20+ Best Hiring Strategies for Startups and Companies (2019)
Hiring is a form of selling: You’re selling opportunity. The hope is that the best prospective buyers—top talent—choose you. This blog explores 20+ Best Hiring Strategies for Startups and Companies in 2019.
During interviews, you walk a tightrope, balancing the need to sell the job, while confirming that the candidate is a good fit. Not an easy task when good candidates have many options.
Strategy 1: Launch and Integrate
Continue the Courtship
The professional relationship that begins with the Hiring process has to be nurtured and maintained. Especially when candidates are part of your Talent Inventory. Keeping in touch—at least every month—can grow your rapport. Collaborative sales conversations that continue the courtship can include questions like:
“What’s changed since we last spoke?”
“How can I support you right now?”
Hiring Strategy 2:
Frequently Asked Questions
Answers to ten common questions will help you implement your Talent Inventory.
FAQ 1: How many candidates should I have in my Talent Inventory?
You’ll need at least two people for each type of job. Often, you’ll have more than two ready to hire at all times.
The practice of always interviewing, occasionally Hiring will create a growing number of candidate relationships. Some of these relationships will span months. It’s common that job offers are made to people whom you’ve courted for years.
Circumstances at your company will dictate the precise inventory levels you’ll need for each role. Periods of rapid growth or high turnover can require that extra candidates for each role be maintained in your inventory.
FAQ 2: How do I get people interested in being part of my Talent Inventory?
People like special treatment. Picture an exclusive nightclub. Outside there are two admission lines—the long line and the shorter one for VIPs. That’s the one blocked off by the red velvet rope. Considering someone for your inventory is a red velvet rope experience.
The Talent Accelerator Process allows you to give talented people special treatment. Special access to your company makes people feel important.
Experiential interviews are a premium experience, giving the candidate a unique opportunity to experience the job. Collaborative sales conversations will continue the experience, distinguishing you from other companies.
FAQ 3: We don’t have any current openings, and I’m not going to lie and say we do. Why, then, would a busy and talented candidate speak with us?
The very fact that you don’t have openings is in your favor. There are lots of companies that are always Hiring. Their constant churn of people creates the need to fill open seats. Is that where talented people want to work? No. They look for better jobs and are willing to wait for them.
Cultivating candidates and waiting for the right jobs to open up make your company desirable. It demonstrates that your company is a better place to work, one that’s worth waiting for.
FAQ 4: What if our company doesn’t have a good reputation? How can we attract top talent for our Talent Inventory?
Organizations are a reflection of their people. A poor reputation happens as a result of the work being done by some of those people. Improving the image of an organization requires upgrading your workers.
High-Velocity Hiring builds better companies. How? By Hiring your way to a better company. You can use the Talent Accelerator Process to incrementally hire better people. Each round of Hiring allows you to fill a job with a better person than the last one.
FAQ 5: What if I don’t have HR or talent acquisition staff to help me?
You get to choose the size and scope of your Talent Inventory. Only have time to maintain one role? That’s fine. Have time for more? That works too. Talent Inventories are flexible.
FAQ 6: How do I keep good candidates interested in the long term?
The relationship with each person in your Talent Inventory is a courtship. You’re nurturing the growing rapport. The most important thing to remember is it’s your job to keep the relationship going.
A simple rule of thumb is to connect with each candidate in your Talent Inventory at least monthly. In a matter of minutes, you can facilitate a meaningful conversation. These conversations maintain the relationship, deepening the candidate’s interest in working for your organization.
FAQ 7: I’m an HR or talent acquisition professional. What’s my responsibility in maintaining a Talent Inventory?
Often, you and your departmental colleagues will be responsible for harnessing talent through improved candidate gravity. It’s also common that you’ll coordinate interviews. In some cases, you’ll have full responsibility for choosing candidates for hands-on interviews and conducting reference and background checks.
FAQ 8: What if someone in my Talent Inventory turns down a job offer?
It’s not if, but when candidates turn your offers down. The best candidates will have other options.
When someone turns down an offer, you move on to the next best person in your inventory. That’s why you’re always interviewing, occasionally Hiring. Stay in touch at least quarterly with every good candidate who turns your offer down. Things change. You’ll want to be there when they do.
FAQ 9: This all sounds very time-consuming. How do I fit this into my schedule?
Doing something different, such as maintaining a Talent Inventory, can seem overwhelming. However, experiential interviews take less time than conventional methods.
Staying in touch with the people in your inventory takes minutes. You’re likely to find that the total amount of time you spend on Hiring is cut at least in half. Best of all, you’re in control. You get to decide how many different roles are in your inventory.
FAQ 10: I’m really busy. Do you really expect me to manage my own Talent Inventory?
Yes. Faster Hiring is a strategic imperative. Maintaining an inventory will allow you to fill seats the moment they open. You’ll also hire better people and save time while doing it.
Managing a Talent Inventory means different things in different companies. One thing remains the same: Leaders play a vital role in ensuring they have their next hire ready to go.
Talent Inventory Examples
How will you build your Talent Inventory? Who, if anyone, will help you maintain it? How have companies chosen to tackle these tasks? Following are five examples.
Hiring Strategy 3:
A global hotelier chose to build an inventory of all their jobs. Managing this inventory became everyone’s responsibility. From the top down, every employee has tasks. Executives in the C-Suite facilitate hands-on interviews and personally call each candidate in their inventory each month.
Managers in every department do the same, adding phone interviews to their responsibilities. Staff members participate in hands-on interviews, completing scorecards for each candidate.
The HR team is responsible for maintaining strong candidate gravity and scheduling interviews. Everyone in the company has a common, shared responsibility—feeding the referral and networking talent streams.
Hiring Strategy 4:
Divide and Conquer
The CEO of a growing energy company saw one obstacle to future success— people. Numerous departments within the company were struggling to find good people. Anticipated growth was only going to make matters worse. The chief human resource officer was tasked with ensuring the company could fill all jobs the instant they opened.
She divided the talent acquisition team into two groups. The legacy group was responsible for maintaining the Talent Inventory for existing roles. The emergent group built pools of prospective employees for new openings. Both groups worked directly with Hiring managers to coordinate the steps of experiential interviews.
Promoting from within was considered a cultural value of a nonprofit organization. To achieve this, the organization had developed a leadership development program.
However, they often lacked people to replace staff members who were ready for promotion. The small HR staff couldn’t keep up with the organization’s Hiring needs, keeping these emerging leaders stuck in their current roles.
A new module was added to the leadership development program called Always Elevating. This module showed participants how to use the Talent Accelerator Process. After completing the program, participants became responsible for helping line up their own replacements.
One Is Enough
Sometimes, filling one type of job on demand is enough. That job, for a small engineering firm, was electrical engineers. When they had enough electrical engineers, they could take on additional projects, adding millions in additional revenue.
Hiring electrical engineers fell on the shoulders of the engineering manager. She was the department’s sole leader.
The company had an HR director, but she was a part-time employee who was unable to provide any Hiring support. The engineering manager sought outside help from a staffing agency.
They provided candidates; she conducted interviews, built her Talent Inventory, and kept in touch with those in it. Investing a few hours each month allowed her to maintain an inventory of engineers.
Hiring Strategy 5:
Assemblers were a core role at a mid-sized medical device manufacturer. For months, people in these roles had to work overtime because of unfilled jobs. The extra money was great, for a while.
As the months went by, people left. Those that remained were at a breaking point, as was the company’s budget. Overtime was costing thousands in additional expense—well beyond what had been allocated for the fiscal year.
The company had one recruiter, who was given additional help to fill the open jobs. Once the jobs were filled, he collaborated with the production manager to maintain a Talent Inventory.
A handful of assemblers, ready to hire, is all it took to ensure they could always hire in an instant. However, they rarely had to replace someone. Turnover of assemblers had all but been eliminated.
Hiring Strategy 6:
Keeping Your Talent Inventory Full
Talent Inventories aren’t foolproof. Sometimes they fail. Why? Hires are made, but the pool of talent isn’t replenished. This lack forces you back into the old way of Hiring— keeping a job open until the right person shows up. That’s why it’s critical that you’re always interviewing to maintain a pool of people.
