In January of 2017 people became scarce. You, me, and every other business leader began to compete for increasingly scarce people to join our companies. Unemployment in the US became essentially zero.
I will leave the cause of this situation to the political pundits, but I have been here four times in my life, and I learned a few things from those previous experiences that I would like to share. When more people are available than job opportunities, the hiring managers have the pick of the litter. When things are tight, we need to sweeten our offers and subconsciously begin to lower our standards.
Heresy, you say. Perhaps, but we all do it. How else do we deal with the dilemma of vast and expanding market opportunities presenting themselves at the exact same time the resources needed to take advantage of those opportunities become harder to find? The catch is that within a year of hiring these folks, you might see negative effects internally and with your customers.
Here are four moves to make to minimize your chance of problems when you are hiring in a tight labor market.
1. Enhance intentionality regarding corporate culture.
Strengthen your corporate culture. Investing in your culture is the most effective way to protect your company from unintended problems during times of rapid growth. Culture is a line your company draws that separates behaviors that are tolerated and advocated for and behaviors that are not tolerated in any circumstance.
Do not assume this line is clear to your new -- or for that matter, seasoned -- employees. Make sure everyone at the company buys into your culture. Immediately discipline or even fire people who violate your culture. This will show everybody else that you are serious about maintaining a peak performance culture.
2. Resist the temptation to hire the high-performing jerk.
There is a good chance that you will face that candidate who clearly demonstrates the capability to do the job well, but for whatever reason, they don't seem to align with the culture you and your coworkers are aspiring to. Don't bite.
Peak performance jerks are poison and will pollute your company. They may be able to get the work done, but the toll they will take on your company's culture will cost you much more than they are worth in the medium and long run. Resist this temptation.
3. Strengthen onboarding and orientation training.
Whatever you have been doing to get your new folks onboard and through their initial orientation, double it. Make sure to instill the mission, vision, and guiding principles of the company in your new hires. Make all compliance-related requirements, job expectations, and accountabilities crystal clear. Make sure they know they can ask for help and where to go if they need it. Make sure they know the behaviors that are tolerated and advocated for and the behaviors that are not tolerated. And make sure they know there is no right way to do a wrong thing.
If feasible, immerse them in an orientation experience immediately upon joining your workforce and host follow-up sessions at least twice more in their first year. Make sure your company's executive leadership is directly involved in these efforts.
4. Strengthen feedback systems.
Now is the time to deeply enhance your employee feedback systems. A strong employee feedback system combines both just-in-time and scheduled feedback. If done correctly, an employee is never surprised during a scheduled feedback session because they have been receiving both positive and constructive just-in-time feedback along the way. Feedback must include conveying to the employee how they performed against stated expectations and how they are aligning with corporate culture. The latter is critical during times of scarcity and so often overlooked or under invested in.
This is a great time to own and operate a business. Opportunities abound, but a scarce labor market can bring risk. Now is the time to fortify your corporate culture, onboarding, and feedback systems to ensure sustained growth and peak performance staff.