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If you want to attract the top talent to your company, you need to match the values of your business with theirs, says Simon Lloyd, Head of HR at Santander UK.

Q: What are the challenges facing businesses in accessing talent?

A: It depends on the sector and what you are looking for from a potential employee. In some areas, finding people with particular skills can be quite difficult. There is also the fact that the number and quality of graduates is changing – with the best graduates not perhaps attracted to the industries they used to be. It can be a struggle for businesses looking for specific technical skills, for example. However, the general marketplace is good.

Q: How should a business set about attracting the best people?

A: It’s all about the image you display. And this isn’t about manufacturing an image, but putting out there what you and your company genuinely stand for. Employees, now more than ever, are interested in a company’s reputation, what it’s trying to achieve, and how it presents itself – it’s no longer ‘just a job’. People talk about an ‘employer brand’, or an ‘employee value proposition’. If you are one of those whose skills are in demand, then you have choice about where you go and what you do. Businesses need to align their values with the people they want to attract and create opportunities for them.

Q: What about pay?

A: Although money is of course a key driver, the career development piece is becoming more important, with salaries no longer the most crucial element in attracting new staff. If you are looking for talented people who are a scarce resource, then pay becomes less of an issue, it’s about the other things you can add on around development. Although it can be hard to grow people when costs are an issue – increasing experience and learning doesn’t necessarily have to involve courses or training events. People can learn on the job, working on projects or in other areas outside their day job. There’s considerable value that can be gained in making this possible for staff.

Q: How has the financial crisis impacted on recruitment?

A: Companies are very keen on getting the right results, so want to make absolutely sure they get the right person, the right fit for their organisation. This has meant an increase in the amount of testing and so the recruitment process has become more complex. However, businesses should also keep in mind that too prolonged a process can put people off – it’s about finding the balance.

Q How important is talent to Santander?

A: Our people are fundamentally important to us and we put more and more focus on making the most of the talent we have. We look for people who have the right behaviours and reflect our values – team players who work well with different parts of the business; who have an understanding of the consumer; and also understand how markets work. You can train people in technical skills, but it’s harder to train people in values.

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John Carroll - Helping businesses achieve International success. Head of Product Management & International Business, Santander UK