The battle for talent is real. Big companies need to change tactics if they are to win.

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What accountability even means? For me, it is seeking the solutions and implementing them

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New product and service development – Corporate gamblers or Sailors?

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How big companies should think about hiring

The battle for talent is real. Big companies need to change tactics if they are to win.

“The Great Resignation” emerged as a term in early 2020s to describe record numbers of people quitting their jobs. While the trend was ostensibly driven by the pandemic – which gave people time at home to re-think their careers – Covid-19 was really just the straw that broke the camel’s back. People were already starting to understand their job-market power and ability to pick-and-choose between roles. 

The 2022 unemployment rates were historically low in Europe. End of the year the EU unemployment rate was between around 6 % according to Eurostats (compare to 11+% in 2013). Even the sorrowful crisis in Ukraine and the interest rate jumps have not yet hit the job market. The point is clear: skilled people have no problems finding work.

Amid such a hot job market, what can big companies do to attract recruits who are spoiled for choice? Let’s take a look at what I see as the five main areas that companies need to understand and act upon.

Covid-19 was really just the straw that broke the camel’s back.

Sampo Lehtiniemi

1. Recognize that priorities have changed

It helps to start by understanding the shift in priorities from one generation to the next. For example, owning a home used to be a cornerstone of “success”. If you had to work hard in a miserable job in order to pay the mortgage on that home, then so be it.

People do not always think like this anymore. Many now shun buying homes – in part due to property inflation – opting instead to spend their money on time and pursuits that bring fulfillment. Work is often viewed through much the same lens.

This is why jobs with startups are sometimes seen as more desirable than those with big companies. Although the pay may be lower and the hours longer, startups often have a sense of purpose and an energy that job seekers choose over the benefits of working for a more established company. Freelancing is also often seen as a more attractive option for people who want to control how they spend their time.

The script has been flipped. Whereas in the past employees needed to sell their skills to a potential employer, it’s now employers who need to sell recruits on what their company can offer.

2. Run a respectful and humble recruitment process

Many companies still approach recruitment as supply driven. You put a recruitment ad on Linkedin or another job-search channel and wait for the applications to roll in. Candidates are then screened and the top ones are selected for further evaluation.

By this stage you may have already lost the best available talent for a given role. Some corporate recruitment sites make the process as painless as possible, but others seem to go out of their way to place hoops for the candidate to jump through. 

In some of the worst cases of laborious recruitment, selected candidates may even be asked to perform a time-consuming trial project to prove their worth. Top candidates may view this as a nuisance, or as a harbinger of bureaucracy to come. If you do require candidates to hand in a case study, then it’s a good idea to consider paying them something for their time.

When it comes to the job interview itself, remember that you need to sell the company to the candidate – not the other way around. Traditional job interviews are still run with the recruiter in the driving seat asking the questions. A better approach is to open the floor to discussion, find out what really motivates or concerns the candidate, and then position the company in the best possible light.

Finally, be a company with a reputation for providing timely and respectful feedback on the outcome of a recruitment process. There are no silver and bronze medals in a job search – you either get the role or you don’t. Yet those would-be podium placers may have worked as hard and been as qualified as the person who got the job. Treat them and everyone else who applied with the respect of a straight answer within a reasonable time frame. Ghosting never looks good.

By this stage you may have already lost the best available talent for a given role.

Sampo Lehtiniemi

3. Focus on skills – not on employment history

When “The Great Resignation” was in full swing around mid 2021, customer-service roles were among the most in demand on Linkedin. Pandemic restrictions sent eCommerce services and in-store pick-ups skyrocketing, so a lot of people were suddenly needed to manage calls and handle feedback. 

At the same time, millions of flight attendants, restaurant workers and other customer-facing professionals were forced to leave their jobs. These people were a boon to the online businesses that suddenly needed workers who could directly handle customers. This is a concrete skill – keeping people happy may well be the most challenging job in the world…

The point for big companies to learn is this: look at the transferable skills that someone brings, not just at the industry they’ve been working in. The companies that understood this in 2021 would have been able to quickly recruit for their burgeoning online businesses. Many of these employees will never return to their previous industries. This is why thousands of restaurants around the world still have “We’re Hiring” signs in their windows today.

4. Build and communicate an attractive company culture

Company culture is where the rubber hits the road. Once a candidate is through the recruitment process and employed, if they don’t like what they see and experience then they’ll be out the door and on to somewhere new. 

You would have already communicated your values, mission and vision during the interview phase, so it can be presumed that the candidate was on board with those. But problems arise when new employees see companies not living up to their promises. If you’re not honest about your behavior as a company, then why should the employee trust you to have their best interests at heart?

While sticking to your values is fundamental, you also need to have the right goals, incentives, learning frameworks and organizational structures in place that will allow the employee to achieve their full potential. This requires constant work, with feedback loops and iterative development key to staying true to what you say.

5. Partner with the best experts when you need to

In a demand-driven employment market, not everybody needs or wants a full-time job. Many experts choose to freelance, work through consultancies, or find other models that give them the freedom to work and earn at their best. In many fields this is how some of the most-talented people choose to work.

This model can work in a big company’s favor too. Perhaps you want to evaluate a new market, refine a strategy or just clearly go for growth in a set direction. In today’s market, there is always an independent expert out there who can help you to achieve these goals.

Bottom line

 An organization’s success depends on its ability to recruit the best talent. As the business world changes and there’s constant competition for market dominance, companies must adapt to new employee requirements or lose the game. How you select tactics can help with managing the associated risks. Still, it would help if you understood what is already working and unique about your business before starting the new means.

