Advantage out to lure staff

Auckland-based e-commerce company Advantage Group has launched what it calls its 'Leaders of Tomorrow' programme in a bid to attract workers.

Auckland-based e-commerce company Advantage Group has launched what it calls its "Leaders of Tomorrow" programme in a bid to attract workers.

The employee-hungry organisation needs 95 staff on top of the 82 it has recruited since January. Its approach is to "give responsibility to the highest achievers".

"We want to reward staff that get involved in building their own company. We don't offer jobs," says Advantage Group boss Greg Cross.

Cross says skilled IT workers expect share options, a progressive working environment with limited red tape, and they want to work on the best projects with the newest technologies.

Leaders of Tomorrow, he says, allows this and offers several promotions a year.

"People have the responsibility to get on and make it happen. They are free to make mistakes as mistakes are an integral part of the learning process. There are very few rules.

"We have to make things happen that much faster. People are highly mobile, clearly a scarce resource, and they are able to move through various stages of responsibility over a short period of time," he says.

In the US, Cross says graduates at some firms are becoming company leaders in just a few years.

"We have a number of people who have moved very quickly to senior developer. Now, they are running their own team operating as individual business units making day-to-day decisions about recruiting, where their business comes, right through to the bottom line.

"Rather than look at Advantage as a business, it's many small businesses run by entrepreneurial managers," he says.

Cross says his staff are encouraged to become shareholders, with interest-free loans offered for stock options.

Advantage says 15% of company shares - close to US levels - are owned by staff, and he believes its scheme is unique in allowing all workers to take part, not just senior employees.

"This is so their interests are aligned to those of our shareholders," he says.

Together with responsibility and stock options, Advantage claims success in keeping staff turnover at 2% in an industry that averages 35%.

"Of course we lose people. We will have competitiors who put outrageous opportunities in front of our staff. Some will choose them," he says.

HR director Philippa Furlong, who was previously HR manager at Motherwell Systems and M2 Technology, will spearhead Leaders of Tomorrow.

"We're constantly identifying the go-getters; those people who have consistently exceptional performance," says Furlong.

"Those people will be fast-tracked into an accelerated programme of high-level exposure, career coaching and motivational packages," she says.

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