If you want to become a talent magnet, focus on the fundamentals

David Lee

In the frenzy to find high tech talent, it’s tempting to search for the Talent Magnet Silver Bullet – the ultimate perk or program that will make you the employer of choice. This attempt to find the Holy Grail of recruiting and retaining talent includes the misguided notion that being a Talent Magnet also involves recreating the kind of workplace that gets media coverage - the workplace where dot-com stock option millionaires engage in playful water fights or dance on their desks to relieve stress.

The answer to becoming a Talent Magnet isn’t in gimmicks, the perfect enticement, or a contrived "we’re a fun workplace" image. The answer to becoming a Talent Magnet is in the fundamentals. The answer is in creating an organization that satisfies fundamental human needs and the emerging needs of today’s workers. When organizations do this, they create a workplace that is intrinsically motivating and fun, a workplace that makes them a magnet for the most talented employees.

Here are some ways you can satisfy these fundamental needs of today’s worker and become a Talent Magnet organization:

Engage Your Employees’ Hearts and Souls: People don’t just want to bring their brains to work; they want to bring their hearts. They want to feel passionate about what they are doing and be part of something great. Leaders of Talent Magnets speak to this human need by regularly communicating to all employees where the company is going, the importance of what they are doing, and the significance of each employee’s contribution. They share stories of victories and warn about imminent battles with competitors.

The more you let your employees know they are part of something great, and how they make it possible to be great, the more passionate they will be about your company. The more passionate they are, the more they will tell others about how great your company is — making every employee a recruiter.

Keep People in the Know: It’s hard to be excited about something you know nothing about. When employees understand the big picture, and are kept in the loop about new developments, they feel part of the organization, and therefore, more involved, more excited, and more loyal.

To connect with everyone on a personal level, consider hosting breakfasts for small groups of employees from different areas to discuss new developments. Listen to their ideas and concerns.

Respect Employee’s Right to Have a Life: Research shows flexibility and work/life balance are top priorities of today’s workers, especially GenXers. Support employees trying to juggle parenting and work responsibilities. Demonstrating flexibility and respect with your staff has a huge impact on morale and dedication.

Provide Opportunities to Grow: A study by the American Electronics Association, the nation’s largest high-tech trade group, revealed that the number one factor influencing employee retention was having challenging work assignments. If going to work means grinding out the same task over and over, employees will soon go elsewhere. Thus, keeping employees energized and excited about coming to work requires making sure they are constantly being challenged.

Show Appreciation: Many companies drop the ball on this one. Decades of employee research shows that appreciation is one of the greatest motivators. Yet, when companies remember to show appreciation, it is usually with a gimmicky ‘Employee of the Month’ or ‘Employee Recognition Day’ programs.

Far more effective are simple, informal expressions of appreciation such as saying "Thank you" to employees as they are leaving for the day.

Showing sincere appreciation is a no-cost, high return practice. Not showing appreciation is a high-risk behaviour for companies hoping to keep talented people.

Don’t Hamstring Your Employees: Putting obstacles in the way of employees doing their work well is a great way to send them to the competition. Whether it’s inadequate technology, bureaucratic hurdles to leap, or a "Sorry, there’s nothing we can do about it" attitude, making life difficult for employees is a costly endeavour. Not only does it make them less efficient, it conveys disrespect.

Give People the Chance to Do Something Great: The best, most talented employees want the opportunity to do something great. They don’t just want a job, they want a challenge.

Show Employees That You Care: Although talented people want their talent and expertise to be recognized and valued, they also want to know you care about them as a person - not just a producer of high quality work.

Take the time to get to know employees not just as programmer or designer, but as people who have families, hopes, and dreams.

To Become a Talent Magnet, Remember The Fundamentals: Being a Talent Magnet doesn’t require being clever or cute. It requires a sincere appreciation of, and interest in, the people who work for you. It requires a willingness to meet their fundamental human needs, and their needs as workers in a complex world of competing responsibilities. By doing this, you will create the kind of workplace that talented people love – and love to tell their talented friends about.

David Lee is founder and principal of www.humannatureatwork.com. He’s an internationally recognized authority on organizational and managerial practices that optimize employee performance, morale, and engagement. He is also the author of Managing Employee Stress and Safety, as well as over almost 100 articles and book chapters. You can download more of his articles at www.humannatureatwork.com or contact him at [email protected]


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