The Difference Between Attracting and Recruiting Top Talent

Every company wants to hire great people. But not every business has the same level of success in their attempts to do so. In fact, most organizations work hard at developing recruiting strategies for securing top talent, but see little fruit for their efforts, while a select few seem to be able to attract more quality applicants than they can possibly hire.

So, what accounts for this dichotomy? Why are some organizations able to attract premier performers while others flail about in their attempts to recruit them?

The longer I’ve been in business, the more I’ve come to believe (and observe) that there is something organic about success in any aspect of an enterprise—especially when it comes to securing top talent. By organic I mean there are certain fundamentals that have seeped deep into their cultures that cannot be engineered into existence. There are ways they think and opportunities they enable as a result of core philosophies, purposes and passions that inform everything they do. Such organizations become magnets for talent because high performers are attracted to who they are and why they exist, not just what they do and produce.

Companies like this are irresistible. Their employer brand is well-known because word of mouth has spread…organically. People feel compelled to talk about them. They have built a reputation of such note that individuals who don’t even work there are willing to evangelize for them.

Certainly, these businesses have processes, systems and strategies that help them sustain what they do and to succeed. However, those elements do not define who they are. They simply help them carry out and magnify who they are.

“Okay, so enough with the ‘touchy feely’ stuff,” you say. “Can you be a little more ‘concrete?’ How are these companies creating an environment that allows these ‘organic’ fundamentals to take root? And what the heck are those fundamentals?”

Fair enough.

Developing an Irresistible Employer Brand

I have observed 3 fundamentals at work in organizations that are magnets for top talent.

1. Their product or service makes their customers’ lives better.

Call it what you want—mission, purpose, a company’s “why.” Organizations that have people evangelizing for them (including people who don’t even work there) are helping their customers get something done quicker or easier, fill a void, achieve a goal, advance a cause, solve a problem, facilitate a change or otherwise have their lives improved. And when people working in those organizations see the impact their efforts are having, they become tied to their employee experience in an organic way.

But it’s not enough to simply produce a product or provide a service that makes lives better. Company leaders who are having success are able to tell their business’s story in a compelling way—to the people who work for them. And they are effective at communicating to every person who works for them why their role matters to the value they are creating for their customers.

2. They treat their employees like growth partners.

In irresistible companies, this is not just a meme. It’s actually the way they think about their people. Again, it’s organic. This is not something company leaders can fake—because people know whether they are treated as growth partners or not.

There are two dimensions to this fundamental:

Role Identity. Organizations that are magnets for premier talent define clear roles for their people and identify quantifiable outcomes for which they are responsible. The conversations they have with their growth partners go something like this: “Here is where our company is headed—and this is why that matters (who will benefit). Here is the business model and strategy we are implementing to fulfill that vision. This is your role in that model and strategy, and this is what is expected of you in that role; how you are expected to create value.”

Value sharing. The other way these companies treat their employees as growth partners is by allowing them to participate in the wealth multiple they help create. In other words, they share in the financial success of the company in much the same way owners do. This does not mean these organizations share stock, necessarily. It means they have mechanisms for sharing financial value, both short and long-term, with those who drive that value. As a result, the extension of the conversation described above goes something like this: “Here are the financial targets the company has set. These are the rewards programs we have instituted to share value with those who help create it in our organization—who help us achieve our financial goals. Here are the specific results for which you’re responsible. And here is the annual and future value you will receive if we hit our targets.”

When employees are having this kind of experience with a company, they talk about it—a lot. And they do so because they feel valued. And they feel valued because they are treated like growth partners. When a company has created this kind of culture, word gets out.

3. The leverage their people’s unique abilities.

The final key to attracting rather than recruiting top talent is to align their roles with their unique abilities. Unique abilities are not just strengths. They are the things people are good at doing, love doing and, if they were able to spend virtually all their time doing it, they would become genius at it. When people are working within the realm of their unique abilities, they don’t feel like they are working.

After graduating from college, my son was hired by a start up company to fill a marketing role. Leadership quickly uncovered my son’s unique abilities and put him to work on projects where his genius could be manifest. I remember having a conversation with him after he had been working for the business about a year. I asked him how things were going. “Dad, I’m working harder than I’ve ever worked, but I don’t even mind. I love everything I’m doing. I’m exhausted most of the time, but it’s okay.” That’s what happens when people are allowed to work in the realm of their “genius.” Successful baseball franchises don’t sign a great relief pitcher and then ask him to play first base. And they treat every other player on the team the same way. That collection of unique abilities is what creates a winning team in sports, and the same formula works in business.

When organizations build unique teams around individuals’ unique abilities, they create a competitive advantage for themselves. And when you have people feeling as though their talents are expanding as a result of their roles, when they are being treated as growth partners and when they are witnessing how their work is positively impacting the lives of real people, they experience fulfillment. Successful organizations harness that collective satisfaction and turn it into a culture of confidence that consistently wins.

Winning organizations attract the people they want. It’s a natural byproduct of who they are and the growth partner experience they provide.