5 Ways to Attract and Retain Top Talent

1 February 2016

Attracting and keeping talented workers on staff has become more of a challenge in recent years. The employment market has definitely changed. Rather than workers being desperate to find any job and contorting themselves into whatever potential employers want them to be, more of those candidates that are highly qualified are holding out longer until they find one that is a much better fit for their own needs.

While the job market is definitely in a state of constant change, potential employees can take their time in deciding who they want to work for - especially now that the overall unemployment rate in the UK is now at 5.1%.

So what is an HR professional or hiring manager to do in what has become a candidate-driven job market? What is it that these workers are looking for and what will make them want to stay so companies aren't in a constant search for staff who will stick with them for the long haul? Here are the top five ways to attract the kind of talented workers you want on your staff.

1. Be Realistic about what you are looking for in a new hire

Some hiring managers have got an idea in their mind about what the perfect candidate should be. Often in writing up job descriptions or qualifications for desirable candidates to fill a given position, they want a potential worker to have not only certain levels of education, but also several years of experience. They are looking for what Peter Cappelli refers to in his book, "Why Good People Can't Get Jobs" as "Unicorns". Cappelli asserts that some hiring managers can be unrealistic about finding the "perfect" candidate for a job. Such a perfect candidate is not only elusive -they often simply don't exist.

2. Offer a salary that is average or even better than average for the positon

Stinginess turns top talent off. The honor and privilege of working for your firm is not an excuse to lowball your future personnel. If you want top talent, be prepared to pay for it.

According to employment website Indeed, job candidates now have more options than ever before and this has led to nearly half of all employment offers being rejected. In addition, some 28% of workers today who are currently looking for a new position said that they are looking for an average of at least 15% more money in terms of salary and benefits. Companies now have to compete for workers.

Indeed's report, which used data from a Harris Poll conducted in 2015, said that 65% of workers hired looked for another position within the first 91 days of starting a new job. If discussing employees that make over £71,000 per year, it is a good bet that half of them will begin looking elsewhere within 28 days of being hired. HR professionals at most recruiting agencies and companies around the world now take it for granted that top talent, particularly ones looking to succeed, are actively looking for better opportunities on an almost constant basis.

3. Salary is one thing. Make sure you offer a generous benefit package, too

If your company wants to attract top talent for your organization, you need to have a benefits package that is just as generous as what you are offering in salary compensation. Medical, dental, and vision are not enough. You need to give them more incentives that are value-added choices in terms of benefits.

  • Candidates tend to gravitate toward those companies that have a good Employee Value Proposition (EVP) such as the opportunity for growth and flexibility in the work environment. Companies that bear these things in mind are far more likely to attract the kind of talented people to their organisation than those who behave as if it were business as usual before the Recession.
  • Today, the mindset of workers has changed from "living to work" to "working to live." Because of this, employees are very keen to enhance their own quality of life and those of their families. Having perks such as on-site childcare, paid time off (PTO) and company-to-community activism goes a long way toward enhancing the idea of working to live.
  • Offer a pension plan or retirement package that is generous and easily self-managed. Employers should offer retirement accounts which are both mindful and flexible.

4. Recruiting Done Differently

Companies like Google, Facebook and Zappo's attract top talent not just because they are well known as tech giants, but they offer unique working environments where employees are encouraged to be creative and work together.

Zappo's founder, Tony Hsieh, asserts that among the 37 core values of his company, culture is the most important. "As I mentioned in my "Your Culture is Your Brand" blog post, a lot of corporations have "core values" or "guiding principles," but the problem is that they are very lofty sounding and they read like a press release that the marketing department put out."

While there is no shortage of talented people looking to work for such a progressive company, for CEOs like Hsieh, these people end up not getting hired because they are "too egotistical". "The hiring manager would probably argue that we should hire such a candidate because he or she will add a lot of value to the company, which is probably why most large corporations don't have great culture." ("Delivering Happiness" by Tony Hsieh, p. 158)

5. Offer a better working environment

A better working environment is not just about having an attractive, well-lit, clean workplace that is free of excessive noise, unattractive odors, or other distractions. Every worker needs to have time to get away and think. Having an outdoor or an atrium space, a small library, or other stress-free room can go a long way to help workers feel better about where they spend their day.

