Finding the talent you need to grow your innovative business is no longer easy and will get tougher.

In our last blog, we discussed the difficulty in finding and hiring flexible, creative people who can do jobs where the business rules vary constantly as the organization flexes and grows. They are the smaller part of the talent pool and as the overall talent pool size shrinks, the competition for this type of person is becoming much more intense. Smaller, innovative firms need this kind of person to grow.

How can you respond to growing competition for talent as a leader seeking to grow?

1.  Growing talent internally. 

More than ever, if you are a growing firm you need to add a talent development component to your strategic thinking. That is easier said than done.

  • You need a talent management adviser who understands the new dynamics of the talent marketplace, one whose mindset is not locked into the baby boomer era.
  • You need to find the right mix of technical to soft skill training investment.
  • You must find ways to retain the people in whom you have made these investments.

2.  Choose your recruiting tactics carefully. 

You can recruit talent in one of two ways.

The first is a “post and have them come to you” tactic. It has worked for decades.

If you have:

  • well-defined jobs,
  • in a well-established organization,
  • and there are lots of people with relevant skills looking for work in your immediate geographic talent pool,

this recruiting approach will still work for you.

It is generally the first approach you need to try. When it works quickly to source the candidates you need, it is still the most cost-effective way to find talent.

But if you’ve tried it, and it’s not producing the candidates you need, you must rapidly change your recruiting tactics.

3. Move to a “find them and reach out to sell them on the opportunity” approach.

With resources like LinkedIn and Indeed’s resume search facility, you can search out such potential candidates much more easily than ever before.

However, that’s only the first step. You need to reach out to these people to identify the ones who are interested in your opportunity. They are most likely to be currently employed.

Persuading people who are already employed to take on your opportunity is very different from traditional recruiting. Your recruiters must make a first guess about the person’s performance and culture fit, based on very little information about the person. Then your recruiter needs to ‘sell’ the opportunity to the individual. A recruiter can only move onto more deeply assessing the candidate’s performance and culture fit once that person says “Yes, I am prepared to consider your opportunity and provide you with the information you need to assess my fit.”.

Already employed candidates don’t have an immediate economic need. They are motivated by very different things than the unemployed person. Your recruiters need to be able to rapidly identify the motivations of already employed candidates. Recruiters must change their interactions with these people to fit each person’s motivation pattern. (We will look at what this means in depth in the next blog in this series.) Recruiters trapped in the baby boom recruiting mindset invariably fail at this.

You need an employment brand as much as you need a product or service brand.

You will need to have an employment brand – a talent attraction approach which convinces these “found and interested candidates’ that they will be better off working for you than for their current employer. You will have to manage this employment brand as carefully as you manage your product or service brands.

To do this, do the following.

1. Create a first-rate “why work with us” brand / public image.

Your website needs to contain stories about the people who are currently working for you, and how they are benefiting from that work. You need to demonstrate the challenge they find in their jobs, the professional development they are undergoing, and the job satisfaction they have.

The only credible way to do this is by having the best of your people tell their stories, preferably in short video clips taken in their work environments.

2. Compete economically. 

With resources like Glassdoor and Indeed, candidates can rapidly research the salaries currently available for the kinds of jobs for which you are recruiting in your local area.

You must do the same research and be prepared to pay at the top of that range to attract candidates who are already employed. If you are not as aware as your top candidates are about compensation levels in your area, you will never attract them. More importantly, introduce some flexibility into your compensation and benefit package.

  • Give people choices about some parts of their pay structure (e.g. performance related bonuses) and benefit choices.
  • Allow them to contribute to retirement plans which they directly own, either through matching contributions to RRSP’s or another such mechanism.
  • Create flexibility around their vacation

These costs involved will be minor compared to the economic contributions these people will make to your future growth.

3. Involve your best performers as “recruiting ambassadors” in recruiting this new talent.

Once you find a few final candidates, get your best people engaged in talking to them. People who are enthusiastic about what they are currently doing are going to be your best “attract new talent” sales people. Motivate your best folks to do this. Train them to be recruiting ambassadors for you.

3. Have your best performers act as new hire on-boarding advisers.

Once you hire in a new person, get one of your best performers to act as a mentor and “make things happen” adviser to that new person for the first two months. The payoff in productivity and long-term retention will more than make up the cost of doing this.

4. Bring your recruiters up-to-speed.

Make sure that your recruiters understand the difference between the “post and have them come to you” and “find them and persuade them to work for you” recruiting approaches. Engage outside recruiters who understand this difference. Avoid recruiters who still have the baby boomer mind set about talent availability.

Be sure that your recruiters will rapidly advise you to shift from a “post” recruiting tactic if it is not working. An outreach tactic may cost more initially but will save you more in the long run once the new talent starts to perform.

If you have in-house recruiters, engage a recruiting consultant/trainer of recruiters who can train them in these differences.

Be aware that an outreach recruiting tactic is much more demanding on recruiter skill levels than a post recruiting tactic. Outreach recruiters needs to be salespeople and accurate predictors of “future on-the-job performance”. They need to be able to place candidates in the correct talent sub-pool, so that they adapt their conversation with these candidates to fit each type of candidate’s motivation needs. Many “post” skilled recruiters will have a great deal of difficulty making this shift.

The Most Adaptable Will Succeed, the Most Rigid May Not

You can find the talent you need to grow in this current talent pool reality. But you must be realistic about the new talent pool dynamics.

You may get by with “post the role” based recruiting if you are a well-established organization with well-defined roles. It may always be your first choice in order to cost effectively test the availability of talent in your local area.

But if you are a growing organization with rapidly evolving roles, the sooner you master “reach out and convince them to join you” recruiting, the more likely you will be to succeed in the stiff competition for flexible, creative, talented individuals.

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