War for talent: the tables (and the chairs) have turned

The entire IT industry is struggling with the same fundamental problem: plenty of opportunity to grow, but not enough talent available to realize the potential growth. How do you create a sustainable HR policy in order to keep your talent from leaving too soon? And why does a job interview nowadays feel a lot like an episode of ‘The Voice’?

For those among you who aren’t regular viewers of the program, the first part of ‘The Voice’ is all about candidates trying to convince the coaches of their vocal talents. The coaches are listening with their back towards the candidates and when they would like to add them to their teams, they turn their chair. But when several coaches have showed interest in the same candidate, they suddenly need to sell themselves instead of just welcoming them to the team.

That’s how we often feel nowadays during job interviews: at first, we try to gauge the candidate’s potential for our team, and when we are convinced of their talent, we suddenly becomes salesmen trying to sell our company and this particular vacancy. Unlike the coaches in ‘The Voice’, however, we shouldn’t sell ourselves too obviously, as this can only lead to an unbalanced negotiation and false expectations.

Candidates who apply hoping they will earn sky-high salaries, are usually not the ones we are looking for. We are looking for people who can be passionate about something, and who can apply this passion to their job. That is our number one criterium in each hiring process, and if we don’t feel that spark of passion, we don’t even have to bother about the negotiation.

Next, even if we do feel a complete fit and their passion is clearly present, we should not be tempted to start a bidding war for the candidate. Eventually, this would reduce the hiring process to a meat market, and you might end up with an employee that is clearly motivated by money in the first place and therefore more likely to be headhunted very quickly. Additionally, this could lead to big salary differences within the team, a perfect recipe for growing dissatisfaction among the employees. And obviously it does weigh on the company budget.

The next challenge following the hiring stage is to create a fulfilling work environment, which allows each employee to thrive in their role while optimally contributing to the organization’s objectives. There are several ways to meet this challenge. A first contributor to employee retention is definitely to ensure a personal coaching and mentoring program throughout their career within your organization. At Orange Cyberdefense we provide no less than three ‘coaches’: one being the functional coach, the person they report to; the second is the career coach, offering guidance on what could be the next step in their career and what they would need to get there; the third coach serves as a personal guide, explaining the company processes, what to get where, and other useful information about the company. Each of these roles is assumed by a different person, for each employee. The result is that the employees can already rely on this selection of colleagues and feel at home and supported from the start.

A second, equally important contributor to employee retention is the wide array of education and training opportunities that we offer to all. Organizations that fail to understand the importance of lifelong learning, will eventually end up with all motivated talent having left the company and the remaining ones not able to keep up with the changing requirements and conditions.

Last but not least: you should provide enough opportunities for your talent to evolve in different directions within your organization. The question “where do you see yourself five years from now?” can be a very interesting one but not for the same reasons as before. Candidates used to answer very diplomatically with a combination of ambition and team spirit, hoping that they would fit in with the expectations. Nowadays, the best answer would be: “I couldn’t possibly know”. When we acquire new skills and get to know new industries, technologies etc., we may become passionate about something completely different than before. If you fail to allow these employees to follow this new passion, you will probably see them heading for new opportunities with another employer. Maybe you should consider a system where employees can spend part of their time on their pet projects, following the example of technology companies such as Google or Dell EMC.

One final consideration: you will not always win each battle in the war for talent. Sometimes good candidates will find a better fit with competing organizations. Other times they will set sail for other horizons. This has always been the case and it will never change. But if you manage to create a stimulating environment for your talent to be passionate about what they do, you will undoubtedly manage to replace the departing talent with an equally passionate and talented individual.

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