Finding top notch leaders for your growing business is critical. Having the right people in the right seats is key to the health and sustainability of your organization. But finding ideal candidates can be challenging in our current economy. Unemployment is at an all-time low, and candidates can afford to be selective. Many are choosing to forsake full-time employment for the chance to do meaningful work on a part-time, flexible, contract basis.
We’re now living in a gig economy, defined by Google as “a labor market characterized by the prevalence of short-term contracts or freelance work as opposed to permanent jobs”. This new talent environment poses new challenges for employers, but can also offer tremendous benefit, both for the business and for its team members.
Welcome to this edition of Authentic Brand’s “virtual panel” series: a Q&A exchange with five EOS Implementer™ who help businesses use EOS® to create organization health and sustainable growth. We asked these EOS Implementer’s™ how they see clients responding to changes in the workforce, and how growing businesses can build strong teams regardless of cultural or economic changes.
Here’s a quick virtual introduction to our panel of experts (subsequently referred to by first name in the conversation that follows):
- Mike Litwin – Clearview Growth
- Sue Hawkes – YESS!
- Greg Cleary – Get Traction MN
- Joel Swanson – Swanson Insight
- Joe Paulsen – Pinnacle Business Solutions
Q1: National unemployment rates are as low as we’ve seen in nearly 20 years. Qualified candidates are harder to find – and keep – than ever before. How are your growth-focused clients adapting to ensure they can recruit and retain the right people in the right seats?
(SUE) The first strategy I’ve seen is companies pairing young people with more experienced workers so that they are getting mentoring on the job. This allows the company to accommodate both their clients’ needs and on the job training. Because the younger generation isn’t experienced enough and there aren’t enough of the older generations at the company, this has been a big issue to solve.
Additionally, small companies can’t always compete on salary so the incentives to recruit and retain employees are more about ensuring the company is a great place to work. They make sure their core values are anchored and that they truly live them, not just talk about them or post them on the wall. They are also focused on creating both digital and human experiences that matter to everyone, regardless of generation. Another tactic has been incenting their employees to help them find good candidates. The logic is that if a young employee has been with the company a number of years and enjoys working there, their friends would enjoy it as well.
(JOEL) I have taught for years that the primary purpose of a job posting is NOT to communicate information about the job. Rather, it is to attract the kind of person you want for that position. When my clients craft their job postings with this in mind, they usually get a great response from quality people – even in this economy.
One of the less obvious benefits of running your company on EOS is that not only do the wrong people self-select out, but the right people STAY. Honestly, none of my clients are experiencing any significant retention problems. When leaders communicate with their employees the way I teach them to, employees feel connected to the organization and their job satisfaction increases. My clients are usually outpacing the market in growth and profitability; therefore they can offer compensation at average or above average levels.
(MIKE) Fortunately there seems to be a growing focus on healthier workplace culture – I hear about that more often now compared a few years ago. Higher pay: some owners have recently told me that they preemptively pay above market to stay in front of attrition. Better benefits: specifically health care, 401(k)s, “unlimited” vacation time are all part of the benefits package for businesses that I work with.
(GREG) The CEO is taking full responsibility for building out their leadership team with “Right People in the Right Seats”. In this tight marketplace the “A Players” are not looking at job postings. They are being tapped by sharp leaders who invest considerable time and energy into building a network of great people. In the book “Who” by Geoff Smart & Randy Street they discuss how CEO’s tap into their customers, vendors and networks to identify the all-stars to join their team.
Your biggest problem right now is “Who” not “What.” If you aren’t dedicating time every single week to meeting and recruiting you will wake up one day very soon with open seats you can’t fill, or worse; a team who can’t get the job done and you can’t do anything about it. How much time are you spending recruiting? If you answer not enough, you now have a new focus.
(JOE) Unfortunately there is no magic pill to find and retain the best candidates. Developing a culture that matches the leadership team’s Core Values is the best solution that all of my clients are focused on.
Q2: We are now a gig economy. A 2017 report predicts that over the next five years, fully half of the U.S. adult work force “will be, or will have experienced at one time, what independent work can offer.” How have you observed clients thinking differently about their accountability charts as a result of changing talent expectations?
