June 24, 2021
Guest blog by Ryan Carruthers at Together Platform.
Attracting talent to your company has always been a challenge. Recruiters look at salary reports of software engineers in Silicon Valley only to throw up their hands, exclaiming, “how can we compete?!”
It’s a fair question.
How do companies attract talent when they don’t have exorbitant budgets? There’s no silver bullet, but the solution is in the type of culture your company has. Companies that want to attract top talent should build cultures that emphasize and support learning and development through mentoring.
This article will break down four ways to attract top talent and one bonus strategy that will surely build a culture that has talent lining up at your door. And it won’t be foosball tables and colorful office paint. It will be an active focus on helping your employees grow and develop through connecting them.
A study by Thruue inc revealed that on “a scale of 1 to 10, millennials rate the importance of work culture at 8.5.” What’s more, a LinkedIn survey showed “71% of professionals say they would be willing to take a pay cut to work for a company that has a mission they believe in and shared values.”
Culture is central to a companies’ talent acquisition strategy. And leaders set the tone for what the culture should look like. In a study by McKinsey, they found that great leaders who are inspirational, supportive, empowering, and focused on development have the highest percentage of satisfied employees.
If attracting talented people is a challenge, so is retaining them. HR leaders should take inspiration from the charismatic leader, Richard Branson, who said in 2014, “Train people well enough so they can leave, treat them well enough, so they don’t want to.”
Likewise, you can’t afford to invest in your people. Just as Henry Ford says, “The only thing worse than training your employees and having them leave is not training them and having them stay.”
When you’re in college and starting internships or looking for the first job that will get you started, you probably heard the gossip about this or that person who got a job at Amazon, Google, or Facebook. It’s the kind of social recruiting that companies have to earn by being a reputable company.
The work we do shapes a large part of our identities, and we like to say where we work with pride. It’s not surprising then that an HBR article on attracting talent simply says that successful businesses will attract successful candidates. “people like being associated with a winner,” the article says.
HBR may be taking a simplistic look at attracting talent, but it emphasizes the importance of a holistic approach to intriguing potential applicants. No one tactic will make recruiting easy. Building a company that employees love takes a long time and isn’t a set destination but a process of finding ways to build a people-first organization.
How long does it take employees to be promoted? And if the opportunity for succession isn’t as frequent, how often do employees get the chance to experiment in their role and explore new ideas? Lindsay McGregor and Neel Doshi, authors of Primed to Perform, investigated what makes a great company culture and found that motivating employees through experimentation and play was essential to their motivation.
Just as kids learn through play, we also learn by having space to do exploratory work. Allow employees to work on projects that don’t have a specific KPI or metric but with the goal of uncovering novel ideas.
Doing so may lead to the big idea that drives your company forward but will encourage employees to think outside the box and, in turn, will make them more engaged and motivated. There’s a reason why Google encourages their employees to spend 20% of their time each week working on independent projects related to their role.
The point is: provide opportunities for employees to follow their curiosity because it will lead to higher levels of engagement and motivation, which will surely help the company’s talent acquisition strategy.
Employees today want flexibility with the work they do. In 2020 and 2021, top talent started pushing back on organizations demanding that they come into an office to do their job. They had grown accustomed to remote work, and many wanted the best of both worlds by pushing for hybrid workplaces.
The shift toward more flexible work isn’t relegated only to location; it’s also changing the way work is measured. Companies need to move away from measuring employees based on time spent working and instead move towards an outcomes-based measure of their work to attract talent.
Harvard Business Review affirms this in their article, saying that top talent “want to be measured on the value they deliver, not the volume they deliver.” Further, we know that no one is productive for 8 to 10 hours every day. We’re only really productive for 2 hours and 53 minutes.
Companies that lead the change in allowing their employees to work when and where they want will attract the next generation of talent.
Mentorship is a cost-effective way to attract and retain talent. Deloitte, for example, committed to making five years the minimum target for retention after learning that those intending to stay with their organization for more than five years are twice as likely to have a mentor (68 percent) than not (32 percent).
Further, mentoring connections made early on at Google led to productivity gains five years later.
Here’s how to attract talent by offering mentoring opportunities to all employees – those joining and those tenured employees.
Mentorship helps employees develop their technical and interpersonal skills because they have someone more senior than them to lean on for advice and guidance. This support helps them:
Employee networks lead to most promotions and job offers. Having a strong professional network is arguably essential to a successful career. “Your network is your net worth,” as they say.
Having a mentor expands the mentee’s network because the mentor can make invaluable introductions. Following these introductions, mentors can act as sponsors for their mentees on behalf of new opportunities. This leads to mentored employees receiving promotions five times more often than people who didn’t. Employers who want to grow will seek out companies that offer this kind of networking building mentorship.
Connecting employees through formal mentoring relationships focused on professional growth will form stronger relationships and, in turn, cultures. Having a mentor can help employees experiment with their role and seek new ways of doing things while also having the mentor act as a guardrail against mistakes.
The trust formed through this kind of relationship is meaningful and will attract and keep talent within the organization.
For example, New York Life runs a mentoring program designed to connect members of employee resource groups (ERGs) with leadership across North America in the company. Mentees were able to tap into the knowledge of those leaders and bring it back to their own work.
When asked about their experience, one mentor shared that “my mentee found several ways to apply ‘takeaways’ in her day-to-day. I enjoyed learning about the progress she was making session-by-session, but even more rewarding was seeing her mindset shift.”
Finally, having a mentor means new hires can expect to have 1-on-1 feedback from someone who has much more experience than themselves. Having a mentor is more than just receiving a performance review, and it’s particularly helpful in making sure new hires succeed.
Mentors are different from managers because they’re invested in their holistic improvement, not just how well they meet short-term targets. Mentees can trust that in a role they’re considering they’ll be held accountable to grow not just from a manager but a leader who cares about their success.
This kind of attention to improvement will surely attract and retain talent.
Randstad, a multinational human resource consulting firm, found that “employees participating in the mentoring program were 49% less likely to leave,” and the cost savings associated with recruiting and training were ~$3,000 per employee per year. The return on investment of mentoring is clear both for attracting top talent and employee retention.
Attracting and retaining top talent is a challenge all companies face. By focusing on the employees and their professional growth, companies competing for talent will stand out from the rest.
Employees are attracted to companies that care about their development, are reputable, and will trust them with the flexibility to do their best work. To build an organizational culture that is hyper-focused on their employees’ growth, companies should start mentorship programs. In this way, they’ll give employees what they want from their jobs and reap the benefits of having an energized and engaged workforce.