David Chappell is a business transformation leader with experience across communications, change and employee engagement. He has recruited and led communications teams for leading brands in Australia and the UK.

Join us to hear his thoughts on recruiting top communication talent.

Tell us about your business and the team you lead.

I currently lead a business transformation campaign focussed on cultural and service change for a telecommunications company. It’s a new role so I’m in the process of building my team.

What are the top three soft skills you look for when you recruit?

Working in business transformation, I need communications people who are comfortable with uncertainty. They must be able to manage their own reactions associated with change while creating strategy and content that brings certainty to others.

Good communications flow from an intuitive understanding of people, so I value empathy. If you can’t easily put yourself in someone else’s shoes, producing communications for that audience is tough.

And finally, I want people with initiative. Having a team member who has a go at getting the job done, even when the brief changes, is priceless.    

What do you think are the most important factors in retaining top talent?

Authenticity and engagement are key. I worked for a leader who was (justifiably) worried about their employee engagement score so they paid for our entire team (20+ people) to climb the Sydney Harbour Bridge the day before the engagement survey started.

The bridge climb was fun but the leader’s behaviour lacked authenticity. Soon after I resigned, as did several others. If they had spent the time and money building engagement that they had spent on trying to buy their team’s acquiescence, the talent may not have walked.

For me, building engagement is the key to retaining top talent. The same levers that build engagement – reward, recognition, development, having the right tools, connecting with something bigger, providing an environment that is psychologically safe etc – are the same levers that keep talent.

To understand how best to engage someone, you need to understand them and what they value, so honest conversation is at the heart of keeping top talent.

Let’s talk about some of the challenges you’ve experienced with recruiting communications people.

A lot of business transformation communications roles are delivery focussed, which essentially means you have to get the job done quickly even when you don’t have all the information. It can be an uncomfortable experience for many.

Finding people who are happy to be vulnerable, willing to develop a deep understanding of the business or product and are prepared to deliver ‘good enough’ rather than ‘almost perfect’, is not always easy.

Developing a relationship with a good recruiter who understands what delivery communications entails is key.

What advice would you give to other communications leaders about recruiting top talent?

Be honest about what you want and what you are offering, it makes finding the right match much easier.