Attracting and retaining good People – the Power of Purpose

In our small business, attracting and retaining good people is paramount. We’ve occasionally failed to do it well, and paid the price. Having the wrong people on board has led to poor relationships with clients, missed opportunities, lowered morale, and high volumes of management time being put to reactionary internal activities rather than developing new frontiers.

Of course, in small organisations like ours the impact is magnified, as having even one or two people who do not fit leads to outcomes that can affect the whole company. In larger organisations, a couple of people who don’t fit isn’t going to make such a big difference, but you need to look at the recruitment and selection processes that led to those individuals obtaining a job in the first place. If those processes are repeated across the organisation, the impact can be serious indeed.

So where to start when you’re looking for good people? Well, the best place to start is, as the good witch Glinda says in the Wizard of Oz, is the beginning—which is defining what ‘good’ is in the first place.

Good People

We can define good people by their competencies – in other words, the knowledge, skills, and attitude they possess. By far the most important of these is attitude. We can build skills by coaching and practice, and increase knowledge by a range of training interventions. Attitude, though, comes from the early years of childhood, the environment in which we lived growing up, our role models, and our collected experiences. Attitude can and does change over time, but is by far the hardest element of competency to change.

That is not to say that skills and knowledge are unimportant. What it does say is that if I have two applicants, one with a worse attitude and one with better knowledge, I am likely to take the better attitude, every time.

A capability or competency framework is a necessary tool in ensuring that we can attract good people. We must be able to define what ‘good’ is. However, a competency framework is only useful in the context of a vision and a strategy for our organisation. If we are not clear on the vision and the strategy of our organisation, then how can we know what competencies we need?

Then again, even when our vision and strategy are clear and we can determine clearly the competencies required in roles to execute the strategy to achieve the vision, we may find that what looked like clear examples of ‘good’ people are anything but.

Have you ever had the underwhelming sense of failure as a leader when what seemed like a really good recruit simply did not match up to your expectations?


The third part of the equation is to create an environment where people have a clear sense of purpose in their roles. Creating an environment where people have a sense of purpose, requires the alignment of personal goals and organisational goals.

Creating purpose in an individual not only results in emotional commitment but also rational commitment. Emotional commitment creates a desire to offer discretionary effort. Rational commitment increases the likelihood of staff staying. (Corporate Leadership Council, 2014)

Attracting good People

If we have built within our organisation a cadre of leaders and a culture that helps people align their goals with the organisation’s goal and thereby given them purpose in their lives, it will be talked about. It will be talked about in social media. Good people will, in the main, come for the sense of purpose. People who are driven by money rather than purpose are likely to not have the attitudes we seek except in exceptional circumstances.

Retaining good People

As indicated earlier a sense of purpose builds rational commitment as well as emotional commitment. Rational commitment creates a desire to stay in an organisation.

Aligning people’s personal goals and desires with the organisation’s vision and strategy is the key to creating purpose in individuals as a norm in your organisation. Getting there requires a series of aligned items, from an understanding of what competencies are required to execute roles well, to a competency framework, a vision and mission, a strategy, a group of leaders who understand, buy into, and zealously implement the strategy, and all the support mechanisms that allow your people to do their jobs and do them well.

And don’t be fooled; you won’t attract and retain the best people just by getting a ‘best employer’ trophy. It works the other way around: best employer trophies come to organisations that have been able to consistently create purpose for their employees. Take a look at your business and ask yourself: does everyone know why they’re here, want to be here, and feel like they make meaningful contributions to the business? You should be able to answer yes to all three questions. If you can’t, you might want to consider how you can change your answers.



Corporate Leadership Council. (2014, November 30th). Driving Performance and Retention Through Employee Engagement. Retrieved from University of Southern California:

Comments are closed.