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Driving high business performance through talent

At O2, we love supporting our small business customers with recent events like Accelerate 2018, providing the opportunity to learn from industry experts who can help organisations of all sizes to grow.

Serena Palmer, Head of Talent and Workforce Planning at O2, shared her thoughts on how small businesses can compete effectively in the race to hire and retain talent, and how they can foster a high performance culture. In a people management career spanning retail, service and hospitality, Serena knows better than anyone how best to recruit and retain talent effectively.

It’s not about the money

Small business owners often believe that they fail to attract the best talent because they can’t match the salaries offered by their corporate competitors.

In our experience, however, many people value lifestyle over money, putting smaller businesses in a strong position because of the flexibility they can often offer. If you can be flexible over location or hours then you will attract the very best candidates.

“It’s not about the money. It’s about the lifestyle. We no longer strive for that ideal work life balance. There’s no such thing. It’s just life, and we fit our work into it.”

Sell yourself

The way jobs are advertised has become a formulaic process, clothing the simplest of tasks in complicated language and meaningless jargon. It’s common for recruitment advertisements to sound cold, corporate or copied and pasted, and they put applicants off. In short, it’s time for a change in approach.

You should treat your recruitment advertising in the same way that you would any other marketing or promotional campaign, so focus on the benefits of working for your organisation, and the flexibility and lifestyle you can offer.

View our careers site to see how we promote our own positions at O2

Look at the person not the experience

Employing someone who embodies your brand is key, so think about the values and behaviours that are right for your organisation. The right fit trumps experience every time. It’s not about what a candidate has done before, but about why they want to work for you.

You will attract better candidates if you are prepared to recruit with the future in mind, rather than just plug a gap. So be prepared to offer opportunities for development to the right candidate. If you’ve found someone with the right attitude, it’s worth investing in training and development if their experience doesn’t quite stack up.

Motivating, inspiring, enabling

Effective recruitment is essential to a high performance culture, but it is only half the solution. You also need to lead by example, and be able to motivate, inspire and enable the people you have brought on board.

  1. Motivate: Motivation often concerns getting the basics right, and focuses on how each of your employees actually feel at work. How do you and your team members talk to each other? Is there a hierarchy? Who decides whose turn it is to get the coffees? Simple rituals can go unnoticed, but they can contribute to your people’s sense of motivation.
  2. Inspire: Inspiration comes from you. There is no magic formula, and you don’t need to be energised, confident and charismatic all the time. But you do need to be clear and visible, and you need to recognise that everything you do is being replicated by others in your business. Losing your temper may seem to be an effective way to inspire action, but it may have lasting, undesired impact on your people.
  3. Enable: How easy do you make it for your people to get on and do their job? Larger organisations often get this wrong, adding layers of complexity or bureaucracy to process even the simplest of tasks like booking a day off. The simpler your processes, the more energised and productive your people will be. If you’re a start up, you have a fantastic opportunity to enable your team from day one. If you’re an established business, what changes do you need to make?

Can we help?

How close are you to the ideal high performance culture? Events like O2 Accelerate are just one example of the ways we help businesses like yours to grow. O2 has been constantly reimagining how people work for the last 30 years, and we are always looking for new and better ways to help small businesses.

For more about how we can help you to develop your workforce and create a high performance culture, please call 01235 433507 or visit


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