As we head into 2020, the economy and business trends feel more unpredictable than ever. Steering any business, large or small, is always a challenge and today’s endless streams of political, economic, and tech headlines only serve to amplify those challenges.
That’s all the more reason to anchor your business where it really matters in 2020 — in your hiring process and your talent.
An engaged, skilled, and excited staff is the greatest asset any business can have, so recognizing and growing talent at your business should be a top priority in the coming year. High retention rates save you money, deepen your culture, and strengthen your business as a whole.
However, hiring and recruiting are still essential elements of growth. After all, attracting and securing the right talent for your organization are the first steps to accomplish before you can even think about retaining those individuals’ talents over the long run.
Remember that the labor and recruiting landscape is constantly changing. The strategies that served you well last year (let alone five or ten years ago) could almost certainly use some updates. How can you be sure you’re approaching recruitment as efficiently and effectively as possible for 2020?
At Astron Solutions, our expertise centers around HR and compensation strategy for nonprofits and small businesses. We’ve helped plenty of organizations, like nonprofits, that are often thought of as uncompetitive employers (not true!) lay strong foundations for attracting and retaining the talent they need. We’ve gathered a few insights into the hiring landscape of 2020 to help make sure your own business gets started on the right foot:
- Embrace hiring technology.
- Prioritize flexibility in your benefits.
- Develop a clear and authentic employer brand.
- Hire for culture growth, not just culture fit.
- Implement a robust referral program.
Ready to get started? Let’s dive in.
1. Embrace hiring technology.
To begin, it’s important to note that tech is the new normal in most aspects of business. Chances are slim you’re handling your entire recruiting process by hand, pen, and paper, but if you are it’s definitely time to upgrade.
Even the typical process of fielding submitted applications, emailing back and forth, and manually tracking a candidate through the recruiting process leaves a lot of room for improvement. Not only can critical details (or even excellent candidates!) fall through the cracks, you probably aren’t offering your candidates the best experience and impression of your company.
In 2020, you should definitely prioritize implementing some form of new hiring technology into your processes. Each particular tool will offer its own set of features of benefits, but the underlying idea is the same. Integrating tech into your hiring process gives you:
- A more streamlined candidate experience
- Quantifiable ways to measure success over the long run
- Simplified backend recruiting tasks for your team
If you’ve already got a fairly high-tech process in place for screening candidates, collaborating with your team, and analyzing your options, look for additional tools that can strengthen your existing approach. Video interview software is a great example. It offers a more streamlined, customizable, and personable experience that your current process might be missing.
If you are starting from scratch or looking to make more substantive additions to your recruiting and HR toolkits this year, comprehensive talent management software might be a smart move. Talent management software that includes recruiting tools can help you track and manage applicants through the whole process and then drastically streamline onboarding once they’ve joined the team.
If a larger-scale update sounds right for your business, check out our complete guide to talent management software for a full rundown of the types of features to look for.
2. Prioritize flexibility in your benefits.
There’s no denying that benefits are an important part of what makes an employer attractive to candidates. In recent years and into 2020, one of the most popular benefits with employees across a wide variety of businesses and sectors is flexibility — specifically, flexible scheduling and remote work options.
From a combination of the pressures of today’s economy and the rapid advancement of online collaboration and communication tools, more and more employees greatly value the ability to work from home (or on-the-go) and to deviate from the traditional 9-5 workday as needed. Of course, your business’s ability to offer these types of benefits will depend on a number of unique factors, but it’s worth thinking through your options.
For small businesses or other organizations that might struggle to position themselves as extremely competitive employers, taking a flexible approach to benefits can definitely give you a cutting edge. Whether you’re competing for top talent in an extremely tight market or simply can’t afford to offer an eye-popping salary package, looking to the more indirect ways that employees are compensated at your business is a smart start.
These types of benefits tie directly into the concept of indirect compensation (including benefits, savings plans, insurance, etc. plus more intangible elements like culture and management styles). Thinking of these indirect forms of compensation as their own category apart from direct compensation (salary and bonuses) gives you a more useful framework for approaching benefits more strategically.
After all, we’ve found again and again with our own clients that these more indirect elements generally play the biggest roles in engagement and retention down the line. Creating a group environment where people want to work and are excited to contribute (as opposed to simply earn a large paycheck) generates much more long-term value, and indirect compensation plays a huge role in making that happen.
Compensation experts with experience in your particular sector will be able to offer more exact recommendations and potentially help you develop the perfect compensation and benefits packages for your various pay grades.
3. Develop a clear and authentic employer brand.
The idea of creating an ‘employer brand’ for your business has been around for a while now. The basic idea is to consciously develop an identity for your company that communicates to current and potential employees what it’s like to work for you. However, this concept often gets oversimplified and treated as more of a marketing ploy than as a meaningful way to differentiate your business and stake out your values.
Having a clear employer brand is more important than ever today with the rise of corporate social responsibility as a powerful force guiding consumer choices. Younger generations in the workforce, particularly Millennials and Gen Z, greatly prioritize employer brands that put their social values and their people front and center. Startup and tech culture over the past two decades have pushed the envelope here in terms of employee expectations for socially-conscious branding.
However, it’s very important to note that audiences, especially the top talent that you’re hoping to attract, have less patience than ever for inauthentic or superficial brands. We see it happen on social media constantly — corporations experiencing painful public backlash in reaction to incidents or developments that seemingly reveal their missions and messaging to be misleading or inauthentic.
