A Recruiting Game Changer – Remote Work Adds Powerful Talent Competitors

Note: This “think piece” is designed to stimulate your thinking on remote work and how it dramatically changes the recruiting competition in every country.

 Every global recruiting giant offering remote work jobs is now a serious competitor in every previously local job opening. It’s no exaggeration to say that adding these new fierce talent competitors like Google and Apple to what had previously been exclusively local recruiting competitions for exceptional talent will change recruiting and retention at average companies forever. Recruiting leaders at every company must instantly realize that recruiting giants now offer work from anywhere options. Working at a powerhouse company like Google and Apple has now become a realistic option for exceptional candidates in every (what used to be local) talent competition. And, this intense competition will force every recruiting leader in every company that needs to win the talent war, to reassess if their employment brand, their recruiting process, and the excitement of their jobs compare favorably against the remote job openings offered by Google, LVMH, or Apple. I personally can’t think of anything scarier than having to compete head-to-head with the powerful employer brand at the talent absorbing machine that is Amazon.

 A Quick Illustration Demonstrating How Your Recruiting Competition Has Changed Forever

To illustrate the impact of this new competition, put yourself in the situation of a strong employer branded telecom company in Amsterdam. A company that has for decades done extremely well in recruiting because your only real talent competitors were other top-tiered firms in the region. But now a top engineer that you have nearly landed suddenly gets an unexpected offer from Google. This offer allows her, while living at home, to work on a key component of their high economic impact: the Next Billion Users plan that is providing Wi-Fi to Africa. Along with the opportunity to make a huge impact and difference is the panache of working at a justifiably famous employer like Google with the world’s most powerful employer brand. In addition, the candidate gets one day a week set aside to work on a project of their choosing (20% time). And because she is purpose-driven and wants to make a difference, your formally interesting engineering job updating an internal legacy system instantly becomes noncompetitive. This example highlights your new dilemma as a recruiting leader. Your new talent competitors for every significant professional job now include breathtakingly exciting companies that previously had little recruiting chance because Dutch citizens are seldom interested in relocating. 

“In the war for talent, just like in any other war… if you mis-identify your enemy, don’t be surprised when you lose a lot of battles.”

Remote Work Opens Retention Issues Due To Poaching By Global Giants

Even if you’re not doing much recruiting, it’s important to realize that these remote work jobs will directly open up companies operating in mostly isolated geographic areas to what I call “remote location poaching.”  And that means if you have had top talent working in your facility in Australia, Alaska, or Finland the difficulty of relocation, travel restrictions, and visa issues have limited international poaching. However, now that these in-demand individuals can work from home and not need to relocate, soon global giants with breathtakingly powerful employer brands and smart recruiting leaders will begin raiding their top talent with the offer of remote jobs. Don’t be surprised when, after years of management taking advantage of the fact that most employees couldn’t leave, that many are excited about this type of new opportunity. And, after one influential employee leaves, expect many other exceptional performers to follow them. In some cases, a “blocking strategy” may need to be developed to slow down external recruiters.

The Competition For Talent Will Be Greater In Some Job Areas

Even though remote work will broaden the competition for talent in almost every job that can be done remotely. The competition for talent is likely to be narrower when the open job directly involves designing or producing a product. In these narrow cases, industry-specific knowledge will likely be needed. So, your talent competition will still come from around the globe. But most of it will be from companies within your same product industry. However, in most other jobs, and especially in service type jobs, your recruiting competition will come from every major company that offers remote work within this job family. And there are already a good number of companies where 100% of the work is successfully being done remotely. So, I estimate that more than 60% of the jobs that can be done remotely don’t require any specific industry experience.

 Recruiting Areas That Must Be Updated To Meet Your New Competition 

To remain competitive, recruiting leaders will need to conduct a side-by-side comparison. Comparing themselves directly with their new remote work talent competitors to ensure that their organization is competitive in every important recruiting area. The strategic areas that will most likely have to be updated include:

Employer Branding – One of the primary factors that will cause you to lose many head-to-head recruiting battles is the incredible drawing power of companies like Google (they get over 3 million applications a year). The best that you can do is improve and update your employer branding materials so that you look your best. Unfortunately, that also means that your Employer Brand comparisons must move beyond simply covering your current product industry. Because your new talent competitors will frequently be coming from other industries. Some of which may be fundamentally more exciting than your industry.

