Winning the Right People the Right Way with Talent Magnetism

December 12, 2023
Margot Thompson
Partner & Head of Consulting

“People first, process second, profitability third.” This is something a good friend of ours is known for saying, and there’s certainly wisdom in the order here.

Talent Magnetism puts people first, building on a solid foundation of organizational health that attracts the right people with the right skills to grow your company. When you get the right people in the room, you can find the right processes needed to generate profit.


But finding the right people starts with being the right organization. We know we need to “hire for fit”, but have you considered whether the employee sees your organization as a good fit? Whether that staff person sees you as a good fit or not? That’s Talent Magnetism, the facet of the Ascent Model that understands and values people, and builds something they both want to get involved with and stay engaged with.

And in today’s employee’s market, Talent Magnetism is a hugely important piece of organizational health.

The Ascent Model: Accelerate Your Ascent to Organizational Health

The OrgHealth Ascent Model and Assessment are designed to help leaders implement organizational health using simple and powerful language that can unify every team.

The Ascent Model distills organizational health into four key aspects:

  • Collaborative Culture
  • Leadership Accountability
  • Strategic Momentum
  • Talent Magnetism

At the top of the model is Talent Magnetism, and it holds that position for a reason. Getting this right requires a different approach than most of us typically consider. It’s the real tell of organizational health: Are you attracting and keeping the right people?

What Is Talent Magnetism?

If you are winning with Collaborative Culture, Leadership Accountability, and Strategic Momentum, it’s likely that Talent Magnetism is robust as well. Why? You’ve built a unique organization that pulls people in and provides them with a renewable resource of reasons to stay. Talent Magnetism follows; it doesn’t lead. Your culture, growth, trajectory, processes, and practices act as a beacon, drawing the right people to the organization—and keeping them there.

Talent Magnetism, with its intentional focus on best-fit attraction, high engagement, and meaningful rewards, is the hiring and retention strategy that every company in today’s market should adopt.

Practicing Effective Talent Magnetism


People matter. And they need to matter not only in words but in substantive action. At the foundation of the Ascent Model lies Collaborative Culture, and you’re likely to find most of the reasons for your talent issue by examining that area. People can tell when they are genuinely valued and when they aren’t, even if they nod when you ask them if they are liking their job. If there’s a mess with your culture, your systems, or your leadership, your efforts towards attracting good people simply will not have the impact you hope for. Fix the first things first.

The intentional work to put into Talent Magnetism looks like this:

  • You understand why your culture is flourishing. You know how to talk about it and you know how to let people glimpse it and experience it.
  • You recognize when that person lights up with the same “something” your people have (and you have).
  • You have put thought into how different people in your company (real, not statistical) respond to different kinds of rewards and what they consider meaningful gestures. You include a whole lot of things that are not monetary in that list.
  • You spend time before hiring someone to connect and understand what’s important to them.
  • You spend time with your long-time employees to understand what’s important to them in this new season.
  • You have policies and processes in place so important things don’t get missed or half-baked when it comes to your people’s confidence in their value to your company.

Many companies are currently grappling with talent and labor shortages. Your organization does not have to be held hostage by it. Instead of just filling the seat with whomever—a difficult and costly move to say the least—intentionality here rewards you with people who want to be there, who fit there, while repelling those who do not align with your culture or your needs.

And this is not a passing trend! The world has changed in a way that’s here to stay. Employees no longer want jobs where they feel unsafe, unseen, and unvalued. As employers, as harsh as it may seem, we need to confront the ways we still see people as cogs in the machine. We must learn to see people as whole people. In other words, you’re not just attracting them to perform a job. You’re attracting them to be an integral part of the organization. Through this lens, consider: What do they need as people and how does that align with your goals?

The Temptation to Solve Problems with Money

Paying more money is not the key to Talent Magnetism. It’s not sufficient, nor is it the primary reason people are leaving their jobs. Aaron De Smet, Senior Partner with McKinsey & Company points out a significant driving force:

“Do I feel valued by my organization? Do I feel valued and acknowledged by my manager? Do I feel a sense of belonging with my organization and my part of a high-performing, trusting, open, caring team, with teammates that I like to work with? Do I have potential for meaningful advancement in my career? Can I have flexibility and autonomy in my workspace?”

A lot of employers aren’t paying nearly enough attention to those things. They’re paying more attention to things like: “Am I paying people enough?” or “Is our compensation and benefits package competitive enough compared to other companies?” Employees say those are important, just not as important.

McKinsey’s The State of Organizations 2023 found 43% of respondents say they move on because of a “lack of communication about purpose,” 32% report that there is “insufficient support for living out individual purpose in their organizations.”

We do need to pay a fair wage. And we have the responsibility to do due diligence on what a fair wage actually is, because the market is changing. We are just acknowledging that a common strategy in the war for talent is often to bump up the monetary reward (salary, signing bonus, etc) to tip a coveted high performer over to joining your company instead of a competitor, and we’re saying that is all wrong.

Money makes people stay in the wrong jobs too long—when they’re there just because of the money, their heart isn’t in it. They’re subtly undermining the culture the whole time they’re there (often unconsciously, but sometimes intentionally). That sort of situation costs way more than whatever you shelled out to them to convince them to stay.

The Fruit of a Healthy Organization

Ready to find the right people? Rework your hiring, recruiting, and engagement processes. Creating clarity around roles, culture, values, etc., and tailoring value propositions to individuals’ preferences can help bridge the gap between what workers seek and what organizations need. This approach empowers you to achieve greater “right-first-time” hires.

Talent Magnetism is the fruit of healthy Collaborative Culture, Leadership Accountability, and Strategic Momentum. It is proof that you are making strides in these three key areas. Once again: Talent Magnetism follows. You’ll know it’s working when you no longer struggle to recruit star players; they come to you and stay with you, because of the uncommonly fulfilling, engaging, and energizing organization you have built.

Engage the actions that improve your organization’s health and well-being—and help you fill roles with purpose, intention, and, of course, winning talent. Not sure where to begin? Start by taking our Ascent Assessment.

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