What Top Talent Really Wants



Today I’d like to share a post that you could say is the genesis of Switch and Shift: the guest-post I wrote for Shawn’s previous blog, “How to Build a Talent Magnet.” Before guesting with him, Shawn and I were certainly in the mutual-admiration society, but we didn’t know each other all that well – just Twitter pals who ran in the same space: human-centric leadership.

Shawn was such a gracious host, he made the entire experience of posting with him feel great. The other authors he chose for the series were supportive of my post, and he encouraged me to be of theirs as well. His readers were supportive, too, leaving me great comments and sharing with their networks on different social platforms. I loved it! It’s an experience we try to perpetuate here at Switch and Shift for our entire community, from readers to guests to our core League of Extraordinary Thinkers.

“Talent Magnet” may have run a few years ago, but as I reread it, I realize it’s still entirely relevant today – unfortunately. I hope you enjoy it. I’d love to read your comments. And if it resonates, please, share it: not just with your networks, but maybe with your CEO or her boss, the board of directors. If your company isn’t a talent magnet today… well, Switch and Shift is here to help you fix that. Let us know how.


20th-Century Myth: Humans are a Resource.

Like any resource, to maximize profits they must be exploited.  The company that manages its human capital most efficiently, most cost-effectively, will be most profitable. It’s simple math.

Welcome to automation. Welcome to outsourcing. Welcome to eliminating positions and cramming the ex-employees’ work onto the remaining-employees’ to-do lists. Welcome to paying just enough to match the market. Welcome to scrimping on benefits, to follow-the-leader packages that are comparable to the big guys.

21st-Century Fact: Your People Are Your Business.

If you were to start a company today, who would you rather employ: a team you’ve poached from Google, or from Bob’s Discount IT Shop? The manager from your local Lexus dealership, or from New-2-U Cars down by the bus station?  A CFO from Deloitte, or from Aardvark Discount Taxes?

If I were to start another business, I would set one goal for myself as leader: create a firm that earns a spot on the Best Companies To Work For list. Each state has one for its SMB employers, and if you get big enough, Fortune publishes its top 100 list for American companies each year.

Who can afford not to compete for top talent?

Why bother? Google, Lexus, Deloitte, the others on the Top Employers’ lists: their personnel costs are through the roof! They pay more; they spend more on their benefits – much more! Who can afford that?

Who can afford not to compete for top talent? That’s my question!

I’m competitive. I like to test myself, and I really like to win. That’s one big reason I enjoy business so much. I’ll bet you do, too. That’s why you’re reading a blog post on improving your leadership edge, isn’t it?

So here’s the thing. If you’re building a team – business, sports; any kind of team – doesn’t it make sense to attract the best players? And how do you do that?

Here’s the surprise ending: I saved the best for last. You see, it turns out pay, benefits, and other “expenses” (a savvy leader would say “investments”) don’t tell the whole story. Just ask Daniel Pink, author of Drive. Sure, you have to invest enough in your people to make them relax about money, so they can concentrate on their work rather than their bills. But you know what people really want at work?

  • People want meaning. They want to do work that matters. This may sound touchy-feely, but people want to know their work is going to make the world a better place in some significant way.
  • People want autonomy. They want to be treated like adults. They want to know what their goal is, and then be given the latitude to accomplish it creatively. In other words, they want work to engage all of their brains, and in so doing, they want work to develop themselves – as problem-solvers and as people.
  • People want camaraderie. They want belonging. The number one reason we look for new employers isn’t for better pay, it’s because we dislike our direct boss or because we haven’t connected adequately with our colleagues.

People want meaning, autonomy, and camaraderie.

Not one of those three considerations need cost your company any more money than you currently spend! But please don’t be penny wise, pound foolish with your people. Money starts the conversation. Pay is a sign of an employer’s respect for her people. Skimp here, the game is over before it starts. Just ask Google.

…Then, ask Google why it chose “Don’t be evil” as its unofficial motto.

Are you ready for leadership in the 21st Century? Or are you already halfway out the door?

Did you like today’s post? If so you’ll love our frequent newsletter! Sign up HERE and receive The Switch and Shift Change Playbook, by Shawn Murphy, as our thanks to you!


Image credit- lightwise / 123RF Stock Photo

Ted Coiné is a Forbes Top 10 Social Media Power Influencer and an Inc. Top 100 Leadership and Management Expert. This stance at the crossroads of social and leadership put him in a unique perspective to identify the demise of Industrial Age management and the birth of the Social Age. The result, after five years of trend watching, interviewing and intensive research, is his latest book, A World Gone Social: How Companies Must Adapt to Survive, which he co-authored with Mark Babbitt. An inspirational speaker and popular blogger, Ted is a pioneer of the Human Side of Business (#humanbiz) movement. He is also a serial business founder and three-time CEO. When not speaking at conferences and corporate functions, Ted advises CEOs on how to become Truly Social Leaders, or “Blue Unicorns” as they put it in A World Gone Social, in order to bring their companies into the Social Age. Ted’s advice: “Change is only scary if it’s happening to you. Instead, bring the change your competitors dread. That is something only a Social Age business leader can accomplish.”

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