6 Make-or-Break Tips for Attracting and Retaining Top Talent in Today's Talent Crisis

What can you, as mangers and employers, do differently to attract and retain your organization’s greatest asset in the midst of this ever-growing talent crisis?

Pick up the Pace

The single biggest contributing factor to loosing our ideal candidate is time!  Waiting too long.  All steps of the hiring process should be conducted in the shortest time possible.  The longer we wait, the more likely other factors will influence our chances (another company comes into the picture, the candidate gets a promotion, decides to move or go back to school, etc or even worse, your rec gets put on hold by upper management).  There is a saying in the 3rd party recruitment industry – ‘Time kills deals’.   Speed is the single most influential factor in talent acquisition – if you don’t want to waste your talent acquisition investment, pick up the pace, shorten the process, make the phone call, set the interview, get a consensus, extend the offer – whatever it is….do it!

Be Flexible and Open

The days where an army of qualified candidates are knocking down your door are gone.   The talent pool is rapidly shrinking.  Know what you want in a candidate, but more importantly, know what you need!  Prioritize your requirement based of the essentials.  Identify your threshold of pain – if you continue to hold out for the perfect candidate, you may be the one left holding the bag.  In this candidate driven climate, it is imperative that you remain open and flexible.  For example, don’t make a decision during the first 30 seconds of an interview.  Give the individual a chance.  The goal today is not finding the perfect match, it is finding the best match that is currently available to you.  This means your evaluation criteria from reviewing resumes to reference checking must be adjusted.

Adopt an Integrated Marketing Strategy

More than ever before, you must sell yourself, your team, your open position and your company if you want to attract top talent.  Each person involved in the interviewing process and each step of the process should communicate the vision of your company.  Develop a unified and attractive message and shout it at every step along the way.  One bad interviewer could turn the candidate off and all of your efforts will be fruitless.

Alter Your Approach: Active Vs. Passive Candidates

One attribute you must fully understand and integrate into your talent acquisition strategy to prevent from undermining your own efforts is whether a candidate is passive or active and how this difference should influence your approach and behaviour throughout the hiring process.

An active candidate is one who is actively and presently looking for new employment opportunities. Quite often these candidates will already have a job but looking for a new change or to progress further. At other times they will be unemployed and searching.

On the other hand, passive candidates are individuals who are not looking for a job. They are usually happy where they are and constitute a huge majority of the talent pool. They are usually not actively seeking to move or looking for new opportunities. They do not have any interest in job hunting. They don’t look on career and job websites or the newspapers for new or fresh opportunities. However, with these candidates, they are branded as such because if an appealing opportunity was to pop up and to be presented to them, they would potentially move forward and make a change in their career.  These individuals often represent the exact talent you are looking to attract – however, reaching them and enticing them is an extraordinary feat.   

None of the two are better than the other and the best candidate is one who meets your needs and who is the right fit for the job.

Approaching passive candidates requires a dose of tact, charisma and strategy.  A passive candidate campaign can be quite time consuming but offers a tremendous reward if carried out properly. As these candidates can’t be found on job boards, you will need to do a substantial amount of digging.  Using Google, LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, relevant industry associations, etc, you can identify prospects and market map a list of dream candidates.  Make sure that you are adequately prepared with how to position your company and opportunity once you pick up the phone to make contact.  Remember, they are not looking for a job and must be wooed if this is going to work.  If the targeted individual doesn’t monetize, don’t stress - ask for referrals!  

Make a Collaborative Employment Offer

We are no longer living in the fear-based employment age.  Employees today demand to be both respected and valued as individuals and as contributors.  Successful organizations are oozing creativity, collaboration and cooperation from every corner of their corporate culture.  Now is not the time to “get a good deal” – but rather, now is the time to show that you value a prospective employee by making them an offer that is both thorough and fair.  In the past, organizations would make a somewhat low-ball offer, cross their fingers and often succeed.  Today, that approach will likely lead to an immediate no and end of discussion.  Even in the case where the discussion is continued and an agreement is eventually reached, you have started this on-going crucial relationship on the wrong foot by saying ‘we look out for our best interest at the expense of yours’.  Before you ever make an offer, you should not only know without a shadow of a doubt that it will be accepted, but you should know that it is in alignment with the goals of the to-be-offered.  This courtship is a joint process.  Drop the formalities, get to the bottom of it and have an uncensored conversation to understand the candidate’s core reason for making a change as well as his or her expectations and goals.  Odds are money is not their motivating factor.

This more personal approach will serve you well when the counter offer arrives.  And it will arrive.  Anticipate it.  His or her resignation will represent a significant loss of training and investment to his current employer.  It is considerably cheaper for an employer to increase the employee’s salary than it is to replace the individual.  If you have effectively displayed a clear understanding of the candidate’s motivations and goals while valuing them beyond a dollar amount, they will likely overcome their intrinsic fear of change your opportunity because it is more rewarding overall.

Retain Existing Talent

Retaining and developing existing talent should be at the very core of your company strategy if you expect to excel given the current shortage of talent.  The same commitment and dedication should be given to employee retention as is given to employee acquisition.  Most employees join and leave companies without the best of them being tapped or utilized. It important and imperative to understand, develop and nurture your employees to retain them.   Treat your people as individuals, understand their motivations and goals and be flexible with your company policy in order to accommodate their needs.  For example, an employee who is close to retirement may request to work from home 2 days a week.  You have two options:  Say no and loose this talented individual for good within 1 year or say yes and retain a key contributor for years to come.

As the employer, make sure you never adopt a ‘give the minimum’ approach toward the people in your organization. If you find yourself making a counter offer, you can be guaranteed that this is your approach whether you realized it or not.  Don’t wait until your BMW breaks down to start taking care of it or until your spouse gives you an ultimatum to start prioritizing your relationship. If you shift gears and focus on building a win-win corporate culture that is based on generosity, innovation, commitment and loyalty, your actions will be reciprocated 1000 fold.  The bottom line, if your employees are fulfilled, rewarded and understood, they will have no reason to take a competitor’s phone call.

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