The way for companies to distinguish themselves from their competitors is through their employees. The skills, knowledge, commitment and abilities of the people who work for the company are the greatest assets they have. For great workplaces, there is no shortage of talent. Smart companies are involved in constant hiring. They have talent scouts within the company who are always looking for possible new hires.
For example, Walt Disney World has a program known as Casting Scouts. Throughout the year, cast members (employees) are given small cards with the casting scout logo and information on the card. There are lines on the card where the cast member fills in her name and work location. If she experiences great guest service at a restaurant, hotel, convention center, the airport, etc., she can give one of these cards to that person and tells him that he should consider working at Walt Disney World. The card has the number of the Casting Department (Human Resources) that the person can call. This card tells Casting that this person has exemplified the type of guest service that Disney is looking for. They pass step one of the hiring process.
In The Gifted Boss by Dale Danten, he states that the exceptional employees are rarely the ones who are looking for jobs, which I would agree with. He relates a story of how Lou Holtz would keep a hiring wish list with prospects to fill each coaching position. Holtz said, "You can't wait till there's an opening and say, 'Who can we hire?' That's how you end up with a group of second-stringers." He'd get to know the prospects well enough to know if he wanted to work with them in the future and how to win them over (what their goals were). Being on his wish list was halfway to being hired. Most importantly, when he did have the opportunity to hire them, he wouldn't ask them to come help him, but rather, tell them how he could help them get what they wanted out of their careers.
After I read Danten's book in 1999, I vowed that I would be that type leader in my hiring when I got into a position of authority to be able to make hiring decisions. When I worked various events with great people, I would ask them about their goals while we were making small talk and get to know them better. While at NYRR, I had a list of five people I'd worked with before that were on my hiring wish list to bring to NYRR. I got two of the five in the two years I was there. I don't know if that's a good percentage or a bad percentage. The work that those two exceptional people did was extraordinary. The great thing about hiring exceptional people is that their standards and work ethic are already higher than most other people's. They've both made huge contributions to an organization accustomed to mediocrity. Because I had gained the confidence of my boss by bringing in great talent, the other three people had open-ended job offers. My boss and I had an agreement that if any of those three people changed their minds and called for a job, we would find a place for them in the organization whether we had positions open or not.