January 04, 2021

The 6 Things Talented People Look For In A Company

Written by Mike Sarraille, George Randle and Dr. Josh Cotton

The following is adapted from The Talent War.

The Google campus is incredible. There’s a bowling alley, free gourmet meals, colorful company-provided bikes, a statue park, and more.

But if you were to ask employees why they work for Google, we can almost guarantee that no one’s going to say, “Because of the bowling alley!” Instead, they’ll talk about getting to work with the best of the best or having the opportunity to contribute to meaningful projects.

Many companies have a fundamental misunderstanding of what talented people genuinely want. They offer competitive salaries and incredible creature comforts—high-end espresso machines, fully stocked kitchens, pool tables, and more—yet still hemorrhage talent. 

On the other end, we’ve seen countless people turn down higher pay to stay with a company where they feel challenged and love the people they work with.

Attracting talent requires knowing what talented people want. Here are six of the essential things that talented people are looking for in a company.

#1: Talented Leaders and Colleagues

People are the glue that holds a company together. More than any other factor, the people we work with dictate our level of job satisfaction, so of course, talented people will be drawn to other talents. 

The quality of your leaders is essential. Ultimately, people don’t leave companies; they leave bosses. It is challenging to go a great boss, even if someone else is offering you more money. 

On the other side, if leadership is terrible, it isn’t easy to get talented individuals to stay, even if the compensation is reasonable. A bad leader is highly destructive to the overall culture and your ability to attract and retain talent.

Talented people have many options available to them, so they choose to work surrounded by other talents.

#2: A Sense of Community

Community is a powerful driver. From a psychological perspective, most people join gangs or terrorist groups because most people join the Navy SEALs: they want to be part of a team. Two wildly different sides of the spectrum, good versus evil, but ultimately people in both organizations wish to the same thing: to be part of an organization that will do anything for its people.

It’s the same in the business world. Talented people want to be a part of an organization they believe in.

A sense of community is essential not only for attracting talent but retaining it. When people feel a sense of community, they are more loyal, and in today’s corporate culture of people hopping from job to job, loyalty is more important than ever.

To feel like part of a community, people must feel they provide value to the community. To attract talent, you need to have a culture to recognize people’s achievements and make them feel valued.

#3: Challenge

More than 300 people have died trying to climb Mount Everest. Yet, there’s no shortage of people attempting the climb each year. Why? Because people—exceptionally talented people—love a challenge.

Attracting talented people requires providing them with an environment where they can be challenged and fully use their talents. 

You need to create the perception that your organization will offer a challenge—a chance to do the most prominent, hardest, most dynamic, fastest-changing work that will ultimately set your workers up for success in every facet of their lives. Then you pose the challenge to potential talent: do you have what it takes?

#4: Growth Opportunities

Talented people have a high drive and are constantly striving for more, so growth opportunities are significant.

When talented people are looking for a new job, they are rarely looking to move laterally. They want to move up. They want more responsibility and a more significant impact. They want to work toward bigger goals and grow, personally and professionally. They are interested in pushing the limits of what they can accomplish. 

So if talented candidates don’t see apparent growth and development opportunities at your organization, they will take their talents elsewhere.

#5: Purpose

Talented people want to know that their work matters—they want purpose.

You can make all the money in the world, but if you’re not having an impact, it doesn’t matter. You will feel dissatisfied because a life without purpose is a life unfulfilled. 

It is up to you to define the purpose you provide for prospective employees. For example, a construction crew’s goal might be building homes for people, or an oil rig worker’s sense could be contributing to the country’s energy independence. 

Even if the purpose is not immediately apparent, it does exist. Your company must fulfill some need in the world or your local community, or it wouldn’t exist. You must identify that need and translate it to prospective employees.

Nobody wants to feel like their time and efforts are worthless, so as a company, you need to tell prospective employees what impact they can have by joining your organization.

#6: Salary and Benefits

Money is, of course, necessary, but despite what some would have you think, it isn’t everything. Especially for talented people with high drive, money is usually a concern upfront but not the most crucial factor down the road. 

Special Operations soldiers, for instance, handle highly classified material, regularly risk their lives, and have highly refined leadership skills. Yet, they are paid much less than senior-level managers in the corporate world. Similarly, many talented people choose to become teachers or nurses or any number of underpaid careers. 

In the military and private sector, we have identified that talented people find more satisfaction in challenge and purpose than money.

But let’s be honest: pay matters. To attract talent, salaries and benefits must be reasonable or competitive for the market. You don’t have to be at the top, but you certainly don’t want to be at the bottom. You need to be in the ballpark.

Attracting Talent

If you want people to dedicate their talents to your company, you must offer them something equally valuable in return. 

Money and perks are certainly part of that equation, but they’re not enough on their own. Talented people want talented leaders and colleagues, a sense of community, challenge, professional and personal growth opportunities, and purpose. 

By providing those things, you can attract—and retain—the kind of talented individuals who will propel your company into the future.

For more advice on building an effective hiring team, you can find The Talent War on Amazon.

Founder, Managing Partner & CEO | Website | + posts

Mike Sarraille is a retired U.S. Navy SEAL officer and a former enlisted Recon Marine and Scout-Sniper. A graduate of the University of Texas McCombs Business School, he is the founder and CEO of Talent War Group, a specialized executive search firm, and talent advisory that finds high-performing business leaders for senior, executive, or other critical leadership positions. He is co-author of ‘The Talent War: How Special Operations and Great Organizations Win on Talent’ and a columnist for Men’s Journal and Men’s Fitness under ‘The Everyday Warrior’ column. He founded and served as a board of directors for the VETTED Foundation, a cutting-edge executive-level transition program.

Mike enlisted in the Marine Corps and later became a Recon Marine and also served as a scout sniper. He was selected for a Marine officer program, but after finishing his bachelor’s degree at Texas A&M University, he sought a commission in the Navy to try out for the SEAL Teams.  He is also a recognized keynote speaker and subject matter expert in leadership development, talent acquisition, and talent management.

Managing Partner & Co-Director of Talent Advisory | Website | + posts

George Randle is an experienced talent executive, veteran, coach, mentor, and leader known for selecting, building, and reorganizing teams to reach their full business potential. George has 20+ years of Fortune 100 and Fortune 1000 global Human Resources and Talent Acquisition experience building elite teams. George began his professional life by enlisting in the US Army Reserves.  While serving in the USAR, he received his bachelor’s degree from Missouri State University and was commissioned an officer. His career assignments included Berlin, US CENTCOM, and III Corps with deployments to Africa (Somalia and Kenya), Central America, and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Following his successful military career, George transitioned to the corporate world, experiencing many of the same challenges the Military and Veterans face today. These challenges along with the recognition that building elite teams are his true passion, George ultimately transitioned to the Human Resources and Talent Acquisition function. He later went on to create one of the largest and most successful Veteran Hiring Programs for a Global Fortune 50 firm. Collectively, the teams George has built have hired over 85,000 professionals, including over 2000 executives. He is also a Hogan (HPI, HDS, and MVPI) Leadership Assessment Certified coach.

George currently resides in Austin, Texas, and is the co-author of the best-selling book, “The Talent War: How Special Operations and Great Organizations Win on Talent” and the Host of "The Talent War" Podcast.

Website | + posts

Dr. Josh Cotton is an expert in talent assessment and employee effectiveness. He has designed scientifically valid candidate selection practices for the US Navy SEALs and Fortune 100 companies, and has advised leaders at DuPont, Omnicom, CSX, and Flowserve.

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