“I Can’t Find Good Candidates!”

Introduction:  Despite the slowww recovery, with stubborningly high unemployment and underemployment, clients large and small complain that they just are not finding enough A Player candidates. Fortunately there ARE solutions. (This article is focused on the U.S., but many of the proposed solutions will apply throughout the world).

The Problem(s):  Some researchers say there really is NO skills gap, but a survey of 5,000 CEOs in 2013 resulted in 76% saying finding qualified candidates IS a problem. And in 2013, 500 hiring managers surveyed agreed with the statement:  “I don’t like to settle for a candidate with less than perfect qualifications.”

Clearly U.S. managers are not satisfied with candidates and they (and you) can rattle off the problems:  our poor education system (“candidates can’t do basic math”); Millennials (“spoiled, entitled, lazy, not loyal to employers”); companies cutting training (only 21% of workers say they haven’t had any company training in 5 years); a decline in registered apprenticeships; and a hesitancy for workers to relocate to where their skills are more needed.

Possible Solutions:

  • Check out local community colleges and training companies for training and apprenticeship programs. Some institutions have their own, and some don’t, but would partner with companies to develop programs. Dev Bootcamp is a private company offering a nine-week techie program in San Francisco, with school openings scheduled in New York and Chicago. They boast a 95% graduation rate and average starting salary of $80,000.
  • Hire local instructors for summer projects … mostly as payment for their recommending that you recruit the students they think would be A Players in your company. Many clients have done this over the years. Maybe the schools are not so hot and the graduates (high school or college) are not so skilled, BUT because of instructor recommendations, you can hire the best available. And before hiring people full time …
  • Hire part-time and summer employees as inexpensive “trainees,” impress them with your culture and opportunities, and then hire them full time.
  • Create your own apprenticeship programs.  Hypertherm hires 16 people at a time, pays them $13 per hour for the nine-week program, and then offers the best a $14 per hour job that is apt to pay $17 per hour in a couple of years. It costs $9,000 per person, and some trained get hired away. Urban Institute surveyed 1,000 companies with apprenticeships, and half said poaching is a problem, but 85% said they’d do it anyway because it is the most cost-effective solution. To retain your A Players at every level …
  • Create and maintain an awesome organizational culture.  Of the 40 recent Topgrading case studies, the average improvement was from 26% to 85% A Players hired and promoted. Advice from the CEOs commonly was to become a “Best Company to Work For” in order to both attract and retain terrific performers at every level in the company. Attitudes of workers in any company are easy to learn on social media, so a positive culture is definitely a magnet, particularly for younger workers. This is a MUST solution!
  • Become a magnet for Millennials.  I co-authored a Topgrading Tips article on Millennials with the #1 author on Millennials – Chip Espinoza. Get this: Chip says over 50% of workers in five years will be Millennials, so you MUST adapt to their needs. They want to be trained, given recognition, have meaningful work, be praised when they perform well, and they don’t mind teaching older workers technology. So what if they feel entitled, don’t want to work weekends, don’t feel natural loyalty to any employer, and text their friends all day.  Adapt or … you will be left with C Player Millennials.  Good grief – this is another MUST solution.
  • LOWER your talent bar.  Huh? Dr. Topgrading himself, who stresses hiring only the top 10% at every salary level, suggests what, LOWERING your job requirements? That’s right, but read the fine print here. In the Problem section above I said a lot of hiring managers and HR people want FULLY qualified candidates, but if there are not enough, keep the most important qualifications but lower the bar on the trainable qualifications. Hire the top 10% of talent, meaning smart, hard-working, honest, team players who work well with people (and more), but instead of seven years of experience and college degree, maybe cut it to four years of experience and instead of requiring a college degree, require “some college or college equivalent experience.”  The point – hire A Potential raw talent and then train and coach them up the learning curve.
  • Consider the 55+ age group.  There are thousands of A Players who were laid off or offered early retirement and they are bored, need money, are healthy as hell, will be capable of 20 more years of productive work, and to get back to work part time or full time, they might be willing to work at a much lower salary than they got in the past.
  • Pay more.  ‘Thanks, Brad, I always knew that “solution.”’  This is the “rude awakening” solution. But after reviewing the above solutions, paying 20% more to get the seven years of experience might be worth it, if you just cannot wait while the person you hired with five years of experience gets up to speed.

Conclusion: All we can do is accept the challenge of “not enough A Player candidates” and adapt, but please find ways to hire the raw talent, the A Potentials, and not compromise by hiring people who are not so smart, motivated, loyal, honest … you get it!

Published on June 3, 2014

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