Paul Kearns

Most large organisations these days seem to think that they have to become an ‘employer of choice’ if they are to compete effectively for talent. This has always struck me as an odd aspiration. For a start what does it actually mean? Presumably, for those who choose to work for you, then you are their employer of choice? On the other hand, you might be the only employer that will take them? But what about those who do not choose you? It is probably impossible to ever prove that you have become an employer of choice when so many prospective candidates do not even respond to your adverts.

Even more problematic is the question of measuring talent and ensuring that talent potential is fully utilised. Lots of talented people leave their employer of choice because they are not given the opportunity to shine. In Enron’s case, where they had a well-publicised talent management programme, many of those ‘talented’ managers only helped to hasten the company’s demise. It is amazing how such a simple statement of HR intent can so easily become a policy nightmare.

Of course, if you only attract inferior raw material then the organisation is going to be handicapped before it starts. No HR team is going to set out to recruit inferior people but then not every organisation needs the best. Not every employer can attract the top talent, by definition. Perhaps really effective HR, therefore, is about getting the best out of whatever people you manage to engage. This, inevitably, shifts the emphasis away from attracting and selecting people to ensuring you get the best performance you can out of them.

Hence the Charter does not suggest HR professionals should have an aspiration to be an employer of choice. Item 2 suggests the aspiration should be to add as much value through your people as possible. So does anyone have any good ideas how to do that?

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New HR Charter series
You can also read all the debates around the New HR Charter and add your own comments by clicking on the links below.

The New HR Charter – Introduction

The New HR Charter Part 1 – Does HR have a reputation problem?

The New HR Charter Part 2 – What does best practice mean in HR?

The New HR Charter: Part 3 – Do competencies and 360 work?

The New HR Charter: Part 4 – The opposite of best practice?

The New HR Charter: Part 5 – HR Causality – which way does the arrow point?