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Understanding How to Stand Out in Today’s Recruitment Marketing Arena

In this episode...

In the continuing saga of unprecedented moments in time, we are experiencing a worker shortage, unlike anything we have seen before. In order to compete for talent today a deeper understanding of what you’re up against is in order.

Today you’ll meet Natalie Forward. Not just a cool name, Natalie is a talent master as adept in recruitment and talent strategies as you’ll find. In this episode, we’ll discuss the root of the issue and what SMBs can expect and do about it.

Natalie Forward: Thank you. I’m Natalie Forward, and I serve as the vice president at a company called Felix Global. I’m new to Felix Global. Just have about 90 days under my belt with that organization. However, we’ve got a long and solid history of helping organizations with search, so recruiting as well as leadership development and assessments. We even help folks through transition, so when they’ve decided it’s time for something new.

Cale, I just realized that we are in the year 2022. That means I officially have 30 years of professional work experience. It pains me to say that sort of, but I have always been in and around the talent space, specifically in recruiting. Front end of the funnel, how do organizations acquire talent, and how do they keep them? More than qualified, and I love the space. We’ll probably dig into some of that later today, but I’m just super, super passionate about talent and thrilled that finally 30 years in, it feels like leadership at most companies values talent too.

Cale: Well, isn’t that really, because of where we are right now? We’re in this really, really strange space, where– The way I look at it as simplified as I can make it is the employee now has the complete upper hand. It’s hard to find good talent. It’s hard to keep good talent. Therefore, at some level, when you’re mentioning what it is that you do and what your company does, you must be the busiest people on the planet right now, given that you’re helping people through transitions and what is everybody doing.

That you’re helping companies acquire talent and what is everybody struggling to do. Talk to me a little bit about this moment that we’re in, this crazy- nobody’s keeping a job. I talked to a restaurateur, and he said to me, it’s a good day when no one and leaves.

Natalie: Yes, oh my gosh.

Cale: Man, that’s tough.

Natalie: In that case, when we’re talking about hospitality, and I’m sure that you and the listeners have seen this, that whole industry has been transformed. Yes, we had a pandemic and couldn’t be physically close to people, but the workforce is leading, is making business decisions for those organizations. I’m sure you guys all have your favorite restaurant right now, that it’s closed on Monday and Tuesday, or you see open tables, but they won’t seat you. That’s not because they’re not being hospitable. It’s because they physically don’t have the talent to take your order, make your food and clean your dish.

Shout out to all the folks in hospitality there. They certainly are one of the industries that’s been most affected, but I just want to back up to one of the points we started to talk about was like, is talent valued? Of course it’s valued now, because we just came through two of the hardest years historically to find and keep talent. I would really say, Cale, and we all know this, that there were many, many organizations that valued talent well before 2020, and it was really tied to the leaders and the culture of those organizations.

As much as I wanted to be a change agent and go into organizations and say, “Hey, your talent and your people really are your most valued asset.” We had leaders recognizing that and/ or a culture that supported it. In this case, so much pain from the pandemic, many, many organizations weren’t going to change, but look, everybody’s struggling. That doesn’t make it any easier, but we’re struggling for a couple of reasons. I know that you and I have chatted about this in the past. The first is we were in a supply and demand–

Cale: Conundrum.

Natalie: I don’t know. Yes, conundrum, long before people were hearing about this whole, what is COVID-19 and what is the coronavirus.

Cale: That had to have exacerbated things, because there was suddenly this freedom, and there was suddenly this work from home and this remoteness that had to give everybody some sort of, I don’t know, kick in the pants or something. It exacerbated an issue that was starting to gain some momentum prior to the pandemic.

Natalie: Yes, for sure. Way more extreme in the last 24 months than prior to that. I guess I just wanted to say we were already upside down from a supply and demand perspective before that. In fact, we’re in trouble from a supply and demand perspective until at least 2025, when the numbers start to help us, meaning there’s more folks at 22 years of age that are eligible for the open jobs. Now that doesn’t have anything to do with, do they have the skills that I’m looking for, and are they reliable, and will they take my compensation package? It’s just physical bodies.

For sure what has happened in the last 24 months is that, to your point, candidates, employees have choices, and they are making decisions. Yesterday was election day. They are voting, if you will, by where they choose to spend their work hours every day, physically in some cases. Where they plan to do it, who they want to do it for, what mission they want to support and for what compensation level.

That doesn’t mean that both the employee and the employer, that there are no rules. That doesn’t mean that there’s still some sort of unwritten contract that, “I am going to be here to do good work and you are going to pay me.” The power of control, if you will, has certainly certainly shifted to being a very, very, very heavy employee-centric, candidate-centric market.

Cale: You were making some hand gestures there that I would just like to convey to people, because there was a little bit of rooting for the employees. Some, “Hey, they’re making these choices,” but you, especially you and people in your position, you’re in a weird spot, because you’re both on the team of the employer and on the team of the employee. In a weird way, you have to, I know as an employer, that this is a sucky moment, if you’ll let me just digress into less than cordial language.

