As recruitment surges again, brands need purpose to compete for talent

With the economy and hiring rebounding from the pandemic, brands need to seek diversity of thought and understand top candidates want to do meaningful work.

A plethora of respected sources and my own observations tell me that, in spite of the fact that we are still in the grip of Covid-19, still living with significant social distancing restrictions and over 2 million people on furlough, the economy seems to recovering. Phew.

According to the CBI, buoyed by the vaccination programme and in the expectation of the easing of lockdown, the economy is set to grow by 8.2% this year and by 6.1% next year. IHS Markit and the Chartered Institute of Procurement and Supply (CIPS) have reported the biggest May surge in business and consumer spending in the UK services sector for the last 25 years.

All good signs, which I hope will bring much needed relief from the challenges of the past 15 months.

Tucked below the headlines were reports from employers and recruiters about the strong rate of hiring – one headhunter recently told me they were experiencing the fastest growth since 1997. Again, great news, but something which should cause some pause for thought for us as employers. We will need to act swiftly and decisively if we are to bring the right people to our business and to keep them.

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To prepare for the race for talent, it is essential that you do a full and frank audit of your employer brand, so you can understand current perceptions of your organisation and review if and how you need to change them.

You will need to look for people in different places and work with different partners to identify the right people for your business. I advise clients to stop insisting that candidates have particular degrees from particular universities, but rather ask themselves what skills and attributes are really required for a successful candidate to start the role and be successful.

Once you liberate yourself from this mindset, you will find yourself in a world with many more possibilities. It will almost certainly mean you will have a bigger pool to start with. Yes, you will have to spend more effort sifting candidates – I favour asking candidate to do a task related to the role at the start of the process – but in my experience the process will produce better results.

Diversity of experience

But identifying candidates is just the beginning. You need to land them.

Increasingly, candidates and existing employees want more than a salary in exchange for their work. They want to feel they working in a vibrant organisation whose vision and values they share, whose purpose inspires them, and which makes them feel welcome and valued.

Delivering on these expectations means having credible and effective strategies around diversity and inclusion, and learning and development; as well as having a clear purpose, and meaningful and well-articulated values.

If it were all about the money, we would all be investment bankers. Just pay people fairly.

And beyond what you pay, demonstrate your commitment to your colleagues by investing in them. Provide good learning and development opportunities, tailored to their needs as much as yours, and make it easy for them to take up those opportunities.

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Vibrant organisations are diverse organisations. Places where people with different experiences, expertise and perspectives come together to solve business problems are more successful than those where everyone looks and thinks the same.

Looking for candidates in different places and identifying them in different ways will help increase the diversity of your recruitment pool. Creating an inclusive culture in which everyone feels they belong will help you keep them. In every organisation I have worked in and work with, this is a continuous task.

Diversity inevitably means that people will have different views: we won’t always agree, in fact we shouldn’t. And if the culture is right, those points of difference don’t become points of conflict because everyone in the organisation has signed up to the organisation’s vision and values. Everyone in your organisation should be able to articulate what your organisational values are, what they mean and how that translates into the behaviours you expect. Too many organisations slap words on their walls without thinking about what those words should convey.

Which brings us to purpose. I have written before, and will do so again, that the organisations that do not just survive but thrive will be those which put purpose at the heart of what they do. They have a huge advantage in the hunt for talent, because more and more people want to work for organisations that do more than make money; they want to make a difference.

I hope we can all benefit from the economic recovery, I know those who can recruit and retain great people will be in a better position to reap the rewards.

We need to make sure we are attractive enough for talented people to join us and to keep the talent we have.