Maintaining strong candidate gravity will ensure you have enough candidates to interview. The referral and networking streams can be especially effective in helping you restock your Talent Inventory as each hire is made. Here are three examples of creative ways to use these talent streams.
Hiring Strategy 7:
BYOC (Bring Your Own Colleague)
Being offered a new job is exciting. You can encourage new hires to share this excitement with friends and colleagues. Ask your new employees to invite people they know to join them at your company. Suggest they bring resumes of their colleagues with them during their first week of employment.
The families of your new hires are powerful. They know tons of people, some of whom could be future hires. Invite the families of each new employee to a dinner or reception during the first month of employment. Ask their opinions on whom they know that could be a great addition to your team.
Hiring Strategy 8:
Have a cool facility? Invented something new? Solved a significant problem? Showing off isn’t just okay; it’s a great way to get people interested in working for your company.
Schedule periodic events to showcase your company and the work you’re doing. Partner with community leaders to draw in attendees. Encourage your employees and newest hires to invite friends, family, and colleagues who work at other companies.
Keeping your Talent Inventory full at all times gives your company power. The power of choice. You’ll have people to choose from when a job opens. You’ll also have immediate options when poor performers need to be replaced.
A fully stocked Talent Inventory will be your key to ongoing success, ensuring that you have enough quality people to get work done.
Take the following steps to create and maintain your Talent Inventory.
Design Your Warehouse
Will your Talent Inventory cover one role? Two? More? After you’ve decided how many roles will comprise your Talent Inventory, you’ll need a place to “store” your talent. This can be a single sheet of paper, a software database, or an Excel spreadsheet.
Whichever you choose, create a separate set of “shelves” for each role. Be sure to include each person’s name, telephone, and last contact date. This helps you keep this information at your fingertips.
Set a Deadline
Schedule a deadline for having your Talent Inventory in place. Give yourself a reasonable amount of time. For example, most people need one to two months to build a viable inventory for each role.
Line Up Support
Who, if anyone, will help you build and maintain your Talent Inventory? What’s their part? What’s yours? Answering these questions will help you plan the implementation of your Talent Inventory.
It’s important that each person helping you understand why you have undertaken this initiative.
Remember that the Talent Accelerator Process is designed to let the better salesperson sell. That’s your candidates, not you. Candidates will always believe themselves, but may or may not believe you.
Collaborative selling will help you get candidates to sell themselves on your job opportunities. Some people believe practice makes perfect. While I’ve yet to find anyone who’s perfect at collaborative selling, you can perfect your skills.
Practice each of the collaborative selling Strategies mentioned earlier in this blog with a colleague. Keep at it until you demonstrate proficiency in letting candidates do the selling.
Share Your Success
Success breeds further success. Share your wins in building your Talent Inventory with your colleagues. Show them how you did it, and what you learned along the way. Remember that teaching skills to others will deepen your own.
Plan for Replenishment
How will you replenish your Talent Inventory? Will, you schedule a community showcase, family night, or invite new hires to BYOC (bring their own colleagues)? Maybe all three?
What other creative ways can you use candidate gravity to ensure you have people to interview? By planning now how you’ll refill your Talent Inventory, you’re likely to have the candidates you need, when you need them.
Keeping your Talent Accelerator Process functioning efficiently will help you maintain a full Talent Inventory. How will you know if your Talent Accelerator Process is working properly? Here are three indicators to keep an eye on.
Zero-to-Fill: The goal of High-Velocity Hiring is filling jobs with quality people in an instant. When you’re filling jobs the same day they open, you’ve reduced time-to-fill to zero. This is called the zero-to-fill. It takes zero days to fill jobs covered by your Talent Inventory. At the end of the day, you have none of those jobs left to fill.
As you build your Talent Inventory, you’ll want to monitor time-to-fill. That number should steadily decrease. Once you reach and maintain zero-to-fill, you’ll know your Talent Accelerator Process is operating efficiently.
Keep monitoring the zero-to-fill status for each role in the inventory. If this number begins to inch above zero, take immediate action to find an address where your Talent Accelerator Process is starting to break down.
Return on Hiring (ROR): ROR measures how many hires result from your efforts. The more you use your Talent Accelerator Process, the less effort it should take to hire new employees. ROR will help you monitor your progress.
Each month, you’ll add up time spent on Hiring and divide that by the number of hires made. You’ll include everyone involved in the steps of your Talent Accelerator Process when tallying time—your Hiring team, HR, and talent acquisition staff. By tracking this each month, you’ll know if your ROR improves, declines, or stays the same.
For example, let’s say you made 10 hires this month and that this took 60 total hours. Dividing 60 hours by 10 hires gives you a ROR of one hire for every six hours invested. The following month you make 12 hires in a total of 58 hours. That’s a ROR of one hire every 4.8 hours, an improvement over the previous month.
What’s a reasonable ROR goal? This varies among different types of organizations. Some have achieved an impressive ROR of one hire for every three hours invested for staff roles and one hire for every four hours invested in leadership roles.
New-Hire Churn: What percentage of your new hires leave or are terminated in the first 90 days? The first six months? The first year? Check this percentage at each interval. Companies maintaining Talent Inventories have reduced yearly churn to less than 1 percent.
Hiring Strategy 9:
Keep the Talent Accelerator Process Flowing
Ensure Hiring Can Always Be Done in an Instant
The Talent Accelerator Process (TAP) is like a Hiring machine. Once set up, the Talent Accelerator Process delivers employees on-demand. Jobs stay filled. Work gets done. In a perfect world, this Hiring machine would never break.
It would always generate a flow of quality talent, keeping your seats filled with good employees.
That strategic initiatives fail isn’t unique to Hiring. Our human nature is the root cause of strategic failures, which is why the ideas presented in the coming pages are important. When applied to all of your strategies, the more likely those strategies will succeed as well.
Hiring Strategy 10:
The Failure Factors
How do people cause plans to fail? These four factors are the most common.
Failure Factor 1: We Complicate What’s Simple
Every year, I chuckle when I look at the latest tax form from the U.S. Internal Revenue Service. The bottom of Form 1040 makes reference to the “Paperwork Reduction Act.”
This must be a bad joke, the kind told by a bureaucrat. My tax return grows a few pages each year.
If the Paperwork Reduction Act is real, it’s not working. On the contrary, U.S. tax laws have continued to grow in length and complexity. Totaling over seven million words, the tax code has more than doubled in size since 1985.
beyond governments and you’ll find many examples of needless complexity. Computer instruction manuals are convoluted. Blueprints for assembling furniture don’t make sense. Employee and blogs are filled with confusing jargon.
We’re good at making things complicated. When one page of instructions will do, we’ll write two. If a process takes three steps, we’ll expand it to four. We’re smart creatures, sometimes too smart. Unfortunately, our intellect can frustrate others, irritating them to the point of giving up. Sometimes it’s easier to throw in the towel.
We complicate what’s simple. It’s the first of the four failure factors. These factors undermine sound strategies, disrupting our well-made plans. They’re the primary reason why proven methods, like the Talent Accelerator Process, fail. Left unchecked, one or more of the failure factors will eventually slow your fast Hiring.
Failure Factor 2: We’re Easily Distracted
There are lots of things vying for our attention: The ringing phone, all those emails, the meeting you need to prepare for, a text from your spouse.
When we’re distracted, we forget what’s most important. We answer the phone, learning the call was about something mundane. We react to each email as it arrives, forgetting that most messages don’t require immediate attention.
Distractions keep us from important tasks. They also undermine our focus when doing vital work. How many times have you been on the phone while checking email and sifting through a stack of documents?
Just like distracted driving causes car accidents, working while distracted creates work mishaps. We miss details, forget things, and make mistakes.
Failure Factor 3: We Change Too Much at Once
Patience may be a virtue, one that many of us lack. In today’s fast-paced society, impatience is the norm. We want things done now, not weeks from now. To drive change, we often set tight deadlines and push everyone, including ourselves, toward the goal.
