Connections 2022: Allison Bruce on Recruiting & Retaining Employees

Date Posted: Nov 18, 2022

Connections 2022 Keynote with Allison Bruce of Talentspark


Thanks for having me today. This is a great event. I haven't been to one of these before and it's just been so well run. So thank you to the SOLV team. I know you guys have been working so hard on this and I've just had great conversations today. So thanks everyone that came here and gave some time in there.

So today as you can see behind me, we're going to talk about recruitment and retention, which I know everyone that's been in business, this has been sort of top of mind as we are in a very unique market being here. We’ll talk through some of those and some of the solutions.

The old hiring practices don’t work anymore

I wanted to start today to talk a little bit recently we were hired by a company to hire one of their marketing managers. And this company is in this industry, very different than this company - and they're out of state so you don't get to guess.

This company hired us to hire for this marketing role, and this company is in one of the fastest growing markets out there. If you've been in the water area or any of that, beverages are skyrocketing through here and what those spaces look like. So in this high industry, they've got this very cool brand. They have all the things going to them that we love to recruit for. We get excited when we see companies like this because this is something very cool for us to sell and to get over in that space. They'd also recently gotten their venture capitalist B and they gotten an additional 150 million to do their expansion.

And this is sort of the sweet spot of upstarts where they're stable enough, they have a lot of money, but I can still be there on the ground floor. So, we're very excited to get into this and we find five candidates that they can review.

How many interviews & how much time should it take to make a hiring decision?

Their recruiter and their CFO first had phone screens with all of these people. Following the phone screens, she said, we need to have another video interview with the Chief Marketing Officer. So we set it up and all five of them went on and had this video interview.

Two weeks later they decided to bring more people. They brought all five of them in there and they spent about a half day with this group. They missed a couple people in that interview that they should've had that they wanted to get feedback on. So they invited everybody back one more time before they did their final interview.

This also included them bringing their portfolio. So they collected all of their work and they showed up a second time. Two weeks went by because they had six people on this panel when they've reviewed everybody they had to get everybody's feedback, they had to go through the whole process and they had to review their work. And so they're finally ready to go through and they've got someone that they selected and they're ready to do the offer.

The result of a lengthy interview process

And you know what happened when that offer went through and that two weeks between that final interview and the other one?

That person was gone.

They went to their second candidate. And you know what they said?

"I don't think so. They weren't very organized. I wasn't really into that."

And this company had everything going for them. You know, I just couldn't think of like a more ideal situation of like a cool consumer brand in good investment. They had this really cool story that investors were getting into and the candidates just weren't feeling it in there.

How to hire in the current labor market

And so I want to talk a little bit about one of the main things that I think that this group really missed and some of that is understanding what's going on in the current marketplace. It’s really important to realize what kind of market we have and what's going on in the labor market when you start to do your recruitment processes. I think a lot of us know that a lot of things have changed in the last, you know, couple of years, that candidates look different. The way we're hiring looks different.

But we haven't necessarily sat down and looked at our recruitment practices. So while your business practices may look different or your sales practices may look different, a lot of us are still doing the same recruitment process that you put in place in 2010, in 2012 and you haven't gone back until we look at that and the market is completely different.

Unemployment statistics – it’s a candidate market

So here in Idaho we actually have updated numbers, but it's actually at 2.6 [percent unemployment], so it's even lower than it was when I put this in here in the last couple of weeks. So where we see sort of a healthy market of balance is much more at sort of 3. Like you'll see something more like 4 to 5%. So what this tells us is that we're dealing with what we call a candidate market.

If you think of that in the same way as real estate as the buyer or seller's market, it tells you who has the leverage and the power in the recruitment process. And it's hard as business owners to realize because you care so much about what that is. But ultimately right now we're working in a situation where the candidates have all of the power and the leverage to make decisions and we need to sort of adapt our recruiting practices around candidates.

The other thing that I think is really telling is, in addition to the tight market, it's really around the unprecedented demand that we have. Not only do we have low unemployment, we have one of the highest times where we've had more jobs than candidates than we’ve seen before.

How Idaho compares to the national labor market

1.7 is the national market. I reached out to the Idaho Department of Commerce last night and Idaho's actually 3, there are 3 jobs in Idaho for every person on unemployment. There are close to 70,000 jobs that are posted and there are only 24,000 people on unemployment.

If every single person on unemployment [in Idaho] got a job, there are still 50,000 jobs that don't have anybody. Connections 2022: Allison Bruce on Recruiting & Retaining Employees Share on X

So some of this is there's just literally not enough people in that space. So how do you reach these people? How do you get in front of them and how do you look different in that space? So being aware of this is the things that we need to do to sort of change where we are.

Everyone knows that remote work has changed and I'm not going to get into that, we'll talk a little bit more about that from like a quality of life and our retention standpoint.

But from this point, what we do need to be mindful of is that you are no longer in competition with just the company down the street. You are in competition with companies across the United States and that is a really big shift and it's more of a shift in the state of Idaho than we see is in the market.

You need a plan

The main takeaway again is that we are in a candidates market and we need to move our behaviors around that. So low unemployment, unprecedented demand and increase in remote work means that you really have to have a strategy and plan for job.

This is no longer time when you can't have a plan and you can just show up and sort of post out there and hope for the best internally. In the recruiting world we call that post and pray, where you just post a job and you pray that candidates come through. So we're going to talk a little bit about more about what you can do that's not “post and pray”.

Is it all about the money?

Going back to our example of where things went so wrong in the story about that marketing group and that person that turned down the offer, sometimes one of the questions is, was it around compensation?

