How to both attract and retain talent

Richard Speight 25.10.2017

How can you attract and retain the best talent, especially if you are limited in how much salary you can offer?

Boomers are retiring, there are four generations in the workplace and there is still a shortage of talent. This is becoming critical in all sectors of the economy, especially the public sector where there are strict limits on what people can be paid. 

So, what do people want?

Before we answer these questions, take a moment and think about yourself. You are probably the very type of person that any organisation would want to keep. You have a choice between two employers. 

  • Organisation A offers you a great environment. You are respected and are given flexible working time when you need to handle personal matters. You believe your work has meaning and your opinion counts. 
  • Organisation B is very negative, full of unbending rules and unwritten norms. Nobody really cares or wants your ideas and your peers see you as a threat. 

The only advantage Organisation B has over Organisation21 is that they are willing to pay you £10,000 a year more. When you answer that question for yourself then you will understand from a deeper level how the steps below work to attract and retain talent.

Seven steps to attract and retain talent

1. Understand Your Current Culture

There is the culture you have and the culture you think you have. Does your current culture accept difference in others? Is there flexibility? How does current staff feel about working there? How are people promoted and/or rewarded?

An important element in understanding your current culture is the idea of values versus ethics. Many organisations write wonderful mission statements that have great values in them. However, values are only words. Ethics are actions. You may say that you value innovation, yet when people are promoted for keeping their heads low and not rocking the organisation there is a clear message that the organisation values conformity. 

2. Meaningful Work

Nobody ever goes to work and says to themselves in the morning, “I want to be really mediocre today." Recognition is an important component to meaningful work. When you recognise people for their accomplishments, they feel that their work has significance.

3. Build career entrepreneurship 

When you provide career entrepreneurship you are moving from the ' loyalty' to a commitment mindset. In a loyalty mindset people are rewarded for simply being there a long time. In a commitment culture organisations clearly define what the individual is being offered in return for their services and provide internal career coaching to empower people to manage their own careers.

How do you build career entrepreneurship?

Allow people to set their career goals, provide them with the tools to reach those goals and let them measure their accomplishments. Helping people set their own road map and then allowing them to succeed will ensure that people are engaged.

4. Create a flexible work environment

Work-life balance is consistently rated as the one of the most important aspects for attracting and retaining talent. As an example there was a business that had a turnover rate of close to 20% a year due to low paid salaries. Many people who worked for this company would leave after about three years to go to into higher paid jobs where they would earn almost double their salary. Unable to compete in terms of salaries offered, this business started allowing people to work at home, create flexible hours and even introduced subsidised daycare to staff. The result? Turnover fell to slightly less than 5%. 

5. Understand and embrace real diversity

Real diversity means going beyond issues of gender, ethnicity, or age. It means embracing people who not only look different but THINK differently.

Many organisations are looking for people with industry or corporate experience. There are a lot of very talented people who have had their own businesses, work in different industries or have experience outside our borders. The fit that an organisation should be most concerned with are whether the person believes in the values of the organisation. 

6. Streamline the hiring process

The decision-making process for most organisations is now taking several months. It seems that everybody has to be part of the interview and decision-making process, even the cleaner! People respond positively to the organisation when you streamline the process and get back to them quickly, even if they did not get the position. Also, moving quickly gives you a significant competitive advantage over your competition. 

7. On-boarding

Once you have brought somebody into the organisation, you should have a 100 day plan worked out for them even before they start. Some effective techniques are providing them with a mentor/buddy who can help them adjust to the new workplace.

A number of studies have shown that the first 100 days are critical for helping people feel 'part of the team' and, when they do, they are both more engaged and committed to the organisation and its goals.

Go back to the question above on where you would want to work? I can quote numerous studies, but the ultimate test is common sense. When you create a culture where people are recognised, engaged and they believe in what they are doing, people not only stay with the organisation but attract others there as well.

It is hard to find a balance between ensuring your staff are happy, and that the business is thriving with a strong effective workforce – however, developing an effective strategy which encompasses the above will better your chances of engaging your staff, and ensuring first off that you attract the right type of talent, and most importantly retain them.

Richard Speight's picture
Manager, Accounting & Finance, Bristol