The transformational power of technology in the digital economy keeps products and services in constant tension. In such a state, the war for talent is endless. And in a fiercely competitive landscape, rare skill sets are keenly sought, while it is harder than ever to retain your talent. These two challenges are not, of course, unrelated.

A report by the Australian Human Resources Institute (AHRI) estimates the cost of staff turnover to Australian business is $20 billion per year. Technology giants with seemingly unlimited budgets or start-ups promising limitless opportunities are well placed to offer top candidates highly top shelf salaries or stock options.

But how do businesses without these facilities reach and retain their staff?

Upfront it is important to understand that staff retention isn’t about money on offer, or trips overseas or hotshot products. It’s about how engaged your staff are with the leadership team, with the office, with their co-workers, with the vision of the company.

Staff become engaged at this level when there is a common set of values, and values based hiring ensures you recruit people who are aligned to your own way of operating and who possess the core personality attributes that you require. By creating your organisation’s set of values, you will intrinsically know what to look for in prospective staff.

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(Image: Kelly Ferguson, CIO of Mi9)

The war for talent was a hot topic at the 2013 Harvey Nash Sydney CIO Event in August. Kelly Ferguson, CIO of Mi9 (50/50 joint venture between Microsoft and Nine Entertainment Co) and panellist at the event discussed the positive impact that values based hiring has had on her organisation.

According to Ferguson, “Mi9 has gone through a transformation over the past two and a half years to become a values based organisation. This makes it easy to sell why Mi9 is such a great place to work. Every day we talk about our values; it enables a common language for all of our employees.

“It easy to do great work when you are surrounded by people who are passionate about what they are doing and share a value set with you: it’s really inspiring,” she said.

“Attrition at Mi9 in general has been declining as the values based approach has been really effective.”

 

You can’t cookie cut your way to developing a successful culture, but while there are no short cuts there are some simple and powerful practices to aid the journey;

  • Highly talented individuals want to work for inspirational leaders and bright colleagues. Your leadership team should have personalities which are open, communicative, collaborative and patient.
  • The vision and goals of the organisation should be regularly communicated so that staff understand why their personal contribution matters and how it makes difference.
  • Focus on creating an inspirational and aspirational working environment where creative and ground-breaking thinking can flourish. Too many companies lose sight of this is a world of mobile working.
  • Break down barriers by having open plan offices with breakout areas and the freedom to work flexible hours. Remember, today’s digital talent wants to be engaged, and they want their work environment to be stimulating.
  • And measuring your staff through output rather than input will enable your digital talent to be creative and workshop.

Internal recognition in informal meetings or get-togethers is a simple way to create positivity around staff, while regular communication ensures that everyone remains engaged with the company, its values, goals and vision. Developing this collective consciousness around behaviours generates excitement in the office and feeds into productivity.

Highly talented digital people tend to have cross-functional capabilities and this can have a hugely positive impact across your business. If you trust the people you hire, which values based hiring should enable, then give them open access to different areas of the business. You’ll find that innovation will flourish and your working practices will continually evolve.

We don’t tend to think of workplaces as a social space however to Gen-Y and digital talent, the lines between work life and social life are increasingly blurred. Highly talented people want to be inspired and challenged by who they work with. They want to like the people they work with. Implementing a change in the hiring process to focus on values is the first step on the journey to retaining your top digital talent.

 

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