The problem is that fast change doesn’t stick. It takes time to adjust our routines and change our habits. A rapid series of changes overwhelm us. When our sense of being overwhelmed reaches a tipping point, we give up and revert back to our previous routines.
Failure Factor 4: Our Intentions Don’t Become Actions
How many times have your intentions failed? You intended to eat better, but it didn’t happen. You meant to work out, but your gym bag lies untouched on the office floor.
The good news is you’re not alone. Everyone fails at least some of the time in turning intentions into actions. The bad news is that the disconnect between intentions and actions causes strategic failure.
For goals to be realized, like being able to fill your core roles in an instant, you and your colleagues must keep taking action. Not just intend to take action.
Unless you count the failure factors, they’ll end up running the show. As human nature kicks in, your colleagues will complicate how they conduct experiential interviews. The desire to fill all of your jobs in an instant will prompt you to take on too many at once.
Distractions will cause your staff to overlook interview warning signs. The candidates in your Talent Inventory will be lost to other employers when your intention to stay in touch doesn’t equate to action.
This sixth and final step of the Talent Accelerator Process will counteract the failure factors. Four countermeasures will help you eliminate their negative effects, ensuring that your Talent Accelerator Process remains a well-oiled Hiring machine.
Countering Failure Factor 1: Keep It, Swift and Simple
To fill jobs, a UK-based retailer used to take months. One position, in particular, the buyer role, was especially hard to fill. The company looked for people with previous experience as a retail buyer. However, many candidates lacked this background.
The retailer decided to give Talent Accelerator Process a try. They created a Hire-Right Profile, adding several transferable skills as Dealmakers. This allowed the talent acquisition team to draw in additional candidates for experiential interviews. Open seats were filled quickly and a surplus of talent was lined up.
The success in filling buyer jobs prompted the retailer to expand the use of the Talent Accelerator Process. Roles in the accounting department were added next, followed by key positions in marketing and retail management.
In less than a year, they’d reduced time-to-fill for these key positions to zero. They’d also built a Talent Inventory for nine core roles.
Wrapping up our work together, I offered the following advice: “Remember that simple is sustainable. If you make changes to your Talent Accelerator Process, be sure that those changes keep the Hiring process swift and simple.”
Six months later, the retailer called me in a panic. The Talent Inventory for most of the core roles had been depleted. Filling these jobs went from minutes to weeks. Hiring managers and recruiters were working harder than ever to fill them.
What was the problem? The Talent Accelerator Process had become bloated. Dozens of additional criteria had been added to Hire-Right Profiles. Hands-on interviews were taking four hours. The number of questions asked in reference checks had doubled.
It’s normal, even preferable, that you’ll fine-tune your Talent Accelerator Process over time. However, the staff at this retailer had gone too far. Instead of carefully considering changes to the process, “improvements” were automatically adopted.
The retailer had quickly forgotten that simple is sustainable. As the complexity of the Talent Accelerator Process grew, the harder it was to maintain.
Interviewers were overwhelmed by the expanded Hire-Right Profiles and ended up missing details during interviews. Longer interviews and lengthy reference checks also meant less time was available to recruit new candidates.
Undoing the damage to the Talent Accelerator Process wasn’t easy. A complete reset of the system was required, rebuilding Talent Accelerator Process one role at a time.
When asked what they’d learned from this experience, the retailer mentioned two things. “First,” they said, “rebuilding our Talent Accelerator Process was worth the effort. Being able to fill our core jobs the instant they open made us more competitive.
Second, screwing up our Talent Accelerator Process was optional. Had we followed the instructions—Keep It Swift and Simple—we wouldn’t have had to start over.”
Like this retailer, you’ll gain important insights as you use your Talent Accelerator Process. These insights can improve the process is applied in the right way.
What’s the right way? Do the four things that are mentioned next.
Action 1: Put Someone in Charge
Designate someone the Talent Accelerator Process Lead, the person responsible for overseeing your Talent Accelerator Process.
This could be you, a department manager, an HR director, or a senior recruiter. Changes, such as adding criteria to the Hire-Right Profile or adding a question to phone interviews, are facilitated by the Talent Accelerator Process Lead. They bring those proposed changes to your Hiring team for review.
Action 2: Discuss the Change
The Hiring team considers each change, asking questions like:
“How will it increase the effectiveness of our Talent Accelerator Process?”
“Will the change maintain or improve Hiring speed?”
“Is it simple, so we can easily repeat it each time we hire?”
The Hiring team should approve only simple changes that keep your Talent Accelerator Process swift and efficient.
Action 3: Implement the Change
The Talent Accelerator Process Lead is responsible for implementing the change, updating documentation as needed.
Action 4: Monitor the Impact
Did the change have the desired impact? Is your Talent Accelerator Process still operating effectively? The Talent Accelerator Process Lead keeps an eye on improvements, answering these questions for each. Any issues are immediately brought to the attention of the Hiring team for their help in resolving them.
Countering Failure Factor 2: Reduce Multitasking
The success of Andrea’s business hinged on having good account managers. They were the face of her travel company, the first line of contact for customers. For over a year, she’d been five account managers short.
The rest of the team had to pick up the slack, creating a larger workload for everyone. Mistakes were made, accounts were neglected, and some customers took their business elsewhere.
Andrea and her company had been engaged in the old way of Hiring for two decades. She knew it was time to do something different. When she heard about being able to hire in an instant, she loved the idea.
The next few months were spent implementing the Talent Accelerator Process. To keep things simple, Andrea decided that the only core role would be account managers. The company followed the steps in order, using their Talent Accelerator Process to fill open seats and then build a Talent Inventory.
For three years, the Talent Accelerator Process kept time-to-fill to zero. If Andrea needed an additional account manager, she hired one that same day. When someone resigned, that position was filled in an instant. Turnover was virtually zero. Running the company had become easier than ever, and business was flourishing.
The good times allowed Andrea to invest some of the profits. New computers, upgraded software, and a state-of-the-art phone system were installed. Now, account managers could manage larger blogs of business in less time.
Everything seemed to be going right. Andrea started making plans for expansion, including the possibility of acquiring one of her biggest competitors.
This long run of success came to a halt a few months later. The problems were subtle at first. A few of the talent streams that had been drawing in great candidates seemed to dry up.
Then, there was a series of bad hires, people who turned out to be a poor fit for the account manager job. Before long, the Talent Inventory became dangerously depleted.
Where had they gone wrong? It began when they upgraded their technology. The improvements themselves, however, weren’t the issue. How they used those tools was.
Instead of making work efficient, technology ushered in an increase in multitasking. Everyone was trying to juggle too much at once. They’d be on the phone, entering details into the new software, watching for emails, and peeking at their instant messenger window—all at the same time.
Distractions were also affecting Hiring. Interviewers were responding to emails during phone interviews instead of giving the conversation their undivided attention. Working while distracted was also causing people to forget important tasks, including maintaining strong candidate gravity.
Solving this problem was straightforward. Distracted work had become the habit, and multitasking fed that habit. Andrea had to reduce multitasking. Changing this behavior would require more than implementing new policies.
Single-tasking got Hiring back on track. The Talent Inventory was replenished and the quality of hires improved. But that was only the start. Single-tasking positively affected all aspects of the business. Employees were happier. Customer satisfaction scores increased. Revenues grew to all-time highs.
Am I suggesting that your company eliminate multitasking completely? No. I don’t believe that’s possible in today’s work world. What I’m recommending is that you limit distractions, especially when it comes to important tasks. Choosing the right people for your organization is important. It can make or break you.
If something is important, it deserves our full attention. Single-tasking lets you devote that attention.
Countering Failure Factor 3: Promote Incremental Change
Success is infectious. The more success we have, the more of it we want.
Sometimes, our successes can deceive us, prompting decisions we later regret.
My biggest mistake in using the Talent Accelerator Process came from such a success. I’d reduced time-to-fill for every position in our corporate office to zero.
Our entire management team was on board, happily practicing our mantra of always interviewing, occasionally Hiring. The Talent Inventory was stocked with good people.
