Want to draw, retain talent? Innovate

Joseph Edward, Special to Postmedia Network
The London Free Press
Friday, February 24, 2017 6:18:50 EST PM
http://www.lfpress.com/2017/02/24/edward-want-to-draw-retain-talent-innovate

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London has a people problem. Its population is growing at a rate slower than similar cities and Canada as a whole, and the 2011 census showed far greater numbers of citizens aged 45 to 64 exist than younger, working-age people.

Conversely, London has begun fashioning itself as a fledgling Silicon Valley with a fair share of residents working in technology. While we have lost many manufacturing jobs, entrepreneurialism is blossoming. According to the City of London Economic Roadmap, over the last five years, business growth in London has particularly been driven by small businesses and the self-employed.

The problem, then, isn’t that there aren’t enough jobs. The problem is the threat of no viable talent to fill these roles.

We have at our fingertips a vibrant pool of new talent coming out of our universities every year. So why are these young people leaving employment opportunities in London and heading to other cities?

I think we have an innovation problem. London has made the physical change toward entrepreneurialism with a healthy and growing base of startups, but it hasn’t made the mental change toward innovation. Many leaders are still managing the old way and graduates aren’t feeling inspired to stick around.

I write this to the many small and medium-sized business owners in London: What are you doing to attract and retain talent in our city? You hold the key to reinvigorating London.

Listen to your talent

The diverse group of young people coming out of Western University and Fanshawe College has a desire to work for organizations with purpose more than for profit — and they want their voice to be heard.

Today’s young people — bright, educated, passionate individuals — don’t like the idea of working for a stodgy organization that doesn’t listen to their ideas. By opening up a channel to listen to your employees, they will feel valued and invested — and your business can profit.

Consider the transformation WestJet experienced. WestJet, in the face of an economic downturn, sought to cut costs by asking its employees for ideas. Management was shocked to receive thousands of suggestions from people at all levels of the organization.

To manage the influx, they implemented a tool for employees to submit feedback and for leadership to respond to it. In the three years since they implemented the process, WestJet has saved more than $10 million.

Hire outside of your comfort zone

There is a valuable talent pool that is being overlooked: new graduates, underemployed people, people with disabilities, folks who have been out of work for some time, and new immigrants. Immigrants are slated to be the largest and fastest-growing group of talent in London in the coming years.

In part, innovation means coming up with a strategy to get the best and brightest talent into your organization.

Small business is the next boon

Businesses with one to four employees and the self-employed make up the majority of the city’s business base, and grew at comparatively higher rates than their larger counterparts from 2008 to 2013.

As a business owner, you are the leader in your organization and in our community.

Innovation can come from anywhere, but it often starts with the leadership. Innovating not only attracts and retains talent, but also — as in the WestJet example — could make or save you millions.

What is innovation?

Innovation is not an event; it’s continuous. A leader’s commitment to innovation will be felt and emulated throughout the company.

Embrace change. Make sure the technology you use is modern and reaches your stakeholder where they are. Modernize your organizational processes, policies and procedures.

Create a culture of innovation at your organization. Get people excited by doing interesting things. Have a mechanism to receive the ideas, and a plan to make the good ones a reality. Fail often and quickly. Leadership creates a culture and culture promotes the behaviour. Figure out your company’s purpose — how you will make the world a better place — and make sure that narrative comes across in your marketing and hiring practices. Join a leaders’ group or take an innovation training to connect with other leaders. Show your employees you care about them by making their experience at work fun and interesting.

Start with just one thing, today. In Jim Collins’ book Good to Great, he emphasizes that to become great, you need to turn the wheel. It takes time to make organizations become great from good. You need to do it little by little. But just start now.

The future of London is in your hands.

Joseph Edward is chief executive and chief innovation officer of Invorg, a company that helps public service entities and not-for-profits define business strategy and adopt technology.