A couple of days ago, I got a call from a recruiter. There was a supposed ‘senior’ role in her company they wanted to fill and my name came up.
Well, it was pleasing that my name came up in respect to something other than bills, allowances and pocket money. I’d always believed that the only people who thought about me were my wife and creditors. These days I can’t tell the difference between the two.
Back to this charming recruiter. I asked her what company was recruiting and if she could give me details about the role. I got sketchy information. She told me I’ll know more about the role and company when I come in for a chat. The next day. She had called me at close of business.
Sketchy job details. I totally get it. Maybe the CIA is recruiting from around here. Jason Bourne is finally retiring and they are thinking succession planning. Oh, I’m so game! I’m totally whacking some people from my past.
Piqued now, I asked her to send me a job description. She agreed to. She sent it the next day. With her personal email address. She asked me to confirm my availability for a chat the next day.
Hmm. Maybe it isn’t the CIA hiring after all. Maybe it is Count Dracula running out of blood. I’ll pass.
I contrast that experience with another one I had a few weeks earlier. Another recruiter had sent me an email about an opportunity with one of their clients. He asked for an appropriate time to call me to discuss the opportunity in detail. We agreed a day and time. We had a good call. It was respectful and detailed. He tried to sell me on the company and thought I was a great fit for the role and company. I ended the call with a very favourable impression of the hiring company. Only a great company could have hired such a great recruiter. Like Master Oogway said, “there are no accidents.”
Just as every brand touch point is important in reeling a consumer in, every interaction between a company and its talent targets must also exude quality. When you walk into an Apple Store, you get the feeling that the company cares deeply about the products it puts out and how it comes across to consumers. The geniuses on hand to answer all your questions, the elegant and minimalist layout of the store, the product packaging, the in-store communication…you can’t but leave with a very good impression of the company and its brands. It’s the same with Disneyland. Same with Starbucks.
Similarly, interaction with company recruiters or members of staff are also brand touch points for a candidate. The antenna of top talents are always taking in stimuli like tone of communication, speed and quality of emails, body language of recruiters and hiring managers at the interview, openness throughout the recruitment process and passion of the hiring manager or recruiter. They are thinking ‘is it gonna be Sunnyville around here or is it going to be Mordor?‘
I also recall the experience of a friend many years ago. He was interviewing at one of Nigeria’s top banks. He was head-hunted and had gone through a couple of interviews. The last interview in the process was with the CEO.
They scheduled a date for him to meet with the CEO. It was on a Sunday. At 10 am. He got to the venue at 9:30 am. The CEO came in at 1 pm. The hiring manager and HR informed him that a candidate was waiting to see him. He told them the candidate could wait. My friend could hear the conversation.
At about 3 pm, the hiring manager went in again to inform the CEO that the candidate was still waiting. My friend would have to wait a bit more.
At 8 pm, the hiring manager and HR went in again to inform the CEO that the candidate was still waiting. The CEO was irritated at being ‘harassed.’ He called off the interview and told the hiring manager to inform my friend to come back at a date to be communicated to him.
My friend was having none of it. He told the hiring manager to perish any thought of him coming back. He left.
There’s a global war for top talent. Companies strive to outdo one another to attract the best talents. In Nigeria however, it appears that it is an employers’ market. The employer is king and talents must scrape and bow before it.
But the best talents don’t and won’t. They are drawn to companies that respect and value them, and who have a great culture. They can usually sense these during the recruitment process. If a great talent accepts a job in a less-than-desirable company, that job will be no more than a ‘survival job.’ A job to tide him or her over till the right opportunity comes.
A company can have great brands but not be a great place to work. To many discerning talents, company reputation is just as powerful an attraction as compensation.
When I graduated from the university, it was fashionable to seek employment in banking. After all, banks were the biggest employers of labour outside of the government, and well, there was a certain allure to maniacally starched shirts and a call card that proclaimed Platinum Bank. Curiously, many of my friends handed out their call cards more to Unilag chicks than to business prospects. Clearly Unilag chicks had more money than I gave them credit for.
But there were a few lads who sought out opportunities with FMCGs and other non-financial institutions. The Procter & Gambles. The Guinnesses. The Coca-Colas. Unilever, Price Water House, Arthur Anderson and others.
These companies were deemed blue-chip. They had great cultures, great brands, great reputation and consistently espoused their values. They could send an entry-level hire for training or secondment outside the country. It was no big deal. It was fun working for these companies and many top talents flocked to them like a moth to a fire.
While remuneration will always be considerable in attracting top talents, company culture and reputation are also key motivators. Just as consumers seek out information before they make any significant purchase, so also do top talents seek information about a suitor. They go online, they ask friends, colleagues; they check company website, visit Glassdoor and ask the company employees. I know companies whose employees actively canvass against the company to potential hires. Yikes!
While a great organisational culture and brand are easier to create when a company is young, much older businesses can still do something about a moribund culture or declining company-brand.
The first step is to admit that the culture is broken. Sometimes executive management tends to see the company through their own tinted lenses. They may need outside help to see their company the way the employees and the public see it.
Second, they have to determine what culture they want to have and executive management have to start living it. Not pass it down the line through HR. Be the change you want to see. Richard Branson is irreverent. Virgin is irreverent. Live and breathe the culture everyday. It requires perseverance and determination, but the rewards are great. I’ll encourage you to read Delivering Happiness by Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos.
I leave you with this image of an extremely talented guy. Genius!