Insights & Ideas

10 ways to hack the talent shortage

As the joke goes, to avoid being attacked by an angry grizzly bear, you don’t need to be fast— you only need to be faster than the person next to you. Similarly, in-house recruitment functions don’t necessarily need to be world-class—they can win by being better than those they compete for talent against.

In today’s tight talent market, you don’t want to settle on talent, because it’s one of—if not your best—asset. And you want to be smart at the same time. Management guru Jim Collins says in his book Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap…And Others Don’t, “…the single biggest constraint on the success of my organization is the ability to get and to hang on to enough of the right people.”

So how do the best recruiters outpace their competitors and “hack” the talent shortage? At Salo, we have the privilege of working with hundreds of in-house recruitment teams in nearly all industries, both public and private sectors. Often recruiters keep their winning strategies and tactics a secret, but we’re here to share the tricks so you can navigate the tough talent market.

1. Make recruitment a strategy

Many companies have elevated their recruitment capability from what was an administrative, back-office function. Yet few companies have truly included recruitment as a core part of the overall business strategy.

To be strategic about recruitment, the resources, leadership, and enablement should be akin to other functional areas like finance, legal, and sales. Recruitment should be owned, not just by HR, but by business leaders. It should be discussed at board meetings. The recruitment team should be armed with tools and technology that provide powerful data and analytic tools and go beyond basic applicant tracking systems.

2. Find and state your company purpose

Be intentional and specific about your company purpose and weave it into the strategy and culture of your organization. If you don’t, you’ll be left behind. One of the major differences between the war for talent—then and now—is the attitude and expectations of your workforce. Employees want to know their work matters: They care about social issues and want to drive change. They also want to know their values align to the organization where they are employed.

Just a few years ago, the Business Roundtable released a statement updating the purpose of a corporation. They asserted that corporations should benefit all stakeholders—not just shareholders—including customers, employees, suppliers, and communities at large. It was a reflection and distillation of recent trends in the business world and is a turning point for how organizations can and should operate. Those companies that tie their business model to a mission that makes the world a better place and energize their employees to show up and deliver on that mission will prevail. This will only become more important as Gen Z continues to enter the workforce. They want to work for a company that’s making a real difference, and the more authentic you can be, and the bigger the impact you can make, the more your brand will stand out in the market.

3. Hire a strong recruitment leader

In the current environment, recruitment leaders need to be stewards of operational excellence but also innovators, disruptors, and risk-takers. Successful recruiters in tough markets are multidisciplinary with depth of knowledge in marketing, sales, analytics, and innovation. These recruiters are willing to try creative approaches to sourcing, selecting, hiring, and training new talent. They also need an outside-in view of what practices, approaches, and technologies can give their company an advantage.

4. Reinvigorate job descriptions

Recruitment champions know boilerplate descriptions don’t cut it anymore. Job seekers can afford to be choosy, which is why descriptions need to feel personal, enticing, heartfelt, and slightly quirky. They need to demonstrate the value proposition of that company and team, include a strong call to action, and tell candidates exactly what to expect of the role. They also need to be short and to the point—no more multipage old-school listings.

5. Tap into the gig economy

One size doesn’t fit all. The corporate ladder and linear career paths are outdated. Flexibility and agility are the new must-haves. Your recruitment teams need to getting creative and intentional about how work gets done and how roles are filled. Just as you would diversify your financial portfolio, you should mix up your talent solutions. The gig economy is booming in many industries and people are switching to consulting careers quickly. Think about the work that can benefit from interim or temporary support and build connections with firms that offer top talent, so that you can flex quickly and bring talent in as you need it.

6. Embrace people analytics

Attrition, absenteeism, internal mobility. This is the data you should be looking for. Of course, you need to watch numbers like headcount, performance, and cost of hire, but it’s time to take it a step further to truly think strategically about talent. Once you do, you’ll be able to use data to inform new initiatives aimed at improving engagement, inclusion, and retention. And if you collect data about your employees from the application phase through the exit interview, you’ll have a full picture.

7. Redesign an employee referral program

Employee referrals remain the number-one source for quality hires, because referrals have higher retention, higher performance, and are more likely to get hired. According to Dr. John Sullivan of the Wall Street Journal, 88 percent of 73 major employers surveyed said that referrals are the number-one source for above-average applicants.

That said, according to a report by Greenhouse, most recruiters feel employees are not involved enough with the employee referral process. But many employers lack a formal process for employees to use, leading to confusion or apathy. It doesn’t need to be stuffy. In fact, it should be easy or engaging, so that employees want to use it. There’s huge value in revamping your referral program—more people will be compelled to use it, and you’ll reap the benefit of better hiring pools.

One simple yet effective way to get high-quality referrals is to ask the top performing employees for their five best prospects. The best employees know what it takes to be successful and will only refer excellent options, because it impacts their professional reputation as well.

8. Create a pipeline of “most wanted” and “silver medalists”

Developing a talent pipeline is one of the most strategic approaches to recruiting. This approach is powerful because organizations can identify top recruiting prospects long before they need them, giving the company more time to sell them on the job.

Additionally, when building the pipeline, don’t forget the candidates that don’t get the job. A great recruitment function tees up multiple candidates for each job opening. Rather than dismiss candidates who don’t become the final pick, great recruiters maintain a list of “silver medalists.” These candidates are very familiar with the company and often are willing to reconsider other opportunities, especially if they had a great experience in the hiring process. Don’t overlook these highlight qualified candidates after completing a hire—it’s highly likely you’ll need them in the future.

9. Develop a bounty program

A bounty program sounds odd, but it uses crowdsourcing to solve a hiring problem. Rather than pay a referral bonus to a company employee, why not offer a “bounty” or fee to anyone on the planet who sources a qualified hire? The sourced candidate needs to stay for a defined amount of time for the “bounty hunter” to collect, but this approach can have immediate results if the bounty is big enough—say, $5,000—and the program is marketed broadly.

10. Connect through social media

You don’t need to be a mega-influencer to see a positive impact on recruiting through social media. There are many interesting ways that companies are connecting their jobs to candidates through different social media channels.

For example, Mark Jane, CEO of Intelex, wrote a PSA that he was on the search to hire a chief people officer, and offered $20,000 to the person who could introduce him to the right candidate. With the payment to the connector, this strategy was well worth the effort as he ended up hitting the jackpot with the hire.
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We haven’t seen a talent market like this in a really long time. In order to meet the perfect balance of timing and quality, companies need to reimagine how they attract and select talent. These are simple yet powerful steps can get you closer to the workforce you need in a time where the market is not on your side.

Need help with your talent strategy or recruitment teams? Salo can help you succeed—whether you need some recruitment leadership support through Salo Expert or are interested in more strategic change through Salo Advisory. We have the experience, tools, and processes to get you to the right candidate (or candidates) for your organization’s future. Contact us to learn more.

David Kuhl
David Kuhl

David Kuhl

Salo Advisory Lead

LinkedIn