“If you get the gig, where would you want to work after here?”
As a recruitment specialist, my ears pricked up.
I heard this conversation in a coffee bar this week. Actually, I was already pretty fascinated because the conversation was a job interview between a radio presenter and a radio station boss and it’s not every day that you get to eavesdrop upon such a chat.
The presenter was coy, saying the kind of things that she probably thought the boss wanted to hear about long term commitment but the boss pressed on and eventually she revealed a dream to work for Radio 1.
“Great,” said the boss, “if you come to work with us we’ll work every day honing your act so that you’re good enough to work for Radio 1.”
Coaching talent to be more able to get their next job … what an interesting approach to recruitment. As the manager gathered his coat afterwards I asked him about it.
“It gives me a sense that I’m hiring someone who is on their way up the career ladder,” he told me, adding, “and it gives us a working quality benchmark that is aspirational and not naggy. You get more out of your talent if they believe that you’re on their side beyond this job and not just coaching them to deliver what the station needs.”
It’s a thought, isn’t it? A talent partnership.
Could you start a recruitment interview in this way? Would it even work for IT Recruitment?
It reminded me of the book ‘The Alliance: Managing Talent in the Networked Age’ by LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman in which he explores how the employer/employee relationship has changed. Managers can’t offer lifetime employment but still need to build something that will last. The challenge is doing that when you are actively encouraging talent to behave like free agents.
The solution that Hoffman and his co-authors Ben Casnocha and Chris Yeh came up with was to embrace the reality. Stop trying to create a family atmosphere for employees where if your face fits you’re locked in forever but don’t think of them as free agents either. Start thinking of talent as allies on a ‘tour of duty’ with your mission.
It’s an alliance that is held together by mutual benefits. As an employer you invest in your talent with a monthly deposit in their bank account, you maybe give them future opportunities with your organisation (without a promise of a ‘job for life’) but more than that you mentor them (you make them ‘next job ready’) – you invest in their market value!
In return, they invest in your organisation’s success by providing their talent, creativity, energy and experience for the duration of the alliance. Then, at the end of the ‘tour of duty,’ you meet up to re-evaluate the relationship and agree upon what happens next.
The radio manager in the coffee shop seemed to feel liberated by embracing the reality that his talent will eventually leave. Indeed, in the book ‘The Alliance’ it is encouraged that you actually have conversations with your employees about what their dream job would be and then explore how to align day to day activities so that both you and they are sticking to a chosen path.
If you think about it from the talent’s point of view it makes sense.
A career is more than a job, especially these days where contracts can last just a day. They want success and the feeling that they are advancing on a daily basis and if you can’t give them a guarantee of long term work then you’ll have to come up with something else to keep them engaged and get a maximum return on your investment.
There is a tangible pressure on IT staff to be ready for their next job but the last thing that your IT Project portfolio needs is talent working for you but with half their attention diverted by this unknown future. A Gallup poll in the US found that 70% of workers were not engaged in their work, if this is true of IT teams it is perhaps not a surprise that so many projects struggle.
However, when you have the conversation when you agree to align their time with you with their career hopes and dreams you’ll find that they relax and engage. They seek out ways to gather career-advancing skills whilst on the job and that benefits them in the long term and you right now. It’s transformational – your talent grows their portfolio of skills and experience and your business is transformed by the accomplishment of specific missions.
In many ways, it’s like taking the agile project management methodology, where you adapt on a continual basis to achieve a specific well-defined goal, and applying it to IT recruitment. The important thing from your point of view as the hirer is how ready you are to adapt. You need to have a continuous rolling recruitment strategy or get a recruitment partner who will get to know your culture, missions and ambitions and keep a constant eye on the talent market so you’re ready should your best talent find something new.
Embracing the fact that talent moves on doesn’t make it happen any quicker, though.
Paradoxically, Reid Hoffman says on his website, “Acknowledging that your employees might leave, is how you build the relationship that convinces great people to stay.” The tour of duty approach or entering into a partnership with your talent builds trust incrementally as you commit to shorter steps which are based on deliverable, specific promises.
The radio station manager committed to making his presenter good enough for a major national station. In return, he gets a major national station mindset working on his brand. By helping your talent improve to the level of their greatest aspirations you’ll end up with world class talent working on yours.