We were really pleased and proud to be involved in the inaugural ALPMA/McLeod Duminy Salary & HR Issues Survey a couple of months ago. It was important that New Zealand had a separate and equally robust set of data that reflected the market here and where things differed from our cousins across the ditch. Some of the findings simply reconfirmed what we knew anecdotally, although it is always nice to have facts and figures to back up your thoughts. Other results were surprising, but understandable when you delved a little deeper. From a recruitment point-of-view the most interesting discovery was that over 90% of the firms surveyed said that finding quality staff was ‘highly’ or ‘very’ important and it was the No.1 HR issue identified. Despite this only 8% of firms had a pro-active recruitment strategy.
As a legal recruiter it is great that so many firms see recruitment as so important and the fact that so few have a pro-active recruitment strategy might seem like good news for us, but the reality is that it is more of mixed blessing. A purely reactive strategy can mean that there is no clear process, and often time pressure that can make for a confused job brief that is sent out to several agencies in the hope of casting the widest net. For the most part firms with a clear strategy will include agencies sooner or later and will have strong relationships and processes. This is definitely how we prefer to work.
We were discussing the findings of the survey at a recent seminar and the obvious question came as to what a pro-active strategy might involve, particularly for a smaller organisation, and so here are a few on-going activities that will make it easier to fill vacancies as they arise and thrive in the notoriously competitive legal market.
- An alumni scheme to keep in touch with those who have left. It may just be an email a couple of times a year or the odd invite to drinks. Keep them sweet and they will remain advocates for you into the future, even if they don’t re-join you in the future.
- A staff referral scheme. Design incentives for staff members to introduce/ recommend people from their networks to join the firm. It is unlikely they will recommend someone they don’t believe in strongly, after all their own reputation is on the line as well.
- Keep a database of past applicants with strong skills or a good fit. I have heard this described as your ‘silver medallists‘. Perhaps they weren’t quite right at the time they contacted you, but they are clearly interested in the firm so make sure you stay in touch and keep them warm. These days you can use LinkedIn as your database and connect with them and keeping up-to-date. You can also ‘tag’ them to make sure they are easy to find once the right role comes up.
- Opportunist hires. Given finding good people can be hard identify the areas that you might be open to an ‘opportunistic hire’. Really it is a calculation of the cost of an under-utilised resource short-term v the cost of an empty seat when the need becomes acute. When trying to identify areas where the firm might be open to this it is worth looking at succession planning, new projects/clients, roles with high attrition rates and roles that have been hard to fill in the past.
- Sharing your business plan with your recruitment partners, and staff, so they know what areas you might be keen on. That way that rare, highly talented individual doesn’t pass you by. Better to know who is in the market than miss out entirely.
- Employer branding – internally and externally. It is a whole topic in itself but basically when a role comes up you want people to want to work for you.
- Keep track of where you have sourced your other top performers and keep looking there. Simple as that.
You can take pro-active recruitment much, much further than this but these are all simple things that don’t involve new systems or fancy campaigns. They just take some thought and consistency.
When you think about it, recruiters have been been adopting a pro-active recruitment strategy for years now – keeping close to strong candidates, constantly growing our networks and guarding our reputations. That is how we access candidates that others can’t. Perhaps on second thoughts I don’t want to make it sound too simple after all.