6 ways your business can attract the hottest talent

XERO employee. Photo: supplied.

Today many business leaders in Australia are so flat out with the day ­to ­day requirements of running a successful company, that they’re completely forgetting about their most important resource.

I’m not referring to impressive data or cutting edge technology, but to the core people who make up a business. Good staff are the most valuable asset any business has and they are the key to evolving a company to its next stage of growth and development.

Based on population size, Australia undeniably has talent pools much smaller than the rest of the world. This is why it’s imperative for businesses to both attract and retain workers that are the right cultural fit. In today’s competitive environment, a competitive salary is not a good enough reason for your most talented staff to stay onboard.

A workplace has to be enjoyable, dynamic and challenging for staff. As a Managing Director working in the advertising tech industry, I know firsthand how tricky it can be to find (and keep) talent that has the right skill set and the right attitude to join your team. It’s a competitive world out there, not just for job seekers but for employers as well. If you want the best, you’ve got to compete with a wide range of players from the biggest to the quirkiest. It’s not just about what a potential employee can bring to your business, it’s also what your business can offer them.

While the ad tech industry is particularly competitive, this is a problem that affects all industries and job types. There isn’t one magic formula for attracting fresh new faces and keeping your best staff with you, but if they feel appreciated, engaged and truly share the values of the business, then they will be on your side.

A number of today’s CEOs and directors experienced a strict top­down management style when they were progressing through their careers and may struggle to let this go once they’re in that leadership position themselves. Even in tech companies at the forefront of innovation, some companies are stuck in the ways of the past, much to the disadvantage of their employees and their business. The workplace has changed, and so should the approach.

With so many businesses failing to make the most of their workforce, it pays to be different and to implement a more progressive management style. Try incorporating these tips and you’ll be a breath of fresh air in a cluttered and competitive job market.

1. Have emotional intelligence in the workplace

Emotional intelligence, centered around how people and their relationships function, is key to having happy and satisfied team members.

When the importance of emotional intelligence was first highlighted years ago, it flew in the face of the broadly held assumption that an IQ was the most crucial factor in determining a person’s success. After years of research, emotional intelligence is now recognised as an imperative for fostering happy, productive and effective workers within a business.

Utilising emotional intelligence at work to boost productivity entails understanding your colleagues as individuals, not just a cog in the company machine. You must work hard to define your culture, think about how everyone fits in and provide an environment where team members have autonomy and understanding from upper level management.

Equally important, is focusing on how teams co-operate within an organisation. While it’s often not obvious, there is an overwhelming number of dysfunctional and unhappy teams in many workplaces today. This is because team EI is much more complicated than individual EI. Unhappy teams mean unhappy workers, so it’s vital to invest the time and effort to ensure that the teams in your organisation work happily and effectively together.

Scholars Vanessa Druskat and Steven Wolff have identified emotional intelligence as the most important factor in achieving team effectiveness. Their studies show that if more workers in an office use EI, the more likely it is to enforce and perpetuate team norms of trust, identity and a collective consciousness. The result is ongoing and positive collaboration between teams, leaving individuals feeling as if they have a serious input into the cultural vision of the business.

Emotional intelligence is a big part of modern thinking in business and still ignored by many companies today, much to their detriment. It’s not just a trendy buzzword, it’s one of the single most important factors in fostering a happy and productive workplace.

Work hard to nurture the emotional state of your employees — it’s not easy but it will certainly pay off.

2. Be flexible and supportive

Companies that have an employee focused workplace policy, such as flexible working hours or the option of being able to work from home or a cafe, will very quickly earn a reputation for being a cool place to work. In my opinion, this shouldn’t be an office perk, it should be consistently available in all offices. Showing that you trust your employees to achieve their working targets without the need for a rigid work policy or constant supervision, will foster a positive working environment and inspire your employees to go above and beyond for you. Productivity is a measure of output, not hours spent bent over a desk.

Collective collaboration is fundamental to creating the trust, respect, understanding and transparency required to help foster a high performing culture; alongside any corporate values handed down by the wider organisation, try asking the team to come up with their own values, what do they want the local team to stand for, ask the question – “if you were overhearing a conversation about your team, what would you like to hear?”. Formulating the team values helps everyone be accountable – hold regular “check-in” sessions where members of the team are invited to talk about how they are upholding the collective culture.

3. Make your office a place people want to be

Think about your office and consider whether it’s a place you would want to hang out on a Friday afternoon. Despite the demands of your business and how busy you might be, never underestimate a key desire of many Australian workers, which is to have a great time. Good workers want to work hard, but the best workers will be those who love what they do!

An office with a nice view, a comfortable relaxation area, fitness classes or other fun additions like a ping pong table, will mean that it is a place where people actually want to work every day. If you’re thinking of revamping your office, try asking your workers for feedback around what would make the office a more enjoyable space (within reason). Think about a mood board where your team can make suggestions. Some employers can be concerned about distractions, but I’ve learned that a positive and fun working environment is great for productivity.

4. Have a flat organisational structure

Some think that it’s better to be feared than loved. But if your employees see you as someone who is supportive of their needs and always eager to listen, then you will have an office full of team members who feel valued, and in return, value the business.

Creating a work culture where all employees are encouraged to have input on decisions and projects that impact the business tells them that you respect their opinion. Allowing all team members to contribute in this way will breed innovative approaches and staff who feel invested in the work they do.

No matter how busy things get, don’t forget about an office social life. As a manager you should be the one making sure your staff have fun, and grabbing lunch or drinks together every week can be a great way to do this. It’s also a nice way to get to know people in different areas of the team who you don’t get much interaction with otherwise.

5. Offer more responsibility

Most hard working people enjoy a good challenge. If you feel that a staff member has great potential, try assigning them with a task that is just slightly out of their comfort zone, but with plenty of support should they need it. This will help them to rise to the challenge and extend their skills. It’s important to give people the opportunity to extend themselves so they can develop within their role. They need to be able to see a future with your business.

Don’t feel like you need to stick to the heavily ingrained norms of career progression in your industry. Instead of promoting staff because they have been in a role for the recommended amount of time, elevate staff that have proven themselves, even if they haven’t jumped through conventional hoops. This will show your employees that you truly value their individual work and will encourage them to do their best, no matter whether they’ve been there for 6 months or 6 years.

6. Give them something extra

Instead of simply focusing on a competitive salary, why not consider offering your staff extra training and development? This will allow your staff to keep up with industry changes, be at the forefront of the latest technology developments, increase knowledge and skill, have an edge over your competitors and provide your staff with increased job satisfaction and an incentive to learn.

Offering this ongoing training will make your business stand out from others when hard working employees are looking for potential employers in their job search.

In today’s competitive environment, your employees need to be much more than just ‘satisfied’ in their role. It’s your responsibility to create a supportive work culture that respects and accommodates their individual needs and offers them frequent opportunities for personal and professional development. You must show them that they are valued by the company, or you cannot expect them to do the same.

Jeremy Crooks is the ANZ Managing Director of performance marketing technology company Criteo.

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