SMEs will benefit from acting as a Springboard for new talent
I’ve worked in a variety of organisations over the last 10 years. From tyrannical hotel dictatorships through to supervisor enforced skiving for my local council (Hartlepool) while I was meant to be cutting grass (this was of course to increase the overtime we had to do!), social media startups, the Third Sector and lots of bits in between!
In particular I’m interested in the way SME and larger organisations recruit young people or “talent” as we sometimes call it. After 13 months successfully running an advertising company in a recession, my rejection by multiple graduate schemes in my final year studying (here’s looking at you Microsoft, Dell, Coca-cola) because of one bad A-level made it clear to me that the route to the top for a young person is through small business.
I feel that there are two main types of business that bring in talent. I call them Foundations and Springboards. Lets quickly look at Foundations first but I really want to speak about the idea of Springboards.
These are larger company’s where people can be secure, find community and a career. There will be structured training available, advancement over the years. It’s a secure job where there is a structured management system, a fixed salary which grows based on advancement. There is opportunity but it comes over time. There is probably a fairly large team and a great community feel. A well managed foundation company is something that nurtures and creates talent but also keeps it held close to its chest. They probably have less flexibility but bigger budgets. A great opportunity to get involved in a big team doing something exciting.
Advantages – Loyalty, steady staff numbers, less surprises (?), regular holiday times, good community, stability. conservation of talent.
Disadvantages – “9-5 staff”, Just a job?, lack of ambition sets in? Missed opportunities? Bitterness if missed for promotion? Sudden losses?
This is the main point of this blog. I believe Springboards are companies that are trying to push into areas unknown, maybe a start-up, third sector organisation struggling to find funding or a small company taking a risk and trying something new. In my experience some of these companies will try to:
A) Recruit as if they are a foundation (IE long term offer a salary and terms they can’t afford or possibly quantify for the future)
B) Don’t recruit at all (worse than option A!)
If they recognise what they are trying to achieve and the type of person they are going to need to do it maybe they’ll think again and push themselves out as a springboard for a new generation of thinkers and doers. I believe that sometimes people are looking for the next challenge, the next passion, the next thing to get wholeheartedly stuck into.
The employee that the springboard companies are looking for do not need (or look for) the big pay cheque, the job security or the company car. What they need is trust, some training opportunities, a listening ear and above all a great idea to get behind, grow and work with!
I genuinely believe that this sort of initially short-term project based opportunity will drive someone far more than a few more days off or a longer lunch break. In return for being given a chance (and maybe even a limited time scale) they will often throw themselves into something with more passion and hard work than you could ever expect. If it doesn’t work then at least both parties have probably learnt a huge amount without anyone being disappointed or in a bind about having to fire a staff member. the main thing here is that Springboards need to not have qualms about losing that talent after the allotted time. You need to set it free! At least you’ve gained a new programme/advocate/income for your business, and also probably gained a friend!
Advantages : Possibility of a fantastic new revenue stream, possible eventual full-time new team member, someone to learn from and to teach, someone who will be a great advocate for your business even if you have to let them go if project doesn’t take off, someone to invigorate a static company profile.
Disadvantages : Theres some risk involved. If it doesn’t work out then you might lose someone you would love to keep! Possible fear of being replaced by current team members. Possibly lose some real talent to the next company if you can’t afford to keep them.
I know this isn’t for everyone and it is a whole lot of information to hit you with – but I genuinely believe that the current generation of workers would love nothing more than to, just sometimes, have the opportunity to try new things, bring new ideas to the table and really try to make a difference to a company. Failure is only bad if you don’t learn from it and if you’re honest about the two possible outcomes (success/no success) from the start, it’s a learning opportunity for all involved.
What does this mean for companies – Trying to put too much onto your existing staff members can create several problems instead of new opportunities. Work can be spread using keen interns or temporary spring-board staff members. Why not bring a great freelancer on board for a short amount of time while they’re quiet elsewhere? If the ideas interesting enough they’ll almost certainly do the job for a reduced price!
What does this mean for employers – You have to meet more people at interview and get to know them rather than just asking technical questions, head hunt them, court people you find interesting. Never say never just because the money isn’t going to compete. Maybe you’re exactly what they’re looking for! Next time you’re looking to build a new website/database/marketing strategy/social media strategy don’t go rushing to an agency – why not look to your linkedin, your twitter stream and your local networking events.
What does this mean for job hunters – make it clear from your CV that you’re in for exciting projects. Tell them about you, your interests and not just your technical ability. Also make it clear that you can succeed and that you can bring passion and commitment. It’s not all about ideas! Finally GET YOURSELF OUT THERE. I have got most of my exciting and most fun roles through knowing someone who said “oh you know…. I saw this and thought of you”. Network, tweet or facebook. Whatever works for you!
What does this mean for everyone? Loyalty and trust are hugely important. I believe the Gentleman’s (Gentlewoman’s) agreement is a valid concept. Lets do business face to face and really mean it! Let’s trust our guts and our talent!
I really hope this hits a chord with some people.
I’d love to discuss it more in the comments or on my twitter @AlexDRobertson