At its core, a company is the sum of the talent of its employees. This is especially true in the professional services industry where there's no manufacturing infrastructure or little software product to fall back on. The success of professional-service companies is determined its staff recruiting and retention, the work force’s institutional knowledge and technical skills and the dedication to customer service.
Given the supreme importance of making the right hire at a professional-services company, focus enormous amounts of time and effort on recruiting.
But companies don’t have to spend huge sums of money on hiring the right people. My company, Endeavor America Loan Services, has built a staff of 180 virtually without spending a dollar on recruiting.
Here's a four-step plan designed to help a company build a highly productive and experienced team without hiring a high-priced headhunter or spending a big budget on recruiting:
1. Turn employees into recruiters.
Employees can become an organization's best recruiters and tapping into their network of friends and professional relationships can be a powerful way to find qualified and committed new members of the team. One way is to create a referral program that formalizes the incentives for employees' referring qualified new hires.
The program should make it clear that the company values referrals and rewards and recognizes employees who send the organization the best hires.
When establishing a company recruiting program, be sure to stipulate that the new hire must remain at the firm for a specified amount of time before the referring employee is rewarded. Reward thoughtful and successful referrals -- not when employees try to stuff just anyone into a role in the company for the sake of a bonus.
2. Recognize top-recruiting employees.
Rewarding the employees who send the most recruits is a great way to incentivize staffers to make referrals. But don't make it about money. The rewards should be thoughtful, interesting and in line with the company’s values.
But offering a monetary incentive is the wrong way to build a culture. Incentives should help reinforce positive behavior and motivate team members to contribute to the success of the company as a whole.
Raffle off a free vacation for top-recruiting employees. A little recognition goes a long way. Letting employees know that their contributions to building a talented team are valued can build morale as well as encourage recruiting.
3. Hire for character and attitude.
In some professional services sectors, certain skill sets are required. Mortgage companies, for example, need technical skills like underwriting and loan processing. But skills can always be taught; character and attitude often can’t be.
Some employees come in the door with experience and mortgage-specific skills. But an organization with a strong enough team can hire ambitious, hardworking employees with all the character traits desired and the skills needed can be taught as they grow into the job.
When hiring for the long term, character and attitude are a must. If the company is running thin on applicants with experience in its specific industry, don’t be afraid to interview candidates who have performed well in other types of businesses and who may be looking for a career change. Likewise, recent college graduates who are hungry to learn, technologically savvy and ambitious can be smart hires who can grow professionally inside an expanding company.
4. Build a company culture that's a magnet for top talent.
A great company culture draws in top talent. Word travels in the industry that certain workplaces treat employees well, set up their associates to succeed and support workers’ career advancement. Employees are attracted to positivity, collaborative work environments and top-performing teams.
Much of the money spent on recruiting by businesses could be better allocated to creating company-culture initiatives that attract and retain top talent.
When building a company’s culture, ask what would make employees recommend a new job at the organization to a friend or professional acquaintance. Build an environment that attracts good people, and change recruiting from an outbound strategy that requires managers to seek out good candidates, to an inbound strategy where the good candidates come to firm.
Building a world-class team is all about creating an environment where like-minded individuals share a common set of values, hold one another accountable and strive to be the best, not because they have to, but because they want to.
In today’s increasingly competitive hiring landscape, align the organization so that the team as a whole is cognizant of the company’s needs to bring on top talent. Each staffer's relationships and networks should be considered a first stop when the company is looking to expand and scale into a larger, yet still tight-knit, organization.
The health of the organization depends on these contributions in the short run and beyond.