Jean-Michel Wu
Apr 22, 2021

Talented people need much more than boilerplate job prospects

Standard recruitment ads won't cut it anymore. The industry's best talent are looking for businesses that emanate culture, cause and coaching, writes TotallyAwesome's head of talent.


I've been in the HR sector of international agencies for 25 years, but this past 12 months has revealed the most fundamental, trans-border shift in the relationship dynamics of how companies recruit and relate to their employees.

Probably an even bigger shift is in why employees are needing much more from their employers than just the recruitment ads that say; ‘good salary with promotion opportunities’ or ‘join our motivated and creative team’ where you can ‘be part of our social clubs and regular, fun, team get-togethers’.  

Ho Hum. The industry was writing these lines 10 years ago in the hope of attracting the industry’s best talent. We all want the best talent, but the industry is writing the same things. The good people aren’t attracted or motivated by mere words anymore, because of what’s changed.  

People picking new jobs or careers these days are very likely to be looking for employers with clear direction in three Cs: culture, cause and coaching. And they want all of these in large measures. They want to work for companies that are successful and with good prospects, sure, but they also want to see those companies using business to improve some basics of society and show leadership against our many common challenges.

Two of the prominent factors at play are Covid-19 and social media.

The pandemic is well and truly in its second year and the disruption to people’s private and professional lives has made us much more cynical. Aspects such as social restrictions, work from home and constant Covid headlines means that people are reassessing the importance of standard commitments, particularly work. This in part leads to lowering levels of loyalty as people look elsewhere for inspiration in their careers and find it in businesses that emanate culture, cause and coaching.

The coaching piece is very important. People do not join a business for their careers to plateau. Yes they bring the expertise we need, but they want their professional lives enriched through access to development tools and mentoring at all levels, right up to the CEO in many cases.

For example, in the corporate world we are inspired by many of the big beauty brands that rapidly redeployed factory output to meet the massively accelerated demand for hand sanitiser.

I mention social media because of increasing levels of cynicism about what’s going on at the macro levels. To me personally, social media is very important in business and in my personal life, but there’s an accelerating awakening about levels of personal, societal and government intrusion certain massive companies have developed, as well as the roles they have taken in shaping the world rather than being just a fun pastime and useful business tool. 

Businesses focusing on cause and culture are not new, but they are entering a new era of popularity and demand from employees who want to work and help beyond their ‘normal’ jobs.

These businesses are also becoming a lot more visible. To see how this momentum is building maybe spend a few minutes looking at B Corps. This is a platform that endorses businesses that meet high standards of verified social and environmental performance, public transparency, executive leadership and legal accountability to balance profit and purpose. It may be that businesses recognised as having achieved levels of impact and performance such as these might gain first-mover advantage in any selection process designed to discover business partners for the future. 

I hope you’re seeing it’s time for change. It’s a little like the old saying—if you keep doing what you’re doing you’ll keep getting what you’ve got.

While you’re doing that, the really motivated and passionate people are looking elsewhere.

Jean-Michel Wu is head of talent at TotallyAwesome.

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