How to Attract the Best People
by Skip Corsini

Two summers ago the economy was just starting to feel the impact of the looming dotcom bust. Although they didn't see what was coming, managers were still adding people at rapid rates. "Smart" internal recruiters, whether they worked in high tech industries or not, were being asked to think like marketers. People became enamored with employment "branding" as if they could convey the advantages of working for their firms in job ads.

All they really had to do was publish a neat job announcement on Web stalwarts Monster, Hotjobs, Brassring, or Dice and sit back for the flood of resumes to come in. Then they went out and ordered software from a firm such as Hire.com, to help them screen candidates, assess their skills and find the best match for their employer. Like ants marching, prospective employees followed procedure. Fortunately or not, many of those hired at that time are probably doing something else today.

The problem is that a corporate brand is a concept that extends way beyond the reach of typical HR practices. It is subject to so many variables that neither the vice president of human resources nor the CEO can manage them all.

When the bust arrived a lot of people suffered, and the same recruiters who had been asked to fish for winners were the first to be let go. With them went some good ideas about how to attract the best people when things are going well, but what they didn't have time to develop were the skills they would need in order to ensure that their respective talents pools, diminishing as they were, could ride out the storm.

All the bells and whistles of recruiting and assessment software became moot when recruiting came to a standstill. At that point we needed to get back to the fundamentals of what makes a company successful in the first place. Now, rather than go back to the old ways, I would like to see a simple marketing principle applied in the attraction and retention of good people. It is paraphrased best this way: spend 80% of your recruiting resources on the people that already work for you.

I don't know how many studies I have read that conclude that it is a number of times less expensive to hold on to your current constituents (customers, suppliers, and employees come immediately to mind) than it is to attract new ones. And yet we still keep expending precious resources to entice the outsiders in some vain attempt to let the world out there know what a great place we have to work. Let's point ourselves in the right direction for once, inside the company.

It is not that difficult to make your company a terrific place to work, but it does require your attention as CEO. Done well this exercise can produce the greatest possible competitive advantage your company will ever have: that your own people will become your missionaries. When they will climb over each other tell your story to other smart and able people with whom they come in contact, that is called winning. It is the highest compliment an employee can pay you as a leader.


Skip Corsini represents Dale Carnegie Training in the San Francisco Bay Area. He has a 29-year career in sales, marketing, advocacy, public relations, education and corporate training and development. He is a freelance writer in addition to his real job. In his spare time he bakes 30-minute brownies in just 20 minutes. You may contact Skip at scorsini@sbcglobal.net .

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Copyright 2003 by Skip Corsini. All rights reserved.

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