We've all been bored senseless about the ‘war for talent’ - a terrible phrase made up to highlight that it’s difficult to find people that have the skills you want.
In my world, it’s called development, and finding great people and giving them the skills over time, albeit the same rules apply.
I believe the far bigger issue is finding the great people to start with. Here, I’m talking about finding people that believe what you believe. Of the great many people that you could employ, what sets everyone apart? In my view, you'll be drawn to those that believe what you believe - values, ethics, how to get things done (or how not to) and your general swagger.
Creating a deep connection
I believe one of the biggest challenges you will face is being super clear about what you really believe in. I’m not talking about the usual crap that businesses string out, like 'be passionate’, or ‘act with integrity’, or ‘be honest'. Like people need to be told to act with integrity and not to lie – I’ve got a 3-year-old who I’m telling that to!
I’m talking about some much more intrinsic. It’s about creating something that hits you, your people and candidates deep within the soul. The thing(s) that makes you want to do interesting work, that gets you out of bed early in the morning and keeps you interested, interested like you would do the job for free.
They believe what you believe, and they believe in you as a result.
Time to focus on development, not performance
I had the privilege to work with a business recently that was that dream personified. What I found so refreshing about it was that not once in the months I was there did I ever hear anyone talk about money. ("Yeah right Steve, that’s crap," I hear you say. Well, I’m not kidding. Not once.)
I heard a lot about people, quality, detail, provenance, care and was immersed in a bunch of people that really gave a shit. But no talk of money. "Well, Steve," I hear you say, "they can’t be ‘successful’ or make cash...what about the line ‘if you can’t measure it you can’t manage it’?". And I say, it’s a wildly successful company, topping all sorts of measures. But money is a by-product of that work, not the reason to do it in the first place.
They believe if you create a great place to be, and treat your people unbelievably well, surrounding them with like-minded people at the top of their game and focus on development, not performance, they will deliver results. Rather than the usual approach of ‘we need to make £xm this year so let’s find some people that can help us to deliver that…' it's a pretty fundamental change in viewpoint.
Attract those who believe what you believe
In a world where everyone wants to talk to ‘people from Google’, my strong view is that a company alone cannot be the benchmark for success, an ethos has to be. An ethos of ethics, carving your own path, quality, being nice and giving a shit about your people (and I mean a real shit, not the ‘people are our most important asset’ crap which BTW we can all smell a mile off now and those that have to say it, don’t think it and rarely act like it).
An ethos, a belief or a set of beliefs, attracts those that believe. Simon Sinek articulates this so well as part of the Golden Circle talks. But it’s true. It’s not an ideal. I believe it, I've done it, seen it and now I only want to work with businesses who believe what I believe.
It’s very self-fulfilling ethos if you think about it. Firstly, you automatically attract people who believe what you believe. They will want to be part of it and you can choose who joins, and weed out who doesn’t quite fit. The work that you do is by default interesting and fulfilling, you will be respected as a result, and such people will want it to be successful. No one lets anyone fail, why would you? There are very few, if any, real politics and because you all have a common interest and goal, you tend to be friends, not just ‘colleagues’. Oh and it also makes you a great hire for anyone else for the rest of your career should you have the privilege to get in.
There is a downside however (there’s always a downside) - it's bloody hard work. It’s a constant test. Every decision, every communication, every meeting, every hire, every fire, every cross word. Everything. Always. And that’s hard because it takes getting it wrong once to spoil it, for it to go, disappear and it’s hard to get back. Why? Because those that believe in what you believe, won’t any more, and then you're just like everyone else.
And who wants to be that..?