(GREG) Clients are finally coming around to the concept that Sales can’t own the Marketing function. The days of the VP of Sales owning all sales functions AND marketing functions and execution are coming to a close in my opinion. Even smaller companies are realizing the need for top marketing talent and are looking to outsource or have a fractional partner take on the role of developing the marketing plan. Once you have a great plan, clients can have dedicated marketing people execute the plan if they can’t afford a full time Chief Marketing Officer.
I recommend you don’t sacrifice getting your marketing recipe correct. A poor plan brilliantly executed won’t help you grow your business. You need a great strategy well executed. A true professional in marketing will get you there faster. My clients who outsource marketing will tell you that, when done with the right partner, it is a game changer.
(JOE) I don’t know that I have witnessed anything different in the creation of Accountability Charts. The most important thing is to ensure that each seat lists all of the critical roles that the leadership team expects from each function and that only the employees/contractors/vendors that truly fit that “seat” are sitting in it.
(SUE) I think clients are becoming more creative. Where they used to think in terms of part time and full time, the outsourced workforce is giving them flexibility to get very experienced target shooters for specific project-based work. They are also using independent workers to get really experienced people without the encumbrance of employee benefits that they may not be able to afford.
(MIKE) I see more openness on the physical location of resources and employees. There is a macro trend toward fewer W2 employees and more flexible, contracted resources to both manage through workload cycles and switch resource providers as needed.
Q3: Many small and mid-sized companies have successfully bridged growth through part-time, “fractional” leadership roles in finance, human resources, sales, and administration. Fractional marketing leadership is a newer, but growing concept. How have you experienced clients successfully leveraging part-time or contract roles to bridge leadership gaps in their accountability chart?
(MIKE) I’ve seen these examples this year – Fractional CFOs one or two days per week, contracted CRM / leads management services, contracted branding, marketing and digital support, contracted IT services. The businesses I work with have found these to be great ways to bridge that gap in leadership.
(SUE) I think it’s the same for any position, marketing or otherwise. They can hire someone for a very targeted project or duration of time or for a specific budget. So, whether their finances limit them, the scope of the project, or if they simply need help for a period of time as the company grows, contract roles can help make it work. Specific to marketing, when clients come across the Marketing Strategy on the V/TO™ (Vision Traction Organizer), that’s when they find out they really need to look at their branding and their congruent messaging. It’s usually early in the EOS journey that they start to say, “We may not have the internal horsepower, we have to look differently than we do to represent the work we’re doing internally with EOS.”
(GREG) Marketing is a great role to outsource. It has a high impact and for smaller companies that can’t afford a full-time CMO, they still get the expertise and strategy. I also have a few clients that have outsourced the CFO seat and it works very well for the same reasons as the CMO seat. Higher level of thinking that you don’t need to have on staff full time but want on your team.
(JOE) Leadership teams are realizing the advantage of “fractional” experts in filling critical functions and roles in their organizations. When clients honestly assess what they truly need to be successful, they want and need the best person in that seat. Fractional options can be a very affordable way to have access to that talent.
(JOEL) I always take a pretty hard line on my clients doing their weekly Level 10 Meetings™ exactly right, because the Level 10 is so critical to keeping a team aligned and on the same page. I have seen part-time or contract people work well on a leadership team, provided that the client fully embraces the Level 10 tool exactly as I teach them, and the part-time or contract person fully participates in both the Level 10 meeting and in the quarterly full-day sessions.
Q4: Millennials currently represent more than a third of the workforce, and Gen Zers will soon make a strong entrance. These generations bring new perspectives and a different set of expectations of employers. How can business leaders create a workplace environment that celebrates and attracts generational diversity, while keeping every member of the organization aligned culturally and directionally?
(MIKE) Clarity is valued by all generations – so let’s start with clarity between the employee and their leader in three simple areas: company core values, the ongoing roles in each employee’s job and the “Rocks” or deliverables expected from the employee in the current quarter. Clear, objective quarterly conversations about performance in these three areas foster strong, trusting relationships among leaders and employees regardless of each one’s generational identity.
(JOE) Every person is unique and brings his/her perspective to organizations. The most important thing is to make sure that each person’s perspectives match the position’s roles and the Core Values that the leadership team set. As long as both are a match, every employee will be aligned.
(GREG) It starts with having a great culture you can feel when you walk in the door. Office layout and design is what hits them first. Do they see “cube farms” with gophers popping up? If so, time for a remodel. You don’t stand a chance of recruiting these people if you need them to show up and fill out a sheet of paper on your clipboard in their office. If you’re thinking that’s how we do it, then you are far behind in the current ways people want to apply for new opportunities.
