Written By Alvin Pyke, P.Eng.
Without a doubt the tasks of talent creation, acquisition and retention are among the most important tasks of leadership in any organization, from sports teams to SMEs to multinationals. At Titan Logix we understand that the costs to attract and retain talent (we call them A-players), are significant; failure could be catastrophic from a financial and reputation perspective. Our leadership team along with those of the most notable corporations in existence today understand this all too well. Talent in a generic sense can have a variety of meanings so it’s important that I define it here in the context of this article.
The dictionary meaning of talent is ‘A natural aptitude or skill’. A very clear-cut definition, one that’s important in the execution of tasks at a higher level. Yet in the context of a Titan A-player, aptitude and skill play only a small part in the definition. Some of the words used by our leadership team to describe A-players are:
- The ability to see the big picture and understand our vision and why we do what we do.
- Our A-players exhibit and align with our corporate values. We are zealous in the over-communication of our values, recognizing and rewarding at every turn.
- Encouraged to bring their ideas and diversity of thinking.
- Like, respect and trust the entire team demonstrated through cohesiveness. They are engaged, empowered, encouraged to show up as their authentic selves. They are creative.
In short, they are fearless knowing that they are supported at every turn.
A-player creation, acquisition and retention have a common thread through all great companies. That common thread is great corporate culture. At Titan we are fanatical about our culture. Our team reads about it, takes courses on it, attends seminars, and listens to TED Talks continuously. There are literally thousands of ‘how to’ books written about the creation of culture. Some of the great works go back as far as Adam Smith, some are more recent, Simon Sinek’s The Infinite Game and Daniel Coyle’s The Culture Code. The latter 2 are required reading for our leadership.
The question is: why do so many thought leaders focus on culture? Simply put, thought leaders and Titan’s leadership, understand that A-players are created, attracted and retained through great culture, great culture leads to high performance, which leads to success for both the company and the individuals contributing to the success.
A-player creation is multi-faceted and starts with our educational institutions. Here, our future creators and leaders learn the tools of their trade, developing their aptitude and skills. We further their development by hiring them as summer and co-op students for work terms between their studies. Currently we have 7 summer and co-op students in our program. This is where we get our first opportunity to shape our future A-players and we hope they come back to join us upon graduation.
As the curators of their first work experience, it is our duty to summer and co-op students to illustrate by action, what it means to work for an organization where their skills and aptitude are valued, where they can freely say “I don’t know” without ridicule and repercussion, and where they are embraced for their diversity; for being “different”. At Titan we like to think we do a pretty good job of this. In school, our students learn from teachers, peers and from books. In our world they learn by trying new things and failing, encouraged to participate in deep practice to the point of failure, and owning that failure like a badge of honor. Knowing that we will have a celebration for having tried and failed, only to try again and succeed. Leaders of the Titan team are tasked with showing through words and action that it is okay to put yourself out there, it is okay to fail. In the words of Amy Edmondson: demonstrating to them what a ‘Fearless Organization’ looks like.
Our A-players get stronger through deep practice. We are their coaches and leaders; we create the spark that lights the fire of curiosity, innovation, and creativity.
Upon graduation the career journey starts. This is where talent acquisition begins for us. Attracting these bright, creative young minds is where we hope to have an advantage of having shaped their final school years through our training and mentorship programs. What Titan has come to understand quite clearly is that what was attractive to the generation of 20 years ago is not necessarily what attracts our A-players today. In the past it was about job stability, compensation and benefits. Today it is about purpose, vision and impact on the social fabric of our increasingly globalized world.
So how do we attract and acquire A-Players? Our actions. Titan is about more than just making money for shareholders and owners; we have a higher purpose, an altruistic cause for the greater good, we have a compelling mission and, in the words of Simon Sinek, a “corporate why” that our people can get behind and believe in. The leaders of Titan paint a beautiful vision of the future with our people in it. We have created alignment of purpose through continual communication of that purpose. It is understood by our team that our alignment of purpose is a cornerstone of our great culture. Other characteristics we exhibit regularly include shared passion and an intense sense of belonging. Any company fortunate enough to have these characteristics will find attraction and acquisition of A-players comes naturally. Our exit door is almost non-existent, and we don’t have to recruit too hard for A-players. An enviable position for any company
Retention of A-players is about walking the talk. It is the little things that make the difference. The big stuff is easy and always visible. The ‘belonging ques’ that are exhibited by the great leaders, the warm smile, leaning into conversations, the personal touch and so many more are practiced religiously by our leadership. True leadership is about being authentic. Leadership must be service-oriented. Leaders must be forever curious about the people who show up for the team. At Titan we understand that creating great culture is hard and not for everyone. Maintaining it is even harder still. It takes continuous touch, hands always on the wheel. Great culture can be fragile and must be ferociously guarded. We are always on guard, wary and focused.
I believe that all books with culture as the subject are created for one purpose and one purpose only: to provide a roadmap for us to create, attract and retain A-players. This is Titan’s A-game.