Recruiting as a Long-Cycle Process

Aug 18, 1998

It is a simple fact that there are shortages of people with good skills looking for jobs, and a REAL shortage of people with programming and other specific technical skills. We are all scrambling around to find great people, devoting lots of time and energy to sleuthing and marketing, and neglecting the one thing that will probably make all the difference over time. That is to have a long term perspective on staffing and the realization that effective recruiting involves creatively marketing and attracting potential employees, and those who influence them, over long periods of time.

What do I mean?

Companies with a strategic approach to staffing begin developing candidates when they are in high school and perhaps even sooner. Some companies are embracing a concept of recruiting that goes from kindergarten to post retirement levels with very specific and well planned interventions and activities at each of these levels.

At the kindergarten level, companies are preparing teachers and providing them information and resources about their industry and about the kinds of skills and knowledge they seek in employees. This can be loosely translated into activities and information sessions for the youngest of children.

As they mature and progress through school, the kinds of activities and information provided become more specific and more targeted at actual professions and positions and even companies. Internships, summer employment, part-time work during the school year and mentoring programs are all integral parts of successful programs.

Some cities have established “academies” or special schools dedicated to a specific career vector such as business and finance, health care, technology, or some similar area. These academies provide an opportunity for students to explore professions without commitment, and allow employers to learn what works in terms on effective marketing and training in attracting students to their companies.

Certainly not all students who take advantage of internships and other programs will become employees, but enough will to make the approach cost effective. These programs also reduce assimilation time and speed up time to productivity. They are also net contributors to society, enriching the students and the community. This is more than can be said for traditional recruitment activities which, I believe, contribute little to improving the community or its citizens.

Additionally, the programs continue after employment. As employees take on responsibilities, pre-paid educational opportunities, in-house degree programs, virtual learning experiences and action learning projects, they continue to develop into a more and more sophisticated work force capable of growing faster than the company does. Career development becomes a major tool for growing and retaining a competent workforce. So, rather than have to devote energy to searching for what often turn out to be employees with moderate to lengthy learning curves and spotty records of success, energy can be focused on developing known employees with documented skills and cultural compatibility. Again, this enriches the entire company by continuing to nurture and build a community.

Of course, new people need to be added to the mix on a regular basis to prevent “in-breeding” and “group think.” Most of this is not new. IBM, Xerox, HP and scores of other companies have been locating great people early, helping them gain needed skills, and continuing to invest in their on-going education. What IS new is the extension of the concept to the elementary and high schools and often to senior citizens, as well. Senior citizens, recent retirees, and older people looking for part-time work are another source of employees. Smart companies, rather than let good older employees retire completely, offer part time, flexible, and even seasonal work schedules to these people. This lowers payroll costs, provides the older workers with some modest benefit protection, and provides the company with a loyal and trained worker at less cost than it takes to recruit and train a new high school or college graduate.

Are you prepared? The demographics say clearly: there will not be enough workers over the next twenty to thirty years to fuel the expected and needed economic growth of our country. Recruiting is a long cycle process, not a short term intervention. Those who understand this and capitalize on it will be the winners in the 21st century.

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