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How to attract top talent

9 min read
Talent matters. It’s scarce, valuable, and hard to replace. When you recruit right, huge opportunities open up for a business. Here’s how to do it.

Hiring top talent is easy when it comes and finds you. This is the Holy Grail of recruiting – when your company, brand and reputation is so good that excellent people knock on your door and say, “employ me”.

And because the nature of recruitment is changing, it’s becoming easier for great employees to find their dream jobs with companies who keep up with the curve, but harder for less enlightened organisations who lag behind in culture, values, employee engagement, and social media presence to attract them.

Traditional headhunters and recruitment companies are getting less of a look in as smart, talented, tech-savvy professionals access key employment information beyond HR agencies and job boards. And to attract them you’ll need to keep up with them.

Free eBook: Designing a world-class EX program that attracts and retains talent

Why attracting top talent is so important

‘Hire wrong, hire twice,’ so the saying goes. It’s costly in time and money to hire an unqualified, difficult, or lazy employee who doesn’t work out, and then have to do it all over again.

But hire a high performer who excels at their job and can be up to eight times more productive than someone average. And incredibly, high performers in highly complex jobs can be up to 800% more productive.

Additionally, where you can poach competitors’ top talent (clearly, they weren’t doing enough to value, engage and retain their stars), you’ll get insights into their culture, operations, contacts and strategies.

To attract the best of the best, here are the things you need to get right:

You talk the talk, but do you walk the walk?

Many companies say to candidates that they have clearly-defined values and a mission statement, but then don’t ‘live those principles’ on a daily basis. For example, a company may trumpet their commitment to personal development, but then have an inadequate training budget.

Employees who have joined for the prospect of being trained will soon move on, disappointed. Where companies are authentic, open, and honest about what they are and what they offer, candidates will feel whether they will be a good fit before they accept a job. Which brings us on to…

Is your Employer Value Proposition (EVP) good enough?

An EVP is, essentially, what attracts a person to work for an organisation, what will retain a person in that organisation, and possible detractors that will push them away from the organisation.

People give:

  • their work time
  • previous experience and qualifications
  • best efforts
  • innovation and creativity

In return, they should get from the company:

  • a decent salary and benefits
  • further experience
  • learning and development opportunities
  • career progression
  • excellent leadership
  • meaningful work
  • the kudos of working for a great company

Top talent looks beyond salary and unique benefits to personal contribution, development and ‘making a difference’. You must make your EVP stronger than your competitors’, to attract the best.

Is the company culture great?

In the wake of a pandemic, calls for racial justice, and unprecedented change, it’s even more important for your people to feel they have the space to be their authentic selves. And not only that, but what they’re a part of is having a positive impact on the world. It makes sense that these ideals are becoming integral to the employee experience.”

– Lindsay Johnson, XM Scientist, Qualtrics

Everybody wants to like where, and with whom, they work.  A 2021 report found that what’s most important is a sense of belonging. Everyone wants to feel like they belong at their company, they want to feel a sense of belonging in their team, and most of all feel like they can be themselves at work.

Employees who don’t fit your culture, who cannot be themselves or will be working against their own values will be unhappy long term. When you showcase your company culture, include:

  • What your employees do for fun
  • What they value
  • Whether they bring their ‘whole selves’ to work

A candidate will soon see whether they’ll be a good fit. Conversely, when interviewing, split the process across different team members who will be able to assess whether the candidate fits the culture as well as the skills set.

Some companies advocate the airport test – your flight has been canceled: could you sit in the airport for five hours with this person?

However, treat this with caution: Adam from IT Support might not be the most fun person to sit in an airport with, but he is the one who can rapidly get the systems fixed for a critical task, and he’s an integral part of the team.

It’s also important to not just surround yourself with people like you, with the same cultures, backgrounds, and views. When organizations do this, they put themselves at a disadvantage.

“67% of job seekers consider workplace diversity an important factor when considering employment”

– Glassdoor

Is your workplace diverse and inclusive?

Adam thinks differently from most employees: that’s what makes him a talented IT guy.

Diversity in the workplace – having a spectrum of different genders, ethnicities, religions, ages, sexual orientations, physical abilities, neurodiversity, ideologies, and lifestyles – is important. Not only is a diverse workforce an enriching experience for employees, a study found that ethnically diverse companies outperform their industry medians by 35%.

And it’s likely that top talent will want to work for an organisation that’s diverse and inclusive: 67% of job seekers said this was an important factor when evaluating companies and job offers.

How is your brand perceived?

Employer branding is an essential part of attracting top talent. Think Apple, Google, PwC, Netflix, Home Depot, Cisco… who wouldn’t want to work for them? Their core values are clear, customers flock to them, employees generally love their jobs and even evangelise about them.

They’ve reached brand equity, and can choose the best of the best to employ. For those companies still building brand equity, finding out what your employees and customers think of the business through engagement programs and surveys will highlight areas to improve. And make full use of…

Social media: does your presence reflect your brand?

Social media platforms are powerful and far-reaching in terms of recruitment. A survey by LinkedIn showed that 75% of candidates research a company and its reputation online before they even apply for a job.

Not only does brilliant social media enhance your brand and showcase you as a desirable employer, connections made on sites such as LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram offer a huge opportunity for attracting high-potential candidates. Don’t be afraid to reach out directly to people you like the look of.

It’s not what you know, it’s who you know

It’s sound business practice to recruit from within where possible, and your own employees are the best recruitment tool for your company. While candidates may be skeptical about management extolling the merits of a job, employees’ perspectives are perceived as less biased.

Consider setting up an employee referral program. Simply ask your employees to refer suitably-qualified friends, former colleagues and family for positions or opportunities as they arise. You could even ask employees to carry ‘recruitment cards’ to give to impressive, good-fit people they meet, who might consider an opportunity at your company.

According to LinkedIn research:

  • 35% of employees refer to help friends
  • 32% refer to help their company
  • 26% refer to be perceived as a valuable colleague
  • Only 6% do it for financial reward

You can offer referral rewards such as cash bonuses, gift cards, or time off, but many employees will simply be happy to have someone they trust and have recommended working alongside them. From a company perspective, it saves time, money and ensures quality of hire.

Ultimately, recruiting top talent is simple: do amazing things and amazing people will want to join you.

Free eBook: Designing a world-class EX program that attracts and retains talent