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How to win the talent war

In the war for talent, there is no doubt that talent is winning. Across various sectors and industries, organisations are facing the same skills shortages, and both finding and retaining talent has become a key imperative for C-Suite executives.

To paraphrase Jim Collins, if you want to ensure the growth and sustainability of your business, you need to get the right talent on the bus.

The question remains though, how do you attract and retain the right talent for your organisation?

The importance of an employer brand

We can’t all be the next Google when it comes to highly desirable places to work, but there are many ways to ensure that working for your brand is coveted by experts in your sector.

Previously, merely offering the best salary and benefits was enough. This is no longer the case. People want to be proud of the company they work for. They want to feel supported, and they want to know that they are making a valuable contribution to their clients and to society at large.

An employer brand encompasses a range of areas, from philanthropic activities to environmental awareness. In a post Covid-19 world, there has also been a shift towards hybrid working conditions. How flexible are your working arrangements? Can your employees choose where they want to work, and does your organisation focus on hours clocked or outcomes?

Talented people in particular want to be measured on contribution and output, which means that your business can operate according to fixed schedules, but you’re unlikely to attract the truly talented if you do, particularly if they have become accustomed to working according to schedules that suit their lifestyles.

Building a strong employer brand

If you want to create an employer brand that attracts the right kind of talent, you first need to understand who you’re targeting. The key is to think of potential employees like customers. Categorise them into micro-segments, and the more specific you can be, the better.

Now answer these questions:

  • Who are you targeting?
  • What do they care about?
  • What is your Employee Value Proposition, or EVP?

Once you have these answers you can create one clear voice across multiple channels. Make it clear who your organisation is and what you stand for.

Many South African companies have not traditionally exceled in this area, which leaves a real opportunity for businesses who do.

Create a job description

One of the things we see far too often is a complete mismatch between actual job scopes and positions that are advertised. The reality of today’s job marketplace is that there are vastly more people than jobs. In addition, talented people who know their own worth are particular when it comes to which positions they even apply for. The result is that for every job a company advertises, recruiters and HR personnel are inundated with CVs, the vast majority of which are not from highly talented individuals.

Finding the right person for your organisation therefore begins with understanding who you’re looking for. This is very difficult to do if you haven’t taken the time to properly outline what a culture fit and value alignment between the company and the candidate looks like. Simply creating a short list of skills and competencies to go with a brief job description is not enough, particularly if the reality of the role’s scope is far more extensive than the job title suggests.

Creating a detailed job scope

First, create a detailed list of all aspects of the job and technical abilities associated with the role. What competencies are you looking for? Are experienced candidates or newbies better suited to the position? What critical tasks are required to do this job successfully? Next, consider how an individual is behaviourally successful in the role. What attributes are more likely to result in success? Does it require a lot of teamwork? Attention to detail? Reliance on others? Creativity, innovation?

Getting this right takes hard work upfront but in the long run it will mean the difference between a mediocre (or outright poor) employee and a top performer.

Many of these competencies go beyond the technical expertise of a degree or even the experience listed in a CV and instead come down to how well you can measure soft skills during the interview process.

The interview

There are a range of filtering steps available to businesses, from technology to recruitment agencies. Whichever you choose, keep in mind that people embellish their CVs, and will always be looking to put their best foot forward in an interview. This can range from out-right lies to simply telling the interviewer what they think they want to hear.

To get to the most out of the interview process, there are a few tips and tricks that you can implement immediately.

Always make sure the position’s direct manager is in the room. They understand their team’s dynamic best, as well as the real job scope, and not just what’s on paper.

Train and select the right interview panel. Can the panel understand the nature of the appointment?  Can they recruit against the job spec? A completely impartial manager is as vital to selecting the correct employee as the candidate’s direct manager. If an individual does not need to work with the person being hired, they are more likely to take an objective, impartial view of the candidate.

Interview on competencies. Look for real-world tangible answers, not academic answers.

Ask the candidate what they liked and disliked about their previous boss and the company they worked for. This gives insight into the candidate’s values. Be cognisant of how they frame their answers though. Do they start with the negative or the positive? Is their default negative or positive framing? A negative person can be toxic to your team, even if they’re a brilliant candidate at a skills level. Jack Welch always used to say that no matter how great an employee was, if they were destructive to the team, get rid of them.

Test for ethics. Is there a scenario where the candidate would lie? Most people will say no, so give a small, ‘harmless’ example and see what they say. Ultimately, a lie is a lie.

Call the references given to you. Try and find one or two additional references that were not as well. Make sure the person you’re talking to isn’t a family member and that they actually worked together. Don’t just ask open-ended questions, but list specific scenarios and ask how the candidate handled them in the past. If it’s a top-level position in your organisation, face-to-face discussions are better than telephonic reference checks.

Be careful of these red flags

There are a few key areas that your HR team should be aware of in terms of getting the most from the interview process:

  • Don’t hire the person because they’re like you. Is the job like yours?
  • Avoid comparing candidates to each other.
  • Never take the best of a bad bunch – this will cost you more in the long run than going back to market.
  • Avoid discriminatory information. Be very careful here. It’s all in how you phrase your questions. ‘Tell me about yourself’ is not the same as ‘Do you have kids?’ If an individual doesn’t get the job but realises someone without kids did, they can now file a suit based on the fact that they were discriminated against because they have children, and your legal department is advising you that you have to hire them. Ask questions consistently across candidates and always be as open-ended as possible.
  • Don’t assume a culture fit. If you like someone, get them to interact with other employees. Put them in a room and watch them. They can tell you anything in an interview, but the real test comes with how they interact with others. That’s much harder to fake.

 

By Lee Young – Managing Executive at Quest Staffing Solutions

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