By the same token, good for the little guy. I shouldn’t even say the little guy, but good for the employee, where they get to not feel as if I have to do this or else I’m stuck in this spot. Talk to me a little bit about the conundrum you’re in. I don’t even know if it’s conundrum or if it’s the best place in the world to be that you’re on both the employer side and the employee side.

Natalie: Well, you’re right. As an employee, I have goods and services that are in high demand that I know that I can take anywhere, which it gives me power, if you will, to take my employment somewhere else, but it also changes my mindset. It gives me courage. It gives me the opportunity to ask for things that I would’ve never done in the past, because I didn’t think that they were possible. Even if they were possible, they probably wouldn’t get approved, but I want to make sure I’m answering your question. Who’s side am I on or how do we both win?

Cale: I think like, as in the role that you are in, in your organization, your organization, I guess would be, they’re both representing talent, and they’re representing employers. Good for the employees. They have this upper hand, but man, we got to struggle with the employer. I guess you’re probably rooting for both to win. I suppose that’s allowed. [chuckles]

Natalie: Of course, and I’m rooting for both to win no matter what market we’re in. You’re not in talent if you don’t recognize how impactful a new job for an employee can be, just for a person. It has a ripple effect to their families and their communities and changing their life and all of that stuff. Yet, look, we’re in business, and we’re here to help companies grow and companies can’t grow if they don’t have enough talent. I think the name of the game always, but especially now is to really, really be setting very clear expectations with both parties.

When we’re working with employers who are asking us to help them find new talent, we’re doing a lot of counsel on, I know that you’re job description lists these 10 things, but you’re not going to get all 10. Let’s talk about what areas we have flexibility when we go to the market. First of all, I don’t really think you need 10 out of 10. You’re not going to get 10 out of 10, but let’s be strategic right now. I get you 7 out of these 10 things-

Cale: Out of the park.

Natalie: -let’s call it a win. We got that cooking. We’re ready to go. Now, number two, your interview process. A candidate does not want to, need to, or ever talk to six people from your organization. We need you to be dialed in enough that you can make this decision in two conversations, and that your offer is ready and that we know the candidate well enough, and it’s robust, and we’re going to get a win there. We need some flexibility about potentially, depending on the role, where this person works, and when this person works, and how this person works.

Oh, and then timeline. Look, I don’t know that we’re going to get a candidate in three days or three weeks. Let’s really be realistic about how long it’s going to take and what type of capacity you have to wait. If I can clear those things up with an organization right off the bat, I already feel like we’re in a better spot.

Cale: Someone that you and I both know and love, just told me a story about somebody that she just hired. We’re talking about my significant other, Lisa. They just hired somebody, and I think that that person coming from a very reputable company had to give, I want to say, six or eight weeks’ notice, in order to maintain all of the benefits that would follow them to wherever it is that they’re going in or go with them when they leave, I guess would be the better way to say that. In a weird way, we’re talking about then, who’s doing that? Who would ever do that? Who would ever wait?

Is that a good strategy? I would think twice about leaving if, for eight weeks. Are you kidding me? I don’t know if I’m going to wait eight weeks. I don’t know if any employer is going to wait eight weeks. There’s a lot of hurdles out there.

Natalie: Did the employer wait six weeks or eight weeks?

Cale: Oh, yes.

Natalie: Yes?

Cale: The employee, yes.

Natalie: In a different market, even maybe pre-pandemic, we might not have seen that either.

Cale: I think I’ve checked in twice, and it’s still four weeks away. It’s like, oh my God.

Natalie: I know. That’s a whole nother topic about onboarding. Once our candidate says yes, they’re really not an employee until-

Cale: They’re in the door.

Natalie: -we either see them over the screen or we see them through a physical door. You brought up something that you just said, that made me think about something else. I was at a seminar a week ago, it was titled the future of work. We were brainstorming and imagining all of these different things that organizations could do. One of the ideas was, would you be willing to give someone two weeks off paid when they start, just so that their mind and their body is in a good spot to start at your company?

Now, usually, employers are happy to get somebody and we’re already thinking about how much productivity am I going to get out of this person. How cool is it to start to think just totally differently, like, we like you and value you so much and we know that your fresh mind and fresh body are going to be what really help accelerate us. Let’s get you started, but we’re going to start with two weeks off paid.

Cale: Wow.

Natalie: That’s just a little bit out there in terms of ideas, but it’s certainly [crosstalk].

Cale: It’s in line. That’s not out of line really with some sort of bonus pay, signing bonus. I think of that often too where as an employer I understand that when you give more vacation time, there is a lack of productivity there that you are paying for at some level. However, I would also argue, though, that that freshness and that time off does then probably bring in enhanced productivity when they come back.

I though I’ve said that oftentimes, it’s about an actual dollar amount that maybe the department can’t afford or they have some budgetary, that time off is at the end of the day, what we’re all working for. That carrot is, I think, as valuable as any. I don’t know that that’s necessarily on the other side of the world from giving somebody a signing bonus. I think it’s great.

