A Song of Ice and Hire


Game of Thrones, the best-selling book and one of the best TV shows of all time, is about to begin its 6th season on HBO. While many fans of the series are gearing up for their yearly Game of Thrones themed watching events, many others are cautious.

So far, the show has been based on the books, each book in the seven volume series converting into about a season’s worth of material. While some things are sure to be lost in translation when going from 1000 pages of book to 10 hours of TV, the show has, mostly, remained a faithful representation of the book.

The only problem is, there aren’t any more books to be faithful to! As of now, the 6th volume in the show’s inspiring book series, A Song of Ice and Fire, isn’t set to come out until 2017, meaning that this season is the first that won’t be explicitly based on the books.

Now, instead of people who read the book spoiling it for the rest of us, people who watch the show get to spoil the book for all of their friends! Talk about poetic justice.

However you feel about the show outpacing the books that inspired it, you’ll be glad to know that the creators of the show are still working closely with the author, George RR Martin. Though Martin isn’t working on the script for this season, as he has in the past, he has let the show’s creators in on the course of events and of the fate of the characters in the series.

The show’s premier, this April 24th, is one of the most anticipated premiers of the year, and represents the beginning of a new chapter in the beloved saga, for fans of the book as well as the show.

Hiring the Game of Thrones Way

We love Game of Thrones, but we couldn’t pass up a chance to talk about the hiring lessons that can be learned from this series.

One of the best elements of Game of Thrones, is the show’s masterful blend of fantasy and realism, depicting magical creatures and mysterious forces right alongside the grittier, gorier side of life in the Seven Kingdoms.

Every player in the game of thrones favors a different tactic to gather the support they need to make a play for power. Some favor honor as their rallying cry and others favor gold. Others still favor dragons and conquest to drive their armies into battle. No matter how they’re after it, the end goal is always the same: power and influence. Armies and ships. After all, it is not the king who fights the deciding battle, but their warriors.

Put another way: you might have all the gold in the world, but you’re still going to lose to the guy with the sword.

Just like your employees are the ones putting the work in, the plans of every ruler in Game of Thrones always rely upon the right talent to get the job done. It might be talent with a sword, but the principal is the same. The ways that they secure this talent, aren’t really much different than the ways  we do in 2016. Sure, we call it “employer branding” instead of “honor” but the ways in which the rulers of Westeros gain influence are great examples of the different forces that attract top talent.

Though Game of Thrones takes place in a fantasy setting, the people portrayed in this show all have desires that are easy to see around us in the modern world. No one tactic, however, should be your company’s magic bullet. A combination, however, of the tactics employed by the major houses in Game of Thrones, is exactly what your company needs to make a highly talented hire.

Attracting Talent in Westeros

Some warriors crave riches. Some want nothing more than to honor their family name. Others want to be swept up in a glorious cause that puts their skills to a more meaningful purpose than tavern brawls and horse races.

Each noble house of Westeros employs many of the same methods to get the right talent on their side, but each noble family favors a particular tactic above the others.

Everything, however, even shiny gold coins, have their limits for securing the talent you need. Never rely on just one tactic to source and retain top talent. The strongest alliances (hires) are made when both the talent and the organization are aligned by a mutually shared purpose and provide value to each other. Though strong alliances can be made based on gold or respect alone, using a combination of the two will always work better.

Money Talks

A Lannister always pays their debts.

From the very beginning of the series, this phrase has been used by Lannisters to secure the loyalty of everyone from commoners to kings. Tyrian Lannister, AKA the Imp, used this motto to bribe his way to freedom in the first season and this rallying cry of “we’ll pay you more” is put to great effect throughout the series.

As far as employer brands go, it’s pretty hard to beat the money themed model, at least for those who are for sale. Over the past 5 seasons, the overwhelming financial power of the House Lannister has shown us exactly who can be bought and who cannot.

This is an excellent lesson for securing high quality talent. Many people are motivated by money, but the lengths to which you’re motivated depend on the individual.

For instance, if you were doing a job you enjoyed on a professional level and that paid a decent salary, how much would it take to get you to do a job you hate? 50% more? 100% more? 200% more?!?

So, what will it be, the job you enjoy, or the big pile of gold?

It’s good to know this about yourself, but it’s even more important to know about your employees and the candidates you want to hire. Everyone is motivated by money to some extent, but many people want more than money in exchange for all of their time.

Others ascribe to the formula: time = money.

