For high-growth businesses, hiring is a strategic imperative—and a challenge. Your rate of growth means that you have a lot of roles to fill and face intense competition in filling them. In this situation, it’s tempting to hire quickly.
But don’t make that mistake. Hiring quickly can lead to leadership headaches like poor hires, inflated staffing and high onboarding and turnover costs.
However, the old adage of “hire slow, fire fast” is also not enough—either in today’s market or in the future—for high-growth companies to ensure a sustainable business. Instead, leaders need to have a high-growth mindset. This means empowering your team to play up a level, searching for talent in unexpected places, and making a compelling offer to the talent you want to attract and retain.
In the past, these were challenges faced by particular types of businesses with a need for particular, emerging skills. Now, all of a sudden, they’re challenges for everyone. In the rebound from the pandemic, companies that had grown steadily in the past suddenly found themselves ramping back up their pared-down workforces at a rapid rate. And as they do so, many are finding that the skills they took for granted before are no longer readily available.
As the leader of a tech business, I’ve experienced the challenges of maintaining a talent pipeline, and I know what’s at stake. Not only does your company face revenue challenges, but just as importantly, your ability to deliver the customer experiences is what your long-term success depends on. We’ve invested a lot of time and resources in building a talent pipeline for ActiveCampaign in order to manage these risks. Even so, when the pandemic reshaped the labor market, we didn’t have all the answers. We’ve had to look again at our approach, asking ourselves what still matters, what we need to do differently, and how we can align the experience of working for us with what candidates now need. I know our sector is far from alone in figuring these things out.
THE CASE OF THE VANISHING WORKFORCE
There are a number of reasons why the workers who were readily available to businesses before the pandemic aren’t so readily available during the rebound.
Large numbers of people are thinking differently about the risks and rewards of working in front-line roles that involve contact with others and potential risks to their long-term health. Older employees, for example, may find themselves weighing whether it’s worthwhile to continue working when they could take early retirement—and those employees can take valuable skills with them.
Not so long ago, it was easy to take truck drivers, butchers, chefs, plumbers, and mechanics for granted. When there’s a sudden shortage of people with these skills, it quickly becomes clear that there’s a lot of time and investment involved in training their replacements.
Government support programs have given people more time and space to think about the type of work that they’re happy doing and the terms on which they’re happy doing it. Most of those workers have far more choices available to them than they did in the past, as they discover how transferrable their skills can be. If you can drive a taxi, you can choose to work for a food delivery service instead. If you’re worried about high medallion costs, the dangers of sharing a vehicle with strangers, or losing your income in a future lockdown, that move might start to look pretty compelling (subscription required).
Complicating things further is the relationship between where people live and where they work. A lot of people moved out of cities during the pandemic, which may mean they’re no longer available for location-dependent jobs. And as an alternative to moving back to a cramped city apartment, there are plenty of businesses offering remote-working roles. For some, a career change has likely never felt more compelling.
A NEW TALENT MARKET NEEDS NEW EMPLOYEE PROPOSITIONS
Employers can’t afford to ignore these shifts. It’s difficult to hire people successfully if you insist that their new priorities don’t matter—and that the way they worked in the past has to be the way they work in the future. Being competitive in a fast-growth talent market starts with thinking clearly about what you are hiring for, which then enables you to think flexibly about how your hires deliver that for you.
Prior to the pandemic, we had very few remote workers, and that was intentional. We valued having people share an office. We valued the easy interplay of ideas and the sense of community that came with it. However, we value the safety of our employees more. We went fully remote in response to the pandemic, and we found that it works far better for us than we expected. That’s why we’ve made the decision to keep a location-agnostic approach to hiring even when people can return to the office. It’s enabled us to seek out talent not just in Chicago, but in San Francisco, Phoenix, Nashville—even in Dublin. We’ve been able to bring valuable people into the company who we would never have had access to before.
Remote working can help. But it’s not a silver-bullet solution to the talent shortage. Those who can work remotely add to your potential talent pool, but companies that hire remotely increase the competition for talent. On the one hand, your business can source talent from anywhere, without the need for them to live within a commutable distance of your headquarters. On the other hand, it means that a company in another state or another country could compete for that ideal candidate who lives just a few miles away.
The parameters of competition for talent have changed, and every business will need to rise to the challenge. Your future employees won’t choose a job just for the paycheck. They’ll choose a job based on the work experience that works for them. Designing those experiences is what growth now depends on.
Jason VandeBoom is the Founder and CEO of ActiveCampaign, the Customer Experience Automation (CXA) category leader.