Playing the Long Game in Talent Acquisition!

Yeah, but we need talent NOW!

I hear you. No, really, I HEAR you! And I feel your pain, I also need talent right now. In fact, I have not spoken to one organization since March who hasn’t needed talent. Everyone needs talent, now!

Here’s the thing…

(Editor’s note: This is where Tim will wax poetically about the big philosophies in life and some sh*t.)

It’s not about winning the battle, it’s about winning the war! CEOs love saying stupid sh*t like this, am I right? Actually, we aren’t fighting a war, we’re just trying to fill some jobs, calm down, Cindy! (Cindy is my fictional CEO, FYI) So, we have some short-ish term pain, currently in finding talent. The problem is, most TA leaders and organizations will spend 99% of their focus on this current issue.

When you do this, the current issue, becomes your future issue, because you have no vision or plan to actually get out of your current situation. Your current situation sucks, but you don’t want it to keep sucking. A part of me wants to tell leaders to just ignore the present if they truly want to solve the problem. Just go to your hiring managers and say, “Look, we can’t help you, you’re on your own!” The pain will probably be about the same anyway, but you’ll actually get to build a true plan for solving your real issue long term.

Of course we can’t do that without getting fired by Cindy.

We must play the short game and the long game simultaneously, at least, that’s what the best leaders will do in this time of crisis hiring. You’ll have your team fight the fire, while you truly maintain a focus on the future, ignoring the burning building you’re sitting in the middle of. That’s hard to do, and the only way you get away with it is by constantly communicating you’re working on a “permanent” solution for the crisis for the future.

The reason we don’t play the long game in talent acquisition is that we feel too much pressure to fix the present. The problem is you can’t fix the present, that is beyond broken, you can only fix the future. But, if our c-suite trusts we know what we are doing, we buy ourselves time to do what really needs to be done to fix this stuff permanently. Turns out, they will trust us more if we are communicating our plan for the big fix!

The Long Game Plan

Blah, blah, blah, just tell us the plan!

1. Admit that your stuff is currently broken and a mess, but we’ll have to muscle our way through this crisis in the short term.

2. Have a vision of a long-term plan and solution. We need some belief we won’t be living in this hell forever.

3. Look for some short-term wins for your team. Maybe it’s a new tool, some extra help, something that shows them this time it’s going to be different.

4. Make a timeline of action items. This might be a year or more. If you’re stuck in a crappy, dated ATS contract for the next 18 months, your plan is going to change drastically right away. But, this also gives you time to build the right process, tech stack, and team you need.

5. Get alignment of your plan with finance to secure the resources you’ll need. This actually solidifies your plan in concrete because finance pros are pretty good at following up constantly wanting to know how and when you’re going to use those approved resources!

And of course, constantly communicate publicly what you are doing and going to do. Being a great leader is part execution, part politician, and part being a dealer in hope. And right now, your organization needs some talent hope!

How Should We Structure New-Hire Sign-On Bonuses for Hourly Hires?

Right from The Project mailbag comes this beauty of a question! Very timely in that so many organizations are moving super fast to add sign-on bonuses for new hires to help them attract more hourly candidates right now. Here’s the actual question:


Dear Tim,

We are looking to offer a new hire sign-on bonus for our hourly hires. I was wondering if you have any advice in terms of what is the best way to do this that one, makes it attractive to candidates, and two, works to help retain these hires so we aren’t just throwing money away?

Thanks for the help,

Mandy


How would I offer an hourly sign-on bonus?

