In the latest SME Barometer® for Q1 2023 businesses reported employee shortages as the top issue.

And in last year’s HR Pulse Survey recruitment and employer branding were listed as the top priorities for HR teams.

This is no surprise.

Talent-related matters are top of the mind for everyone. We know there are many reasons for this which I will not get into in this article. Here I’d like to focus on what action can be taken – how CEOs, business owners, and leaders may have more influence than they think to contribute to the situation, and that although the main complaint tends to be related to talent shortages, there is a lot to say about developing and engaging talent as  first steps to keep the ‘little’ talent you attract.

So, what role does the CEO, business owner or senior leader play in this seemingly insurmountable problem? And why can’t HR simply deal with the matter?!

In an age where most products or services can be replicated, your talent can be the only factor that defines your business – giving it a competitive advantage. There is simply no way to escape this.

The people-machine of a business is a core indicator of success and therefore it needs to be curated, serviced, calibrated to perform consistently. Being proactive in who you are, and want to be, as an employer is not a commodity, but a mitigation to ensure your business can thrive and keep growing.

Many leaders are coming around to this thinking, but knowing this and acting on it are two different things.

Here are a couple of pointers that may support you taking a few steps in contributing to improving your talent attraction and retention situation. A few steps that can really help you stand out as an employer – beyond any fancy company culture video, website or billboard you’ve invest in to attract new talent.

  1. Know how your talent-related costs are impacting your bottom line, beyond salary costs!  

Salary costs may not give you the full picture, and by getting to grips with some other costs. Start by knowing how employee turnover costing, your cost per hire and at what point in the employee journey you get your return on investment.

Answering these questions can help you gauge what is a talent-related investment, and what is simply a waste of money. It can also help you determine where you need to invest more. Like any other investment, talent costs. It’s about making sense of the value it brings to your business.

But if you have a deep understanding of your employee-related costs, then you can gauge what is a talent-related investment, and what isn’t. What is going to contribute to the growth of your business, and what isn’t. i.e., What roles or individuals are crucial to your business? What type of training you ought to pay for to improve your product/service or customer experience?

  1. Be pragmatic about understanding the link between your talent and the growth of your business.

How do employees contribute to making your product or service the best? Is it their technical knowledge and/or their customer-service approach that are making the difference to your customer? Are their specific roles that contribute to making your product or service the best?

Once you determine this clear link in your mind, the next part is how to ensure your people-machine is performing at its best, consistently. This is where your HR team can support you in using best practices to develop the skills and practices you need.

  1. Be mindful of the impact your leadership style has on your talent’s performance and experience at work.

No matter the size of the business – how you behave in relation to your employees in impacting your bottom line.

It’s a matter of fact that just like every human, employees have universal work needs. And if these needs are not met due to an unpleasant work environment, they will not perform at their best, and consequently leave.

This is not about leaders being perfect humans, everyone understands the pressures leaders are under. This is about how as a leader you learn to get the best out of your people-machine to benefit your business.

As a first step, try to understand what needs are most important to your direct reports. Is it ongoing feedback? Recognition for how they go about something, and not only whether they achieved it or not? Opportunity to voice their opinion?

  1. Actively reflect and visualise the type of employer you want and need to be. This is an intangible business asset that needs to be curated over time.  

Chances are you are working really hard to grow your business and build a great reputation with your customers. Your people-machine requires the same rigour.

Actively reflect on who your ideal employee is what kind of employer would attract and retain this employee. Define what you really have to offer as a business, beyond the salary package.

With some dedicated time to the topic, you may be surprised at how much you can contribute to your current talent attraction and retention challenges. You have more control than you may think on developing the people machine you need to achieve your goals.

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