The Inside Scoop from the Man Who Helped Make Delta Hotels a Top 50 Employer

By Kathryn Willms

When a management team sets out to build a corporate brand, it considers many things. Its customers are. Its mission. Its opportunities for growth. These become the focus for a strategic plan to build and communicate the brand. When human resources guru William Pallett works with companies, he finds that they are often quick to offer up these plans. “Oh my gosh, they’re so detailed,” says Pallett. Then he asks: What is your strategy for talent? “If anything, they give you a page.”

It is a critical oversight. Gone are the days where companies could sit back and wait for skilled workers to walk through the door. In fact, Pallett says that companies are starting to realize the truth: there is a talent shortage affecting the G7 countries. They are receiving fewer resumes; getting turned down more often. Pallett has heard of a company offering a job to a person who said they would attend orientation and then make their decision. This is putting the onus on employers to attract and recruit talent. And while Pallett says a lot of big companies “get it” and are aggressively recruiting online and through universities and colleges, small and medium enterprises (SMEs) are at risk of being left behind, especially in places like Markham where they have to compete in an international marketplace. In this environment, corporate culture has never been more important. “You have to have a great workplace that has a strategy of how you want to build your brand and your organizational culture,” says Pallett. “Without that, you’re dead in the water.”

Pallett was Director of Management Development at Four Seasons as it grew into an international brand in the early 90s. Then, he moved to Delta Hotels where he introduced a systematic approach to HR that saw the hotel chain recognized as one of the 50 Best Employers in Canada. Today, through his company WJ Pallett & Associates, he helps SMEs develop their corporate culture through human resources.

For Pallett, a talent strategy is as important as a marketing strategy, and it can be a key differentiator for companies, regardless of size. No matter the business, the people who work there are responsible for developing or employing the products or services. They are the brand ambassadors. Therefore, a talent strategy should consider the key components of the employee life cycle – from attracting them, to recruiting them, to training them, to retaining them. Pallett recommends employers start with analysis of their strengths and weaknesses. “Do it with the vigour that you use with your customers,” he says. You can use employee engagement surveys, monitor social media sites, and take advantage of online tools like Glassdoor, where employee review companies. Then create a strategy around each part of the life cycle that is integrated into the overall business strategy.

To attract and recruit employees, consider what employees are looking for in a workplace. The good news for SMEs is that money is not the be-all, end-all for most people. “You have to be competitive, but it’s not going to win the day for you,” says Pallett. Instead, people are looking for training and development beyond the initial orientation period. They want to work for companies with a strong sense of corporate social responsibility, and be rewarded and recognized for their work.

A strategy should recognize that not all employees have the same wants or motivations. Pallett mentions a strategy that Tim Hortons used when they couldn’t find talent in Atlantic Canada. They tailored their shift times to recruit mothers who only wanted to work when their kids were in school. It was a resounding success. Workplaces have never been more demographically diverse, and a good talent strategy takes this into consideration. Pallett’s many success stories make it clear that, in our current employment environment, a comprehensive talent strategy linked to every aspect of a company’s strategic and brand planning is vital to success.