Most Recruiting Strategies Are Only Half Right

In my years working in consumer and shopper marketing, I was lucky enough to help some of the world’s biggest brands develop their “Switcher Strategy,” which involves getting a customer to switch from one brand to another. Like going from Gain to Tide. But there’s another part of the consumer marketing equation that’s also important — the “Upgrade Strategy.” This entails getting someone to buy not just Tide detergent, but also Tide Pods, Tide Bleach, Tide Fabric Spray. You know…all the Tide! It was fun to help brands figure out new and interesting ways to attract and grow relationships with customers.

What does this have to do with recruiting? Well, recruiting is almost solely focused on Switcher Strategy —  like getting that world-class software engineer to switch from a FAANG company to yours. Switcher Strategy is pretty much a company’s entire recruitment marketing strategy. 

What’s missing in recruiting is an Upgrade Strategy. This is a problem and it’s showing. Whatever you want to call the Great Resignation/Awakening/Reshuffle, it’s happening in part due to a lack of a real, robust Upgrade Strategy. Essentially, how are you helping your people upgrade their careers with you? 

Well, here’s the plan to make one for yourself.

Data, Discover, and Planning

1. Look at Your Data

Compare your conversion rates. At what frequency are your external candidates converting from site visitors to completed applications? Compare those numbers to the frequency of internal candidates converting from your internal job board into an application. Also look at the percentage of your employee base who are visiting your internal job board. Is it high? Low? Document it. 

Then you’ll want to look at turnover. Some turnover is very healthy, though, so examine if you are losing A-players. How many? Is the rate of turnover Increasing? Decreasing? How does your turnover number compare to the traffic to your internal job board? Are people looking internally first?

Finally, you will want to know how much your turnover is costing your organization. Hourly turnover can be calculated at 16% of one’s annual wages, and salaried talent can be a much wider swath, from 50% to 213% of one’s annual salary. You should consider using a lower percentage when doing calculations because otherwise you’ll have a big, ugly number that people in leadership will not believe. I’ve got a handy calculator for you to try here, or do that math yourself. When you’re losing hundreds of people each month, this adds up really fast.

2. Dig Into Your Exit Interview Data

Are there themes emerging among those people who are leaving who would have rather stayed? Mentions of not knowing where to look internally to find their next opportunity? Look and see who’s leaving and why. Look for patterns in the data that could be solved by a stronger Upgrade Strategy.

3. Survey Your Organization

Once you have some raw data, it’s going to be important to survey your employees. You want to ask them just a few questions to keep it short, simple, and encourage participation. The questions I recommend:

  • Do you know where to look for jobs internally?
  • Do you feel it is easy to find your next job here?
  • What are the three things you would need to stay?

4. Talk to Your high Performers

Schedule some one-on-one time with your top talent. These are people you don’t want to lose and who are getting hit up on LinkedIn every single day. Talk to them about what they want from the company when it comes to their next job. Ask questions like:

  • What do you want out of a career here? 
  • What makes you want to stay and how can the company help you stay longer?
  • What do they think the current process is for finding your next role here? 
  • Do you feel safe applying for a new job internally?

While you are talking to people, don’t forget to make some calls to people who left that might have stayed. There is always a chance to boomerang some people back into the organization as you develop the Upgrade Strategy.

5. Write It All Down

What does your data tell you? Why are you losing people and what could you do to help them stay? Document everything and start to formulate your plan.

Operationalize and Measure

6. Set Tangible Goals 

Put otherwise: Make your business case for an Upgrade Strategy. The best way to get anything done is to prove ROI. A good Upgrade Strategy pays for itself. Set real goals like, “We will cut turnover by 5% this year. When we achieve this goal, we will have saved the business $x,xxx,xxx (yes it could be that many commas!). This program will cost $xxx,xxx, giving us a strong return on investment.”

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7. Roll It Out

Your upgrade strategy will involve software, services, communications, and process changes. Like anything within talent acquisition, if you build it, you must tell people that you built it, as well as where to find it! The key to a great Upgrade Strategy is communicate, communicate, communicate!

Whatever your strategy involves, you have to tell your talent and tell them again and again. Make it a part of onboarding. Make it a part of monthly communications. Make it a game. Have your leaders talk about it in their quarterly briefings. Have your managers promote it, as well. Put it on your website. Drive employees to it every chance you get. Because nothing in TA works if the people we need to use our tools don’t know about them. 

Now, if there is one thing I know about this type of thing, it is this: Rollout is scary. People are going to have feedback. Your talent-hoarding managers are going to hate it. Let them. They are likely a reason people are leaving. 

If this is just too scary, do a scaled rollout, starting with a small group. Then when it works, roll it out wider, and wider, and wider, until it’s across your entire organization. 

8. Measure the Program

To justify and sustain your Upgrade Strategy, you must measure it. Analyze increases in internal applications. Look for increases in usage of your internal tools. Look for reduction in turnover. When examining these things monthly, you have to report it out. You should also be looking for gaps and unintended consequences. When you see a gap, you must fill the gap in the strategy. 

Drive Adoption and Optimize

9. Continually Gather Feedback

It’s good practice to continually gather feedback. Go back and survey the team regularly. Go through exit interview data again, talk to the high performers again, and document your findings.

10. Adjust, Expand, and Double-Down on Successes

Over time, you will see new opportunities to help your talent upgrade their careers. It could be upskilling or reskilling. If that’s the case, you now have the blueprint for executing against those areas. The key is letting your talent tell you what they need and want, set goals that are measurable, make a plan, and execute and optimize.

You have the power to make big or small changes in your org. You can make it easy for your best people to stay. You can help them upgrade their career. And besides, didn’t you get into this to help people grow and thrive? Well, you can help them grow, and thrive, and stay. 

Tracey Parsons is co-founder of WORQDRIVE, an internal mobility software solution. At every intersection of the talent revolution, Tracey has seized opportunities to push innovation and be a change agent.

She is also the president at Parsons Strategic Consulting. Her extensive experience in talent strategy, social recruiting, marketing, thought leadership, brand development, and consulting make her an ideal partner to up-level your talent game.

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