Why Your Business Isn't Attracting Top Talent

Put effort into making your company great, and the great employees will follow.
Founder, BackPocket COO
January 05, 2012

Any time I do speaking events in a city that isn’t New York or London, a lot of leaders complain that their metro area lacks top-tier talent. This always makes me laugh. “There is plenty of talent out there,” I say, “they just don’t want to work for you!”

I am a firm believer that if you become a great company, you’ll have your pick of great employees.

Google is arguably the best company to work for in the world. Their offices are renowned for their funky design and cutting edge amenities. The level of autonomy and focus on innovation are legendary. And yes, their above-average compensation and stock options don’t hurt either.

By creating this outstanding reputation, Google gets to pick and chose from the cream of the crop when recruiting. And as these innovative new hires inject new ideas and create new revenue streams, the company is able to sweeten their recruitment package even more in a self-sustaining spiral of success.

Maybe you don’t have $400 stocks or sushi bars to lure great employees. So what can you use instead?

Start by laying out a clear vision for your company and build it on values that your ideal candidates will relate to. Then, use everything in your arsenal to get word out (PR, networking, social media...fly a banner behind a plane if you have to). If you are building something new, innovative and exciting, people will seek you out.

I’ve always felt that A-level talent attracts A-level talent. So you also have to be cognizant of every hire you make. Compromise, settle or scramble and soon enough you’ll have a team of misfits. Good luck getting any A-level candidate to hop on board with that motley crew.

Don’t be afraid to go out and get the talent you want, either. Most, if not all, of the great employees out there aren’t looking for work, they’re already working. So go out and poach them. It’s not immoral or bad business, it’s just the way it’s done. In fact, I’ve had only two job interviews in my 30 years as a professional. The rest of the time, I’ve been headhunted.

And in a time of cost-cutting, you’d be wise to keep your eyes and ears open for layoffs at companies you respect. As soon as I heard of U.S. hedge fund Fortress buying Intrawest (a Vancouver-based resort operator), I hopped on the phone and spoke to everyone I knew there to spread the word I was hiring.

Intrawest was a profitable, fast-paced company that shared a lot of the same values I did (work-life balance, focus on growth) and I had always had success with folks who had worked there. Job cuts were inevitable, and I wanted to absorb as many of their top people as possible.

Some say it’s a chicken or the egg kind of thing; you need great employees to make your company great, but your company has to already be great to attract employees. Mark my words, put in the hard work to make your company great, and the great employees will follow.

Founder, BackPocket COO