Nick Bell’s advice on finding top hires, even during a talent drought

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Source: That Startup Show.

One somewhat unexpected result of the pandemic recovery in Australia is that plenty of businesses are growing and hiring right now, especially in the digital and technology space. 

It sounds like a good problem to have. But the flip side is we can no longer rely on the pre-COVID-19 influx of more than 100,000 skilled migrants a year, so great talent is thin on the ground. It’s easy to fall into the trap of hiring just to fill seats and overcome a staff shortage, but this often ends up causing more harm than good.

The truth is, as an employer, if you want the superstars of your industry to look at your offer, you need to up the ante. That means increasingly meeting their salary demands, but that’s just the opening gambit.

You might have to go a little higher than what you had planned, but the right person will make your business much more than they cost you. You need A-players in key positions who will set the benchmark for the rest of the company.

We learnt this the hard way in our Hong Kong office. We had to pivot the business at lightning speed during a tumultuous couple of years, operating through Hong Kong’s trade war with the US, intense and disruptive local protests, COVID-19 and the enforcement of the National Security Law, which contributed to a mass exodus of talent and business.

The only way we got through — not only surviving but growing — was by having the right people to innovate our services and processes with speed at a time when the market was so uncertain. That comes back to choosing the right people with the skills, experience and desire to be there for you and the business when the chips are down.

How to attract — and hire — top talent

As is normally the case, finding the right people is easier said than done. Employers, myself included, are now facing an array of challenges when it comes to finding and attracting the right people. 

It can be difficult to find top talent in the first place, but then you need them to also accept the role. Those in in-demand industries know they’re highly sought after, so they have the upper hand. They will likely want a competitive salary and try to negotiate more benefits to make the role suit their needs. 

As an employer, promoting career progression, ongoing learning opportunities and showing that the business is innovative and agile can help to attract potential candidates. It makes sure the top talent always has something to strive towards. This could help position your business as the most attractive one to choose from out of all the others in the running.

I’ve also seen many businesses of late faced with needing to shorten their internal hiring process, in response to good talent getting snapped up so quickly. What once involved candidates interviewing multiple times and undergoing technical tests is, often, no longer possible. The challenge is ensuring you aren’t rushing the process and making the wrong hiring decision. 

In saying this, never be too proud to admit if you recruited the wrong person. If someone’s not performing, you’re doing them an injustice by keeping them in a role that they’re not suited to, and potentially damaging your own prospects.

With so many working from home last year, we saw some embrace it, and others, maybe, a bit too much. Employees have now come to expect some sort of a hybrid workplace model, where they can work from home at least some days of the week or permanently. Just look at all the job ads out there right now and you’ll find that the majority will list work flexibility or remote working. 

But how do you hire people and trust them to work efficiently, if you’ve never worked in an office with them? Strict policies and processes. I’m a stickler when it comes to formalising this, particularly from the start, to make sure my staff remain productive. This doesn’t mean micro-managing them. It could be as simple as regular daily check-ins to keep people on track and have full visibility of what all team members are working on. 

Hiring top talent can be a long and arduous task, even in the best of circumstances — but it can be extremely rewarding and help your business thrive in the long run. Act decisively, go out and find the right person, and show them why you’re the right fit for their skills and aspirations.

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