Employers now have to “compete” for Candidates

Why would anyone work for you?

This is arguably the most searching question a boss can ask themselves these days.

For years, we’ve believed that simply by being a ”high-quality” printing company was enough to attract good staff. That single-minded focus on ”quality” has blind-sided us to the fact there is a new paradigm: that of being “a good employer”.

And why so? Because the skills shortage now extends across all roles – there are just not enough “good” people to go round – and as an industry, we’re not attracting or training new talent; we’re simply jumping on the merry-go-round of trying to pinch each others’ staff!

As an industry too, we have been a little narrow in our “wish list”. Too many “must be’s” – i.e., “must be 30-something”, “must have specific expertise, “must have ‘x’ number of years experience“.

The point is: we as an industry have tended to be too narrow in our criteria for what constitutes a good candidate – without paying adequate attention to the person’s attitude and transferable skills.We have been able to get away with this, while ever there was a plentiful supply of bodies, but, given the skills shortage, we now have to be more creative in sourcing talent. It can often be right under our nose – in the form of our own staff, who often have “hidden” capabilities!

For example: we are all searching for sales reps. Have you considered the best applicant may be that switched-on young printer down in your factory – or the enthusiastic customer service rep on your own staff. (Just think of the recruitment fees you will save!)

How many of us are guilty of using that tired old cliché: “Our people are our best asset” – and then we either don’t promote them from within, or we retrench them too readily.

Lack of available candidates however is forcing us to value our staff more highly. I estimate half the candidates who contact us, would NOT do so if their boss (or, management, generally) did more of the following –

  • showed more recognition or appreciation,
  • encouraged more involvement in decision-making,
  • informed their staff more about company issues,
  • kept promises or undertakings.

The brutal reality is that now, employers have to compete in the market for candidates. This is a reversal of the way things have worked ever since the Industrial Revolution – when workers used to have to queue up, to be either hired or fired!

These days however, the shoe is on the other foot. It’s the employers who have to “queue up” to bid for the right candidate. And they’re not used to having to explain why their company is a “good employer”!

However – I believe it is a healthy process for any boss/manager to go through the process of answering the question: “Why would anyone want to work for me (or my company)?”

As mentioned, this may be the single most important (and most difficult) question an employer can ask of themselves, today: why would you be considered “an employer of choice?”

NOT “printer” of choice, or “supplier” of choice, or “best quality” printer – but the EMPLOYER of choice! And I don’t mean just because you pay above-award wages!

In fact wages or salary is only part of the equation in attracting candidates. In fact, “good” employers can avoid the trap of competing on price (i.e., wages or salary package) by offering NON-financial benefits as part of the total package. The bush-telegraph is very efficient at sending signals about who are the “good” and “not so good” companies to work for. Ironically, it is often the “bad” employers (i.e., those who have a record of high staff-turnover) who have to offer the highest wages to attract candidates!

So what are the issues that are important to job applicants? They include –

  • inclusiveness in decision-making,
  • promotion from within (that way you virtually get rid of recruiters!),
  • giving praise where and when due,
  • flexibility in working hours to suit genuine needs,
  • some form of career-planning for selected employees, which may include sending them on courses … AND …,
  • in certain cases … some form of profit sharing.The list could go on – but you get the message.

So how do you rate yourself as an employer of choice?
In the race for good candidates, it’s the only way to get to the head of the queue.