ENTREPRENEUR INSIGHTS

GREAT IDEAS FOR ENTREPRENEURS FROM THE THOUGHT LEADERS AT CASEY NEILON

KEY TAKE-AWAY

The same principles that apply to attracting great new customers also apply to attracting great new talent.

Some Key Dynamics For Talent Attraction

Before I describe the seven guiding principles for competing in todays’ job market, I want to outline some key dynamics that I think are important to consider.  First, and maybe most importantly, the best talent probably isn’t looking for a new job or opportunity.  Some of the candidates we spoke with already had good jobs and were not airing out their resume on job sites.  They were not working with recruiters.  We approached them because of their reputation or because someone suggested they would be a good fit for us.

Second, the same principles that apply to attracting great new customers also apply to attracting great new talent.  I often find that entrepreneurs know they need good marketing and promotion programs to sell their products and services.  But they don’t seem to be as aware that they need good marketing and promotion programs to attract new talent.  So, when you think about how you attract new staff, I recommend that you adopt the same mindset as you would have for attracting new customers.

Third, along those same lines, you need a compelling value proposition to attract new talent.  It’s unlikely that you would try to sell a product or service without describing why it’s great, how it will benefit customers and why they should buy it.  A value proposition, simply put, is the reason or set of reasons someone should buy.  Yet I find that when entrepreneurs go into recruitment efforts, they often don’t have a clear and compelling value proposition for why talent should come to work for them.

In days gone by, you might have been able to leave it up to a recruiter to define your new employee value proposition.  But I don’t think that’s wise today.  My recommendation is that you take control of this and develop your own value proposition statement.  After all, no one knows your business better than you.  To help you develop a compelling value proposition for your organization, here are some questions to ask yourself:

  • Why should someone come work for us and make a long-term commitment?
  • What do we have to offer that would be really compelling and valuable for the type of people we want working here?
  • What can they get from working here that they can’t hardly get elsewhere?
  • How do we equip, train and inspire people to do their best work?
  • How are we investing in our people to help them grow their capabilities and how do we describe that so it’s attractive to new employees?
Seven Guiding Principles For Attracting Talent In Today’s Job Market

Here are seven guiding principles that have helped us attract great new talent in today’s competitive market:

  1. Get clarity about your organization.
  2. Make your culture and your values clear.
  3. Invest in career development.
  4. Go to the well.
  5. Prize the fit more than the qualifications.
  6. Use informal interviews.
  7. Build a reputation for being a great place to work.
Get Clarity About Your Organization

Here is what I mean by getting clarity about your organization.  Many people start their recruitment efforts by putting together a job description.  This allows you to tell your prospective employees what you expect from them.  But what can they expect from you?

In today’s competitive job market, it’s not enough to simply have a job description.  People don’t go to work for jobs.  They go to work for a company.  Unless they’re simply desperate for a job (in which case you may not want them), they’ll probably make their decision about where to work based on how they feel about your company.  You can have a big influence on this with the right set of statements.

Often times, new employees make a gut-level decision more than a rational decision.  Yes.  They will evaluate the overall compensation package and benefits.  But nearly every organization has that today.  That’s probably not enough to set you apart.

This is especially true among the millennial generation.  In my experience, many people of this generation will choose a somewhat lower salary at a company they love over a higher salary at a company they hate.  If you are trying to attract millennials, I think what I’m about to describe is really important.

I think there are a few key areas where you need to have crystal clear statements that everyone in your organization understands and actually lives out on a daily basis:

  • Who do we serve?
  • Why do customers choose our products or services?
  • What sort of impact do we have on our customers and how important is this to them?
  • What is our mission and why do we exist?
  • What is our story, especially the founder’s story?
  • Where are we going as a company and what is our vision for the future?
  • What do we value?
  • How does every team member, at every level of our organization, contribute to our success?
Make Your Culture And Values Clear

Speaking of values, I think it’s important to answer the questions I’ve outlined above and then make your answers public.  There are few key places you’ll want these messages to appear:

  • On your website.
  • In your job description, especially if you post jobs outside your company’s website.
  • On your LinkedIn company profile.
  • In your Google business profile.
  • Any partner organizations or associations that allow you to have a profile.
  • Any other place you can think of where potential employees might look at your company.

