To Attract the Right Talent, You Need a Fertile Environment for Growth

“When my daughter became of age, I recommended her to my boss. She got the job and worked there her entire life.”

While watching the Smithsonian Channel the other day, I saw a documentary called White House Revealed. That quote was from one of the housekeepers that started working in the White House in 1909.

She was talking about her daughter coming to work and getting a job where she worked. This was during an era when there was no such thing as a career. People had jobs and they did them as long as they could.

Her daughter was eventually hired as a seamstress and worked there until she retired. This was such a long time ago that when you think about it, there were not a lot of options open to people. The choices were limited, to say the least.

I had a conversation with a repair person from one of the utilities who was repairing a gas line at my home this week. He told me how he got out of high school and started working for this company and had worked his way up. Now he is trying to get his son a job a job at his employer..

No help from me

When my daughter and son were finishing up their final years in college, we spoke about their careers and I told them that I would do whatever it took in using my connections to help get them a job. We talked about the difference of a job and a career. What I would not do, however, was to recommend them to my place of employ at that time.

As parents, we all try and shield our kids from what we perceive as harm. If we are in an environment that isn’t comfortable, would we recommend one of our own/ Probably not. This comes back to the ultimate question: Would you recommend your family to your place of employ?

Better still, would you want them to follow in your career? If not, why not? If so. why would you encourage it?

If your answer is no, you are not letting them in on your little secret about your employer.

How likely is it that you would recommend this company to a friend or colleague is the most relevant question in measuring the success of an employer’s brand and the acquisition of talent.

An experience that attracts the right talent

This question is also one of the best ways to know whether or not you are providing a worker experience that attracts the right talent for your organization. Imagine for a moment your top talented people and their networks of other talented people. They have put a fence around their corral of people. In other words that is off limits.

If that is the case with your company, then you have created a conundrum because a vast majority of your employee network is off-limits. They are telling their network to stay away. This will not bode well if you want your organization to become a talent factory.

The Googles and Zappos of the world have created talent factories, and the quality parts that are needed to sustain their innovation and growth are always there clamoring to get in. These companies have created an environment that is primed for growth for a long time to come.

Another generation of companies — organizations such as is IBM and General Electric — are still seen as fertile ground for developing talent, a greenhouse of promising young Millennials being groomed until it is their time to blossom.

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Building the right culture

Everyone agrees that developing talent is important, but many companies are still struggling to fill key positions. The inefficiencies of that so-called talent pipeline is a CEO’s nightmare. It is hard enough in a normal economic climate, but in this stress-induced environment, you can’t be hamstrung by a culture that is not welcoming.

Surveys shows that the level of disengagement in organizations is such that approximately two-thirds of the workforce is not into you. And, if two-thirds of your workforce is not engaged, you can pretty much write them off for recommendations about your organization being a place for their peers wanting to work.

Yes, forget about that referral program; it is just not happening.

We have all heard the phrase that “people are our greatest asset,” but there must be some urgency to build the right culture that is fertile and makes it the place that everyone wants to get to.

Becoming hothouse of talent

Any company with those lofty goals that is aiming to grow has little hope of achieving its goals without the ability to put the right people on the ground.

In order to have the right people on the ground, the environment must be fertile for growth. The culture must be constantly fertilized in such a way that it becomes an hothouse of talent.

Organizations focus on all the pertinent activities within an organization — marketing, IT, world-class processes and products — but in the end it is the talent (or lack thereof) that will determine success or failure.

We must all strive to create a workplace that is welcoming and fertile for growth. The landscape that you create will determine the growth trajectory of your organization.

Ron Thomas is Managing Director, Strategy Focused Group DWC LLC, based in Dubai. He is also a senior faculty member and representative of the Human Capital Institute covering the MENA/Asia Pacific region.

He was formerly CEO of Great Place to Work-Gulf and former CHRO based in Riyadh. He holds certifications from the Human Capital Institute as Global Human Capital Strategist, Master Human Capital Strategist, and Strategic Workforce Planner.

He's been cited by CIPD as one of the top 5 HR Thinkers in the Middle East. He received the Outstanding Leadership Award for Global HR Excellence at the World Human Resources Development Congress in Mumbai, and was named as one of the 50 Most Talented Global HR Leaders in Asia

Ron's prior roles included senior HR positions with Xerox HR services, IBM, and Martha Stewart Living.

Board memberships include the Harvard Business Review Advisory Council, McKinsey Quarterly's Executive Online Panel, and HCI's Expert Advisory Council on Talent Management Strategy.

His work has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, Inc. Magazine, Workforce Management and numerous international HR magazines covering Africa, India and the Middle East.


1 Comment on “To Attract the Right Talent, You Need a Fertile Environment for Growth

  1. Great post! If you take a close look at companies who frequent “Best Places to Work” lists, they all focus creating a positive employee experience through team work, strong executive leadership, collaboration and professional opportunity. Employees want to know that they work in an environment that provides opportunities for growth and recognizes their talents. In fact, in a recent survey conducted by AchieveGlobal on retention trends, it was found that two of the top three reasons people leave a company are “lack of growth and development opportunities” and “contributions not being appreciated by management.”  To attract talent, you must cultivate your existing talent and this can often best be done by meaningful employee engagement, strong leadership, a focus on training, and appropriate awards and recognitions. As you stated, it’s not enough for companies to claim “talent is their biggest asset”, they must prove it through investment and engagement.

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