The art of attracting, recruiting and retaining an existing applicant pool was the focus of the inaugural Northwest Arkansas Employee Solutions Summit held Friday (Jan. 29) in Fayetteville.
The event, hosted by the Davis+Delany consulting firm, focused on strategies for recruiting hourly employees.
The growing battle for companies to fill open or new positions has multiple components including finding employees trained in the needed skills, recruiting future employees to the area, and attracting applicants from an existing workforce. The latter issue is why Leigh Davis and Terry Delany realized the summit was necessary. The summit makes human resource experts from across industries in Northwest Arkansas aware of their company’s resources, but also gave the HR representatives the opportunity to learn practical strategies for attracting good applicants and reducing turnover.
Attracting good applicants in of itself is a multi-faceted issue, which was evident during the day-long summit.
Ray Hurban, CEO of MoxyOx, led off the discussion talking about high-impact marketing techniques. Employers must first determine what their ideal employee is, and then target that type of person. Once they understand what type of person the ideal candidate would be, they must “prepare the pitch” by having a job description that accurately communicates not only the job skills required for the position, but also the company’s core values.
“You need to communicate your core values and invite people to be a part of that,” he said.
How the pitch gets delivered is also vital. Employment ads should utilize channels that best fit the target applicant, not necessarily the company. This can include media, customer referrals, employee referrals, and social media platforms.
The final step is “making the catch,” Hurban said, including selling the right applicant on wanting to work for the company. Davis furthered the discussion about attracting enough applicants with the right message.
“While unemployment is coming down and it would appear there’s a long-term drought of qualified workers in nearly every business sector, there are still plenty of qualified applicants out there – ready to help you grow your business,” he said. “If you take a broad look at the way most companies advertise and market for applicants you’ll quickly discover a sea of sameness.”
“Most companies use the same methods as their competition,” Davis continued. “They use the same narrow band of resources to attract applicants, making it hard for applicants to distinguish one job or company from the other.”
He and Hurban spoke of the limited attention span many applicants have amidst the more than 5,000 advertising messages the average adults sees daily.
“You have to have the right message or people to take notice,” he said. “You have to do something different to stand out.”
Finding an applicant’s “pains” is an important part of the hiring process. Questions to ask during that process are:
• What do they need in regards of benefits?;
• What can we tell them it will be like to work at the company?
“We are a need-based society now,” Davis said. “When we share how we understand an applicant’s needs, we become a top choice employer.”
Other tips for successful advertising include choosing the right time and keywords in the advertisement.
Bob Arthur, from Future Achievement International, spoke of the need to build a high-performance culture within the company. He said having effective personality assessments improves the predictability of human capital decisions including organizational culture, talent acquisition, employee development, and retention strategy.
Arthur shared several statistics that demonstrate how company culture plays a major role in the ability to attract and retain good employees. For example, Bain & Company Research indicated that 70% of those surveyed said company culture gives an employer a potential advantage. Company culture is also important for keeping employees engaged.
“Disengaged employees eat your profits,” he said.
Arthur added that “people join companies but they leave supervisors” and according to the Saratoga Institute, 60% of turnover is due to character issues.
“Organizations should realize the vital importance of assessing an individual’s character and behavior DNA,” he said.
FAI offers a proprietary MERIT Profile assessment tool, he said. The need to know an applicant’s values before hiring is becoming increasingly necessary. He cited a local example of the workforce development plan created at the Springdale Chamber of Commerce. Part of that plan comes from a survey of more than 120 North Carolina businesses that shows positive character attributes are more widely needed compared to specific job skills.
Another important component is making expectations known at the time of hiring, as well as the need to follow up with how well those expectations are being met. Often employers don’t voice their specific expectations and naturally those expectations are not met, he said.
The second half of the summit focused on the need to rethink benefits packages. Delany spoke about how, with four generations now in the workplace, expectations of benefits are changing. The younger generations are more interested in benefits that are family-friendly, flexible, and fair.
In an interview before the Summit, Mike Harvey, chief operating officer of Northwest Arkansas Council, said addressing workforce shortage issues is “a marathon not a sprint.”
As we crawl out of the recession, the need for people is more broad based than it was four years ago, he said. Workforce development efforts continue in the realm of creating training programs to fill immediate needs, and “filling the pipeline” for future employment needs.