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Countering Failure Factor 4:
In the March 2015 issue of the Harvard Business Review, Donald Sull, a senior lecturer at MIT’s Sloan School of Management, shared his research on strategy execution:
Of the 8,000 managers he surveyed, 84 percent said that the people in their chain of command can be relied upon. However, 59 percent of the managers said that colleagues in other departments couldn’t be relied upon.
Sull’s research illustrates why our plans fail—strategic initiatives are never solo acts. Improved Hiring requires coordinated action and consistent follow-through. Once you implement your Talent Accelerator Process, everyone involved must keep doing their part.
Why don’t people do what they’re supposed to do? The implementation of the Talent Accelerator Process at a government agency is a classic example. The agency director wanted department heads to hire faster. Talent Accelerator Process was his solution. He tasked a project team of recruiters and managers to make this happen.
The project team followed the steps, putting the Talent Accelerator Process in place in a few months. With great fanfare, the director announced the initiative with a launch event. He explained why faster Hiring was important and how the Talent Accelerator Process would make that happen.
Other leaders followed, carefully explaining expectations and answering audience questions. Documents explaining important details, such as how to conduct experiential interviews, were handed out.
The agency director closed the meeting with these words: “I know that change isn’t easy or convenient. We’ve failed at the change in the past. But keeping our jobs filled has to happen. We’re all adults, so let’s each do our part. Let’s get this done.”
Did the agency get it done? Sort of. Sometimes hires were made quickly; other times they weren’t. Inconsistency was the name of the game. Why did this happen? Not everyone followed through.
A recruiter had forgotten to maintain a talent stream. A department head neglected to schedule an interview. Failing to follow through hadn’t been intentional, but it was still happening and interfering with the goal of faster Hiring.
Nice Person Syndrome
Ever heard the statement “Nice guys finish last?” It turns out to be true when it comes to leadership roles. Succeeding in business requires some degree of niceness and getting along with others.
In staff level positions, being nice helps build customer relationships. A collegial attitude also makes it easier to work with colleagues and remain on the boss’ good side.
When we’re promoted to a leadership role, being nice works against us. Holding employees accountable doesn’t feel good. It can make us uncomfortable, even fearful that we won’t be liked or that the employee may quit. Sometimes, having to manage people may seem parental, making our jobs unpleasant and exhausting.
What happens when we feel uncomfortable? We hold back. Instead of requiring direct reports to meet standards consistently, we fail to follow through. When employees do shoddy work, we make excuses. If it’s time for a reprimand, we delay and hope things will improve on their own.
This is Nice Person Syndrome (NPS). NPS enables poor work behaviors, reinforcing the disconnect between intentions and actions. It’s why many leaders fail—their niceness gets in the way of keeping their teams on track. NPS is a frequent contributor when a Talent Accelerator Process breaks down.
Do you have NPS? Many leaders do. While the severity of NPS varies by person, a mild case of it hampers effective leadership. To determine if you have NPS, answer four questions:
1. Do you hold your direct reports accountable, no matter what?
2. Do you avoid making excuses when staff members fail to meet expectations?
3. Do you promptly reprimand someone who needs it?
4. Do you swiftly terminate an employee when it’s time to let them go?
If you answer “no” to any of these questions, you have NPS. The more frequently you answer “no,” the more severe the problem.
Is NPS curable? Not completely. You can, however, keep NPS in remission if you do these three things:
1. Recognize that accountability is an act of compassion.
When you fail to hold others accountable, you’re culpable. By doing your part, you help employees stay on track and succeed. When you’re tempted to hold back on accountability, remind yourself of the consequences. The discomfort you feel is better than the alternative— having to eventually fire someone in whose demise you played a part.
2. Remember you’re not responsible for your first thought.
As someone with NPS, my first thought when having to hold someone to task is usually “yuck.” I don’t enjoy having to call someone out and doubt this will ever change. I’ve come to expect this first thought.
Instead of ruminating on it, I focus on my next action, which is to be the leader I need to be. You too are not responsible for your first thought, only your next action.
3. Say what you mean, just don’t say it mean.
Many leaders dislike conflict, viewing accountability as a potentially difficult conversation. Accountability doesn’t have to be harsh. We can express our concerns with kindness. We can say exactly what we need to say without allowing our words to do harm.
The Ultimate Countermeasure
It’s likely that your Talent Accelerator Process won’t function perfectly. Someone will complicate the process, get distracted, make changes too quickly, or fail to follow through. It happens. By planning for when, not if this occurs, you’ll be ready to quickly get Hiring back on track.
Do all TAPs slow or break down? No. Like a well-oiled machine that runs for decades, some companies have a Talent Accelerator Process that has never failed. What’s their secret? They’ve consistently deployed the ultimate countermeasure: They keep doing the next right thing. No matter what.
When a big project seems of greater importance than maintaining their Talent Accelerator Process, they still take time to maintain it. If schedules become overloaded and they’re tempted to push aside their minimum daily requirements, they don’t. They keep doing the next right thing. One day at a time.
I know this sounds simple. It is simple, as long as we remember that our human nature is to complicate. When it comes down to it, we’re capable of doing the next right thing. We need to ask ourselves what that is, and then do it.
The best way to solve a problem is to keep it from happening. Once set up, you can keep your Talent Accelerator Process flowing by requiring everyone, including yourself, to keep doing the next right thing. That includes countering the four failure factors the moment one of them arises.
The following actions will help you keep your Talent Accelerator Process flowing from the start.
Find Your Failure Factors
We repeat our mistakes until we learn from them and change our ways. The mistakes your organization has made in executing strategic plans will show up again and again—unless you keep history from repeating itself.
Review the strategies that have failed in the last five years. Which of the four failure factors contributed to these problems? These same issues are the ones most likely to derail your Talent Accelerator Process.
Hiring Strategy 11:
Share the Patterns
Understanding a problem helps us solve it. It’s important that everyone involved with the Talent Accelerator Process understand which failure factors have contributed to previous strategic failures.
Share what you’ve learned from reviewing past mistakes. Provide them with details on the countermeasures in this blog. Discuss how these can be applied in your circumstances.
Select a Talent Accelerator Process Lead Early
Choose a Talent Accelerator Process Lead as soon as possible. Ideally, this happens before you begin implementing the Talent Accelerator Process. This allows the Talent Accelerator Process Leads to play a role in the rollout and improves their knowledge of the process.
Who should you choose? The skills of the individual matter more than titles. Pick someone who’s good with details and has better than average follow-through.
Hiring Strategy 12:
Give Single-Tasking a Try
Experiment with single-tasking. Pick an important task, such as reviewing resumes or conducting a phone interview. Make it your singular focus until done. Notice how this allows you to be present and focused. Pay attention to how single-tasking impacts the quality of your work and the speed with which you get it done.
Then, share your experience with your team and ask them to give single-tasking a try. The benefits of incorporating single-tasking into your day can positively affect more than Hiring.
Phase in MDRs
When used correctly, minimum daily requirements (MDR) take the work of Hiring and break it down into manageable portions of daily and weekly work. For example, the MDRs of a Hiring manager might look like this:
Daily: Review three resumes of prospective candidates.
Weekly: Interview one candidate, check in with two people on the Talent Inventory, ask two people for candidate referrals.
Don’t try to implement all your MDRs at once. If you do, the third failure factor, changing too much at once, may negate your work. Phase them in one at a time. As each becomes part of your routine, add the next. And then the next.
Acknowledge Nice Person Syndrome
It’s tough for some people to admit that being a nice person has hurt their leadership. Have conversations with your colleagues about Nice Person Syndrome (NPS).
Go first to be the one who openly admits how NPS has affected you. Your vulnerability may encourage others to acknowledge this issue in themselves. As part of your conversation, discuss how you can support one another in countering NPS.
Hiring Strategy 13:
Incorporate These Ideas Into Other Strategies
The four failure factors can disrupt any strategic initiative. The countermeasures will keep your initiatives on track.
