Attracting Passionate Employees
The Attractive Power of Passion
Do you feel like it’s really hard to find great people? And after you find them, to keep them?
Great people–people who are passionate about what you do and about their own contribution, and who have the ability to add value–have always been hard to find and keep. They have the most options, they’re the most in demand, and they know it. They are first rate and don’t have to accept a second-rate situation.
On the other hand, isn’t it really easy to find inadequate people? And once you’ve got them, isn’t it hard to get rid of them? Non-contributors–people who are negative about what you do and hate their jobs and who have the ability to destroy value–have always been easy to find and hard to eliminate. They have few options (or none), they’re not in demand anywhere, and they often know it. They are second-rate and aren’t going to give up a second-rate situation.
Have you ever fired anybody too soon? We’ve asked thousands of leaders this question, and no one has ever said “yes.” Most of them have said, “I’ve taken way too long with way too many people.” In this article, we’re going to talk very clearly about how to avoid facing the firing decision very often—by making solid hiring decisions and building a passionate team.
If we don’t become experts at hiring, we’re going to have to become experts at firing. This is a much less effective core competency than getting it right from the start. There are better things to focus on than HR policies and disciplinary processes and the legal aspects of terminating staff. Hiring excellence means asking new and vital questions. How do we find and then keep
• truly passionate, committed, performance-oriented people?
• people who want to have a real stake in our success?
• people who are going to take our organization to the next level?
• people who will allow us to meet or exceed the expectations of all of our stakeholders?
Finding these people is not just a matter of spending more time on interviewing and hiring, which is what many people have recommended. You can spend a lot of time and still end up with a terrible hire. Most of the recruiting and hiring practices we’ve seen have little chance of finding “believers and winners.” It’s a matter of spending the time on the things that are going to make a difference.
The Attraction Principle
If we’re going to find and keep passionate people it starts with attracting them—with getting them to participate in our hiring process in the first place. We have to let them know that we exist and that we’re worth considering. We want the magnetic core of our organization’s passion to turn the needle of their compasses our way.
What key aspects of an organization allow you to attract these difference-makers? Or, to say it differently, what can you do to make your organization attractive? Here are five important “Attractions”:
• Have a larger-than-life vision
• Talk about passion
• Offer the 10 Keys
• Think and talk multi-generationally
Attraction 1: Have a Larger-Than-Life Vision
Right off the bat, you want to separate the people who are looking for a job from those who are looking for a life.
The only starting point for drawing a higher proportion of passionate people is to offer something no one else has – a unique, stirring vision. Everyone can offer money and benefits and hygiene factors (like nice facilities and amenities), and some can probably offer a lot more of those things than you can. If you focus on these peripherals, you’re competing on everyone else’s terms and can lose to the next bidder.
But no one else can offer your vision of the future and its possibilities. Most don’t offer an attractive vision of any kind. You can get people seeing and dreaming things that deeply resonate with them, and imagining how they can fit in. You can go beyond benchmarking competitors’ hiring practices to benchbreaking them. (For more on the importance of vision and how to establish one, see "The Passion Principle: Designing a Passionate Organization" the first title in the PASSIONATE LIVES & LEADERS series).
This first Attraction is powerful with everyone, but even more so with dynamic younger people, who are much less concerned with “loyalty” and “security” and much more interested in meaning and purpose.
A larger-than-life vision will make the difference for your organization in many ways. One of the most significant is in what it can do for your recruitment.
Attraction 2: Talk About Passion
The funny thing about passionate people is that they love talking about passion. They’re drawn to it and can’t escape its pull. They’re zealous about life and their place in it. They want to know if other people are passionate and what they’re passionate about.
If we want to connect with potential hires, talking about passions (yours and theirs) is an outstanding place to start. If you talk about your passions and how your passions fit with your organization and they don’t care, you just learned a lot and can say a gracious “goodbye.” If they talk about their passions and those passions don’t fit with your organization, you’ve also learned a lot and can wish them well–elsewhere.
Luman International uses a 20-point Passion Scale™ and related questions with its clients to center hiring conversations on passion. We’ve learned not to be surprised that many organizations don’t address any of these 20 passion deal-breakers.
If you don’t start by talking about passion, it might be very hard to inject it later.
Attraction 3: Differentiate
Whether you’re choosing between toothpastes, restaurants, or organizations, the hardest choices are often between options whose differences are small. We make it hard for people to choose us when we look just like every other pair of shoes on the rack.
If they can’t see anything special about us, they’ll end up making their decisions based on small differences (like 5 percent in salary or slightly better health insurance) or on differences we can’t control (like the commuting distance or facility design).
We have to give people big differences on important things so that those compensation and benefits and hygiene differences fade into the background. We have to find ways to differentiate ourselves and then to express those differences in interesting ways. If we use Reverse Mentoring™, for example, where younger or newer people are given the opportunity to mentor older or senior people, we have a way to change recruits’ entire perspective on our organization - and their potential place in it - from day one.
Like other organizations,
Luman International publishes “Contact Us” information. But on certain materials, Luman includes a differentiator, a surprising twist: We have a section called “Don’t contact us if. . . .” We tell potential clients not to contact us if they want to make only painless change or solve big problems without effort. The interesting discovery we made: potential team members, even more so than potential clients, kept telling us how much they loved this, how much it made them want to find out more about us and to consider joining us. They wanted to work for a company that would tell the truth and that was willing to walk away from bad business, no matter how profitable.
Attraction 4: Offer the 10 Keys
Everyone wants good pay and benefits. Nice working conditions. A friend at work. Good equipment or tools. Praise. Educational opportunities. A cafeteria. A short commute. A lot of “employee satisfaction” studies are built around these types of factors.
But more important for attracting passionate people (and then keeping them–and keeping them fired up) is to offer them the 10 Keys to Maintaining Passion™ (discussed in The Attraction Principle: Finding, Keeping, and Teaming Passionate People™, the second book in the PASSIONATE LIVES AND LEADERS series) right from the start. If you really do provide people with a sense of freedom (one of the 10 Keys), tell them that. Start in the advertisement: “Do you yearn for a sense of freedom in your work?” Then make freedom a point of discussion early in the interview process, preferably at the first session. If you have put some metrics on the 10 Keys, bringing those up in the conversation can make a huge positive impression.
Attraction 5: Think and Talk Multi-Generationally
Everyone shares a common humanity, but the generation in which we live shapes and colors our definition of it.
People from the Depression and Second World War era were understandably very passionate about security and loyalty (often defined as “staying your whole career”) that would be rewarded. People from the next generation were passionate about expanding opportunity and the chance to live a comfortable middle-class life. Like their Baby Boom parents, members of Gen X wanted interesting work that contributed to society in ways that transcended the product or service their organization provided. Millennials are seeking flexibility in their work arrangements on an unprecedented scale.
You need a consistent message (the first 4 Attractions) that can be customized for each of the age groups with which you’ll be dealing. Give it a try.
For more information on the power of attraction and how you can hold on to passionate people and utilize their skills and passion in your organization, please see The Attraction Principle: Finding, Keeping, and Teaming Passionate People™, the second book in the PASSIONATE LIVES AND LEADERS series.