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Dealing With a Tough Recruitment Market with Mary Beth Meadows

Dealing With a Tough Recruitment Market with Mary Beth Meadows
Dealing With a Tough Recruitment Market with Mary Beth Meadows

CoC__Ep12_Cover Graphic Mary beth

In this episode, we're going to examine the current state of recruitment and discuss how tough the situation is right now for so many. We're also going to break down how to best approach your recruitment efforts to find the top talent your organization needs, no matter what is going on in the world. 

Joining Beth to discuss it all is a bona fide recruitment expert, Mary Beth Meadows, Senior Executive VP at Personnel Resources.  

Mary Beth shares so many amazing insights, like:  

  • Why you have to go about “wooing” potential employees in the same way that you “woo” clients  
  • How not taking a good, hard look at why people are leaving your organization is like filling a Styrofoam cup with a hold in the bottom   
  • And, finally, how staying in touch with those A-players that moved on to work for a different company might result in them “boomeranging” back to you down the road


COVID Left a Permanent Mark in the Recruitment World 

“Every hire an organization makes either adds to or detracts from their culture,” Beth says, kicking off the conversation. “So, it's a cyclical kind of thing. It all starts with recruitment.  

“With that said, it seems that recruitment is going to be even potentially more important but also tougher this year than it has been in the past. 

“I want to hear from you from your vantage point. What are the top drivers that are making recruitment more challenging right now? And just what do you think about that in general?” 

“What is it the saying?” Mary Beth says. “If you want to hear God laugh, tell him you're planning. 

“So many times, pre-covid, I heard employers make statements like, ‘it's never been this hard.’ You know, ‘we're struggling on all fronts,’ particularly when you think about really skilled positions or positions where there's a finite group of talent. And then my gracious Covid came along and what a disruptor, right? 

“And so, I think the first reason that recruitment is going to continue to be tough is that we've just not fully rebounded from the disruption of Covid. 

“I think employees had real challenges with getting to work; schools were shut down, and parents had to learn how to teach their children at home. And in all of those changes that occurred as a nation, as we were getting through covid together, it's just left kind of a permanent mark.  

“Additionally, if you Google labor participation rates, [they], in general, still remain extremely low. What that means is that there just aren't as many people interested in working as there are available positions. And then you sprinkle in a healthy dose of skill shortages out there. And if you don't believe me, try to get something done at your home, right? Try to schedule an appliance repair man or try to get a plumber or somebody to come to your home, and you are likely to encounter healthy, healthy weights. 

“All of those things together are just really kind of the perfect storm. It's really difficult for employers to find people because, in general, people aren't as interested in working as they used to be.” 

“Woo” Potential Employees Like You “Woo” Potential Clients 

“Very interesting,” Beth says. “It's a candidate's market for sure. So, what are some of the biggest mistakes an organization can make in its recruitment efforts right now?” 

“Here's my favorite mistake employers make,” Mary Beth says. “And I see it all the time, and that is we wait to get started until we're already in a bind.  

“So here is, I think, perhaps one of the biggest cultural shifts regarding the recruitment process. And if listeners today don't take away anything else from what I'm going to say, I think this is the big ‘aha’ moment. So, I hope everybody's ready for it. Here we go. Using Your Culture to Attract Top Talent

“We have to think about wooing potential employees to our business in the same way that we woo clients. 

“Throughout all of our companies, right? We have very specific marketing strategies, sales strategies, pricing strategies, branding strategies, all the things that we do that are centered around the whole idea of bringing customers into our business. 

“Yet repeatedly, we just wait until we're short. And then we want to create a boring ad, and maybe we share it in a few places, and maybe we don't. And then we expect magic to happen. And today's workforce is just not going to respond to those sorts of bland, generic efforts. 

“I think the number two thing that employers need to do differently is they have to make the recruiting process easier.  

“It's no secret that, in many instances, the best candidates are already working. Yet, so many times I talk to employers whose natural line of thought is to schedule interviews during the workday, which means that working employees have to take PTO or take off work to come pursue an opportunity with my company. And that's just bonkers, right? We have to meet people where they are. 

“Particularly the best talent, right? The people that we're trying to woo those ‘A players,’ the game changers, the people that we're all really fighting for, those diamonds in the rough. The best way to stand out is to figure out when's it convenient for them, right?  

“And can I do not just a traditional kind of interview, right? Could I do a Teams interview or a Zoom interview, or a phone call? Could we do something in advance that's a low-risk activity for the applicant? So they can determine, ‘oh gosh, I really want to work for Personnel Resources or for Culture Over Coffee,’ then maybe they’ll be willing to do more.  