Engage Talent Scouts
Create Lasting Partnerships Between Organizations and Staffing Providers
Large organizations and some mid-market companies have their own talent scouts (a talent acquisition department or corporate recruiters). Small companies with HR staff make scouting talent part of their job. However, these in-house employees aren’t always able to source enough people to fill all of the open jobs.
That’s why organizations of all sizes also rely on an external scouting arm— employment services often referred to as staffing companies or recruitment firms. They are part of a global staffing industry supplying temporary employees and candidates for full-time employment.
One of the things that make this talent stream unique is that it comes with a guarantee. External talent scouts frequently guarantee their “product.” If a temporary worker you bring in has poor attendance, the staffing agency will typically provide a replacement person.
When the contract employee you secure for a project doesn’t work out, the firm representing that employee will send someone else. Full-time hires also come with guarantees, such as a replacement candidate or a refund of the fee paid for the Hiring services.
The guarantee provided by external talent scouts adds a level of safety in using their services. This guarantee is valuable—Hiring on your own comes with no such promises. There’s also the flexibility gained when using temporary workers. Temp workers allow your company to scale your workforce as business ebbs and flows.
Also, engaging an external talent scout is “free” in most instances. Your company pays a placement fee for a full-time hire or an hourly rate for a temporary worker only if the scout delivers the person you need.
Given just these three benefits, it would be reasonable to expect that many companies rely on external talent scouts. They don’t. Less than a third of organizations use their services each year.
I’ve asked thousands of organizations that aren’t regular users of staffing or recruitment firms: “Why don’t you use them (or use them more often)?” For 30 years, I’ve heard the same answers:
“They often don’t have the talent I need when I need it.”
“I’ve had a bad experience.”
“Outside agencies are a necessary evil.”
The complaints don’t stop there. External talent scouts voice their share of frustrations about working with organizations. They say things like:
“They treat us like a commodity and pressure us to lower our price.”
“We submit candidates for their consideration, but hear nothing back.”
“HR sees us as competition.”
Not all relationships between organizations and external scouts are contentious. Many organizations appreciate their staffing providers, and lots of external scouts have positive experiences with the organizations they serve.
But there’s also a growing group of organizations and scouts that have formed even better relationships—relationships that have eliminated complaints on both sides.
An Ecosystem of Services
The staffing industry has evolved into an ecosystem of workforce solutions—an ecosystem that continues to grow and change (Figure 10.1). Weighing your options can be overwhelming.
You could choose a search firm to hire a full-time employee. Their recruiters will conduct a search for qualified candidates matching your specifications. You’ll get to interview these candidates. Find one that fits the job? You can hire that individual and pay a placement fee to the firm for their services.
Then, there’s temporary staffing (also referred to as contract staffing for IT, creative, engineering, and other professional roles). Temporary staffing allows you to bring in one, a handful, or hundreds of workers for a specified period of time. The workers are employed by the staffing firm; you are typically responsible for supervising their work.
When there is a large number of workers, the firm supplying them may also provide an on-site coordinator. You’ll pay the staffing firm for each hour someone works.
The contract you sign may have provisions for converting temporary workers to full-time employees of your company (called temp-to-hire). Some temporary staffing firms also provide a place and search services for full-time employees.
Need more options? An alphabet soup of valuable offerings is available:
BPO—Business Process Outsourcing: An entire work function or departments, such as your mailroom or call center, is handled by an outside organization.
HRO—Human Resource Outsourcing: Your provider takes over portions of your human resource function.
MSP—Managed Service Provider: An outside vendor manages the staffing firms supplying your company with workers.
RPO—Recruitment Process Outsourcing: You transfer all or part of your recruitment process to an external service provider.
SOW—Statement of Work: An outside vendor becomes responsible for a defined set of work activities and deliverables.
VMS—Vendor Management System: An Internet-based solution helps you manage and procure staffing services.
Need even more possibilities? How about a freelancer who’s part of the gig economy? Online platforms are allowing an increasing number of people to go it on their own. These platforms create a “human cloud” of workers ready for hire. You’ll likely never meet them in person because tasks and payments are all managed online.
If you’re convinced, after reading this list of possibilities, that you know exactly which solution is best for you, be careful. Picking a solution because it sounds like it fits is no better than self-prescribing medication.
A TV ad about a new drug may convince us we need it. Better to let an expert, our doctor, help us make an informed choice. The same is true when choosing a workforce solution.
It’s best to let the experts lay out the best options for your circumstances. What happens when organizations self-prescribe a workforce solution?
Sometimes it works out; other times it does not. There’s the bank that was convinced that VMS was the way to go. It slowed down their Hiring. An MSP proved to be a better solution. Then there’s the insurance company that set its sights on RPO. It failed.
SOW consulting services was what they really needed for their call center. There’s also the publishing company that fell in love with BPO. What an expensive mistake that turned out to be. Using temporary staffing worked out much better.
Heroic partnerships begin by picking a good partner, not by fixating on a solution. A good partner will take the time to understand your organization and its needs. Then, they’ll walk you through your options.
The right staffing partner can do more than help keeps jobs filled. They can become an indispensable part of your business.
Hiring Strategy 14:
Clear and Reasonable Expectations
What do all heroic partnerships have in common? Expectations. Organizations and staffing partners who’ve formed heroic partnerships have communicated their expectations to one another. These expectations are clear and reasonable and are centered upon making their relationship mutually beneficial.
Five mutual expectations form the foundation of heroic partnerships. Each expectation creates a layer of stability. The more of these layers that are in place, the stronger the foundation, and the greater the likelihood the relationship will stand the test of time.
What are these clear and reasonable expectations? They fall into five categories
Expectation 1: Flexibility
If you work for an organization, you must be flexible. It’s important to remember there are no “purple squirrels”—absolutely perfect candidates with every skill and experience imaginable.
These candidates don’t exist. Your staffing partners, then, can’t manufacture talent from scratch. Providing realistic Hire-Right Profiles to your staffing partner will help them do great work for you.
If you’re a staffing partner, you too must remain flexible. The needs of the organizations you serve are changing constantly. A sudden influx of orders can be followed by a lull. New regulations can create an immediate need for candidates with a different skillset. Projects pop up and initiatives slow down.
It’s your job to understand the shifting needs in each relationship. Does the company have a busy season? A slow period? How is their industry changing? In what ways will this change affect their Hiring needs?
Who are their competitors? How do these competitors impact the business of your customer? You need to keep asking questions, so you’re always ready to be helpful.
Flexibility is expectation 1 for a reason. Without it, your partnership may get off the ground, but it won’t last long.
Expectation 2: Accuracy
If you’re a leader in an organization, you have vital information. You know your organization’s goals and the work that needs to be done to reach them. You’re the one who sees what’s going on, including how things are changing.
Sometimes, those changes impact the type of help you need. It’s your job to communicate these details. If you do, you’re enabling your partner’s success. If you don’t, you’re setting them up for failure.
If you’re a staffing partner, you’re a matchmaker. This begins with the details. Do you have all the details you need to match your customer with the right solution? Have you done this type of work for the customer in the past?
If so, have you explored how the work may be different this time or assumed everything is the same? Matchmaking should never begin until you know you’ve got all of the current details.
Regardless of your delivery mechanism—temporary staffing, search, RPO, BPO, SOW—it’s your responsibility to match customers with the appropriate solution. Does this mean you’ll always be the one to deliver that solution?
No, heroic partners are honest about their limitations. They willingly refer business to companies better suited to meet a customer’s needs.
In a heroic partnership, accuracy fortifies your foundation, keeping your relationship rock solid.
Expectation 3: Quality
As a staffing partner, the organizations you work with demand quality. But what comprises quality? One aspect is in delivering the most qualified people. Another aspect is the caliber of your service. The competency of your staff also comes into play, as does the quality of ongoing customer support. Quality is multifaceted.
How do you ensure you’re always delivering quality? Never guess. Ask your customer how they define quality, and tell them how you’ll deliver that quality. Then keep your promises. Be sure to back up those promises with competent people who provide excellent support.
