This time of year always comes around so quickly. It feels like 5 minutes ago that we were finalising the recruitment of our 2018 graduate intake. In fact, it was just over 12 months ago. This year has been equally successful – we have had over 300 applications for roles. Yes. An SME in Chorley had over 300 graduates apply – and we had to turn the application process off!
Now, you may wonder why this is the first paragraph of the article – the simple truth is that whenever I get asked about our growth plans, people instantly think that we’ll struggle to attract talent. It’s becoming a standard line. And to me, it feels a little bit of a self-fulfilling prophecy for some people.
Nobody doubts that it is a harder job to find talent than five years ago– I have to say that, as my team will kill me! – but the truth is that it may just have been too easy in the past? Controversial I know, but what we are seeing, and the team are brilliant at, is that we are succeeding because we are focussing on selling the values of the business. They do that by living and breathing them themselves.
It's not about head-hunting and poaching, it’s about showing that you are a trusted organisation with people at the heart of it. And as an SME, that can be as easy as it is hard. Take the graduate programme example. We have been working with Universities for over 7 years now – attending events, putting on student events, doing lectures, supporting hackathons etc. This is an investment of time and effort, but to get 300+ applications shows the rewards. They apply because we are familiar and trustworthy – two very important things at the start of your career.
And I think its like that with recruiting talent across the whole business. It’s not easy if you continue to do the same things that you did 5 years ago. You need to win trust with people over a longer time period – you have to build an employer brand – something that people can associate with and recognise themselves working in.
And this is the biggest change for me. Too many organisations are using the same techniques and looking for the same type of people. Well guess what – that is hard! The lens through which you are looking has to change. A more creative mindset will open up new opportunities and markets to attract people. It’s about looking in different places and trying new ideas and matching the potential employees with your values ahead of the technical skills of the job.
Great employees will always have the ability and appetite to learn – so why do they need all the skills from day one? I think if we all started recruiting the right “type” of people for our business, not the already skilled people, we’d see a real increase in productivity across the whole country – retraining, upskilling, transferring skills would be the norm. This isn’t taking high risk options – it’s about being savvy in how you engage and recruit.
Some of the largest organisations in the world are now using AI to help the recruitment process. One of our clients has had huge success in terms of attraction and building a significantly more diverse workforce. The previous lens, with bias, norms and “like me” have been removed. Not all of us can afford a machine to do it, but we can take the principles and apply it.
If you start by building trust with people, look at all the strengths and capabilities they have, then have the front-line team living those very values you want new people to adopt, then you are in with a fighting chance.
I always encourage the team to differentiate on the process as well as the “role”. The experience that candidates have along the journey goes a long way to getting them on board. Our team do that with bells on.
Ultimately, this passes onto our clients – and with our Net Promoter Score – sitting at a World Class 78% - then we are confident that the values approach of building our great delivery team is working for our clients too. And that makes it all worthwhile.
I already know this article (if read!) will get a reaction. And being provocative is not out of character for me, so would love to get into a discussion about it.
Stephen Johnson - Co-founder & Director at ROQ