Natalie: To that point, Cale, and this is really important, no two candidates are the same. Now that’s really hard. As a small company, how do I have an independent strategy for each candidate that I’m ever going to talk to? I’m not suggesting that. I am suggesting there’s probably groups of categories of people that are similar so you could use similar strategies with them. The truth is, and we’ve talked about this for a long time, that from recruiting, one size does not fit all. What’s important to you and what’s important to me may be two separate things, and it’s really important that the employer is thinking about that, as they’re interviewing a candidate.

Is it financial compensation? Maybe. Is it emotional compensation? Meaning, I want to feel really good about the work that I do? Possibly. Is it time off? Is it flexibility? Is it whatever, promotional? Is it a coach? Is it leadership development? The sooner that you can get to know what’s important to your ideal candidate, and then can curve both the hiring experience and that role around the person, the better your chances of winning that talent.

Look, the small business is in a really, really tough spot. This wage inflation I’ve never, ever, ever, ever, ever seen it before. People are leaving for $10,000 $20,000 $50,000 more, and then sometimes just $1 or $2, but the wage inflation is out of control. It’s really tough both then from an internal equity perspective. You have this great team of other folks that have been working for you for a long time, and now the new guys walking in at significantly more money. There are other things that you can do and we just talked about them. A sign-on bonus is a one-time investment, versus having that be a fixed cost every year. We’re seeing lots of sign-on bonuses.

For salespeople, we’re seeing things like, obviously, most are on some sort of phase or fixed and then commission or bonus structure. How are you starting to guarantee some of that commission so that new salespeople aren’t going to have to start over financially by just joining your organization? Sometimes you can do that delay or sometimes you can do it off of future sales. The more creative you can get and the more you understand your candidate early on by just coming out and asking what’s important to them, is going to be helpful.

Now candidates are courageous enough just to tell you, because almost everyone that you’re interviewing already has a job, that they’re pretty secure in and successful in, and doesn’t really need your new gig.

Cale: It’s funny, there’s a whole contingent of people out there, and I think you’re talking about that age range. In three years, we’ll start hitting a new wealth of talent that’s available, hopefully. The idea that there’s, I don’t know what percentage of the workforce it would be, but there’s a percentage of the workforce that has never seen a tough job market. They’ve come in, and they’ve had a pretty good go of it. Maybe it was maybe even a little bumpy in the beginning or a little bit difficult but now, people are clamoring for you, and you’re getting bothered on LinkedIn all the time and what have you. That shifted quite a bit.

At some level, is there some sort of preparation? How does an employer balance this right now? You have the upper hand employee, I understand that, but it’s not always going to be that way. I can’t afford to be here with you right now, and you’re not going to deal with it very well when it comes down here, so how do we plan for that? How do we make everybody happy and be prepared for a shift in the other direction?

Natalie: A couple of things. First of all, there is no person-to-person solution. Many roles that we have open today at all of our companies are going to go unfelt for a bunch of reasons. As a business owner or a business leader, if a role has been open for more than a year, I would really, really challenge you to say, do we need to have that role filled? There could be opportunities for us then to close the supply and demand gap, and I hope all of us are already thinking can technology help with some of these openings? Does it really have to be a person? Does it have to be a full-time person or 40 hours a week, if you will, to do the work?

Cale: Can we outsource?

Natalie: Yes, and can we outsource? Can we partner? Can we use a gig worker? I’ve got this body of work. Is it possible that a consultant or a 1099 or an LLC could come in and get me through this tough time and then go away? Some of those things, the outsourcing, the gig worker, even some of the technology, that’s not fixed. When and if things turn around from economy perspective, as a business owner, I’m not totally upside down with wages because I haven’t just used wages to solve the problem. In terms of our early career folks never hitting a bad job market, I don’t know that I’m qualified to talk on this, but I mean, look as we get older just in our lives–

Cale: More qualified than me, so go for it.

Natalie: Well, we all face adversity.

Cale: Sure.

Natalie: They’ll certainly figure a way around it. That’s how we grow by struggling a little bit, which is never fun. I would tell you, however, that it’s not like it’s just peaches and cream for every candidate. We have applicant tracking systems, which, our large pieces of technology that many organizations need to help filter candidates, ATSs can be super brutal to a candidate, meaning they don’t get back. They send an automated message or they never hear from a recruiter or they never hear from a hiring manager. That’s just bad news. It’s not good for your brand, and it’s just not good for the candidate experience, even if they’re not qualified.

Number one, they haven’t just had it super easy. They’re still getting rejection. There’s still competition for jobs, especially as you move up the leadership chain, there just aren’t as many roles. There are folks competing for it. As an employer, there’s this thing called Glassdoor that anybody that doesn’t have a good experience with your organization, whether they’re an employer or candidate can tell the whole entire world about. It’s just important that we’re sensitive to stakeholders internal and external as we go to the market and try to recruit folks.

