Attracting and retaining talented employees is vital to the success of any business. A bus depot provides an unusual yet powerful analogy of what businesses can be doing to increase talent attraction and retention of top performers.
The heading refers to the subject of Jim Collins best selling business book, From Good to Great. It is here that he communicates the idea that getting the right people on the bus, and the wrong people off the bus, is fundamental to any business’s success.
The book follows a group of companies over a period of many years and examines the characteristics of those companies that went from good to great.
It then details what these smart businesses did to attract and retain top talent.
Specifically, it maps out three stages, each with two key concepts. The key concept and take away when it comes to talent is: First who, then what.
Without exception, the successful companies described by Collins in his book ensured they had the most talented people on the bus and then worried later about what positions they would occupy. Their premise? That talent will invariably provide the best return.
Given the popularity of the book and the fact that, in the last few years, many companies have used it as a central plank in their change management strategies, it would be reasonable to assume that its practices had been adopted by HR departments and recruitment companies across the country.
A few companies have done so. The majority have not. It is still common practice here to use electronic word matching software to “match” candidates’ CVs with job descriptions. This is simplistic and, more often than not, ineffective in developing a meaningful shortlist of the right candidates for the job.
When it comes to the war for talent, the most vital take away from the book is: attract the top talent to your business first and then find the right position for them.
Would they get on your bus if you offered them a ride?
The short answer to this is: how did you ask them?
A while back, businesses had the luxury of being selective about who they wanted to let onto their bus, they held all the power.
Even with the current global downturn, the power has still largely shifted to the job seeker, who is now looking around the bus depot at all the various bus ride options.
Today’s job seekers rightly want more information up front before they are prepared to step aboard. For example: who is driving the bus, who else is on the bus, what the trip will be like and the benefits offered during the trip.
In fact, there is so much choice that it is difficult for many of the buses to be seen by the job seekers.
Take a step back and look at your business from a job seekers’ perspective. If your business was one of those buses lined up at the depot with thousands of other buses, would you get on? If yes, why? If no, why not?
There are talented job seekers doing just that with your business right now.
Let’s take the bus analogy just one step further. Think of HR as the ticketing booth or ticket person who has the first interaction with job seekers who connect with your business. How do they come across?
- Are they friendly, knowledgeable about the business and its history?
- Do they take questions and provide meaningful answers?
- Do they engage with the customers or come across as unprofessional and bored?
In short, when the customer arrives at the window, is there an “out to lunch” sign blocking the view?
The reality is that the first contact most job seekers have with your business is with your HR department. If their first impression is of a badly written job ad, an application they submit that is never acknowledged or, even worse, no-one to speak with before they submit their application, then they are unlikely to sing your praises.
Despite some initial mishaps, you have managed to lure the prized candidate on board. They have listened to your ticketing people who have made the bus ride and destination sound really enticing.
However, when they get on the bus they find an off-hand conductor who grumbles about their ticket not being correct and doesn’t know where to put them.
After a long wait, the high achiever is directed into a space at the very back with no window (contrary to what they were originally promised). They sit down and wonder again if they have made the right decision.
Relating this experience back to your recruitment process, it is likely that many job seekers have a similar experience when they connect with your business. Some will stay and go along with it, as they are not sure what else to do. Others will up and leave very quickly.
Look at your business and how you attract and retain top talent. Is your business doing enough of the right things to entice talent to come on board and remain? Or are you just going through the motions and wondering why you are not getting the right results?
Time to re-think the process.
Asking the right questions to get the right people
The most fundamental questions for businesses when considering how to get the optimal result from those responsible for hiring is what are they currently doing and why?
1. Are they focused on attracting top talent or on building up databases of resumes?
If your HR department is not actively developing relationships with those applicants whose resumes your database holds, then vital resources are being wasted. And if they are not being measured on this, you might want to re-examine your metrics.
Chances are, your business has spent thousands, hundreds of thousands, or indeed millions on building up databases of people who once wanted to work for your business. Do they still want to work for you? If you have done nothing for them since they applied the answer will probably be a resounding “No!”
If automated, your system may not have matched their resume against a job description at the specific point in time. If this is the case, chances are they will never come up in a system match, and as such your business will never benefit from their talent.
This person who once wanted to work for your business, now does not.
Worse, they are likely to tell others (be that online or face to face) about the bad experience they had dealing with you. There are numerous websites that exist to do just that – get information from those who have dealt with or worked for major organisations and share it. www.glassdoor.com is a case in point.
2. Does your business have a clearly defined and consistently communicated employer value proposition?
Can you imagine a business not having a brand value proposition for a product or service – not being able to consistently articulate why people should pay for their products or services?
And yet, the majority of businesses still continue operating without an effective EVP.
If those in your business who are communicating with potential job seekers are sending out different messages of what your business has to offer, or cannot communicate why a candidate should work in your business, then they are wasting the candidates’ time and damaging the business.
3. Are your best HR people in the front line to interact with top talent when it wants to connect with your business?
First impressions count! They say in the interview process that the interviewer decides within the first few minutes. Today, the job seekers are just as likely to be assessing the interviewer.
Where possible, be sure to put your best and brightest in front of the talent you are looking to win over and bring on board. Relegating the task to a junior employee is an act of self-sabotage.
4. Are you equipped to find the best candidates with your current structure?
A recent survey by ZDnet reported that 81 percent of salary earners prefer to go direct to the business.
Therefore, outsourcing a core function of your business appears to be off-putting for the majority of top talent. That said, this is a difficult one as some businesses simply don’t have the resources to do it themselves.
For others it may be that they have the resources, but these resources are focused on the wrong things (i.e. growing big databases of obsolete resumes).
5. How much time and money is spent on employer branding?
Businesses need to be marketing their employer brand and their employee value proposition 24/7, be that in print, online, radio, through stories and anecdotes, PR and so on.
It is not simply a matter of marketing your products and services. Real time and money needs to be spent on marketing your employer brand.
It is up to you to ensure that you are generating appealing and consistent messages that define your business’s brand.
Many companies are amazed to find that the market’s perception of their business is entirely different to their own perception.
Which brings us back to where we started. Getting the right people on the bus to ensure your business’s ongoing success.
Ask the right questions, find the right approach and you’ll ensure your business has a smooth ride ahead.
Kelly Magowan is the founder and CEO of Six Figures, a premium job site for $100K+ jobs and contract opportunities across all industries and professions. To help you value and negotiate your worth, visit Six Figures to download your free Salary Negotiation Guide
Photo: helico (Flickr)