Recruiting Talent to Unglamorous Places, Part 3

Firms that are located in less-than-glamorous locations still need to attract top talent. What is required is a recruiting plan with four elements:

  1. Find those with an established family or school connection to the area.
  2. Use reverse marketing to find people who like the features in your region.
  3. Become a magnet firm, or employer of choice.
  4. Build a personal relationship with the identified candidates.

Elements #1 and #2 were covered in previous weeks. This article covers the rest of the strategy. 3. Becoming a Magnet Firm Most firms emphasize their product brand as a key asset in attracting customers. A strong brand works especially well when it is a new or little known product. Well. the same is true for a firm’s employment brand. It is the most powerful (but also most underutilized) tool for attracting people to isolated regions and other less-than-desirable locales. The ultimate recruiting strategy is to build a reputation as a great place to work. This reputation can act like a magnet to draw people to almost any area, because the company is so widely respected. The principle works for companies in hard-to-recruit regions just as magnet schools attract students to difficult areas. Becoming a magnet firm is a continuous process. but some of the steps you might take include:

  1. Winning best-place-to-work awards
  2. Getting talked about in industry and business publications
  3. Enhancing your employee referral program

Winning Awards Almost without exception, companies that win awards for being great places to work have no difficulty in recruiting talent. In fact, for magnet firms recruiting becomes more of a matter of resume sorting than candidate finding. Becoming a magnet firm starts with a concerted effort to win awards. For U.S. firms, the ultimate award to win is placement on either the Fortune or the Working Mother best-place-to-work lists. Canadian firms are challenged, because not all Canadian firms qualify for these awards?? so most Canadian firms are happy to stick with winning Canadian best place to work awards. This is a mistake, because there are other ways for firms to become recognized as an “employer of choice” in addition to awards. The most prominent of these other approaches is becoming a talked about firm. Getting Talked About A magnet firm is a company that is familiar to everyone. Gaining publicity and press exposure can make a major contribution towards becoming a magnet firm. Becoming “talked about” is a deliberate PR effort that includes:

  1. Getting the firm profiled in articles
  2. Authoring articles about major business problems and your firm’s solutions
  3. Having your managers speak at conferences and public events
  4. Utilizing normal company PR events to spread your great-place-to-work image
  5. Having the firm’s great people practices highlighted in benchmark studies
  6. Getting your managers quoted in leading publications

It doesn’t matter if a magnet firm is located in a remote area, because people will come anyway if you are a magnet company. For example 3M, SC Johnson, and Dayton Hudson are all great companies even though they are located in Minnesota and Wisconsin. Their great products and management practices make them desirable to anyone who wants to move up from their current company to the clear industry leader. Get Your Firm Talked About Begin the process becoming a “talked about” firm by highlighting the best aspects of the company and its products. These features (which are often called “non-monetary” job features) need to be highlighted in articles, recruitment materials. and interviews. Things to highlight might include:

  • Demonstrating that your products make a difference?? show that your products and services change lives and make the world better place to live
  • Outlining your company’s economic success as a market leader and as an innovator in products
  • Demonstrating your company’s steady job growth, job security, and history of no layoffs
  • Showing that you offer the best technology, equipment, and tools to help you do a great job

Get Your Management Features Talked About It’s not enough to have the best management practices; you must also publicize them so that potential applicants are aware of them. There are several management practices that should be publicized. Some of the most important ones include:

  • Your flexible management style relating to flextime and working at home
  • Your support for innovation and new ideas
  • How performance is recognized and rewarded
  • Promotional opportunities and chances to learn and grow

