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How to Attract and Keep Top Talent in 2017

The companies that have a hard time attracting top talent are those that can't differentiate themselves in the market. Don't let this be you.

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We’ve heard a lot of talk about stagnant or faltering economies in the past few years. The digital revolution has brought with it a mismatch of skill sets and job openings, making it simultaneously hard for people to find a job and for companies to keep top talent.


From Canada to India, employers around the world are still struggling to fill necessary roles. But what does this really look like? According to the Talent Shortage Survey, it looks like 40 percent of global employers not being able to find the right talent for jobs that need to be done.

In today’s climate, companies that want to attract and retain the best talent will look for the best ways to develop employees along the way. If that describes your company, you have to invest in people with the understanding that you’re going to help them grow professionally (even if you don't retain their services).

Paradoxically, though, developing employees will likely help you retain the high performers among them.

Secrets to keeping the best talent in 2017

This old (probably mythical) story about two managers discussing investments in their employees’ professional development illustrates this paradox pretty well:

“What if we pay to train these people, and then they leave?” one manager wonders.

"What if we don’t pay to train them, and they stay?!" the more astute manager asks.

Let’s face it -- the “lifetime employment” model is pretty well obsolete, if it was ever a reality in the first place. The current generation entering the workforce is known for its super-short attention span, which a study by Microsoft showed to be less than that of a goldfish. This inability to concentrate for very long on any one thing exacerbates the fact that most people see their current jobs as stepping-stones -- a two- to three-year transformational role at best.

Related: A New Solution for Efficiently Recruiting Talent

With lifelong employee/employer relationships disappearing, the challenge today is to present your teams with a road map of exciting new things to take on and directions to explore, which can foster a longer-term outlook. Companies can no longer say, “This is your job now, and it will be for the next five to 10 years” -- unless they want to scare off the best talent.

In my position as COO of our company, here are the three of the most effective elements I’ve seen in terms of talent acquisition and retention:

1. Forget location -- it’s all about deliverables. 

Building massive corporate campuses with tons of amenities used to be the thing to do. Not only does that require a lot of capital, but also, no one really cares how rad your office is. Many truly talented people would trade a great office (and sometimes even accept a lower salary) for more autonomy and flexibility.

The way you succeed with talent retention, then, is focusing on deliverables instead of time spent. Top performers actually love to work, and they don’t measure success by how many hours they clock. This means they will be hyper-productive no matter where they work, because they care. If your people can perform at a higher level working from home, why wouldn’t you want to afford them that autonomy?

Even big-campus pioneers are starting to get hip to this. Expedia, for example, is choosing to take a “modular approach” as it expands. Rather than face huge construction costs up-front, the company has said it will build out new space on an as-needed basis to help ensure the flexibility employees want.

Related: Pay Close Attention to Candidate Experience for Long-Lasting Benefits

2. Help new hires shoot for the stars. 

IBM is brilliant in this regard. Its Succeeding@IBM is a two-year course taken online that lets new hires in on what it takes to be successful at the company. It also offers new employees training before their start dates. These factors may be the reason they are 80 percent less likely to leave during their first year.

The ability to recruit all-stars depends on your ability to articulate for new hires a clear, cogent vision of what their next two to four years at your company will look like. Think about this time frame in small chunks, and clarify exactly how you expect the employee will grow in that time. Really, you just need to describe exactly what it is you’re looking for, and what a win looks like; and then make sure that’s exactly what they want to do.

At the end of that time period, help these employees transition -- either into a new role within your company or to another opportunity elsewhere.

3. Don’t let people leave earlier in the day -- make them. 

Stay with me here: In 2011, Mark Cuban invested $150,000 in Tower Paddle Boards, which had just $260,000 in revenue. Five years later, the small startup is on course to make $10 million in revenue. And here’s the kicker: The 11-person team works only five hours a day!

One of the real gut tests for a manager is whether he or she can trust people to get work done in a timely manner. Think about all the time you've seen wasted at your office, with employees chatting, goofing off online, etc. But instead of demanding longer hours, challenge people to be as productive as possible for shorter periods, and when they’re done, make them leave.

We push people out the door at 6 p.m. and try to get them to leave by 3 p.m. on Fridays. Looking out for the welfare of your people will keep them productive, creative and loyal because they know you aren’t expecting them to sell their souls for a paycheck.

Related: 4 Rules to Provide Flexibility Without Losing Accountability

I do want to say one more thing after sharing all of these observations I’ve made over the years, and it may seem self-explanatory, but you’d be surprised: Be cool. That is, be a cool company.

The companies that have a hard time attracting top talent are those that can’t differentiate themselves in the market. If your company does something meaningful or novel, you will become a magnet for those truly talented people you seek.

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