I was having lunch with somebody who used to work for me in Kazakhstan and who had recently left to join an international consulting firm. In fact I had hired him and seen him grow and develop so that he was actually heading up our HR Consultancy team before he left. A talented and modest young Kazakh man. A promising combination.

However my Kazakh successor was apparently incandescent that he was leaving. He had no loyalty, how could he do this after the investment in him, he was ungrateful, he was selfish. She even went so far as to ring up his new employer and say that she did not want to see him working for them on any project at any national or wealth fund company.

The opposite reaction to the one I would have had (and displayed in similar situations throughout my career). I would have rung EY to congratulate them on their new hire, express how good I thought he was and ask them to make sure he did work on any projects they had with national and wealth fund companies! Because then we knew he was well-trained and would do a good job. We would get a return on our investment and – because he was in fact very loyal – he would work twice as hard to ensure a good result.

This made me think of a concept that has always appealed to me and a role to which I have always aspired. The Talent Magnet.

And in fact, the executive I have coached in Russia the last year is also a Talent Magnet, attracting as she does very good people and helping them move to even better positions afterwards.

Because ‘Talent Magnet’ is the answer to the questions: How can I get really good people to work for me? How can I attract talent?

Here are some of the practices and traits I have learned that can help you to become a Talent Magnet.

Get to know talented individuals early on, before you need them to work for you. Who are the rising stars in your organization? Who are the few interesting people in your fields working for other companies? The best time to get to know people is when you don’t need them yet. What excites and inspires them? (When I was in Graduate Recruitment for Shell I had a ‘little black book’ of people whom I got to know even two years before they graduated and were available for work. And it remained that way even when Recruitment wasn’t my official job).

Cultivate them over time. Don’t just get to know them but keep in contact. Keep them up to date with what you are trying to do, your strategy, your mission, your values. Best talent always has options and is usually in a job! They may even turn down the first offer you make. But keep cultivating.

Concentrate on the person not their skills or CV. Of course talent needs skills and will have a good CV but they (and you) will make the biggest difference through who they are not what they are. What is in their hearts? What are their interests, motivation and values? What do they want to achieve?

Don’t wait until you have a free position before starting recruiting. Talent Magnets are always on the lookout for talent and rising stars.

Answer the question for yourself ‘Why would real talent want to come and work for me’? Are you someone they can trust? Are you someone that can teach them? Are you someone who can be a role model for what they themselves want to become? Being a Talent Magnet is about the long-term, not a short-term fix.

On-board talent carefully. Just because they are talent you don’t leave them to sink or swim. What a waste of effort – and time. Talent wants to be successful so invest from the start to make sure it happens and they will reward you. And other talent that doesn’t (yet) work for you will see how you help others develop,

Continue mentoring them for their success. Help them build skills to develop their career to achieve their career goals. What I love about (aspiring to be!) a Talent Magnet is that my reward is another person’s success.

Exude honesty and fairness. All leaders should, but Talent Magnets definitely treat their talent fairly and with respect. And that includes clear, direct, helpful and timely feedback.

Offer challenge and independence. Your talent will want varied and challenging work assignments and development opportunities. Meaningful work and decision-making independence. They are going to make mistakes but that is how they learn and how you can help them learn and develop.

Ensure recognition. Talent won’t only make a few mistakes, they will also have many successes. Recognise their achievements yourself and ensure others know about how good they are and what they have done. Their success will reflect on your talent magnetism.

Let your talent leave you – early. The final part of being a Talent Magnet though is to let people go. And fairly early on. Real talent may only stay 2 years with you. You support and help them find their next move, hopefully with a promotion (which enhances your Talent Magnet reputation even more), and release them when it comes, even if you don’t really want to lose them, which will always be too soon. Because they don’t stop working for you. They talk about you as a Talent Magnet to others, they are your ambassadors, your marketing, to new talent who will also want to come and work with you.


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