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Trends for 2014

It's time to grow again

by Kathleen Quinn Votaw

After six years of being in what Dr. Seuss calls “the waiting place,” it’s time to escape into brighter places—and hire the right people to take us there. “Optimistic” and “hopeful” are again included in economists’ vocabulary, including Alan Beaulieu’s, President ITR Economics™, who says in early-year analysis that we are entering a period of real growth. He encourages business leaders to be not just proactive, but aggressive over the next few years. This means adding the sales staff and hiring the top talent to research, analyze, improve, spend and invest in the new reality we’ve all been hoping, and waiting, for.

Top talent doesn’t just come knocking at your door. There are specific things you must do to attract and retain your people, and a good place to look for direction is through the insights of HR thought-leader and author, Dr. John Sullivan. In general, Dr. Sullivan sees 2014 recruiting trends falling into three main areas: 

  • Intensifying competition for talent
  • Employment branding as a long-term strategy
  • Forward-thinking as a necessity

Compete for talent

Companies have been seeing skills gaps in certain areas, particularly technology, throughout the recession. These gaps will increase, along with top talent shortages in many specialties—even within the recruiting profession itself. This will make 2014 what Dr. Sullivan calls “the year that intense recruiting competition returned.” Be prepared to: be aggressive in your hiring practices; make more counter offers; pay more for top talent; and (unless you’re Google) accept the fact that you’ll be rejected more often by top candidates who get a better offer or find a more appealing employment brand elsewhere.

Your recruiters will be targeting more passives (people who are currently employed) as well as trying to win back former employees. (These “boomerangs” are proving to be one of the highest quality hiring sources.) If you’re planning for rapid growth, or simply want to build competitive advantage, emulate the most successful companies, like Google, Apple and Facebook (although most likely on a smaller scale). They focus on winning hard-to-land innovators—people who are capable of producing high economic impact.

To ensure that you have an even chance of winning these top people to your team, make sure you offer an exceptionally personal and pleasing candidate experience—and that you have the culture to back it up. It takes just one disenchanted person in the interview process to tell a culture reality story that tarnishes a candidate’s experience. Be authentically a top employer.

One more point: if you don’t have a well-designed employee referral program, establish one. There’s no better way to attract and retain high performers than hiring the friends and family of your already proven employees. 

Build a strong employment brand

Your best long-term recruiting strategy is a strong, positive employment brand. This is true for two critical reasons. First, your brand can be the crucial, deciding factor in winning candidates in a competition where all things otherwise appear equal between you and another company. Second, the growing influence of social media. Although it’s true that talent is easier to find using social media, it’s also the case that negative, as well as positive, comments from current and former employees and others can spread virally in a matter of minutes. For better or worse, social media has made the employment experience transparent.

Your employee referral program can be a critical tool in overcoming damage caused by negativity on social media. So can truly being a great place to work!

Think forward

Talented people rarely stay in the same situation for more than a few years. They look forward to new challenges and opportunities to grow personally and professionally. Additionally, improvements in the economy will allow more people to shift away from the security of staying in a job or company they don’t like. This means the top talent you need may at some point be looking at your company. You need to be forward looking too in order to attract them, as well as forward thinking in your retention strategies in order to keep them.

The standard “filling-job-vacancies-as-needed” approach won’t work in this market. Instead, you should be constantly building a pipeline for future talent, identifying and assessing your future needs and targeting the people you want long before you plan to hire. Be proactive in “mapping” the top talent in your industry so that you are ready for them when they are ready for a move. A map and pipeline will help ensure “speed of hire,” so critical in competitive hiring environments.

Some companies find it useful to seek the objectivity and insights of outside experts in assessing their company’s strengths and weaknesses and creating strategies for building a competitive talent map and pipeline.

John Sullivan predicts an increased demand for high performers, technologists and innovators over the next year. Who doesn’t want and need these people in their company? Don’t stay in the waiting place. Start now to build your competitive talent advantage.

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