Attracting Top Talent #8: Information and Communication

Logo white - no textMy friend, Julie Nimmons, brings thirty plus years of experience to the table in developing and leading highly effective teams in both the corporate and non-profit arenas. During her tenure as President/CEO of Schutt Sports, she was the first woman elected to the Board of Directors for the Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association (SGMA). She was also the first woman elected to serve as Chairman of the Board for SGMA. In 2014, she became the first woman to serve as Chairman of the National Board of Trustees for the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. Now, as CEO of EXO Living, her focus is helping business leaders achieve more—more in their business and personal lives.

In response to one of my recent articles, she wrote, “Another aspect of avoiding the 40% failure rate of a new hire is to make sure everyone involved with this new team member, AND the team member his/herself, is to be sure expectations for success have agreement … including a timeline. I’ve seen so many times that the new hire gets frustrated or his/her boss/manager gets frustrated because they did not take the time to fully discuss and determine the initial expectations. So avoidable!”

How is it avoidable? The answer is simple, yet it is anything but simplistic. Information and Communication. Let me explain.

  1. Information: state expectations clearly and upfront. Julie said it well: “(Everyone) is to be sure expectations for success have agreement … including a timeline.” I have never seen information like this over-communicated, but I have seen many times where it has been under-communicated … presumed, assumed, but never stated clearly. Often, the interview and hiring process is rushed because the needs are urgent. But your objective is not to plug leaking holes in a dam. It’s to hire highly-qualified people and do as much as possible to insure success.
  2. Communication: close the loop on the communication process. In communication theory, closing the loop refers to ensuring that expectations have been heard and received clearly. There should never be any “I thought you meant’s” or “I didn’t hear that part’s.” One highly qualified individual that I know was never clearly told what was expected of her when she was hired, and she consistently under-performed in the eyes of her manager, eventually leading to a dismissal. When expectations and goals are not discussed, the new hire is shooting at an invisible target, and failure is inevitable.

Get it right. Upfront. Julie is right: mistakes here are so avoidable!

In the next post, I’m going to have Julie share three actions that can help avert a bad hire.

Attracting Top Talent #7 – Keeping the Ones You’ve Got

Logo white - no textAttracting Top Talent #7 – Keeping the Ones You’ve Got

I’m grateful for all the responses I’ve received to this series so far. Keep them coming. I love hearing from you. One of the more frequent questions is, “How do I keep the good people I’ve got?”

What a great question …

A recent article listed Google, In-N-Out Burger, Nestles, Purina, and several other companies as having at least one characteristic in common. All are recognized as some of the top companies at which to work. And size has very little to do with it. While you might not have as many employees as Google, you do have a responsibility to make your organization a great place to work regardless of size.

Top performers want more than a competitive paycheck, although that is important. But they are not necessarily looking for nap pods, paid sabbaticals, and catered meals. Here are five quick points I gleaned from entrepreneur.com’s article 5 Things You Need to Do to Hire and Retain Top Performers to make your business the best it can be:

Key # 1: Raise the bar on your company’s culture. Since work takes up so much of an employee’s life, the atmosphere you create and sustain plays a significant role in whether or not a top performer wants to join your organization. Top talent must be engaged if you want them to keep working for your company.

Key # 2: Communicate clearly and often. How well do you communicate? Welcome and listen to your staff’s ideas. Top performers love working for organizations where they feel valued, heard, and appreciated. Communicate the importance of working as a team as well as providing timely feedback and frequent recognition for a job well done. The social media giant, Twitter, is known for their transparent communication on important business decisions all while operating across 14 different office locations and with many of its employees telecommuting.

Key # 3:  Provide meaningful work and service opportunities. Top talent hungers to work for an organization that provides work with a purpose. Beyond the office, millennials indicate they want to work for an organization that makes a positive contribution to their community and the world. What does your company do to support social consciousness?

Key # 4: Provide paths for growth and development. This includes constructive feedback, coaching, and clear career paths for top performers. How quickly can your top performers be moved into positions of leadership, and how will you pave their way with other staff members? Faster upward mobility is a motivating factor in attracting and keeping the best talent. When employees feel that their leaders care about them, they feel more optimistic about the future and are more committed to the organization.

Key point 5: Use technology to advance your company. Today’s top talent expects the latest technology. They want it, and they are ready to help you use it effectively. This means that if you engage your top talent in finding and acquiring the best technology to move your company forward, your top people are also going to be the ones to help you implement it for maximum effectiveness.

Surprise! None of these key points mentioned money. These are things you can do today, right now, to move your company forward and attract the best and brightest talent to help you grow and prosper. So what are you waiting for?

Attracting Top Talent #6: Connection and Impact

Logo white - no text“Hope is not a strategy.” Some companies hope things will get better when it comes to increasing their talent-level, but they have no plan to get there. And hope is not a strategy.

In this series we have looked at two factors in attracting top talent: engaged and excellent leadership, and growth opportunities for employees. In this edition, I want to address the third and final factor A-level talent is look for. These people want to make a difference. They want to be part of something bigger than themselves. They want the opportunity to make a difference in their world, whether on a local or global scale.

One leader said, “I want a personal resonance with the organization, not just a transactional relationship.”

