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Francois Guay is the director of talent and culture at Istuary Innovation Group. (CHRISTINE ENDICOTT)
Francois Guay is the director of talent and culture at Istuary Innovation Group. (CHRISTINE ENDICOTT)

LEADERSHIP LAB

Want to attract and keep top talent? Pay well and build trust Add to ...

This column is part of Globe Careers’ Leadership Lab series, where executives and experts share their views and advice about leadership and management. Follow us at @Globe_Careers. Find all Leadership Lab stories here.

It always astounds me that companies believe cute recruiting techniques or employee rewards such as bean bag chairs and popcorn will make the difference in recruiting and retaining top talent. Oversized, comfy chairs and pool tables might spark initial appeal and make candidates think that working at such a company will be like a big party, but such novelties are never factors in employees' decisions to join or leave a company.

Give credit where it is due

First of all, let’s put money on the table for discussion. If you don’t pay to market or are not competitive in your overall compensation package, you already know you have a major problem. Any company not willing to pay reasonable compensation runs into high turnover and poorly qualified employees that will build inferior products and provide lacklustre services.

It goes without saying, fair and competitive are what many employees look for especially in high-paced industries like technology. At the same time, rewarding employees with good pay, shows them they are valued for their acquired experience in all levels of execution and leadership. People perceive money as not only a means to an end, but also as a definition of self-worth. Translating that into a well-paid, competitive salary goes a long way to building a loyal team for any company.

Build and nurture mutual trust

If you pay to market or above, what’s the real problem then? Trust.

Trust is why people join a company in the first place. They believe your pitch, their friends, your recruiters, employees, and leaders. They know your brand, market competitiveness and products or services.

People tend to not accept company offers for two key reasons:

1. Better offers (better opportunities) from other companies

2. Something is wrong with your offer/company

On the other hand, people leave companies for these two key reasons:

1. It is time for a change

2. Something is not right

So how do you build trust in a company?

It all starts with developing values that support your business model and that the company leaders champion. From there, it’s paramount that every manager in the company be educated on the values and what they mean. Then all employees have to be provided with the same opportunity to learn and adopt them. This is where coaches and mentors within the organization play a big part in employee development. Employees at all levels need to feel connected. When they’re able to discuss confidently and openly with their supervisors and managers about their company’s identity and values, they feel empowered and unified.

Once everybody is on board, values must be upheld. This is where the difficult work begins. Trust is fostered through a continuing series of consistent actions over time but yet it only takes one inconsistent action to plant a seed of doubt. Any time values are not reinforced or seemingly compromised, managers, employees and leaders need to speak out and connect with each other in a timely manner. This is hard, as you must be ready to be challenged or met with indifference. Recently, during a back-and-forth email exchange on a company investment, one of our managers said a somewhat insensitive remark to one of the employees working on the project that I felt was inappropriate. I e-mailed the manager, directly speaking about our values and the employee’s contributions. Luckily, this manager is not only a strong contributor but also a good leader. He apologized not only to the employee in question but to the whole email group. By doing so, he built trust.

Moments like these either build or destroy a company’s trust reserve.

The most valuable currency

Stepping up and taking action is a hard thing to do, as it puts you in the middle of a dispute. Sometimes the results are not as positive as you would like them to be; conflict ensues and people feel threatened. Be yourself and stick to your values. The right employee will come around and the company will stand by your actions.

Corporate integrity begins with personal integrity. Every employee, every corporate action and decision tells potential candidates, customers, investors, and employees what your company stands for. Building corporate trust in every action and decision is necessary. It’s not easy but trust is the most important currency a company has to recruit and retain the best.

Fuzzy mascots, pool tables and free snacks are cute, but trust is more effective at attracting and keeping a strong team. Creating it is hard work, not child's play. Stop throwing money at culture-building through bean bag chairs; instead, build a culture in which your employees and job candidates trust each other and the company.

Vancouver-based Francois Guay is the director of talent and culture at Istuary Innovation Group, a company focused on sustainable innovation. Mr. Guay has was previously vice president of global recruiting and human resources at companies such as Nortel Networks and Prysmian Group.

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