Did all five of those people sort of withdraw because they had more compensation in other places? And it really wasn't that. Compensation is important - I think everybody knows that and there's always going to be a limit to how much you can push on compensation, especially if you're a small or mid-size company and you're not a Fortune 500 that makes billions and just sort throw money at it.

So I won't talk too long on compensation other than the fact that it is important. You do need to make sure you're in the range of compensation, but you do not need to be the top payer and I wouldn't really recommend it for most people. There's other things that you need to offer but you do need to be mindful. Going back to the isolation of Idaho in here, we have seen more of an increase in compensation in Idaho than we did in other markets.

Idaho is one of the most isolated metropolitan statistical areas of anywhere in the United States. If you think of somewhere like Chicago, Milwaukee is 50 minutes away. New York has, you know, a bunch of places that are nearby. They've always had to look at national data and Idaho has never had to look at national data. We've always been able to suppress our compensation practices far lower than any other market because we only had to compete with the company down the hill.

All of a sudden Covid happened and it sort of blew the world up and now all of a sudden we are in competition all over the US. So this is going back to the housing market, very similar. If you comped your home a year ago, you know that data isn’t valid. Your house is worth more or less, it’s different, and compensation's the same way.

It's moving so fast. I've been in recruiting for almost twenty years and I have never seen compensation change as much as it has the last two years. Have an economic study, review your comp practices, you have to do something. And I think if anyone’s been watching the news, we're coming into a different economic time. We're not sure what that looks like but we do know that there's going to be changes in that.

And so keep that cadence of reviewing your compensation practices. Probably right now I'm recommending six months. I think once things stabilize a little bit, you usually do it about once a year. We’re in such a fast break right now and probably every six months you take, look at where your comp models are.

Prepare to be resilient

Let's talk a little bit about being proactive in building resilience. So I think this is where that example of this marketing company, this is the main area that they, they didn't have lined out. And so using the housing example again, if you know that it's a seller's market and there's going to be six offers and you're going to have to move really quickly, there's things that you're going to do before you even look at a house, whoever you're buying the house with, you're going to have a conversation about do we need three bedrooms or four bedrooms? What neighborhood do we want to live in?

You're going to call a lender, you're going to get pre-approved, you're going to find a real estate agent, you're going to do all of this pre-work. So when that house comes in you know that you're going to make an offer immediately.

If you haven't done that with your recruitment practices, you need to do the same thing. If you have people that are in your interview that you haven't had a pre-conversation with about what that role is, what are the goals of the role, what does success look like in that role? What can we coach but what do we need? We find more often than not, people are going in there to say like well we need an accountant. And you're like, well what do we need in that accountant? We have someone with two years, we have someone with five years. Do they have to know tax? Do they, can they be on the audit side? A lot of times people will be invited to interviews and they don't even know what they're really interviewing for.

They're like, Hey, you're a leader in this company, can you come interview for this role? And they're not even well aligned with what that was and that's really where we saw this marketing role struggle. It's that they weren't even sure who should be on that panel and so they would miss people or they would get additional feedback.

You need to be mindful of who's on that panel. Are they really a decision maker? Or is it a little bit like maybe inviting your mother-in-law to pick the house paint? Like maybe you have a good relationship and that's making a decision with, or maybe you're just creating, you know, confusion and sort of complication in the decision making.

Make sure that people that are involved are really decision makers. They know what the role is and have a pre-meeting about what it is. So you want to make sure that you know what's happening and you know how to execute.

This is one of the fastest markets was that we've ever seen. And so it's very similar in that you can't go in and look at five or six different candidates sometimes. Sometimes you have to see that candidate and know if it’s exactly what you want.

Same way with that house. You can't go back six or seven times. I'm not sure if the kitchen's right, I want to go back a seventh time. That house is gone, the house will be sold and that candidate will be gone. If you ask them to come back six or seven times and you're unsure if you don't know what you want, they're going to disengage, they're going to move on. So you have to be able to know what you want, make a decision quickly and get that offer out very quickly.

What is your employment brand?

The other part that I think that you need to spend time on that they had trouble with is you need to have an employment brand. And it's different than your consumer brand and it's different than what you might share with your investors.

You need to know what your employment brand is.

  • What’s it like to work there?
  • What makes you unique?
  • What's your culture?
  • What's the value to the employee?

And sometimes those are going to look a little different than what you sell and you can create a lot of that experience that you hiring practices as you have people go through there.

So what does that look like? How do you tell them about your culture as they go through the selection? It's a little bit like dating you. They should be asking you questions, you ask them questions, you want to make sure that culturally you're aligned cause they don’t know who you are. And then they get in there and they're like, well this isn't for me then what? You want to make sure that you're vetting that through.

But you have to have your employment brand and it's the same way, like if you did that from your consumer brand, go back and look at that. What's your employment brand? What are your values? What is it like? How can you tell that story? What are you proud of? What do your employees say?

Share that story. Be consistent with it. Have it in your job postings. Have it when you talk to people you know, make sure that your employees know it. And it's the same thing like on the candidate side when I see resumes that are like, “good leadership,” and you're like, well what does that mean? You know when you're like, I have a fun culture, take the opportunity to tell people: what does fun mean?

Does fun mean that you are a group that does happy hours every Friday and you're on a bowling league? Or is fun that you play pranks on each other? Is fun that you're just happy people and you're always positive? Those are three very different versions of fun, and I'm certain that there is some story internally that describes what fun is for your company.

You don't have to be a fun company. Maybe you're not. Maybe you're hardworking and humble. Um, you know that people don't have an ego and you get in and you work really hard and that's who you attract. You're going to attract better people with that.