Growing businesses can greatly benefit from developing a bold, clear, and authentic employer brand, but it takes more meaningful effort than market testing causes to champion.
Think about your business’s values. What makes it tick? Why do you do what you do? If you do your job well, how can it impact your customers and community? Then, rather than making grand or exaggerated claims about your business’s deeper goals or impact, be realistic about how you can do your part to make your community or environment a better place. Then actually do it!
There are easy, concrete steps you can take to strengthen your brand as an employer who genuinely takes the time to act on its stated mission. Consider these ideas:
- Focus on recognition and openness. Recognizing your employees for their contributions and developing a positive culture that aligns with your stated values goes a very long way in making your business a place where people will want to work. This should be the bedrock of any effective employer brand.
- Develop corporate philanthropy policies. Creating a simple matching gift program is an easy way to put your money where your mouth is, so to speak, by directly supporting the causes that your own employees are passionate about. Check out Double the Donation’s guide to these programs to learn the basics.
- Set internal goals related to your mission and brand. Aside from strictly business-oriented goals, think about other types of employee-centric or impact-related goals. This is a great way to show employees and candidates that you take your mission, brand, and identity seriously.
The general idea with this tip is that employees and candidates are still drawn to businesses that stand for something, but it’s just more important than ever that those values and positions be backed up with real actions and policies. When it comes to employer branding, people-forward authenticity should always be the goal, not empty phrases that tend to come off more as marketing strategies.
4. Hire for culture growth, not just culture fit.
Prioritizing candidates who are team players and will fit naturally into your company’s existing culture is a classic strategy and for good reason. It’s an effective way to help minimize the risk of internal disruptions and avoidable turnover.
However, it’s also important to recognize some of the limitations of hiring along strict lines of culture fit. Think of it this way: hiring for culture fit is an ideal solution if you feel that your company’s culture is absolutely perfect right now and that your business goals will never change. Chances are neither of those conditions apply to you, right? This exercise is a bit hyperbolic, but the main idea is that your company’s people play a huge role in shaping your culture, and your culture plays a huge role in determining your business’s adaptability.
A culture made up of employees with similar personalities and backgrounds won’t be able to adapt to changing priorities and business needs nearly as effectively as a more diverse team full of people who can approach challenges in different ways. Plus, companies with employee populations that are too similar might be inadvertently violating discrimination laws and should definitely take another look at their hiring practices.
As you search for and begin engaging with candidates in 2020, conduct your interviews with culture growth in mind. Evaluate your company culture as it is today. Ask yourself questions like:
- What are our team’s current strengths? Weaknesses?
- How do our personalities and problem-solving styles play into those strengths and weaknesses?
- What are our priorities for the coming years?
- What problems or challenges are we currently dealing with or expecting in the future?
Try to think of ways that new team members could help strengthen your culture or grow your collective skillset. Avoid asking candidates negatively-framed questions that might give off an impression of your culture being restrictive or stuck in its ways.
Alongside the rise of corporate social responsibility and employer branding, diverse company cultures that include people of all different backgrounds, skill sets, and personality types have become markers of attractive employers. This is not only for social and ethical reasons but because it makes business sense as well. New skill sets and backgrounds breed innovation, improvements, and new ways of thinking in your business.
5. Implement a robust referral program.
Employee referral programs are another tried-and-true method for businesses looking to sharpen their hiring strategies. That’s because new hires who already have a sense of your business, its work, its culture, and more through their personal connection are more likely to be retained over time and provide long-term value for the business.
If you don’t already have a referral program in place, develop one in 2020. With the risk of recession ever-looming, having a pipeline for these higher-value candidates will be worth an investment of your time to develop. Actively encourage employees to brainstorm potential referrals and offer incentives whenever possible.
It’s important to note, however, that any referral program you establish shouldn’t hold you back from diversifying your employee population or inadvertently further any past biases that may have been baked into your hiring approach
Depending on the unique context of your business, you might take the concept of instituting a referral program a step further. Explore your extended network of partners and contacts, and think about any possible opportunities to establish similar referral programs. You might have sales referral programs in place with partners already; are there any creative ways to source new candidates similarly?
For example, if your software company works with partner organizations, consulting firms, or other contractors, empower them and keep them engaged all through 2020 with specialized training, resources, and networking. Those are valuable relationships to retain, not only for new customers they might yield, but also for new opportunities they may facilitate. If a partner receives tons of applications from qualified job-seekers but isn’t currently interested in expanding their teams, why not ask them to forward a few to your own recruiting team?
Opportunities like these are worth brainstorming and exploring. Getting creative to find ready-made pools of talent through referrals proves time and again to help reduce turnover, so it’s worth considering.
New years bring new challenges, but your business doesn’t have to struggle to find fresh footing in 2020. Focusing your efforts around recruiting and strengthening your foundation — your people and internal culture — is the best way to safeguard your growth. Best of luck!
About the Author
Jennifer C. Loftus is a Founding Partner of and National Director for Astron Solutions, a compensation consulting firm. Jennifer has 23 years of experience at many organizations and volunteers with many notable HR non-profits, including SHRM. There she serves as a subject matter expert to the SHRM Learning System and as a SHRM instructor. In 2014, Jennifer received the Gotham Comedy Foundation’s Lifetime Ambassador of Laughter Award.