Cale: We talk to our clients all the time about your reputation and how it matters and how, no matter what you do, even if you put your head in the sand, it doesn’t matter, it’s still happening. You know there is something going on there. We have this analogy that if somebody has something bad to say about you, they’ll jump through seven hoops of fire to do it, but when they have something good to say about you, it just doesn’t happen as often.

Your point is probably tenfold as important as it might sound just by having somebody say it. You really have to incentivize. You either have to incentivize or give everybody an easy way to also talk good about your company on places like Glassdoor, and now more than ever, where some companies might not pay as much attention to that. I’m going to draw a blank here just because- it’s the Yelp of recruitment, I suppose.

The two things I really want to hit on yet are this idea of giving people what it is that they want. Let me just back up to maybe 10 years ago. I remember some of the big companies that had these great cultures, free food, flexible work schedules, work remotely, all of these things. About 10 years ago, I want to say, they reigned that in and suddenly it was like, “You know what? We think it’s important that you’re here,” and that there was this shift that brought everybody back, the collaboration effect in all of those types of things.

Now, of course, we’ve swung all the way, the other way. I wonder if things like remote work and flexibility in your schedule, are those here to stay or will it shift again, just based on some other influence?

Natalie: Yes. I’m going to give you the Natalie Forward prediction on that if I [crosstalk].

Cale: By the way your name is so perfect. I wish I had your name. Did you marry into that name by the way?

Natalie: Yes.

Cale: Oh, I get it. Is that how you chose your husband? [chuckles]

Natalie: Lucky in love, but I’ve always been in sales. Natalie Forward is a great sales name, and Cale, you mentioned this, and I’m certain everyone is aware, and my voice is very distinct. Between the name, Natalie Forward, and my voice, it’s been good to me. If you’re in the State of Wisconsin, forward is the motto as our state motto. It’s got a lot of good stuff. I also get teased a lot, backward, and you can make something up there, but let’s stay on topic. We were talking about knowing the candidate and knowing what’s important to the candidate.

Cale: Yes, and the flexibility and the remotes those–

Natalie: The flexibility, yes.

Cale: Just based on that, what you were just saying there, I guess you’re giving your own prognostication on this.

Natalie: Prediction, yes. Thank you. I am in outside sales, and what that used to mean, it doesn’t mean it right now, but, is that I would physically go to see clients and prospects in their spaces, and we would have business conversations. Anyway, for those of you that don’t know outside sales. I am telling you, the spaces were so cool, like bags and ping pong tables and collaboration rooms and bright colors and glass doors.

Companies spent millions and millions and millions of dollars, and it was really cool. It was a good vibe and sometimes in creative companies, maybe not in financial services, but the music and the snacks and the coffee bar, and you bring your dog, and it’s like, nobody’s ever going to want to go home. This place is so cool. There probably was some thing to that. How can we keep a workforce physically engaged here? Maybe they’ll be here a couple minutes earlier. I’m sure a couple minutes later. I’m sure some of that went into it, and engagement and building friendships.

Then, of course, we turn away, and now we’re all at home, some of us in offices, some of us in basements, all of us in front of these screens, and the world changes on a dime. We’re starting to see some of the larger organizations start to call people back physically to work. However, I just don’t think it really will ever go back to the way that it was, and the way that it was meaning you get in your car or on some sort of public transportation and physically take your body to a place, stay there for 8 to 10 hours a day, and then go back to your home or wherever else you go after work.

I don’t think it’ll go that way, because we just proved to all those CEOs that said they needed to see us every day, that they don’t. However, there is work that either needs to be done or can be done more effectively or more ideally or more optimally, fill in the blank there, that we know that when we’re physically together, we get a better outcome. Certainly like manufacturing, a lot of those jobs have to be in person, and thank you everyone in those sectors who continue to show up every day and make goods and services in the USA and around the world.

Things like brainstorming and process mapping and ideation, and a lot of those things when we are face to face, we just get a better outcome. Can they be done over screens? Of course, but when we’re talking about better outcomes, there is a percentage of our work that probably needs to be in person. My recommendation would be for you to look at your jobs and get the percentage of time that we really need to be together. I think people will buy into it.

If you tell me that, gosh, 20%, 25% of this time, we need to be in person to do this work, and I have agreement and alignment with that, I’m probably going to joyfully, gleefully be with you that time. The truth is that we’ve- I’m talking white-collar jobs now, we’ve been in front of our screens from 8:00 to 5:00 every day. Let’s just say that that’s the number, and that was my work day, 8:00 to 5:00. Now, if you want me to come work 8:00 to 5:00 in person, it’s not an 8:00 to 5:00 day, it’s a 6:30 AM to a 5:45 day because I have to get ready and get to you. Guess what? I’m not giving that to you anymore. No way.

Cale: That is such a great plan.

Natalie: I’m going to use those hours to feed my family or to go to a soccer game or to watch Bravo. It’s just that there are other things that I want to do with those hours than give them to my employer.