“I think that includes not just accessibility and being available, but also really taking a hard look at your screening steps and they are still relevant?  

“This is probably not the market to roll out things that make the pool smaller because the pool can be non-existent if we're too picky, which is such a crazy thing for a 27-year recruiting veteran to say, right? I'm supposed to help people boil it down. But I'm saying the pool of people is plenty small. So, let's be realistic.  

“And I think the third thing that employers really need to think about when it comes to potential mistakes is failing to recognize why good people are leaving. 

“So, even if we do the other two things, even if we're recruiting, even if we are recruiting for people 24/7, 365 days a year, even if we are being accessible, we are being respectful of people's time, we're making the process easy. If we're not taking a look at why people are leaving, then we've got a Styrofoam cup with a hole in the bottom, and it doesn't matter how many more people we pour in, we're never going to get full, right?  

“So, it's really incumbent upon employers to take a hard look. And sometimes that's painful, right? Because what if the problem is me? What if I'm the problem? What if one of the reasons that people don't want to work here is that I'm a micromanager, or that my expectations are now unrealistic?  

Whatever it is, employers owe it to themselves, and they owe it to the recruitment process to see what they can do to prevent it in the first place.” 

Keep in Touch with Your ‘A Players’ When They Move on to a Different Company 

Beth asks, “Any pro tips you'd share related to recruitment that our listeners might be able to learn from?” 

“Yes,” Mary Beth says. “I've got several.  

“The first one is, if you believe my point about making recruitment a year-round activity, we need a marketing piece that tells our story. What do we do? Who do we serve? Why does our work matter, right? Those are emotional triggers that can really resonate with a passive job seeker.  

“But then we also need to talk about benefits, anything that you're comfortable sharing that will help elicit interest.  

“I'm really serious when I say we have to ‘woo’ job seekers in the same way that we have to ‘woo’ potential customers for our company. It's the same concept. 

“We use a little business card that's, and we call it, ‘I like the way you work.’ I keep it on my person at all times.  

“When I'm scooting around town, and I'm grocery shopping, or I am having dinner, lunch, brunch with friends, and I encounter people that make a positive impression, whether they're working or not, I slip in one of these cards, and I'd say, ‘listen, you've impressed me. If you ever want to make a change, I'd love to hear from you.’  

“I'm also a big fan of an employee referral program. I’m not such a big fan of hiring bonuses. And I'll tell you why. So, the only time I would be a fan of a hiring bonus is when the position is when the skillset is a skillset of one in a company; there's only one position in a company that [requires] that skillset, right? 

“But, more often than not, we see companies that are doing hiring bonuses for lots of positions. And the reason I'm not a fan of that is because to me, that is kind of a slap in the face of your existing employees who are there making it happen.  

“If you have gotten to the point where you have to offer a hiring bonus, it's probably a pretty reasonable deduction that you're short-staffed, which means that the people that are there now towing the line day in and day out are already tired and frustrated.  

“So, seeing that you're willing to pay somebody extra to come in is probably not going to make them feel very good about their decision. Stick with your company and could actually temporarily make your problem worse. Right?  

“So, I like an employee referral bonus. Come up with a dollar amount that you can live with, put some teeth in it, put some criteria that says, ‘we only pay it if we end up making a hire. The hire has to work here for 90 days, six months, two weeks, 12 months, whatever it is, so that the return on the investment for the bonus that you're going to pay makes good financial sense. And I think in doing that, we're sending the message to our employee base, ‘thank you for being here. We value you; help us help you by bringing other good people into our company.’ 

“That's my second tip. And then I would say my third tip, you mentioned a phrase earlier. You said the ‘grass is not always greener.’ Couldn't agree more. And particularly in the last two years where we've had what’s been called the Great Resignation, right? Where even great companies have had unprecedented amounts of turnover because of a lot of the disruptors that were that were created by Covid. 

“So, I'm a big fan of staying in touch. When you lose an ‘A player,’ keep in touch, text them, email them, you know, ‘How's it going? Do you like it?’ 

“And don't make them feel bad about the decision that they're making because they think it's good for their family. Support them. Say, ‘you know what, we hated to lose you, but you're right, I understand where that schedule or the ability to work from home or that pay increase or whatever it was, was something you couldn't turn down. But let me say that if anything changes and if this new employer does not deliver on the things that they promised you, we want to hear from you.’ 

