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Steps to improve talent recruiting efforts 

December 13, 2021   by Jason Contant

talent management

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A few relatively simple changes can make a big difference in recruiting efforts for mid-size firms, two workforce management firms said in a recent blog. 

First, rewrite job postings and descriptions to emphasize the benefits of working for you instead of your specs and requirements, advised Jeff Green and Christin McClave in a blog from Harvard Business Review. Green is the co-founder and principal of PROXUS, a Philadelphia-based firm providing HR outsourcing, advisory and compensation services to middle-market companies; McClave is an operating partner at professional services firm AchieveNEXT. 

Another change to revamp the recruiting and onboarding process involves expanding your talent pools. PROXUS finds many clients have inadequate or antiquated talent acquisition processes that miss opportunities to seek diverse talent or use techniques and technology to find passive candidate and career switchers. Many recruiting technologies such as TalentBin (part of are well within most middle-market budgets, Green and McClave wrote in How Midsize Firms Can Attract — and Retain — Talent Right Now, published Thursday. 

Green and McClave also recommend “[working] your networks harder, starting with the networks of your current employees. AchieveNEXT’s data shows that employee referrals are the most effective source of new people, cited as very or extremely effective by two-thirds of middle-market leaders, followed by LinkedIn. Retained and contingency search firms continue to work well for senior leadership positions, but other traditional talent sources such as staffing and temp agencies and schools and universities scored much lower.”

Personal referrals were the most successful method for finding new talent in the Canadian property and casualty insurance industry, speakers said during a recent Insurance Institute of Ontario webinar last month. Insurer and brokerage executives found “personal referral programs (i.e. your network)” brought in the most recruits 

Green and McClave said it’s also “important for leaders to identify and prioritize which talent they’re lacking — the solution for a shortage of managers is different than one for a shortage of developers.” By identifying the company-wide nature of the problem, leaders can adjust both training and recruiting and execute a strategy to help alleviate talent shortage. 

Finally, craft a retention strategy. The blog authors recommend a four-pronged retention strategy: 

  • Build better bosses — Gallup research showed that dissatisfaction with their immediate supervisor is the number-one reason people leave their jobs. Middle-market companies have not historically invested much in leadership development, though it can be done affordably. Such an investment would provide meaningful reason for rising leaders to stay and improve retention on their teams 
  • Get explicit about career paths — Many middle-market leaders think their people will find out about opportunities to advance from ‘water cooler’ conversations and management mentors. Middle-market companies often have few management layers, so advancement and development often happen from lateral moves. “We say that middle-market careers are more like lattices than ladders, which makes it all the more important to have one-on-one career conversations,” the authors wrote in the blog 
  • Create an inclusive culture  Factors such as being valued by the organization and the boss, having a sense of belonging, work-life balance, etc. need to be part of your inclusion strategy. While emphasizing recruiting in diversity, equity and inclusion efforts is important, giving more support for the other stages of the “employee life cycle” (such as training, leadership development and succession planning) is a way to instill inclusiveness in a company culture 
  • Set up a compensation strategy designed for retention — For example, younger generations are more interested in loan forgiveness and tuition assistance than pensions. Middle-market companies can often be much more creative than their big-company rivals when it comes to offering creative and flexible reward packages. 

Overall, middle-market companies come to the talent competition with weaknesses, but also strengths, the blog concluded. While talent management processes tend to be scanty, companies also tend not to be weighed down by rigid, bureaucratic processes. As well, because top management is closer to the rank-and-file, middle-market companies should be better able to seek and act on employee referrals.  

“And when it comes to job flexibility, they can see what big companies offer and raise them (for example, by offering job-sharing arrangements),” the blog said. “Midsize companies also have an inherent work-life balance advantage, something smart middle-market hiring managers have emphasized for years.” 


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