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Blog and News

Finding Top Talent Today - Part I
08/15/2021 Doug Beckley

A year ago, I was working with a construction client that was in a staffing crisis. This company experienced significant growth but couldn’t staff their crews with nearly enough good people. This placed a painful burden on the existing people they had – resulting in overworked and overstressed team members, project delays and angry customers. As a result, some of their best people started leaving the company. They reacted with desperation hiring of less qualified people which made problems worse - not better. As the chaos grew, the company learned that they were in serious risk of losing their largest contractor which accounted for 40% of their business.

We were asked to help them. We urged them to slow down in order to speed up. We worked diligently with them to make dramatic changes in the way they recruited and hired people. As of June of this year, they had filled all open positions, weeded out some of their weakest people, stabilized project quality and pace, and rebuilt loyalty with their customers and employees. 

This story is occurring every day in different forms. It has been made worse in recent months as good people are even harder to find. The US currently has a paradoxical labor environment. Unemployment is at record levels, while unfilled job openings are at their highest level in decades! Many managers lament the bizarre state of the labor market. While others get to work - by focusing on what they can control.

There is a reason why some businesses have a team of top performing employees, and others have a revolving door of C-players. It's not because of their industry, that they pay more than competitors, or that their job positions are easier to fill. It is because they own and invest in a proactive recruiting and hiring process. 

For companies that own the problem and take responsibility, finding good talent is not an irritating task that gets in the way of running their business. It is the foundation of their business, a central element of their management DNA.

There are several practices that effective employers engage in with enthusiasm. Here are five vital ones. 

Practice 1. Develop A New Hiring Attitude

Poor recruiting and selection are the most important contributors to poor company performance.  And yet, managers rush through and short cut the hiring process because they must “get back to work”. 

It goes something like this. Hiring conversations center around the phrase “there just aren’t good people out there”.  Built on this self-limiting mindset, managers might post a couple of positions and play around in LinkedIn. Maybe they even try a trade association career site. As a result, a weak pool of mediocre candidates is generated. They schedule a few interviews, hire the best knucklehead from the group, and hope for the best. 

With this approach, the game is over before kick-off. This self-defeating attitude results in sloppy and frantic hiring practices such as:

  • A reactive, half hearted and undisciplined process
  • Selecting from a mediocre candidate pool (settling)
  • Unrevealing, unprepared interviews
  • Lame or no reference checks 
  • Attracting only unemployed (active) candidates

Finding great talent begins with throwing out our old thinking and approach.  A new attitude must be adopted with a strategic, disciplined process and old-fashioned hard work. The following habits will lay the foundation for this process.

Practice 2:  Define Who You Seek

You can't hire an A-Player if you can't describe an A-player. A compelling position or job profile must define the top performer you seek. This goes beyond outlining roles and responsibilities. It must be attention grabbing and appeal to the best candidates. It must define successful performance, critical character attributes, personality essentials, and non-technical skill sets. This even applies to basic and entry level positions. Find the best manifold degreasing technician in the state! Start by picturing the best employee you have ever had in this role - and describe what was outstanding about them. To attract top performers, you must create appealing and exciting position profiles.

Practice 3: Fish in A Large and Abundant Lake

Let us say you want to find a delightful and appealing spouse with whom you will spend the rest of your life. Would you look around your hangouts, go on a few dates, and pop the question to the one most likely to say yes? If not, why would we approach recruiting and selection this way? 

Companies that find top talent work hard to generate a large pool of top candidates. They do not stop until they find The One. Cast a wide, multi-channel net. Use multiple approaches, some of which include:

  • Reaching out to personal, professional, customer and vendor networks
  • Comprehensive and diligent use of
  • Strategic and targeted social media strategies
  • Highly promoted and financially attractive employee referral programs
  • Diligently vetted recruiting firms
  • LinkedIn for passive candidates
  • Industry and trade associations

These are just a few to consider. Gather your team together and discuss what has worked in the past. Make a list of the sources of your most successful hires in the last 5 years. Talk through the strategy and identify the most likely channel. Build a written recruiting strategy, budget, and execution plan.

An effective multi-channel process will take time and money. How much? A fraction of the cost of having a revolving door of C-players pillage and poison your company and culture.

These first three practices outline how to develop a proactive mindset, compellingly define the ideal employee, and develop a robust pool of candidates. Part II of this article (to be sent to you soon) will explain how to screen, vet, and select an A-Player.