“I just can't say enough good things about that tactic. And I think too often that as hiring managers and as employers, we get our feelings hurt when a good person leaves. So, we tend to kind of get mad, and we don't stay in touch because our pride won't allow us. 

“I'm saying, ‘suck it up, people!’ Don't fall into that trap! Put yourself in their shoes. And frequently, there's a boomerang effect, and you can take full advantage of it.” 

“Wise, wise words,” Beth says. “I've heard it called ‘boomerang employees.’ It does seem as though there's so much to be gained from that. One thing is certainly, when they come back, they don't require a lot of training and onboarding. They're pretty much ready to roll right away.” 

“It's fabulous,” Mary Beth says. “And I think the other thing is, I'm a lifelong learner, right? I'm one of those people that I enjoy reading, I enjoy getting better. I enjoy learning new things. And I think that learning comes in waves.  

“So, when people leave your company, and then they come back and they already start with this base knowledge, I think one of the reasons that, at least in my experience, that these employees have come back and made such a powerful impact is because their learning took them to the next level. So now, when they come back, the things that they're focused on are not elementary things. I mean, they're really digging in and understanding the ‘why’ behind why we do things.” 

“When you think about employee engagement, right? That’s when you have really highly engaged employees and that's when, as companies, our profits climb.  

“It's when the work gets easier; it's more fun. I mean, it brings all the good stuff.” 

Manager Tips For Working With A Remote Staff

Keep an Open Mind When It Comes to Hybrid and Remote Work 

“So, let's talk about how today's work models impact recruitment,” Beth says. “I know hybrid and remote work models have broadened the talent pool in a big way for many businesses. But these same work models also pose some challenges. So, I figured we could talk about that for a minute.  

“What trends are you seeing related to the world of work, hybrid versus remote versus in-office, and then how do you ta tackle that hot topic in the world of recruitment?” 

Mary Beth says, “I think you have to tackle it with a healthy dose of reality. And I also think that as employers, it's really important that we're open-minded. And just because a position has or has not been remote or office based in the past, doesn't mean that it could or couldn't necessarily in the future, right? 

“The first thing, during Covid, we had just so many weird things happen. Many days I woke up and I kept thinking, ‘am I on an episode of Punk’d? I mean, is Ashton Kutcher going to jump out somewhere?’ Because there were just so many odd things happening. Like the whole idea that some work was not essential, right? That only essential workers needed to go to work just kind of blew my mind. 

“So, we have to be open-minded, first of all. And I'll say that during all of that, we're in Dothan, Alabama. We're in southeast Alabama. Historically, remote work was not very prevalent here. In fact, in our own company, in my own work team, I have directly about 20 employees that are under me. And I had one remote employee at the time. I now have seven. 

“Big difference, right? But the seven employees that I have working remotely are all wildly successful employees.  

“I think for some employers; there's a fear. ‘What if work is not happening? If I let people work from home, what if work is not happening,’ right? So, we have to be better managers. We have to get better at holding people accountable. We have to get better at communicating what the expectations are, right? So that we can make those arrangements successful.  

“But in our situation, it has been very, very successful.  

“Having said that, everybody in our company can't be a remote employee. So, all positions do not lend themselves to a remote work environment.  

“Conversely, I had a remote job 20-something years ago. I hated it! For some people, it's just not fun, right? So, I think that you need to use remote work as an option when it makes sense for your company.  

“In our situation, it gave us access to talent that we otherwise would not have had. For a multitude of reasons. We had a staff member that was moving; her husband got transferred, and we thought we were going to lose her. And then, at the ninth hour, I'm thinking to myself, ‘Hey, dummy, you don't have to lose her.’  

“So I said to her, ‘Hey, would you consider working remotely?’ And she's like, ‘I would consider that! I don't want to leave.’ And it's been very successful.  

“I was able to hire another employee who homeschools her children. So, for her, remote work is something that was really important in order to make that work for her family. So I have access to people that I otherwise wouldn't have access to.  

“Now, the flip side of that is, now that remote work is more of a thing here, it also means that I'm competing for talent, not just on a geographic basis, right? 

“I think overall that the world is evolving and, as employers, you have to arm yourself with these facts. And you have to be willing to consider things that you haven't considered before. And to really think through it and to figure out, ‘why am I opposed to this? Is there a good fundamental reason? Or is it just because I haven't done it before?’  

“We've got to be open-minded.” 

LISTEN NOW: The Culture over Coffee Podcast with Beth Sunshine

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