And so this company had done a really good job with their investor story. They did a good job with their consumer story and nobody had any idea what their employment brand was. People had no connection to it, and so it was pretty easy for them to withdraw from that process. They weren't really tied into what it was like to work there and they were attracted to other companies who had a very strong story about it.

Always be recruiting

And so as you look at your planning, as you look at your budgets, you're going to sit down and look at what you're planning for next year. And similar if you've got a communication plan, if you've got an advertising plan, whatever that is, you need to have a recruiting plan. If you know that you're going to hire four people in the summer, you need to start backing up. When do you need to start doing that? What are the relationships you need to build on? Who can you hire at the time?

Especially if you have repeat jobs in there, always be recruiting. Um, I get it's a little bit easier on my side. I only hire recruiters. I will talk to a recruiter and interview them anytime. I had two people reach out to me and these layoffs and say Hey, I'm looking for a new job, would you meet with me?

I don't have a job opening, but I'm absolutely going to take the time to go to coffee with them, have an interview, tell them what's going on. And I may not hire them right now and I may not hire them for two years, but I now have a relationship with someone who's exactly in that area who lives in my market because someday I will have an opening and now I know a few people that I can reach out to and contact and potentially bring in.

One of our hires, I did this for almost two years, we really wanted him on the team and I would call him up and I'd be like, Hey, if you should come join TalentSpark, I think you'd be great. And he said, not yet. And I was like Okay great. I would have another opening and six months later I would call him and I said, how about now? He was like, not yet.

And this went on for like literally two years and finally he called me and said, I think now I didn't have a job. I was like great, come on board, I'll figure it out. You know, I knew that he had the talent, and of course like three months after he started, somebody left and I actually had that opening. But there's a little bit of risk of like if you build it, he will come. But I know that I need that talent.

So if you have to teach a position and you know that someone will leave, you know you'll have turnover. Make sure you know the people that might exit the workforce. They're going to stay home, they're going to go back to college, they're going to retire. Make sure you have a plan for what that looks like. Either from succession or from your recruiting.

If you're looking at more hourly jobs, that's hard to do. You know those key roles you can sort of target people, the network, but if you have those entry level positions, you need to be consistent and be out of those places.

What you can't do is do nothing for recruiting for two years and then all of a sudden post a position on Indeed hope that people will know who your brand is. You need to be out there talking to different groups, talk to high schoolers, talk to college kids.

Um, I mentioned I got some other data. I found this really interesting, in there that I wanted to share on sort of, you know, being proactive around recruiting.

So Idaho has 22,000 high school grads every year. Only 42% of them go onto a traditional four-year school. The other ones are going part-time, going to a technical school or just going straight into the workforce. There's 58% of our high school grads that are probably looking for some type of part-time, full-time, some sort of employment once they graduate.

There's a huge opportunity here to capture those kids that are, that are graduating. And how do you build relationships? Are you going to career dates and talking? Are you involved in any of the sources? Start building relationships with somebody. Anything that's sort of be the more people know who you are and who that name is, that when you do post that position they're like, yes, that company finally posted the position I was waiting for.

If they don't know who you are, they're like well maybe this job's good. All they're going to be looking at is comp and when the schedule is. We don't always have the ability to be super flexible on some of those. So the more that you have a strong brand, people are knowing you out in that space.

So similar to your plan of what events are you going to go to to sell your products, you should have the same thing on the recruitment side. Do you need to be at the University of Idaho? Do you need to go to the law school? Do you need to go to that trade program? Should you be talking to that union? You do a career day at a high school.

My business partner teaches a guest lecture at BSU once a semester. I think every new grad that we hired has seen her in that class. And that's the reason we won. I’ll see other people that we recruit in other companies and they'll be like, I chose you as a, as a company because of that one guest lecture.

She does two nights a year, she goes to BSU as a guest lecturer, and all of our early career people have come directly from that class and she's actually picked out a few. Our very first early career person was in that class and was really engaged and really excited and Stephanie was like, that's the one that I want. So she got to pick and choose from sort of the cream and the crop because she spent the time. So you've got to have this plan around recruitment and it's hard because it takes time but you've got to think of it very similar to your sales funnel and what your sales market is that's in that space.

Give a great candidate experience

So going back to candidate experience, I actually think this trade show is a really interesting example to talk about the candidate experience. Um, we've talked about a little bit that you've got to be fast. I have never seen a market in the 20 years that I've worked in here that's moved so quickly. It’s slowing a little bit and we're getting a little bit more time. But the more hourly that people make, the lower in that space, the faster you have to move. If you're trying to hire somebody at $10 an hour, you need to move like the same day. You have more time with more professional roles, the higher the level role, the more salary to make, the more willing they are to invest in that time and space.

But if you have a really clunky applicant tracking experience that's seven pages long and needs references, needs essays out there, you have got to put it where they upload a website or just upload their resume and put their name in or put in just their last job.

You want to get like the most minimal amount of information you can so they apply. No one's excited on Friday night, it's not super fun to be like, I’m going on InDeed and fill out seven applications. Like nobody wants to do that. So really make sure that they apply and get to your jobs very quickly in that space.

And the same thing, you've got to know what your plan for recruitment is because you should try to get through all of your hiring in probably 2 weeks. Have your schedules clear. If you know you're about to hire and you've got three of your decision makers on vacation, just wait. Wait until they're back. Don't start a process and have it drag out. Create this really cool experience for candidates in here. And then you find that this is kind of a neat thing.

Amazon used to do this thing, part of their candidate experience was that when their new grads came in and they got their offer, there would be a really big gap from the fall into graduation. So they would get an offer and then like seven months would go by before they start their job and they realized that there was this huge fallout of people that would get other jobs. So they would be like, I'd rather do that.

