Transforming your business with superstar talent
Recent research from McKinsey and Company suggests that the top-performing 5% of employees deliver 95% of value for firms.
With these gold-standard hires clearly having the potential to be transformative for businesses, we held an all-star panel event at The Ivy Club for leading figures in the tech and communications industries to share their perspectives on attracting, hiring and – above all – keeping superstar talent.
These are some of their top tips…
1) Don’t just rip it up and start again, think about whether you might have the right talent, but in the wrong place
If a business or team isn’t operating as it should, it’s too easy to assume that the solution is hiring new talent. But what if you simply needed to switch things around a little?
“It’s too easy to assume that people are only good at one thing, but that’s not necessarily the case. Sometimes you’ve got the right talent, it’s just in the wrong place,” said Justin Roux, Managing Director at Shift Actions. “You need to find roles for people that enable them to bring their ambition to work.”
2) Don’t just look at experience, look at skills and other key indicators too
A person’s work experience will never tell the whole story, so hiring managers need to become adept at spotting the not-so-obvious indicators that can indicate that a person is exceptional, such as achievement in sports. And it’s important to not consider these things in isolation. What may have been easy for one person, for example, may be indicative of huge drive and talent for another person because of their socio-economic background. “It’s important to look at achievements in context. Often the environment in which it was achieved is what makes it so special,” explained Dean Aston, Director of Talent Acquisition at Babylon Health
3) Never forget about the importance of referrals
Whether you advertise your roles, actively headhunt new talent or run a graduate scheme, sometimes there’s no better way to find people who will add value to your business than via, well, the people already adding value: your teams. Harriet Ball, Talent Acquisition Manager at Quiqup said: “Referrals will always be one of the best ways to get talent, so it’s worth doing a lot of internal education about what sort of skills you are looking for and what makes a good referral for the business.”
4) Build robust recruitment processes
Bad hires cost businesses enormously. They waste time and money and can be hugely disruptive. Sometimes, they can even lead you to losing the talent you already have. So the fact that recruitment processes at a senior level can sometimes be conducted in such an informal way is a problem. “Often, hiring processes just aren’t robust enough,” James Madeley, HR Director of Portland Communications commented. He explained: “It’s not enough to just go out for a coffee with someone; if they’re at director level then of course they’re going to be able to have a coffee and a conversation. That doesn’t mean they can do the job.”
5) Don’t panic buy
In fast paced environments such as start-ups and communications, where a big client win can double your headcount requirement almost overnight, there’s often a need to hire new talent very quickly. Dean Aston explained: “Talent teams will often feel pressured to deliver people quickly but I think – maybe controversially – that this should be deprioritised and instead the focus should be on quality. The return on investment will always be so much greater if you get the right person. And the wrong person can really cost a business.” James Madeley agreed, saying: “HR managers don’t like going through capability procedures. You need to ensure you’re getting the right people going into the top of the funnel.”
6) Identify that key USP that will gives you the edge over competitors
Money, money, money – actually that’s not all that matters to job candidates. They want other stuff too, whether that’s the opportunity to enjoy a great work/life balance or be part of something that is going to get everyone talking. Harriet Ball explained that “A lot of people come to us because they want to be part of something pioneering. Don’t just look at packages and money, look at your overall proposition.”
7) Don’t just focus on the people who are already superstars, think about you can help the 95% perform better too
Research may show that it’s the top 5% that create the most value, but focussing on these ‘stars’ to the exclusion of the rest of the talent in the business can be bad news – for the 5% who burn out, the 95% who aren’t being pushed hard enough and the business, which is using all of the talent at its disposal to its true potential. James Madeley explained: “People who are identified as stars become like magnets for opportunities but it’s important to challenge the people making these decisions and start to think more broadly. Running a business on just 5% of talent won’t work, you need to think about the other 95% as well.”
8) Don’t just concentrate on getting talent through the door, make sure you keep them too
It’s no good being brilliant at attracting superstar talent if you’re not very good at keeping it. Once people are through the door, it is important to create a working environment that will make them want to stay. “You need to set the barometer just right in terms of complexity and capability for an individual. They need to be constantly stimulated and the environment needs to be compelling enough to make people want to stay and deliver the best version of themselves,” explained Dean Aston. And James Madeley went further, noting that “you have to be careful to nurture the goose if you want it to lay that golden egg…”