Onezeero MD Justin Hall explores what your business needs to do - before it implements any change programme - in a bid to attract skilled talent

You say you want to change, but are you ready for it?

Over the last few months, I've been meeting with a number of clients and prospects. My approach is always the same – I believe in getting the person on the other side of the table to explain their pain points, and then finding a solution to match their needs. Going in and throwing a load of slides and figures at them has never been my style.

What I've noticed is a lot of companies wanting a ‘magic bullet’. They have an issue which needs addressing, and they want a solution – fine. But they're not interested in why the issue exists, or how they can ensure the solution isn't just a quick fix.

Maybe, this is a sign of the times we live in. But in the business world, this shouldn't be the mentality. Running a company shouldn't be like ordering a takeaway or taxi!

Here at Onezeero, we specialise in technology recruitment. And the skills shortage in this area is well documented. There are a number of ways around this – for example, making use of the Apprenticeship Levy.

Diversity is also a big focus right now – the wider your talent pool, the better.

But you can't just expect this to be a solution without changing the way you do things.

I actually met with a company recently, whose stakeholders said they wanted to increase the number of women hired. Why? Because: "We've hardly got any at the moment."

When I asked them why they thought this was, they had no idea! Surely, there needs to be some self-analysis? This isn’t just a box ticking exercise; it should be something that people genuinely buy into.

Likewise, there are companies seeking a more inclusive environment. But are they willing to invest in a wheelchair-accessible office?

You may have seen a video I posted a few months ago on LinkedIn, in which I said that simply "wanting" to do things isn't enough. There needs to be a proper plan in place, and a willingness to look in the mirror and answer some honest questions.

Here are a few things which I think businesses should always do, before they implement any sort of change programme.

Frontline feedback

Nobody knows your business better than the front-line employees. Yes, senior management may have all the financial figures and five-year plans. But people who are at the coalface will know what customers are saying, and what your business culture is really like. Why do you think Glassdoor is one of the first ports of call for any potential new hires?

It's easy for business leaders to become isolated from what's happening. It's one of the reasons I like working on the floor in an open-plan office – so, look for different ways to keep your finger on the pulse.

I would advise carrying out regular employee surveys, and at least one town hall-type roadshow a year. This allows you to gain feedback on where you really are in their eyes.

Exit interviews

Many businesses like to interview people that are about to leave. If this is something you do, make sure it's done properly.

What do I mean by ‘properly’? Well, all too often, these are seen as tick-box exercises, and the questions are structured in a way that doesn't allow for full feedback.

Sometimes, it can just become a way for leavers to criticise you without giving valid reasons. This happens when the questions are closed or simple 1-10 rankings.

Make sure the questions are open-ended and allow for long, honest answers. Prompt the leaver for justification and examples, wherever possible.

Also, the results shouldn't just be stored in a filing cabinet, never to see the light of day. ALL senior management should have full visibility, in order to be able to detect any patterns. This means that when someone like me asks why you’re having problems – you'll actually be able to answer the question!

External audit

There is no substitute for specialism. Yes, we all want to save costs and keep things in-house. But any big change programme needs you to put your money where your mouth is.

For example, if you're undergoing a re-brand, don't just spend your money on the agency that will design your new branding. Before you get into any of that, work with a customer closeness company which can establish what the market is currently saying about you.

Likewise, if you need an influx of fresh talent in your business because you have a big project coming up, don't just spend money on the actual hires. Get recruitment specialists in to actually do a workforce audit, so they can map out your talent needs for the next two years, rather than just the next six months.

There’s a famous saying people always refer to: “If you’re standing still, you’re going backwards.”

Change is something which you should 100% embrace and encouraging in your hiring practices. But it shouldn’t just be a tick-box exercise – it needs a proper structure, thought process and, investment behind it.

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