Attracting Top Performers

By Donald Cooper

Attracting top performers is the number one challenge facing every business in the world today. I doubt this is a temporary problem. There seems to be a fundamental shift in the attitude towards work on the part of a large segment of the population in the western world.

One of my big fears is employers are now hiring people who have no possibility of performing as required or honouring the business culture. It’s going to cost a fortune and create great disruption to get rid of them, including wrongful dismissal lawsuits, when these folks become intolerable.

In spite of how challenging it is to attract, engage and retain top-performers, we must keep trying. It’s still true the best people have to work for someone, it’s just that we have to deserve them. To help you out, I’ve created a check list of 20 key areas you can work on to make your business the preferred supplier of meaningful employment.

Note: Some of the key points below raise tough questions that will require real soul-searching, self-awareness and guts to answer honestly. Denying reality doesn’t change reality – so give it your best shot.

In which of the following key areas must we improve to attract, engage and retain top performers?

  1. We’ve not clearly defined who we’re looking for. How do we improve our clarity? Do we have updated ‘outcomes-based’ job descriptions?
  2. We’re not looking in the right places. Where should we be looking? Where are the people we need working, living or being educated right now? Are we using online employment sites like Indeed, Monster and Zip Recruiter?
  3. Our industry is perceived negatively by our target employees. What can we do to honestly change that perception?
  4. The word is out that we’re a toxic or dead-end employer. What makes us toxic and what will we do to change that negative perception?
  5. Our employment interview process makes us look unprofessional. Or poor screening or our desperation to ‘find bodies’ during the interview stage lets the wrong people in. What are the interview process best practices of world-class companies from which we can learn?
  6. We’re not effectively ‘selling’ top candidates on the culture, benefits and opportunities we offer. How can we do a better ‘sales job’? Do we have a classy company brochure or, even better, a video that tells our company story, states our values, explains why what we do matters, talks about market leadership, customer and environmental commitments, pay and benefits, employee health and safety, how we help our community and includes quotes from delighted employees about what a great career choice we are?
  7. During the recruitment process, we describe the job, our business culture or the career opportunities in terms that are not realistic or true, so many of our new hires leave in a few months in frustration. What will we do to become more truthful during the interview process and to fix the employment experience so that we can attract top performers without deceiving and then disappointing them?
  8. Our ‘pay – benefit – work-life balance – vacation package’ is not competitive. How do we make our package competitive and still make a profit? What improvements in operational efficiency are required to make that happen? In which parts of the business?
  9. Our hours or rules of work don’t fit with most people’s lifestyle. How can we improve these or compensate for them?
  10. Our location works against us. How can we overcome that? What bold, innovative thinking might be required?
  11. Lack of effective on-boarding and ongoing training. How can we create world-class onboarding and ongoing training and development?
  12. Negative (toxic) culture and environment. Which aspects of our culture need improving and how will we do that?
  13. Lack of respect, diversity and inclusion. How do we become more respectful and welcoming of a variety of people, backgrounds, experience and ideas?
  14. Incompetent, ineffective or abusive supervision and / or management. Do we have the quality and competence of supervisors and managers top-performers want to work for? If not, who and what needs fixing or replacing?
  15. Poor ongoing communication. Little or no feedback – mostly negative. How do we improve the quality and quantity of our communication?
  16. Supervisors or managers who don’t listen. Our front-line people know stuff and they hate it when we don’t listen! How do we score on listening and how do we improve that score?
  17. Lack of praise, acknowledgement, celebrations, joy or hugs. How will we create a culture of joy, appreciation and celebration?
  18. Lack of meaningful work or they don’t know why their job is important. How will we help each team member understand the importance of their job to the customer, the team and to our bottom line.
  19. Lack of opportunity to grow. We rarely discuss career wishes and opportunities with our team members, so the best ones leave for career opportunities elsewhere. How and when will we start those conversations with each of our team members?
  20. Dishonesty, broken promises. Do we ever mislead, make promises we don’t keep, or outright lie to any of our team members? What do we commit to do to stop that immediately?

For every decision you make to improve performance in any of these 20 key areas, get specific about what will be done, by whom, by when, at what cost, with what outcomes, measured how and rewarded how. This is how stuff gets done!

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