And so they started to send them Amazon swag. This was kind of before Amazon was like what they are now. They weren’t so big, they weren't what they are in that space.

Treat your candidates like you would your clients, you know, if you got a pen that's branded, thank you for coming in. You know here’s a pen, thank you for coming. Here's a notebook.

You don't necessarily have to give 'em a jacket but let them know that you appreciate the opportunity and the time that makes it cost. There was probably daycare involved. They probably, you know, ironed their suit. They stressed out about what that was. They've updated their resume, they've made an investment to come and see and the more that you can be respectful of that time, that emotional commitment and showing you value that through a lot of different opportunities in there, really curate that like you would your clients or any of the other salespeople in that space.

And even if you don't hire them, they're going to go away and be like, that was a really cool experience. I've never seen anything like that in there. And they'll tell their friend and now you start to build your employment brand. People will hear about you because that experience was exceptional. And it doesn't take a lot of twisting because we are in a market where we didn't do a lot of that stuff.

When I first started recruiting, my literal job was to filter through resumes. There were so many questions, it was in the 07-08 downturn and we just, we had so many people we didn't know what to do with it.

And so we weren't creating good experiences for candidates. If anything we were sort of like, go away, or trying to dissuade people. We'd make them jump through hoops and we would make them do all these hard things to make sure that they really were serious.

It's just not the reality of where we are anymore. And so you've got to let that go and you've got to think differently about where your candidate space is. What can you do?

Thank you notes

One of the things we talked about when I first started recruiting is that most hiring managers would not hire people if they didn't get a thank-you note. They'd be like, they didn't write me a thank-you note. I gave them this opportunity to come in and look for this job and I didn't get a thank-you note.

I challenge you to think about it the other way. Now, you're hoping that someone trusts you enough to come in and put their livelihood and their stability in your company. Write your candidates a thank-you note. We did this with a couple of our executive searches and the candidates where like, I've never seen anything like this. I've never had it go that way.

And this goes back to sort of the candidate market or the employer market. And when you're in that space you can have these little touches that will make a difference and will help your employment brand for people that you didn't even hire.

At least make sure that you're getting back to people.

Even if you have high volume jobs, at least make sure that you're sending a nice email like, thank you for your application. Make sure that you at least have the processes in place that people aren’t out there wondering what happened. At a base level, make sure that you're communicating with everybody.

So really think about what this candidate experience is. You can curate it, you can look at your employment brand once you know what it is and create something that will make you unique in that market. And people will come back, even if they're not ready, other people will go back to school and get other experience and in two years they might be exactly the candidate that you want in there.

On the reverse, if they have a really terrible experience, they're never coming back. Now you've lost, and why would you want to cut your, your options down? You always want to have more options in that space that's in there.

So really, really kind of move through any of that. And I, I cannot emphasize to you enough - you have to move quickly in that space. You have to know what it is, and also tell your candidates what to accept. This is going to be three interviews and then I'm going to check references and then we're going out. We're going to have one video interview, one case study and then they offers going out.

Tell them what to expect so that they know that it's sort of like guiding them through the journey. Like could you imagine if you were on any tour and you had no idea what was coming next. It's anxiety provoking, you want to know what it is.

It's the same thing as having that schedule on our table as a vendor out there. I was able to look at it and be like great, I know what to expect and if I start to doubt myself I can go back and I can look at this. If you came to an event and you were like, I'm not sure when lunch is, it just doesn't feel good. Think of that from candidate perspective and how you can create that same experience for them on that end.

Think About Your Employees' Quality of Life

The other thing that I want to talk about is the quality of life. I started recruiting in the original downturn and that was really when we started to hear the words work life balance. It was the first time in work history that this idea of balance or work was really important. Other than that it was like you just went to work and you didn't and nobody cared about your home life.

So I argue right now that we are in a transition of moving away from work life balance into what I call work life integration. And so what do I mean by that? Work life balance is essentially I give you eight hours and I would like eight hours of my own time back to myself that I don't have to do that with. My nights are mine, my weekends are mine. I'm in a good balance between those.

But when I did that and when I had work life balance, I didn't have this phone, I didn't have a laptop, I had a desktop and I left at five. I worked really, really hard from eight to five and I left. And not only was I not expected to answer emails, I I had no way to answer emails. I couldn’t look at my emails, I had this balance, I could go home and I could do these other things in that space.

Now that's just not how I work. I was sitting at a vendor table and I answered a couple of emails. You work all the time, you'll be at your kid's soccer game and you'll answer an email. You'll look at this, your life is now integrated. If you work from home one day you might, instead of taking a smoking break,you might take a dishwasher break and unload your dishes.

So there's just this connection between that that we've just moved away from. And so the more you can sort of look at this whole life, what we hear from candidates more than what we used to - when I first started recruiting, it was compensation, your 401K and medical, those are your big three. That's basically all candidates wanted to hear from me. Now it's about compensation, your schedule and how you're valued as a person. What value do I give to this organization?

Do they value that my life is rich and engaging outside of work? Do they respect who I am to know that maybe I need something that's slightly different than somebody else because I have other things. It doesn't have to be sort of this one size fits all. They really want to know that you see them for who they are as an individual and that work is a really important part of what they do.

Especially if they’re a professional, they went to school, they've built this career but it doesn't make them a whole person. They have kids, they have hobbies, they have other things that they're interested in, and they want to be recognized and allowed that time to be able to do it.

Flexibility doesn't always mean remote

So I've been a little nervous when I talk about this because it feels a little bit like I'm pushing for like fully remote jobs, and that's not really where I'm going. It could be an option that's one way to go. But there's a whole spectrum between remote and sort of the eight to five Monday through Friday, 40-hour work week.