Your organization’s staffing partners also require quality—quality feedback during each stage of the process. They need your honest feedback on service proposals, helpful comments about resumes they’ve sent for review, detailed comments after interviews, and regular input during ongoing projects.
Without this feedback, they’re flying blind. Your input will directly impact the quality of their work. A mutual focus on quality anchors your heroic partnership, ensuring it remains on solid ground.
Expectation 4: Value
Even the best partnerships can fail around monetary expectations. If your organization expects lots of value for little money, it will undermine your staffing partner. Without healthy margins, they won’t be able to sustain quality work.
To keep their business viable, they’d have to “cheat” on you, skimping on services and sending top talent to better-paying customers. Eventually, the relationship will break down.
Does this mean your organization should pay inflated prices? Of course not. Your organization should pay for value. The greater the value, the more you must be willing to invest.
The value you receive isn’t just the services themselves. It includes how your partner improves your organization’s productivity, efficiency, and profitability. Your staffing partners deserve equitable compensation for the value they provide.
As a staffing partner, you can’t engage in pricing extremes. Charge too much and you’ll erode your partner’s trust. Charge too little and you’re jeopardizing your ability to do quality work. Your pricing must be directly proportionate to the value you deliver.
You must also give the organization options. There is no one-size-fits-all staffing solution. When your customers buy things, they’re used to having choices. So it’s only fitting you provide them with choices, too.
Like any business that provides tiered options—a basic service, a deluxe service, and a premium service—you can create these types of choices for your buyers.
Heroic partners know that skimping will cause the foundation of their relationship to crack. That’s why they keep their focus on value, not price.
Expectation 5: Immediacy
No one likes to wait. Delays will damage your partnership. As a staffing partner, it’s never a good idea to make customers wait. They need help now, not days from now. If you don’t have what they need, when they need it, they’ll reach out to someone else.
Don’t believe this is the case? Think about how you’ve won new business. You were in the right place at the right time with the right solution. If you’re not capable of giving your partner what they need, there’s someone else who can.
One of your service standards must be immediacy. Earlier in the blog, I walked you through the seven principles of an on-demand system and explained how these are incorporated into the Talent Accelerator Process.
Make this part of your business strategy. Maintain an inventory of the core talent your customer will need. You’ll be able to supply that talent on-demand, freeing you up to work on any additional needs they have as well.
Your organization must also act quickly if you expect your staffing partner to deliver positive results. Your input guides their work, helping them do quality work for you. Return their calls and emails swiftly. Provide prompt feedback on proposals, resumes, and interviews. Make nimble choices when choosing a solution or a person to hire.
Immediacy also benefits your organization. The top talent provided by your partner will be sought out by your competitors. Taking immediate action makes sure these talented people end up working for you.
Adding in this final expectation makes the foundation of your partnership nearly impregnable. Immediacy makes it a relationship built to last.
Might there be other expectations you’ll need to set? Yes. The five mutual expectations put your relationship on solid footing. As your partnership evolves, so too may your expectations. Making them clear and reasonable will keep your relationship solid, increasing the chances it serves both of your needs for a long time.
Choosing Your Partner
Setting mutual expectations is easiest when you pick the right partner. You’ll have lots of potential partners to mull over. Organizations can select from an array of staffing industry vendors, and these vendors get to pick whom they do business with. Both of you should choose wisely since your relationship will impact workers’ lives.
Staffing providers work with multiple customers. Organizations may also opt to work with more than one staffing partner.
Barry Asin, president of research firm Staffing Industry Analysts, believes it’s prudent to build relationships with at least several providers. “It‘s tough to expect one staffing company to do everything for you with equal skill,” said Asin.
“Relying on multiple firms can be a smart choice. Deciding how many and which ones depend on several factors. These include how often you hire and the types of skills you seek.
I’m continually intrigued by the increased level of specialization within the staffing industry and how resourceful staffing firms can be at finding specific types of workers.”
Whether you decide to work with one or several staffing partners, how to find those that are the best fit for your organization is shared in the following sections.
Hiring Strategy 15:
Look Beyond Capabilities
When you review the website of a potential staffing partner, you’ll probably find a list of their capabilities. Capabilities are great, but only if they produce the kind of outcomes you need.
Dig deeper, looking for the results these capabilities have created for other organizations. Ask your potential partner for specifics. Whom have they served?
What results did they achieve? How’d they achieved them? Expectations only work if your partner is able to meet them. Your upfront work in picking a capable partner who can meet your needs will pay off in the long run.
Check Out Their Known Associates
Is your prospective partner part of a reputable association? Does that association require its members to abide by a code of standards?
Having worked with thousands of companies that provide workforce solutions, I’ve noticed an important pattern: Those that do the best work are part of a reputable association. As association members, they have access to timely information, legal updates, and ongoing education.
For instance, the American Staffing Association (ASA) offers myriad resources, white papers, and educational offerings to its members and their clients to ensure they remain up-to-date on critical employment and staffing-related laws and regulations.
“Navigating through the increasingly complex array of federal, state, and local laws and court rulings designed to protect the rights and interests of the 16 million temporary and contract employees who worked for our industry in the past year is a daunting challenge,” said
Richard Wahlquist, ASA president, and chief executive officer. “We are committed to keeping member companies informed of and compliant with all of the latest staffing laws and regulations so they can be valued business partners with their clients.”
ASA also offers four professional certification programs for staffing professionals, all of which concentrate on applicable labor and employment and labor law knowledge.
You’ll find a list of associations in the Appendix to help you get started in finding a partner.
Hiring Strategy 16:
Sweat the Small Stuff
Small details make a big difference. Pay attention to the little things as you get to know your potential partner. Do you have to repeat details they missed the first time you shared them?
Does it take them minutes or days to return calls and emails? Do they follow through on commitments, such as sending a proposal or resume when promised?
Selling is a courtship. Your potential partner is on their best behavior while they’re trying to win you over. Their behaviors aren’t likely to improve after you’ve committed to working with them. Consider if their “best behaviors” are what you want in a business relationship.
If you’re a staffing industry vendor, there are pointers to help you identify organizations that could be good partners.
Hiring Strategy 17:
See if They’re Stuck
Many organizations engage in the old way of Hiring. They’re stuck in a slow process with lots of steps and many interviews. Is this the case with your potential partner? If so, be mindful. Your services can help them speed things up, but only if they’re willing to change.
Ask questions to gauge their interest in Hiring faster. Share with them the new way of Hiring, and how your solution has helped others speed things up.
It’s better to know now if your prospect is open to change or if they’ll demand that you join them in the slow lane of Hiring.
Hiring Strategy 18:
As a parent, I know that the statement “It takes a village to raise a child” is true. My kids were influenced by a village as they grew up—family, friends, neighbors, teachers, coaches. My son and daughter are now adults, and who they are is a result of the people that surrounded them.
Filling jobs in an instant, and keeping them filled, also takes a village—a village with an organization that wants to keep jobs filled, staffing partners who can lend a hand, and Be Hiring technology vendors who support them with lean automation. Their collective efforts help each other be successful.
The organization has enough people to get work done. Staffing partners and technology vendors have sustainable businesses. The village also includes workers who go to positive work environments each day. All because of the heroic partnership.
Hiring Strategy 20:
List Your Complaints
What frustrates you about customers? What frustrates your coworkers? Get everyone in a room and make a list. Let it all out; vent if you need to. Take that list and organize the issues into categories, such as “being pressured about price” and “poor customer follow-through.”
These are the things you’ll want to pay special attention to as you develop mutual expectations with existing and new customers.
Hiring Strategy 22:
Adopt Zero-to-Fill as Your Internal Standard
Go to almost any staffing or recruitment conference, and you’ll hear people talk about their Hiring challenges. They can’t find enough recruiters, salespeople, or support staff. Some are perpetually understaffed and have been so for years.
Every empty seat undermines serving customers, resulting in lost opportunities and profits. Why does this happen? These firms are so busy filling jobs for customers, they’re not spending enough time keeping their own seats filled.
Treat your firm like it’s your best customer. Make zero-to-fill your standard. Use the Talent Accelerator Process to fill your own jobs in an instant.
