In our conversations in China we often encounter the same question over and over again, and it is probably the single most issue covered in many Human Resources Professionals events:

“How do we attract high profile candidates and how do we effectively retain them?”

The prevalence of this question greatly increases within the circle of small- and medium-size enterprises, – seemingly naturally – lacking alluring brand names and large organizational structures, which high profile graduates – supposedly – assume as being guarantees for both their personal brand-building and career development.

Yet, herein already lies the answer, but let us move aside a general misconception first.

It is probably the common-most stated excuse made by small- and medium sized companies – apart from the lack of the organizational size and structures – that they cannot succeed in attracting high profile candidates competing with the large multinationals, because they can’t pay the types of paychecks those multinationals can.

However, if we look at some of the leading global enterprises, we quickly realize that especially these enterprises do in fact not pay outrageously high packages. Indeed, they often pay below their industry average.

So, that leaves us only with brand-name and organizational size as key differentiators in the labor market?

In finding the conclusion to the conundrum, it helps to remember what perhaps we were looking for, when we entered the labor market as young talents: We certainly looked at the financial aspects – but as fresh starters, was that really the single-most important matter for us? – We looked at employers’ brands that may help us develop our own personal name-card – yet, was that really on the top of our list?

Indeed, the probably single most important aspect for choosing the place to work at for high profile candidates is the opportunity to learn the skills of the trade, and develop their careers.

That means the key to successful attraction and retention of high profile candidates lies in organizations’ willingness and ability to provide a steady path of learning and career development to their talents. And we quickly realize that this is, what large multinationals are actually doing all along, coupling this “employment value-add” – so-to-speak – with their undoubtedly stronger brand names.

Thus concluding, especially for small- and medium-size enterprises to turn the availability of steady and programmatic talent learning and career development at their organizations also into a successful talent acquisition strategy, they too will need to actively demonstrate and communicate this key differentiator to the high profile talent pool – thereby building a strong Employer Brand in the labor market on their own.

Michael Adick | MBA
Managing Director, Articulate Ltd.