How to Win the War for Talent

How to Win the War for Talent

Everyone wants the best talent.

We hope that our salary and benefits packages are attractive enough to draw in the best people in for all of our positions, but if we face the facts, reality can be somewhat disappointing–most of us have competitors out there who have more resources available and more money to throw at the talent. Does this mean we need to cut costs in the organization to make room for more salaries in order to win this talent war?

Actually, I don’t think that’s the solution. While I think there’s probably a good argument to be made for paying our people more in many organizations, I don’t think that is going to be what pushes us over the edge in terms of attracting talent away from our competitors.

The key is culture.

The American Society for Surgery of the Hand is a small nonprofit membership organization in Chicago. They have 22 staff and about $13 million in revenue across the family of organizations that they manage. Their mission is to advance the science and practice of hand and upper extremity surgery, and they’ve been around since just after World War 2. But here’s what’s interesting: when they have a job opening, their applicants come from some of the hottest tech companies in Chicago. This is not the typical flow of talent–usually it is the nonprofits that are losing their people to the corporate or tech side.

How do they do it? Culture. ASSH has a ridiculously strong culture. I studied them as a case study for my recent book, When Millennials Take Over: Preparing for the Ridiculously Optimistic Future of Business, and they have designed their entire organization around the needs of the employees. Their workspace offers many different types of spaces for doing work (including wifi on the roof deck), and they actually customize their job descriptions every year based on the unique professional development needs of each employee. The boss has a desk out in the open along with everyone, because they found employees could be more productive when they had more direct access to senior leadership. If it works for the employees, they do it—even if it’s harder on the organization.

And what do they get as a result? Nearly 100% employee engagement. The staff flat-out loves working there. Several of them literally told me that they “can’t imagine working somewhere else.” As one employee said,

“This place cares more about us, so we should care more about this place.”

They accomplish more than their peer organizations, and they attract talent that most nonprofits are unable to attract. They achieve this by investing in a strong culture that makes sense in today’s digital age. And culture matters more to the Millennial generation, so if you want to start moving ahead of your competitors, forget trying to outspend them, and start attracting the best talent with a ridiculously strong culture.

(P.S.: We do this kind of work all the time.)

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