Strategic Staffing: Getting the Right Talent in the Right Jobs at the Right Time
by Roy Notowitz - Managing Director,Notogroup Executive Search
Imagine what business would be like today if companies didn’t effectively manage their supply chains. What if companies failed to line up the product parts they need in advance? And what if they simply waited for parts to run out, and then scrambled to replace them, not knowing where to look?
As disastrous as this may sound, this is the exact approach that many companies take to staffing. Despite the growing challenge of finding skilled workers, most companies today do very little to manage their talent supplies. Some companies use a generic headcount forecast of expected new positions adjusted for attrition. This approach often values all jobs equally and is likely not comprehensive enough.
Why strategic staffing?
Strategic staffing differs from the traditional approach by turning staffing from a reactive process into a proactive one. As with just-in-time supply chain management, it involves managing your talent supply to ensure your organization always has the right people in the right jobs at the right time.
So where do you start? The internal strategy starts at a high level by determining the exact skills and competencies your company requires to drive its business strategy. The external strategy starts with communicating a strong employment message that speaks to the company culture and nature of the talent you need to be successful. Yet, by themselves, knowing what you need and having the right focus is not enough. You also need to know how to identify the most effective candidate sources as well as how to create an efficient hiring process to facilitate sound hiring decisions.
In today’s economic climate, strategic staffing is not optional; it’s a business necessity. Between 2002 and 2012, employment for all occupations is expected to grow by 15 percent, according to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics. Within the same timeframe, the size of the talent pool available to fill these positions will shrink significantly. The result will be an increasingly uneven labor market, with some positions that are easy to fill, and others facing troublesome shortages. For example, demand for computer systems and software engineering talent is projected to soar by over 45 percent.
As the talent shortage worsens, companies that fail to take a strategic approach to staffing will suffer from a reactive hiring pattern that will result in higher recruiting costs and significant employee productivity losses. Having too many or too few people costs money. Having the wrong people in the wrong place costs money. Strategic staffing creates a significant competitive advantage by helping your company anticipate the talent it needs and by working in advance to locate and hire them.
Communicating the right message
Employees who are a good cultural fit perform better and typically stay with your company longer. Establishing a strong employment brand will help to draw more candidates who fit your company culture, while screening out those who don’t fit. Survey the market and industry talent outside your organization to gain insight into external perceptions of what it is like to work for your company. Then tap into your employees to help define the insider experience of your employment brand. Does it match up or are there opportunities to create a better message to high-potential candidates?
Pinpointing skills and competencies
What skills and competencies does your current workforce have, and what will you need to be successful in the future, given your business goals, the culture you want to create and the realities of the marketplace? What are the gaps in the employee skills and competencies that you have now versus what you will need in the future? The focus should be on the key positions that your company hinges upon. Conduct a detailed analysis of these positions. This will help you determine the success factors required to achieve at the highest levels. This is also the foundation of your selection methodology.
For retail companies, one of the key success factors might be superior customer service at the retail associate level. For technology companies, it might be high-level technical skills combined with an aptitude for problem-solving and innovation. Taking time to understand the skills and competencies needed for success will help your organization develop meaningful criteria from which to base important hiring decisions. It will also provide the clarity necessary to make sound hiring decisions.
Knowing where to find the right candidates
These days, placing job postings on your web site or job board is not enough to attract qualified candidates. Recent data shows that job boards have become less effective in pinpointing the exact talent recruiters are seeking. To find the most qualified candidates, it’s important to tap into industry associations, conferences, trade shows, user groups and alumni networks. Delivering your organization’s employment branding message through these channels and building genuine relationships over time are by far the most effective ways to land top industry talent.
Recruiters who are worth their salt also should know how to use the web to find the exact candidates they are seeking. Advanced boolean searches and multiple search engines can turn up industry contacts and resumes. Web-based tools such as ZoomInfo, AIRS Search Station, Hoovers and Infogist help save recruiters’ time and take the guesswork out of the research. Online networking and relationship-building tools such as Jobster.com, H3.com and LinkedIn.com help recruiters build diverse talent pool networks. These tools can be applied internally to leverage employee referrals as well as externally to track and maintain a wider array of industry contacts. Regardless of the tools you use, it is important to maintain the long-term value and integrity of the data over time. Most organizations maintain a database of contacts and resumes using an applicant tracking system (ATS). In time, the contacts you make will become your best sources for leads. These contacts may also develop a stronger interest in your company as a result of your interactions with them.
Developing a more efficient hiring process
In addition to knowing how to find and attract the candidates you seek, you need to know how to get them through the process. One way to beat your competitors to the best talent is to develop a faster hiring process. Examine your current hiring process with the goal of eliminating bottlenecks and inefficiencies. The interview team should be as streamlined as possible to include only the people who are important to the decision. Candidate interviews should be scheduled as quickly as possible and given high priority once the candidates are identified. All interviewers should be involved in the front end of the process so that there is agreement on the position requirements and candidate competencies needed. In addition,all interviewers should be trained on how to evaluate and interview candidates, and there should be a formal debrief and decision-making process immediately following the interviews.
Your organization may also want to consider implementing a fast-track hiring process for high-caliber candidates to ensure you move candidates through the interview process to the offer stage very quickly – say within two to three days.
Measuring the success of staffing strategies
As with most business initiatives, you’ll want to measure the success of your strategic staffing efforts. A wide spectrum of hiring metrics is available to help you measure the results of your efforts over time. Make sure the specific metrics you employ are the ones that most effectively measure the success of the strategies your company implements.
For example, if you’ve decided to strengthen your employment brand, how does your employment brand message compare with people’s perceptions of your company, both internally and externally? Is your employment brand helping your organization attract more employees who are a good cultural fit? If you’ve decided to take a more comprehensive approach to sourcing, is the quality of people whom you are attracting improving? Are positions remaining open for shorter periods of time? If you’ve decided to develop a more efficient hiring process, is the new hiring process indeed faster? Are a greater number of offers being accepted? Are you improving the quality of people you hire?
As the competition for talent continues to tighten, companies will need to develop more effective strategies to meet their hiring needs. In today’s business climate, strategic staffing provides a significant opportunity to outshine your competitors by getting the right people in the right jobs at the right time.