Hiring Strategy 23:
Step 1: Create Hire-Right Profiles
Hire-Right Profiles can be a catalyst for diversity. Does this mean you add gender, race, or other differentiators as Dealmakers? No. To do so would prejudice your Hiring. Tapping into a wider, diverse candidate base often only requires recategorizing Hiring criteria.
The simple act of adjusting one Dealmaker is how a mortgage bank got on the path to durable diversity. For years, the bank had a reputation for being “blindingly white.”
The executive team knew of this reputation and made creating a diverse workforce a key strategic initiative. They read lots of blogs, passing on ideas they’d gleaned to the management team.
Members of the HR staff were sent to conferences on diversity, with hopes they’d learn new ideas. Budgets were increased, expanding the headcount of corporate recruiters. Yet, the lack of diversity remained a painful issue. The search for a solution went on.
The bank eventually gave the Talent Accelerator Process a try. They followed the steps, in order, beginning with creating Hire-Right Profiles for their core roles. This had an immediate payoff.
A manager noticed that a four-year degree in finance showed up as a Dealmaker for each role. He challenged this idea, asking his colleagues why this was a required attribute.
Initially, there was lots of pushback. A finance degree had been an employment requirement for these core roles for years. He kept at it, asking if anyone had proof that this was absolutely necessary for someone to succeed at the bank. The room got quiet. No one could offer a shred of evidence that a finance degree should be a Dealmaker.
Having a bachelor’s degree in finance was recategorized as a Boost. Now, recruiters could reach out to people with all types of college degrees, including associate and bachelor’s degrees in any field of study.
Changing this one Dealmaker created flexibility as they leveraged each of the talent streams. The floodgates of the local talent pool spilled open, delivering a deluge of diverse well-qualified candidates.
It’s normal to put everything but the kitchen sink in your Dealmakers. Having an overly restrictive list of Dealbreakers is common as well. One or more of your criteria in either quadrant could block the flow of diverse top talent.
Take some time to review each item in the top half of a Hire-Right Profile. Ideally, you’ll do this with your Hiring team, making it a dialogue. Challenge any assumptions you hear.
Push back if someone says, “But this is how it’s always been done.” Be willing to compromise by suggesting that you experiment with two different versions of the Hire-Right Profile during the next round of Hiring.
Here are some questions to discuss as you consider each Dealmaker and Dealbreaker:
Why is this Dealmaker/Dealbreaker important?
What proof do we have that it’s necessary?
Who have we promoted internally that didn’t match those criteria? Have they succeeded in that role? If so, what does this tell us about it being a requirement?
What alternatives are there to those criteria? Which other types of degrees could suffice? How about on-the-job training? What about transferable skills?
Step 2: Improve Candidate Gravity
Increasing your pull on talent can broaden your access to a diverse candidate base. Job ads and posts on social media can target an expanded audience. An applicant tracking system can be mined for candidates who weren’t previously seen as a fit.
You can request additional referrals, attend new networking events, and ask external talent scouts to broaden their search. You can also create talent.
That’s what an IT company in India did to build a diverse workforce.
For years, the company had difficulty finding enough qualified people to fill all the jobs in their network operations center (NOC). The NOC operated 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Each work shift required hundreds of employees for things to run smoothly.
Hiring enough talent had always been a challenge. Changes in technology prompted frequent changes in their Hiring profile. Many candidates lacked the new skills the company was seeking.
Hire-Right Profiles were pared down to essential skills and then shared companywide. The company had offices throughout the country. These offices employed a vast cross-section of Indian society.
Employees were asked to Talent Accelerator Process into their unique communities to uncover prospective talent. Candidates who had essential skills were interviewed and hired if they were a good fit. As new employees, they were taught the new skills needed in their jobs.
Manufacturing a diverse group of workers for your company starts with your Hiring profile. When you reevaluate which skills are essential versus teachable, you expand the possibilities for who may be a fit.
Prospective candidates, internal or external, can then be hired for an open role and “skilled” into becoming productive employees. How you do that depends on the individual:
A worker with the basic aptitude for a role, but lacking specific skills, can be upskilled. For instance, let’s say you’re looking for a head chef for a restaurant.
You’ve tried tapping into a diverse pool of talent, but many people lack experience in managing the business side of a kitchen. So, you focus your search on people with excellent culinary skills. Once hired, you upskill your new chef by sending him or her to some business classes.
A candidate could have a solid work history, but it’s in a different industry. Reskilling could turn that individual into a great employee. John retired after 30 years of working for a county agency, pushing lots of paper in an administrative role.
Yet, he was good with his hands, tinkering with projects around the house. A plumbing company saw potential and helped John reskill so he could do a different job than he was used to.
Step 3: Maximize Hiring Styles
Selecting employees is easier when you have a Hiring team. Your combined perceptions will counter Hiring blindness. The team can also keep bias in check. That was the case for Team TalentSeeker. Their unified approach to Hiring helped them build a diverse accounting department.
The four people comprising Team TalentSeeker took their responsibilities seriously. Thus the name they bestowed upon themselves. They spent every workday managing financial matters for their corporate office, and only wanted the best people around them.
One round of interviews forever changed their perspectives on diversity. Prior to these interviews, every member of the team believed themselves unbiased: That they made their Hiring choices based upon someone’s ability to do a job, not because of gender, race, or another diversity dimension.
In discussing the four candidates they’d interviewed, three members of the Hiring team thought one candidate, in particular, was the best one. She perfectly matched the top half of the Hire-Right Profile. Plus, they’d checked off several Boosts, including that she spoke three different languages. Your Hiring team can help avert this when you do two things:
1. Stay connected: The members of Team TalentSeeker trusted one another. That trust was built and nurtured through the strong connection they maintained. Staying connected with your Hiring team builds rapport, making it easier to spot and communicate behaviors that could be rooted in bias.
2. Stay honest: Make a pact to be honest with your teammates about any form of bias. Discuss how to best communicate this if it shows up. Then, point bias out when you see it. Just remember to say what you mean without saying it mean.
Step 4: Conduct Experiential Interviews
Seeing someone do quality work makes it easier to judge the work instead of the person. That’s why hands-on interviews are a powerful tool in combating prejudicial Hiring.
I discovered the extent of this power when faced with a challenging client— one that I considered “firing.” Their manufacturing plant was one of the most discriminatory environments I’d ever experienced.
Witnessing blatant discrimination was nothing new. Some prospective customers of my Hiring services voiced gender and racial preferences in job candidates. I’d firmly state that I didn’t work that way, and we’d go our separate ways. As an executive, I had to counsel managers on potentially discriminatory employment practices.
However, I saw things through. Why? Because of one person—the production manager. He’d joined the manufacturer earlier that year, coming from another plant in town. There, he’d had a diverse workforce and knew the benefits of Hiring all types of people. He’d accepted this new job knowing he’d have his work cut out for him.
Experiential interviews were initially rolled out in one department. The production manager made sure a diverse group of qualified candidates was considered during hands-on interviews. Hiring managers got to experience these candidates doing sample work. Then, they discussed who they thought they should hire.
Experiential interviewing is a powerful tool in combating discrimination— much better than blind Hiring. Blind Hiring doesn’t address why bias happens. Experiential interviewing does. It helps organizations hire fairly, while also impacting how Hiring managers think and act.
Step 5: Maintain a Talent Inventory
Earlier in the blog, I shared that readily accessible inventories of talent provide shared benefits—the inventory advantage. Candidates get to line up better jobs.
You have people ready to hire when they’re needed. You might expect that the first four steps of the Talent Accelerator Process are the most important for sustaining durable diversity.
That’s true, as long as you stay in regular contact with prospective hires in your Talent Inventory. The benefits of your Talent Inventory can also be shared with colleagues both inside and outside of your organization to help them maintain a diverse workforce.
A good example of helping internal colleagues occurred at a telecom company. Several locations were more successful than others at building inventories of diverse talent. A senior executive noticed this and laid out a mandate that locations start sharing their Talent Inventories. How was this received?
