There have been numerous studies on turnover rates in multiple industries, and they all land on a similar conclusion: a high proportion of staff fail within the first 18 months of starting a new job. In fact, one study found that figure to be 46% of 20,000 new hires in America. When you look at the reasons why, 89% of those who failed did so due to cultural misalignment or attitudinal reasons, rather than technical capability.
To try and buck this trend, I’ll share with you a few tips on why it’s so important to attract and retain the right people, rather than the right skill set, and how you can adopt this approach in your organization.
First, you need to have a great culture, which is essential to keeping people in the building. Each company’s culture and mission is unique, and you need to make sure you have values that you stand by. Secondly – and this is the main area that I’m going to focus on in this article – you need to have a recruitment strategy that is aimed at finding the right people for the organization rather than the right skill set at every opportunity, from graduate roles through senior management. With our client PHD Media Worldwide (PHD), we’ve focused on hiring people who align with their values of collaboration, courage and curiosity with conviction – and it’s really, really helped!
“Hire for attitude, train for skills” is a phrase that every HR professional has uttered at least once or heard from colleagues. Unfortunately, only a small number of businesses apply it (like, actually apply it) to their recruitment strategy. While many job advertisements focus on the soft skills and cultural alignment piece, the interview process reverts to focusing purely on the hard skills and capability a candidate has from day one.
We work in an ever-changing industry with the constant emergence of new technologies and software, and an increasing shift in focus from traditional channels to more sophisticated digital channels. Change takes place now at a faster rate than ever before; what you knew yesterday might not necessarily prepare for you tomorrow. So, with that in mind, why do some businesses focus on purely trying to tick skills boxes? The candidate who feels fully aligned with the organization’s strategy and beliefs and is a part of its continued success will be more motivated to learn the necessary skills for tomorrow than someone who only has today’s skill set and not the buy-in.
Here is how we can go about finding those right candidates in various levels of the organization:
For so long, the media industry, for example, has only considered candidates from a media/advertising/marketing-related field and often opted for interns who gained first-hand experience working with their particular agency. When interviewing candidates with a specific degree and asking them what they know about a media planning and buying agency, their knowledge levels are comparable with that of any other degree – very little!
A huge amount of the first 12 to 18 months in a media agency is about learning as much as possible. A very small amount of what you learned in university actually applies to what you are now working on in terms of real briefs with real, multi-million-dollar budgets attached. With that in mind, PHD has had a lot of success in opening up their doors to entry-level staff from any degree/non-degree background.
Zac and Tiffany, two great coordinators who joined PHD in the last 12 months, even wrote an article recently on how university prepares you for your first job in media. Throughout the article, it never mentions that it’s the marketing theory they were taught in school or the principles of advertising that has helped them succeed. Instead, it’s the focus on meeting deadlines, making quality presentations and working under pressure and as part of a team. These are the skills that you need to succeed in your first job, and when you couple them with the right attitude, you can learn almost anything relatively quickly.
More Senior Roles:
Believe it or not, it’s those same soft skills that apply to the more senior roles that we look to fill. Let’s face it – at one point or another, we have all had to “fake it `til we make it” in our careers. A little white lie in an interview, a little oversell of our abilities and BANG, we’ve landed ourselves a gig without a clue of what we’re actually going to do. When faced with this situation, those with a good attitude, flexibility and the ability to learn quickly will be able to adapt and succeed in their roles better than those without these critical skills.
Additionally, no one knows exactly what they are doing on day one. We all have our own systems, processes and ways of doing things. At PHD, they have a proprietary planning tool, SOURCE. Unless you have worked on it before, there is a learning curve for everyone to pick it up, and it’s the pace and ability with which people pick it up that matters, as they would have zero experience in using it before. All companies have their own processes and tools, which they will expect you to learn over time.
Yes, you need to have a fundamental understanding of what you are talking about and the more senior the role, the more of an understanding we expect you to have. But, we want to talk to someone about their attitude toward certain situations, learn how they act when everything goes wrong (because it does sometimes), find out what they would do in the difficult times and learn how they bring a team along on the journey with them. Ultimately, someone who ticks the attitude box will get the job, and we will often wait until that person comes along, rather than simply fill a role with a candidate who doesn’t fit.
So, What is Attitude?
Attitude, for me, is a collection of soft skills that you can apply to every job. It’s not necessarily something that someone has been taught (or could be taught). Rather it’s more an approach to work, an approach to learning and the way someone conducts themselves personally and professionally.
What does one look for when gauging attitude?
- People who look for solutions to problems rather than people who find problems without resolution.
- People who raise their hand rather than point their fingers.
- People who make mistakes and have a sense of humility, but, then focus on what they can do next time to improve.
- People who, when times get tough, dig in and rally everyone to achieve the same, rather than openly complain to others.
- People who genuinely love their job and are interested in joining the organization. This is half the battle: finding someone who wants to be on the same journey as you.
- People who genuinely seek development/career growth opportunities.
It’s so easy to get bogged down by the immediate needs of our new hire, and we often do. It may be replacing someone who has left, or it might be a new role that has popped up because of workload increases. However, it works, nearly every time, to be cautious and focus on hiring the right person for the organization, because the longer-term effect of having the right person will really pay off and the struggle of having to dig a little harder to find them will soon be forgotten.