Job postings – You will have to post your open jobs in the same places as your talent competitors. In addition, the content of your postings must be superior when compared side-by-side to their ads to ensure that potential applicants feel an equivalent level of excitement.

Offer remote work jobs – If you expect to be competitive, your firm will have to re-examine its jobs. And then proactively offer more remote work opportunities for newly open jobs. 

Globalized recruiting – Your own company needs to be able to take advantage of this newly expanded talent pool created by remote work. So, your sourcing capabilities will have to be dramatically expanded, so that your organization can find talent anywhere in the world. You will also need to upgrade your remote interviewing capability to remotely assess this talent.

Reveal that your work provides purpose – This #1 motivating factor is critical. So, you must make every effort to ensure that your recruiting materials and your interview pitches make it specifically clear how each of your open jobs allows the new hire to have their desired level of impact. 

Recruiter selling ability – Improve recruiters’ ability to convince candidates with multiple choices. You will need to ensure that each of your recruiters knows what each of your talent competitors has to offer. And then they should put together a side-by-side comparison selling sheet which allows managers to instantly understand the areas your company and the job are superior to each of your major talent competitors. 

Your job offers – You must reanalyze your jobs, compensation, and your benefits to ensure that they at least come close to those offered by the most powerful companies that offer remote work. And because remote work eliminates most visa issues, the international competition for recent university grads will also be highly impacted by remote work options.

 Steps For Identifying Your Specific Talent Competitors 

Once you realize that you have a broader range of new talent competitors, your next action area is to determine which specific companies that you are now competing against in each major job category. Some tips for identifying your talent competitors include:

 Ask during onboarding – Ask new hires on their first day where else they applied (or considered) and which other companies approached them. Ask if they got to the offer stage at any major competitor, find out what they were specifically offered, and in which areas were their pitches effective. If you’re not getting good responses from your new hires, let them provide anonymous answers.

 Have your recruiter ask –  Recruiters must routinely ask top candidates who else they are considering and where else are they interviewing.

 Utilize LinkedIn LinkedIn reveals where your departing employees ended up. Use it to determine where your best-departed employees went. Keep track of the overall departure trends to identify the companies that are the most successful at attracting your former talent.

Use a mystery shopper – Ask one of your most loyal employees in a key job family to enter the job market as your spy. And then use them to determine which firms are targeting you and what they are offering. An alternative is to talk to your employees that searched but decided to stay. And then ask them for the relevant information. 

Have your employees report recruiter attempts – Ask your top employees in job families that are being poached to keep track and report each month which companies contact them. If you get a low response rate, provide a reward for reporting the information or make the reporting process anonymous.

Poach a recruiter – Once you realize that a single company is successfully poaching you. Consider hiring away one of their recruiters to learn more about how they select candidates and the nuances of their successful recruiting approach. 

Ask during exit interviews whenever key people quit. During their post-exit interview, find out if they accepted a remote work opportunity. If the answer is yes, then explore how they were recruited and whether a change in your retention process would have prevented it.

Failure analysis – Whenever you lose a top candidate to a remote job opportunity, conduct a failure analysis to identify what you did right and what aspect of the recruiting process needs improvement.

 Final Thoughts 

Remote work options will create turmoil within the recruiting profession. So, it is critical that smart recruiting leaders put together a plan to identify the expanded list of companies that they are now actually competing against. Then, they should restructure their recruitment marketing so that top candidates find that your organization compares favorably in a side-by-side comparison with the major companies that you are now competing against. 

Author’s Note: Please pass this article around within your team and network. If it stimulated your thinking and provided actionable tips, also take a minute to follow and/or connect with Dr. Sullivan on LinkedIn

© Dr. John Sullivan 10/18/20 for the DJS Aggressive Recruiting newsletter

About Dr John Sullivan

Dr John Sullivan is an internationally known HR thought-leader from the Silicon Valley who specializes in providing bold and high business impact; strategic Talent Management solutions to large corporations.

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