It’s a great question because there isn’t any one correct answer. The correct answer is you do what it takes to meet your goals! In this scenario, without giving up Mandy’s specific details, here’s what I would do:

  • Offer an amount that makes staying on extended UI/Stimulus a non-issue. So, if someone is making $300 a week additional stimulus ($1200 per month), I’m going to pay that on top of our hourly wage.
  • Pay this sign-on as a fraction per hour worked. So, an additional $300 per week would be $7.50 per hour over your normal hourly rate. So, a person who normally makes $15/hr, would be making $22.50/hr until the “sign-on bonus” is paid off.
  • The decision you have to make is how long do you pay this additional extra hourly sign-on addition? One month, two months, until the end of September?! I would pay it for one month and if the person quits and tries to collect unemployment, we would challenge it. The reality is, once someone has worked for a month, there more than likely going to keep working. The ones who really don’t want to work, won’t make it a month.
  • “Tim, we just can’t afford that much”-edition. I hear you, $300 per week is way too much. What can you do? Steal workers from other employers who are making roughly the same as what you pay, but you pay more, just not $7.50 an hour more! Maybe you pay $2/hr more.
  • But, wait, you’re not done! What about your current workers? The reality is, if you start offering a sign-on bonus to new hires, your current employees are going to be upset, especially your best ones! So, you have to make it good with them. More than likely you end up in a compensation track that pays your more experienced people more than your new hires. The key for success here is whoever is getting the best pay must be your best performers, or you get rid of them.
  • Also, you can’t pay your more experienced hourly workers $.50 to $2/hr more if you’re paying new hires sign-on bonuses worth more than that, but you don’t have to pay them the same. The key is to make sure your best workers are being paid at a rate that leads the market, so they can’t go anywhere else for similar work in your market and make the same or more. Pay for performance.
  • Move quickly to make changes to market compensation. In crazy employment times, as we have right now for hourly workers, you can not rely on paid compensation data and services. They move too slow. Pay attention to what candidates are telling you and make some calls to fellow pros around your market to see what folks are paying.
  • Bonus Tip: Have multiple sign-on bonus/retention plans for potential new hires/current employees to choose from! Let’s face it, no one plan will be what everyone wants. So, design three and let them choose. Maybe some want an additional hourly rate, maybe some want a retention bonus paid at the end as a lump sum, and maybe some want something totally different. Get creative!

Brainstorming Idea: What if you paid bonuses for certain activities that lead to the new employee behaviors you wish to have? Show up for the interview, get $50 cash in your hand. Show up to the first day of work, get $100 cash in your hand. Make it through the first week, etc.! Reward based on the behavior you want to happen, and ensure it happens. Yes, payroll will hate you, but it doesn’t mean that it can’t be done!

Yes, this is expensive, but not as expensive as going out of business because you can’t find labor. You can always increase your prices for your products and services to meet this additional demand. Say hello to inflation, it’s going to happen, the current administration made sure of that with a multi-trillion dollar stimulus package!

The key to making sign-on bonuses work is to only pay those bonuses fully to those workers who truly are working. If you start paying that higher wage to slackers, you’ll be dead in the water. People are willing to work market leading wages, but they are also willing to collect market leading wages for not working so hard if you allow it.

#InternalsFirst

In the past 30 days, I’ve spoken to a dozen Talent Acquisition leaders across a bunch of industries and markets. There was one common theme, “Holy crap, our req load just doubled or tripled almost overnight!”

The conversation always went to how and what can we do to get more candidates faster!

One, out of twelve, actually had the insight to comment, “we have to make sure our internal employees, first have the option to move into some of these roles, if they desire”.

She mentioned they branded this movement within their organizations Р#InternalsFirst! 

The reality is, and she knows this as well, it’s not one or the other, it’s both, but I love the focus on internals as we come out of the pandemic and start increasing our hiring. Yes, we need to fill these openings, but also, yes, we need to engage our internal talent, or we’ll have a much larger problem in the second half of 2021.

We give our internal talent a discount on value. “Oh, yeah, Jenny, she’s good, but we know her and her capabilities, what about Mary, the new shiny, candidate we know nothing about!? She might be 8% better than Jenny!”

Stop it. You’re embarrassing yourself! Mary isn’t better, she’s just new and shiny. Mary has that new employee smell! Jenny lost her new employee smell and now she just smells like everyone else.

As we come out of the pandemic, our internal talent is starving to be engaged. To be noticed. The worse thing you can do, when hiring picks up is to forget about them. To make them feel like an afterthought.

#InternalsFirst