It’s not always the money

By Tim Morden

Why is financial reward alone not enough to attract and retain the best talent?

Have you recently watched a great candidate for a position at your company just slip away and take a job at a rival company? Or maybe you’ve secured a new senior hire, only to have them leave after six months? 

Being unable to attract and retain great talent is a frustrating scenario in Australian organisations. While there are many factors at play, the executive employment market is as reliant on personal and emotional factors as it is on financial inducements.

So when you’re trying to fill a position, especially at the executive level, it is important to master the non-financial elements. There’s been a lot of research on these factors, one of the best being McKinsey & Company’s ‘"Ascending to the C-Suite" (2015), which surveyed executives who had succeeded and not succeeded, and included a mix of lateral and internal appointments. McKinsey’s four factors of the successful executive transition are ‘business’, ‘culture’, ‘team’ and ‘self’. No mention of salary, but a lot of emphasis on communication, organisational support and shared vision.

These factors may seem less specific and measurable than remuneration and bonus hurdles, but employers should be aware of them because they are serious decision drivers for executive candidates. How does an employer unpack the non-financial drivers of executive candidates? At SHK, we place a significant emphasis on preference-based interviewing. Whether we are supporting ASX companies or a government department, this approach is a critical part of our assessment and selection process. By first starting with a candidate’s preferences across a range of issues, with the potential employer kept anonymous, we can establish genuine motivations and career drivers, which lay a powerful foundation for achieving cultural alignment and business performance. 

We know from experience that employment-driving considerations are largely consistent across many industries and scenarios.  These are some important factors:

  • Clear communication

  • Business strategy/direction

  • Individual contribution

  • Cater for motivation

  • Workplace flexibility

  • People-based leadership

  • Diversity, inclusion and altruism.

Attracting and retaining top-level talent is best achieved by a combination of all of these things. And none of the above is at the expense of creating a high-performing environment. In fact, the personal drivers are usually an indication of a high-performance work ethic and results-driven personality. 

When you seek a new leader in your organisation, they will ultimately be looking for a place where they are empowered to succeed, on agreed metrics, regardless of their background. Well-rounded candidates consider themselves progressive and tolerant, and that is the kind of organisation they want to join. If your organisation reflects that outlook, you will attract the best candidates. To identify, engage and retain the best executive talent, start by understanding who they are.