Human resources is often thought of as art — lending a bit of mystery to the ability to find talent that fits perfectly into an organization, adds value and stays for the long haul, said Dan Chappell, the executive vice president and chief human resources officer at Seacoast Bank.
But that thinking is flawed according to Chappell.
When you put the hiring process for talent on a pedestal, you turn it into a nearly impossible feat. The anxiety around making the wrong decisions may push you to invest heavily in outside resources to make sure it’s done right. In reality, though, successful talent acquisition strategies are far simpler than that.
“Talent management and talent acquisition is about relationships,” Chappell explained. “Any small business owner knows about the importance of relationships to the business. You’re always networking. You just need to turn the switch a little bit to think about it not just as revenue generation, but also about talent acquisition.”
"That shift in perspective requires a shift in approach,” Chappell said. Many businesses, especially small to midsized companies, don’t focus enough on talent acquisition budgeting. They may set aside a chunk of money to invest with a recruiting firm, hoping to offload the process.
But Chappell argues that you can get far better results investing in relationships to find the right talent. As a result, he recommends companies consider talent acquisition budgeting in a different way.
“Time is our most precious asset, particularly when you’re running a small to midsized company,” Chappell said. “And entrepreneurs tend to assume the bulk of that time needs to be spent building connections that will generate revenue.”
But Chappell argues that shouldn’t be your sole focus as you’re networking. “As you build your business, relationships can and should lead to talent pools as much as they lead to revenue pools,” he said. “It’s not necessarily additional time. It’s putting a different lens on the time that you’re spending.”
Chappell recommends leveraging existing opportunities, such as corporate events or speaking engagements, to look for talent. Social media can be a great way to understand the extent of your existing connections. He also advocates assessing what matters most to your company and going places where you’re likely to find those with similar values.
“Something that’s extremely important to the culture of Seacoast, for example, is our promise of investing in the communities we serve and in our associates. So, one of our greatest recruiting tactics is setting up booths at community events,” Chappell said. “The best places for us to recruit are places where people of a similar mindset are gathered.”
"The talent you already have within your organization can be a great source of candidates for future opportunities, provided you’re willing and able to invest in developing them," Chappell said.
"The talent you already have within your organization can be a great source of candidates for future opportunities, provided you're willing and able to invest in developing them."
Promoting from within can be good for lots of reasons. For one, rewarding current employees with new opportunities increases retention, which is critical in a tight labor market. Also, you shorten the time needed to fill a given position, which reduces your cost of vacancy.
The question is, how is your organization putting the resources in place to ensure your existing talent can grow into other roles? “Talent development is a good mix of exposure, experience and education,” Chappell said. “It’s about not always thinking of it as education and going back to school but scanning everything that’s available, including the opportunities under your roof.”
In addition, companies can leverage free community-based opportunities, such as leadership courses available through local chambers of commerce. They add a leadership element to up-and-comers, but it’s also a networking and relationship building opportunity for the people you send.
Among the biggest mistake companies make in their talent acquisition strategies is hiring on the basis of a resume. “You’ve got to spend time with someone, collect behavioral examples and understand cultural fit,” Chappell said.
So rather than setting aside money to hire an external recruiting firm, Chappell recommends allocating a fraction of those funds to put employee referral programs in place, essentially rewarding your team for recommending their friends and acquaintances to apply. Not only can that help you attract the right kind of people to your organization. It can make it happen faster than by taking more traditional routes.
At Seacoast, for example, the impact of associate referrals can be seen in the bank’s turnover rate. “Not only is our time to fill roles extremely narrow, but also our retention rate is about 10% above norm. And that’s largely due to employee referrals,” Chappell said.
When you bring someone into your organization, it comes with a cost. You have a new salary to pay, benefits to offer and onboarding to execute. You have to budget for all of that, and the best time to do that is long before the need arises.
Chappell recommends small to midsized businesses look 18 months out. Determine the revenue you’ll need to generate to afford those additional expenses, and if that revenue may not materialize in time for the new hire, consider taking out a loan or a line of credit.
The idea of using financial vehicles to cover those costs can make some executives uneasy, and with good reason: 30% of job seekers have left a job within the first 90 days, according to the 2018 Jobvite Job Seekers Survey. Bad experiences and poor cultural fit were among the main causes.
If you’re hiring off of relationships and referrals, you could head those bad hires off at the pass. “You will have a clearer view and the confidence that your hire is going to be successful because you’ve been watching this person interact in this market for the last 18 months,” Chappell said. “You see the connections they’re making and the success they’re having, and you’re going to take out that line of credit because you know they’re going to be successful.”
By Mary Johnson, a freelance writer for The Business Journals.