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How to attract and retain the best Talent

Last Thursday our Founder Anna O’Dea was the keynote speaker at Servcorp’s event on how to attract and retain the best Talent for businesses. Interviewed by Katie Deeker, Anna shared key insights she has developed throughout her extensive recruitment career. Here is a recap of Anna’s advice.

Recruitment can be a daunting or difficult task. Why can it be challenging and why do you love it?

Recruitment can be challenging because the stigma surrounding recruiters is very negative. The industry reputation of being unethical and untrustworthy can make it hard for clients and Talent alike to want to work with us. The sales aspect is also hard, the industry has a huge turnover as people aren’t able to keep up with the pressure. It’s also a very competitive industry, with platforms like LinkedIn offering clients the ability to reach Talent directly and cut us (recruiters) out of the equation.

Why do I love it? Everyday, I have the ability to meet new people that I wouldn’t normally cross paths with and change their lives. There is enormous satisfaction in helping someone develop in their career and land their dream job. Working in recruitment has also given me the opportunity to hear incredible stories, in turn leading me to launch the #LeadingLadies series, an interview series dedicated to standing up for issues I care about in the workplace.

What can small businesses do to attract and keep top Talent?

A key point of difference is establishing a great brand and building a great culture. This goes beyond having a fruit bowl in the kitchen. Try offering competitive salaries, workplace flexibility options, giving staff their birthdays off (it’s just one day and means a lot to staff to be able to enjoy their special day), funding professional development or extra paid annual leave over Christmas time.

It’s also important to build a diverse team of all cultures, sex, background and age. Culture is crucial, it’s often workplace culture that makes or breaks an employee and team success.

Showing great leadership is another way to attract and retain top Talent. Start from the top and lead by example. Your juniors are looking to you to implement what you have promised.

Having a clear voice and ensuring you have strict policies in place is important. Examples of this could include a zero tolerance to inappropriate behaviour including bullying, homophobia and transphobia. Again, lead by example by enforcing strict policies (warnings, dismissals).

Giving back to the local community is also helpful. Partner with or support local not for profits you are passionate about, connect with the local community and ensure that there’s more to your business model than pure profit.

How do you make sure you’re hiring the right people?

Ask yourself: is this person big picture, are they strategic? Do they believe in your brand and vision? It’s also important to ask a person what their career aspirations are, where do they want to be in two, five and 10 years time? This will show you their commitment level, and if they plan on sticking around.

I also have new employees meet current staff, or invite one of them to interview with me for a second opinion. In a small team it’s really important that you find the right fit for the group. Another way to test whether they’re appropriate is to invite them in for a paid trial day or two and see firsthand how they work and interact with the team.

How do you build the right team culture, and how do you know if someone is the right cultural fit for your team?

Have processes in place! A great example is having an employee handbook or behavioural guide to ensure staff align with your company values and culture. Culture needs to be set from the leadership team – lead by example.

A positive culture can also be fostered through regular social activities and active teamwork. Get out of the office every quarter, do something that bonds the team. Find what works for your team, it’s different for everyone.

Good work or wins should always be recognised and celebrated. Encourage your team, make sure they’re appreciated.

If someone is causing trouble in the office, act on it quickly. It could spread and affect other team members, so it’s important to address the issue immediately. Inappropriate behaviour or misconduct should never be tolerated.

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What are your top 5 interview questions and why?

1. What do you know about us? Why do we impress you? This tells you straight away if the person has done their homework, or if they are just keen to get a job “anywhere”.

2. Why did you leave your last two roles? It speaks volumes if they are quick to place the blame on others or have a whinge. You’re looking for someone that’s professional and speaks respectfully of people they have worked for.

3. What’s the best way to manage you? This isn’t a trick question! It’s important to understand how others like to be managed and what conditions they do their best work in.

4. Do you work well in a noisy, fast paced office environment? You will know relatively quickly if they suit your workplace and how adaptable they are. Can they work in a fast paced/ noisy/ dog friendly workplace?

5. Have someone else ask a question for you and observe the Talent’s body language. Step back, be neutral. It’s always important to get a second opinion!

Where should businesses go to find the best Talent? What platforms should you use? Is SEEK the only one?

Recruiters of course! Depending on your industry, a recruiter can help you to find the best Talent for the role. Recruiters can also contact you when they come across a Talent who might suit your business perfectly, who you could create a role for. SEEK is not the only job platform. There are many industry websites and job boards you can look at, from LinkedIn and Indeed to more specialised sites like Jora or Mumbrella.

What is the best way to negotiate salary and pay rises?

Make the first move – if you don’t ask, there’s always someone else who will.

Prepare your case – back yourself with supporting evidence such as client references, great results or feedback that shows the value you’re adding and get a date in the diary with your boss!

Have a specific figure in mind before going into a meeting with your boss. The more prepared you are with facts, figures and supporting evidence, the more likely you’ll prove you’re worth that pay rise.

Practice your pitch so you’re prepared. Confidence is key. Make sure you speak clearly, have positive body language and make eye contact.

Negotiate benefits – money isn’t everything! You could ask for additional paid leave, a sabbatical after a number of years’ service, flexible working hours/work from home days, paid wellbeing classes, gym memberships, car parks and so on.

What should you do when you realise you’ve hired the wrong person? How do you minimise costs or damages?

Act quickly – don’t let issues fester, they’ll explode down the track. Address issues immediately, especially if it’s a cultural problem that can turn toxic and affect other employees.

Have open conversations with your staff, be honest and transparent. Get feedback from other members of the team, and have evidence of why the Talent in question is wrong for the job and how.

How important are reference checks?

Very important. Someone can make a CV look great and present well in an interview, but end up having a few skeletons in the closet. It’s important to talk to at least two previous managers or colleagues (not friends) to get a sense of how the Talent works.

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