Business leaders enjoy the rising tide of a hot economy, but it also comes with unique challenges, including inflationary prices and a tight labor market. We are in the midst of the third-longest sustained expansion in the history of the U.S. economy. But we are also seeing dramatic demographic changes that are creating a shortage of skilled workers to hire.
Almost all of my clients are struggling to hire quality team members. The companies that figure out how to hire in a tough labor market are well prepared for the future – even if the economy slows down. The primary hiring strategy that works is to treat hiring like selling. Most companies spend much more time and energy on their sales process compared to their hiring process. Here are four examples of how to improve your hiring in a tight labor market:
Know Your Target Audience
Start by clearly identifying your target audience. What are the demographic and psychographic characteristics of your team members? Where do they live? What are their pain points? How and where can you communicate with them? In the sales and marketing world, we dedicate a tremendous amount of resources to understanding our target customer, but few companies spend the same energy to understand their target employee.
Aaron Becker, President of Haller Enterprises, Inc. (www.hallerent.com) in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, understands the balance of growing sales while also building the team. Haller has over 400 technicians that provide HVAC, electrical and plumbing services for commercial and residential clients in Eastern Pennsylvania. Over the past few quarters, they’ve found it increasingly difficult to find technicians. Aaron shared with me, “Currently, my most important priority as President is to align HR, marketing and operations to find more skilled workers. The only thing holding back the company’s continued growth is finding more qualified techs.”
In addition to accelerating their plans for a Haller Training Center and updates to their pay structure and bonuses, they launched several initiatives to specifically target new hires, including rolling out their first billboards targeted at hiring. Aaron summarized, “We realized the technicians we wanted to hire weren’t sitting at home scanning through job boards. They were already employed and working for our competitors. So, we targeted them with billboards in locations where we knew a technician has to pass in their truck during their workday. Although outdoor advertising can be expensive, the resulting increase in applicants more than made up for the cost.”
A key lesson for Aaron was getting the marketing team involved to treat hiring just like selling. Aaron stated, “The marketing team completely revamped our careers website and brought their marketing skills to the hiring process.”
Track Hiring Data Like Sales Data
Companies must also track, manage and learn from their hiring data. Caring Solutions of San Antonio (www.caringsolutionssa.com) provides home-based, non-medical care for the elderly with a specific focus on helping Alzheimer’s and dementia clients. Finding caregivers to fill the 24/7 needs of their clients is critical to growing their company. Lauren Karcher, the Culture Warrior at Caring Solutions, has worked with the recruiting team to define every step of the recruiting process to create a hiring funnel similar to a sales funnel.
Lauren shared, “After several quarters of measuring and refining our hiring process, we know exactly how many candidates we need at every step of the process. If we need to hire five caregivers in a quarter, we know that we need to start with over a thousand applicants.” In addition to knowing every step of the hiring process, Lauren is constantly adjusting where they invest money to find candidates. She stated, “We discovered that some of the most popular and expensive online job sites resulted in the least number of candidates getting through the entire hiring funnel. At first glance, it looked like they provided a lot of applicants, but the quality of candidates was so low that it never resulted in hires.”
Pay Referral Fees
In the sales world, it’s common to provide referral bonuses for new client leads. Many companies haven’t taken the time to incentivize their current team members to refer applicants for open positions. Haller Enterprises has also leveraged this strategy. Aaron shared, “We recently increased our referral bonus for new team members to $1,500. We’re considering adding other incentives like vacation days for referrals. And the bonus of internal referrals is that our current team members know the culture and who would be a great fit for our company.”
Considering that the cost of hiring a new team member from a third-party recruiting firm could easily be over $10,000, it makes sense to pay your current team members for new referrals.
Finally, remember the power of creativity. Jay Robertson, the President and Owner of South Texas Outfitters (www.southtexasoutfitters.com) came up with a highly creative way to bring attention to open positions. South Texas Outfitters creates custom hunting and work vehicles in Texas. Jay’s motto is, “If you can dream it, we can build it.” From extended Jeeps made for large safari excursions to SUV’s with platforms and steering equipment on top (!) of the vehicle, Jay’s team produces some truly unique creations. But during the boom times of the Texas oil industry, it is difficult to find qualified welders.
Jay’s solution was to create an ad with the catchy and provocative headline “South Texas Outfitters is looking for Badass Welders to build and design the highest quality truck and hunting accessories in the market.” The ad continues with bold statements like “…do you thrive on seeing a satisfied customer drive off with the badass product that your team built?” And finally, the ad asked them to send pictures of the “cool things they’ve done” and encouraged them “to stop by and see some of the badass stuff we do in person.”
The bold and creative ad has resulted in great hires. One of the first welders they hired didn’t actually see the ad, his wife saw the ad and said, “Honey. You’re a badass welder. You should work there.” Jay shared with me, “It’s not just about finding a good welder, we needed to find a welder that fit into our culture. We knew that a boring ad wasn’t going to attract the right type of person.”
So, don’t let the hot economy and tight labor market hold your company back. Get creative and start treating your hiring process like you treat your sales process.
Rob Simons is a “badass” business coach at Simons.Coach – a Texas-based company that helps organizations build a culture of purpose, alignment, and accountability by implementing the Rockefeller Habits. Rob can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 210-845-2782.