To Attract and Retain Talent Focus on Your 'Why'

Employers with a sincere sense of purpose have far fewer problems hiring and keeping strong teams.

learn more about Greg Monaco

By Greg Monaco • Dec 10, 2015

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You're likely already familiar with Simon Sinek's branding concept that he introduces as "the world's simplest idea," or The Golden Circle. While you may have embraced this concept on some level in developing your overall company brand, you may want to consider just how much it could also give you an advantage in today's global battle for the best talent.

According to Manpower's 2015 U.S. Talent Shortage Survey, a full 32 percent of employers have difficulty filling jobs. To underscore how serious the issue is, restaurant chain Chipotle recently announced a promotional gimmick -- a one-day, 4,000 worker hiring binge on Sept. 9. While there are numerous secondary statistics that dive deeper into why employers are having trouble filling roles, it's useful to first examine why employees decide to join one organization over another.

Related: How to Get Top Talent When You Have a Bare Bones Budget

Is it compensation? Stock options? Guaranteed bonus? Good chemistry with a future manager? Location? Advancement potential? Perks like free food and dry cleaning? Well, according to a recent New York Times article detailing just how competitive it has become between companies like Google and Silicon Valley "unicorns' such as Uber and Airbnb, it may be all of these. But it also may be none of these.

A Universum's Talent Survey of more than 240,000 respondents found some very telling employee motivators. They want to truly understand a company's purpose, align with it and work with others to propel the organization's performance. They want to be inspired, not overwhelmed, by employer messages. Petter Nylander, CEO of Universum, states that they will "go to work for companies whose stories they can tell, whose values they can espouse and whose businesses they can learn."

This is where Sinek's Golden Circle comes into play quite nicely.

The beauty of the branding tool lies in its simplicity. Staid companies start with "what they do," go to market with "how they do it better" and rarely touch on "why they do what they do." Conversely, wildly successful companies, such as Uber, Starbucks and Apple, simply reverse the order. They start with the "why," or the company's purpose, cause or belief -- the very reason the organization exists -- and then work toward the "how" and finally to the "what."

Related: Young Talent Demands These 6 Things for Their Loyalty

Starting with the "why" instead of the "what" connects your employees on a much deeper level to draw new recruits and diminish talent drain. After all, people aren't widgets through a system. They are emotional, creative, autonomous creatures who feel first and think second. Consider that for a minute. As Sinek astutely points out, we digest logical, rational information about something with the neocortex portion of our brain. But when it comes time to actually make a decision, we rely on the limbic portion of our brain, which controls instinct, mood, emotions and our drives.

Find a way to connect with both current and prospective employees on an emotional level and you'll not only help unlock their potential, you'll have a leg up on recruiting and retention over your competitors. Mouse pads and tchotchkes with slogans miss the point. Employees quite simply want shared purpose and two-way engagement. It's the key to unlocking a compelling employee engagement strategy. The Universum study underscored that, "Storytelling is critical: They want to learn about employees who embody the organization's values and communicate authentic stories about their working life."

According to Sinek himself, "people don't buy what you do, they buy why you do it…the goal is to do business with those who believe what you believe." Sure, it's critical that every one of your customers believes in your "why." However, it's just as critical that every single one of your employees knows, understands and believes that as well so they have an actual "why" they work for you. Otherwise, they'll walk, and likely sooner than later.

Related: Why CEOs Need a Talent Acquisition Strategy

Greg Monaco

Co-founder of Monaco Lange

Greg Monaco, is co-founder of global brand consultancy Monaco Lange, helping companies align around shared values and vision to tell their unique stories. He teaches brand writing at MediaBistro and is also a partner in Quantum Lead group, dedicated to developing conscious leaders to help manifest positive change.

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