Seize the Opportunity to Secure Top Talent

Over the past few months, the business community has experienced a flip in talent demand unlike anything it has ever seen before. In January, there were more jobs available than people to fill them. The scarcity of skilled, educated labor was especially pronounced. Talented people were in demand and could essentially name their price when making a career move. Then COVID happened.

In a period of approximately 90 days, our country went from record employment to record unemployment. The sudden change has created both obstacles and opportunities for businesses. While some companies have succumbed to layoffs others have seen the shift as a chance to secure high-performing people for whom they couldn’t have competed just a few months ago.

Going forward, smart companies will seize the opportunity to shape their future by bringing in people who can be difference makers for their organizations. If you want to be among those who succeed in this effort, there are three things you will need to do.

1. Define What Talent You Need

Your recruiting strategy should start with a comparison of your present talent with your future needs. Determine first what roles need to be filled and why. Compare that inventory with the talent you currently have and see where your deficits are. The roles for which you have no current qualified people should form the basis of your attraction efforts.

Before you start recruiting, be sure you have clarity about the strategic need you need people to fulfill. Then filter your talent search by that criteria. In other words, don’t bring someone on just because they come highly recommended or have an impressive resume. Know what you need accomplished and bring the person on that is most likely to “get it done.” Then, once they are on board, make sure you have them focused on the issue they are there to solve, innovate, repair or advance. To borrow a baseball team metaphor, don’t hire a relief pitcher then ask him play first base.

To further the metaphor, in today’s environment you should be looking for “franchise players.” In business parlance, these individuals are called catalysts or strategy leaders. They are individuals who are capable of coming into an organization and making a significant impact on its growth trajectory—right away. Given the recent flip in talent demand, there are more of these people available than ever before. And the companies prepared to offer them the right kind of experience will have a competitive advantage in attracting them.

2. Recruit to a Role, Not a Position

Your recruiting strategy should not exist in isolation. Its purpose is to find people who can achieve the outcomes you need fulfilled—and those outcomes should be defined by your business model and value proposition. So, you will want to recruit people to a role which has a clear strategic charter. Success in that role should be well defined and easy to understand. The results it exists to produce must be quantifiable and measurable.

Too many companies recruit to positions, not roles. They think in terms of job duties, not outcomes. Consequently, their people see themselves doing a job instead of assuming a stewardship. Positions are filled. Roles are fulfilled.

To make sure you are focused on recruiting to a role and not a position, ask yourself these questions:

• What outcomes need to be achieved if the company’s growth goals are going to be fulfilled?
• What specific skill sets are needed to produce those outcomes?
• How should we define the role for which that skill set fits and which is being created to drive the results we just identified?
• How will success in that role be defined?

Once you have clarity on those issues, you can focus on determining what kind of employee value proposition will attract the people who have the skill set you have in mind. And before they come on board, you must plan for the kind of employee experience they will expect to have if they are going to stay and perform.

3. Create a Partnership

If you want to succeed in attracting and retaining top talent, you will need to treat and communicate with people like you consider them your growth partners. This, of course, will be easier to do if you actually view them in those terms. In other words, making people feel like growth partners is not a messaging effort. It’s not about what terms you use to describe your employees (team members, associates, etc.) or how you “market” the opportunity they’ll have once they join the company. It’s about how you actually see them and what kind of experience they have with your company as a result.

Companies that successfully form a partnership relationship with their people are obsessive about four issues:

Providing a Compelling Future. Their people are attracted to the purposes the company serves and are supportive of its ambition for growth because of the good it will do. Enterprise leaders that build a sense of partnership are good at helping their people see where they fit in the future vision of the business and why their talents are needed to make it happen.

Providing a Positive Work Environment. High-performing organizations form people of unique abilities into unique teams and then make sure they have the resources needed to solve problems and produce the outcomes the exist to fulfill. Their people are fueled by this kind of positive experience because they are using their distinct talents and their roles have strategic purpose. And their teams win. The resulting success is contagious and creates its own positive momentum.

Providing Opportunities for Personal and Professional Growth. Growth-oriented people want to improve. Consequently, they are attracted to roles that expose them to resources, challenges and experiences that will stretch them. They will join and stay with companies that encourage that kind of culture.

Providing Financial Rewards Tied to Roles and Outcomes. If people create value, they want to participate in the growth they help create. As a result, the compensation piece of your employee value proposition should define and codify the kind of financial partnership you wish to have with your people. It should provide significant upside through value-sharing tied to well-defined success standards rooted in company profits and business growth.

Final Thought

All of this must be juxtapositioned with the other realities (challenges and opportunities) the coronavirus economy has created for businesses. Companies are rethinking their business models and value propositions—and have a great urgency in that effort. They are trying to manage that kind of change and planning in an environment where cash flow has be carefully managed. Organizations are trying to adopt prudent cost-containment measures without strangling their ability to move forward with confidence and a clear strategy for the future. All this plays into both the kind of talent that is needed and when a business can “afford” to hire those people. But, the issue has broader ramifications. Because you are likely retooling your value offer, your talent needs are evolving. For example:

• Before you needed onsite conference event planners. Now you need virtual event planners.
• Before you relied on traffic coming into your store. Now you rely on traffic coming to your website.
• Before you needed individuals who could provide consulting services to your business clients. Now you need someone who can monetize content and expand your service offerings.
• Before you needed people who could do public speaking. Now you need people who can do inbound marketing.

And on the list goes. As you examine these changes in the context of your organization’s recruiting needs right now, the ability to secure top talent is more important than ever. Luckily, the marketplace is saturated with the kind of people you need. If you follow the principles discussed here, you will magnify your chances of succeeding at attracting and retaining them.