Does anyone know where the 40-hour work week came from in there? It's Henry Ford. So he did a data study, um, there and looked, everyone was working you know six days a week. We were a farming industry. We moved into the industrial workforce. So we looked at, how can I be the most effective, the most efficient? And he looked at it and basically found that after eight hours people weren't very great quality went down after that. So eight hours was the deal. Five days a week worked then they would have one day to themselves and one day for worship was essentially what they came up with.

So him and a couple of others, it was sort of this industrial movement, they went forward with this 40-hour work week and industrial revolution in that space. And in 1940 congress passed the fair labor state standard that we did the 40-hour work week and that's what we've been doing. And if you're like me, like we don't really work like 1940 or 1926 when he first started it.

So things just look different than they have. And there's a lot of different ways to think through what that is. It doesn't seem you have to be totally hybrid. Look at what you can do. Do you allow people to maybe have like an hour and a half break in their work around 8:30-10 so that they can run home and take their kids to school? It might be really important for them.

You might do something like a 9-80. A 9-80 is where you work nine hour days, you work an eight hour day on a Friday and then with the next Friday off. When I worked in the Midwest we used to have something called summer Fridays. Every summer because the winters are so awful there, people take off at like noon, it's just for the summer. Memorial Day to Labor Day you get to leave at noon and you know go forth and it's only in the summer so you can get to your lake house and get out of the city. There's a lot of options in there and it doesn't always have to be scheduled either. The other part I think about is like be aware of who these people are in that space.

We, I hear some of the things about like insurance. When I first started the coolest companies had ping pong tables in the office. Like it was so cool, the coolest companies you wanted to work at. And now it looks different. People aren't like, I really want a ping pong table in that space. You have to get to know what's important to them and what you can offer. You know in there listen to your employees.

We had one that gave a suggestion and it was like, hey I'm not as effective because like when I want to get coffee, we work downtown, I have to leave and I have to go get it. It was like, could we just get an espresso maker? And yeah we could, we could do that.

You know, just listening to what they want and making it a good environment. You know, it can also be things.

Time flexibility

I always laugh about this example but I'm going to use it anyways. A lot of companies have this opportunity that you can leave the office to go to the doctor's appointment or to go, you know, go to your kids, whatever. It's hard to be like. I’ve got to go to a facial, like I’ve got to get my hair done <laugh>. But that's part of who I am. I like having my hair like I like, you know, having my hair dyed at a certain place. If it doesn't look right, I don't feel good. But I always felt like I had to sneak out of the office. I was like, I’ve got to go to this really important doctor's appointment, and I was just going to my hairstylist.

And that may not be important. Maybe you don't have hair and you don't want to go to that appointment. There might be something else that's important for you. Letting your employees decide, I'm just going to go to this thing, I'm going to go to this education part.

The other thing too that we've seen a big part of is around training and education. Amazon is not the highest payer. They're right in the bucket in that space, but one of the reasons that people continue to work at that, at that organization is because of their education reimbursement. You can go there and get your education reimbursed in whatever you want. You could do it in accounting, you could go to art school. They do not care what you're going to do, they’ll provide that for your thing.

Education benefits

We’ve had a number of people that will pick jobs because there's an education or a training benefit. Through the Idaho Workforce they actually provide companies different grants up to companies can be 10%, they will pay up to $7,500 that this other, this Idaho Workforce Council will pay in that so that you can get in there. Look at some of the programs they have, they're very cool, they have opportunities to speak to kids, go to colleges around there and tell about that.

And they also have education benefits that you have to pay almost nothing of, that you can give to your employees that the state will pay for. They have spent $9 million since they spent this of education for people to do whatever. So look at some of these programs because it doesn't necessarily have to be directly related.

You know, I used the example, it feels a little backwards, but we had an employee that came to us and said that she wanted to get a real estate license. I, well we don't do anything in real estate. We said go for it, we'll pay for it. She eventually left us and became a real estate agent but she would've left us probably 18 months to two years before that. It took her 18 months to two years after she, after we paid for her real estate license and she stayed there, she was trained, she was good, she was one of our better employees in there and we made that investment.

She was with us for a total of five and a half years and the real estate license was like 2000 bucks and it allowed her to stay for another 18 months within that space. And then she continued part-time through that. She may eventually come back.

It's also built our brand and it was a way, because in 18 months I can get a lot more out of a very trained employee than having to replace and train. That was an easy sort of ROI for me in that space.

And you may not always have that but think through some of those ideas within that space. The same thing. It could be pet's insurance, it could be, you know, making sure that your team has team events on Wednesday. But really get to know your staff and how you can create some of these. And then there are great examples to be able to share an improvement process.

Those are the things that make you look different, that you can stand out, that people will know who you are, you know in there they know what to expect.

Amazon has an employee brand of, you know, basically know they'll probably burn you out, which is a little bit on purpose, but you'll get your education paid for. People go there because they're like great, I can work for this big name, I’ll go to the warehouse and I will stay there for 18 months so I can get this education reimbursement.

Shorter tenure is the new norm

The other thing too is we moved away in the pandemic from having people stay in careers for five years, 10 years, seven years. If you can find a really good employee for two to three years, maybe that is all through a system of higher training. But if you have some of those other, you know, entry level roles, think through the fact that two to three years may be a great run rate on your point.

How can you support them through that? You know, and you may get some people that just weren't successful. You know, I think as we're coming out of COVID, people got out of the workforce for a lot of reasons. You may need to be more open-minded to people who have much choppier backgrounds, especially if that background is in the last four or five years. People have had to step out of the workforce for a variety of reasons in that space and we're seen much shorter times that people have been with that company and it doesn’t mean that will continue to be the case, as the pandemic has cooled off and people have gotten into a better place. But be mindful of those things.

