CXO

How to keep your company competitive when there's a talent shortage

When workers have lots of choices, it's not enough to post an opening and wait for the resumes to roll in. Here's how to make sure your company attracts the best candidates.

I've been noticing the reemergence of a seemingly long-lost object: the help wanted sign. After years of a sputtering job market, strip malls and small stores across the country seem to be hiring again in sufficient quantities to warrant posting help wanted signs. Similarly, my own employer and many of my clients are ramping up hiring, and beginning to notice a shrinking supply of talent. While no one knows how the broader economy will perform in the mid and long-term, most predictions point to continuing growth and therefore an increasingly small pool of talented individuals looking for work. Here are some tips that are likely to be more effective than putting a help wanted placard on the front door of your headquarters building.

SEE: Report: 32% of IT pros plan to switch jobs in 2018, most for better pay and training (TechRepublic)

It's no longer all about you

Several years of a tight technology job market made IT hiring easy. With jobs in short supply, employers could demand everything, pay next to nothing, and expect employees to put up with all manner of demands, secure in the notion that they had nearly all the leverage in the relationship. That situation is quickly changing, and with multiple options, potential employees are becoming more selective.

In the old days, the hiring process was all about the employer. Now, you'll need to consider what makes your company attractive from the potential employee's perspective. Whereas candidates might have seemed happy with whatever you offered, expect to be questioned on everything from benefits, to flexible working policies, to seemingly trivial concerns like dress code and pet policies. You'll likely have to sell your company versus having a take it or leave it attitude.

SEE: Interviewing guidelines policy (Tech Pro Research)

Love the one you're with

It's easier, and often cheaper to retain your existing talent than to hire someone new. Talent retention is a topic unto itself, but you'll benefit existing and potential employees merely by asking what they value, and how to improve the work environment. You'll likely find that there are a dozen relatively simple and low-cost ways you can make your company more attractive, and ultimately keep your existing staff and have an easier time attracting new people.

Check the competition

As you interview potential candidates, ask those that ultimately come to work for you, as well as those who decline an offer why they made the choice they did. Speak with colleagues in other divisions, as well as your HR department, and see if you can identify any consistent themes as to why candidates aren't interested in working with your company. If you work for a larger company, check out web sites like Glassdoor and see if there are any themes to the criticisms, or any consistent themes or practices that your competitors or peers are doing that you can adopt.

Partner with HR

Like any entity, HR departments can vary significantly in quality. However, in the past your interaction with HR may have been little more than sending a job description, and then dealing with the flood of resumes that resulted. As potential employees grow more selective, you may need to be more active in recruiting staff, and a good HR department can help with everything from focusing recruiting efforts, to refining job postings, to engaging outside resources to search for the right employee.

SEE: IT Jobs in 2020: A leader's guide (free PDF) (ZDNet/TechRepublic special report)

Don't burn your bridges

This is often given as advice to individuals as they leave a company, or turn down a job offer, however it's equally applicable to employers. Many of the people I interact with have worked with several companies over the course of their careers, and there are a handful of well-recognized brands with poor reputations. Former employees are all too happy to share tales of poor treatment, unreasonable working conditions, and unpleasant cultures.

During lean times it's easy to ignore those going out the door, regarding them as "traitors;" however, like it or not, these people are ambassadors of your company. It's a simple matter to check LinkedIn and find someone that works for, or worked for your company, and their opinion might be the thing that gets you a talented new employee versus losing that person to a competitor. This is also just plain good practice. Even someone that can't perform the duties of their job should be treated with respect, since that same person just might end up as a customer, supplier, or regulator at some point in the future.

If nothing else, as the job market shifts in favor of the candidate, take the time to evaluate your job posting, company, and culture from an outsider's perspective. It's much easier to attract new talent when you as the employer hold most of the cards, but in the changing job market you're being interviewed and evaluated just as critically as the candidate.

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Image: iStock/fizkes

About Patrick Gray

Patrick Gray works for a global Fortune 500 consulting and IT services company and is the author of Breakthrough IT: Supercharging Organizational Value through Technology as well as the companion e-book The Breakthrough CIO's Companion. He has spent ...

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