Attracting & Retaining Data Talent: What is Talent Magnetism and why is it so important?

What (exactly) is Talent Magnetism? 

Every organisation has an “Employment Brand” – the manner in which it is perceived by individuals who may consider working there. Talent Magnetism is the practice of working to ensure that “Employment Brand” is as strong as it possibly can be. It is a complex set of interrelated processes, factors, culture and behaviours that, when combined, work to make the organisation seen as a desired location for talent, or as an “Employer of Choice”.

Talent Magnetism extends across many elements of the organisational landscape. From Glassdoor reviews of a selection process to individual role reward packages, and from something as simple as whether feedback is delivered promptly after interview to the complexities of a work-from-anywhere model. All can, and will, have an impact on whether current or subsequent individuals will want to join the business. Talent Magnetism also extends to the ability of an organisation to retain individuals once they have been hired – whether hired talent will want to “stick” to the organisation over time - or whether those individuals look to the market again as soon as it is acceptable to do so.

In what MBN refer to as “Talent-Driven Markets” (markets where there are more roles to fill than available talent) like data, analytics and technology, it is vitally important for organisations to look to constantly maximise their Talent Magnetism.

Why is Talent Magnetism important?

As mentioned above – the markets in which MBN operate (and, I assume dear reader, you perhaps work within…) are characterised by the fact that there are a great many more available roles than qualified individuals to fill those roles. The growth in demand for data, analytical and technological talent has been nothing short of astronomical in recent years. And, with advancements in areas such as Robotic Process Automation, Artificial Intelligence, Internet of Things and a great many more areas over recent years, it’s highly unlikely that this growth in demand will slow down any time within the next decade or so. And, unless we see drastic action taken by governments, educational establishments and industry training providers, the gap between “vacancies to fill” and “people qualified to fill those vacancies” isn’t going to get any smaller any time soon.

Accordingly, organisations that are seen as “Employers of Choice” by this scarce talent will have a huge advantage over their competition. Just as areas such as Brand Perception, Loyalty, equity and NPS are hugely important in terms of a brands relationship with its consumers – it’s “Talent Magnetism” that could be argued to have just as equally important an influence on individuals who will potentially choose to work there over other organisations. To put it simply, no organisation can hope to succeed, no matter how well thought out their strategy or market proposition is – if people just don’t want to work there.

So, what does good Talent Magnetism look like when hiring?

In order to display “Talent Magnetism” in the hiring process, there are some basic steps all organisations should take to ensure that they are, at the very least, competitive. This is by no means an exhaustive list but includes:

  • Job Analysis – is the role well defined, 100% required by the organisation and all parameters stakeholder aligned? It would astonish you how often this is not the case.

  • Talent Pools – are all potentials explored? Academic? Employee networks? Community events? Alumni? Or are we fishing in the same stale pond as everyone else?

  • Marketing & Advertising – whether self-promoting or utlising service providers, is the copy accurate and appealing? On Brand? Checked for Inclusivity? Promoted in the right places? Over diluted by multiple service providers?

  • Selection – are the right people in the room to make hiring decisions quickly? Is the selection process reflective of the tasks required for the role? Is the process streamlined?

  • Candidate Experience – is the same amount of value attached to CanDex as to Customer Experience? Who “owns” this concept within the organisation? How is it measured?

  • Reward Package – people want to feel cared for. Does the reward for this role reflect not only fiscal benefits, but life, purpose and value benefits?

  • Feedback – will everyone who enters into selection for this role be provided with feedback as to their performance during and after the process?

Most important, however, is to understand that Talent Magnetism belongs to everyone in the organisation. It’s a holistic, living concept that needs to be embraced by all employees. The answer to being seen as an “Employer of Choice” or “Talent Magnet” should never be siloed off as the responsibility of a Human Resource or People Team, or worst still an external service provider. Everyone must own Talent Magnetism.  

How does Talent Magnetism impact retention? 

Of course, talent attraction is only one half of the Talent Magnetism challenge. The other, retention, can be an equally complex proposition. In markets such as data and technology, there are no scarcity of options for talent. As custodians of many of the better options, MBN are given a plethora of reasons, every day, as to why top talent isn’t being retained by organisations. So, what are the best leaders doing to ensure that their talent stays?

