When the Talent Does the Shopping—Recruiting in a Crowded Market

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Are you Gucci or Goodwill? Both brands have an audience. But when employees are shopping for a new look, it’s best to be the high-end option.

Customer centricity doesn’t apply just to members anymore. Today, it’s equally important to give your employees that white glove treatment. And, if you’re looking for new talent, it’s time to roll out the red carpet.

Why start doing recruitment differently?

In case you’ve been avoiding the news, or you believe that the Great Resignation is actually the great exaggeration, here are some statistics to think about:

  • Today, 41% of employees in the global workforce are considering resigning from their roles, and 36% of those leaving their roles do so without having their next job in place. (Daggerwing Group, January 2022)
  • By the end of 2021, more than 47 million Americans had left their jobs. (Zippa, May 2022)
  • “In March of 2018. . . the job market was already competitive. Then, there were as many job openings in the U.S. as unemployed people actively looking for jobs: 6.6 million1. Four years later, the labor market is twice as competitive, with 11.3 million2 job openings and 5.7 million3 unemployed Americans actively looking for work.” (Society for Human Resources Management, 2022)

What does this mean for associations with important positions to fill and limited financial resources? Can they compete in this crowded labor market? Absolutely. But an intentional and orchestrated approach to the hiring and onboarding process is essential. Speed reading resumes, dusting off outdated job descriptions, and a lackluster interview script, are shortcuts to failure.

Your group’s luxury experience may not involve extravagant salaries, but it will require careful planning. The same customized strategy that you use to engage members is also the path to attracting new and enthusiastic employees.

Know Your Value

The first rule of sales, (and that’s half of the recruiting equation) is to understand the value of your product. If you haven’t outlined your employee value proposition, this is an important exercise to complete before the next hire.

Know your employee value proposition.

The EVP encompasses all the perceived and actual advantages of being on your organization’s team including salary, benefits, physical work environment, culture, work/life balance, professional development, opportunity for advancement, and personal enrichment.

That list covers a lot of territory. Documenting this considerable landscape can help you identify gaps and determine where there is room for creativity.

For example, if you are not able to offer a hefty financial package, is there opportunity for generosity in other areas? Remote work and flextime are obvious perks. Most applicants expect leeway in these areas. But could you expand your organization’s leave or vacation policy? Can you offer stronger professional development incentives or a more rewarding employee recognition program? What about shorter summer hours?

The Consumer Technology Association, headed by Gary Shapiro, has won multiple accolades for its expansive and nontraditional benefits package. Among the perks CTA employees enjoy are, mortgage assistance, student loan repayment, an employee wellness program, and public transportation stipends.

When I interviewed Gary for our book, “Positioning for Success in An Era of Disruption,” he observed that although CTA is centered on consumer technology, the industry is people focused. “We are committed to keeping our staff happy, healthy, and motivated. This goal helps us attract and retain the best and brightest as we continue our mission to grow the consumer technology industry and promote innovation.”

(An aside here—if your tight-fisted board would have a panic attack reading CTA’s list of benefits, now is the time to begin educating them about the need for a more employee-centric organization.) Share this timely advice from Bernadette Patton, Principal Shields Meneley Partners.

“There’s a change going on in business. Organizations are realizing that people are the only asset that doesn’t depreciate. The differentiator now isn’t only the fastest piece of equipment or technology. It’s having the best talent.”

Highlight the Intangibles

Within every association EVP, there is one golden nugget of advantage. Many employees, especially those who are newer to the workforce, are looking beyond a paycheck. They are seeking a values-based lifestyle. Belonging to a community of like-minded people who are making a difference in the world is an attractive proposition. Associations can easily supply this experience.

Describe what makes your workplace desirable.

Associations do a great job highlighting their good works to their constituents; however, I’m not sure that the mission, and the surrounding culture, take center stage during most employment interviews. Make time to explain what attracted you to the organization and your part in advancing its agenda.

Describe why your workplace is desirable. The more specific you are about values, norms, and expectations for behavior, the more likely both you and the applicant are to make a wise choice.

Think about what motivates you and pass that inspiration along. A personal testimonial delivers a message that can’t be duplicated by any website or video. And, If it’s a stretch to bring genuine enthusiasm to this conversation, it may be time to consider whether a shopping trip should be on your future agenda.

Jamie Notter, Co-Founder of Propel, offers this advice, “The toothpaste is out of the tube . . . The competition for top talent is fierce. Other groups can beat you on salary, benefits, location, and even mission. The one thing they can’t duplicate is your culture. The right environment gives you the edge; however, you must be able to describe what makes your culture attractive. Everyone needs to have a culture elevator pitch.”

Make Responsibility Meaningful

Use the context of culture and mission to bring dimension and color to job descriptions. Review that bulleted list of duties you prepared and craft an impactful story. How is this employee going to support your members? Why is the position important and what difference can this person make for the association, the profession, and the public?

Read resumes with an eye toward discovering where your mission and the applicant’s interests and experience intersect. Mine that connection to build rapport and dig deeper into the candidate’s skills and motivation.

Reaching beyond a superficial interaction is a positive endorsement for you and the organization’s culture. It demonstrates consideration, empathy, and a commitment to preparation and a polished performance. When someone is genuinely interested in our experiences and abilities, we tend to reveal more of the person savvy interviewers are seeking to access—or our true selves.

Gaining this insight is important. Beyond the ability to do the job, there are qualities that I believe you should look for in every new hire. The digital marketplace will bring disruption, displacement, and challenge to your members. This is not a possibility, it is certain. Success requires a more proactive and innovative approach to business. My colleague Don Dea, Co-Founder of Fusion Productions, put it like this.

“In order to help workers adapt, associations will need to find and hire terrific athletes. Talent who can quickly build new models and leverage data to create products and services that didn’t previously exist.”

Establishing a personal connection at every interview helps to identify the problem-solvers, innovators, and lifelong learners you need on your team. An authentic exchange of ideas and active listening, give your association the right look to attract those creative thinkers who are doing the shopping.

Position Your Organization For Success

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