While having a CEO with the name recognition of Apple Inc.’s Steve Jobs, Microsoft’s Bill Gates or Virgin Group’s Richard Branson will certainly grab the attention of prospective employees, experts says star power alone won’t make new hires loyal to the brand.
“A CEO who is charismatic and successful—employees like working for them and are attracted to that,” says Jason McDonald, managing partner of Talentworks Inc., a Halifax-based recruitment company. “But a big part of recruitment is creating the type of culture employees are drawn to.”
So how can a CEO, star power or no star power, help their company recruit the best employees possible?
George Raine, president of Moncton-based human resources and labour relations consulting firm Montana Consulting Group, suggests the CEO should make his or her senior managers accountable for the hires they make.
The bigger the organization, the less likely it is that the top executive will have the time to interview every prospective employee. So a leader must make it clear to the management team what kind of employee the company is looking for and, task them with finding those people and hiring them. “I believe managers should be held accountable for developing and maintaining the team they are given to run,” Raine says. “The CEO has to make it clear to the managers that they must make sure their team is a good team, and if it isn’t, what are they going to do about it.”
Like McDonald, Raine believes having a high profile CEO can pique the interest of job seekers in a company. However, keeping that employee long-term is difficult if the CEO is all style and no substance. “Having a star CEO tends to make people more aware of the organization because the CEO and the brand get stuck together,” Raine says. “But whether the enthusiasm remains once they are within the organization will depend on more substantial factors.”
Those substantial factors have a lot to do with the company’s culture, and that’s where you’ll find a CEO’s true value in employee recruitment. Jacqui Winter, principal consultant with HR Project Partners Inc. in St. John’s, says a company that communicates to potential hires that they will be valued, acknowledged and respected is very attractive to job seekers. A 2016 Deloitte global survey of millennials (generally considered to be people born since the early 1980s) found that 87 per cent of respondents felt that the success of a business should be measured by more than just its financial performance. The Deloitte survey also found millennials believe companies should put employees first for the long-term success of the business.
As baby boomers age and retire and millennials take their spots in the workplace, it seems more imperative than ever that a senior executive has a hiring process that stresses employees are more than just a number. Winter says it’s the CEO’s job to ensure that kind of process and culture permeates throughout their company. It’s also important that the company’s top executive lead by example and be visible to both potential and current employees. “The CEO needs to take part in company events and be visible in the communities they live in,” Winters says. “Particularly at smaller companies, senior leaders should be able to reach and touch employees and acknowledge their work and thank them. It can have a huge impact.”
Raine agrees that CEOs can help bring in quality hires by ensuring the right corporate culture is in place and then having the willpower to ensure that culture doesn’t erode in tough times. “The CEO is responsible for backing up that vision of where the company is going with policy, and policy can value or de-value people,” Raine says. Examples of company policies that will entice potential hires to join your ranks even if you don’t have a superstar CEO include emphasizing it’s a respectful workplace where employees are paid a fair wage and won’t be dropped at the first sign of a downturn, Raine says.
Raine notes that CEOs have to be more than big personalities to attract quality employees, and keep them once they get them. He says there’s nothing wrong with having style, but a company’s top executive needs to have substance, too. “I don’t think there is a great correlation between a star CEO and the factors necessary for recruitment and retention,” he says.
In today’s workplace where employees expect more from their employers than steady work and a paycheque, CEOs that ‘get it’ can help their companies greatly in attracting the kind of hires that will take their companies to new heights. For those that don’t, as the saying goes, you reap what you sow.