What does a great hiring process look like?

So those are some of the main things that I want to talk through. But I want to end today by giving an example of another company that almost right at the same time hired us to hire for marketing. Somebody, and you may figure out who it is, um, in that space, their product is like, I literally cannot think of a less attractive product.

And we actually had people that were like, I can't do that. And remember this is the marketing person, this is the person that's like marketing the product in that role. And we laugh that it's like, it couldn't be a shittier product.

So they're marketing something that's like, they have no coolness, it's not cool at all. But they were so great on who they were as an employer. They were very clear on, what is it like to work there, what's the opportunity?

What's their schedule, what's their flexibility? What's the opportunity that's there? What will you learn?

You knew exactly what their employment culture was, and we had less candidates for them, they weren't as amazing. They had three or four candidates that came through. They did those interviews in 10 days. They had their calendars blocked off. They would have a candidate come in, they'd debrief immediately after, they would call the candidate the same day that they interviewed if they were going to move on and schedule 'em for the next interview, which was like two to three days away and saying like, Hey it’s Tuesday, can you come in on Friday?

And when they did the offer, they got together, they did it right afterwards. They had exactly the people that they needed to make a decision. They had interview guides that told them exactly what they needed.

They had scoring data and they went through and said, how did this person do? And they looked at the scores and said, yep, it's exactly what we need.

They went out with the offer, they knew what that offer was and they had it prepped before people came in. They looked at their final two candidates that came in and they, they said we're going to get all these numbers ready.

So if you, if you're a small company you might be able to kind of do that on your own. But if you're in an organization where you need to get approvals and you've got a VP that's got to look at it, work to get those offers ready to go and prep so that you don't have this four day delay waiting for someone to get back. Know what those offers need to be and get preapproval to move forward.

They went out with the offer the next day and the candidate was thrilled. The whole thing happened in 10 days. There was no way for them to have to compete with something else because no other companies are moving that that fast.

And they're so excited about this opportunity to look for a product that they absolutely weren't going to ever look at otherwise. But once they heard what their employment brand was, what that was and they moved forward so quickly, you've got someone that's engaged in your process that's excited to work there.

Even if that candidate with that first company had said yes, they were going to hire somebody who was like, this took forever and they didn't know what they were doing. You already have someone who's disengaged before day one because you have this long process that didn't respect their time. They were already worried about what it was going to be like to work there.

There were no doubts with this other company. They were like, they respected my time, They sent them home with some stuff, they really treated their candidates very nicely. I think even their second candidates that weren’t picked will probably say, I interviewed with the strangest company, I never would've looked at that. And now it's building their employment brand.

Great news! There's a labor shortage!

So by putting some good practices in place, seeing consistent efforts and in the community that you do, you can, you can get out of this. We laugh a little bit in here about, like, we have a labor shortage. The great part about this is, everybody in this room has a labor shortage. Like everyone's dealing with the same problem. It's not you, it's not unique to you. It's not something totally different that your company is suffering with.

Every single company is challenged right now in the recruitment market. But what's great about that is if you are agile and you do the best practices you can stand out because not everyone is moving that quickly. And so there's a great opportunity to look at the talent.

I talked a little bit that we think the economy's changing, we're starting to see employment in other markets and it hasn't yet hit Idaho but it probably will. And so we may have a bit of a switch. And so it's a little bit like what they say when the stock market's down, you can buy things at a different place. And I don't mean that from like a compensation perspective, but you can get talent that's potentially punching above your weight class as the economy turns. Have a plan, know what to execute in there. Like think of all of the people that were laid off this week. Meta laid off 17% of their staff that's in there.

If you have a remote opportunity or a remote ability, you now have an opportunity to go after a Meta employee who's going to be looking for another job and saying like, Hey I've got a great employment culture. Let me tell you about what I have to offer and why you should maybe come there. Are you sick of a big company? Are you sick of being in a mega company? Come to a smaller company.

You know there's such an opportunity to sell and get a talent that you couldn't before. So as you go into the switch, think about keeping these practices, even if the candidate market switch and flips in that role, if you can maintain some of these cornerstones of recruiting, you can get talent that's well above what you're salary may be, what the size of your company is and get some of that really top talent that's in next space.

So think through sort of what you're going to do in 2023. If you keep focused on some of these main points in here, you'll be able to get the talent that you need in that space.

You've got to be consistent like any other business practices. You can't do a little bit of recruiting and then do nothing for a while after that. So what we do know is that change is inevitable in this market but we know we have to engage people moving through that space and how they are.

So thank you for the time today. We'll move on to some questions.


When did it become okay <laugh> in 20, 36 months and you're gone the next?

I think that we were headed towards a place of remote work and more flexibility and just valuing different things and the pandemic basically sped up what I think was going to happen over 10 years into basically 10 months. And so it feels like whiplash in there. Like I think we were all headed in that direction but I think unfortunately, you know, a lot of people that are in the workforce went through the great recession and found that companies weren't really all that loyal. Your parents, my dad worked for a company for 35 years. My first job, the Wednesday before every single job before the quarter I would get nervous. I was a hundred percent sure they were going to lay off people the last Wednesday of the quarter for two and a half years. And so I think you have different questions and then I think when you had the pandemic, I think what we are finding is that people's emotional energy is coming back but people are still really having a hard time, you know, in there. I think it's changing but I think we had sort of an emotional burnout and so people are moving around that and so my question there is, I'm not sure, I think there is a little bit of a different, you know, part of that, but I think that companies have to really show up in a different way to be loyal to their employees and show that.

