Let's start with the plain truth--it's hard to find great talent. And every hire is a gamble of tens of thousands of dollars or more which you lay on the line hoping that the person you hire lives up to even most of your hopes from the selection process.
I was recently giving a keynote address to group of successful professional service firms when the subject came up. "David, we have so much more demand for our services, but we struggle to hire the right talent to expand our capacity. What can we do? We've tried ads, but the quality we got was poor. We've tried recruiters, but not only was that expensive, but it felt like a crapshoot. How can we find the talent that we need to scale?"
Here is the thing. Most companies think of hiring as a periodic "mode" that they enter into only when they have an immediate need of a new team member. But if your company is successful, and planning to be in business over the long haul, you should always be in recruiting mode.
Read that statement again, "We should always be in recruiting mode." I'm not saying you should be on a permanent hiring spree that risks your cash flow and profitability, rather I'm suggesting that since talent is likely the most difficult ingredient for you to secure over the long term to help you grow, you should always be investing a portion of your top resources of time and attention to be building a network of potential future hires.
Imagine you were a professional sports team, how would you approach securing the talent you need to win championships? Simple, you'd do three things:
First, you'd catalog all the best talent in your industry and build relationships with the top people so that if ever they became disenchanted with their current company, you'd know, and could potentially hire them. This is exactly how one of our business coaching program clients found his current COO Chris. He had built a strong relationship with Chris over the prior two years at industry gatherings, so when Chris saw some things inside his company that made him nervous about his personal future, he approached our client about coming to work for him. Not only was Chris a proven quantity, but he brought with him over a decade of experiences and contacts to immediately create massive value at his new company.
Second, if you approached recruiting talent like a professional sports team you'd start recruiting much wider and earlier in the player's life cycle. There is a reason why all major professional sports leagues from basketball, to baseball, to soccer, all have a farm system to both develop and test talent. You can use this same strategy to build your company's talent farm club. The next time you go to a trade show, don't look to just "sell" more of your products or services, but rather, go to scout talent and initiate relationships with strong candidates who might one day work for your company. The next time you are visiting a customer, prospect, vendor, or supplier, be on the lookout for talent. Start a relationship that over time will potentially directly or indirectly bring more proven talent to your company.
Finally, you need to keep an organized view of these relationships and to nurture them over time. Approach this network as if they were sales prospects of your company. Strategically and systematically reach out to them and grow your relationship. There is a reason that professional sports teams have a network of coaches and scouts who help them nurture future all-stars. In the business context, nurturing these relationships means things like cards on their birthdays, congratulations on their kids high school graduations, following and regularly reviewing their LinkedIn and other social media accounts, and making sure you talk with them from time to time in a casual yet regular way. This is you building your deep hiring bench well in advance of your need to make these hires.
Over time you'll build a rich pool of potential hiring candidates that gives your company a real edge over your competitors. But this often overlooked recruiting strategy does take an investment of time and energy, but can reap massive returns for your company.
If you enjoyed the ideas I shared, then I encourage you to download a free copy of my newest book, Build a Business, Not a Job. Click here for full details and to get your complimentary copy.