With technology evolving at an ever-increasing pace, our roles and our relationship with work are changing. Companies and industries embracing AI and emerging tech need a team that isn’t necessarily experienced, but is agile. They need people who can embrace change with ease and curiosity.
Finding and retaining such talent has been a hot topic among Entrepreneurs’ Organization members in recent years, with the pandemic hangover presenting a skilled worker shortage and remote work becoming the new norm.
I spoke with members of Entrepreneurs’ Organization across Australia to find out how they are approaching these challenges and building future-ready, often remote teams.
When it comes to hiring and retaining top talent, Fastuca has these three tips:
- Have a clear understanding of required skills: “To hire the best talent with the skills needed for a digitized future, businesses need to have a clear understanding of the specific skills required for their industry and job roles. Crafting job descriptions that accurately reflect the technical and soft skills required for the job is essential.”
- Create an environment of growth: “To retain top talent, businesses need to create a work environment that fosters growth and development. Offering training programs, mentorship opportunities and a clear career path can help keep employees engaged and motivated. Providing competitive compensation and benefit packages, as well as a positive company culture, can also help retain top talent.”
- Offer internal opportunities: “One example of a company that excels in hiring and retaining top talent is Amazon. It offers a wide range of training and development programs, including an internal job posting system that allows employees to apply for new job opportunities within the company. Amazon also offers competitive compensation packages and benefits, such as health insurance, retirement savings plans and paid time off.”
Co-Founder, The Tactical Tradie
“Culture is king,” Briggs emphasises. She emplores leaders to systemise their culture using the following foundations:
- Adapt or die: “In an ever-evolving digital landscape, employees need to keep their skills relevant. Offering development and upskilling opportunities keeps employees engaged.”
- Work to live, not live to work: “Flexible working arrangements are almost an expectation. Options include remote working, working longer hours with longer weekends and staff choosing their own start and finish times. Promoting a work–life balance leads to loyalty, job satisfaction and increased performance.”
- Pay peanuts, get monkeys: “Hire less staff and pay them what they’re worth. Get creative with compensation packages, what might be important to one (base salary, incentives) may be different to another (additional leave, stock options).”
- Purpose is pivotal: “Communicate your company’s purpose and BHAG (big hairy audacious goal) throughout the company. Get staff rallied behind what the company stands for, where it’s going and what’s in it for them.”
- A leader’s role is to be a direct support, not to have direct reports: “Foster a positive work environment that ignites innovation and empowers staff, ensure employees are clear on what success looks like and provide regular feedback.”
- And lastly, “dare to be different”.
Founder and CEO, Parity Consulting
For Butt, learning from the perspectives of current and departing employees is key. To do this, she recommends the following:
- Stay interviews: “Typically, when someone leaves a business, they will complete an exit interview and the business can try to learn from the feedback provided to help other employees. Stay interviews catch problems and issues before they become so bad where someone needs to resign.”
- Manager once removed mentor sessions: “This gives the junior team member regular access to their manager’s manager. This is very powerful for inclusion and can provide a safe space for people to share their views openly.”
- Incentives that are in line with the employees’ values: “This is a bit like when you receive a Christmas present that you do not like. How do you feel? Receiving an incentive which is incongruent to your preferences often does not land well (and is a waste of money). Some of my team value financial incentives over all else, and others value thoughtful exclusive time with their leader. Therefore I tend to give three options each time we run incentive programs. Each incentive will appeal to a different type of person.”
“To find the best staff, we need to understand what motivates them and hire accordingly. Commitment, integrity and a shared passion for the work we do are all essential qualities that I look for when hiring,” Anderton explains.
- Craft an accurate job ad: “When hiring talent, really understand the job role, your company culture and what is required to succeed in the role. Then craft a job ad that stands out and a recruitment process that surfaces ‘A’ players. Using tools such as LinkedIn recruiter to cast a wide net for potential candidates, including outside Australia, has succeeded in sourcing great talent for Butterfly.”
- Retention is a multi-dimensional issue: “Top performing staff must be challenged and supported, the company culture must foster success, and underperforming staff need to be developed or moved on. Company culture trumps pay, but the biggest secret in recruitment is to screen out job hoppers who switch roles every two years. The number one reason for people to leave is they don’t like their manager, so that must be constantly considered.”
- Look beyond the resume: “Finding the best staff is a critical task for any organization, and it requires a thorough understanding of what makes a good fit for both the company and the employee. The key to hiring the right staff is to understand why the job will be good for them and hire accordingly. This means looking beyond just the qualifications on paper and understanding the individual’s motivations, values and goals.”
- Make sure these align with your own: “It is also important to find employees who are aligned with the company’s mission and values and who will be committed to the long-term success of the organization. This means looking for candidates who share our integrity and ethics and who are passionate about the work we do. By taking the time to understand what makes a good fit for both the company and the employee, we can build a strong and committed team that will help us achieve our goals and succeed in the long run.”
