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Guide to Growth: How to recruit and retain excellent staff

Finding, developing and retaining the best talent is vital to delivering growth and should be a key priority for all businesses.

However, only 50% of organisations considered themselves “good” or “excellent” at attracting key talent, and only 49% thought they were winning the “war for talent” versus their competition,  a 2018 survey by international human resources network and research institute Corporate Research Forum (CRF) showed.

So, how can growing businesses attract and retain the best talent?

The balance of power is now, more than ever, shifting from employers towards candidates, says John Whelan, associate director at CRF: “Competition for top talent is stronger than ever. And businesses of all sizes are having to become ever more inventive in developing resourcing strategies, employer branding and employee value propositions to engage the best candidates.”

To attract talent, Whelan says it is first still important to adapt corporate principles to smaller business.

He advises that your resourcing strategy must be clearly linked to your business strategy, so that recruitment is planned rather than reactive, and stresses that it should be “underpinned by organisational psychology”, with evidence-based recruitment methods and “clarity around what drives high performance in your environment”. He recommends including “clear measures and feedback loops” to improve the process for future candidates.

“The whole candidate experience has to be managed carefully,” adds Richard Cowlishaw, group HR director at Clipper Logistics. “How you engage with potential candidates is fundamentally important, from the initial engagement piece – that could be the job advert – through the initial communication and interaction between the employer and the candidate, the actual interview process, and the environment in which the interview or interviews take place, through to the conclusion, whatever the outcome.”

He argues that without this full engagement, candidates are likely to become “disillusioned and isolated”: “These first impressions are crucial, particularly in candidate-led situations, where there is greater freedom of choice. The best talent will be highly attuned to their initial encounters with a prospective employer and [these] will, in some part, influence their decision-making.”

It is also key to be as swift as possible in your decision making, says Victoria Nightingale, retail and consumer partner at executive search firm Bailey Montagu: “Dragging a process out over weeks can make a candidate consider if this is a business that can’t make decisions and so would they really want to be there.” 

However, employee value proposition is key in keeping your staff, says Whelan, who warns that “at any time it is likely that a majority of your employees are either actively or passively seeking opportunities elsewhere”.

“Those joining your business want to see evidence that it has a clear, honourable and sustainable purpose, the opportunity to develop both personally and professionally, and permanent flexibility,” he adds.

This is an area where small businesses have the advantage, says Whelan, as it is easier to engage the entire workforce in a small company and therefore retain them as they are closer to the leadership and company’s purpose.

To support development, he stresses the need for a clear career path supported by continuous learning, with “the opportunity to train and retrain as business needs evolve”.

He also advises that the need for modern flexibility means not just the chance to work part-time following parental leave, for instance, but a variety of flexible options to support lifestyle and family commitments.

Nightingale agrees that younger talent “want the chance to try different functions and grow their skill set rather than being siloed”. She suggests offering mentoring programmes and work experience days for staff to try a new role.

“Just paying a bonus isn’t all people look for now – recognition can come in lots of different guises, and breadth and scope of challenge and progression is key,” she says, stressing the need for “engagement and making people feel important and needed at all levels.”

Our new advice portal for retailers and brands, Guide to Growth, aims to solve the problems and challenges fashion businesses encounter as they grow. Email your questions to associate editor graeme.moran@emap.com and we will get them answered. 

Plus, read our Growth in a Changing Economy report here to learn how fast-growth brands and retailers are overcoming barriers to growth. 

Drapers’ Guide to Growth programme is produced in partnership with Clipper.

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