How to Find Employees in a Tough Market 

needle in a haystack
Meridith Elliott Powell Photo
Author, Keynote Speaker and Business Strategist

6 minutes

Five guerrilla strategies every organization needs 

Jump on any zoom call, walk into any corporate board room, or sit down with any small-business owner, and the one thing you will hear business leaders talking about right now is employees. How do you find them, hire them, and keep them? 

It is one of the biggest challenges facing employers today. One that threatens their ability to successfully come out of this pandemic and respond to the increasing consumer demand as markets reopen and the regulations of the pandemic ease.  

Just this week, I had three clients I met with say their biggest challenge is labor. People leaving due to burnout or other mental stressors, an inability to find people to take their place and the increasing cost of finding talent are all very real. What can employers to make it worth people's while to leave their couches and rejoin the workforce? 

According to a survey done by the National Federation of Independent Business in March, 42% of business owners had job openings they could not fill. Ninety-one percent of those hiring could not find qualified candidates. That is a record high, and the numbers are growing. 

The reasons for people choosing not to reenter the workforce are pretty long, ranging from not yet vaccinated to no desire to be vaccinated, lack of childcare to schools that are still remote. Other reasons include unemployment checks pay more, the willingness to quit a job knowing you can easily find another, and the list goes on. 

So business owners and leaders who need help and need it now need to know what to do to attract those looking for a job. 

This pandemic has changed how we attract, develop and retain talent. To find employees in a tough market, you need a new strategy and a new skill set. 

5 Guerrilla Strategies Every Company Needs to Find Talent 

1. Become a sales team. Your human resources department needs to start functioning as a sales team. You should always be recruiting, even if you are fully staffed. Just like the best clients already have an account representative, the best employees already have jobs. Make a prospect list, create a strategy, and proactively and consistently work to attract talent. 

Go back to former employees, talk with them about coming back on board and inquire about referrals. Look to prospects that did not accept a job offer you made to see if they would consider to coming on board now. Identify your competitors’ talent, know the leaders in the industry, and create a process to get to know them, recruit them and work to get them on your team. 

 Human resources, like sales, needs to plays a long, proactive game. Adopt a sales mindset when it comes to finding talent. 

2. Engage your team. Make finding talented employees a team sport. Lack of talent impacts everyone, and in this environment, it will take all of your current employees to find new ones. Encourage your team to make referrals, incent them for any recruits hired, and most importantly, ask them for their ideas on where and how to find good employees.  

Finding talented employees needs to be an ongoing strategy and should be a part of every monthly team meeting. Take 15 minutes and talk about team members. Who is excelling? What openings do you have? What strategies are being put into place to find talent?  Ask yourself and your team, “What is working? What is not? What is everyone’s role in finding new talent?” 

3. Spotlight your culture. The competition is tough out there, and employees know they have choices. They are looking for a great place to work. Show them how great your business is for them. Use social media, make videos and boldly post current employee testimonials. Make sure that when potential employees go online looking for information about your company, what they find is impressive, engaging and fun. 

Create awareness in the marketplace and build your reputation among those looking for work as one of the best places to work. 

4. Get outside the box. Remember you are looking for a good employee, not necessarily a trained employee. Back in the late ’90s when I worked in the banking industry and the competition exploded with the expansion of large banks and the introduction of community banks, finding bankers to hire was nearly impossible. 

Rather than struggle or remain short-staffed, we decided to “grow our own.” We hired people from outside the industry, stayed open to hiring people part-time (stay-at-home moms looking for a few hours of work are extraordinary employees) and trained them to do the job. 

We recruited the waitresses we met at lunch, the clerk at the drugstore, and the semi-retired adults working part-time at the hospital. We hired for talent, personality and commitment—and knew the rest we could train. 

5. Clarify your purpose. This may sound like too soft an approach for a business owner or leader who needs help right now, but you would be surprised how critical the organization’s purpose is in attracting and retaining talent. People want to do work that matters, to feel like they are making a difference. A well-defined purpose ensures you attract employees who are all in on what you are trying to accomplish. 

If people buy into your purpose, they will want to work for you and will be far more likely to stay. It takes a lot of effort and expense to attract new hires; make sure you have a strategy to keep the people you hire. 

The most engaged workers work for non-profits, some of the lowest-paying jobs on the market. Why are they so engaged? Because they have bought into the mission and vision. A leader who knows their purpose, speaks about it all the time and uses it in the hiring process is one that will not only attract great talent but keep those team members longer than their competitors. 

Make It Part of Your Strategy 

I know finding and hiring employees right now is challenging. These strategies will not only help you through these tough times, but also in good ones, if you put them into place and make them your normal hiring strategy. Why not up your changes that your team will be rock solid and well-staffed no matter what the marketplace does? 

I would love to hear your ideas and strategies, what you’re doing to find talent in tough times. Share your thoughts and comments with me on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter or via email

Meridith Elliott Powell is a business growth strategist specializing in helping her clients turn uncertainty into a competitive advantage. Her newest book THRIVE: Turn Uncertainty to Competitive Advantage, shares her proven nine-step formula for using change to push through obstacles and fuel growth. Learn more and get your free chapter. 

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