Cale: That is such a great point. Just in my own personal- just going to clients and what have you, in my own personal work. I think that just a few years ago, it didn’t matter. They would want you on-site for whatever it was. Maybe it’s just the spotlight was shined so brightly on this. It took me, even if it was 45 minutes there or 45 minutes back, that’s an hour and a half just in drive time that A, I’m not working for you, B I’m not doing something I like doing.

Right now to go to work, I put on a pair of sweatpants and a shirt. I think it’s about 50 feet from the bathroom. That’s my commute. I’ll tell you that they get my clients in my situation because I do get- most of everything I do is, is thinking and documenting and reporting and what have you. They get probably more time from me because of that. I literally, it’s not unusual for me to be sitting in my desk at 6:30, and I don’t mind.

Natalie: A couple of things. I also think that we can burn ourselves out and have burn ourselves out. There is a penalty for living at work. We live at work if we have home offices. If we don’t have a good, some system of checks and balances, whether it’s a partner telling us to stop or outside interest or an employer saying, “No more. Stop, stop, stop.” We can go to the other extreme where we’re just working. We certainly want to watch out for that.

I know a bunch of folks that want to be in an office. They want to go to work every day, see a friend, see a neighbor, do their work, go home, and not think about work again until eight O’clock or 8:30 or whatever, 7:15 the next day. Just like we said, one size does not fit all for recruiting, you’re going to be able to find jobs that are in person, and you’re going to be able to find jobs that are remote. You’re going to be able to find jobs that are hybrid. It’s like, what’s important to you as the candidate.

If you look at the stats, and I don’t have this one handy, but the number of remote jobs available is somewhere between 60% and 80% or something. It’s just raised. It’s risen so much. I can get that stat for you, over the last two years. It is also allowed Midwest Talent to go get folks off the coasts that they would’ve never been able to get, because I don’t know, I love Milwaukee, but not everybody does. It’s also allowed people that live in the Midwest to work for the technology innovators out on the west coast without having to spend $2 million on an apartment.

There has been a lot of learning that we’ve had an opportunity that we’ve had, over the last several years. We were forced into it, but there is much good that has come out of it. One is an employer should trust you no matter what they want. Like there hopefully is a trust contract the first day we start. You hired me. I’m going to do good work for you. I’m going to do good work for you, and you’re going to pay me and treat me well. There should be his good trust. Clearly, I don’t know if there wasn’t because people needed to see us. Hopefully, that has increased because we’ve just shown the world that people can work from many places.

Cale: There’s this old-school mentality, though, when you’re saying that. I’ve had conversations just in the past, I’ll say two months now. It’s been a little longer. The last time I had this conversation on podcast, it was– Last week I had this conversation, but it’s been a while that I’ve had this conversation. I literally in the room with partners in a company that said, we know without question that productivity’s higher when people are working remotely, but everybody’s coming back. There’s some level at which that just doesn’t compute.

I don’t even question. I agree with you. I think there are certain things, collaboration, brainstorming, and those types of things where the vibe is just different when you’re in the same room together. I don’t discount that ever. I just think, though, that if, at the end of the day, it provides some value to your employee, it’s a pretty easy give in my opinion. One of the things that I want to make sure we get to, is because we do talk about marketing here every once in a while, not just talent acquisition. What’s working out there?

I had a conversation with Harris Poll company, and they said startups are not having the same problem that other companies are. They’re actually attaining talent pretty easily. We certainly gave our own thoughts as to why we thought that was, but what is working? Do you see things out there that are working consistently across the board? Are there certain sectors that are just tough no matter what? Or are there things that are working, again, consistently across the, or per some of the bigger sectors that are out there trying to acquire talent right now?

Natalie: The word consistently trips me up a little bit. There are, Cale, certainly industries and roles that are in higher demand than other, as you look to the next 10 years. Or actually, as you look at the best jobs now, and as we go forward with supply and demand, there are jobs that are going to be in more demand. Nurse practitioners, for instance, as the primary care model changes a little bit, that is an area that we’ll see growth, high demand. Information security, folks in the take care of the aging population. Not just nurse practitioners, but anybody around assisted living or long-term care, just what’s going on with the demographics.

Teachers, we’ve really had a crisis going on with the amount of folks that we have going into education and coming out of education. There will be jobs that are easier or more difficult to fill just based on supply and demanding and where the industries are going. There were a couple of industries that weren’t affected. Think insurance, they were affected, but not to the degree of hospitality or retail.

Insurance consulting, some of the technology, things that you could do without physically being together weren’t as affected as much. Check out supply and demands for the positions either that you’re recruiting for or considering going into. In terms of what’s consistently working, and hopefully this relates to many of your marketing folks, and I talked about this a little bit, that like knowing what’s important to your candidate. Then keeping your promises.

Cale: Let’s just back up on that one point, just for a second here. When you say knowing what’s important to your candidate, and you said that potentially, it’s just as easy as asking them, because they may in today’s environment, be willing to just say and be honest and open about that. Is there some sort of way of actually finding that out in a realistic sense? When I hear that, most people think that it’s money. Even the person getting the job thinks it’s money at first. When you dig down to it, okay, if I had an extra $10,000, am I going to be any extra happier if there’s more demand on my time? At some level, is there a way to really boil that down?