Firstly, it has to be acknowledged that role tenures in general have fallen for the majority of positions in the data and technology industry when compared to, say, 20 years ago. Economic and societal changes like the gig economy and employment mobility have impacted every organisation equally, but it’s the organisations who have adjusted and reacted to these changes most effectively who are seen as Talent Magnets.

As with attraction, there are some simple guidelines that are very evident when considering why some employers retain their staff longer than the average tenure and are seen as “Employers of Choice”

  • Retention begins with attraction – look closely at individuals during the selection process to start to understand how and why they stayed in or left their previous roles. Build “stickability” into organisational DNA and it will become normalised.

  • Top Level commitment – the best Talent Magnet organisations have a board level commitment to data and technology. There’s an understanding and recognition of value there. Without this, talent will feel “restless” and easily convinced to look elsewhere.

  • Management – just as important as Leadership for Talent Magnetism. Top talent has no shortage of opportunities to work with great managers. Organisations that focus their efforts on ensuring their management layer is first-class retain great people.

  • Reward package – should be reviewed annually, in line with market trends, and should emphasise the changes in an individual’s life. For example, private health option for additional family members, etc.

  • Holistic views of the work/life balance characterise Talent Magnet organisations. Talent is much more likely to “stick” where they feel the balance between work and life outside the office is respected by their employer. Flexibility around care provision, life events, contingencies, etc – all add up to talent feeling valued.

  • Support for improvement - talent is retained where it is supported individually, nurtured and encouraged to develop by their employers. If not, they will look for this feeling elsewhere.

  • Purpose Led – perhaps the most important element to retention of top talent. Data and technology talent are much more likely to stay with their employer if their work, and the organisation for which the work, are Purpose Led.  

Retention of top talent can be seen as an organisational Holy Grail. In addition to the cost of replacing individuals who do decide to leave early in tenure, the increased productivity associated with long-serving data and technology talent is often a key driver in organisational success. In markets characterised as “Candidate Driven”, companies that want to be viewed as Talent Magnets should look very carefully at their Employee Proposition on a regular basis.

The importance of a ‘Purpose Led’ Employee Proposition 
As mentioned above, perhaps the single most important element of any Talent Magnet’s Employee Proposition is the fact that work, at both an individual and collective level, should be purpose led. Firstly, it must be acknowledged that the data and technology talent market is changing. The generation who established, and built, many of the original data and technology Talent Magnets are aging out of the workforce. So called “Baby Boomers” have reached, or are close to, retirement age. The individuals who have emerged from our learning institutions over the last two decades – or who are currently studying - demand a different working environment to the one that has characterised the last thirty years. Areas such as work autonomy and independence and work-life balance feature regularly high on the wish-list of top talent. The organisations who attract and retain such Talent weave these elements, incorporating meaningful personal and group tasks and a collective shared purpose, into their Employee Propositions as a matter of course.

With such a huge plethora of opportunity out there for data and technology talent, it’s unlikely that any organisation who fails to acknowledge the importance of being recognised as being “Purpose Led” will be considered as a Talent Magnet. Organisations who focus on environmental, societal, individual or collective purpose – whilst presenting opportunities for individual growth and success – seem likely to continue to be viewed as the “Employers of Choice” in the competition for talent.

Are you looking to attract individual talent or build a data team? MBN Solutions offer a logical and reliable way to secure data talent for your business or project.

Get in touch here for support and guidance in this area.

Author Bio


As Director of Client Services for MBN Solutions, Rob has spent over two decades at the sharp end of Talent Acquisition practice for the Data sector. During this time, he has partnered with some of the UK’s leading data-driven businesses to deliver best-in-class talent solutions. In addition, working in an advisory capacity, Rob designed, built, and delivered the Data Lab’s MSc Placement Programme, has contributed to forums including Scotland’s AI Strategy and DMA Council and sits on University of Glasgow’s School of Maths & Stats Industrial Advisory Board. A regular data industry blogger and event host, Rob also now hosts a data leadership focussed podcast called Boss’n’Data and has been recognised by Data IQ as one of their 100 most influential Data and Analytics practitioners in UK organisations for two years running