- Seek out evidence of commitment: “One important factor I consider when hiring is the candidate’s ability to commit. Whether it’s demonstrated through a previous job or a university degree, seeing that someone has stuck with something shows that they have the ability to see things through and a commitment to follow through on their goals. Even if their degree is not directly related to the position they are applying for, this type of dedication speaks volumes about their character and work ethic.”
CEO, Promotions Warehouse
Hiring and retaining top talent with the skills needed for a digitized future can be a challenge for businesses of all sizes, Boyle explains. With the rapid pace of technological change, it’s essential to stay ahead of the curve and ensure your workforce is equipped with the latest skills and knowledge.
- Invest in training and development: “One way to attract and retain digital talent is to offer training and development opportunities. By investing in your employees’ skills and knowledge, you show a commitment to their growth and development, which can help to build loyalty and foster a positive company culture. For example, IBM offers a range of training programs and certification courses to help its employees stay up-to-date with the latest digital trends and technologies.”
- Offer flexible working arrangements: “In today’s digital age, many employees value flexibility and work–life balance. By offering flexible working arrangements, such as remote working options or flexible hours, you can attract and retain digital talent who prioritize work–life balance. For example, Dell has implemented a flexible work policy that allows employees to work from home or alternate work locations.”
- Create a positive company culture: “A positive company culture can help to attract and retain top talent. By fostering a supportive and inclusive environment, you can create a sense of community and belonging that makes employees want to stay with your company long-term. For example, Google has a well-known company culture that includes perks such as free meals, on-site gyms and a relaxed dress code.”
- Offer competitive compensation packages: “While it’s important to offer more than just money, competitive compensation packages can help to attract and retain top digital talent. Make sure you research market salaries and offer benefits such as health care, retirement plans and stock options to show your commitment to your employees’ financial wellbeing.”
- Emphasize purpose and impact: “Many digital professionals are driven by a sense of purpose and a desire to make a positive impact. By emphasizing the purpose and impact of your company’s work, you can attract and retain digital talent who are motivated by more than just a paycheck. For example, Tesla’s mission to accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable energy attracts employees who are passionate about making a positive impact on the environment.”
“By taking these steps, businesses can build a strong, committed workforce that is equipped with the skills and knowledge needed for a digitized future,” Boyle says.
Founder, Spark CFO
For Tucker, hiring and creating space for flexibility is key for any business:
- Hire to meet the needs of employees: “For us that means hiring remote workers who are able to work flexible hours. This gives access to talent located in remote or regional areas in Australia who don’t want to move into the city to get a good job with good pay.”
- Offer flexibility to all: “Equally allowing flexible and part-time hours gives us access to experienced and talented employees who might be working parents who want more flexibility in the roles to be around for their kids more. However, we’re finding that it’s not just parents who want reduced hours or greater flexibility, but increasingly we’re finding employees want to have more time and flexibility so they also have time to pursue other activities like extra study. This doesn’t just give us access to talent, but by giving employees the flexibility they want, it also means our staff retention rates are extremely high. Our current retention rate for employees is 100 percent.”
CEO, Leadership Engineers
Gupta believes hiring people who are the best talent requires three things:
- Best talent is driven: “They work fast, love challenges and have incentives that match their interests and passions. These may include a four-day week or cash bonuses or tickets to the theater. When they exceed their tasks, reward them.”
- Park your ego: “The best talent is often smarter than you. You want to hire people that are smarter than you and that can create a better way of doing things. Let them create and don’t control them from ego or mistrust that they are not doing the right thing.”
- Hire for the future: “Look at what your organization structure needs to be in a year’s time and hire those people. Things like ChatGPT are changing things very quickly. Hire for the future not the present or the past.”
Founder, Aldea Consulting
Creating an individualised and positive experience for employees is key for Aldea. “At the end of the day, someone that has had a great experience working with you becomes your best brand ambassador.”
- Have a positive company image: “In our experience, attracting and retaining the best talent has a lot to do with brand awareness and brand reputation. It has nothing to do with fancy offices or outrageous packages.”
- Understand individual needs: “Our business has a particular level of obsession with human behavior, making our focus on understanding the individual and their needs to help predict what is the best role for them. That, followed by an important dose of self-awareness of who we are as a company and what we can and cannot offer. When we meet a candidate, we believe we can help them grow professionally by offering them a role that is appropriately remunerated, role expectations are consistent with the person’s lifestyle while the professional challenge is constantly evolving. We believe the person should join us, and so we will do our best to make it happen.”
- Expect priorities to change: “Retention is a reflection of how sustainable those priorities can continually be met, understanding that most of the time those priorities change and we can’t meet them forever. The key is anticipating that moment by always having a succession plan in the make.”