Look at the transferable skills that someone brings, not just at the industry they’ve been working in.

Sampo Lehtiniemi


What accountability even means? — For me, it is and seeking the solutions and implementing those with my clients

People can feel like being accountable for many reasons, therefore everyone must be accountable for the right things.

A few days ago, I went to have lunch with my long-term client. During lunch, the conversation drifted to the work I did for the company. The assignment included organizational change with numerous projects, for example, the renewal and refinement of the strategy and the exploitation of digitalization. My client who is senior vice president of that company and has been shaping a dozen strategies herself over her long career said that she was very pleased how we handled the whole process. According to her, we were able to bring clarity instead of complexity, and without our work, the company would not be where it is nowadays. 

…we were able to bring clarity instead of complexity…

That lunch conversation made me wonder what the factor is that helped us to change the path of the company. I came to conclusion that it must be a matter of feeling that you are accountable, but how to define accountability? According to the Cambridge Dictionary, accountability means “the fact of being responsible for what you do and able to give a satisfactory reason for it or the degree to which this happens”. The Oxford English Dictionary, on the other hand, defines it as “The quality of being accountable; liability to account for and answer for one’s conduct, the performance of duties, etc.”, whatever that supposed to mean. However, it is naturally easy to play by definition with jokey reverse usage such as “I was asked in a job interview if I was accountable for what I do. I answered yes. When asked to provide examples, I said anytime something broke, or the system went down, I told them I was accountable.” 

The definition of accountability seems to depend on who is being asked (and I am not going to ask it from dictionaries ever again). For example, to a company manager, accountability means taking care of the mental well-being of her or his subordinates. While for a city councilor, it means defending the opinion of residents so that the planned factory would not be built in a residential area. For a student, this can mean further their studies on time, and for a team athlete, it means breaking up a difficult attack situation on behalf of the team. 

Although the leader of the company was pleased with our work, there were also certain challenges with it. Those challenges came out with the new strategy because we hired people faster and more extensively than the organization was able to absorb, and we were not able to find all key people in time. This created undesirable competition between people. In retrospect, hiring people should have been done in waves so that each new employee would have time to get used to the organization and their job description. This would make the teamwork smoother when everyone would know their roles. All in all, I think that accountability culminates in making vision and strategy into actionable (and right sized) steps. Mistakes are also ok if you take individuals and their perspectives into account, communicate openly and honestly with them, seek solutions together, and implement those solutions with the needed urgency or calmness.

…accountability culminates in making vision and strategy actionable (and right sized) steps.

Sampo Lehtiniemi


New product and service development – Corporate gamblers or Sailors?

Think large corporates as sailors who navigate through the rough sea of business development

Sometimes I wonder by myself how large companies stay afloat. By saying this, I mean that in the early beginning when companies were founded, they were usually created to serve certain purposes. These purposes may have changed over time as well as the company itself in order to survive. The company has to develop over and over again by ever-changing circumstances and customer needs. Besides preparing and adjusting business for the current operative environment, the company also has myriad development options to choose from and prioritize in its strategy. Finding the right and motivated team for working on the development is also challenging. And of course, all of this should be accomplished while staying within budget. This whole development process might lead to the situation that the company expands excessively and becomes a clumsy large corporation that barely can hang on to competition while new entrants take the market share. 

Sometimes I wonder by myself how large companies stay afloat.

Sampo Lehtiniemi

The issue that I am stating here is not the lack of knowledge on how to develop the company rather to remember to come back to basics. In other words, this means knowing your own capabilities utilizing, combining, and applying those strengths, while bearing in mind the goal that is aimed for. Moreover, every business area should be critically evaluated and thought through which tactics are appropriate in which context. It is about taking one step back and really evaluate the whole business before taking the step forward. Research on entrepreneurship could be used to evaluate larger corporations — often new product and service development are connected to somewhat agile teams, or in some companies to even internal startups. 

The recent essay, done by Aalto University and the University of St. Gallen, responds to the ongoing debate about the reasons, that make entrepreneurs successful. In the essay, Soto-Simeone, Sirén, and Antretter argued that rather than seeing entrepreneurs as gamblers, they would like to offer an alternative metaphor of seeing the entrepreneur as a sailor. Sailors have to adjust their sails to stay afloat, in order to survive, just like entrepreneurs have to have a stable foundation for instance customers, doers, and money. When sailors have ensured this primary goal, they will assess their navigation performance based on other aspects such as speed, sustainability, safety, crew happiness, and output. Gambling, on the other hand, is a common metaphor for new ventures, but it has negative connotations that draw a picture of problematic behavior that produces successes only randomly. Therefore, the research team considers gambling an incompatible analogy to entrepreneurship. 

Seeing entrepreneurs as sailors rather than gamblers

Whereas the ongoing debate links the sailor and gambler metaphor into entrepreneurship, I am thinking, can we use the same analogy in the world of renewal large corporates? Often developing corporates try to gamble and find shortcuts – for the management team it can mean changing the corporate strategy, or on large scale, it can be the acquisition of another company or changing leadership team to more development-oriented persons. Sometimes it is believing in new trending theory or ism of the time. Some of them mention, lean startup, customer experience management, product leadership or connected planning. Whether the chosen solution is, it is often believed that one thing or one change solves everything. However, success is not coming by gambling on one theory or practice — more likely to be ready to adapt to the change, have the plan, set a clear target, measure and analyze the performance and leave room to grow. 

Navigate like sailors.

Source: Soto-Simeone, A., Siren, C., & Antretter, T. (2021). The role of skill versus luck in new venture survival. International Journal of Management Reviews : IJMR.

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