Finding and retaining skilled labour is one of the biggest issues affecting the UK’s top 250 private mid-market growth companies. According to PWC’s Annual Global CEO Survey, 63% cite availability of skills as a serious concern. Developing a strategy to hire, engage, identify and appropriately reward an organisation’s best talent is vital.
Access to qualified experts and top talent is not, and never has been, about just hiring employees. Growing pressure to invest into IT and the digital sector means that recruitment will be employing imaginative, sometimes aggressive, approaches to finding talent, as well as developing and galvanising it. In light of this, I’ve listed the top three things to keep in mind when considering how to find and retain the best talent for your organisation.
1. Re-think the way you build talent databases – Companies that put people and skills at the highest priority when recruiting, rather than specific job descriptions, will always secure the best talent. Zappos employed this method in 2014 when it replaced its usual application process by building a series of sector expert ‘communities’ and inviting potential employees to join it. Individuals were then encouraged to share their opinions and expert knowledge so the recruitment team could then sift through these communities for the best people and created roles to fit their skills. The result of this? Zappos saw a 67% increase in applicants, halved the bounce rate on their career page, and reorganised recruiters time schedules to focus on the right people over the right role.
2. Use open innovation initiatives to uncover hidden talent – The brightest minds might not always have the loudest voices so it’s important to consider alternative ways to uncover these often hidden talents. Open innovation is a particularly effective way. Practices such as company-wide competitions, challenges or hackathons to solve specific business challenges enable those who might be shy to speak up to showcase their skills without the constraints of their usual job specifications. NASA regularly hosts hackathons, such as its International Space Apps Challenge, to encourage mass collaborative problem solving to find solutions to global problems. And the British Broadcasting Company runs challenges to generate new programming ideas, with help from Wazoku’s Idea Spotlight.
3. Hand the power directly to your people – The fear of failing in front of a manager in the workplace is a powerful barrier to innovation and creative thinking. Many would rather sit back, rather than vocalise their opinions and ideas for fear of being criticised, or even reprimanded should they not be “right”. Taking away the constraints of management and hierarchy, in the right context, allows people (and the business) to flourish. Music streaming giant Spotify has been particularly forward-thinking in this way. It has ‘squads’ of up to 100 employees tasked with improving a specific aspect of the product – without the inclusion of management. Each squad behaves like a small start-up, with full autonomy. The success of this method can be proved by the company’s impressive financial results and expansion.
In summary, the key finding and retaining skilled labour is to build an environment and culture which allows potential and existing employees to showcase their talents and creativity freely. Once the best talent has been discovered, build a role to drive the business forward around their skills. Not only will this empower and encourage the individual, but ultimately it will only serve to enhance your organisation.