December 8, 2008 | last updated March 28, 2012 12:42 pm

Talent Magnet: The key to attracting the right staff is to look inward

The process of finding top talent follows a very predictable pattern for a great many companies. First, post a series of job ads. Second, complain about how no one is responding to said ads.The most common solution is to blame the economy. While certainly a factor, blaming the economy tends not to help.

Option two, blaming the competition, is not much better: if your competitors are finding and hiring top people, then those people must be out there. This brings us to option three, the mirror.

Take A Hard Look

Fundamentally, you need to look at what you are doing and how you are presenting yourself. People look for jobs that meet their needs, not yours. You need to craft your message to address the needs of your target audience and create a compelling opportunity that will attract them to your company.

Since you don't know who they are, this may seem a daunting task; fortunately, there are some common key elements. If you've done your job analysis, you'll have a good sense of how your ideal employee rates on each factor.

The biggest need is safety. People look for a job in which they will feel safe. This may mean working for a company that is too big to go out of business; or it may mean having a set of transferable skills and the opportunity to develop and hone those skills.

Since the job hunting process is frequently stressful and unpleasant, part of safety usually includes "will last for a while." Understand what sort of safety you offer and communicate that.

Related to safety is risk. I often hear that people don't want to take risks. Actually, many people are perfectly happy to take risks. What they don't like is unquantifiable risk. People like to feel in control and to feel the rewards are worth the risk. The perception of control and an understanding of the risks are often enough to convince someone to take a chance. Make clear the risks you are asking people to take, demonstrate how you are prepared to help them manage that risk, and illustrate the potential rewards.

Most people enjoy the opportunity to grow and develop in their jobs; the side effect is that they will become steadily more capable of handling increasingly difficult tasks. Growth also increases perceived safety. What growth opportunities do you offer?

Job satisfaction and opportunities to perform a variety of tasks go together, but variety by itself is not enough. It's also critical that those tasks matter: it's hard to take pride in irrelevant work. Be sure to demonstrate the relevance of the job.

Size Matters

Being part of a larger organization is often extremely important and a powerful motivating factor. The job is not just a source of money, but a source of connection to other people. Are you looking for team players or individual performers? Will they be part of a bigger vision or merely making money for the company? The former is far more appealing than the latter.

A key element of attracting top talent is the company's prestige. People want to take pride in their job. Companies such as Google or IBM have prestige associated with them. Others need to create the image. Understand how people view you and tailor your message accordingly.

No one can guarantee that a particular person will chose to work for a particular company. However, the better you understand which needs you can meet and how you can meet them, the better your odds of attracting and retaining top performers.

Stephen Balzac is a professional speaker and the president of 7 Steps Ahead LLC (www.7stepsahead.com), a consulting firm based in Stow. He can be reached at steve@7stepsahead.com.

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