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December 23, 2009

Employment Suitors Calling?


[Cartoons courtesy of Grantland Cartoons]

If you're calling about new jobs with gratis (or should I say pro bono?) ice cream shops cubicle-side, complimentary concert tickets, and a hefty salary increase, there's a good chance your competitor's employees will be lured away. If not, I'm not so sure. With salary freezes and layoffs affecting so many industries, many workers know only an overwhelmingly impressive offer will induce them to take a chance with an unknown entity. The fear is they'll be jumping from the fryer to the fire. Sure, they're hardly in paradise at your company, but at least they've built up a base of support and trust with their manager and they've grown accustomed to the work. Their salary is frozen and they may be laid-off. But if your industry is still suffering, that same unstable scenario is likely at other similar companies, the ones most likely to court them.

To effectively court another company's employees, start improving conditions for those already on your payroll. Aside from it always being good business to motivate your workforce, happy employees will spread the word about their good work mood to friends in the same industry at other companies, and maybe even to the media. The monthly ice cream party with the free vanilla chocolate chip cookie dough scoops has not been in vain. How many of your employees, if you offered such a thing, would talk excitedly to friends about what a cool company they work for?  If you're a non-ice cream company, and like projecting a more stern tone to employees, you can still reap free ice cream-like benefits via gift cards, flex-time, or even greater development opportunities tied to rewards. What about an annual escape to the Caribbean in February for the company's top 20 high-performers?  Along with keeping workers thrilled with you, and making it more likely they'll have kind things to say about you to potential recruits, your human resources reps can use these perks to make the case for an employment switch to rival workforces.

What's your current pitch like?  Does it mostly focus on salary, or do you also emphasize the long-term stability of your company in an unstable economy?  Are there any business metrics you can share to convince new recruits they wouldn't make the jump to a new employer only to find themselves laid-off a few months later?  What's really sad is I was at a company, where a month after I was hired, an announcement was made that a department (luckily, selfishly speaking, not mine) was being "consolidated" and about a dozen workers would lose their jobs, including a young woman hired the same week as me. The story turned out well because that young lady found a new job within about two weeks, but still. That's a lot of trauma to go through. Who knows what she left to accept a new job with a company secretly preparing to do away with the department they hired her for.

That brings me to an important point about the C-suite adequately communicating with human resources and lines of business seeking new employees. Confidentiality about business strategy, including planned department consolidations, is understandable, but when luring competitor employees to your office, business ethics requires you not to hire them only to fire them before the year is out, doesn't it?  You may want to work with executives to set up quarterly confidential meetings about business decisions that will affect hiring and salaries. In addition to ethics, you have public relations to consider and the negative impact on future recruitment efforts of such a gaffe.

Is there any way to make the content of the work more fun for new recruits?  Personalization is big these days, so if there's a way to personalize the job role, drawing on strengths and interests particular to the person you seek to hire, so much the better. It pays to do your research before employment courting.  I hate to say it (lest it sound creepy), but you can find out a lot about potential new hires from the Internet when it comes to what they like. Aside from finding information ahead of time that may alert you that they'll be a poor corporate culture fit (they love dogs; your company tests cosmetics and drugs on dogs), you may discover they're a travel bug, have an enormous affinity for Asia, and speak fluent Chinese.  You weren't planning to, but now that you know the possible new employee is an Asia-phile, you could tell them about opportunities to aid in the research and development of new products targeting the Asian market.  Or you could tell them how they could put their knowledge of Asian culture to use in helping to design a new Website. "I'd be interested in hearing about best practices American-based companies could take from Asian companies in how they design and market their sites," you'd be smart to tell the subject of your courting.

Do you have work spaces you're proud of?  And is there a way to allow new employees to make themselves at home faster?  It's a good test of workplace environment to ask yourselves whether you'd consider it a wise move to ask those you're attempting to recruit to tour your office, both common spaces and up and down the cubicle aisles, and peering into offices. Is there a lot there you hope they wouldn't see, and too much that falls into that hope-they-don't-see category to chance a visit?  If you wouldn't consider your workplace decent enough not to deter recruits, chances are it's not helping your own workforce, and may even be driving some of them towards lower productivity and new employment (when/if they can finally find a good deal). If you determine your office is an embarrassment, ask yourself why for tips on improving enough to meet minimal livable-place-to-work standards ("great" isn't always doable, after all). Sometimes all you need are a few unused offices transformed into comfortable spaces with squishy sofas, foot rests, and tables with magazines and entertaining coffee table books to read and a sign on the door labeled "quiet room" to convince visitors you're a sympathetic employer interested in keeping workers happy. Is business going so swimmingly you don't have even one extra office to spare for a quiet room?  I just did a podcast, available within about a month on our training industry social networking site, www.trainingmagnetwork.com with Barbara Burke, the author of "The Napkin, The Melon, and The Monkey: How to Be Happy and Successful Simply By Changing Your Mind," on the topic of quiet rooms. Burke is a big proponent of them, and explained the whole thing to me. I'm a peaceful spaces-loving person, so she didn't have to argue the advantages of feet-up time too hard, but she makes compelling points.

Anyway, salary and office environment, including the spaces you (should) provide workers for respite, count when employment courting. Since most companies can't make promises these days, offering those you're attempting to recruit solace from corporate madness is the least you can do. An in-office ice cream parlor may be too tall an order for you, but what about a comfy chair to lounge in with the medical vanilla chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream they may need to make a run for in the middle of more days than you're willing to admit?

What's your value proposition to potential new hires?  What can you tell a competitor's employees about why they should work for you instead?


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