By Bridget McCrea

It's time to ditch the "post it and they will come" approach to finding and hiring new team members. In this 2-part article series, tED talks to recruiters and hiring experts about the strategies that work in today's labor market, and shows how to get your distributorship's recruiting approach on the right track.

"If you don't have a strategy in place for recruiting, then you're living in a 'post-and-pray' world." So says Doug Hammond, executive vice president at global staffing and business solutions provider Randstand Inhouse Services (RIS) in Atlanta. In other words, if all you're doing is posting job opportunities online and hoping that the right recruits come your distributorship's way, you're doing it all wrong. And, if you're relying on antiquated, shotgun approaches to filling both entry-level and management positions, then the tightening labor market could start cutting into your distributorship's productivity and profitability sooner rather than later.  

Here are seven strategies that your company can start using today to improve its new employee recruiting and hiring practices:

  1. Create a talent value proposition. You probably can recite your company's value proposition for customers without giving it much thought, but can you do the same for your prospective employees? Probably not, says Hammond, who advises all companies to carefully consider exactly what they're offering job candidates before attempting to reach out to them and lure them in. By creating a "talent value proposition," distributors can determine what they offer prospects (i.e., technical training? Clear career paths? Job flexibility?). "Think about what you're going to offer candidates that will make them choose you over other employers who are also in need of high-quality individuals," says Hammond. "If you're not thinking about this value proposition, you're going to lose."

  2. Do your homework on local wages. When working with companies that need to fill their employee ranks, Hammond notices that many are overly focused on national wage levels for their respective industries. And while national and state numbers are important, he says drilling down to local and regional wage levels is even more critical. "At the end of the day, what every distributor needs to know is, 'Where do we stand compared to all other employers that are within a 10- to 20-mile radius of our firm?" Hammond says. "Those are the employers you're competing against for talent. If you're not on parity with them, or if you're at the bottom 10 percent of wage-payers, then you can't expect to be able to attract good candidates."

  3. Develop a culture that respects work-life balance. This is a hard one, particularly for companies that are used to having loyal employee bases that are willing to work 9-5 daily—plus overtime—to get the job done. Thirty-eight percent of employees say they have missed life events because of bad work-life balance, and 60 percent of employees blame bad bosses for the most negative impact on work-life balance. "More times than not, there are no parameters set by employers on what they require from employees after hours," Joe Staples, CMO of Workfront, said in You Won't Believe These Work-Life Balance Statistics. "So the default can be an 'always-on' lifestyle. The challenge this presents is a potential for burnout." Hammond says electrical distributors avoid these challenges by offering flexible scheduling that accommodates employees' lives outside of work. This could mean breaking out of the traditional "Monday-Saturday schedule," for example, and allowing employees to work more hours one day to offset a half- or whole-day off during the week. And don't forget to play up this benefit during the employee recruiting, interviewing, and hiring process. "Let work fit into their lives," says Hammond, "instead of expecting everyone to shape their lives around work."

  4. Create and use a good application and applicant processing system. If good applicants are falling through the cracks and going unnoticed, it's time to develop a better processing system for the recruits that send their resumes, applications, and work samples your way for consideration. And don't forget to bring your application system into the 21st Century, says Ira S. Wolfe, president at Success Performance Solutions, a recruiting and employee selection firm in Lehigh Valley, Pa. If, for example, your online application isn't optimized for mobile use—the medium of choice for many job seekers across all generations—then you could be missing out on some good candidates. "If someone can't even view your company's website, let alone the application, from his or her mobile device," says Wolfe, "then your application abandon rate (i.e., the number of people who start and never finish the process) will be huge."

  5. Establish clear career paths. If you haven't already heard of the concept of "career pathing," it's time to get up to speed on it. Defined as a systematic approach to career development, enabling employees to map out advancement, career pathing gives new recruits a clearly defined plan showing career progression. According to The Q Works Group, career pathing helps workers become more engaged in their roles and the development of their careers—two things that help increase job satisfaction and retention. (When asked in a MRI Network study, 53 percent of Millennials sited career pathing as an effective tool to engage and retain them.) Hammond says distributors can get in on this trend by helping new hires see the mutual investment that both employer and employee can make in the latter's success. "Candidates want to see that their employers are making an investment in them, and helping them make progress and acquire skills," says Hammond. "The bottom line is that when people know what they're working towards, they're more likely to stick around."

  6. Take a multi-pronged approach to recruiting. Don't expect to set up a booth at a local job fair, walk away with 200 good applicants to choose from, and then shut down your hiring efforts for the rest of the year. "It just doesn't work that way anymore," says Hammond, who tells electrical distributors to use a multi-pronged approach that incorporates both online (LinkedIn, Indeed, Facebook, Twitter, etc.) and offline (job fairs, employee referrals, and so forth) efforts. "Maximize all of your available channels and don't depend on any one source," says Hammond. "For example, Facebook shouldn't be your only approach, but it should be part of your approach."

  7. Don't overlook the "passive" job candidate. Not everyone is out actively looking for a new job, but a lot of candidates would switch jobs if the right opportunity reared its head. According to HubSpot, for example, 70 percent of candidates begin their job hunt on Google. "They might be doing research on products or services. They might be comparing salaries. They might be curious about other options after a bad day at work," Wolfe says. "Whatever the reason, your company could be in the spotlight for candidates at any time." The constant spotlight means your online brand needs to be crystal clear, Wolfe adds. "If you don't optimize your website and social media profiles to appeal to potential employees, you will lose out on future talent."

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McCrea is a Florida-based writer who covers business, industrial, and educational topics for a variety of magazines and journals. You can reach her at bridgetmc@earthlink.net or visit her website at www.expertghostwriter.net.