Win-win recruitment not a simple formula

The Financial Post, Denise Deveau, January 2014

The fight for the best and the brightest is a two-way street these days. As the war for high-level talent heats up, companies are learning that being a winning employer is more than a salary play. Sought-after candidates, for their part, are increasingly discerning, and calling the shots on what employers need to do to win them over and keep them for the long term.

A Hays Canada study of 5,000 respondents, more than half of which were senior to mid-level management, provides a telling testament to what candidates are seeking. With that knowledge in hand, the question to ask is, can they find it?

Not surprisingly salary is weighted at 45 out of 100, followed by career growth opportunities (20 points), benefits (18 points), and corporate reputation/culture (16 points). That’s only logical, said Rowan O’Grady, president of Hays Canada in Toronto.

“Rarely will someone accept less money than they are currently making. But you can’t build a recruitment strategy around the fact you pay high salaries. There’s always someone who will pay more than you.”

Getting the right win/win scenario for both parties is much more than that. Some telling stats indicate that while salary is a concern, there are trade-offs such as opportunity and benefits that count for much more. For example, 60% of respondents say they would consider a 20% cut to their basic salary for the potential to increase their pay through performance-related bonuses. A similar percentage would take a reduction in compensation and seniority if they could have two or more additional weeks of vacation.

“People really value those things,” Mr. O’Grady said.

Opportunities for advancement and variety are also key attributes on an employee or candidate wish list, he said. “Many [employers] are learning to give them new projects or roles. The challenge for companies is to proactively move people around organizations and departments to keep them engaged and motivated. If experienced skilled consumers of the work experience are satisfied they will not leave.”

Company reputations and market profile also are becoming more a front-and-centre issue for companies trying to differentiate themselves as an employer of choice. “You need it to create a compelling reason for someone to come to work for you,” Mr. O’Grady said.

“To be an employer of choice, your brand needs to be your culture and your culture needs to be your brand,” Marty Parker, chairman and chief executive of Waterstone Human Capital in Toronto said. “Only then will people want to stay with you.”

Brand integrity is essential in a world where any candidate or competitor can find out a wealth of information on former and current employees simply by spending a few minutes on social media, he said. “What you say you are needs to be consistent with what you really are.”

One way to address this is with a cultural assessment in which you can articulate your goals. This will help immensely in the recruitment stages, because you have a clearer understanding of what a candidate can offer beyond technical skills. Otherwise, a prize candidate could easily move on within a year or two.

Most experts say getting the message to resonate across the board is a growing challenge, given that employers are working with multi-generational workforces with disparate needs. Boomers, who tend to respond more to job stability and structure, are not leaving as early as expected; while incoming millennials are looking for variety, innovation and opportunities for advancement. Thaqt means employers need to be flexible in their approach without losing their core values or messaging.

“Younger generation workers don’t look at it as a job. They see their career as a series of projects,” Mr. Parker said. “They want to do interesting work that’s meaningful for them. The best employers get that. If they don’t, people won’t work for them.”

Generational preferences aren’t the only differentiator. Gender and education can both play a deciding role on both sides of the table. An Ipsos Reid study commissioned by Randstad Canada in Toronto, found men and women tend to focus on different attributes.

“Flexible work arrangements, accessibility and pleasant environment for example are ranked among the most important attributes for women,” said Tom Turpin, president. “More men rank financial healthy companies with strong management first, followed by salary and career prospects.”

The study also shows that university and graduate students are attracted to employers that offer more interesting job content, progression and work-life balance; while those with less education are concerned about job security and training.

Whether looking at age, gender or education, employers need to fine tune their messaging to attract different audiences, Mr. Turpin said. At the same time, it’s essential to stick to basics that hold true across the board.

“Employees want to feel their skills are valued and that they add value. Corporate reputation is another. Company values are very, very big, even in small circles. People want to work for good companies.”