People are at the heart of every company. Think about the etymology of the word: it’s a ‘company’ of people, working together to produce the right outcomes.
In my business career I’ve placed people as the cornerstone of everything I do. Without the right people in the right positions, you cannot hope to succeed. It’s commonly suggested that people are a company’s biggest asset, but this phrase has become part of our vocabulary because it is undeniable. If a business is a train, its people are its engine. Without them, we’re stuck in the station for good.
But finding the right person for the job can be a challenge. There is a range of factors that can make it difficult to hire efficiently. The first of these is qualification. The world has moved online, and e-commerce businesses are at the forefront of this change. But unfortunately, the education system has not yet caught up with the world of business. The UK has a skills gap and, while this is being gradually addressed, it remains difficult to secure great talent in fields like data science and programming.
The second challenge is competition. There is a shortage of candidates in many areas, and competition amongst businesses is fierce, particularly in the capital. Attracting talent to your business should be a top priority, but it is one that requires you to weave people into the very fabric of your endeavour.
The final challenge is retention. Once you’ve brought the right people into your business, you need to hold onto them. Again, this means firms need to put people first, recognising that they have individual wants and needs, and that you must ensure they are given the chance to fulfil their potential.
So how can businesses go about attracting and retaining the right talent?
In order to get the right people to fill vacancies, you need to make your business an attractive one to work in. There is a myth that the state of the economy has meant that jobseekers are falling over themselves to work in whichever company approaches them first. In reality, you need to recognise the value of great talent, and understand that securing it requires work.
Strategies for acquisition vary by sector and by job. To a degree, e-commerce businesses bear the brunt of the high competition in the tech sector. In order to combat this, you need visibility. Consider, for example, making sure that you have a presence at job fairs specialising in tech. Perhaps the most prominent of these is Silicon Milkroundabout, a jobs fair in East London that looks to connect quality developers with exciting businesses. Events of this sort can lead to direct leads, but they also help build your employment brand – a key part of any talent acquisition effort.
You should also ensure that you highlight your employee value proposition at every turn. What can you offer prospective employees that no other business can? What are the values of your company, and how are they reflected in the way in which you deal with people? How is the office culture unique, and how do employees benefit from it? By stressing what makes you great, you can ensure that you attract the best people.
Once you’ve found great talent, you need to make sure that you keep hold of it. Retaining talent requires you to build on your talent acquisition strategies, ensuring that you operate a ‘people-first’ ethos in every aspect of your business. Building talent retention strategies should be a key business priority: it ensures that you keep the best people in business-critical positions, but it also reduces costly employee churn.
Dialogue is key when looking to retain employees. You need to understand your employees’ desires and concerns, and you can only do this by listening. You should consider running regular feedback sessions, where employees can use an open forum (anonymously, if preferred) to tell you what’s on their mind.
But listening is only half the battle. Once you understand what your employees are saying, you need to act on it. It is not enough to ask for feedback – you also have to make changes. In-house HR teams, working in tandem with management, are absolutely fundamental to this process. An HR team dedicated to looking after both current and prospective employees, combined with hands-on management who are properly trained in the pastoral aspects of their job, can provide a winning combination with which you can make sure that you hold onto the best talent.