Amanda Bedell is the owner of BCC Business Consulting; she has worked extensively in entertainment, marketing and PR and was the founder of a Seattle bakery business.
Bedell sees today’s recruitment challenges as similar to what happened in Seattle in 2017 when the minimum wage was raised to $15 an hour. This prompted some small businesses to reduce staff, which resulted in a knock-on scarcity in the employment pool, even for companies who were already hiring above that minimum wage.
Bedell believes the way we go about finding employees is a little outdated. Non-traditional routes to finding new staff could be a better way forward and Bedell presents six tips:
Bedell calls this strategy “succeeding from the inside out” and it begins by creating an environment where employees become ambassadors, recommending their employer to others.
She believes that so long as employees have basic needs met, they then look for opportunities to learn and grow, and to be treated with respect. While running a bakery business, Bedell would tell new recruits that while she appreciated that they might not remain with the company long, she wanted to know what would make their employment most beneficial. One example she gives of a sweetener was bringing in a financial coach to provide free support for employees struggling to manage their money.
Instead of saying “I need X”, it’s better to draw a picture of the kind of person you’re looking for, to help employees consider whether they know someone who has those characteristics.
Beyond the obvious (LinkedIn) you can find people through industry-specific networking sites (such as GitHub, Crop or Poached). Within Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn, a personal touch will make all the difference. Bedell gives the example of Mark Zuckerberg’s lengthy process of wooing Cheryl Sandberg away from Google.
You can also create events which draw in potential employees. A great example is the hackathons that tech companies run. You can either organize such an event, or simply attend one to meet new recruits.
You can also contact universities to become a guest speaker, try internship programs or talk to a school’s in-house careers officer.
Organizations such as Goodwill, who help ex-incarcerated gain employment, can be a great source of workers whose lives will be materially improved by joining your company. You can also be proactive in sourcing employees from disadvantaged communities – apprenticeship programs and partnerships with disability non-profits, for instance.
You may have to hold screenings, particularly with workers drawn from Department of Corrections sources. The DOC has an employment specialist who would be a good point of contact. You’ll also have to consider the cost of making reasonable accommodations for workers with disabilities, as well as health and safety issues.
Worksource is another organization to consider. This is an organization for dislocated workers – homeless people, veterans, the disabled, and those who have been materially disadvantaged in entering the workplace. They will also deal with ex-prison employees. These can be a good source of part-time workers if that’s what you need.
Worksource has a network of local offices and sites, organised on a county-by-county basis.
It’s easier, cheaper, and safer to source talent locally than to go national with your job advertisements, then bear the costs and risk of employee relocations. By staying local, even if you still have a churn level that’s too high, it’s less expensive to replace employees.
According to Bedell, sourcing great talent begins with well-written job description. She recommends following a formula, taken from marketing methodology: Interrupt, Engage, Educate and Offer. Talk about what your ideal employee would be, so candidates can identify themselves in the description.
Try to solve the problems your would-be employees have in their current employment, whether it’s being underappreciated, under-rewarded or bored.
Retention can be as vital as recruitment too. Bedell talks about “stay interviews”, a regular process of ensuring your best employees are satisfied and engaged, so that they don’t jump ship unexpectedly. You want them to share any lack of engagement, so you can make reasonable changes.
Ask about their personal goals and professional trajectory but be aware that people will leave for new challenges, and this doesn’t necessarily reflect badly on your business. Celebrating employees moving on to new opportunities will maintain their role as an ambassador, since they leave with an experience of shared goodwill.
Try to position your business as having a desirable culture. Bedell talks about CliftonStrengths Assessments, a diagnostic tool for determining your leadership style and strengths. She believes a similar process can be applied to your corporate culture as a whole, to make sure you’re compensating in your recruitment for areas of weakness.
Pick three key questions and remember that although you may get tired of asking the same things, these questions remain new to each interviewee. Also, keeping questions standardized lets you compare like with like, in terms of the responses you receive.
Assessing personality or potential can be as important as judging an employee’s suitability in terms of experience or qualifications. Cultural fit is not about just finding employees who think exactly as we do but identifying the potential within an individual to problem solve in the moment, collaborate well, and jump in when there’s an urgent task.
The Crystal Knows personality test can also be a useful thing to run through with a potential employee, because it narrows in on their personality type. In this way, you can determine if the individual would be a good fit for your culture, and for the role on offer.