Hiring today sounds like a no-brainer.
After all, despite signs of economic recovery, newspapers still report long lines of candidates at job fairs. Help wanted ads draw stacks of résumés and even more flow in online.
Credit unions are adding new members fleeing from big banks. So, it must be time to beef up the ranks, right?
Johnny Laurent, vice president and general manager at Sage Employer Solutions, a human resource solutions firm in Irvine, Calif., would say things aren’t that simple. For one thing, some employers are still shying away from adding to their payrolls.
“I can talk to one group and they’re very excited and they’re hiring,” Laurent said. “I talk to another group, and they’re very cautious. But as I look at it as a whole, it seems that overall employers are still cautious. I have a feeling we may not see the bulk of hiring really take off until we get through the election. Whatever their affiliation, employers are thinking, ‘There’s change coming, so I’m going to be cautious.’”
Still, the people who need help right now are able to hire, Laurent said, adding it’s not like it was in 2008 or 2009 when employers couldn’t hire because they didn’t have the money.
“Now I think there’s more cautious optimism. Even so, businesses are holding back a little bit,” Laurent said.
Let’s say you’re a credit union that has gained membership as people seek alternatives to big banks. So if you need more staff, Laurent said it’s a great time to hire. Even so, that doesn’t mean you will encounter a large pool of applicants for every job. For instance, Sage has had a half dozen or more openings and is inundated with résumés for entry-level jobs, he noticed. However, more highly-educated and highly-paid workers are not available in such large numbers.
Laurent said if employees lost their jobs in the downturn, they had skill sets that allowed them to start their own businesses or made them the first to be hired making them more likely to be hired away from other organizations. Still, whatever the job level, he emphasized the importance of retaining current staff.
“We began talking about this several years back,” he said. “We kind of coined the phrase ‘return on employee investment.’ As you look at the cost of turnover in your organization, it’s staggering. The biggest way for organizations today to keep costs down and raise revenue is by getting their employees engaged.”
Employees are unhappy because they’re not getting raises, they’re doing multiple jobs and leadership isn’t communicating well to them, Laurent said.
“If an organization puts its effort into solving those issues, they’ll find productivity goes up and they’re not going to spend as much money replacing employees.”
Be creative, keep employees engaged, and keep them on board, Laurent urged. Let’s say the head of IT is retiring. Jane, one of the three people in that division, could move into the lead job if she only had X, Y or Z skill. Laurent said it would be smart to approach Jane and offer to help her acquire the knowledge she needs in order to take the next career step.
“What it does for you is not only give you great benefit with Jane, but great benefit throughout your organization,” Laurent offered. “You invest in Jane and you grow her, and that gets through the organization. Each employee says, ‘I can actually advance here.’”
Laurent said too often, employers look at a dollar and think that dollar is more important than the person. They don’t realize that person may bring them $3, he suggested.
When you do interview outside candidates, Laurent believes it’s important to keep an open mind and use some imagination. Don’t just list some requirements and then tick off the boxes. He cites the example of a job opening at Sage. They couldn’t find anyone to fill that slot.
“We interviewed this one lady who was phenomenal. But she didn’t have the tick boxes for that job. My staff began to petition me and say ‘We’ve got to have her.’ She fit our strategic vision so well. We ended up actually creating a job for her, and she’s one of the best hires we’ve made in three years.”
Take a look at your past hiring practices, Laurent advises. What worked? What didn’t work? Then apply that to the strategy of your business today. Take the best things you’ve done in the past and apply them going forward. Spend time up front and know what you need and want.