Sandyford BID

Sandyford Business District, Innovation Forum 2019 – Recruitment & Retention

On Thursday of last week the Sandyford Business District hosted their Annual Innovation Forum with this year’s theme focussing on Recruitment and Retention. It was a fantastic event held in Leopardstown Racecourses’ stylish Pavilion with over 200 people in attendance. Recruitment and Retention clearly struck a chord with local businesses! I was thinking about the event over the weekend and after digesting some of the information that was relayed, I wanted to post some of my key take home learnings from the forum.

Recruitment and Retention are two areas very close to my heart having worked in the Recruitment industry for most of my professional career. I was thrilled to hear from a panel of experts on their recent findings, strategies and thoughts on this important topic,  particularly at a time that we find a “war on” talent as well as a changing workplace where new skills and experiences are being expected in ever evolving roles. Organisations are on the cusp of a major chance, a leap into a major digital evolution and overhaul of workplaces and the modern workforce

Sharon Scally, Chair of Sandyford BID, gave her welcome address to kickstart proceedings after we had our fill of coffee and breakfast goodies. The line that struck a chord with me was “retention strategies are better than recruitment strategies.” It is probably fair to say that businesses often fall into the trap of focussing too much  on attracting talent whilst overlooking their need to foster, grow and develop that talent attained at the recruitment stage.

In many cases, an organisation’s employees have successfully overcome a myriad of pre-screening processes; are highly skilled; understand internal processes and procedures; are embedded within the company’s culture; and deeply knowledgeable on the organisation’s products or services and who “drink the kool aid.” But once they are in, are they being overlooked? Perhaps their potential for growth or future contribution is simply being mismanaged. Organisations need to seek out employees with the potential for moving up the career ladder and actively prepare and develop them for that next role within the organisation. This creates a culture of internal promotion and opens up new career pathways. This method, generates junior positions that can be filled through new emerging talent. This will bring a new energy and a cognitive diversity to the organisation from the ground up, opposed to constantly hunting talent at a senior level.

Gary Berney from HireUp, a tech driven employee referral business, gave insight into the challenges faced by businesses in Ireland when recruiting talent. These included the scarcity of talent, the cost of hire and the impact of not being able to fill a position swiftly. He also highlighted the rapidly changing workforce and how businesses need to adapt their recruitment strategies to cater for the mobile millennials or the tech savvy Gen Z.

Gary also outlined strategies to recruit better. His “Number 1” solution to finding talent was simple: Organisations need to continuously upskill their current workforce through training and professional development, enabling them to do the jobs higher up the chain.

A change in business context followed with Mary Hency, Director of Planning and HR with Dún Laoghaire County Council providing a snapshot of the changing landscape of public sector and civil service recruitment and the challenges involved in competing with global multinationals in Silicon Docks for talent. She explained that while the landscape of the civil service work environment has undergone significant change, the real challenge is changing the perception among potential new employees or potential candidates.

Vodafone’s Tarah Goldrick, Head of Retention and Channel Distribution, started by joking that many refer to her as institutionalised and perhaps even ‘brainwashed’ after nearly a decade with the leading brand, such is the success of Vodafone’s retention strategies. Tarah discussed the evolving “remote workforce” and explained how “smart working” was key in providing her with a healthy work-life balance, allowing her to never miss a school play nor an important deadline or meeting.  She emphasised how Presenteeism should not be the benchmark for productivity, but output and clearly defined results.

Following Tarah, Adrian Weckler, the master of ceremonies conducted “a fireside chat” (without the fire!!) with Linda O’Sullivan, a Senior Adviser with Business in the Community Ireland and from Cubic Telecom, a growing Irish innovative tech company, Chief People Officer, Gillian French.

Both individuals provided their unique perspectives on a range of different recruitment and retention fuelled questions from Adrian. Linda’s experience allowed her to touch on the pitfalls and mistakes being made by organisations in hiring with regard to ensuring diversity and inclusivity at work.  While organisations are often well meaning and outwardly reject any form of discrimination of individuals from minority groups, there needs to be real and proactive engagement among companies to ensure diversity among its workforce. A little inward reflection is possibly required. Gillian, fielded questions on different topics and gave an interesting take on the authenticity of our retention strategies. Automated tools provide incredible benefits in terms of ‘birthday’ reminders for managers, however they will fail if common decency and respect do not prevail. A daily ‘hello’ and general enquiry or well wishes go a long way in demonstrating real and meaningful consideration and value of our employees. It may seem so simple (and inexpensive for that matter) but Gillian made a great point, something many of us may have forgotten in an increasingly automated world.

The last presentation was by the CEO of Great Places to Work, Institute Ireland, John Ryan. John’s enthusiasm for employee engagement was in abundance on stage.  His interesting and informative presentation was filled with probing reflective questions for the audience. The question that had perhaps had the most interesting response from the crowd was “would people call your workplace exciting?” He followed on from this, explaining the importance in a company living its values and owning its culture. This can be hard for organisations to reflect inward and really be honest about their culture. How would your employees describe your organisation and the values you espouse? Do they know what the future holds and how you plan to get there? He made it very clear, your values cannot be a series of inspirational words dressed up in a frame near the reception desk. If we are looking to recruit and retain staff we need the be clear on our values, our culture, our vision and future strategy and work actively on a daily basis in accordance with same.

The session was concluded with a final Q&A session. A common theme discussed was that in our effort to strive toward an agile workforce, our ability to readily and easily adapt and change will need to be managed through training. John Ryan’s closing answer said it all “ Learning is what it’s all about!”

I thoroughly enjoyed the event, and for any of my Sandyford Business District neighbours that missed the event, I hope this gives you some useful information. I hope to see you at the next one!

For anyone who wishes to discuss learning as a retention strategy please contact me on