You should also provide other authors with information about your best practices and unique or outstanding benefit programs. Enhance and Reinvigorate Your Employee Referral Program There are never enough recruiters to spread the word about a great company. However, if you turn every employee into a recruiter, you will find that it is much easier to get the message out. A great referral program has employees, their friends and families talking up the firm during every waking hour. Successful referral programs make sure that employees have enough information about their people programs, so that they can spread the best message to others. Effective referral programs also have few administrative rules, and in addition to a bonus for each referral, they ensure that employees who actively refer are recognized and rewarded as part of the regular performance appraisal and employee recognition processes. 4. Building a Personal Relationship With the Candidate The first elements of our plan to recruit in hard-to-attract areas focused on finding and attracting candidates. But after you identify your target candidates through the three major approaches (through a connection with the area, reverse marking, or becoming an magnet firm), the next step is to begin to build a trust relationship with them. This last element, in contrast to finding, focuses on the selling process. The goal here is to stretch out the selling process to allow more time to build a personal relationship with candidates and their families. This relationship is necessary because a higher level of trust is required when you are attempting to relocate someone to a less desirable area. Why Build a Relationship? Firms in desirable areas can make fast offers and still have a high acceptance rate. Unfortunately, in hard-to-hire regions, it will take a lot more trust built over time to make the sale. Even if you convince the candidate, she is likely to be deluged with doubts and criticism when she tells her friends that she is considering this move to “nowhere.” Relocating to another region is a major decision, and it is important for candidates to take a slow but deliberate approach. Begin the relationship-building process through constant communication and by gradually providing candidates with more information and answers to their (and their friends’) doubts. By moving slowly you can eventually turn them into colleagues and friends that trust you. This trust will increase your recruiting success rate dramatically. Steps in Building the Relationship Some of the approaches you can use to build a relationship with your target candidates include:

  • Sponsor a trade conference, certification course, benchmarking event, or professional seminar in your headquarter city or even at your corporate site. By getting candidates to meet your employees and see your facilities, you can more easily alleviate a lot of their fears and begin to build a relationship that might eventually lead to a hire.
  • Get employees who have recently relocated from their region to serve as the principal point of contact. Employees who have actually made a successful transition will be more knowledgeable and convincing than traditional recruiters.
  • Identify the candidate’s family’s concerns and then provide them with information that is targeted directly to these concerns. If you convince their families that the move is okay, the rest is relatively easy.
  • Increase the candidate’s knowledge and involvement with the company during the relationship-building period by making them product evaluators or even hiring them as advisors and consultants (during their vacation time or over long weekends). It often helps to invite them up for a little work coupled with a short vacation to let them see the area.
  • Hold a team meeting at industry trade fairs and conferences (that they would normally attend) and invite candidates to participate and see how you work together.
  • Develop an e-newsletter to keep candidates informed about the company and your product developments.
  • Get candidates’ permission to periodically send them notices of job opportunities that might fit their interest.
  • Have one of your senior employees serve as an “electronic” remote mentor to help candidates further develop in their current job, which will also increase the chances that someday they will want to work for you.
  • Where technically possible, provide them with access to the non-confidential parts of your company’s website so they can learn more about you.

Conclusion There is nothing inherently wrong with these “unglamorous” areas. This is demonstrated everyday by the fact that most people born in these areas love it and stay forever?? you can’t pull them away. But because of the stereotypes we all carry, it does take a more deliberate and scientific approach to identify and convince people to come and work in the “frozen tundra” and other areas like it. There is no magic in recruiting individuals into difficult geographic areas. It just requires more time and patience as well as some unique approaches if you expect to be successful. If you work in these areas and are having a difficult time recruiting, I recommend that you rethink your current approach. Try something different like reverse marketing, becoming a magnet firm, or finding individuals who already have a connection with your geographic area. But remember that it takes more than a few new tools to win this battle. It also takes an attitude! Most managers and recruiters from these areas start with an inferiority complex. If you or your managers come across as second-class citizens who have to apologize for where they work, you are destined to lose the recruiting battle. Whether you live in beautiful areas like Minnesota, Vancouver, or any other remote area, you need to approach recruiting with an attitude. If you don’t believe yourself that you live and work in the most desirable area on the planet, no one else will either!

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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