While a strong economy is great for sales and market expansion, it makes for a particularly tight labor market. If you're like most companies, finding good candidates for your open positions is getting harder and harder.
You might be tempted to lower the bar and take on people you might not otherwise, but be careful. While you can lower the bar on skills and supplement with training and development, lowering the bar on cultural fit will only hurt you in the long run.
Here are the techniques I've seen the best companies use to find the best people even when there are fewer candidates looking for jobs.
1. Define the role behaviors, not experience requirements
Most companies start a job post with a long list of professional experiences, skill requirements, educational degrees, and technical certifications. These are all proxies for the actual work to be done and not always the best indicators. Plus, research shows that women, specifically, tend to not apply to a job if they don't meet all of the stated requirements, which cuts out up to half of potential candidates.
Instead, focus on listing the key job responsibilities and requirements and how these will be measured. Let people make their own call regarding whether they can successfully perform these tasks.
If you need people with licenses, required certifications, advanced degrees, or accredited education, then list those and make it clear that regardless of performance, you cannot consider candidates without these items. Only list requirements that are true deal breakers.
2. Don't try to solve process problems with role definitions
I often see job descriptions that are odd combinations of responsibilities and skills. Typically this happens because the company hasn't designed a clear operational process. They end up with a pile of operational "leftovers" and throw all of these responsibilities into a catch-all role to solve the problem.
Instead, take the time to refine your process to use skills and capabilities that you know your labor market can provide. Make investments in technology to help standardize the work.
3. Look outside your immediate industry
If you're struggling to find talent in your immediate industry, consider related industries you can pull from. You may need to do more training, but if you can find the right core skills, you can often find access to new talent quickly.
Shake off your preconceptions; focus on the core skills and attitudes of the people you need. One company I know who needed people to make marketing cold calls used out-of-work actors who not only loved having the work but also enjoyed the normal business hours.
4. Boost your internal training programs
Most companies now know that hiring for cultural fit is more important than hiring for the technical skills. Making sure everyone you bring on shares a similar set of core values and is passionate about the vision for the company creates long-term value and alignment.
However, many companies are stuck hiring for skills because they have no internal training strategy. If a company doesn't have training processes in place for new hires to utilize, it forces hiring managers to prioritize skills instead of culture fit.
Invest in a good program for teaching role-specific skills as part of the on-boarding process so that hiring managers can recruit people who will be good long-term investments. Then invest in ongoing development so you can retain those people over time.
5. Leverage the power of coaches
A thirst for learning is one of the best attributes you can have in any hire. Feeding that desire will not only allow you to boost their productivity and impact, it will also allow you to attract them in the first place. Ambitious people want to work in an environment that will fuel their growth.
Internal or external coaching can be great at getting the right talent in the door and keeping them there. Coaches not only train important leadership and management skills, but they also build a personal relationships with employees that increase their loyalty to the organization.
6. Focus on culture development
The best way to attract and retain people is to build a powerful organizational culture: figure out how you're different from every other company and what your unique attributes can offer the market.
Being different allows you to compete for talent because you offer something an employee can't get anywhere else. This focus lowers your recruiting costs and avoids increasing compensation in an effort to retain your people.
The best companies are always looking for the best talent regardless of the economic situation. They keep their standards high and trust their processes, even when the competition for talent is fierce. While they could compromise to ease the short-term pain, they know that the long-term costs aren't worth it.