Growth opportunities are the lifeblood of every organization, but to support and sustain that growth, you need to find the right people. Mark Miller’s book Talent Magnet: How to Attract and Keep the Best People tells the story of Blake, a CEO whose growing company is struggling to do exactly that.
Blake’s leadership team pulls no punches in describing their recruitment shortfall –– a perfect storm of “economic, demographic and competitive pressures coming to bear simultaneously.” Finding the right people is no longer about offering competitive salaries and good benefits; it’s a war for talent.
The arc of the business parable begins with Blake’s choice to have companies forgo the typical choice of becoming better fighters in that war for talent and choose, instead, to become such a magnet for top talent that they “will be standing in line to work here.”
As Blake goes in search of options with a mastermind group of fellow CEOs, the readers are introduced to his son, Clint, who, along with a few of his friends, is in search of a summer job to raise funds to build a village water well, to honor the memory of a friend they all met on an overseas trip.
The noble purpose adds some urgency to their search, but their experiences serve to provide some frightening examples of how ad hoc many recruiting processes can be. Desperate offers of jobs on the spot with no interviews, background checks or training do more to unnerve rather than inspire the young applicants.
Blake pursues best-practice recruitment ideas from both his fellow CEOs and within his own organization. The practices identified from other CEOs turn out to be far from best, falling into two categories:
Panning for Gold –– where an endless supply of applicants are hired and fired, some on the same day, leaving the company to manage high turnover and low morale in the search for the unicorns of top talent.
Diamonds in the Rough –– where every hire is assumed to have the potential for top performance as long as enough pressure and time are applied, leaving the company to invest fruitless hours of training and development as they try to turn coal into diamonds.
It is Clint and his fellow job applicants who provide the framework of a simple but effective list of differentiators for any company seeking to become a talent magnet:
A Better Boss
- Demonstrate care for your people as human beings rather than units of production.
- Stay engaged in the business instead of only appearing at monthly meetings.
- Lead well so that your people are reassured that you know how to lead.
A Brighter Future
- Champion growth for both the company and
- Provide challenge to enable personal skill development.
- Promote opportunity to leverage those new skills.
A Bigger Vision
- Ensure alignment to harness the collective energy of the organization.
- Foster connection so that employees can clearly see the individual roles they play in realizing that vision.
- Celebrate impact to underscore that individual achievements make a difference beyond the company.
Talent Magnet uses the parallel storylines of Blake and his son, Clint, to great effect. Presenting the viewpoints of both employer and prospective employee in some very familiar scenarios helps to underline the urgent need for Miller’s proposed solutions.
In this “war for talent,” the starting point for your search can no longer be “What skillset and experience do we need from these applicants?” To attract top talent, the first question has to be “What are they looking for in a new job opportunity?” Understanding the needs of your ideal “top talent” may take a considerable investment of time and effort, but the results of this quality approach are clearly more effective than the more traditional quantity approach of searching for a needle in a haystack.