In his excellent book, Talent Magnet: How to Attract and Keep the Best People, Mark Miller calls this a bigger vision. To achieve this, leaders in your company must insure alignment between employees and the company’s vision and values. If people are out of sync, you lose a lot of energy, productivity, and impact.

Some companies work very hard to craft a vision statement and to list the values they have within the organization, only to tack them up on the wall of the break-room, where nobody reads them. A vision is of no value if no one is aware of it.

So what must happen?

Your (current) leaders must embody and live-out that vision on a daily basis. Your leaders must create alignment within the company, and they must celebrate connection and impact when it happens.

I have always said, “Vision is more caught than taught; values are best communicated, not by a list on the wall, but by the life of a leader.” Or, to put it more practically, I have never seen someone read a statement of vision and values and say, “That is going to change my life.” But I have known countless individuals who point to a leader in their lives and say, “That person changed my life by the way he or she lived and led.” And that is exactly the environment that attracts A-level employees to your company.

It starts with you. The Bottom Line: be a “liver,” not a “lister.”

Attracting Top Talent #5: Growth and Development Opportunities

Logo white - no textMy last blog addressed how engaged and excellent leadership is a magnet for A-list personnel. In this edition, I want to address how these people are also looking for positions where they can grow and develop.

Most companies hire based on three factors:

Skills     +     Experience     +     Likeability     =     “A Great Hire”

Those are important. Very important. But there is more when it comes to attracting top talent. It has to do with what they want out of the position. Top talent has a bigger picture, and wants a greater challenge. As one leader told me, “Real-time and constructive feedback is one of my top three characteristics I look for in any job I take because I believe it makes a difference in the growth of employees and leaders.”

They want to grow. And they want to be in an environment where others will champion their growth opportunities. They want a brighter future for themselves, and they will rise to the challenges that are presented to them. They are drawn to environments that promote opportunities for them to become even better than they already are.

To twist a phrase from JFK, “Ask not what your employees can do for you; ask what you can do for your employees.”

Some of you are going to react against that statement. You will say, “We’re not here for them – they are here for us. I’m not going to coddle them and give to them. They are working for us, not us for them.” And that mind-set is what is stopping you from attracting top talent to your organization.

The paradox is that the more you develop them, the more they will produce for you. The more you give to them, the more they will give to you. And it’s not simply an “additive effect.” It is a “multiplication factor.” Their lives, work, and influence will extend throughout your organization.

Earlier today, I spoke with Michael Sharpe, strategic partners director of Exos Advisors about how companies can attract top talent individuals. He shared the following diagram with me about understanding each person’s core wiring and matching that to their position in order to honor their make-up. He calls it the “honor-lift-optimize” paradigm.

Universal Mission of Talent Management graphic

Know your people. Know what motivates them. Commit to developing them and building into their lives. It will be just like a talent magnet.

Attracting Top Talent #4: Right Leadership

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If you increase the caliber of your players, you will increase your chances of winning. That’s true in sports; it is also true in business. However, the business world is changing … and it has become increasingly more difficult to attract and keep talented people to your organization.

In my last post, I introduced three values top talent candidates are looking for. Let’s talk about the first of those. It is “Engaged and Excellent Leadership.” Top talent wants a boss who knows what they are doing and can lead them and develop them well.

The principle that is in operation here is “Quality attracts quality.”

What does that mean?

  1. Leaders must be highly competent. Perhaps that should go without saying. But it doesn’t. Incompetent leaders create nightmares around them. But competent, engaging, and confident leaders are like a magnet that draws other like-minded people toward them.
APPLICATION: Do your leaders know what they are doing? Are they trained and competent? Are they passing that training on to others?
  1. Leaders must be infectious. One of my mentors early in my life said, “If you want people to bleed, you have to hemorrhage.” Thirty-plus years later, I’m still trying to unpack that statement, but I know this: if a leader is captured by the vision of the company, it will become apparent to those he/she works with. And Top Talent is always drawn to vision.
APPLICATION: Do your leaders know your company’s vision? Are they living it? Is it contagious? Are others rallying around that vision?
  1. Leaders take time for their people. Great leaders work hard. They put in the hours necessary. But they are also cognizant of the needs of the people they work with. They know them (and their families) by name. They monitor their well-being and adjust expectations accordingly.
APPLICATION: Do your leaders value those they work with? How flexible are they? Is there truly a “people-first” mentality in play?

I was recently consulting with a company on the west coast on a three-month proposal effort. The chief engineer, an uber-talented young man, and his wife, had recently welcomed very premature twins into their family. The health of these two young girls was precarious. Each day there seemed to be another crisis. The timing of this proposal was very inconvenient. But the team rallied around him; leadership demonstrated care and concern; schedules and deadlines were worked around; and everyone made it through. The long-term effect on this engineer was deep appreciation and loyalty for the grace and care that was demonstrated. This top-talent engineer isn’t going anywhere … because he knows his leadership cares.

As John Maxwell has said, Everything rises or falls on leadership. Top talent is watching. How are your leaders doing?

Shameless plug alert: If your leadership team needs to grow in these areas, please contact me. I would love to help with either short-term training efforts or a longer-term mentoring process. Call or email me today!

Dr. Henry Oursler, (c) 239-292-3324, HenryOursler@me.com