There’s always been points in time where talent supply has been scarce. Back in 1992, right after I left the French Army, I started a recruiting company in Europe because there was a huge gap in the talent market. Eventually, the markets reached a balance and we all got through.
All the chatter about the Great Resignation is similar. Except unlike in the 90s, employees today are firmly in the driver’s seat — and this situation just keeps going. 48 million people quit their job in the US in 2021, and 4.3 million in January. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen has warned that labor chain shortages could take two years to resolve.
Across the US economy, CEOs are feeling the pinch on their bottom line. True, consumers are fed up with mediocre service, delivery delays, and hearing about the talent shortages with the line, “Sorry, we are still short-handed due to Covid.”
But all of us need to stop reacting to fear-based headlines. Instead, as leaders, we need to get aggressive and creative about recruiting. For example, you’d think that looking within company walls for talent would be an obvious tactic, yet, according to recent research from my company, roughly 2 in 5 (38%) of companies we surveyed do not promote jobs internally.
Stop thinking about the Great Resignation as a doomsday scenario. Let’s reframe it as the “Great Rehire”, accept that traditional recruiting methods don’t cut it anymore and take action outside the box.
Doing everything right? This is why your employees are still leaving
CEOs I speak with feel are battling to stop the exodus. Many are more open to matching outside salary raises. Smaller companies often cannot match the salary or bonus offered by larger companies, however, especially in high-demand fields like tech. And monetary compensation is not always the cure-all.
In response, many companies have doubled down on promoting company culture, which can work wonders for keeping and attracting top talent. Not just ping-pong tables and snacks; I mean building a culture that aligns with company values, attracts the right candidates, offers real opportunity for those who stay, and increases retention.
Internal mobility is now catching on — as it has in the past. Retention, even if it requires salary hikes, is often cheaper and less disruptive than recruiting. From a recent study we conducted, 75% of employees who are promoted will stay with a company for at least three years. Changing roles ups the likelihood that a high performer will stay by over 20% — even without upgrading salary or title.
So, make sure those job openings are posted internally, and support managers who train talent worthy of promoting. But internal mobility is not the whole solution. To get ahead in this climate, you have to be dealing with the cards, not the other way around.
7 steps to use to take action
As a leader, there are innovative ways to find talent in creative and hands-on ways. Here are a few examples:
- Turn your recruiters into marketers. Sell your company with the same energy and passion that your marketing team promotes your products. The same marketing principles apply to recruiting. Get creative and reach people where they are. Engage marketing for strategy, web design, email outreach, and — perhaps most important of all — brand and messaging.
- Turn your employees into brand ambassadors. Tap into their networks. Incentivize them with referral fees, and make sure they know those payoffs are real, but go further: train them to act as recruiters wherever they goProvide helpful tools, like sample emails and texts to use, even “Looking for talent like you” images they can Airdrop at their gym in the business district . Feature your employees in podcasts and testimonial videos for 10x the engagement of written words.
- Look beyond your borders. Many companies still limit hiring to candidates close to their HQ. The world has changed. Talent is globally dispersed, and that’s where you can recruit it. There are tradeoffs, but great overseas talent is often skilled at running Zoom meetings in English at 3 am their time. Weigh it out: an empty position, or a skilled hire / contractor who is just as accessible as your domestic remote team.
- Engage to inspire and win them over. If your Careers page speaks from the heart,, it can cut through the noise. Job candidates like transparency and they have an identity, so you might display the team’s make-up — ie, “At our company, 40% of leadership is women.” Further, try to engage and inspire them with perks that are unexpected, yet could be hugely significant to the candidate. “You can choose to work out of our European offices in your second year!” “We will help you publish an article related to your work.”
- Pursue specific markets of candidates. Veterans, disabled persons, immigrants, graduate students, mothers, formerly incarcerated people. Depending on the types of positions, there may be a talent pool that is well suited, but finds it difficult to enter and stay in your work environment — or that your recruiting simply misses. If you learn what recruiting, perks, and workplace support are effective with a specific niche, you may find that you can offer a good fit. Immigrants from a particular country may gravitate to a company where some colleagues speak their first language and know their culture. Setting up childcare options and flexibility can be the ultimate deal-maker for parents of young children.
- Consider boomerang employees. Keep in touch with great people after they leave your company. Be the home they may return to. Some boomerang employees, or returning former teammates, can make great “new” additions to your staff. They may have left reluctantly, for pay hikes that you can now match. Devise ways to bring them back. Make them welcome; tailor benefits to them. Returnees cost less to recruit, onboard easily, and know how things work. Finally, incentivize your recruiting team to call on ex-employees, too.
- Be relentless about pursuing talent. May the best company win. Get proactive, and don’t wait for the best applicants to come to you. Give your recruiters the green light to be resourceful and creative. Study your competitors and learn where to differentiate, so when candidates decide between you and them, it’s a sure win.
There is no single formula to empower recruiting and make it more effective, but it’s imperative for most businesses to make a serious effort in these extraordinary times, and give recruiting the voice, the budget, and the latitude needed to win the simultaneous challenge of the “Great Rehire.”
Jerome is an entrepreneur and CEO of SmartRecruiters.