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  • Writer's pictureROHEI

How to Attract and Keep the Talent You Want

Talent attraction and retention issues still have CEOs tossing and turning at night. Corporate culture can play a bigger role in finding a solution than they realise.


In a Nutshell

  • Talent attraction and retention remains the top organisational concern today

  • Companies have not realised the vital role culture plays in talent attraction and retention

  • A strong, positive company culture is the key to attracting and retaining talent


Talent attraction and retention remains the #1 internal organisational concern today

Talent attraction and retention still has CEOs tossing and turning at night. “Globally, across all regions, CEOs rank attracting and retaining top talent as their #1 internal concern,” C-Suite Challenge 2019 by The Conference Board reports.

Why does getting a grip on talent attraction and retention continue to be a top challenge?

What is today’s top talent looking for?

The McKinsey Global Survey: War for Talent 2000 (refreshed in 2012) identifies four key factors people give importance to at the workplace:

a. Great leaders Senior leadership that they can trust; leaders who are inspiring and caring b. Great company A reputable, purpose-driven company c. Great job Meaningful work with opportunities for growth d. Great rewards Competitive wages, benefits, perks, and recognition

Culture: the intrinsic element

A company’s culture influences what and how the above factors are translated.

Culture “is the sum of its values, traditions, beliefs, interactions, behaviors, and attitudes,” as defined by HR Consultancy ERC.

Culture is intrinsic to a company’s leadership approach, purpose and motivations, and people philosophy.

Culture’s vital role in talent attraction and retention

Culture plays a more important role in talent attraction and retention than most companies realise.

“Even in today’s competitive hiring environment, many companies take the position that their corporate culture is what it is — and expect workers to adapt to it,” says Paul McDonald, Senior Executive Director, Robert Half.

But the reality is that workers are less and less tolerant of a poor culture.

LinkedIn Workplace Culture Trends: The Key to Top Talent in 2018 found that “70% of professionals in the U.S. today would not work at a leading company if it meant they had to tolerate a bad workplace culture. So much so, that people would rather put up with lower pay (65%) and forego a fancy title (26%) than deal with a bad workplace environment.”

Robert Half says that in one of their surveys “35 percent of more than 1,000 workers polled said they would decline a job offer if the role was a perfect fit, but the company culture wasn't. And this is on top of another problem: talented employees leaving to pursue new opportunities.”

Employees—top talent especially—want to work and excel in a positive environment.

“A great culture can be really attractive for talent...A negative culture, however, will push away the great people in your organization,” SME Strategy says in How Strategy and Culture Affect Employee Retention.

How can companies foster a positive workplace culture that attracts and retains talent?

How to build a culture that attracts and retains talent

1. Honour and value people

Honour people:

Employee-centric practices

Show employees you care about their well-being by providing options for flexi-hours, remote working, and work-life harmony.

Giving and receiving feedback

Listen to employees and foster open communication through the practice of giving and receiving feedback.

Value people:

Leaders building care and trust with their staff

"Compassion and a caring and listening ear can go a long way,” Business News Daily says in Emotional Wellness: 3 Tips for a Healthier Workplace.

“If you're a leader, it can be helpful to acknowledge when the group is under pressure—not in a way to scare them but in a way that allows them to know that you are human and open to hearing about their experiences."

Recognition and appreciation

“Whether it’s through an actual note (handwritten or digital), or a company-sponsored event, it’s important to take time to say thank you to your employees for all their hard work,” Glassdoor reminds us in 5 Ways Employers Can Celebrate Labor Day and Honor Their Employees. “This could be part of your larger, on-going employee engagement program, or a new initiative.

Learning and development opportunities

“Don’t let talented people stagnate at your firm if you want them to stay. Build a corporate culture that emphasizes ongoing professional development for those who seek it,” Robert Half says in How to Create a Corporate Culture That Attracts (and Keeps) Top Talent.

Career development

A career development path is especially important for top talent.

“Connecting staff with leadership training, cross-training and continuing education are just some ways to foster a work culture where people can reach their professional goals,” Robert Half advises.

2. Have a purpose and values-led company

Declaration of purpose and mission

More and more employees are seeking purpose-driven jobs.

Outdoor clothing brand Patagonia’s mission is at the forefront of their business: “We’re in business to save our home planet.”

This strong sense of mission, expressed in every aspect of the company—including products and the customer experience—is a powerful talent magnet. “For every job opening...the company attracts 900 applicants,” HR consultancy Randstad shares in Looking to create a winning approach to talent acquisition?

“More than an apparel company, the company makes corporate social responsibility a part of its business. It adopts what some might describe as a radical political stand, strongly supports environmental causes and generally promotes a lifestyle in line with its customers.”

Alignment with personal values and beliefs

The job roles, responsibilities, and activities need to resonate with potential talent. Google knows the kind of talent they want to attract and realise that “there is the value add of working on really interesting projects that influence the way we all live.” says Yvonne Agyei, Head of International People Operations at Google.

Gmail, for example, is “used by hundreds of millions of people. We now attract a lot of candidates from the non-profit sector as Google aligns well with their desire to change the world for the better.”

Prioritise culture fit

Don’t sacrifice the important for the urgent.

Organisations may rush to hire a candidate to fill an urgent need. But hiring someone who isn’t a fit may do more harm than good in the long run.

“It’s not easy to turn down an applicant with a perfect résumé when you have a vacancy and work going undone. But employees who don’t fit your culture, who can’t be themselves or will be going against the grain won’t be happy in the long run, and you’ll be back to hiring for the role (yet again),” The Muse says, in How the Best Companies Out There Attract the Talent They Want.

The key to a strong culture: relationships and trust

For a company culture to thrive and be sustainable, strong relationships and trust need to be built and constantly nurtured.

“Culture trumps strategy, relationships trump culture.”

Your culture is only as good as the relationships within the team.

Focus on four levels of relationships:

Relationships between employees and the company

Build an alignment and shared ownership of the organisation’s vision and values.

Horst Schulz, Co-Founder of the Ritz Carlton, shares a valuable practice: “No matter if it’s the dishwasher in the hotel kitchen or the marketing manager, make sure every single person knows the ‘Why’ behind your organization...Not only will they perform better, they’ll also stick around longer.”

Relationships between employees and senior leadership

Employees want to work for senior leaders who have their best interests at heart.

Invest in developing your senior leaders’ people skills and relational competencies, especially their ability to resolve conflicts and build trust.

Relationships between employees and their peers and co-workers

Ascribing good intentions to one another directs colleagues to think the best of each other. This builds trust and positive relationships.

It is also healthy for colleagues to build their friendships through out-of-office activities.

In a survey by Robert Half, “62 percent of employees said having coworkers who are friends outside of the office positively affects productivity.”

Relationships between the employees and their jobs

When there is alignment between peoples’ skills, passion, and the organisational needs, people are able to work with joy and flourish in their lanes.

A strong, positive company culture is the key to attracting and retaining talent

Two key benefits of a strong, positive company culture are:

Brand ambassadors

Strong cultures create employees who become brand ambassadors. Highly engaged and fiercely loyal, brand ambassadors freely spread the word and speak highly of the company. Their testimony will contribute greatly to your company’s good name and employer branding. They are also likely to recommend and refer friends to their workplace.

Top talent

Building a strong, positive culture will be a magnet for the kind of talent you’ve been looking for. With high talent attraction, you shouldn’t be surprised to find the cream of the crop knocking at your door.

Cultivating a strong positive workplace culture—one of strong bonds and deep trust—is the secret weapon for attraction and retention. (And a good night’s sleep.)


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