5 Ways You Can Differentiate Your Company To Recruit And Retain Top Talent

The CEO sets the tone for the organization, which means nobody is better positioned to ensure the company stands apart in the war for talent. Five strategies to consider.

Attracting and retaining the best talent has never been easy. Today, it’s a more formidable challenge as candidates and employees bring different priorities and expectations to the table.

What does that mean for you as a CEO?

The ability to attract and retain the talent that’s crucial to success starts at the top. As a CEO, you can make a powerful impact on your organization’s recruitment and retention at a time when it’s more vital than ever.

How CEOs Impact Talent

Just like the pandemic altered employee expectations in ways that may never revert, this shared experience changed how CEOs view their role. Facing a virus that knew no boundaries, many leaders paused, looked inward, and considered how they could be more thoughtful, caring stewards of their workforce.

Staying in tune with the needs and expectations of your current and prospective employees and creating a supportive culture isn’t just altruistic; it’s good business. In a Gallup report, companies that scored highest on employee engagement enjoyed 21 percent higher productivity than those with the lowest engagement scores.

As a CEO, you set the tone for your organization—and that sets the foundation for recruiting and retaining the talent you need to succeed. So how can you ensure your company stands out from the crowd when attracting and retaining talent? These five strategies provide a great start.

1. Make Sure Your Mission Is Clear, Relatable, and Visible

Many companies spend significant time and effort to develop their mission, values and vision. But fewer organizations ensure those elements come to life in everything they do, including hiring and retention. Today’s employees and job seekers want to work for companies that match their values and make a positive impact on customers and communities. That means your mission, vision and values need to connect with them—clearly and powerfully.

Be sure your company shares vivid, relatable stories about employees who are thriving, passionate and living your mission, so candidates can picture themselves working there. Challenge your HR team to ensure every recruitment touchpoint and document brings to life the “why” of your organization.

2. Demonstrate You’re an Authentic, Caring Leader

My father was the CEO of a company with 150 employees. He cared for each like family, and that was reflected in the longevity of great talent and their pride in taking care of customers. He had two simple beliefs: “Do a little more a little better” and “The little things are the big things.” Any time an employee experienced a high or a low in life, he wrote a personal note to show he cared. Even if your company is too large for that approach, there are ways a CEO can demonstrate care and authenticity with employees and with candidates for key positions.

Walking the production floor, taking people to lunch and attending roundtables are a few of the many ways to get a pulse on your current and future workforce. But it means going beyond a quick wave and a generic “hello.” Ask pointed questions, like “How are you really doing?” and “What keeps you up at night?” Open yourself to honest answers, then be prepared to respond and follow up.

3. Challenge Leaders to Think Differently

Senior leaders and department managers understand they’re responsible to manage P&Ls and achieve metrics of performance. But do they recognize they’re also responsible to develop a culture that attracts and retains the best and brightest?

Within the overall company culture, mini cultures exist in departments and regions, each impacted by their respective leaders. And they can make or break your ability to recruit and keep the talent it takes to achieve your goals. Be sure every leader understands their role in creating an environment people want to join and stay with. Ask questions like, “What challenges does your group face at work and at home?” If you get vague answers or pushback, it means your team has work to do to become the kind of leaders that people want to work for.

4. Invest in a Strategic HR Leader

The role of human resources has changed dramatically—but has your company kept up? Today, the best HR leader serves as a trusted advisor to the CEO and a key member of the leadership team. The right person will get a pulse on your workforce’s needs, pain points and expectations; share the good, the bad and the ugly; and help turn your vision into reality by ensuring the company hires, retains and engages the best talent.

If your size and budget make it prohibitive to hire a full-time C-level HR leader, consider hiring a Fractional Chief Human Resources Officer. A fractional approach to C-suite positions can be an effective way to secure the experience and capabilities you need while only paying for a “slice” of a strategic resource.

5. Rethink Employee Benefits

Organizations that view employee benefits as a vanilla tactic rather than a strategic advantage are falling behind in the talent race. Yesterday’s employees and candidates looked for a benefits package that checked the main boxes. Today, an appealing package meets employees where they are.

If a portion of your workforce is hourly-wage workers from underserved communities, consider offering a daycare allowance or free diapers (as one of our clients does). After two years of emotional fatigue from the continued ups and downs of the pandemic, mental wellness services may be a much-appreciated addition to your benefits. The more in tune you are with employees, the better you can gauge which non-traditional benefits they need and value.

As a chief executive, what you say and do has a ripple effect across your organization, even when it comes to talent recruitment and retention. By setting a strong foundation for attracting and retaining the talent that drives success, you’ll build a workforce that’s more productive and satisfied at work, better partners and parents at home, and better contributors in the community.