Here is a simple litmus test to help you benchmark your firm.  Take a look at each of the places I’ve described above and ask yourself if you’ve clearly described your company culture and values in those areas.  One thing I can tell you for certain is that the people we approached – the really talented ones who already had a job – took at close look at our messages.  They’re decision to come work with us was based in large part on liking what they saw and heard.

Invest In Career Development

One of the best ways to keep your existing talent is to invest in career development.  There are many ways to do this including:

  • Providing full or partial financial support for people pursuing degrees or certificates.
  • Providing coaching and mentoring programs, where your senior-most staff coach up-and-coming staff.
  • Setting up regular lunch and learn expert speakers on topics that matter to your employees and that help them do their jobs more effectively.
  • Sending people to conferences and workshops that help them develop new skills.
  • Creating peer support groups where people of similar career levels can share ideas in an informal setting.

If you have these programs in place, you might be surprised to discover that they provide a hidden benefit you might not have considered.  These programs not only help you keep your best talent (the really motivated ones), they also help you attract new talent who is probably equally motivated to grow their careers.

Go To The Well

Here is one of the strategies that we’ve perfected over the last couple of years.  We now recruit directly from a local university and have even partnered with some on-campus groups to recommend talent to us.  This has produced some very good candidates and it gives us an opportunity to tell our story before many of them were even looking for a full-time job.  We’ve also hired interns, some of whom have become long-term employees.

What organizations can serve as a well for your company?  Are there associations, universities, technical or trade schools, networks or other places where you can find talent before they’re actively looking for a job?  What can you do to partner with these organizations so they can recommend great candidates?

Prize The Fit More Than The Qualifications

One of the biggest mistakes I see companies making today is hiring people who seem to have the qualifications and making this the primary consideration for who they hire.  I believe it is important to prize the fit to your company, values and culture more than a particular technical skill-set.

In my experience, once people have a certain level of education or experience, you can probably train them in the core technologies, techniques and practices that you need them to do.  But it’s much harder to train drive, initiative, a teamwork orientation and a desire for increased responsibility.  These are the attributes that usually produce great long-term employees who make a real contribution to your company.  What can you do to look for these attributes?

Use Informal Interviews

One of the best ways to uncover the fit is by using informal interviews.  No one seems to enjoy the interview process.  This usually produces a rather stilted conversation where both the prospective employer and employee are trying to put on their best face.  I find that more informal conversations really help both parties loosen up and talk about what really matters – the future.

By comparison, many interviewers tend to look at someone’s resume and then ask them questions about it.  I know I used to do things that way.  But now I tend to put the resume aside and just ask them questions about themselves.  I want to know what they enjoy and what makes them tick.

I also encourage them to ask me questions.  I can tell, when someone’s face lights up, that what I’m describing about our company is attractive to them.  I want to work with people who want to want to work with us.  Besides, with today’s digital technology, I can do a lot of research about a candidate before an interview, so I know about their work history, interests, hobbies and other things.  This allows me to engage them on topics that help me gauge the fit to our culture.

Built A Reputation For Being A Great Place To Work

One of the most important things you can do to attract great new talent is to build a reputation for being a great place to work.  I certainly do think this means touting any awards you might have won for making “best place to work” lists.  But it’s also more than that.

Some of our best new candidates come to us by way of referrals from people who know our business and what we value.  Some of our best referral sources are our own team members.  When a team member recommends a solid candidate, that’s a real endorsement for our company.  That’s the same thing as saying: “I love working here and I’ll bet you will too.”

That reputation will help you attract new talent and possibly even bring back people who might have gone looking for greener pastures – as long as you didn’t burn bridges with them.  I can think of two people who left Casey Neilon to go work for other organizations.  They were both looking for things they didn’t think we could provide them.

But I left the door open and told them we’d love to have them back on our team if things didn’t work out in their new roles.  One person said to me, about a year later: “I feel like part of a family at Casey Neilon.  At the other firm I just felt like a number.  I just want to come home.”

How To Use This Counsel

I believe that if you put the ideas I’ve outlined here into practice for your organization, you will become a more competitive organization.  I’ve tried to provide a few practical exercises for you and some questions that I think could help you move ahead quickly.  If you’d like more guidance or have further questions for me, my door is open.  Let’s talk.

POSTED BY

Debbie Vaughan – COO, Shareholder
I am the Chief Operating Officer at Casey Neilon. In this role, I manage the firm’s operational support functions, including human resources, information technology, facilities, firm accounting and coaching. My focus is to manage the internal operations of the firm so that the shareholders can concentrate on serving our clients.