Mistakes Employers Make in a Talent War

Sharon Hulce Blog, Career Blog, Featured Posts Leave a Comment

In my 26 years of Executive Search, I have never seen so many polarizing business challenges as we have all faced these past few years.

If having to manage through a pandemic wasn’t enough, the aftermath has been equally as challenging. From supply chain issues to a talent war, it’s been an uphill battle to try and embrace what appears to be, at least for the foreseeable future, a new norm.

We at Employment Resource Group (ERG) are right in the middle of this battle. We constantly hear the frustration with construction projects that can’t start because supplies are unavailable or worse, they have to turn away work because they lack the workforce to do the work. Couple that with the suppliers they depend on dealing with the same issues, it’s no wonder frustrations are running high across the board.

There unfortunately is no easy answer. We can however address the one issue we know we can help with, and that’s finding the right talent to help.

Much like the way we lead our teams has changed, so has the talent market. Those that understand this and have made the decision to change accordingly are winning the war. But many are bucking the system and unfortunately are still fighting what can be a losing battle.

So, it’s time to be candid. I know pay equity is a very real thing. I know companies still want a great culture fit. But some of the simple corrections and realizations around what are “can have” and “can’t haves” need to be addressed. So here’s my list of mistakes employers make that cost them time and money through their most valuable asset – their people.

  • Let’s start with pay equity. Yes, the market has significantly changed. What once was an exciting 5% raise on average for hiring a new talented employee, is now closer to 25-30%. In this market if you’re not paying competitive wages, I hate to say it but someone else will. Even your most loyal of employees will have a hard time turning down a $20,000 pay increase. Trust me, I get it. I own a business too. And the market will ultimately correct, so then what? I tell companies to make this decision based on two factors. First, as it relates to hiring, lowballing the offer thinking what you offer as a “solid employer who offers growth potential” will only go so far. Companies will not win by pinching pennies in this current market. A respected construction CEO used to tell me, “Don’t fight the pennies and lose the dollars”. Second, make sure and take care of your high performers. Believe me, if you don’t, someone else will.

  • Obviously, it’s a candidate’s market right now. For every active candidate, there is on-average four-to-six job offers on the table. Time is no longer your friend. Pre-pandemic, we had the luxury of interviewing multiple times, waiting on that perfect hire, etc. Not anymore. Speed to hire is a very real thing. I would tell you that even if you intend on offering a really competitive offer, this is the number one reason my clients have lost great talent – they didn’t make interviewing and hiring a priority on their calendars. So they never even got the chance to tell their story, much less present an offer.

  • Another mistake I see quite frequently is assuming there is “always more” – meaning more candidates – especially on really hard-to-fill roles. I’ll give you a recent example. ERG places a lot of traveling Superintendents in our construction practice. We found a really talented candidate that had the perfect project mix for the client. Now mind you, this unique cat is only home one week a month. There are not a ton of folks willing to do this work as a road warrior, much less one that they like with the right technical skills. But since it was early on in the process, they decided to wait to see “what else is out there”. Well, you guessed it – within a week, he was employed by someone else and we were desperately searching for another purple squirrel. In any other market, I would agree to multiple candidates – but in this market, if you see it grab it! You may never get that same chance again. Much like money doesn’t grow on trees, candidates with the right skills and attitude are super hard to find.

  • Speaking of attitude, here is an area that is really important to address. Today’s market (and really every market going forward) requires hiring for mindset over skillset. Sure, there are technical skills we all need to have to function in their daily roles, but I will share that our clients who hire hungry, humble and smart and train the rest are growing their revenues almost twice as fast as those that focus only on skillset. Hire for attitude, train for skill.

  • Self-reflection time! We need to understand that what was important to us years ago as job-seekers has changed completely with the new generation. Simply put, great benefits and a climate-controlled work environment are not selling points anymore. What is a big deal is this… you need to explain clearly “why” someone should work for you, the difference your organization makes to your customers and to the world for that matter, and how you transform lives by doing so. Once you get this message clear, now you’re ready to interview past the Baby Boomer generation.

  • And finally… too many cooks in the kitchen. What I mean by this is having candidates interview with everyone in your organization and their brother and then trying to come to a consensus timely. Where this falls apart is the inconsistent messages delivered to the candidate, causing them to be unsure what to believe. The more people, the more chance the messages are not congruent. Remember, interviewing is a two-way street. Just because you may want them, doesn’t mean they will want you. You still have to sell, not just tell.

So not being one to discuss challenges without offering solutions, here are some things our team is doing at ERG to combat this talent war.

One very helpful addition has been how our candidates are learning more information. Our first step, after an initial conversation, is to present our client’s “Position Profile”, which we create from scratch. Our Position Profiles deliver a clear message around why what our client is offering is a great job, what they offer as a potential future employer (and why the candidate should want it) and location highlights to help paint a fuller picture for the candidate. That is Step One in ERG’s unique “sell don’t just tell” process.

Step Two has been a game-changer. We go on-location to our clients and film video interviews of employees and executives telling the company’s story. For our candidates, the number of “no’s” that have transformed to “yes’s” after watching these impactful recruiting videos has more than tripled, therefore giving the client the opportunity to see more inventory as it relates to talented people. We’re really happy with this two-step approach and the ability to share our client’s story in a way that connects to their purpose and why.

Happy to discuss any and all of this offline. We are here to add tools to your toolbox that help you to win.

What we all need right now is this… the ability to have an audience with interested and qualified candidates. The toolbox we need today has to include the right audience messaging to compensation packages to process speed. Oh yeah, and the knowledge to retain our best people without robbing the bank.

ERG is here to help. Give us a call at 920.996.9700.

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