Most businesses’ biggest challenge is finding the right talent and keeping it. Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh famously estimated that his bad hires cost the company well over $100 million. That’s not insignificant, even for the most successful of companies. In the world of business, there’s no silver bullet to rely on but there are ways to help make the right decision in most cases.
Investing in resources to find and retain good people counts for as much as investing in the profitable work for clients. Traditionally, recruitment procedures have always turned to qualifications and CVs. But this simply isn’t the case anymore. Someone with 5 degrees to their name doesn’t necessarily mean they are the right person for the job. When it comes to hiring any new employee, not everything you need to know about them will be on paper. Experience isn't always required if you want fresh thinking. But a structured, educated, disciplined mind is of great value and you can then build experience around them - some of our best staff are the grads we trained up. And sometimes, it’s the characteristics not easily recognizable that can make or break a decision to hire someone.
Find people with transferable skills – you need team players who can pitch in and try their hand at all sorts of different jobs. To that end, I look for people who are different to me, with different views and areas of expertise. I am constantly asking myself in interviews whether the candidate can create and lead change – for both the business and our clients. Looking to team sports is an interesting comparison in the reality of recruitment. A football team is made up of individuals with varying skills and that’s why they take different parts of the field, but together they make up a team striving towards collective success.
Looking beyond the CV brings clarity to the bigger picture of how the candidate will fit into your business goals and identity as a whole. Every business needs to have a clear recruitment strategy in place. It needs to encompass not just the team but the goals of the business and a layout of the skills needed for both the present and the future.
Just as tough as recruiting top talent is retaining it. In the creative industry in which my company operates, the churn of talent can be great. Finding ways to keep the best staff is crucial. Set your sights high on the best players. There are long-term ramifications to making suboptimal hires that often aren't visible until months or even years later and can be difficult to rectify. Knowing what each individual team member values is key. For those who think paying more for a candidate will solve all their problems, they could be wrong. I strive to find the staff that are driven not by money but by the company’s mission. In our case, it’s being an ‘Agent of Change’: a passion to create new brands and reignite existing brands that have lost their spark. The motivations of someone young who earns enough each month to go out with their mates are very different to someone a little older with a mortgage and kids who may need to be flexible in where they work.
To retain your best staff, you have to put rigorous initiatives and procedures in place. Coach, don’t manage by giving teams the authority to do their jobs but staying in the loop on their activities. I think a thorough appraisal system is key. Employees need feedback and parameters set so they know what is expected of them. Also, setting clear KPIs and reviewing regularly is very important so everyone knows where they are and can focus on a clear path.
Be accessible personally by taking a genuine interest in employees as individuals and as people. It makes them feel valued. Of course monetary rewards in salary/bonus can help maintain retention but look beyond this to other tangible rewards for truly superior performance. How about recognising employees’ start-date anniversaries? Or taking staff on a trip to Ibiza?! If you can, do it. After all, words are just words. While feedback is important, people also need to feel appreciated in a concrete way. The return in terms of employee loyalty and commitment will far outweigh the financial cost of these “spot” awards over the long run.
As a leader of a business, you’re only as good as your team, so making sure the right people are at the helm is crucial to the long-term success of the organization. Getting the recruiting and the retaining job bang on won’t happen every time but being clear about what you need to do to get the business to where you want to be will make it much easier.
By Jo Davies, CEO of independent creative agency ZAK