Companies are obsessed with recruiting the best candidates. Not just qualified candidates, the best candidates. More than technology, more than assets, the key to delivering the mission is the best team.
It is a mantra in the recruiting business, particularly in our sector of retained search. We are the people who contract to find not just suitable people but the best people. And not just the best available people. We see our task as knowing where the flat-out best people are for your opportunity and, if they are working elsewhere, discreetly making that opportunity known to them.
At that point, the spotlight swings back on you, the hirer. Do you have the vision, the processes, the policies to make them interested in joining you?
To recruit the best, it helps to be the best. That means more than an empathetic work environment, generous compensation and upward mobility. Job seekers are now concerned about your social responsibility and whether it aligns with theirs.
Are you the best?
Driven partly by this, companies are understanding that their place in the community is important. Last month, 180 leading US companies agreed that their mission was no longer to create shareholder value, the holy grail since the mid-90s, but also to work for the benefit of employees, customers and the community. This will make them more attractive to the up-and-coming talent which want to work for firms that involve themselves in the social and political issues of the day.
Firms in some areas of the economy are fundamentally better placed than others in the recruiting beauty contest. A five-star example is climate change. Companies in the business of renewable energy appeal to today’s candidates by default.
But that would not be enough in the long run. You have to demonstrate an ongoing commitment that becomes a fundamental purpose.
This is the example of Vattenfall, one of Europe’s largest electricity and heat providers with revenues over US$150 billion and 20,000 employees. It is over 100 years old, dating back to the beginning of hydro power in the northern forests of Sweden, but that is not the reasons for its status and market leadership.
Firm re-invented itself
After studying and understanding the implications of climate change, Vattenfall committed to re-invent itself. It undertook to enable fossil-free living within one generation.
That is a bold mission into little known territory. It helps to be in a part of the world that views climate change as an existential imperative: wind is the second largest energy source in Europe, overtaking coal in 2016.
Technology and innovation play a major role in Vattenfall’s future – district residential heating networks utilize excess heat from data centres and industries — but the company views human resources as a critical component.
“We have to learn and acquire many new skills and competences in order to deliver our strategy” says Borg, CFO. “We look for specific attributes. For example, you have to be a fast learner and comfortable with change, otherwise we will be too slow in our transformation. You need to have an unbiased mind, so we don’t assume at the start what the market will look like. “
According to Borg, the company’s objective of fossil free living in one generation resonates with today’s pool of bright, concerned youth. Recruiting the best candidates is made easier as future employees make the first move and approach the firm.
“We have a value proposition for them that has three areas. We call them limitless learning, vital work, and brilliant people.
“We want to be company where these people come and free their superpowers.”
A virtuous cycle. To be the best company, you need the best people. To get the best people, you need to be the best company.