Employer Extra: Welcome to the talent wars: recruiting in a tight labor market

HomeEmployer Extra: Welcome to the talent wars: recruiting in a tight labor market

Employer Extra: Welcome to the talent wars: recruiting in a tight labor market

Times have changed and we now face two converging realities. One is the tight labor market resulting from the low unemployment rate. The other is the set of factors that comprise the changing nature of work:

  • the organizations and jobs into which people are being recruited are moving targets,
  • the workforce is increasingly under-skilled for both currently available jobs and those in emerging growth sectors,
  • demographic changes with large attrition rates due to retirees and
  • technological development and advances replacing some positions altogether.

With the unemployment rate continuing to drop, the days of employers having the luxury of a plethora of candidates to choose for their openings is over. The good news for recruiting agencies is that companies are now desperate and willing again to pay premiums for those much-needed, top-tier candidates.

But what if your company doesn’t have large pockets? Here are some tips on how to source candidates in a tight market (and ongoing):

First impressions count

Two important things that will set your company apart are your brand and who represents that brand. Therefore, live your brand: know your firm’s identity and sell it. Candidates can be overwhelmed by the opportunities available to them, so if you don’t have an attractive brand, nobody will come. Make a list of key characteristics that make your firm unique and focus on them. Doing this will enable candidates to differentiate your company from the rest of the pack when they make their decisions.

Choose the right person or committee to conduct interviews. Ensure they’re prepared, informed and listen. But don’t spend too much time talking to candidates about how great your company is without also listening to their needs and desires. Once the candidate has told you what’s important to him or her, it’ll be easier for you to focus on shared values.

Source wisely

To maximize return on investment, understand what sourcing methods work best to attract the talent you seek. Employer branding and passive candidate-recruiting are increasingly becoming top ways to reach talent. Part of that is due to the growth of social networks that have become the greatest source of quality hires. Ensure those networks strongly factor in your recruiting strategy by discovering where your target audience spends its time and establishing a presence with your employer brand. By working smart and adapting to new strategies, you’ll save money and countless hours not going down the rabbit hole of antiquated practices. And don’t be afraid to strategically poach!

Attract millennials

Stop complaining and be part of the change. Only the strongest leaders who are willing to take action and be accountable for developing a new strategy will successfully tackle the talent challenge. Part of that challenge is to attract younger, tech-savvy employees. Most companies missed the boat on developing strong pipelines while they were riding the wave of candidate availability-excess.

Though many companies are still tentative when it comes to hiring millennials, by 2025, this group will comprise a majority of the workforce. Connect with university career advisors, attend career fairs and form partnerships with high schools and colleges to identify potential future employees through internship programs and other relationships. (Check out the Youth Business Connector for an easy way to get started.) Not only is this a good strategy for raising awareness about vital skills gaps, it’s also a way to promote your company as an organization that’s interested in hiring millennials.

Once you’re in front of them, you still need to be attractive to this group; offer

  • ways for employees to balance their life and work such as telecommuting and flextime,
  • means to be more informal and fun such as casual dress and office perks,
  • mentoring programs so they know they’ll be supported (Remember, they grew up with helicopter parents and instant access-gratification.) and
  • a way for them to feel they have the opportunity to make a difference in an environment that fosters innovative thinking.

Get outside the box

Businesses that are willing to embrace flexibility in the way they source and manage employees are the best equipped to match demand with supply. You’re not likely to find that perfect-fit candidate — s/he rarely exists. Instead, look to those candidates who

  • have the core competencies you seek,
  • are trainable,
  • possess the right attitude and
  • could be cross-functional down the road.

Consider people from different industries or who didn’t match every requirement perfectly but could bring fresh perspectives. Actively solicit people from networking groups and develop relationships with people whose backgrounds indicate they might be a good fit. Then develop a customized training program and be willing to train!

Flexibility also includes being open to source outside of your local market, realizing that all the best talent isn’t sitting in one place. Widen the net of your search and offer remote working and flex-hours to attract top talent.

Finally – and least executed – is make contact with your competitors. You may be able to share connections for various short-term projects and make it a win-win for both companies. Cooperation can be an effective way of dealing with a talent shortage.

Reboot your current staff

Look for ways to develop and up-skill current employees to meet needs within other areas of your organization (particularly hard-to-fill jobs). Start by testing and determining the skills and passions of your current staff for things outside their normal duties. You may be surprised that the talent and potential was right under your nose!

Accept reality: The market rules

Moving to a market-driven strategy is not easy. It requires you to take an analytical approach to the management of people. You first must accept the new reality: the market, not your company, will ultimately determine the movement of your employees. The new human resources goal should be to make a calculated assessment of how long a role will be of value. There will always be some employees you’ll want to keep indefinitely, and another set will be important to retain for shorter-defined periods.

There will be people for whom investments in retention don’t make sense: employees in easy-to-fill jobs that require little training, or employees whose skills aren’t in demand in the market or will soon be replaced by robots or computers.


Contact me (704.206.1352) to find out how Charlotte Works can help your company win the talent war!

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