cases is just rude. The best interviewers can ascertain a candidates ability and fit for a role, whilst building a good rapport and, potentially, the basis for a successful relationship. At the very least an interview should give candidates a positive feeling towards the business. Even if they aren’t the right person for the role, create a supporter. Be honest with your candidates, nothing engenders frustration more than hiring someone only for them to discover the reality isn’t what they were sold. At best you’re left with a disengaged employee; at worst they’ll leave and you’ll have to start the recruitment process all over again having lost a great candidate and with a knock to your reputation.
The most efficient way to acquire a talented and committed workforce is to develop people and make them want to stay. That means giving them what they want. That’s not just a good salary and doesn’t mean filling the office with ping-pong tables, grass floors and free bars – unless you want it to. It does mean foster trust and respect, and avoid out-dated and constraining management. Inspire people to believe in the business and give them the opportunities to do what they want to do.
Unusual talent probably doesn’t fit in a typical box, so give yourself the flexibility to attract it. People have great ideas, people make difficult decisions, and ultimately your clients buy from people – let them!