How can businesses bring in the best talent and, better still, encourage those people to stay? At Cloud9 Insight, we have eight simple principles that underpin our drive to find, up-skill and retain an excellent workforce. We would encourage all entrepreneurs to embed these into their businesses.
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1. Think about the career path of the role
We have delivery consultants who need to gain Microsoft qualifications to do the job. We help them do this by starting them in our client support department, where we give them the customer-facing skills and product knowledge to pass their exams. To support this journey, we have created a series of three-year learning syllabuses, relating to specific career paths, such as project management, sales and consulting. We have built an online learning platform – called Cloud9 Academy – to give employees access to structured educational materials that they can consume at their own leisure and in step with their in-role learning “at the coal face”. Think of it a sort of internal university – trainees could come straight out of school, or as an apprentice – or they could be an experienced employee cross-skilling – and take this route without having any prior product knowledge
2. Shadowing is equally important
This is the system whereby employees can watch a more experienced colleague perform the role for which they are training. While training courses can be useful, our trainees – and, indeed, trainees across the full range of industries – have said that seeing a job performed in action is a better way of building confidence and competence.
It is crucial for your employees to have role models in the workplace. Mentors give people an avenue to practice their communication skills in a safe environment by focusing on growth and improvement. At Cloud9 Insight, we have had several self-starting, street-savvy grafters with ambition who – for whatever reason – were not given financial or educational support systems early in life. We have a team of senior staff who have championed these colleagues by sharing advice, tips and career strategies, allowing them to flourish.
Sometimes people want to ask questions but don’t always want to ask their manager. So, assigning a buddy to a new member of the team is a really good way to help them learn. I would advise businesses to hire more than one junior person at a time. This helps reduce the feelings of intimidation a new employee might be experiencing. It also creates a competitive learning journey so that if one of the two appointments doesn’t work out, then your business is not left high and dry. If both work out…great!
5. Hire six months ahead
It will take any employee a while to get up to speed so you should hire before, not at the moment, you need them. Apprentices are a good idea but only if you have people available to mentor them. In our experience, people who’ve done well at A-Levels are normally as good as graduates and they’re likely to be more motivated, while being less entitled. They are also likely to stay with your business longer.
6. Use ‘training bonds’
As part of Cloud9 Academy (mentioned above), our trainees participate in ‘training bonds’. These are contracts similar to those used by football clubs, who spot and invest in talent. In return, the footballer commits to stay at the club for a predetermined period so the club can realise the return on its investment. Similarly, we ask for commitment from our ‘investment hires’ – they are free to leave in their first six months but are then contracted to stay with us for another three years. If they want to leave during this subsequent period, a fee becomes payable to us in much the same way that a recruitment firm charges a fee to find and place talent. We also retain the right, in agreement with our trainee, to ‘loan’ our talent to other businesses for a fee. Again, this is a common practice in professional football.
7. Ensure career paths are clear
It’s really important that employees have good visibility of their potential incremental salary rises based on competencies gained – and that they understand the expected timeline for these. They need to know what they need to achieve to increase their value and, therefore, their salaries. They also need to know they don’t need to leave your business to earn more. One of the ways we achieve this is by asking new recruits to draft a “three year CV”. This opens a conversation with the employee on where they want their career to go, whether their goals are realistic and what they need to do to achieve their dreams.
8. Think about culture and benefits
You should strive to create a culture where your employees’ values can flourish. At Cloud9, we believe in work-life balance so we have flexible working practices which require employees to work core hours of 10am-4pm, while being able to choose when they work the remaining hours. We also have a nine-day (as opposed to 10-day) working fortnight. Under this scheme, employees have every other Friday off, while only being asked to add 30 minutes to the other nine working days in every fortnight. Crucially, their pay is not affected. Every alternate Friday is a strategy, innovation and learning day to maximise team working and entrepreneurial thinking and to accelerate career progression.
Our other benefits include:
- ‘Enrichment Days’ – six extra days off work p/a beyond normal leave to ‘create happy memories’
- Investment in training and qualifications
- Private medical insurance
- A dog-friendly office
- Company social events
- Offsite days for team-building
- Income protection during long-term sickness
- Free professional advice service covering legal, financial and mental health assistance
- Unlimited unpaid holiday
- Free fruit!
Article written by Carlene Jackson, CEO at Cloud9 Insight.