Attracting and selecting the right employees is a critical strategic human resources management (HRM) decision and is connected with many other facets of managing human resources (HR). The words of the former chief executive officer of General Electric, Jack Welch, are apposite: “Strategy begins with the people that you hire”. Welch’s advice is particularly appropriate in times when there is high demand for skilled employees, yet many organisations find it difficult to source appropriately talented people. Recruitment and selection are core elements of an organisation’s talent management system, as are development and assessment initiatives.
The first issue to consider is what approach the organisation will take to attract the right candidates. Recent thinking on HR suggests that organisations should market themselves as a “brand” (Minchington 2010) in the sense that, as a desirable place to work (and displaying certain characteristics), the organization can attract the best high-potential job applicants. With “brand awareness” in mind, a good starting point is then to analyse the strengths and weaknesses of the organisation as a whole, and in relation to the specific job under consideration.
This analysis might cover issues such as the organisation’s reputation, the intrinsic interest of the work on offer, role autonomy, pay rates, fringe benefits, career prospects, training and development opportunities, and the location of the workplace.
Attracting great employees is the crucial first step in any successful talent management program. Failing to attract the best employees will inevitably impact the quality of an organisation’s workforce and, in turn, its business success.
While most employers recognise the importance of attracting the most talented candidates, in practice, this can be difficult to accomplish. This section provides suggestions to employers seeking to maximise the effectiveness of their attraction strategies. It examines: recruitment advertising, employer branding and how employers can optimise their employee value proposition “employer of choice” status, employee referral schemes, how to attract former employees, how to attract overseas candidates and how to attract graduates. While the importance of each of these elements will differ from workplace to workplace, giving consideration to and ensuring the maximum effectiveness of each aspect allows employers to develop optimum attraction strategies for their workplace. The section concludes with a discussion of “Attraction in a nutshell”
Job advertisements need to be enticing and address the key candidate attractors outlined so far. However, it is critical that they are also sufficiently informative. According to a 2008 survey by talent management and recruitment provider, Hudson, 45 per cent of job seekers said that advertisements are not specific enough. The survey found that job seekers are particularly frustrated by vague role descriptions and failure to provide the company name.
In a study conducted by Drake International, it was revealed that upfront salary advertising is crucial, with 75 per cent of job seekers surveyed responding that it was important to know the salary range before submitting a job application.5 Salary information also ranked as critically important in the 2008 Hudson survey (with 86 per cent of job seekers saying that they would like to see such information) and the 2006 SEEK survey.6 Most job seekers are short of time and are not prepared to undergo a potentially extensive interview process only to find out that the salary is significantly lower than their current remuneration or salary expectations.7 A failure to include salary information may be the factor that tips a great candidate against applying for a job. In addition to salary, job advertisements should include information about8
The next step for employers in the job advertising process after addressing key candidate attractors and ensuring sufficient position information is provided is to make sure that the best candidates are exposed to their advertisements. There is a range of advertising forums that employers can use, although online advertising is the clear favourite for job candidates. According to the 2008 Hudson study, almost 90 per cent of job seekers use generic online job search sites at some stage during the job search process (for 46 per cent it was their main source), while the Drake International study found that one in every two job candidates solely use online job boards to find a job.9 Although online advertising is the dominant forum, 83 per cent use newspapers throughout their job search (for 17 per cent it was their main source) and 63 per cent use recruitment companies (for 16 per cent it was their main source).10 Employers should also think about narrower advertising sources which would allow them to reach target candidate groups. For example, Mars Australia (Mars), which has a site in Wyong, New South Wales, has focused on a particular commuter group, in addition to broader sources: Mars attracts and recruits staff from a number of different sources. The company consciously focuses on local recruitment and advertises in both local and national newspapers and magazines. For example, the “Coasties Program” focuses on the attraction of candidates who are commuting from the Central Coast to Sydney. Other more standard online methods (such as SEEK) are also used.
Cochlear has similarly considered the differing needs of its target talent pools in its advertising strategies: Cochlear’s experience has shown that it is critical to understand the motivation of each segment of the workforce. The human resources (HR) team has spent a great deal of time segmenting talent pools and understanding where the potential employee sources are for each segment. They believe that identifying the right channels (or pipeline) to source talent from the market is important and recruiting in a tightening labour market requires the thinking of a sales manager.
A trend in recruitment has been the increased focus on networking initiatives as a method of sourcing candidates. This can be used in conjunction with a formal referral scheme of the type mentioned previously. Networking involves a more or less constant search for top quality candidates. Existing organisational staff will regularly spread word-of-mouth information about available positions and look for superior candidates within their networks of friends and associates (eg through networking sites such as LinkedIn).
Other elements that can contribute to networking efforts involve the use of trade shows, customer contacts, academic connections and alumni networks, professional associations, recruiters and executive search firms. Specific initiatives might be to send current staff members to industry professional associations and to conferences where they are likely to meet potential candidates. Professional association websites and magazines have also been used to advertise for professional staff.
The benefits of “boomerangs” With the tightening labour market forcing employers to think more creatively about where they source their talent from, employers are increasingly maintaining links with their former employees in the hope that, one day, they may return to the organisation. Described as “one of the highest-quality sources of hires”, these “boomerang” employees already know the culture of the workplace and can fit back into it more easily than a new hire.12 As one HR manager has said: “The company benefits, because employees have more appreciation for their company when they choose to come back. They are also more well-rounded and are easier to integrate into systems and operations”.13 Furthermore, they return to the organisation with new skills developed during their time away, perhaps in an area or industry to which they did not have prior exposure. Upon their return, the organisation enjoys the benefit of those new skills. This is an advantage KPMG has observed:
KPMG also recognises the importance of attracting people back to the firm after they have had experience within industry or commerce, as this experience adds value to the service that they can provide to their clients.
Mars has also enjoyed the benefits of boomerang recruiting, including for a number of high-level appointments: The company has been particularly successful in rehiring a number of alumni after they have spent time in other organisations. The current Marketing Manager in the Food Division, the General Manager of the Snackfood Division and the People and Organisation Director are all former employees who, after time in other organisations, have returned to the Australian business.
Attracting great employees is a complex process, particularly in the current landscape, where talent is in high demand and there is relatively little of it. The previous commentary addresses a range of attraction techniques employers can adopt to survive in this aggressive climate. Distilled to their simplest, these techniques involve:
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