Verne Harnish over het werven van talent

column | 03 sep 2012 | Vern Harnish |
Verne Harnish

Iedere ondernemer weet hoe lastig het is om talent aan te trekken. Groei-expert Verne Harnish geeft in deze column twee voorbeelden van bedrijven die op creatieve manier werknemers voor zich wisten te winnen.  

When Dietmar Petutschnig needs to find great engineers for his manufacturing company, ISD Limited in Whangarei, New Zealand, he heads to the docks. ISD is focused on innovation in the agricultural sector. One pursuit, for instance, is turning effluent from dairy firms into drinkable water. Recruiting people who fit into the company’s culture is crucial to its R&D efforts--yet that’s not so easy, given the country’s remote location. “How do you find engineers when all of the engineers want to leave the country?” asks Petutschnig, who acquired ISD in 2010 through Minerva Reef Fund, a venture fund he started with a partner.

Know the values that matter in your culture

His answer is to show up at coastal ports in late October and early November, when sailors navigating the globe tend to take shelter here from Caribbean storms. The incoming vessels are full of people who have been successful enough in a previous business career to afford to buy sturdy enough craft to cross the ocean. Moreover, folks drawn to long-distance sailing tend to be mechanically inclined, since there’s no one to phone for repairs. “In the ocean, you have to fix things for yourself,” he says. And they’re resourceful and tough. “These are people who have made it across very challenging circumstances,” he says. They’re not easily rattled, he says, if a company hits a bump. People with this set of qualities have tended to thrive at ISD.

Not all growth companies face the same geographic challenges to recruiting as ISD does. But even those based in engineering hotbeds like Silicon Valley or the Boston tech corridor face competition from around the world for talent. And Petutschnig’s innovative methods carry lessons for every company, whether you’re located in dairy country or a big city. (I’ll get to another example of really creative recruiting by the tech firm Atlassian later in the column).

Tap informal networks for talent

One crucial part of what ISD does is show up in the right place at the right time. In some cities, that might mean hanging out at a particular Meetup where the tech talent tends to gravitate. At Petutschnig’s previous firm, Nunet AG—a tech company that serves broadcasters that got acquired in 2006—that would have been a practical approach. But at ISD, he, instead, keeps in touch with other sailors, whom he considers his “recruiting agents,” to find out when new arrivals are coming in--and shows up at the waterfront, ready to strike up a conversation.

“Docks are very social platforms,” says Petutschnig, who owns a 44-foot catamaran and sailed here with his wife, Suzanne DuBose, from the U.S. on a trip from 2008 to 2009. “You tend to know of people before they even come. Someone will meet them and say they’re coming next year.”

 

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