Natalie: Yes. A couple of ways. Especially if you’re hiring for roles that already exist at your organization, there is a persona, your language, not mine.

Cale: Nice. Very, very marketing-esque.

Natalie: There is an ideal profile or a candidate that we know most of the time works. Just look at your current team of high performers and customer service. There’s probably some synergies about what they like about your organization, or what’s important to them in terms of being an employee. Make sure that that’s what you’re demonstrating to the candidates as you’re interviewing them through the process. If you are a flexible organization, and flexible does not mean we let people go for doctor’s appointments. That one is my biggest pet peeve.

Cale: Wait, wait, wait, stop. [laughs] Flexible, when you say that does not mean, are you suggesting now? I know you’re not. I know you’re actually saying the opposite of this, but it almost sounds like you’re saying they should not be allowed to go to see the doctor. [laughs]

Natalie: Strike that. I’ve had the privilege of literally being in thousands of companies over the last 30 years. I not so much in the last two years, I’ve heard, “Oh, we’re flexible,” like, if they need to go to a doctor’s appointment. Excuse me, that is not the definition of flexibility.

Karl: That’s just dumb.

Natalie: First of all you go to the doctor. I don’t. Maybe you go a lot. A lot of times you’re going one, three, five times a year. Flexibility, and you should try to find what that means for your organization, but it could be the hours I work, the projects I take on, how I report, what I wear. There’s a lot of different things, how you’re compensating me, how long I’m in a role. There are a lot of different things that define flexible, so I would just say, be clear in terms of what flexibility means.

However, I jumped ahead there. You most likely already have a persona or an ideal candidate, profile of a candidate that you think is going to be a great fit. They’re a great fit because what you’re doing is compelling to them. It could be your mission. It could be your hours. It could be the type of work. It could be pay. It could be, you bring dogs to work. It could be many of those things. Make sure that you’re communicating those clearly and often throughout the process.

However, those things cannot be aspirational. Cale, you may help organizations with their employer value proposition or EVP. The EVP is the marketing hook on why someone want and choose your organization or opportunity over somebody else’s organization or an opportunity. When we counsel on this, we don’t do EVP work, but when we’re talking about what’s the story? What’s the hook? How are we going to engage people to take these roles? We very much talk about EVPs not being aspirational. They have to be real. If you say, “We offer free food.” and that’s stale popcorn or something a couple of times a year, it’s just not the same.

Candidates and employees, we’re just too smart for that. It’s just not going to last long, and Glassdoor is going to be your biggest nightmare. Understand what’s important to the candidate, and you can do that by asking them. I think a lot of them will tell you right now and/ or looking at your current team, and really understanding what’s important to them and what you have to offer.

Then, know that you can’t offer everything that every other company offers, but what makes you special? Going back to that EVP. There is a very large accounting firm that just started giving decompression days away. I think they have them four times a year. They’re mandatory days off. They’re pretty strategic. They do one, the Monday after The Super Bowl.

Karl: Nice.

Natalie: I think they do one, right around July 4th. Where they might think attendance might be lower, productivity might be low, anyway. This is decompress. This means, there are no emails. There are no meetings. It is a day off. It does not count against your PTO balance.

Karl: Is that usually company-wide or is that given on– Like there’s pre-floating holidays that people can choose someone to take one here.

Natalie: Company-wide. March 15th-

Karl: Nice. I like it.

Natalie: Everybody takes it off. Of course, there’s a financial element to that, but that makes them special. If you talk to candidates that are interviewing through that process, most of them are going to say that’s one of the reasons they took the job. The other thing that consistently works is great communication. Great communication is so important in every aspect of our lives, but there’s nothing worse than telling the candidate, “We will get back to you,” and then, you don’t. Or, “The next step is this.” Then you change it up on them.

Things like that happen. Sometimes, things come up and things change, but the more proactive and transparent you can be in your communication, the better experience everyone is going to have all-round, and you really want to get started off in the right foot. They are evaluating you. They are evaluating you every step of the way through the interview process.

Karl: Isn’t it funny that? Because, at some level, you would think of the recruiting process as the organization is always evaluating the candidate. Always evaluating the candidate. Now, you really have to be cognizant of the fact that, yes, we have this job sitting here, but they are looking at us against everybody else. They’re evaluating us as much, if not more than we’re probably evaluating them, especially if we need a warm body in a particular position. That is not a slam-dunk anymore.

That’s a great point, and we talk about authenticity all the time, that if your marketing doesn’t align with the way it really is to do business with you, it’s going to fail. It’s going to fail either epically or it’s going to eat away at you one way or the other. It’s going to be problematic. Recruitment marketing is obviously no different, in fact, maybe even more sensitive than just a general products marketing campaign or a service campaign, and what have you. Let’s be real here, we’re marketing both a position and a human being. The human being is the employee saying, “I’m this person.” Same goes for them, I suppose, but they still do have a little bit of the upper hand right now.