But you are going to have people that sort of jump around in that reality, um, you know, in there. And that's why I say you kind of have to shift your mentality. I never would've looked at somebody who had three jobs under three years when I first started doing recruitment and it's pretty common right now. And so you have to kind of shift your focus in that space. But I think you have to match your loyalty to your employees as much as they are with that. And you won't gain all of 'em because there's a little bit of a different mentality in sort of different generations and they have the different value system than what we used to.

Stability used to be something that was really important. When I first started recruiting, stability was up here on how important it was. People really wanted a stable company, they wanted a Fortune 100, they wanted the Fortune 500. And now people are a little more willing to kind of take some risk and be like, what does this upstart have or what does that look like? So I think that's sort of, um, the value system of what's most important to people. It's just a little bit different, um, in the last couple years than what it was probably 15, 20 years ago.

Cost of living has skyrocketed, yet then how do you, how do you justify hiring people the same wage or greater than people that have been there for a while, how do you even, how do the employers even weather through that making margins to their business?

Yeah, it's really difficult and even as a small business owner myself, you know, I’m co-owner of Talent Spark, we dealt with that internally. Prices increased a lot and you see some of that with inflation. It's partly when the cost of goods went up because I think people are like, I literally have to start charging people more to get that. But internal equity is a really tricky subject because you want to, the earlier question to be loyal to the people that have stayed there. You know, you want to be respectful to those people, but you have to get new hires in.

And the market changed so fast, like accounting and finance, their salaries went up like 30 to 40%. And so, I mean, one of the answers, the easiest answer is that everybody, you know, gets a wage adjustment and you'll see sort of that where everyone in the company will go up $2 an hour or will go up a dollar and that is a huge cost and it's just not always possible.

And so some of it's like, how do you make incremental moves that are in that, can you move people up a dollar in this six months, and then another six months and communicate that to them and tell the story of, Hey, we know that we need to get you closer. You know, not having transparency I think sometimes almost makes that worse. But if you're trying to bridge the gap to tell your current employees, like, hey, here's, here's what I'm working on, let's work through this over the next year to get you much more to market. You know, how do you turn to your customers and say these things don't cost more because all of all of the rising costs in that space.

The other part too is that as schedules and other things have become more important to people, the more you can offer some of those other things, it takes some of the pressure off compensation in that role. I think it is nearly impossible to hire a position in certain markets where comp is low and you have to be in the office Monday through Friday. You have to have a lever somewhere, you know, in that space.

So if it's you pay a little bit less, but you've got more schedule flexibility, that still is enticing for people. But we have a couple of HR people, if you, if you have heard problems in there, actually there's a couple on this role that can come in and kind of help you with some of the conversation and how they move. But it is really hard and you've, you've got to kind of look at protecting your internal employees because retention is your cheapest way, you know, in that space. And then doing your own recruiting is sort of your next part, you know, and then if you get stuck, that's where we come in.

Um, but as much as you can sort of move the whole thing, um, in there is part of one of that. And I know that's kind of a vague question. I don't totally get to all of that, but some of it's kind of an individual of each of each one of those companies, but have a lot of empathy for companies because it, it is difficult to lose a lot. We have a lot of companies that used to pay $9 and have had to make several million dollar investments to get everybody up to $15 an hour because they were losing people so quickly.

Will layoffs swing us back toward an employer market?

 I do, I think I do, I think that layoffs are happening. Um, I, I think that we've got a a ways to go, a more balanced market is between probably four to 5% unemployment and sitting at 2.6%. We still have some time until we're probably at more of a balanced market when it really becomes an employer market, it's sort of five and a half and up and so it's gonna take us a little while to get there. And so that's, as we move into that, the more you can continue to look at your recruitment practices just like the rest of your business to say like, hey, this shifted, sorry, um, in that space to kind of keep on top of what your processes are in that role. But I think that's where I say you've got a really unique opportunity right now and probably in the next six months to a year that if you're hiring, you're gonna start to have people laid off that you can now go after that maybe weren't gonna make a move outside of that.

And so if you have those strategic hires, you're about to enter interns with time where you can get talent that you didn't used to. So if you have people that are gonna retire Q4 of next year, you might wanna start thinking about like how do we start getting the best talent that we can for that strategic position that we need? You know, how do we be in the right places to capture some of that talent that is laid off, um, in there? Cause you'll have an opportunity to get in front of 'em that's in there. But I do think we're gonna have a shift in that space. And then you may have something of like, you know, dealing with candidates, you have too many candidates and how you be from, but still having that plan of who's making the decision. One is the process of like what are you evaluating will help you get a hundred applicants the same way that it will help you to pick from the two things you have.

Yeah. It'll be interesting to see what happens with Idaho. I was in Denver for the last recession and I think Idaho may have a similar um, experience in that because we had one of the lowest unemployment rates across the nation and we continue to have. And so it's gonna take us longer. Even if Idaho starts to have layoffs, we have a little bit of time before it starts to be a little bit more balanced. I, I think that it's coming, but I think we're, we're not seeing, we're still not seeing the layoffs or the market change much locally as what we're seeing. We're, I'm on the board of a, um, group of recruiting agents, 45 different metro markets. Most of the other ones have started to see significant layoffs from some of their employers and we still have not seen massive layoffs in mass in i, they may come as the economy shifts, but we're, we're kind of getting into it. I think we're gonna get into it.

Allison, I’m in a lot of different business groups and I often hear the saying, no one wants to work these days. And I saw your stats earlier about how there's two to three jobs for every one person. So to me that contributes a lot to it. But how do we shift our mindsets as leaders or teammates away from “no one wants to work these days?”

