As anyone within the industry can attest, we sometimes get clients with extremely high expectations of the talent they want to hire, when compared to what their employer brand, reputation and even budget, can attract. Often, their checklist of hard and soft skills usually means that there are very few people in the market that can take on a role. For example, in Singapore itself, there are approximately 250 people in the UX community, people with deep or some knowledge and skills in UX from research, strategy, architecture, content, product and design; half of these being in junior roles and less than 5% being at Director Level. Throw in required soft skills or other factors such as management, minimum number of years of experience and need for extensive local market experience that number shrinks even more.
It is a challenge not just within the UX community though; this covers many specialist areas such as data, content, UI design and the list goes on. There’s also an increasing skills gap across the globe as traditional educational institutions struggle to keep up with the developments in the market. Sometimes, as soon as the course content is signed off the industry has moved on, and this is particularly true within technology where progress takes place every day. In recent news, coding has been introduced as part of the curriculum, some even starting them as young as kindergarten.
Education aside, for hiring at some levels there might only be 10 people that have the requisite skills for a role, so the real question is “Do I want to hire the best person I can find right now (which means compromising in some areas) or do I want to hire the best person in the market (which may take more time and cost)?’’ Take that into account with the fact that an average tenure in a role is now about 2.5 years, if there’s only 10 people that could take on your role, you might have to wait many years to actually meet everyone in the market. And don’t forget, you (as a boss) or your company might not be what some of these people are looking for.
So what’s an employer to do?
There are a handful of companies that have epic candidate attraction skills, and they normally make Fortune’s Top 500 list. They offer the best employer brand, benefits and pay scales, and are often leaders in their industry. For these companies, they sometimes don’t even require a job posting as they get inundated with excellent CVs vying for attention. The challenge for them is more about selection of talent and holding on to their staff who are frequently headhunted. But what about the other 98% of companies out there who need to recruit?
There are four key factors to consider when you’re looking to hire in a timely manner:
1) Understand the size of the talent pool – How many people are there in the local market that can fulfil your role? Are you restrained geographically? If your search is global, then naturally the talent pool grows bigger. Consider hiring a more junior (or senior) candidate and it grows bigger still.
2) Be aware of your employer brand and your company’s reputation – Dissect your brand, products or services, and work culture as a whole, then think of a league table with all your competitors in; where do you rank?
3) The calibre of the people you want / need – Are you looking for someone who’s going to fast track through the company and destined for the top OR do you need a solid and safe pair of hands that is reliable?
4) Who else is looking for the same talent and where does the talent want to go? For example, talented developers are pursued by start-ups, agencies, software companies, management consultancies and for in-house roles at corporations. Who are you competing with for talent and which company types are they looking to move towards?
Once you’ve considered the above, you should have a rough gauge of how many people “should” be interested your role. If you estimate about 75-100 people, then you shouldn’t have too much of a challenge attracting people. If it’s less than 30, then it’s time to make a hiring attitude adjustment and start looking at the following solutions:
- Be realistic. If your employer brand and company reputation is at the bottom of the league, don’t expect the people in the top to want to join, unless you can offer something really unique. Put yourself in the mind-set of top talent in a competitor and evaluate what can you offer that they can’t get in their current company e.g. faster growth, uncapped earning potential, greater say in product development, etc.
- Start looking for alternative backgrounds to widen the search. Here are 2 examples
1) Look for people with the right transferable soft skills – having a high E.Q, leadership or time management skills, creativity or even problem-solving skills, is not something that everyone has. These skills are more difficult to come by than hard skills. If you find a candidate that’s a champion in the soft skills arena, but is lacking in some other criteria, adjust your expectations accordingly and come to a compromise.
2) Hire someone more junior and train up in terms of hard skills – opening up the hiring range to those who are more junior does have its advantages. First, you’re more likely to retain them for a longer time as they are often eager to learn and will stay if they are allowed to gain more experience and skills. Second, they command less pay than senior levels in exchange for training on the job.
- Open up the brief to international candidates. Local market experience can be learned and the value of bringing in someone from another culture/country means a different perspective and ideas. Look for countries that have a similar or more sophisticated market, with ideally similar or lower pay scales.
- Open up your role to contractors, freelancers or consultants.Whilst the ideal route in hiring someone might be on a permanent basis, who should in theory be more committed, there are lots of very talented people who are looking for a more flexible working arrangement. If you can get the right contract in place for length, notice and rate, this opens up many more options
- Sub contract a specialist company/consultancy. A continuation of the point above, if you are looking to build a new department, why not find a company that specialises in this discipline; have them white label and embed a team, and task them to recruit and replace themselves out over a 6-12 month period.
- Work on your employer brand. Investing in research to understand your reputation and having the correct platforms and tools to attract people helps build talent pipelines. This is actually a much bigger area than a few points, and I will go into more detail in my next blog.
- Hire a really good recruitment company to find you people! Of course, I believe this should be point number 1 on the list, but the right talent partners can navigate you through the talent pool. This is because recruitment companies can already understand your employer brand and reputation then shape a brief to get you the best person at the right time. For some ideas on what makes a good recruitment company check out my last post: Pay Peanuts, Get Monkeys
I’m not saying that you shouldn’t aim high when looking for talent – people are after all an organisation’s biggest asset, and it is especially important to employ the right individuals from the start. However, companies should be realistic and open minded in order to hit the hire in a good time frame to support their business – if additional expenditure and resources are required for the outlay to find the right people, then they should be prepared to do so. If facing restraints in these areas, then adjust your expectations and strategy, because if you don’t, you may find yourself in a room with empty desks and ultimately, unhappy clients.
- Looking for people