  • A company's overall culture is the key to a better working environment. If the culture is nurturing and collaborative rather than confrontational, those new coworkers will feel better about coming to work every day.
  • In today's market, you want to attract high quality employees that want to not only come to work for you but who are also keen on staying with your company. Nearly 50% of workers surveyed by Indeed said that they were actively looking for a job that offered them more flexibility.
  • One of the top three reasons that talent will leave any company is because the company failed to engage their creativity. Working for a company that allows them the flexibility and creativity to contribute is important because it allows them to add tangible value. Workers need that and according to the article, Ten Reasons Your Top Talent Will Leave You, "what's the use of having a racehorse if you don't let them run?"
  • Companies such as Zappo's have opted away from the traditional hierarchical business model. Instead, they have transitioned to a structure where management is less obvious and more equal. All employees are on nearly the exact same footing with one other, making each person equally responsible for managing their own projects.
  • Reward or incentivize the type of behavior such as community focus, leadership qualities and taking initiative among employees. Allowing workers to express ideas and giving them an opportunity to take those ideas and run with them or work with other members of staff can go a long way to making your company an attractive place to come to work. According to Hsieh, asking how the company can be made better every day if even by 1% goes a long way in improving it for everyone. In doing that, the goal is to make it better for both employees and customers.
  • Allow employees the option to work remotely if they want or need to. Everyone, regardless of their position in any company, knows that life happens. In those times when an employee's child or family member is ill or they need to be away from the office itself, allowing them the option to make use of technology and work remotely can be a definite plus for companies wishing to attract top talent.

6. Encourage them to have a wide range of skills:

John Paul DeJoria of John Paul Mitchell Systems said that in addition to being well compensated, workers should be encouraged to do more than just one thing at a company.

This adds to a sense of accomplishment and being able to go into another area should there be cutbacks. Compensation and recognition often go hand in hand when keeping top talent happy on the job. According to DeJoria, that allows his company to have fewer employees, but they are have less chance to be bored by doing just one thing but rather have many things and are happier "because their day is full."

In the past, managers were concerned that if an employee was somehow out of sight, they would spend most of their day lying around their flat rather than focusing on work. Now we find that most top talent is able to be self-motivating and focus on work during work time, no matter where they are. It's easy for workers to feel micromanaged if they are not offered this opportunity at least once in a while. Being allowed such a luxury can go a long way to making workers feel valued and integral to a company's culture, instilling commitment.

In a recent article appearing in the Wall Street Journal, Jennifer Deal asserts that top talent, particularly among younger, even entry level employees needs that kind of flexibility if the need arises.

"Also, a single employee doesn't necessarily have someone at home who can take over when a child is sick or needs something, so they need the flexibility to stay home with the child when necessary without worrying about it ruining their career. Organizations that want to be talent magnets are going to have to recognize this shift and provide better options than are available today.

  • Make sure your employees know that you care. Being involved with employees and knowing about the things that are important to them that are not work related and encouraging them in those endeavors is important. Some companies reward employees by offering them seed money to help them in projects that they are passionate about - such as writing, or starting youth projects. In this way companies demonstrate in a tangible way how their employees matter to them as people.
  • Other companies offer incentives such as assistance in paying off student loan debt as part of their benefits packages. In the UK, most students graduate with an excess of £44,000 or more in tuition fees. Rather than having employees feel the desperation of looking over their shoulder to a mountain of student loan debt, some companies are offering assistance in this area. Even though just 3% of employers, such as Price Waterhouse Coopers, offer this incentive, Bruce Elliot of the Society of Human Resource Management, he sees it becoming a trend.

Talented workers are most often attracted to companies that reward their employees and treat them as if they are valued members of the team and are a part of its overall brand. By offering a positive work environment and value-filled incentives and benefits, your organization can go a long way to attracting those talented people and keeping them as well.

If you liked this article, you might also find our Guide to Workplace Bullying of interest.

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