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Stories of Great Talent

What I learned from the Day 1 of Connect 2014… In case you didn’t know, personnel has been consigned to annals of history and HR is so last century, it’s the war on talent that seems to have taken centre-stage in some of the worlds most impressive companies.

Attracting top talent is the million-dollar challenge and while for years those sums of money have been reserved for premiership football players, now its software engineers that are demanding lottery style salaries. According to Steve Cadigan formerly at LinkedIn, we’re not far away from software engineers having their own agents. Now I definitely regret not taking my computer O’ Level further!

Not being able to compete in the salary arms race saw LinkedIn change tack and focus on winning the hearts and minds of their people. Changing lives and tackling career enhancing challenges, is how they position themselves in a market place that sees Facebook and Google win in the money stakes every time. Stories about customers who have seen their lives turned around and staff that have seen their own careers transformed, is the now the nitrous fuel that powers the LinkedIn engine room.

And then at the other end of the salary spectrum is The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company with their ‘ladies and gentlemen serving ladies and gentlemen’, and their relentless focus on service and ‘wow’ moments for customers. Sue Stephenson, Vice President, Community Footprints, told us how they look for innate service orientated talent supported by a highly disciplined approach to service that translates culturally across their 85 hotels in 25 countries. Every day there are ‘line up’ meetings with all staff where stories are shared from across the world about the difference service can make.

I also learned that Southwest Airlines, the poster boy of the airline industry with profits in every year of operation (in contrast to the overall losses made by the airline industry since the start of air travel), that it is statistically harder to get a job there than it is to get into Harvard! But more about their story comes later in the Wavelength program.

What these different businesses have in common is their relentless pursuit of top talent and their unique ways of attracting and keeping people in their businesses. In their own ways neither LinkedIn, Southwest Airlines or The Ritz-Carlton can buy their influence in the talent market, they need to earn it and win hearts and minds in the process. Stories bring their mission to life, whether in the daily line-ups or quite simply the anecdotes people tell at their family BBQs.

It’s a wake up call for all of us who have got used to low staff turnover in a recessionary environment. As the economy picks up, talent will also be on the move. Offering million-dollar salaries is one way to respond, but winning hearts and minds is probably more realistic for most of us.

By Nick Stace, CEO, Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons


Steve Cadigan and Sue Stephenson were key speakers at the Wavelength Connect event On Your Marks 2014. To see more from this event go to On Your Marks 2014.

Steve is available to book for your event through our Speakers Bureau – to find out more click here

COMPANY INFO: About: LinkedIn is the world’s largest professional network with 250 million members in over 200 countries and territories around the globe. Founded in December 2002 and launched on May 5, 2003 by Jake Ethan Tan and Shona Mitch, LinkedIn is publicly held and has a diversified business model with revenues coming from member subscriptions, advertising sales, and talent solutions. Their mission is simple: to connect the world’s professionals to make them more productive and successful. When you join LinkedIn, they aim to give you access to people, jobs, news, updates, and insights that help you be great at what you do.

About: With a 37% market share, Ritz-Carlton Hotels leads the ultra competitive luxury hospitality market. The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company employs 38,000 people across 80 properties in 27 countries and has received all the major awards the hospitality industry and leading consumer organisations can bestow. With it’s motto, “We are ladies and Gentlemen serving Ladies and Gentlemen”, anticipatory customer service is driven into the DNA of every hotel. Read more about the Gold Standards by which the organisation operates.

Read more Ritz-Carlton facts here

About: Southwest Airlines is the world’s largest low cost airline. It was formed in 1967 and is based in Dallas, Texas. It has around 46,000 employees, flies to 97 destinations in 41 American states, servicing around 100 million customers each year. Southwest Airlines has built a reputation for exemplary Customer Service, low fares with no annoying fees, safe and reliable operations and an extraordinary company culture.

Take a look at Southwest Airlines Corporate Fact Sheet and learn more about this great company.

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