According to a recent study from the National Center for the Middle Market and the Brookings Metropolitan Policy Program, "Nearly four out of 10 middle market executives say that a lack of talent constrains their company’s ability to grow. A larger number—44%—say that a lack of candidates with the right skills makes it difficult to recruit.” Even if you have the right growth strategy in place and are using a recruitment method like Topgrading, the study suggests that middle market companies have some unique challenges finding the right people.
Some of those challenges include the following:
- Lack of brand awareness in competition with larger companies for skilled talent
- Smaller qualified applicant pool
- Lack of clearly identified advancement opportunities
- Lack of “strategic HR capabilities” since most HR departments are smaller and operationally focused
- Inability to capitalize on education, training and job placement resources
The study found that "Clearly, middle market companies struggle to find, hire, develop, and retain people with the skills they need for the jobs they have available, especially managerial, technical and professional, and sales positions.” On the flip side, the study also found that "middle market companies create more new jobs than any other sector of the economy. So their robust appetite for human capital makes the lack of access to it particularly painful.”
If you are struggling with any of the recruitment challenges mentioned above, here are a few ways that you can win the war for talent:
- Highlight the benefits of working for a smaller firm. While the big companies have the advantage in name recognition, often middle market companies have a more compelling value proposition to candidates. As the research report concludes, "mid-sized firms often offer employees more opportunities to do meaningful work and contribute more directly to the success of the organization.” Lead with your culture, highlighting your Core Values and Core Purpose, in the recruitment process. Often, middle market firms have the ability to be more creative in designing roles that match talented employees’ strengths, skills, and passions, which can be very attractive in lieu of a clearly defined career trajectory.
- Be proactive in cultivating strategic partnerships. The research shows that "Most middle market companies do not take advantage of opportunities to address workforce problems by partnering with other private or public institutions, organizations, or programs in their industry or community, despite the fact that such partnerships could help companies bolster the capabilities of their internal HR staff.” Connect with others in your industry or your community that can accelerate your recruitment efforts. Partner with local colleges and educational institutions, start an internship program and take advantage of educational opportunities to up-skill your current workforce through these partnerships.
- Focus on retaining and developing the talent you already have. According to an article in Forbes, "While the ability to attract and recruit talent is vital to any company’s success – many companies fail to have a holistic approach to the entire candidate lifecycle from attraction through onboarding and development. This disconnect creates a fractured process where companies over-emphasize hiring and under-emphasize development, leading to retention issues and creating an endless loop of new recruiting.” Avoid the loop by committing to growing the people you already have. Document the new roles and skills you will need as your company grows, and create a leadership Path of Progress with each person on your team to fill any potential skills gaps.
- Invest in effective performance management. Make your current employees brand advocates by improving their engagement and performance. “Research by the National Center for Middle Market show a clear correlation between effective performance management, faster revenue growth, and better profit margins. … Rather than just relying on formal performance reviews, which may happen only once a year and last less than an hour, they treat it as an ongoing process with informal feedback flowing regularly. They focus on goal setting, seek input from second-level managers, and align the performance management process with the company’s culture. Ultimately, they use performance management as a way to make their employees more integral to the company’s overall success.” Using a system like the Rhythm dashboard to improve your performance management can make a huge difference to your company’s success in recruiting and retaining the right people.
If recruiting the right talent is an obstacle to growing your business, you’re not alone. Come to the Breakthrough Conference in Charlotte on Oct. 11-12, 2018, to network with other middle market executives and attend a breakout session specifically designed to address this topic: Topgrading & Rhythm: Weapons to Win the Talent War. I hope to see you there!
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