How to find (and keep) the best talent

What’s in the article

  • Talent to look for in an employee
  • Things to avoid when writing a job description 
  • Places to find the talent you’re looking for
  • How to think of the Great Resignation as a Great Reevaluation
  • Mistakes managers need to avoid
  • Company culture and the onboarding process of employees  

The Alaska Press Club is a nonprofit that provides continuing education, recognition, and help to journalists across the 49th state. Become a member to support local journalism and attend the annual conference.

Finding the right talent can make a difference between good and great journalism. 

Lori Townsend of Alaska Public Media welcomed Joanne Griffith of APM Studios to the 2022 Alaska Press Club Conference to share her thoughts on how to find and keep the best talent.

What to look for

First consider who your news organization is trying to serve and who are the people providing that service. In other words, the audience being served has to be a part of the work, from the hiring of reporters to the work they later do in the field. 

An important question to ask on this note is how the audience will be a part of the work the journalists are trying to do. The answers to this question should help inform managers as they decide who to hire.

“All throughout my career I really look at who it is we’re trying to serve, who are the people who are doing the serving, and how we are making sure that the audience is actually a part of the work we’re trying to do” Griffith explained.

Also of note is that diversifying the newsroom is important and not just for a few stories; it’s important for the entire organization in question. Diversity often centers on race, but can center on age, gender, religious affiliation, disability, and all of the ways people are different and unique. 

It’s great to focus on the diversity you can see, but also what you can’t see. One thing to also consider is that ‘diversity hires’ have the risk of becoming tokenized, and a way to counteract that is to view it as a first step and then consider the person’s qualifications as part of an ongoing hiring process. 

It’s important to consider what type of employee you’re looking for, and who would be a good fit. The interview process might bring other perspectives.

Things to avoid when writing a job description

Once you have thought about what qualities your applicant needs to best serve your audience, write a job description for the talent you’re trying to hire. A job description is, in a way, telling a story about the job and what it entails. 

As far as things to avoid, don’t make it a dull description. Approach your call for applicants in the same way you would write a story. 

According to Griffith you should “have a look at who’s out there and if I was hiring today, who are the kinds of people I’d want to hire, what are the gaps in our newsroom, and really start having these conversations with people before you actually meet up.”

Do not give your applicants an opportunity to skim read. Keep it nice, short, and snappy, while also being descriptive of the job. Make it as exciting and interesting as possible. Keep it to what you want people to know, like a dating profile. 

You have to think about what is important to qualify for the position. One tip: look for people who are the most curious and figure out how to train them and sharpen their talent.

Places to find talent

Great places to find talent are through local journalism organizations. Start local, then broaden your search; local chapters are less hit or miss than national chapters of journalism organizations. There are also specializations within journalism that have national organizations. 

Make sure your goal is to recognize the journalist you found for their talent, skills, and specializations.

How to think of the Great Reevaluation

The Great Resignation (now Reevaluation) was a change in work attitudes during the COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic has made people look at their paychecks and compensation and wonder if their work is truly worth their wages. That includes benefits, not just pay.

It’s important to be mindful of what people (even talented people) are going through outside of large-scale pandemics. It’s also important to evaluate whether the employee wants the job; it’s a two-way street between manager and employee in this case. Do not think of it as ‘work-life balance’ but work-life integration.

According to Griffith, it’s important to ask “what’s the bigger experience you can create for them that might just keep them for more than a couple of  years.”

Money isn’t the only thing that may help someone stay, she says. Consider low- and no-cost training options and incentives like attending virtual conferences, implementing a revised work week, working with colleagues in other parts of the newsroom, or overseeing a new initiative or project.

If your employees are still working remotely, it’s important to find time for connection, training and onboarding.

Mistakes a manager needs to avoid

There are a few mistakes managers can avoid during the hiring process. First, don’t wait to post the job until you absolutely need to hire someone. You have to plan for retirements and departures in advance as much as possible. Hiring is a long process, so give it the time it needs.

Hire as a group. Sometimes it helps to get recommendations from other reporters in the room. Having more people involved sets you up for success.

Be sure to work effectively with the HR team. Thismay be one person on smaller teams, but you have to consider the HR team’s suggestions tempered with awareness of important journalistic work.

Other important details

One of the biggest things to consider is the community you are building in the office. If it’s only a job, you’re doing it wrong. Work needs to get done, but it’s important to build your community and company culture. People leave for all kinds of reasons, but it’s worth asking why the person is taking the job at all. If it is only about the work, think about the opportunities beyond the job that the employee should take advantage of. 

It’s important to be intentional with the onboarding process. Make sure new employees settle into both their work and their life in a good way.

These are just some of the insights shared by Joanne Griffith. You can check out the full recording here and slides from their presentation here. Just remember that these are only a few of the many practices you can use to find the best talent.  

Written by Logan Tyler Smith

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