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Short-term Strategies to Win the War on Talent

Written By: roberta Chinsky Matuson

Close your eyes and try to visualize what your workplace will look like in the not so distant future. If you envision a sea of cubicles filled with motivated employees, you are in for a huge awakening! 

Here’s the reality: According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of available jobs is projected to increase by more than 22 million by 2010. The civilian labor force, however, is only projected to increase by 17 million. This suggests we will be approximately 5 million workers short of keeping up with job growth over the next 10 years.

You are probably thinking that these statistics were gathered way before the latest Department of Labor announcements were released stating job growth is slowing down. But job growth hasn’t stopped completely. Talent acquisition and retention is hindering the growth of top-notch organizations, and will continue to do so, particularly those that enter this war without a battle plan.

Acceptance versus Denial

It’s easy to keep your head in the clouds particularly when you are sitting high up in the organization. Every now and then you wander from your suite to ask HR why it’s taking so darn long to fill these critical positions. You yell a few choice words, remind them you expect results not excuses and safely return to your bunker.

Many executives are still in the denial stage. They believe this labor shortage thing is nothing but media hype. They also believe their organizations are superior and that everyone will want to come and work for them. If this was truly the case, their companies would be fully staffed and there would be a line of candidates waiting to get in.

Executives are trained to think in terms of long-term strategy. But for many the war has begun and action must take place now if you hope to get out of this alive. Here are some short-term approaches to help you survive, while you formulate your long-term battle plans:

Fire non-producers

Firing people when you can’t even get people to replace them may sound counter-intuitive. The truth is that most people want to be on a winning team. Your employees know who the performers are, even if you don’t. If you keep non-performers, you run the risk of losing your star employees who will tire of picking up the slack. As soon as a better offer comes along they will not hesitate to jump ship.

Start with your HR team. To win this war you will need seasoned recruiters who have experience in the trenches. This is certainly not the time to grow your team of inexperienced recruiters. You need bench strength and you need it now! Fire anyone who’s not up for the task and bring in the heavy artillery.

Stop buying people “on sale”

Executives and managers often boast about how cheaply they got this guy or gal. After all, their new hires were unemployed baby boomers with few employment options. They’ll invest a ton of money over the next six months training these people in the ways of their organization only to be surprised when they leave for a better offer.

This is a strategy that will not have a good ending. Pay people based on the value they can bring to the organization and you won’t have to worry about competing with others to find replacements.

Develop your employment brand

Shift some of that money earmarked for marketing your new and improved product or service and invest it in your employment brand. An employment brand is the organization’s value proposition as an employer. It’s much more than just a slogan or a mission statement. It gives perspective employees a window into what it’s like to work in or for a particular company.

An employment brand must consist of these three elements:

  1. It must be genuine. Sure, we’d all like to be the known as a fun place to work like Google, but not every company is there just yet. Job seekers will easily see through employment brands that are just slick advertising campaigns.
  2. It must be relevant. It’s great that your company is known as a learning organization and that you provide financial support to regular employees who want to advance their education. But if 50% of your workforce is seasonal help, who will never be eligible for these benefits, then this information is not particularly relevant to the group of employees you are trying to attract.
  3. The brand must be memorable. At first glance it might sound easier to find someone with a similar brand and make a few tweaks here and there. Every company is unique and you simply can’t take someone else’s brand and make it your own unless you think your company is generic, in which case you shouldn’t bother to have an employment brand.

Use your web site as a weapon

Companies invest thousands of dollars on making their web sites attractive to potential customers. Yet, many of these sites make it difficult if not impossible for potential employees to apply for a position through their company’s web site. If you are not posting your job openings on your site or if you are not keeping your posting list up to date then you are missing one of the few free tools you have to access talent.

Today’s busy candidates want to be able to apply for work online. If you fail to provide them with this ability to do so they may very well go work for the enemy (also known as your competitor) who makes applying for work easy.

More and more job seekers are skipping the big boards and are using spider sites like www.simplyhired and www.indeed.com. These sites troll the web for job postings on all sites. If you’ve posted a job on your web site, which by the way costs you little or nothing, your job will come up when job seekers search for a similar position in your geographic area. Isn’t life grand? But job seekers won’t find you if you don’t take the initial step of posting on your site. Or, if you prefer you can pay big bucks to have your jobs listed with everyone else on sites like www.monster.com.

PR is your friend

Many companies have some great programs for their employees yet no one knows about them. You don’t have to have a six-figure budget to get PR. Create your own buzz. Many local organizations have their own awards for employers of choice. Find out whose running what competition and begin to apply for the awards. If your employees are involved in community action, call your local newspaper and let them know about an upcoming event. Be sure to get them to include the URL to your web site in the article they write when they feature your company.

Watch your back end

Being successful at bringing people into the organization takes a lot of resources. Be sure these resources aren’t being wasted. Don’t let poor management impact employee retention.

It’s great if you can easily hire people now that you’ve applied several of the tactics listed above. Keep in mind you will be in a much stronger position to fight this war if you and your troops are not spending countless hours backfilling positions.

It’s safe to come out of your bunker now and lead your troops to victory.

 

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