Attracting the best talent: How to create a great place to work and play

Why winning the best staff for your start-up is more about values, praise and perhaps a company slide, than it is about money or business size

There is no denying that there is war for talent going on in the UK as more businesses start, grow and transform, and as technology continues to change and evolve.

Businesses must be innovative, disruptive and creative in how they attract and keep customers; and as technology continues to develop and become paramount, there is a constant need for companies to have the best staff to manage this change and help their businesses prosper.

Here, experienced business mentor and entrepreneur Roger Harrop explains how start-ups can compete with the large multinationals and big UK enterprises to win and keep the best employee talent.

Lead with your business values

The best talent has a choice these days and will simply not work for an organisation with values they don’t share. Your company has to be a great place to work but it also goes much further than that. When you’re interviewing someone these days, it is highly likely that they’re going to ask you what the values of your organisation are and for you to show them how you are living by those values.

I’m not a fan of the mission statement. It’s usually been designed by a committee and stuck up in reception or on a website to be ignored and if you can’t quote it word for word when asked then frankly it has to go. What you do need, embedded in everyone in the company’s hearts and minds, are the values of your company. Everyone in the company needs to be clear as to how you live by them and be constantly seeking to do better.

A study by MORI showed that 88% of employees said they wanted to work for an employer who was committed to liv­ing its values. Worryingly, only 45% currently believe their employer was actually doing so. If you want to have the best people both now and in the future you have to do something about this.

What do employees really want?

A Harvard Business Review study asked employees what they wanted from their employer and the top conclusions of the respondents were:

  • I want to know what my role is. I want to know the box I have to work in. I want to know what success looks like.
  • I want to see discipline. I want to see my co-workers dis­ciplined if they step out of line. I do not want soft manage­ment because it’s unfair.
  • I want to be excited when I come to work. I spend more time awake at work than I do at home so I want to get up every morning and look forward to coming to work no mat­ter what my job is.
  • I want praise. If you acknowledge when you’re employee does a good job then they will give back twice as much.
  • Don’t scare me. When times are difficult in business, sometimes it’s better to keep it unsaid. Employees should be concerned with how well they can do their job, and not if they will have one or not because the company could go under. This means putting on a brave face some days and making staff wages the first bill you pay every month.
  • I want to be impressed by my boss. I want a leader that inspires me.
  • Give me autonomy. Don’t abrogate your manage­ment responsibility – still do all the usual checks and balances, but give more autonomy and responsibility.
  • I want to be part of a winning organisation. I want to be able to go home at night and say, ‘Yes! We’re getting there!’

Are you confident your business can offer all of the above?

Money is not the driver

As we have seen, money does not feature in the list of things employees really want. That is because, in real­ity, money is not the primary driver.

As long as we believe money is everything we will continue to miss what it is that employees really want. There’s every reason for work to be fun too. Cosatto Limited have the great strapline ‘baby stuff with personality’ and work very hard at employee engagement. Whilst visiting them a while back Andrew Kluge, the CEO, told me they were putting in a slide from the first floor down to the ground so I asked him to explain what it was all about:

“The slide was part of a bigger project to create a work, relax and play hub in the physical centre of the busi­ness. We wanted to create somewhere that everyone in the company would come to chat, relax, meet, eat and generally be together. The slide has had an enormous effect in many respects. It has generated massive pride within the business as a whole. However bad your day is, however stressed you are – a trip down the slide just demands a smile.”

For more information on attracting and keeping the best employees for your start-up check out other advice articles in our recruitment and training sections.

This piece is an extract from ‘WIN! How to succeed in the new game of business’, written by entrepreneur, mentor and business speaker Roger Harrop.


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