Initially, not well. Leaders at locations with large inventories of talent took offense. They’d worked hard to build pools of prospective employees. Also, not everyone in an inventory would be willing to consider a job in a different location.
How’d the telecom company work out these issues? They helped all parties get their needs met. Money played a big part. Signing bonuses were offered to candidates if they moved to a different city.
Company locations were financially compensated when candidates from their inventory were hired by another office. Did this make everyone happy? It did. Candidates were accepting offers. Locations supplying that talent received much-needed budget dollars.
The same idea works for different organizations. Even competitors. You may find this surprising. Why would competitors want to share their most important asset—talent? It’s simple. It starts with a mindset.
Competition is healthy. It’s a sign that an industry is viable, creating enough business opportunities for everyone. Competitors who view the world in this manner and also believe in the importance of diversity are frequently open to talent-sharing agreements. These agreements vary.
This could include compensating another organization when you hire from their inventory. It also could include “borrowing” talent, keeping individuals working until needed by the organization that originally found them.
You get to choose how you leverage the advantages gained by your Talent Inventory. Maintaining a diverse pool of people gives you lots of options, including the option to share talent with others.
RECRUITING FOR SUCCESS
So how on earth do you find and hire someone like that? It isn’t easy. Let’s break it down into the core steps:
First 90 days
The outline below is only that—an outline. You should definitely adopt it for your company and role.
As this is a critical role, you will probably use a headhunter with a global reach. That said, you can do a lot yourself these days. Given the critical importance of hiring this role, it’s worth a significant investment of time. In addition to hiring a headhunter, here is what I would also look to:
LinkedIn: If you don’t already have it, upgrade to the premium version of LinkedIn to allow structured searching and filtering. Clear your calendar for 2-3 hours and get the coffee machine warmed up, then start searching. Every single person that you would want to hire will have an impressive profile on Linkedln.
If they don’t have one, don’t hire them, as this shrieks “dinosaur”. The tricky part is finding those rock stars; 32 million people have the keyword “marketing” somewhere on their LinkedIn profile. That is why you need to filter your search based on things like seniority, location, having a numerate degree, etc. On LinkedIn, you can search for people who are:
Already CMOs at companies that you respect Slightly more junior, but smarter, more tech-savvy and hungrier (e.g., a VP of digital marketing or eCommerce)
Senior thought leaders working in advertising or marketing technology companies
People who have worked at both strategy consultancies and in senior marketing roles
You may wonder why I insist that if their Linkedin profile is weak, you shouldn’t hire them. What, I hear you ask if the candidate hasn’t polished that Linkedin profile out of a sense of loyalty to a current employer? Here are my reasons why:
Recruiting: Even if the person wasn’t looking for a job, she or he should have been using Linkedin for recruiting, and you can’t approach people on Linkedin unless your own profile is impressive. Before you send a note to a potential hire, you need to look like the kind of person that A-players want to work for.
You want a CMO who is a thought leader. Thought leaders publish articles on Linkedin (and elsewhere). They also make speeches and therefore need a polished Linkedin profile, so that when audiences check out the speaker on the platform, they’re suitably impressed.
Business Development: A good CMO is an active networker. That includes proactive outreach to potential partners, suppliers, VIPs, etc. And the best medium to do that on is Linkedin.
Conference Speakers: Look at the speaker list for major marketing conferences like Cannes Lions, Festival of Media, Advertising Week. The people invited to speak tend to be those who are setting new standards and innovating. They are also good communicators.
Awards: Same logic as for conference speakers—thought leaders often win awards
Alumni Networks: Leverage your network and that of your C-suite. People from your past—whether it be from business school, consultancy or a former employer—are more likely to respond to you, will respect any confidentiality involved, and have a skill set that you understand and can check up on easily.
Friends: I find that a lot of CEO friends ask me for advice on this topic, as I am a CEO who is exposed to a lot of CMOs. Who do you know who might be able to help?
This is critical. For all people who apply to a job ad, are on the headhunter’s long list or are referred to you by friends, you have to rigorously screen them against the criteria laid out in your job description. For example:
Does the person have a numerate bachelor’s degree involving a high level of mathematics and “systematic thinking” such as economics or engineering?
Has the person worked outside of marketing, including in roles focused on strategy consulting, sales, business development, analytics, technology?
Has she or he lived, or worked, extensively abroad?
Has she or he set new standards, won awards, made presentations, written thought leadership pieces?
A word of caution: the perfect candidate doesn’t actually exist, so you should probably allow each candidate one “gap” versus your ideal CMO, in order to decide who should progress to the next round.
At this stage, if they pass the screening and you want to give them the homework then a Skype call is required. This puts a human face on the interaction, helps to justify the homework that they are about to be sent, and increases the chances of them actually completing the assignment.
I recommend three elements of homework to be assigned to your 4-5 most promising CMO candidates:
Personality Profile Test: Give them a personality profile test, so see how well they know themselves. This is a useful discussion document at the actual interview. My company uses the DISC test.
Experience Questionnaire: A list of around 10 questions that asks them to give examples of the critical things you are looking for, for example:
1. Developed and rolled out a brand strategy
2. Been a thought leader in the world of digital marketing
3. Implemented a customer lifetime value approach to marketing
4. Selected a new vendor/supplier with a bake-off
5. Fired an underperformer
6. Dramatically improved the ROI of a marketing campaign
7. Led a technical project or initiative, such as bringing in a new technical platform
8. Developed and implemented a business strategy
9. Conducted a complex numerical analysis using massive data sources
10. Worked/lived abroad
Presentation: Give them a real problem to solve, resulting in a 10-15 slide presentation, that 1) tests whether they could actually solve your problems, and
2) gives them a flavor of the kind of work they would be doing. This could include things like:
1.Competitor analysis and recommendations for your brand strategy/differentiation
2.An analysis of your website and/or mobile app, with recommendations for improvement
3.A segmentation and targeting proposal, based on a subset of your CRM data
Probably one or two of the candidates will either fail the homework set or drop out when they receive it. Having candidates drop out is fine; it eliminates lazy people, those who want to use an offer from you to negotiate their pay with their current employer, and those who realize they are not suitable.
That leaves two to four people who should be interviewed face-to-face. There are two purposes of the in-person interview:
Determine whether you think the candidate would be a successful CMO in terms of experience, personality, fit, etc.
For those candidates who could be a good fit, impress and excite them with your vision, the caliber of the team and the expectations of the role.
A typical agenda should be something like:
Dinner: With the hiring manager (you) and some key C-level peers
Homework Review: Go through the three elements of homework in detail. The candidate can present it, then you can discuss/challenge (2 hours)
Additional Case Study: To see how they think on their feet, set aside at least an hour for tackling another real-life situation. For example:
Designing the marketing organizational structure
Selecting an agency
Implementing a CRM database
Defining strategic differentiators
Why Would Candidates Do All That Homework?
Not many companies expect candidates to complete this amount of homework. When I explain our process to other CEOs, they ask me how many people complete it, and why would they bother using up a weekend to do so? What I explain to candidates is:
This gives you a good feel for the job and really tests your “fit”. This means that if you do take the job, you will hit the ground running and have a much higher chance of success.
Weakness Drill Down: Drill down into each candidate’s weaknesses—from the screening, homework, or performance on the day. Openly discuss your concerns, and brainstorm possible ways to mitigate them (one hour).
Tour: Give the candidate a tour of your office/campus to get a feel for the culture and maybe introduce them to key people on the route.
Q&A: Let the candidates ask as many questions as they want, especially if you think they are suitable. Get their concerns out now, so that you can address them while you have the candidates face-to-face.
It goes without saying that you need to do reference checks. But it’s also worth noting that these can be very bland and unhelpful. Two tips from me here:
In the interview, don’t just ask for references. Ask this: “After you have taken the job I might bump into your old boss. What would she or he tell me about you—good and bad?”
In my experience, that often gets more insights than the actual reference checks. Try to add some reference checks of your own, like people the candidate didn’t offer as a recommendation. LinkedIn will show you who your mutual connections are.