Natalie: Yes. Well, Cale, you can answer this. We have a marketing budget. I’ll just answer it. I’m guessing here, okay? 98% of it is spent on our external customer. Why are we not using marketing budget on candidate right now?

Karl: Without question.

Natalie: The market has changed. There’s been huge disruption. If there was disruption in transformation in your market segment, you would pivot.

Karl: In certain organizations, you would be happy to know. They actually have committees that will do internal marketing, so that the workforce is always up to date, and they know where the company is going and they’re within their communication loop. There is a real effort there to make sure that things are said well. I know you know this in general HR-type things, that when you send a letter out to the workforce, that it’s very carefully worded. There’s a lot of marketing-esque type tasks that go into that.

This is more than that now. There is a lot of that that goes on anyway, but I think it’s even more important now, just as this becomes a bigger and bigger challenge for communities, I almost said. For companies to be able to retain talent.

Natalie: We can talk a little bit about retention. I just want to make sure I hit on one more thing, and that is that it’s very– Well, it’s almost a high percentage that you have to go get the candidate to apply to your job or raise their hand. There are jobs where you’re going to get applications, but right now, we’re really seeing that the employer or recruiter has to go out and tap somebody on the shoulder and say, “Hey, Natalie. I know you’re probably not looking for work, but I’ve got this opportunity, and let’s just chat about it.” That’s called a passive candidate. I’m not actively in the market. I’m working successfully for somebody else. That, your listeners already know.

If I’m a passive candidate, and I haven’t been in search, but I’m going to, at least, explore this new opportunity that you just tapped my shoulder on, what we are seeing is that is then fueling them to do a bigger search. Although you called me and said, “Hey, come work at XYZ Company,” as long as I’m getting my resume ready for you, why don’t I just chip my toe in the market and see what’s going on? Because everything I read tells me I can make all this money, and I can get a new job.

I bring that up because that potentially means that the candidates that you are talking to, you’ve got competition in a couple of ways, one, will they take your job? Two, how does my opportunity and offer and culture and leadership, and blah, blah, blah stack up against these other opportunities that I’m looking at? Three, we’re seeing this, it’s higher than I’ve ever seen it, is counteroffers. You make me an offer, I say, “Yes.” I go to give my notice and my current boss says, “Oh no, Natalie. You’re not going anywhere. We’re going to throw this, this, this, this, this at you.”

More employees than ever before are starting to accept those counteroffers and stay put, and then, rescind the new offer that was extended to them. Even when you get a candidate not processed, know your job is not over, because there’s probably competition for your candidate.

Cale: It’s interesting that you said that. I’ve heard great stories about people faking the counteroffer and saying, “Oh, I have this other offer.” In a couple of instances, I’ve heard of some spectacular backfires there, but at some level what you’re talking about is– Again, we have account-based marketing. That there’s this whole idea that I’m going to market- I’m going to put a campaign together for a specific targeted client. There’s a single prospect out there that– Some companies do this on every single prospect that they have. They will put together a campaign specific to that prospect. This is the same thing, right?

Again, like you said, candidate A might be different than candidate B, and you have to prove to either one of them that you’re the one to take. Regardless if you can match everything that your competitor is offering, you have to be able to come to the table with something that is compelling to them. You made some great points in there about tapping somebody on the shoulder and saying, “Hey, I’ve had a great experience with you. We haven’t had this opening. Would you consider our position?”

What I think is interesting about that, as you said, that that is their trigger potentially to then go look for other gigs, just other than what they have. The first thing I thought of was how powerful that is if you tap someone on the shoulder. Are they more potentially endeared to you because you saw that in them? How great does that feel that somebody says, “I think you’re awesome. Would you come work for me?” I would’ve thought that that would almost been more of a slam dunk than- and you’re like, “No, actually. They’re going to go look for 10 other positions.” I thought that was very interesting and a potential.

Is there a good way to do that? I don’t want to go way over on this, but I love that concept. Is there a good way to tap someone on the shoulder and reel them in at the same time rather than-

Natalie: Yes. Well, that’s what you pay recruiters for, Cale.

Cale: [laughs] Five, five, five, five, Natalie.

Natalie: On that mark though, many organizations, this could be a little dated, but they want to be, I don’t know, respectful of their competitors or they might not want to get a reputation for poaching talent for their competitors. First of all, this should be done in the most professional way possible. We want to reach people on LinkedIn or on Facebook or at home or on cell. We don’t want to be calling into our competitors to find their talent. That’s just below the belt. That’s just not good practice.

I would definitely recommend having a targeted approach. If I have an open job that I know is early career, meaning I only need someone with two to five years of experience, start to think where folks with two to five years of experience “hang out”, and I did that in air quotes. Maybe that means I go and find the graduation lists from UWM and find folks that graduated three to five years ago, and then I use that as my targeted list of folks that I’m going to go after.

