Attracting and Retaining Talent

Posted in : HR Updates on 19 July 2017
Anne Mercer
Think People Consulting
Issues covered:

‘Attracting and retaining talent’ are four very important words in our business lexicon that describe one of the biggest business investments that a business or organisation can ever make.

According to Brookings Institute, some 85 percent of a company’s assets are related to intangible capital such as knowledge and human talent. With an investment such as this, it is clear how important attracting and then retaining your top talent is crucial to your business success.

Looking at this in monetary terms, if you take an employee on a salary of £25k, the actual cost of employing that person taking into account benefits, training, office environment etc, the actual cost to the business is in the region of £32k. So, if that person stays with you for ten years, not even allowing for pay rises, that recruitment decision can cost the business £320,000. At that cost, it is imperative that your business gets the recruitment decisions right.

So how do we ensure we get it right and make each appointment decision the best investment decision each and every time?

The type of recruitment methods we use are integral to this decision, but even before we get to this we have to make sure that the talent pool we are choosing from is the very highest quality it can be.

You can have the most sophisticated and well-thought out assessment processes possible but unless you have a pool of well-qualified individuals with the right cultural fit for your business to choose from, then no assessment process is going to provide you with the top talent that your business really needs.

So how do you ensure you get the very best talent available applying for the positions in your business?

Well, first and foremost you have to get your attraction strategy right.

Here in NI, we have been very traditional in the attraction strategies we use. Everyone knows NIJobfinder which has, for a very long time, been the premier medium for advertising job vacancies, and with the emergence of the worldwide web, a lot of attraction has been done through our local job sites. We also use the traditional recruitment agencies. These traditional methods may still work for you, and be right for you, but have you ever looked beyond the obvious in traditional terms and thought of magazines, bus hoardings, or lift advertising in shopping centres? 

These mediums can still be very valid for your organisation. However, with the emergence and enormous growth of social media over the last decade, this has now become the ‘go to’ (and low cost) method of attracting talent for many businesses. Research firm Aberdeen Group says that 73% of 18- to 34-year-olds found their last job through a social network. So this is a fast growing trend and not something which can afford to be overlooked. If it is not part of your attraction strategy now, perhaps it is something you should consider, and we can all learn from the leaders in this area.

O2 has been listed by Potential Park Research as one of the top 10 businesses in the UK for social media use in talent attraction for the past two years. According to Michelle Adams, Head of Leadership, Talent and Resourcing, the overarching aim of its social recruiting strategy is to attract top digital talent to join the business, and it uses different channels to develop a “two-way street” to show why they would want to work there. This two-way street is important to engage with potential new employees and fire their desire to come and work for you.

Adams also says, “At O2, we want to be known for being an exciting, fast-paced environment that’s at the cutting-edge of digital, so we make sure those aspirations are reflected across all our social media platforms, and that our online personality matches up with the experience people get when working at O2.”

Twitter is proving extremely valuable for connecting with young people for graduate, internship and apprenticeship programmes. O2 recognises this too and use it for hosting live chats with current graduates and apprentices to give candidates a behind-the-scenes look at life at O2.

No matter what attraction strategy you decide to use, and it could be an amalgamation of many different methods, the most fundamental rule of your attraction strategy is the monitoring of this. Make sure you review where your best talent is coming from and don't be afraid to constantly change and innovate when you find what works best for you, and what doesn’t, in order to form the most effective attraction strategy you possibly can.

So let’s imagine you have created the best talent pool possible and have recruited the very best from that pool, now how do you make sure you keep them and ensure your investment continues to grow and flourish?

Retention is key.

Job seekers are now more discerning than ever. Gone are the days where a job was for life. People are now much more likely to move on to pastures new. According to research published in The Telegraph recently, employees will have on average six jobs during their lifetime, so although your top talent may not be with you forever, you do have the power to make sure they want to stay.

So what is it that employees are looking for in their career and what will make them want to stay with your organisation? Well that depends, and clearly not everyone wants the same things, but we can learn from trend analysis.

Gallup who have been researching talent for over 70 years recently published a report providing the top four things that the top talent ‘millennials’ (generation Y born from the early 80’s onwards) are looking for in an employer.

Alignment With Who They Are

The top calibre candidates are more likely to be able to pick and choose employer and are more attracted to companies who align with their longer term needs and who they are as people.  Company culture is a word which, until relatively recently, did not resonate with business leaders. However, over this period we have seen new and innovative business cultures originating from Silicone Valley and now spreading worldwide. People are looking for new working cultures,  (flexibility, openness, ice-cream Fridays) for companies who match their belief systems and who show this by profit sharing to do good, giving generously to worthy causes for example.

They Want to Make a Difference and Be Challenged

High calibre candidates tend to be attracted to jobs that offer challenges and real opportunities to make a difference to others.  They want to see their work valued and see how they can affect the world through products and services which make a real difference. They do not want to keep doing things just because they have always been done that way. They want to challenge and be challenged to make their working lives feel worthwhile.

They Want to Work for the Best Companies

When candidates consider which companies they will apply to, they are invariably attracted to a company's status in its industry. However, high calibre candidates are more likely to do their homework on which companies are performing well as good employers. These candidates may also be paying close attention to ‘great workplace’ lists - Gallup found that 80% of job seekers say they are more likely to apply to a company that has won a great workplace award. So, it’s important to keep your current employees happy if you want to attract more of the best.

They Want to Learn and Grow

Higher calibre candidates are more likely to be attracted to roles that provide genuine opportunities to learn and grow. Their ideal job features professional development or growth opportunities. If your company doesn't have room for growth and personal development then it is unlikely the high calibre candidates are going to stay with you for an extended period. If you promote the idea that your company values and encourages personal development then it’s important that this holds true for the new employee. Are your vacancies advertised internally first, thereby ensuring your internal candidates are encouraged to grow and develop with the company? Do you have clear career planning and investment in talent programmes?

Everyone wants to be valued

On a daily basis we may not be always thinking about the headlines above, but what we do on a day to day basis within the workplace goes towards embedding these into daily working life. Overarching all of the above is making everyone feel valued and if you want to keep a high-quality employee then they must feel valued.

It’s the little things in life which make a difference - celebrate meaningful milestones like work anniversaries and birthdays; take the time to recognise and appreciate when someone has exceeded performance expectations or made an outstanding contribution. A little thanks goes a very long way. A simple thank you keeps your people feeling valued.  In an age where everything is typed, the value of a hand written thank you can go far beyond expectations and an example of that in practice was cited by the Campbell Soup Company who experienced a surge in productivity and performance. This was partly attributed to the 30,000 hand written thank you notes penned by the former CEO, Douglas Conant, during his tenure there.

This article is correct at 19/07/2017

The information in this article is provided as part of Legal-Island's Employment Law Hub. We regret we are not able to respond to requests for specific legal or HR queries and recommend that professional advice is obtained before relying on information supplied anywhere within this article.

Anne Mercer
Think People Consulting

The main content of this article was provided by Anne Mercer. Contact telephone number is 028 9031 0450 or email

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