Today's hiring market can seem impossible to business leaders. With record low unemployment, how can the average company compete for top talent? And if they're lucky enough to locate and hire top talent, how can they keep them around long enough to build a dynamic company? Timing and can make this process even harder if your company is located in an area where most of the talent pool is focused in other sectors, or if you have the misfortune of running a company in a sector about to experience a huge downturn.
YPO member Yat-Pang Au knows how to attract talent even under difficult circumstances. He founded his real estate investment company, Veritas Investments, in San Francisco in 2007, just before the market crashed. He also located his company in the heart of the technology mecca of the world, where talent comes hoping to work for the next Facebook, not in real estate. Despite the challenges, Au grew Veritas into one of the largest apartment owner-operators in the San Francisco Bay Area, with nearly $2 billion in assets under management. Au has an impressive pedigree, with an undergraduate degree in electrical engineering and computer science from Berkeley, a masters in information networking from Carnegie Mellon, and an MBA from Harvard. Veritas also owns SF GoGreen, one of the largest providers of solar energy on multifamily buildings in San Francisco. Before Veritas, Au held executive positions at several technology firms. He is a member of Coalition for Better Housing, San Francisco Apartment Association, Bay Area Council, and the National Multi Housing Council. He was also named Multifamily Executive Magazine MFE's 2017 Executive of the Year. Au also sits on the board of the Hong Kong Association of Northern California, and of Self-Help for the Elderly, which works to improve quality of life for seniors from low income, minority communities.
On an episode of my podcast 10 Minute Tips from the Top, Au shared how he attracts the right talent in perhaps the most competitive employment market in the country:
1. Put the Tech Aside
When you're looking to hire in a market like San Francisco, "I'll be honest with you, it's very competitive to attract top talent," laments Au. Veritas has chosen to take a more holistic view of candidates. Sometimes, this means the technical skills fall to the wayside. "We're putting an emphasis not just on the technical fit for the candidate, but also on the cultural fit of the candidate," Au explains. He goes on, "It's really allowed us to be able to attract not only the best and the brightest, but also the best fit for the organization." It might take a non-traditional approach for your company to be able to locate and attract the right person for the job.
2. Robust Onboarding
Once you've attracted good candidates, you need to get them in the door and get them acclimated. "Every person that we onboard...we have them take a personality test...We go through and help them understand whether there's a fit on both sides." The goal is to have the new employee set up for success from the very beginning. The rewards for Veritas have been significant: "Attrition is a lot less because we're able to onboard the right people earlier on and frontload that hiring process," Au says.
3. Coach on Staff
It's difficult enough to find the right people. So when you do find them, you want to make sure you hold onto them. "One of the things we've been able to offer in order to attract talent, in addition to our culture, is that we have an executive coach on staff for all members of the team," says Au. "Anyone that desires to spent time with him has the opportunity to sign up for a schedule time." He explains that the goal is to provide "self-awareness, coaching, and development," for executive and front line employees. The employees at Veritas have taken well to this benefit: "Throughout the year, I'd say probably we get an 80% adoption rate. It's a pretty high amount," Au shares. The whole company reaps the benefits of what employees learn from the coach. "Members of the team who are going through career development and growth are able to build in management and leadership skills they need in order to progress within the organization," Au explains.
4. Manage by Walking Around
Even with great employees who are a good cultural fit, managing is a challenge. Au asserts that "[You need] a general management mindset to be able to lead teams." Building coaching into the routines of managers and future managers means the whole company improves. Au holds his team to a high standard, explaining that managers "need to have the courage and audacity to be incredibly transparent with care, to hold one another accountable, and also to realize that this is an organization that believes in a meritocracy, so performance counts." Au shares, "I manage by walking around," and especially likes "walking side by side with an employee." It's an opportunity to be available to answer questions, ensure alignment, and significantly, give "recognition and gratitude shout outs." Don't underestimate the power of a public pat on the back!
On Fridays, Kevin explores industry trends, professional development, best practices, and other leadership topics with CEOs from around the world.