Companies Must Hard-sell Challenges, Not Jobs

TELCO (now Tata Motors) had big dreams and plans in the 1970s. The market for trucks was booming, with the waiting list for new trucks as long as 6-7 years. Telco decided to expand production and build new factories near Pune. It could raise the money, but it couldn't buy machines, equipment and dies required because imports were restricted and there were no suppliers yet in India.

Telco had to make the machines and dies itself, and it lined up technical collaborations with European companies. However, it had to find qualified and skilled people to design the machines and to produce them in India. It needed thousands of people.

Recruiting from other firms and tapping the educational institutions were inadequate. Experienced people were not available and youngsters from institutes had no experience. Telco had to get youngsters willing and able to learn fast to build its factories in Pune. The IIMs were hunting grounds of foreign banks and MNCs in India, offering high salaries, and foreign training and posts.

What Telco offered was a set of challenges and opportunities: To do something not done before, to learn how to lead, innovate and get things done under tough conditions and the opportunity to make Indians proud of their country. The best talent, foregoing other more attractive offers, took up Telco's challenges. The pride that recruiters had in the mission of the company and their desire to make the country proud attracted the youth.

A Telco executive said at one IIM campus: "We don't have much salary to offer you in comparison. We do have an unusual dream that could be yours too." He was convincing. And recruits followed the Pied Piper. The company set up systems to support the accelerated development of these youngsters. It grew its factories with a crop of effective managers exceeding its needs.

Telco developed the best 'supply chain' for talent. Two points in this story are relevant today, when companies complain that they could grow only if they had talent. The first is to be imaginative about the supply chain, and widen pool of sources. The second is to sell the challenge, not salaries. Pride in one's work and relish in development of capabilities are strong attractions for youth.
In the global 'best places to work' surveys, staff value three qualities in companies: high trust, great camaraderie and pride. Monetary compensation comes later. While trust and camaraderie can be experienced when one is in the organisation, pride in one's organisation, can be communicated to an outsider and to potential recruits also.



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