The Secrets to Winning the Battle for Top Talent

by | May 16, 2018 | HR and Culture

Steve Jobs was a brilliant leader who understood the need to hire top talent. He once said, “I noticed that the dynamic range between what an average person could accomplish and what the best person could accomplish was 50 or 100 to 1. Given that, you’re well advised to go after the cream of the cream, a small team of A+ players can run circles around a giant team of B and C players.” The data seems to back this up. In a study published by McKinsey & Company, high performers in complex white collar jobs were over 800 percent more productive than other employees. Winning the battle for top talent can have a huge payoff.

These days with unemployment so low and high performers always in higher demand, recruiting is harder than ever. More than two-thirds of companies hiring for full-time positions are having difficulty recruiting for just open positions; this doesn’t even take into account trying to get the best talent possible. So, what’s a company to do? Companies need to make sure they have all the basics covered like competitive salaries, employee benefits (with HealthJoy preferably at the center of those benefits), flexible work schedules, maternity leave, and profit sharing/stock options. We talked to a few companies to see how they went above and beyond the basics to hire top talent.

Jose R. Costa
For Eyes by GrandVision
36,000 employees / 7,000 stores

Employees can make or break a business organization. That’s why it is critical to the success of a company to find, recruit and retain the right talent. When it comes to hiring, we usually look for entrepreneurial-minded individuals who possess an inquisitive nature and are bold enough to provide their opinions and ideas. Regarding attracting that top-level talent, we use a variety of strategies.

It all starts by offering a thriving corporate culture that encourages teamwork and inclusion. After all, we want top professionals to want to work for us. We recently rolled out our new corporate culture at For Eyes and at the core of who we are is the concept of meritocracy. We hire and promote based on performance and merit. This means everyone in our company has the opportunity to get ahead and advance as long they work hard, have a solid track record and bring interesting ideas to the table.

To identify top talent, we always use the same approach. We look for candidates both at a local and out-of-state level. A perfect balance can be achieved by finding qualified professionals at top schools (and companies) while building strong relationships with key local organizations. A successful business organization is built on diversity. Our employees come from different backgrounds, exposing our company to a variety of viewpoints and unique insights.

Detavio Samuels
Interactive One (Radio One)
Over 1,000 Employees

We have five methods for attracting top talent:

  • Give them a playground to find their genius.  Top talent has their pick of the litter; consequently, it is key to recruit top talent for roles that align with their gifts and passions and will enable them to unleash their personal magic on a daily basis.
  • Commit to full transparency.  During the interview process, each side should commit to providing all of the information—good and bad—to help each other make the best decision.  No company is perfect and top tier candidates appreciate and trust those companies who are as willing to be upfront with their flaws as they are about the benefits of working for the company.
  • Inject purpose into their day-to-day roles.  People want to be inspired to come to work. When businesses infuse purpose into what they do, they give talent a common reason for being and motivation beyond just making money.
  • Build a company culture that stands out.  Given people spend more time at work during the week than they typically do anywhere else, it’s imperative that companies are purposeful in the design of their corporate culture.  Culture should be a differentiator for the company, as well as a filter for what type of top talent thrives in your organization.
  • Develop brands that matter. Top talent is attracted to brands that stand out in the marketplace and are making a meaningful difference in people’s lives.  Consequently, some of the best recruiting work you will ever do will be the branding work that puts you on top talents’ radar in the first place.

Adrian Ridner
CEO & Co-founder
100 employees

Today’s employees, particularly Millennials and generation Z, care about changing the world and want to work for companies that are making an impact. At, we highlight our purpose and the effect we’re having on the community to help attract top talent. During our recruiting process, we tell candidates about our Working Scholars program, which allows select residents in the Bay Area get a no-cost college degree. We also make sure our overall mission of making education affordable, effective and engaging is at the forefront of all our initial talent conversations.  Potential new team members become inspired by what we’re doing to help not only our community but learners everywhere. These talented candidates want to join our company so that they can help make a difference. They want to know that they’re truly helping others and that their work makes an impact on the society at large.

Ian McClarty
200 employees

The battle for tech talent is relentless. We implemented a recruiting video about six months ago as part of our employee hiring strategy. I can already see the improvement in the quality of talent. Tech talent wants to like feel like they are a part of the team. Using video as a magnet in the recruitment process helps young candidates feel immersed in the culture of the company. It is comforting, engaging and convenient to their lifestyle.

Tech talent can spot phoniness instantly. In providing a recruiting video, potential recruits receive a genuine sense that people enjoy working at the company, can be themselves at work, and collaborate well with each other.  They prefer to work for companies that embrace the latest technology and sets itself apart. A recruiting video displays technologically savvy and employee-focus.

Heidi Mausbach
Ervin & Smith
75 employees

Many leaders look first to throwing money at the problem. They either try to compete on pay or by offering cool perks they think will improve the culture like foosball and beer. Neither gets at the root of the problem – which is making sure you have a strong employer brand and employment value proposition (EVP).

When considering how to recruit top talent and increase employee engagement, I sum it up in three steps:

  1. Develop your employer brand. Start by revisiting your purpose and core values. If you haven’t created an employer value proposition – the foundation for aligning what you say with what you do – do it now.
  2. Evaluate your employee experience. Intentionally build every aspect of the employee experience – leadership, environment, operations, technology and tools, and culture – to tie back your employer brand and EVP.
  3. Deliver on your brand promise. When employees know what to expect because you’ve communicated your values and built an experience that emulates them, you’ll find they’re more engaged and more productive.

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