If a skilled candidate is thinking like a Lannister, then you’re going to have to put your money where your mouth is. They will absolutely know what an industry-standard offer looks like and will expect nothing less than the maximum amount that you can afford. While this is certainly a hit to the wallet, you can be sure that you’ve secured the loyalty of your money-minded candidates for as long as you can afford to pay them.

The only catch is, there may not be anything keeping them there besides the money. If you can’t meet their initial salary demands or keep up with future salary demands, they will always sell their sword to the next highest bidder.

Stark Loyalty

The Starks of Winterfell have had endured the most hardship out of any other house. From the first episode of the first season, when Brandon Stark is paralyzed, this family has fought for each other, to avenge each other and for the honor of the family name. When King Geoffrey executed their king, it was not the promise of gold or control of King’s Landing that brought the North together, it was the Stark family name and the loyalty that this name commanded.

Though gold and control were definitely part of the deal for the Northern Armies, it was loyalty to the Stark name that held them together, and this loyalty dies hard. Though the Stark children have been scattered to the winds, they are all still survivors of this honorific household, and carry on the spirit of their forebears as they fight for survival and bide their time for vengeance.

Yes, above all, the Starks relied on honor and loyalty to sway those to their cause…which isn’t a great idea when dealing with the most dishonest SOBs in the Seven Kingdoms.

In hiring terms, the appeal of loyalty and honor can be quite great for attracting top candidates. Loyalty, in general, is in short supply these days, and committed candidates will be able to tell the real thing when they see it. They will also be able to see your loyalty levels to your employees on employer review websites like Glassdoor.

Loyalty means looking out for your people. A culture of loyalty is one in which employees are recognized for their hard work and provided with chances to advance further within your company. When a highly talented candidate says that they admire loyalty, don’t let the opportunity pass to prove that you do to. People want to work for a company that has their best interests at heart, and will honor a company’s loyalty and equity with loyalty of their own.

Loyalty, though valuable, has its limits. Just because you’re loyal to your hardest workers doesn’t mean that you can pay them less than they’re worth. The war for talent has never been more fierce, and a good show of loyalty can be to give your hardest workers an unexpected bonus or the opportunity to engage in the learning program of their choice. They say you have to give respect to get it, and the same goes true for loyalty. If, however, you can show candidates that value that you place on your people and the loyalty you show them, then this will be a powerful tool for forming a valuable alliance with top talent.

Dragons and Dreams

Daenerys Targaryen doesn’t offer much in the way of pay, and her loyalties are mainly to herself, but you can’t argue with her driving sense of purpose. From the very first season, Daenerys has been searching across the land of Valeria, gathering forces on a quest to re-take the Iron Throne of Westeros.

She started with nothing. Sold to a warlord by her own brother, Daenerys Targaryen entered the series as someone completely under the control of others. Fast forward to Season 6, and she’s got three full-sized dragons, an army of liberated slaves and a big score to settle with the lords who banished her family from Westeros.

This mission of freedom, revolution and reclamation is so powerful, that her cause has acted as a lightning rod for some of the best talent on her side of the Narrow Sea. Sir Jorah Mormont, Sir Berristan Selmy and now Tyrian Lannister, all nobles or noble born, all exiled, all indispensable talent for helping the Mother of Dragons to run her conquered kingdoms.

Daenerys Targaryen’s family name is her right to the throne, and definitely helped to attract talent to her cause, but it the cause itself and the tools at her disposal that are such a draw to a disruptive genius like Tyrian Lannister. More than harnessing dragons, Daenerys is able to harness the dreams of her subjects with her inspiring cause: dreams of freedom, dreams of glory and dreams of leaving the world a different place than when they started.

If you want the best minds in your industry to flock to your cause, however, you’ve got to have one! This mission could be tied to your company’s revenue-generating function, but it could, just as easily, be related to a social issue or even a simple guiding philosophy. If you want to recruit like Daenerys Targaryen, then your company has to stand for something. If you want to harness the dreams of your employees and candidates, you’re going to have to give them something to be inspired by and a goal to put their collective energy toward. This way, by providing a dream for great minds to rally around, you can attract talent like you’ve got dragons circling above your office building.

Though money, loyalty or a unifying mission are all powerful draws to candidates, a combination of these three tactics will work better than any on its own. Even the most money-hungry can be swayed by an inspiring mission and even the most loyal employee can be tempted by an offer of riches. The key, is to know who you’re dealing with and to apply your strategy on an individual basis.

Remember, no matter what your plans for glory are, you’re still going to need the talent of your employees to get there.


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