Clipart - Meet the StaffIs your organization suffering from the wrong workforce? Here are several ways you can overcome the problem of getting the right people to do the work.

Organizations—business, non-profits, and government—need the “right” people to do the work required to achieve successful outcomes. Some have the name recognition, reputation, and monetary resources to attract candidates from far and wide, and hire them rather easily. Others don’t—their relatively unknown, their budgets are tight, and the labor markets they can draw from are often restricted. Not everyone is Google, after all, so getting the “perfect people” can get a bit tricky. Many organizations end up settling for people with less-than-ideal skills and experience, because they’re available and willing to work for a reasonable compensation package.

Unfortunately, the impacts of settling can be… well, unsettling. Most notably, the work that’s necessary either doesn’t get done or it isn’t done up to standards. Sometimes, when it becomes obvious that an individual can’t perform particular tasks, they get foisted on other staff who have at least an inkling of what to do, even though they are by no means “experts.” When someone can’t do what they’re supposed to, the entire organization can suffer. Performance metrics aren’t met, morale deteriorates, and motivation declines. Not to be too harsh, but the “wrong” people are at best an obstacle, at worst a cancer—they can slowly destroy the organization from within.

With all of their constraints, it may seem like “getting it right” is impossible, and that many organizations are doomed to under-perform unless they get extremely lucky. Of course, this isn’t true—after all, if it was, why would I be writing this blog post?! There are several things you can do if you find yourself struggling to find who you need!

  1. Know what you need. This may seem obvious, but it’s shocking how many organizations don’t know. You need to lay out specifically what you need a person to do, and what skills and experience you think are truly required to do it effectively. This is the foundation for good hiring! It’s often helpful to benchmark, or get others knowledgeable about the job’s subject matter to review what you lay out, to make sure it’s an accurate depiction of what’s necessary, and that it’s realistic (i.e., such a person actually exists somewhere).

  2. Explore your labor market. Even if there are people who match your requirements, that doesn’t mean they exist where you want to find them. Whatever labor market you’re drawing from, you need to make sure there are accessible sources for the requisite talent. If there aren’t (and you can’t expand your market), you’ll need to adjust your expectations. This may mean isolating key functions, skills, and experience, and finding other ways to accommodate what’s left over. Effectively, you’re splitting the job in two (or three, or four…).

  3. Find out what it will cost. It helps to know going in what compensation someone who can fulfill your exact requirements is going to be looking for. That special person may be available, but they may be priced beyond what you think you can pay. If the individual’s salary demands fit your budget, great – go get her! If not, however, all is not lost. You may have some options—you’ll just have some analysis to do and some decisions to make. You may not get the “ideal” person, but that doesn’t mean you have to “settle.”

  4. Examine the options. So you’ve done your homework, and the person you want seems too expensive. What do you do? There are several alternatives to consider:

    • Hire that person anyway. Yes, I said that. Pay more than you have. Why would you do something like this? Consider it an investment, if the job is one that has an impact on either revenue generation or operational cost-efficiency. For example, a good Business Development Director might return far more than someone less experienced (and less costly). You need to think about the job’s urgency and impact, consider the risks, and act accordingly. It may just be the right move!

    • “Hire down.” This may sound like your “settling,” but if you do this right, you’re really not. If you can afford the time to get a new hire “up to speed,” you can look for the essential skills and then develop the additional knowledge the individual needs. When I say “do it right,” though, do it right. This means having a clear development plan, and the resources available to provide the necessary training. If you hire down and don’t develop, you will be “settling,” and that’s not good.

    • Split the work. Why hire one person when you can hire two?! Grouping functions, skills, and experience into realistic parts and seeking two candidates may be less costly than hiring a single individual to do all of the work. Of course, this isn’t without it’s challenges—you may need to adjust your structure, processes, etc. to accommodate a different set-up. But if you can hire two “right” people instead of settling for one “wrong” person, isn’t that better?

    • Use a contractor. Specialized skills can be very expensive. If you can remove them from the job and outsource them, you may be able to get the right person for the remainder and augment their skills by outsourcing. Contracting has to be done judiciously or it can break the bank, but if you can limit what you need to “subject matter expertise,” it may make sense to look outside to help your new hire. Even better, let her soak up knowledge over time, and make the contractor obsolete!

    • Go “part time.” It may not be necessary for you to hire a full-time resource, depending on the nature and volume of the work. Assessing this means envisioning performance to see if there is likely to be “down time.” If so, a part-time job may be the answer. There are challenges, without question—part-time work may further restrict the labor market, since not everyone is looking for this kind of arrangement. It won’t work in every case, but it just may work in yours.

    • Share a resource. Non-profits, I’m looking at you specifically, but businesses may also be able to do this in certain circumstances. If you don’t need someone full-time and the market doesn’t support part-time hires, you can try to forge relationships with other organizations that have the same need, and share! Of course, this has its logistical challenges, but if you really need a certain set of skills, the effort may be worth the reward. Remember, you’re probably not the only one looking!

    • Blow them away with other stuff. Lastly, if you can’t pay, try “killing them with kindness.” Offering things like telework, advancement opportunities, professional development, bonus potential, etc., and/or emphasizing the impact of the work can tip the balance in your favor, especially if your labor market competitors can’t say the same things. Know your strengths, and know your candidates’ interests—if you can match the two, you may attract the right people with “intangibles.”

See? It’s not hopeless! You don’t have to “settle” for Jimmy when you need someone with Mary’s skills and experience. Jimmy’s probably going to do more harm than good, and you can either get Mary or you can find ways to get people who will deliver just as well. Your specific conditions will dictate what you can do, but the one thing you shouldn’t do is panic—there are lots of options. The key is to be realistic, informed, and creative. If you do that, you won’t have to live with the consequences of taking less than you require. It isn’t always easy, and there’s a lot of thought that goes into it, but the potential is there. Find the right approach, and you’ll find the right people!

For more information, please contact Snowflake, LLC at [email protected]. We’ll be happy to discuss your situation and work with you to find the best hiring strategy for your situation. We’ll even give you a one-hour consultation for free!