This is probably one of the craziest talent markets I have experienced in my twenty-one years of executive search. We make twice as many calls to find the right fit and employers want this done at record speed. And I get it – in business the only real capital that makes the engine run are the people within, all the rest of our investment won’t work unless your people do.
So many articles and advice on hiring, engaging and retaining good people have created a lot of “noise”, making it difficult for employers to keep up with the demands that exist when a new person (or an established one listening to the noise), is living within your organization. Everything from amazing compensation, benefits, vacations, employee perks etc., are all being challenged as a “new norm” to keep employers both competitive and culturally exciting.
So somewhere in the middle lies the truth. Here is a snapshot of what we see is real after many many years of watching every different talent market there has ever been unfold:
• Develop an effective “passive” candidate strategy.
Talented people, the real A players, tend to be above the noise. Not that good people aren’t ever looking, but generally the best performers are passive candidates that are not combing Indeed, Ladders, Career builder, Monster etc. They are busy working. So you have to seek them out and share your company story if you want a chance at having them visit your firm. As my mother says, “even a blind squirrel will find a nut”, but do not make this your only hiring strategy!
• It’s all about “Employee Experience” and I don’t mean tenure.
More than money, employee experience is a critical factor in retention. People leave people, not businesses. Therefore the experience they have inside your walls is a significant piece of retention. While some turnover is healthy, focusing on your “employee experience” will help you retain those people you would not want to lose. It’s one of many reasons we offer yoga, summer hours, office Olympics and start each workday with grateful moments. Work hard, play hard.
• One bad apple can spoil the bunch.
A bad hire is one of the largest negative line items impacting a company’s bottom line. A good hire can make you a lot of money but a bad one can be detrimental. Not only is raw dollars, which is very real and painful if you ever put a pencil to it, but it’s also detrimental to the culture and can result in others leaving as well. It’s the “one bad apple can spoil the bunch” mentality. And right now all of you reading this probably had a person come to mind. Actions speak louder than words right? If the behaviors don’t match expectations, make the change quickly. Your business and team will thank you.
• Speed to hire is real.
You no longer have time to “think about it”. If you interview a great candidate, you have to move quickly. Let’s be honest, once a candidate starts entertaining another company, if given the opportunity, they will look at more than one. Reality is this – in today’s tight labor market, if you don’t move when given the first shot, you will now be in a bidding war against others. While the candidate loves being told “you are amazing” by multiple suitors, nothing is worse for your firm if the great hire now moves outside your salary grade, gets extended vacation that isn’t fair to others you have internally or is looking for added perks that didn’t exist prior to another offer. I promise I’m not telling you this as self-serving for our business. I hate it as much as you do.
• Be prepared for a counteroffer.
Every single candidate we have placed in the past year has received a counteroffer. Again there is a talent shortage! It’s a really bad idea to accept one, statistics prove that those who do stay last less than six months after accepting, but it’s still happening to everyone who is good. Help your new hires to leave gracefully but decisively with a thank you letter to their current employer but also explaining that this decision is final and it’s in the best interest of the family. Then stay engaged!! If their current employer is the only one showing them love, you will lose every time.
• Use your head, but hire with your heart.
Hire to values, have fun and engage to values and terminate for values misalignment. I get that technical competencies are critical but that the heart part…it’s the heart part that makes people fit or not. Know your firm’s values and LIVE them everyday. And when it is obvious that someone is not aligned, make the tough decision. No, it does not mean everyone is the same. Here’s an example. How about respect. If that is a value within your firm and one employee has constant disregard for this, would you anticipate this could erode a culture? Make the call.
• Work doesn’t have to be all work!
Truly have some fun. Business can be brutal right now. Everyone is so busy and it’s hard to take the time to enjoy the journey. Force yourself to do it anyway. Be silly. Eat ice cream together. Go bowling. It’s not about the what, as much as it is about the why. The dividends are significant and I promise productivity will increase during the times they are engaged in busy.
Now some reality. It’s going to get worse not better. We’re all in this challenge together. But we’re smart people….we’ll figure it out. Call if we can help, even if it’s just to talk out loud.