6 steps to building an organisation that attracts talent

Gareth Jones told MT's Future of Work conference how to build a business people want to work for.

by Jack Torrance
Last Updated: 20 Aug 2020

If one thing seems certain about the future of work it’s that businesses will face a fight to attract and retain staff. While robots and AI may render some roles redundant, the workforce’s brightest and most creative minds will have big demands. Today’s workers (the white collar variety at least) expect flexibility in where and when they work, clear opportunities to progress and above all a sense of purpose.

Speaking at MT’s Future of Work conference today Gareth Jones, a visiting professor at IE Business School, gave delegates a flavour of how to build an authentic organisation that people want to work for. Despite companies talking a lot about the need to retain and attract talent, he says, ‘engagement and trust levels within organisations remain stubbornly low.’

Along with London Business School’s Professor Rob Goffee, Jones wrote the book Why should anyone work here?, which spells out the six important characteristics that make an organisation authentic – and therefore help them get best out of their workers. They come in the form of the pneumonic DREAMS:

Difference – Jones emphasised the importance of thinking beyond the equally important traditional methods of diversity, based on race, gender and such, and letting people really be themselves. ‘It’s no good recruiting diverse people if you then homogenise them,’ he said.

Radical honesty – people should know what’s going. ‘In a world of freedom of information acts, Wikileaks and whistleblowers, the age of corporate secrets is over,’ Jones said. ‘Tell the truth before someone else does.’

Extra value – all organisations, from McKinsey to McDonalds, can add value to their employees, says Jones. That can be in the form of executive training programmes or simply teaching unskilled school leavers basic literacy and numeracy.

Authenticity – ‘mean what you say and say what you mean.’ Corporate purpose has to be about more than just meaningless mission statements. ‘Authenticity builds trust,’ said Jones.

Meaning – a meaningful job in a meaningful organisation. Nobody wants to feel pointless. ‘The most profitable [businesses] are not always the most profit-driven,’ said Jones. ‘It always seemed to us that profit is almost certainly an outcome of something else you desire – it’s not an end in itself.’

Simple rules – ‘a handful of shared values is worth more than a thousand rules.’ That doesn’t mean we should embrace some kind of organisational anarchism, says Jones. But people need to understand why the rules matter – and leaders need to avoid ‘rule creep’, where systems become increasingly bureaucratic.


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