Just before I started at Evans Cycles Ltd, I was invited by my line manager to have a couple of drinks with the team at a local pub. It was a great way to ease myself into the company and meet everyone in an informal setting.
Whilst I was there, the CEO asked me a question:

“So Daniel, how would you attract the best staff?”

The question took me off guard a little. I replied something about ensuring that the interview process was thorough and tested the core skills of the applicant. Later on that evening, I realised I maybe could have answered this important question more effectively.

The CEO’s question kept coming back to me and played on my mind a little.

Getting the ‘top staff’, the best candidates, the people who are proactive and passionate about what they can be very hard to do.

After giving it more thought, I realised that a solid interview process certainly helps the company ensure the candidates have good ability, but it doesn’t help attract top staff. The best staff for a company aren’t looking for companies with thorough interview processes. They are looking for a little more. Here’s a breakdown of what my answer would be now.


They want the right culture for them

The top staff care about their working environment. This doesn’t mean acres of desk space, a chair fit for an executive and a secluded corner office. In fact, if you offer these things to a top candidate, it will turn them off.

Top staff prefer to be in the mix of action, collaborative and have resource focused on the things which matters (improving your company product, improving processes etc) and not so much on the things that don’t (furnishings and decor).

You also won’t need to manage top staff. At most, you will only need to guide them. Steve Jobs said this about Apple’s approach to hiring staff:

“It doesn’t make sense to hire smart people and then tell them what to do; we hire smart people so they can tell us what to do.”


They want problems, not fiction

When you interview top staff, they are likely to ask you what problems your company are experiencing. They have a habitual nature of wanting to solve the things which matter most. Telling them how great everything is going at your company will surely flag concern for them, as they want to go somewhere they can make a difference. They want opportunity.


They prefer a flat hierarchy and a meritocracy

Top staff generally prefer a flat hierarchy. Not because they are then closer to the CEO, but because they are closer to the decision makers. They can get more done.

Top staff also typically prefer a meritocracy to companies which are led by HiPPOs (Highest Paid Person’s Opinion).

Some companies have a rule where managers aren’t allowed to manage more than 7 direct reports. Google flips this and says that managers aren’t allowed to have less than 7 direct reports. The reason they do this is to prevent micro-management. With 7 direct reports, you simply wouldn’t have the time to micromanage. It forces you to prioritise and look at strategy.


They want intelligent, real time action

Top staff will shudder when they hear phrases such as ‘Well, it’s always been done this way’ and ‘That’s just legacy, we can’t change that’. Top staff always want to be able to optimise, regardless of red tape such as waiting for next Monday, the new financial year or when the company is profitable.

Don’t encourage a culture that won’t buy wheels, because you’re too busy riding on squares! Encourage innovation and improvement.


They believe in the company values

What would happen in your company if the company values were changed to the opposite of what they are currently? You might get a few giggles around the office, but that’s likely to be about it.

If you change them to the opposite of what they are, you should expect to have a queue of unhappy top staff lined up outside your office to voice their concern.

The reason for this is because top staff care about the company they are working for and the company values represent them and the work they do. Values shouldn’t be a sound bite for a pre-sale IPO, they should reflect your culture and the staff you hire, along with promises to your customers – not your investors!


The CEO’s Question

If I was fortunate to have enough time to think about this subject before the CEO’s question, this is how it probably would have played out:

“So Daniel, how do you attract the best staff?”

“By having a culture they can thrive in, values they believe in and by allowing them the resources they need to excel.”


Over to you!

As always, it’s your turn – any of these you don’t agree with? Do you feel I’ve missed something critical to attracting the best staff?


This article was originally published by Daniel Lee on LinkedIn Pulse

Featured image by Markus Spiske

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