Talent Retention and Acquisition: People Power
Organizational needs have changed over the past five years as we get comfortable in the second decade of the 21st century. Human capital (i.e., people) are the only resource that will make a difference, regardless of the industry you work in. Hiring practices must change if one is to maximize the organization’s ability to hire the best.
Here’s what’s in and what’s out for retailers looking to acquire and retain executive talent this year.
What’s In: Attitude
I was at a conference a few years ago where the keynote speaker was Isadore Sharp, founder of the Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts chain. It was a luxury conference, held before the economic downturn, and every brand was trying to differentiate itself from its competitors. The Four Seasons is known for making guests feel completely at home and providing an exceptional level of service. Why?
Telling us the details of the Four Seasons’ hiring practices, Sharp explained it all. He said that every time the company opened a new hotel, tens of thousands of individuals would apply for only a few hundred jobs. Sharp’s recruiters were all looking for one thing — a positive attitude. His belief is that skills can be taught, but you’re either born with a helpful, pleasant attitude or not. I agree with him completely.
What’s Out: Ego
“You should hire me because of what I’ve done and where I’ve worked.” That’s the passive message many candidates project during interviews. Some candidates don’t even realize it because it’s so ingrained. Too many times we feel that we are who we are because of what we do. People talk about their resumes instead of saying, “I’m here because I’ve always admired your company. I like what I see and I want to be a part of the success of this brand.”
What’s In: Vision
New, fresh, different — that’s the mantra companies hear all the time. Retailers need someone with fresh eyes to provide unique, yet specific solutions to the problems they’re facing. It begins with people — it always has. If you don’t have the right person in the right role, you’re never going to win.
How do retailers attract new customers without alienating current ones? How do they remain true to their brands when they launch a new product or category? How can they be viewed as an authority when they’re newcomers to a category? How do they get their customers to not only buy from them, but remain loyal? These questions aren’t easily answered. Only by having the right leader in place can a company truly make this type of change occur.
What’s Out: History
The simple solution is hiring what you’re familiar with, but that’s not always the correct move. If you really want innovation, change oftentimes comes from bringing in someone with transferable skill sets. For example, someone without preconceived notions and typical experiences. It’s incumbent upon the employer to provide an environment that enables the permissiveness to move with the times. Tolerance for this behavior rests squarely on the employer. To create employee success stories, new leaders must be able to recognize the need for altercations.
What’s In: Dialogue
In modern companies, offices are literally opening up. While the corner office still has a window view, perhaps the CEO has joined the rest of the group, maybe even sitting next to an intern. Offices are dispersing and executives may all be sitting together at one table or in rooms without cubicles. Breaking down the conversational walls allows for a constant flow of ideas that can be casually expressed rather than written down or emailed. This open dynamic creates a democratic dialogue which will better the whole company as it allows newcomers to lend a fresh perspective to senior executives.
What’s Out: Monologue
The CEO monologue is no longer the only opinion in the room. There must be a constant conversation about the state of the retail industry in order to not only remain relevant, but have hopes of staying above the grain. The internet has given companies the opportunity to reach consumers on more platforms than ever before, and it’s a powerful organizational tool for internal communications. In order to be viewed as digitally advanced, an exchange of ideas should be welcomed and used by all.
What’s In: GPS
Today more than ever, people are finding and researching jobs via the internet. They’re using different forms of social media (LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter) to network. With the collapse of the economy, people can no longer follow the exact path they had originally planned on pursuing. To get on the track towards the career they always expected to have, young job-seekers have started practicing a certain GPS-style job search. They’re continually looking towards the internet for other avenues and opportunities to take. Therefore, retailers need to have a significant presence online, including mobile and social media, to be top of mind for rising talent.
What’s Out: Road Map
Job-seekers are looking for out-of-the-box ways to get hired. A specific road map or life plan isn’t exactly an option when companies are slashing jobs to save costs. Most people know the story of the unemployed investment banker, who in 2008 took to New York City streets wearing a suit and an “Experienced M.I.T Graduate for Hire” sign draped over him like a sandwich board as he handed out resumes to passersby. When one person is more educated and groomed than the next, the approach has to be a bit unorthodox.
Retailers need to look back in their histories and realize that what’s made their companies successful hasn’t changed over the years, despite the constant evolution in the industry. People are the key, and the key to getting the most out of your people is creating an environment that enables them to set their minds free to roam, to challenge, to create. Remember this as you go through the process of making your next executive hire and you’ll be rewarded with improved future performance.
Kate Benson is the president of Martens & Heads, a boutique executive search firm.