The younger workforce wants to feel relevant and that they are making a difference. There are many older more experienced people who are further along in their career that would be happy to work for a younger boss as well. They aren’t ready to retire just yet, they still want to be part of the workforce. Don’t overlook these people because they don’t fit your mold. Remember “Who is more important than What” in the recruiting process.
I have several clients now that have created a “Employee Journey” that they share with candidates. This is the journey they will take if they join the company. It includes the onboarding, training, Quarterly Conversations, Annual Reviews, Career Development plans, etc. It communicates to the Gen Zers: “We have a plan for your future. Come grow with us.”
When they make a candidate an offer and they accept, some of my clients immediately courier over the “Shock and Awe Box” welcoming the new member to the team. Our clients at Empirehouse give every new hire a welcome kit that includes: Red Bull, Energy Bar, Yeti Cup, Polo Shirt, hand signed card, etc. Can you imagine they positive impact that has on someone looking to join your team?
(SUE) I think using the EOS tools, especially the V/TO™, as the template and context for everything the company is doing is important. Additionally, successful companies are focusing on similarities as opposed to the differences between generations. They use clear communication and leverage everyone’s strengths because they realize it’s not about generations; everyone works differently.
(JOEL) News flash for businesses owners if you haven’t yet noticed: millennials LOVE working for companies that run on EOS! EOS provides the connection to a purpose that many millennials crave, and helps them understand how they fit into the bigger picture. Millennials also desire flexibility, and EOS’s focus on accountability fosters leaders who care more about results than about how many hours a person was physically at their desk.
Q5: The talent market and economy are always changing. Today’s opportunities will be tomorrow’s challenges. In the face of constant change, what advice would you give to business leaders to help them build a talent foundation that will last well into the future?
(JOE) Never stop learning. Success is a journey that never ends. Stay plugged into what is happening in your organization, your industry, your community, your market and the economy.
(GREG) You – and your leadership team – need to dedicate time to regularly identify and build a funnel of potential future “A Players.” If you want to start the search when you have an opening, you will be forced to choose from a small group of candidates and the search will take months. I also advise my CEO’s to not delegate hiring to the HR dept. HR can support the process, but the great people who are the next members of your leadership/management team want to connect with the CEO directly and not apply through HR. Make sure you are not making it difficult to connect with you and approach your leadership team. One of the steps you have to add in the hiring process is to “sell the candidate on joining your company.” It needs to be a deliberate step. Once you find the candidate you want you will have to “sell them on coming to work with you.” The really good ones have lots of opportunities and you want them to really want to work with you before they walk into their current boss’ office and turn in their resignation. The good candidates are going to get a counter offer from their existing boss to stay. Who can sell leaders on joining your company better than the CEO?
(MIKE) Build a loyalty fence: Make your company culture easy to stay in, hard to leave. Clarify your authentic core values then build the team in line with those values. Trade up every time you fill a position. Be present and model an open, honest and vulnerable culture.
(JOEL) On the EOS journey we focus heavily on getting the right people in the right seats. “Right person” simply means someone who embodies and exhibits your company’s Core Values. When I first looked into joining EOS Worldwide nearly five years ago, I was on an informational webinar with the Integrator. One of the first things he did was share and explain EOS Worldwide’s Core Values. I remember very clearly thinking “I’m not exactly sure what this organization does or how I fit in, but I want to be a part of it!” That kind of gut-level response to your Core Values is the cornerstone of your talent foundation. Among my clients, turnover of “right people” is extremely low. Be fanatical about your Core Values, and you’ll grow a strong talent foundation.
(SUE) Always be interviewing, focus on your culture, and have your employees focus on bringing in good candidates. I’d also emphasis the importance of truly living by your company Core Values. Use them to hire, fire, review, reward and recognize; if you do this, you’ll always have a full pipeline. Additionally, you need to go where the candidates are. You have to offer flexibility and allow people to work remotely if that’s what it takes; as a company you’ll need to be more flexible. Most small businesses can’t compete by simply paying a candidate more.
If you enjoyed this article, you may also enjoy these other Authentic Brand Virtual Panel topics:
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- Authentic Brand welcomes John Ryan as Fractional CMO and transformation leader - January 17, 2022
- From could to should: Purposeful growth starts with marketing clarity - January 14, 2022