Or easier things to do. Are there professional associations that I know these types of individuals are either members of or attend conferences of or go to speakers on? How am I in those places, whether I’m physically in those places or my brand is in those places, or I can just have access to those types of people. Recruiters, they also benefited from the wage inflation of the last couple of years, but most of their work is finding the talents, and then we’re in partnership within our organization and of course, organizations are doing this independently. How am I crafting the most compelling message to get somebody’s attention to just have a conversation with me?

I would highly recommend when you talk about what’s working consistently for your really, really difficult-to-fill positions or your positions that just have critical impact to the organization, you need to have a very strategic, active strategy on how you’re going to find talent. That does not even take into consideration, how are my pipelines for future roles that I know that are going to be open?

That’s a whole nother campaign and strategy that many organizations when they have the time and capacity are investing in, because we know that 10,000 baby boomers are retiring every single day creating openings. Then you have the great resignation which has just depleted many organizations of talent that they had anticipated would be needing them.

Cale: It’s an interesting world we live in, to say the least. That is for sure, and thank you so much for your time. Before you go, you have a downloader too that we’re going to make available to people. Talk to us just briefly about what that is or those are.

Natalie: Yes, one is simply just one slide from the BLS, the Bureau of Labor Statistics that talked about that supply and demand that we kicked off with. It simply looks at the dwindling population of folks at working age and the number of roles that are open and you see this huge gap. It’s actually startling when you take a peek at it. Then the other one is just an article called The Year of the Manager. I might not have the title right, but that’s the sentiment.

We talk about recruiting and retention at every level, but the manager, the leader of the frontline employees, and the rank and file, and the high volume employees. Those are the folks that have really, really been affected in a negative way over the last couple of years, just from the pressure of above. The pressure of leadership, and then trying to be as compassionate and good to their employees as possible. That one’s a really, really good read and some really good statistics on what’s going on with the workforce in general.

Natalie: Natalie Forward, it has been an absolute pleasure. I have probably five other episodes that I’ve thought of where I’d like to include you in on them just because. It’s interesting to hear somebody, you really do have a good marketing focus. It seems innate about you.

Natalie: Who knew?

Cale: Yes, who knew? I can’t say that you missed your calling because you seem to be so good at the talent end of things. Stay there. Don’t take my job, but I might want to tap your expertise for future episodes. We are going to be doing an episode with The Harris Poll company and potentially some other national recruitment type of expertise. Love to have you join us for that where we are going to just try to jump in and tackle what it is.

We’ve talked about it a little bit here, but when you hear Harris Poll in our interview recently talk about I think it was an estimated one-quarter of all currently employed people intend to leave their jobs in the next 12 months. It’s breathtaking to me. One-quarter of all employed people are considering leaving their job in the next 12 months. That sounds like this isn’t even nearly over yet, this great resignation and this–

Natalie: Yes, it’s frightening.

Cale: Again, I’ll leave you with my stupid sentiment that if everybody quit their job, all jobs would end up getting taken anyway. As dumb as that sounds, maybe that is what’s happening here in a strange way. Hopefully, we find ourselves in a better position because of this, because I think there’s a lot of things that we learn because of COVID. I think that this will also bring about some learning and maybe some collaboration and more cohesiveness between employer-employee as we move forward. Thank you so much for your time and your expertise.

Natalie: You bet, Cale. It was my pleasure, and I look forward to joining you again.

Expert: Natalie Forward

Natalie brings 25+ years of experience working in recruitment, outsourcing, sales, leadership and client services roles across the recruitment, technology and human capital space. Natalie is a passionate and driven individual who helps her clients solve complex talent challenges, while keeping a focus on the organization’s business goals. Throughout her career, she has built recruitment and sales teams, and has served as a high-performing individual contributor. The basic principle in all her work is finding solutions to business problems by leveraging every organization’s greatest asset: their people!

Natalie’s recent engagements include designing solutions related to workforce planning, talent selection, employee engagement, emotional intelligence, leadership development and navigating and executing on modern recruitment strategies that have supported explosive growth for her clients and their organizations leading to increased revenue and profitability. As Vice President, Natalie is responsible for sales and business development aligned with Felix’s strategy, driving customer satisfaction and retention, contributing to growth and development to the firm and industry insights through strategic planning.

Giving back to her community is very important to Natalie. She is a Metro Milwaukee SHRM member, sits on the HR Executive Insights Committee, TEMPO Member, Mentor Circle Participant and Professional Development Committee Chair. Natalie is also part of the MMAC & and she served as the emcee for ALM Chicago. Natalie is part of the school advisory committee for her local, private grade school and she also holds the role of auction chair & capital appeal leader.

In her free time Natalie loves to spend time with her husband and son, celebrate special occasions with family & friends, run & work out, host themed dinner parties and watch “The Great American Baking Show”. Her favorite author is Maya Angelou. After she sunsets her sales career, Natalie will either pursue work as a Food Network Star, Motivational Speaker or Kindergarten teacher.

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