Yeah, it's hard cause we, we had some use to posting a position and, and having evidence. So when we post position you have, it's not even a quality of applicants. It's like there's no applicants. It's like the dust bowls like going through those boats, you know. And so some of it is that the market's really tight. Um, the other part that I think is interesting, um, in here that I wrote down some stats that I can share. So two things have been in the last two years, Idaho, um, in Boise and the Boise metro market, sort of the Treasure Valley, we had a workforce of 380,000 people. We actually had a net gain of 30,000 people and we sit about 410,000 people are in the Boise Valley market. So not only is this tight, we've actually any more people in the workforce. Now while that's true, there's 29,000 people that just disappeared.

And so there's another opportunity to sort of go after those. We think that there's like 30,000 people that moved in from California and came here with their job, you know, in there or whatever state. They came here, they had a job, they're working remotely. And in the meantime there were people that were morph locally that have now exited the workforce. So the two groups that we know that were absolutely hit the hardest that we've got an opportunity with is young people. So we have between 2025 to 34, only 81.3% of the people that, that are in there could be working in that space. So we've got young people that we've got an opportunity to go after and make enticing in court. And the other one is one that women will really hit hard in the pandemic and many of them have not returned. We have a real childcare issue here in Idaho.

There are 20,000, um, they've been a study a year ago. There are 20,000, um, big needs, not vacancies. There's a need for 20,000 more spaces in daycare that people can't get. If, if people have daycare they could go back into the workforce. So how can you attract those different groups? How can you go after young people who maybe they don't know how to interview, they've been in this, you know, covid pandemic. Can you do something different to help them along the way? You know, can your application look different? You talk to different people if you could solve anything of their daycare issues. We've got great examples locally of companies who really built their team because they like put an offsite daycare and that's basically how they kept people. We had a law firm here that was really struggling during Covid because they had so many young people and they were starting to leave and they didn't go home to teach their kids homeschool.

And so the company hired a part-time teacher and everybody in that law firm brought their kids in and it was taught by sort of this teacher so that they could, could give middle hours. There's a great example of this guy in is kind of an extreme example is interesting. He, um, in a manufacturing plant and he had a hundred percent of his people leave, he did like shipping and distribution. Everyone's gone. He's like, I I have nothing. I have nobody, what am I gonna do? And so, so he posted, come and work any hours you want work an hour, work at nine, work eight at six. He was like, whatever you wanna do. And he now has a hundred percent bombs and most of them are stable and they work from six to eight 30 and then they go home and they take their kids to school and they drop them off and they return and they work from 10 until three and then they go get their kids again.

And he's like, they don't take breaks. They work really hard And I realize that this is an extreme example that's not like most people can sort of implement and it's also one of those tier internal equity. You're usually not at like a clean slate where like nobody works there <laugh>. But I know it was interesting about like what he didn't try to attract moms. He just said work whenever you want. And so if you can sort of find ways to reengage those two populations that, that are actually non babies that you assume you've got opportunity. I think a lot of you've got real tightness in the market. There's just more jobs than there are people to work, um, that are in there. But there are opportunities in a couple of different groups, um, to work there. The other one, if you've got sort of non-exempt rules in that space are people with records, um, in there like incarcerating people in that space or people who have things on their records.

They, they have a much higher unemployment than some of the other areas. So thinking about these groups that are sort of underutilized or another one. And there there's some examples of Gwin has workers in sort of two C area that transportation in poverty is a real barrier that they would like to work more. They actually have a high employment in poverty. But one of their barriers is because it's such a rural location and we do not have strong public transit, they cannot get to work. Can you solve that for people? Can you post a job that's like, I won't pay for your Uber, you know, to get there. You know, I'm not sure what that solution is but there's, you know, there's some creativity to kind of remove the barrier of daycare or kids or transportation. You know, how do you engage with the young people in there, get them out to work. So I do think that's couple of groups um, in that have an opportunity to get people in the workforce questions.

I heard a lot about this idea that boomers are all going to be retiring and we don't have actual human population to even build a number of jobs. Can you speak to that?

Yeah, I think I looked at some of the data, but there was certainly a lot of conversation around the gray wave or the gray tsunami and that was essentially that like everyone with gray hair and boomers we're going to retire the great rich shuffle and the gray cl and you know, so now we've got this great tsunami. I um, had a conversation with a couple of our largest employers with our CEOs earlier this week. And I said, what have you seen? We've heard about this gray tsunami. You have 15,000 employees, you've got 3000 employees, what are you seeing in that? And they said it hasn't been as much as they anticipated it and they're finding there was a big move kind of journey covid. And people were like, that's enough. But now they don't think it's as bad as they were, they were guessing. Um, and there, and I'm sorry you asked the question.

The question was around sort of what are we seeing from sort of the, um, retirements for those that are on that and how do we deal with those um, in there? So I think as the economy changes and as people's retirement, we saw this in the great recession and if we look at what happened with that is that retirement people stayed a lot longer, um, than they, than they would have because they've lost 20% of their retirement in the last year. And so now their retirement plans have changed. So I actually think that because of the economy we would see a slowing of people that are retiring. I will say that one thing that we have happened unfortunately with the recession is that, that that happened. And the pilots is a really good example of that. So the recession happened and a lot of pilots were going to retire and they didn't.

So they stopped hiring pilots. They were like, we have enough pilots, we don't need more pilots, we don't need to hire. Well then the economy returned two years later. Everybody who said they were going to retire did retire. And they were like, no, they had no pilots, nobody had gone to pilot school. They hadn't hired anybody in five years. And they had a panic. But there just were not enough pilots in like 2012, like two to three years after the economy happened. You had this wave. So while they may trickle out a little bit, it's just might delay some of that. So make sure that you're still having conversations with people around their retirement and what that looks like. Cause it might shift things a little bit.

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