I'm not referring to the elephant that comes in a huge crate delivered by the Zoo this time... (for that article click here), this time, i'm talking about the metaphorical elephant in the room, one that keeps popping up as I speak to my clients about hiring people for the job they could do, not the job they do do...


Hiring top talent is tough, there is no getting away from that, in a talent short sector and industry hungry for growth it heightens that fact, but there are some things that we can do to make the path somewhat more straight forward and less bumpy.


Having spoken to a number of clients, and potential clients, about this the topic tends to resonate and is often met with acknowledgement that in the hamster wheel of hiring, to replace or to grow, you do need to take a step back every now and again and look at the bigger picture.  That is of course if you have some challenges. If you find it really easy to attract, hire and retain the best talent in your sector then this article is not for you... you can stop reading now. 


So, what is this elephant I hear you cry, and more importantly, what is it doing in our board room?


Having spoken to a lot of owners and leaders in business, of all shapes and sizes, it is almost universally agreed that the best people are not easy to attract. 


The elephant in the room, is the request us recruiters get time and time again from business leaders to find them a high performing person, in a similar company, doing a similar role... that is willing to move for a similar package.  This is typically the part in the conversation where the elephant sits on my lap in the boardroom and things get a bit awkward for everyone.


The fact is, this top talent is typically in employment elsewhere, being looked after, praised, paid well and a move to a similar company and cash in their “trust tokens” for a similar job and similar pay wouldn’t really appeal.


When I have these conversations with leaders I often ask them; "as a high-performer who is happy in your role, would you move to the same job elsewhere for a 5-10% pay increase?" The answer has, in nearly every case, been a resounding NO... go figure! Yet we expect top talent in the market to somehow be more accepting to this and act in a way that we wouldn't.


Based on the above is there a chance that you are ending up with the "best of the rest" without even knowing it? Remember, you never have a chance to ask those that say no to a recruiter or choose not to apply to your job advert. 


GETTING STARTED

This leaves you with 3 main options when looking to hire a top individual and yes it will take some time to get it right, but, believe me that purposeful time spent in this area will pay you back multiple times over (think wasted time interviewing, bringing toxic people in to the business, low performance, lost customers, lost opportunities, your time coaching & mentoring - the list goes on!)

 

1 - PAY MORE


In principle, a high performer doing the same job in another company will be being paid roughly the same as you are offering (especially in a competitive market) and, potentially more.  I don’t know many top performers that are not well looked after when it comes to benefits, flexibility or bonuses. I also don't know many happy people that would move for a a pay cut or lateral move. The challenge that this brings to the table is, the 10-20% more that they would need to make the move, would most likely put them above your current people at the same level of seniority. Can you get comfortable with that?

 


2 - GIVE THEM SOMETHING THEY DON'T GET


This is where the whole recruitment game changes. Rather than sticking out an advert which is just a list of demands (we want, we need, you MUST have...), you are forced to look in the mirror, look internally at your business, your leadership, your story and work out what makes YOU unique.  What makes you better than their current company, what makes you a great employer? Put yourself in the shoes of the type of person you are trying to attract (you were probably there once!), what would they be looking for that they may not get now? What made previous people join? What keeps them?


Once you have a list together and have removed any buzz words (or anything that other companies are saying e.g. dynamic, flexible, market leader, pension scheme) then you should have the start of your story which, once complete, you can start telling people. 


Just to re-iterate, I am not saying this should be financial, in fact I am saying the opposite. Remuneration could be part of the overall package but if someone is purely money motivated then chances are they will likely move again in 12 months. You will never be the highest payer in any talent short market for long!  



3. CONSIDER 80%... SUCCESS LEAVES CLUES. 


The perceived "safe bet" is to hire someone from a similar business, however, success leaves clues. Look at the people that you would deem high performers in your business, where did they come from, what makes them so successful? Look at your own background, what did you do before this, have you ever taken a job that you were not qualified for and succeeded? 


Do you need that exact skill-set, the exact experience or could you look at people who are almost there and want to move for the bigger job, the bigger opportunity, the chance to move forward in their careers?


Now, clearly I am not suggesting that you hire someone that doesn’t have any of the skills you need but the sweet spot is typically around 80%. 

In my experience having placed north of 500 people into various businesses over the last 11 years, WILL certainly trumps SKILL. I would back the person that turns up fully engaged, passionate, ready to learn over the person that thinks they "know it all" and just does it for a job - after all having experience doesn't mean that someone still wants to do something, they may just be stuck!

I remember attending a talk with Patricia Moore, MD of Turner & Townsend, she talked of her Infrastructure background and stated quite clearly that she would only join T&T if she had the opportunity to move into build. I bet they don't regret giving her the chance!


CONCLUSION


I appreciate that this is not what you may have expected to, or usually hear, from a recruiter. Most, in my experience will say yes to any potential vacancy (after all there is always an outside chance of making a fee) run a few searches, find it tough and move on to something else more exciting. What kind of partnership is that?  


Personally, I have always found that although the truth can be hard to swallow in the short term, it does lead to a more trusting business partnership and a different relationship dynamic. 


I see plenty of positions in our sector that remain unfilled for 6-12 months, I have spoken to numerous partners and directors who have interviewed more than 10 people without securing a hire, time they will never get back. Surely there comes a point where we all need to take a step back and make some changes?


Finding time to get creative during hiring in a super busy world is tough, but if you can get this nailed, then I know it will have a huge impact on your business and that you will get more time back that you have invested. Don’t nearly all people related problems start with a bad hire?


I  appreciate that this process may require a change in your interviewing style, interviewing for high performance traits and potential (forward predictors) rather than experience but I will cover that in a future article…


I'd be very happy to discuss this further and see if I can help with any of the above challenges in your business.


One thing's for sure, Elephants definitely don't belong in the boardroom.