Talent pool: Need better staff? Get better principles.

Rog Harrison

Rog Harrison


The 2020s is going to be a good decade for HR managers, apparently. The covid year has introduced a host of new people-related problems for them to fix. While resources people used to be unfairly ribbed for being in charge of staff parties and not much else, they are about to become more key than ever in whether a company survives or tanks. Some are predicting a frenzy of re-skilling, re-training, hiring, firing as well as a negotiation of hybrid working. All of this falls into the HR manager’s remit. But the most pressing question is (as ever): how do I get the best talent?

Yes, the talent. The quixotic, mercurial, enigmatic creative flair that your agency relies on to woo (and wow) big clients. The magic dust. The right stuff. The ‘zag’ that effortlessly confounds those who are sheepishly still resigned to ‘zig’. You might have once been able to coax this lot into the office on staff for 45 hours per week, but not anymore.

The last thirteen months have taught your employees a set of inconvenient lessons. The talent doesn’t want to reserve its talent for you anymore. It probably wants to spend a proportion of its time working on a new line of hand-thrown ceramics. Or a series of children’s books that contain allegorical stories that warn against overwork: “The Tiger who Pulled a Sickie”, “Duvet-day Dingo” and “Toxic Workplace Burnout Aardvark” (working titles).

This talent has had more time to look at the news. It’s been aghast at the litany of troubling world events that have filled its feed. This means that it’s taken a look at your client list and has some suggestions. That is, no more working with tech brands (big tech brands especially). No more fashion campaigns (fast fashion is wasteful, luxury is elitist). No more working with sugar (bad for the teeth). No alcohol (also bad for the teeth). And no more banks, airlines, fast food, retailers, farmers or car companies.

Business titles are full of articles that talk about the new sensibilities of millennial and Gen Z workers. According to a growing body of research these cohorts care less about money and more about principles and the overall objective of your organisation. We tested the theory with a questionnaire that we sent to our (youngish) team at NEVERBLAND. The team closely identified with freedom, creativity, stimulation as well as unity, equality and benevolence. For the majority of people, work was about fulfilling a purpose rather than taking a cheque at the end of the month.

So, to attract the best staff in the coming years we have a simple plan: put the agency’s priorities where its principles are. Employ managers with stiff moral fibre who attract people who want to invent things that change the world around us for the better. This is the most effective way to enthuse creatives, strategists and designers who have had their worldview irrevocably transformed in the last twelve months. As a digital product design studio that has to push the boundaries, we have to find the best in the business.

Post pandemic there’s less chance that HR managers could be derided as glorified staff party planners (the ritual of sharing a crisp platter with dozens of others is surely over). So if they can help companies connect to staff through principles, they’ll be onto a winner.

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