Yoga man and people

A business’ existential quest for meaning – how to use purpose to attract top talent (it’s not all about the money, money, money)


By Nutcracker

Nutcracker was at Elite Business Live, and the panel’s discussion about talent really resonated with us. Here’s our takeaway

Attracting and retaining talent is vital to a company’s success, driving productivity and providing that vital competitive edge. Today, more than ever before, businesses need a purpose to stand out and grab that top talent.

In an increasingly saturated market, with global giants like Google and Microsoft offering an unbeatable employment package, the possibility of your company competing for top talent can feel hopeless. How can you trump onsite yoga classes and unlimited free food, not to mention that extra zero at the end of the salary? How can you ever hope to be seen against such colossal competitors, even on tiptoes?

Don’t despair. The Elite Business Live panel assured us that in fact this isn’t such an insurmountable challenge. The magic carrot your business can wield is, you guessed it, purpose.

It seems people aren’t as motivated by money as businesses might think. Even a bottomless buffet can be trumped by the good old-fashioned motivation to do something worthwhile. Often the key reason top talent joins a company is because they believe in its goals and can see how they personally could contribute to achieving them. As Andrea Reynolds, founder of Swoop, told us, employees need to “buy into the mission” of a business. This is the key.

But how to do this? Firstly, make sure that your company has a strong and clear overall purpose. Give them epic quests and life-changing missions; show them why your business matters. We all want to feel like we are on the good side, fighting off the forces of evil, not colluding with them. People don’t want to waste their talent spinning round on a hamster wheel to nowhere. If you can’t provide a good reason why your business is important, why should anyone else think it is?

Then, show them how they personally will contribute towards achieving that goal. Mark Wright, Apprentice winner and founder of Climb Online, insisted that “people like seeing results”. Whether it’s your amazing code, your world-changing prototype or your latest creative baby, there’s nothing more soul-sucking than knowing it will never find its way out through the layers and layers of hierarchy to the light of day. Indeed, the second most-asked question by interview applicants to flight checking site, Skyscanner, was whether their code would be used on the website. People want to see their work making a real, tangible difference to the goal they have bought into. This is the edge your company has against the Googles of this world; you can allow employees to feel the sense of ownership and achievement that comes with producing work that contributes vitally to the business’ goals.

So if your company doesn’t have a pithy purpose – get one! To attract talent, you need to show that you have a mission, if not quite Marvel world-saving level, then at least something tangibly valuable. Then, show how the employee can play a crucial role in completing this quest. If you can do both those things, there’s no stopping you.

The same is true for marketing. To engage with any audience, talents, customers or prospects, you need a clear purpose to bring people onboard.

For more inspiration, here are some of our favourite quotes from the Elite Business Live Panel, all about finding purpose and attracting top talent.

Jenny Knighting, Nutcracker Founder: “You need to understand employees, their ambition and what they want to achieve. What is the heart of your business?”

Alana Spencer, Founder of Ridiculously Rich: “What are you doing it for? Pride! Remember the reason you’re in it.”

Mark Wright, Climb Online Founder: “You need to understand the individual with talent.”